employees

Is Your Business an Elephant Graveyard? 1

If you ever watched Animal Kingdom on Sunday nights, you know all about elephants. The show opens with our host standing in the grasslands of Africa, wearing a Pith Helmet and carrying binoculars. As we peer through the bush we spot a huge male pachyderm. He’s 12 tons and has tusks the size of a play yard jungle gym. Our announcer says “Here we see an aging male elephant, once the dominant male, now heading slowing towards the elephant graveyard” And off he’d go, never to be seen again by the herd.

According to legend elephants seem to know when their time is up. They leave their group and head to the elephant graveyard. Human organizations exhibit the same traits.

All businesses have those employees that aren’t going to be promoted. They are in the last position they will have with the company and they know it. Yet, most still do a good job, are excited about coming to work and they add value. Then there are the elephants.

They will migrate to a certain position and settle in. They are there to live out their remaining days. Yet unlike the elephants in the wild, these have chosen your business as their final resting place. They are not giving 100%, they are not adding value, and they are not moving the organization forward.    

Now think about what you expect from your employees? Are your expectations different for elephants? “Oh, that’s just the way Roger is”. Or “I can’t believe Christine said that to the client, but then she’s always like that”.

As managers, we must recognize the elephants in our midst. We must steer them clear of the elephant graveyard and get them back to being a contributing member of the group. Not doing so creates a serious drag on moral, productivity and distracts those who do care. Real elephants know their time is up and leave the community. Your elephant wants more time without the responsibility that goes with it.

Take a look around. You may be surprised how many elephants you have. If you find yourself saying “That’s just the way Roger is”, then you might be allowing an elephant to turn your business into a graveyard.

 

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.

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.

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.

Is It To Hard? 0

“If you are doing something and it’s to hard, then you are doing something wrong; ’cause things are made to be easy” My friend Ian

If you think of how a river develops, you can see this concept in action. The river begins as a stream, usually fed from a spring. The spring pops up through the earth and water begins its journey towards its ultimate destination, the sea. As the water moves along, it searches for the easiest path, the path of least resistance, the lowest ground. It also joins forces with other streams fed by other springs, collectively heading towards the ocean.

Once enough streams join together, a river is established. Rivers usually start with many twists and turns, taking the easiest course. Eventually some of these twists become so extreme that they meet, creating oxbow lakes. Eventually, the river takes a shortcut and bypasses this section, making the path to the sea easier.

If you draw a straight line from Canada to the Gulf Coast, that is the Mississippi River today. It took millions of years to develop. Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of smaller rivers, streams tributaries, creeks, rills and brooks are all joined together in a single body by the time it reaches the Gulf of Mexico.

Before applying this concept to your business, think about your daily routine. Are you making things easy or are you making things hard? My friend Ian and I were talking about productivity in the workplace. He was noticing how some managers could “see the easy way to get something done.” As we talked I realized that Ian wasn’t saying that they were taking short-cuts, but that they could visualize a more productive way to get the task done. Accomplishing something in a productive manner may only mean taking a moment to make sure that the employee has all of the tools they will need before you send them out to start a project. Or that you have your employee repeat back to you what you want them to accomplish, so when you check with them later, they are actually working on what you need done and not what they thought you wanted.

Your efforts in your business require all of your employees to work together in order for them to be most productive. Being successful means everyone must be seeking the “easiest path”, the most productive path. Your individual branch offices must align if you are going to grow. Each part of your supply chain must mesh or you end up with parts of the company cut off from the rest, totally isolated and unproductive. Each department within your company must do what is best for the company, not protect their own interests at the expense of the organization.

The idea that “if it’s too hard, then you are not doing it right” is a marvelous gauge you can apply to see if you, your employee(s) or your business is as productive as it could be. Chances are, if it’s too hard, you’re not doing it right

Manager Knows Best 0

“To get a glimpse of what tomorrow’s young global managers might be like as leaders, take a look at how today’s young people think about communications”

That is how the article  http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/02/why_the_days_of_manager_knows.html  begins. It generated hundreds of comments as people shared their thoughts on how much daily access team members should have to social media sites. But the main premise of the article is that “the Days of Manager knows best… are ending”. I disagree.

True, the open forums of social media allow access to greater volumes of information. Leaders get instant feedback from their teams when they email or tweet. This “tool” provides validation of a plan or gives the leader better information so the plan can be modified based on the feedback. But in the end, someone is paid to make the decision.

The manager is the manager for a reason. He or she has the experience within the company to lead their employees towards the company goal. Projects get completed, buildings get built, companies make profits when someone makes a decision. With the Internet providing instant feedback, being able to act swiftly can be the difference between success and second best. Just because there is a team of socially aware employees doesn’t mean a decision will be made, a course of action decided on or a resolution to a problem opted for.

Regardless of how you measure success, the companies that are successful have leaders. They pay managers to make the tough decisions. I believe that structure has held the test of time. As early as the 6th century BC, Sun Tzu was laying out management  and leadership principles in The Art of War. Today, people are still reading Peter Drucker’s books and quoting Lee Iacocca; “management is getting things done through other people”.

The future is bright with promise for those companies that embrace new technology and keep one eye to the future. And I believe the future will continue to show that (the) “Manager knows best”!