Management

Managers, Do You Work With Heroes? 2

I was traveling on the New Jersey Turnpike yesterday afternoon. I had gotten on at exit 7A and was heading south to exit 6 to take the Pennsylvania Turnpike west to Route 81. The view on the turnpike in South Jersey is decidedly different from the urban, industrial view many associate with “the turnpike”. Through the trees you can see homes, shopping centers, even the occasional pond or stream. But what caught my eye on this trip was a large sign in front of a building.

It said:

HERO’S WORK HERE

The sign belongs to a company that specializes in Forklift, Construction equipment, Crane, Standby Power, and Material Handling Sales Servicing the Mid-Atlantic. If I were ever in the market for any of those services, I would give my business to a company that felt that way about their employees.

I was still thinking about the sign minutes later as I was forced to slow down due to the heavy volume of traffic ( 4th of July vacationers heading home?). I flashed back to when I owned Strawcastle Snax, a vending company in Williamsburg, Virginia. I had the good fortune of landing the vending machine account for the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. My machines were in the employee lounge, so I entered through the employee door on the side of the Brewery.

Over the door, in large bold letters was this sign:

THROUGH THESE DOORS PASS THE WORLD”S BEST BREW TEAM

Ok, it’s been over 20 years since I’ve seen the sign. The sign may have said “Greatest”. But the point is the same. Management considered their employees to be a very valuable asset. While servicing the account, I remember asking employees about the sign and how they were treated. They confirmed that the sentiment was real, just like the beer foam that washed across the production floor when they bottled Budweiser.

As a consumer, I would want to do business with companies that had this type of attitude towards employees. As a manager, there are so many advantages to this type of philosophy. Besides the obvious “golden rule” ideas, there are productivity gains from creating a work environment where employees feel valued.

Managers, I encourage you to look at how you view your employees. If you don’t work with “Heroes”, then you may have some work to do.

Management and Labor – Is there common Ground? 0

The IBEW sign usually says “Boycott so and so”. I generally don’t pay attention to their sign, we don’t have much common ground. I grew up management, not labor. Yet this morning’s message made me stop and look. After reading it, I found myself in full agreement with the IBEW

Coming from a Right-to-Work state over 20 years ago, my first encounter with labor unions was during the construction of a new building. As part of the management team that would occupy and use the building after its completion, I was on-site during the entire building process.  While the building did open on time, many differences of opinion threatened to delay the project.

The one I found most interesting had to do with the installation of the alarm system. Each individual fire door had its own contact point. The contacts had a battery backup. The electricians complained that the local alarm company, which was not represented by a union, should not be allowed to connect the batteries because it was “electricity” and electricity was their job.

The issue was finally resolved and the alarm company completed the job themselves. I admit I did find an opportunity to let the BA know my thoughts on the matter. The next day my pager battery went dead. Remember when pagers were a high-tech business tool? I brought my pager and a new battery to the BA and asked him to change it for me, as it was “electricity”.

Ok, so I shouldn’t have done that, it wasn’t professional. But as Forest Gump once said, “stupid is as stupid does”.

So why would I stop and take a picture of the IBEW’s sign? Because some things are just bigger than individual differences. Our country was founded on these differences and the right to express them freely. And our men and women in uniform defend that right on a daily basis. To them we both say “thank you”.

The IBEW’s sign made me see past the small to the big picture. It made me see that we have common ground.

A Fresh Approach To Leadership 2

Peter Drucker’s quote “Management is doing things right; Leadership is doing the right things” is just a starting point for what a true leader can be. Here are three ways to lead:

  1. Don’t rely on too much data – Managers can spend time analyzing reports, doing studies, collecting data, but in the end the decision still must be made. Leaders don’t fill their heads to the point they can’t make a decision. They know when it’s time to take action.
  2. Don’t make excuses – There’s an old expression that goes something like this “you can make excuses, you can make money, but you can’t do both”. Successful leaders face the same problems the rest of us do. But their focus is on what needs to be done to “make money” where “making money” equates to achieving any goal or objective.
  3. “Know instead of Believe” – People believe a lot of things. We learn from our parents, friends, teachers and we come to believe certain things. Leaders find that they  ”know” things. It’s that feeling, something you can’t put your finger on. Leaders have it and pay attention to it. ( Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell covers this in great detail )

These three ideas are the starting point for a fresh way to look at leadership. As a leader, I’m sure you will add your own.   Please share your ideas for the rest of use, so we too can become leaders

As a Manager, why you should expect the unexpected 1

I never expected a Blue Bird

I was sitting on the deck, enjoying the sun and having a little lunch. When I finished, I picked up my plate, opened the screen door and walked into the kitchen. I was thinking about getting back to my writing when, looking to my left through the kitchen window, there it was. Sitting on the fence near my bird feeder was a blue bird.

I have lived in New Jersey for over 20 years and never seen a blue bird here. In fact, the only blue bird I have ever seen was at Gettysburg, Pa while we were on a horseback tour of the battlefields.  So to have one sitting on my fence for several minutes was completely out of the blue (no pun intended). This got me thinking about the unexpected and why we should be expecting it.

I should have expected to see a bird I hadn’t seen before. Several years ago I was in the living room when I heard a loud “bang” against that same kitchen window. Running into the kitchen I saw a somewhat dazed immature Bald Eagle sitting on the fence. It turns out he was hunting for lunch at my bird feeder and had swooped down on a sparrow, over shot the feeder and slammed into my window. I’m pretty sure the eagle was just as surprised about the situation as I was.

In business, managers need to anticipate and plan. This includes expecting the unexpected. It may be a power outage that closes your business unexpectedly. It could be a typo in your email advertising link that sends your potential customers to a less-than wholesome website instead of your landing page. Sometimes it’s an employee who doesn’t check that the projector is working before your presentation.

The more we expect the unexpected and check for the unexpected, the less unexpected we will have as managers.

Pencil Whipping? Are you insane? 0

Are You Pencil Whipping Your Checklist?

INSANITY – “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting it to come out different” Wikiquote

I’ve said more than once that Managers need to be organized, to have checklists for their day-to-day activities. Used properly, checklists allow a manager to inspect many different areas they oversee and then check off that they have looked at a specific task, project, deadline, etc.

Yet the danger of checklists is they can become routine. Managers can get busy with an employee, a customer, a supplier and spend vast amounts of time on one task.  Now it’s getting near quitting time, so out comes the checklist and; check, check, check and done. The checklist may be completed, but the tasks have not. If you are doing this day after day, you may be wondering why the checklist isn’t working and why the same results occur.

Make today the day you stop Pencil Whipping your checklist. Take the time to actually review each item you have listed. Stop making excuses for not doing the really important (and perhaps uncomfortable) parts of your job. Remember, you set up a checklist to remind (force) yourself to review certain things. They are on the list in the first place because of their importance to your success and the success of your company.

Join me as I renew my commitment to not pencil whipping my daily checklist. The outcome will be different, you’ll feel better and so will your employees.

Can driving sales be like hunting for natural resources on asteroids? 1

Are You Mining Asteroids?

Planetary Resources Inc – this new company backed by two Google billionaires, film director James Cameron and other space exploration proponents is aiming high in the hunt for natural resources—with mining asteroids the possible target.

While the announcement may cause some people to snicker at what could be a page out of a sci-fi novel or a Hollywood movie scene, Planetary Resources is making its debut just as scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and other groups are embracing the notion of mining “near-Earth asteroids” and providing blueprints for how such a feat would be accomplished.

Closer to home, sometimes you can get into a rut. If sales are good and you have no major problems, it’s easy to get into the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it routine”. That’s how I felt all week. Then this morning I read that James Cameron wants to mine asteroids. OMG. All I wanted to do was increase comp sales by 5% over LY and increase net profit 2.5%.

Can you find a way to challenge yourself and your employees to think big?

So now I’m thinking  what can I do to create HUGE excitement in my business? How can I get my employees to be excited about driving sales, to be creative in their thinking, to want to “hunt for natural resources on asteroids”!

Thinking big is critical to a manager success.   Daniel H. Burnham -US architect & city planner (1846 – 1912) said “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood

What asteroid hunting plans can you create for yourself, your team and your company?

Four lessons any manager can learn from the Masters Golf Tournament – Part 4 0

Charl Schwartzel of South Africa helps Bubba Watson put on the ceremonial Green Jacket during Sunday's fourth round at the 2012 Masters Tournament

At Augusta, it is often said that the tournament is not won on Thursday (the first day), but that’s when it can be lost. Bubba Watson was on the hunt all four days and made  a solid showing on Thursday. He put himself in contention to win.

As a manager, your success is often directly related to the amount of planning you do. You can lose the sale, profit or even a  promotion by not being fully prepared. And like the Masters, you can’t win on the opening day. You must play through the different parts of the project, adjust as needed and stay focused on managing the pieces according to your plan.

On day two, Bubba was the leader.  On day three, he was not. But he was still able to win. He had left himself a chance.  By the end of regulation play on Sunday, Bubba was tied with Oosthuizen and a Sudden Death Playoff began. On the second sudden death  hole, Bubba hit his drive left in to the gallery. He hit an amazing second shot onto the green and two putted. Oosthuizen made a 5 and the tournament had a new champion.

Right up until the last stroke of the last hole, Bubba had to remain vigilant. To be a successful  manager, you must do the same. Regardless of the project, it’s all about the planning and then the execution.

Charles Degaulle  said “Victory often goes to the army that makes the fewest mistakes, not the most brilliant plans”. I think Bubba Watson, the 2012 Masters Champion, would agree.

Four lessons any manager can learn from the Masters Golf Tournament – Part 3 0

Azalea - The 13th hole at the Masters

The 13th hole at Augusta, named Azalea,  is a beautiful par 5. An accurate tee shot to the center of the fairway on this sweeping dogleg left allows a player to go for the green in two. A tributary to Rae’s Creek winds in front of the raised green, and four bunkers threaten behind. On Friday, Bubba Watson hit a perfect drive on 13, had a great iron shot into the green, but couldn’t close the deal with his putt and make eagle.

Yesterday, Phil Mickelson hit a monster tee shot on 13 into the fairway. Phil’s second shot landed almost 20 feet from the hole, some 13 feet further away than Bubba’s. Phil imagined what the putt would need to look like to go in. The ball actually had to go up hill and then make a sweeping right hand turn to get to the hole. And that’s exactly what it did! Phil was able to make 3 on this par 5 hole.

It’s no coincidence that Phil Mickelson is #2 two on the PGA Tour in strokes gained – putting. Phil is able to imagine  the path the ball needs to take and then execute the stroke needed to create that path. Oh, and did I mention that Phil is in second place at the Masters, one shot behind Peter Hanson, going into the final round today?

As managers, we need to be able to imagine the end result and then execute it. Our employees count on us to understand the issue and then imagine the correct path to achieve the desired result. Those managers who can do that end up on company leader boards in the same way Phil Mickelson is on the Augusta Leader Board. Success begets success.

One final thought, there’s a difference between a professional golfer (manager) and the rest of us. As Phil is standing over that 20 foot putt, he knows he is going to make it. He is not thinking of  all the reasons why it might not go in. He believes it will go in. To close the deal, to complete the project, to be a successful manager, you need to believe it too.

Four lessons any manager can learn from the Masters Golf Tournament – Part 2 0

Bubba Watson

Get their attention  or in golf parlance – ” Drive for Show “

-  In golf, people are drawn to the long hitters. On the PGA tour Bubba Watson has the longest carry distance, averaging 304.7 yards, his longest overall was 345.00. After two rounds at Augusta, Bubba Watson is tied for third. Not bad!  Bubba crushed his drive on 13 yesterday which  set up a great iron shot to within six feet of the hole. Then the putter yipped and he missed an eagle, settling for a birdie.

One way to be recognized as an expert  manager is to understand and solve the problems of your employees. Employees are drawn to the managers that can solve their problems. Your knowledge and expertise attract them.  This doesn’t mean giving them all the answers, it means giving them the tools they need to be successful.

Michael Quinlan, as President of McDonald’s Corporation said that “one of the most important aspects of his job – and one he spends approximately  one-third of his time – was cutting red tape.”  This clears the way for your employee to do what he or she was hired to do.

So in the end Bubba didn’t  make the putt and it cost him a stroke.  Tomorrow we will look at getting the job done; making the clutch putt.  Being recognized as an expert is only the beginning;  now you must prove it.

Four lessons any manager can learn from the Masters Golf Tournament – Part 1 1

2012 Masters Tournament

Some people actually yawn when the subject of golf comes up. I was a caddy at age 11 and began playing at age 12, so I am not one of those people. In high school, I was the guy out at daybreak, carrying my clubs and playing up to 54 holes before they would kick me off the Newport News Deer Run Municipal Golf Course well after dark. I have learned many lessons from golf over the years. Most involve humility.

Even if you are not a golfer,  there are four great lessons any manager can take away from a major golf tournament:

  1. Preparation-  for any major event this is the key to success
  2. “Drive for Show” – getting  recognition as an expert
  3. “Putt for Dough” – If you can’t close the deal…
  4. “Amen Corner “ – There’s always that one moment…

Today I will address Preparation. Right now there are 96 golfers competing for the coveted green jacket. Some of the contenders include household names like Tiger Woods, Tom Watson and Phil Mickleson. There are a dozen ways to get an invitation, but the top four are:

  • Win a Masters
  • Win a US Open
  • Win the British Open or PGA Championship
  • Be an Amateur champion

Preparing to win the Masters means you are already a winner. It is the best of the best. As a manager, your take-away from this is simple. Success begets success.  Prove your abilities and you will be recognized. Yet some managers don’t get it.

I have seen many potentially winning managers settle for mediocrity because they weren’t going to do the job until they were paid for it. They miss the fact that managers being promoted are the ones already doing their bosses job. So when their experience met opportunity, they passed up the chance to compete at a higher level.

The lead at Augusta has changed several times since the first golfers teed off at 7:50AM this morning.  It will be late Sunday night, after the field is narrowed, that the final victor will emerge. I look forward to the competition and what I will learn from the golfers.

Join me over the next four days, even if you are not a golfer. By Sunday night, you just might be a better manager. And as always, I welcome you comments.