Working Wounded: Making Your Business Better for Workers

How do you spot and remove obstacles in your organization?

Sept. 21, 2007 — -- Dear WOUNDED: : I'm a new manager. I'd like to do a better job of removing obstacles for my people than the bosses I've had have done for me. Any advice?

ANSWER: I'll be the first to admit, there is nothing I like better than a dumb criminal story. Recently I came across what could be the dumbest, the guy who decided to rob H&J Leather & Firearms. Your first clue that there might be a problem with his plan was the name of the business he tried to rob, note the word firearms.

Not only was everyone in the store armed and dangerous, there was a police car parked right in front of the building. Reminds me of the end of the movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," when they were surrounded by the entire Bolivian Army.

Like that criminal, many of us walk into an ambush because of the rose-colored glasses we're wearing, our arrogance or because we're just asleep at the switch. I've listed three dos and one don't below for spotting obstacles at work early and often. For more, check out "Crucial Conversations" by Patterson, Grenny, Mcmillian and Switzler (McGraw Hill, 2005).

DO Check out company policies. Company policies often get in the way of people doing a great job at work. One company I worked with talked about the importance of teamwork, but its bonus structure was totally focused on rewarding individual behavior. Look for ways that your policies get in the way of people working together.

DO Look for bottlenecks and barriers. I remember having a boss who went nuts when it would take more than a day for me to get someone to return my call. He screamed, "They always return my calls."

Bosses need to realize that it is much harder to get people to return your calls, or e-mails, or to do what you need them to do when you don't have a corner office or some other leverage over them. But don't just base this on your own personal experience. Instead, talk to others at the lowest rungs of the company to learn about your organization's specific bottlenecks and barriers.

DO Offer to help. Many bosses think that work should be a macho test of their skills and mettle. But it will be helpful for you to hear specific places where your employees are getting stuck. Beyond just the information you'll learn, it will send a powerful message to your people that you appreciate them by asking for ideas on how to reduce their headaches at work.

DON'T Keep your people on a short leash. No matter how hard you may try, you won't be able to totally remove all obstacles for your people. So it's important to give them the authority to tackle them on their own. The longer the leash, the more your people will be able to clear their own hurdles.

Follow these tips, and your people won't face a firing squad. Instead they'll be firing on all cylinders.

Thought for the Week

"A problem well stated is a problem half solved." — G.K. Chesterton

List of the Week

Who do you respect the least … Least respected professions (and lawyers didn't make the cut)

From: Gallup

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, speaker and internationally syndicated columnist. He'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic, especially if you have better ideas than he does. His books include "The Boss's Survival Guide" and "Gray Matters: The Work place Survival Guide." Send your questions or comments to him via: publishes a new Working Wounded column every Friday. This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.