“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?

Four reasons your plan is too complicated 2

Do we have anything, like, resembling a plan, or anything?

I was on the treadmill at the gym this afternoon and on one of the TV’s they were running Bruce Willis in Live Free or Die Hard. I had seen the movie before and was concentrating more on getting to 1.5 miles in less than 20 minutes when this scene caught my attention:

Matt Farrell: Do we have anything, like, resembling a plan, or anything?
John McClane: Find Lucy, kill everybody else.
Matt Farrell: I mean, more like a plan, like, a way to do that.

Right after this John McClane (Bruce Willis) picks up a pipe wrench and takes out bad guys with his bare hands. The Geek, Matt Farrell, who is interested in John’s daughter,  is armed with a laptop and quite a bit of theory.

The whole scene  reminded me how sometimes managers can over complicate things. In fact, here are four reasons why your plan is too complicated:

  1. It’s over thought – it’s very detailed and complex. It smacks of “justifying your position” instead of a realistic plan
  2. It’s not taking into account the resources at hand. It might be a great plan if you had 20 super-star employees, but your budget is forcing you to do it with ten and you can’t choose which employees you get. So now the plan is not realistic.
  3. It’s not addressing the real issue. (This could be a plug for my book!) Your plan isn’t going to address the real issue and later you are going to need to go back and fix it.
  4. It’s not timely - it’s a 5 year plan for a two-week deadline

You might get lucky in the end, I mean Matt Farrell did get the girl. But did you see what he had to go through? Now if he had a less complicated plan…

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.

 

How healthy are your employees? Three things to check 4

Davy Jones

RIP Davy Jones, Monkee Extraordinaire (Pittsburgh Post Gazette)
Davy Jones, the British-born singer-actor who was frontman for the Monkees from the show’s beginning in 1966 and continued in that role, died in Florida at age 66. Initial reports indicate Jones suffered a heart attack at his ranch.

I had just gotten off the phone with one of my employees who suffered a heart attack at work when I heard the news about Davy Jones. Last week I had an employee out for an operation. The week before that, it was an employee going for a cancer screening.

Let’s face it, for any business to survive, we need healthy employees. Employees who can perform at their peak when the job calls for it. As managers, we need to know the health of our workforce as much as we need to understand the financial health of our business. Here are three quick checks:

1. What is the average age of your workforce? Craig Juengling, The E2 Coach,  said in a recent  blog post  that there are four common age groupings in many companies: Gen Xer, Millennial, Boomer and Mature. Take a look at your workforce and understand where you stand

2. How much sick time do you pay? Things happen. Reviewing this will help you spot trends. But be careful how you draw conclusions as many employees use sick time for purposes other than what an employer had in mind.

3. How many Workers Comp claims do you have? Reviewing this (and by law, most of you had to post this in January) will highlight what your specific company issues are so you can focus training programs to address them.

Jones death was sudden and unexpected. Things will happen at your company that are sudden and unexpected. While the health of an employee can change in a moment, the health of your company evolves slowly, over time. You can make an impact on the health of your business, but first you must know where you stand.

When it’s your turn to ask questions 2

Last October, I wrote a blog post titled During the Interview, It’s Not About You. I outlined reasons why the interviewer must get certain things from the interview to justify hiring you. I recently came across this quote from Louise Garver, an executive coach for the past 23 years from Broad Brook, Conn., and founder of Career Directions, LLC. It reminded me that the way you approach the interview will determine your ultimate success.

When talking about asking questions of the Interviewer, she says “The best questions are really all about them and not about you”. You can find her list of questions to ask during your interview on her blog

The more I speak with individuals who are actively interviewing, the more I feel they are not giving this part of the interview enough thought. It’s not enough to be qualified and enthusiastic, you need to show that you will fit in. The interviewer must be able to visualize you working for her company, interacting with her employee’s, contributing to her company in a positive way. Using your questions to give the Interviewer a reason to hire you is a great tool to have in your job seeking tool belt.

I encourage you to spend as much time thinking about the questions you will ask as you do preparing for the questions you will have to answer. The difference may just be you will hear “when can you start?” sooner than later.

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 .

How’d the interview go? Can you face the music? 2

I recently heard from a gentleman who is 62. He has  a very long record of success in his industry. Looking for a new job, he has gotten many first  interviews, but is not getting called back. He feels the interviews go great, but I told him if that were true, he would be hired by now.  I then suggested several specific things he could do during his next interview.

Having a positive attitude is one of the best attributes a person can have during the hiring process. But it shouldn’t get in the way of thinking clearly about how you are approaching your interviews. As with the gentleman above, he didn’t think there was anything wrong with the interview from his side, yet he is not getting hired. Once he opens himself up to seeing the situation from a different perspective, meaning from the interviewer’s eyes, he will begin to see what he needs to change to land the job.

The whole process of putting yourself out there in an interview can be intimidating. It is a contest of sorts, with the winner getting the 401k and the two weeks paid vacation. We pump ourselves up before the interview, do research about the company, practice interview questions and then arrive early for the appointment. But what do most people do after the interview?

Well, after sending a hand written thank you card, the serious candidate will honestly assess the interview.  George Bradt, of Forbes Magazine says there are only three true job interview questions: 1. Can you do the job? 2. Will you love the job? 3. Can we tolerate working with you?

Assessing my 62 year old candidate: Yes, he really does have the experience for the job. He has a passion for the work, you can hear that when you speak with him. So on some level, the interviewers must have felt he wasn’t a good fit for their organization. That’s where he needs to focus.

Preparing for the interview is a huge part of landing a new job. Facing the music after the interview, though, may be more important.

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.

Create Your Own Mardi Gras Tradition 0

Fat Tuesday Parade
Fat Tuesday Parade

The reporter said yesterday that the annual Mardi Gras Celebration in New Orleans generates over 500 million dollars in revenue for the local economy. What if you could create your own Mardi Gras event for your business? Create world-wide recognition of the event just by saying the name? Have people the world over mark your event on their calendars, search on-line for details and ultimately be at your event, just so they could say they were there? What impact would that have on your business, your non-profit, your town, city or state?

Now I can already hear the nay-sayers going “I’ll never be able to create global excitement like Mardi Gras”. And maybe your ad budget isn’t in the millions and maybe you don’t have hundreds of years of history (The starting date of festivities in New Orleans is unknown. An account from 1743 notes that the custom of Carnival balls was already established. Processions and wearing of masks in the streets on Mardi Gras took place. Thank you Wikipedia.)  To create your own Mardi Gras, you need three things.

1. Tradition -There are great traditions that generate income. My town of Lakewood, New Jersey holds a concert in the band shell on the 4th of July followed by fireworks from a barge on the lake. Hundreds of merchants and enterprising entrepreneurs benefit from the annual event. One of the keys to creating your own Mardi Gras in consistency. I have been in New Jersey 21 years and the town was holding this event at least 25 years before I got here.

2. Size – It must be big enough based on your situation to inspire people to action; The largest state fair east of the Rockies, the largest collection of antique cars ever assembled in Detroit, or Uncle Buster’s Annual Special Soup Cellar Collection Event, Main Street, USA

3. Economic benefit – You must decide on your ROI. How will you measure success? (  In 1833 Bernard Xavier de Marigny de Mandeville, a rich plantation owner of French descent, raised money to fund an official Mardi Gras celebration. Again, thank you Wikipedia) If your event generates sales, new customers or adds to your Brand, you may have a winner

So as you decide what to wear (or not to wear) for today’s  Mardi Gras Parade, spend a few minutes thinking about how you can start or build on something you do. How can you create an annual tradition that will create excitement, generate revenue and create a loyal following? When it becomes big enough,  they may write about it in Wikipedia.

If you take this death may occur 2

If you take this death will occur

What comes to mind when you hear the words “if you take this death may occur”? My first thought was it might be written on the briefcase carrying our Nation’s Nuclear Launch Codes. Perhaps it would be posted on a respirator in the trauma unit of a local hospital. Or even on the air packs and spacesuits NASA astronauts wear in space. I never expected to see it on a  stapler in an office.

Productivity is one of the keys to success in any business. Getting things done efficiently  makes us feel good and motivates us to the next task. But what if you can’t find the tools to do your job?

Many of us can relate to not being able to find a pen, a paperclip or a piece of tape when you need one. Offices are notorious for always running out of basics. I’m sure if you checked the tray between the seats in your car you have one or two office pens. Or maybe you have a collection on your dresser at home that you have been meaning to bring back to the office. The point is, having access to a stapler (filled with staples) when you need it seems to be a privilege, not a right, in an office setting. But then I saw this stapler.

Now the whole idea of taking the time to print an Avery label the size of the top of a stapler with the words “If you take this death will occur” seems a bit extreme. On some level you can really feel the frustration of the owner. You can picture years of going to the desk, a stack of papers in hand only to find the stapler missing. Then there’s the productivity issue of wasting 5 minute searching for;  first, your stapler, then any stapler, in order to complete a simple task.

I must admit when I first saw the stapler, I laughed. But that was before I needed to send a letter and I couldn’t find my roll of stamps. So next time you’re tempted to “borrow” a stapler in the office, imagine this  warning on top and at the very least, put it back when you are done. Everyone will be more productive.