Where did everybody go? 5

Labor Day Holiday

The last week of “summer” is usually marked by a lack of productivity. As the Labor Day sales ads hit the airwaves, people who have not taken a vacation jump ship and head for the beach.  Many have already taken this week off, knowing that their plates will be full after Labor Day.

There are many signs that this week is not about work. On a Macro-scale, volume on the NYSE drops significantly. This year is no exception. On a micro-scale, many of my Facebook friends are posting vacation pictures. Re-tweets to my Twitter posts are down this week. On LinkedIn, there are very few new connection updates being posted. Traffic to my blog is down for the first time this year.

I have not joined the ranks of the vacationers yet. But I hear the weekend calling and I will soon yield to its call. If you don’t hear from me until Tuesday, you will know why.

Enjoy the holiday!

Four ways a new job is like Back-to-School 0

Back to school cartoon

Going back-to-school is a lot like starting a new job

When you begin a new job, it’s a clean slate. Just like the first day of a new school year, everything is before you. The opportunities are endless. Then comes:

  1. The first pop quiz (A question from your boss about how you would handle something)
  2. The first written test ( You must write the proposal to land  the Attwood Sewing Machine account)
  3. The first report card (Your 90 day review can be nerve-wracking even if you know you’re doing a good job)
  4. Parent/Teacher Night ( Ok, your job won’t have that, but you may be invited to social functions that your significant other is expected to attend)

Have a plan for your new job, set your own expectations. You will be better prepared for the first pop quiz and everything that follows.

Parents? Back to School List? Here Are Four Things College Freshman Need Most 1

So you’ve bought the clothes, the sheets (custom length so you can’t buy them off the rack), the college required laptop and the meal plan. You’ve packed change for laundry, filled out the dorm surprise package card from the university and made your hotel reservations for the big trip out to drop your freshman off. All set, right?

Here are four additional things you should put on your student’s “back to school” list:

  1. Remind them to follow the rules. If a class starts at 10am, the professor expects them to be there at 10am. It is now their responsibility, not yours, to get up in time to get to class.
  2. Remind them to break the rules. Buckminster Fuller had a quote about how one sometimes must create a new paradigm if the old one doesn’t work. Then there’s “Girls who behave rarely make history”.
  3. Take notes, write things down. College will be different from high school. Let me say that again, college will be different from high school. If the expectations are not clear ahead of time, it could be Thanksgiving before your student knows there’s a building on campus full of books; insiders call it “the Library”. Mid-terms for freshman can be a real wake-up call.
  4. Expect to learn – College is a huge emotional undertaking. Not having clear expectations about the outcome cheats the student of opportunities to make connections that are meaningful. As early as elementary school, when my kids went out the door to school I’d remind them to “get their money’s worth” and to “make sure they teach you something”.

As you send your kids off, please add these reminders to the list. If your student really applies all four, she or he will get so much more out of their college experience. And in four years, you can proudly display your Parent of a University Graduate Coffee Mug.

Why I say The Boss Is Not Dead 1

“The Boss” is not dead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boss Is Dead, Long Live the Boss

Knowledge@Wharton casts a questioning eye at the hype surrounding bossless offices. On the one hand, says Wharton professor Adam Cobb, hierarchy-free environments are “a very democratic way of thinking about work…Everyone takes part in the decisions.” More so, “the people doing the actual work probably have a better sense of how to get it done than their bosses do.”

On the other hand, an office with no boss or manager overseeing, the workflow can be disastrous. Cobb cites an academic paper that examined a small company whose owners let the employees take the reins. “Over time, the workers became more oppressed than when the bosses were there. Everyone became a monitor, constantly checking up on their fellow employees, even setting up a board to track what time people came into work and when they left.”

At a minimum, Cobb says, bosses do provide one valuable attribute: “They are a common enemy. Workers know the opposition. When employees become self-managed, it’s hard to tell if you are all working together, or if everyone is working against you.”

Having been in management for over 35 years, I never thought of myself as the enemy. My job has always been to support those that work for me, making sure they have the tools they need to do their job effectively. My job largely revolves around teaching. Employees become better when they understand the why behind what they do. Once that’s clear, they can offer innovation that increases productivity.

Sure, over the years I have had employees write one or two things about me on the bathroom stalls, but that just told me my specific message was getting across. I believe almost every employee wants to do the right thing. I must help those that do not understand what is expected to  see clearly what they need to do. If I do my job by teaching, coaching and following up with the employee, then I have given them the tools to be successful. The responsibility is theirs and the consequences to them are based on their decisions and their actions.

Several months ago, I wrote a blog post titled Ladder vs. Jungle Gym – Is there room for a leader anymore? As the author above points out, “with no boss or manager overseeing, the workflow can be disastrous”. Who takes responsibility for the direction of the project? Who takes the responsibility when things go wrong? To me, a bossless office sounds like a committee.

A committee is a thing which takes a week to do what one good man can do in an hour. ~Elbert Hubbard

The Boss is dead? I strongly believe otherwise. Management and Labor have a common link and that is the work to be done. Someone must do the work and someone must make sure it is done correctly.

It is always my employee’s who succeed when the work is done correctly. It is always me that accepts responsibility when the work is not correct. My role as a manager makes their role as a worker possible, but more important, because there are workers, I have a job.

Who Should Think Big? 1

Are You Thinking Big?

Traveling to Yorktown, Virginia from New Jersey, I cross the Potomac River on Route 301. Three miles from the river, at the top of a rather steep hill, is a furniture and carpet shop. The shop has been in business for decades. I’ve been driving this road for 21 years, but the store never stood out in my mind until….

On a recent trip, I saw a giant chair in front of the store. I had a flashback to Lily Tomlin and a character she developed that sat in a humongous rocker. Now, as I cross the bridge into Virginia from Maryland, I am anticipating the chair.

I might have the radio on but I’m concentrating on the road as the two lane Potomac River Bridge is very narrow and Route 301 is a major tractor-trailer highway. Then, out of the blue, a vision of the chair flashes in my mind. I think, “is it still there”? As I drive up that steep hill from the riverbed area up onto the rolling hills, I spot the chair at the front of the parking lot.

I don’t think I will ever drive this section of highway without thinking about this chair. Thinking BIG paid off for this business. I certainly remember them.

Everyone should think big. In business, stores don’t take 75 cents off a $300 TV, they slash prices to the bone! As a candidate for a job, you don’t say you can do slightly better than the next guy, you spell out the tremendous skills you have and then share stories that highlight those skills. As a parent, you don’t encourage children to be average, but to reach for the stars, to follow their dreams. Even in our personal relationships, there’s a place for thinking big.

If you are ever on Route 301 in Virginia, between the Potomac River Bridge and where Route 3 crosses it leading into Fredericksburg, look for the chair. And when you are going to do something, choose to do it BIG. Big gets remembered!