Management

Is Your Organization Doomed To Fail? 0

“If the rate of change externally is greater than the rate of change internally, then your organization is doomed to fail.” Dan Cathy, President and COO Chick-Fil-A

I discovered Chick-Fil-A when I was a salesman for a small audio electronics chain, Harvey’s Warehouse. The year was 1977 and the store was located in the Coliseum Mall, Hampton Virginia. My store was just a few shops down from their location.  That Chick-Fil-A was always busy and not just at lunch or dinner. I can’t remember ever walking by and not seeing lines. Even back then they had figured out a niche and were exploiting it. 30 some years later, Chick-Fil-A is still packing in their “raving fans” and continuing to grow. (Learn more by reading Manage Better Now’s complete coverage of Dan Cathy’s speech given at the University of Tampa)

In the 1980′s I was a store manager for the catalog merchandiser Best Product’s Company, Inc. I had managed seven stores in seven years and had moved around the state of Virginia, finally returning to my wife’s home town of Hampton, VA. Life seemed great, the company had just hit a billion in  sales and my future with them seemed ripe with opportunity. And then we acquired Modern Merchandising. The next twelve months proved fatal for our company.

We began assimilating all of the buying offices throughout the country and consolidating our distribution centers. We changed the names on the buildings to our Best Products logo. We even had T-shirts made. It was only twelve months, but the attention this required took our focus off of driving sales and staying in front of the next trend. When we  lifted our heads up and began to focus once again on what our customers wanted, we looked around and said “hey, where’d  everybody go?”

Best Products  was the next new thing when we opened. Having a Best Product’s card was a status symbol in many circles. Yet, as I see it now with the benefit of hind-sight, when we acquired Modern Merchandising, we momentarily lost our focus on what our customers wanted just as they were demanding something different. Our customer’s “rate of change externally” was far greater than our “rate of change internally”. The closing of the company was several years later, but the handwriting was on the wall.

So how’s your business? Are you focusing on what’s now or what’s next? If you need some inspiration, maybe you should go have a chicken sandwich.

Three reasons Warren Buffet was wrong about Management 2

“Lacking standards, managements are tempted to shoot the arrow of performance, and then paint the bull’s eye around wherever it lands,” said the “Oracle of Omaha”, Warren Buffet, CEO and the largest shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway.

We have all been guilty at times of taking whatever limited success we have achieved and finding a way to put a positive spin on it. “Mission Accomplished” on the deck of an aircraft carrier springs to mind. Yet the very idea that we must always know what we are measuring before we measure it seems awkward as well.

Here are three reasons to “paint the bull’s eye last:

  1. You only see the problem - Knowing what the problem is gets the project started. After writing my book, I was working to understand my Brand, my strengths, what I could offer. The search led me to recognize that I had interviewed thousands of people and had read over 5,000 resumes and applications. This realization led to a my Onestopjobsonline.com Jobs board and moved the target
  2. Getting feedback as the project evolves helps you see where to place the target – As I received more and more questions about interviewing and hiring skills, I began to write tips, articles and this led to presenting a staff training program titled “You’re Hired” for the NJ Dept of Labor in Toms River. When I first shot the arrow, I wasn’t aware of the local agency
  3. It’s hard to hit a moving target – To survive and remain successful means growth and movement. Wednesday I shot the cover picture for my next book, Write this down, you will need it later. The book is targeted at students. Many times at graduation, students have many transferable skills, but little real world work experience. My latest project is filled with information on how students can package their accomplishments into a personal brand that is recognizable during the interview process.  I will be taking this message on the road, working with students to give them the tools they need to land jobs.  When I sat down to write the first words of my first book, my focus was much narrower.

I admit I would not have made much progress without targets.  In fact, I have hundreds of targets, each with its own date and time attached to it.  Being competitive requires a target to measure against.  All of us put up mini-targets all day long; to get to work by 8AM, to get the kids to band practice, to pick up our dry cleaning before the shop closes.

Yet, for the big picture, with all due respect to the “Oracle of Omaha”, I would recommend not being so quick to paint the bull’s eye. You may be surprised how much bigger your target becomes.

“Spring Ahead” – Three lessons managers can learn from daylight savings time 5

Did you "Spring Ahead"?

As managers, we can learn three valuable lessons from “Spring Ahead”. Let’s look at Sally and Sam and see what they did in order to make it to church on time this morning.

  1. Preparation – Sally  cut out the reminder notice from her local newspaper about setting the clocks forward and posted it on the refrigerator. Sam had heard someone mention it in the hallway at work and assumed he would remember
  2. Planning – Sally and family knew they wanted to arrive at church on time and planned ahead by taking care of their clocks the night before. Sam assumed he would get to it , but did not before going to bed.
  3. Prioritizing – Sam started watching a late movie on TV and found it more important  than taking the time to set his clock ahead. Sally and family made setting the clocks ahead a priority, each taking a room and moving the time forward before retiring . One of the kids actually went out and changed the clock in the family car.

Sally and family accomplished their goal and the next day  made it to church on time. Sam woke up this morning, had forgotten all about daylights savings time and got to church just as the service ended.

Even something as routine as changing the clocks has valuable lessons for successful managers. Sally acted like a good manager would, and took steps to meet her objectives. Sam did not and the result was he missed church. On a personal level, all that was lost by Sam was a little self-esteem and pride as he explained to his pastor why he missed church.

But what if Sam and Sally were competing in business? What if they  both had a new product launch scheduled to rollout?  Who do you think applied the lessons from “Spring Ahead”? Who do you think would be the successful manager?

My Garbage Man said “I’ll check with my office” 0

 

“I’ll check with my office”

It wasn’t just that he said “I’ll check with my office” when I asked him about a special pick up, it was the way he said it. If my eyes had been closed I would have pictured him in a three-piece suit standing at one end of a large conference table with Board Members and Senior Executives all waiting to hear what he had to say next.

And it wasn’t forced. His comment was as natural as if he was asking you to pass the butter at the dinner table. His answer was also sincere. He really wanted to take care of my needs, as the customer, and I walked away from our interaction just knowing that he would “check with his office” and I would get the extra pick up I needed.

I once had an employee leave because he felt he was being asked to do something that was beneath him. He wasn’t able to project, even to himself, an attitude that says “I’m proud of myself and I take pride in what I do.” He got lost in what he perceived the “status of the job” to be.

Having a positive attitude about yourself works in your favor in so many ways. Here are just a few:

  • You want a promotion at work – If your attitude is that you already have the job and your actions show you are doing the job, you will be in the right place when the opening occurs
  • You are interviewing for a job – Your positive, I can solve your problem, attitude will strike a chord during the interview. Combine that with some specific examples of how you have solved problems in the past and you are on your way to hearing “when can you start”

It has been over 10 years since my garbage man told me “I’ll check with my office”. He made a huge impression that day. Think about your attitude, adjust as necessary and let me know how this works for you.

 

Ladder vs. Jungle Gym – Is there room for a leader anymore? 2

Is this replacing the corporate ladder?

Has the Internet and social media destroyed the corporate ladder? Is there even a ladder to climb now? I’m hearing the instant collaboration via the Web has created more of a jungle gym interaction. People will tell you that there is no longer a leader, that the expression “lonely at the top” is no longer relevant because there is no top.

I have been trying to wrap my arms around this for the past two weeks. Having grown up in the “leadership generation” my bias is towards having one central figure in charge. You know; George Washington… Abraham Lincoln…  leading the nation kind of stuff. I’ve been trying to picture Abe tweeting all of his generals about the status of the Confederates, then creating a strategy in the White House. I remember reading Abe famously sent a  note to one of his generals suggesting that if the general wasn’t going to use the Army, he would give it a try. I’ll bet that would have garnered more than one RT.

I would welcome your thoughts on what defines leadership these days. The issue may be larger than I think. It could be a paradigm shift between my generation and my children’s. I do know that each of my children is dedicated to and is passionate about what they do, but not in the same way I am. While this is to be expected, it creates challenges as each generation has different expectations from their work experience.

As an aside (and a future blog post) the definition of leadership and it’s expectations becomes more relevant as those hiring and doing the interviewing change places. The  Ladder generation interviewers are no longer the only ones doing the hiring. Many Jungle Gym interviewees have been hired and are now the new Interviewers . The rules about how to interview are changing with the change in leadership. If you haven’t figured this out, you’re not getting those second interviews and the “when can you start” phone calls.

Please weigh in on this topic. My readers and I look forward to hearing other’s opinions .

Three Reasons You Can’t Make A Decision 0

Sometimes decisions are made without a second thought. Other times the right answer just doesn’t seem to come. Here are three reasons managers give for not making a decision:

1. “It’s out of my hands” “Clearly this decision is way above my pay grade, so if you want an answer, you need to go see my Boss”. How much time and productivity is wasted? In the end, your Boss is going to send them back to you. Or worse, he or she will take care of your employee and now you are out of the loop and your Boss is thinking “why do I even need this manager if he/she can’t make a decision”?

I believe the decision is only out of your hands when you say it is. If you need more information, you can say to the person making the request “that’s a great question. Give me time to work on that and I will get back to you”. Then seek out your Boss’s approval or get the information you need. The key to making this work is to always get back to that person in a timely manner. Then you become the go-to person, and your staff is more likely to help you when it’s crunch time.

2. “I can’t make a decision without more information” – There’s a time to think and there’s a time to take action. When someone yells “fire” in a crowded theater, you take some kind of action.  You look around for flames, you sniff for smoke and then you are able to make a quick decision about what to do next. Committees are sometimes consumed by fires because they can’t come to a consensus and take action.

If you just take a moment to think about it, most of the decisions you will face you have faced before.  The form may be a little different , but the same rules apply. Successful managers are able to apply what they learned yesterday to tomorrows problem. Add in a basic understanding of your companies standard of ethics and you can take care of problems within company policy. Armed with that,  the outcome is usually successful.

3. “It’s My Way or the Highway” - This response is making a decision without really making a decision. Yes you have answered the question, but it is by shutting down the person and any better solutions they may have.  It’s never that easy these days. Similarly, new Managers seem to use the “Because I say so” decision making technique when they first get promoted. It takes a while for them to realize that (yes I’m going to use the cliché) There is No “I” in Team.

So don’t be afraid to make the hard decisions. The more decisions you make, the more experience you will have to pull from the next time.

Management in Unexpected Places 0

Thousands of people have gathered on the Camden waterfront to witness Red Bull’s Fulgtag, where contestants launch their homemade flying machines off of a 30′ tall runway attached to a barge anchored in the Delaware river. From the website promoting the event, to the local radio show celebrities who were judging the efforts, anyone could tell that this was a well organized event. The promoters were very clear in all of the advertising that they were not allowing any outside food or beverages (with the exception of unopened bottles of water) into the viewing area. This created a captive audience for the group’s $5.00 hotdogs and $6.00 beers. But as my son and I were watching one of the crafts attempt their flight, I noticed a business transaction taking place right beside me in the crowd.

 

The “Manager” of the operation was wearing a purple drawstring backpack. He casually approached his potential customer in the crowd and happened to ask, almost in passing, if the two men would be interested in purchasing a cold beer for $3.00. There was initial interest, followed by negotiation. The customer’s friend was very interested also and would the manager consider selling 2 beers for $5.00. As it was close to the end of the event, the “manager” said yes. As the manager was speaking with his customers, I noticed that he had two employees with him. Once the customer was interested, the managers’ employees backed up to the group, with each employee facing out towards the crowd. The employees never looked at the manager or acknowledged the customers. As the transaction took place, their job appeared to be that of making sure the manager was working safe. I pictured the 3 holding practice in someone’s garage where they covered evacuation drills in the event that their customers became disruptive or an outside entity attempted to interrupt their operation.

 

After the transaction was complete the customer said” I wish you had been here earlier” to which the manager said, “we’ve been here all day”. So the manager and his employees must have put together a business model in advance, had worked out the logistics of supplying their operation in spite of obstacles at the point of entry to the event and had planned out in advance evacuation routes in case their business was discovered by the original operations managers or local authorities. This was necessary because I had to assume that they had not secured the necessary permits to operate such a business.

 

Now I’m not passing judgment either way on what they did, but in the final analysis, price controls and regulations created an underground market. A group of entrepreneur’s recognized that opportunity and capitalized on it after weighing the costs and the benefits. Their conclusion was the potential costs (possible fines and a night in the Camden jail) were offset by the chance to make some money. I imagine they saw their company providing a service. So next time you are out and about, keep your eyes open and you will probably see your own examples of management in unexpected places.

 

The shocking truth about Management. This is your real job 2

At a meeting last year, I was learning the in’s and out’s of a particular process my employees were going to be using. The instructor was almost finished when he asked his Boss, who had been sitting in the back of the room, if he would like to say a few words.

I expected the man to review the same material or make a specific point about the training. Instead, he talked for a few minutes about how he ended up with this company and what it takes to manage. He ended with his assessment of what his job really was about:

“My job is to solve any problems before they get to my Boss”

Regardless of the nature of your business, at some level as a manager, this is your job. You report to someone who is expecting you to figure things out and to “take care of problems”. After all, that is a big reason why you were hired or promoted.

My experience is that those who are good problem solvers also have the most ownership of their jobs and their areas of responsibility. Good problem solvers are self motivated and get satisfaction in being able to resolve issues within company policy. In short, good problem solvers are good managers.

So pull out your job description and make sure you pencil in at the bottom, “My job is to solve problems before they get to my Boss”. Your employees, suppliers and customers will be glad you did. Oh… and your Boss will be happy too.