good managers

Now, more than ever, you need focus 2

focus, Linked in Summary

Where will you focus in 2013?

This morning I updated my Summary Information on LinkedIn. Why? Because my focus this year is more targeted than last year. Going over my written goals for 2012, I realized that I hadn’t been specific enough. I hadn’t really drilled down, to understand what I wanted to accomplish.

To put it in interviewing terms, when asked about my customer service skills,  I had said “I’m a people person”.  Well my dog is a people person, but you wouldn’t hire my dog to give a keynote presentation.

A focused response to the question about customer service would be my relating the story of when I was a Store Manager for Best Products in Hopewell Virginia. It was 8PM on Christmas Eve when I got a phone call from a customer who had bought a ride-on car for his 8-year-old son. The father was putting the car together after his son went to bed when he found the battery for the car was missing from the package. The father had called me to ask what I was going to do about it?

I told the man I would meet him at the store. I called my Assistant Manager, just in case it was a set-up (it wasn’t) and I drove to the store. We found the battery he was missing and his 8 year-old son’s Christmas was saved. Now that’s a targeted response to the question of customer service skills.

In reading my Summary statement on LinkedIn, I realized that I was talking as a “people person”, without clear focus. This caused me to think more precisely about the specific, measurable goals I have for 2013. Then I took that focused information and re-wrote my Summary statement. Now, my Summary more closely reflects my focus, my goals for 2013.

While the year is still young, I encourage you to focus.

Start by reviewing your LinkedIn Summary statement.

Is it focused? Is the information current? Does it really identify your value?

While you are on LinkedIn, take a moment and  Customize your public profile URL . It only takes a moment to get rid of all of those letters and numbers behind your name.

If you really focus, 2013 will be your best year yet. I, for one, can’t wait!

Did you go far enough? 3

Will you go far enough to find the gold?Have you ever had trouble locating something or have a problem you couldn’t solve?

When this happens: 1. You can try to figure it out or locate it yourself 2. You can ask someone else to find it or solve the problem for you or 3. You can just give up.

Yesterday I overheard a man talking to his wife in the supermarket. He couldn’t find the brussel sprouts. She took him further down the aisle and there they were. I heard him say to her, “I didn’t go far enough”.

If you are looking for brussel sprouts at the supermarket, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t find them. Not going far enough only means you may have creamed corn for dinner instead. But what if it’s your business we are talking about?

What if you have invested your life savings along with the savings of your relatives. What if you have purchased drilling and mining equipment valued at a million dollars to excavate a gold mine? Now what if you can’t find gold?

During the 1848 California Gold Rush, this happened many times. One claim in particular was talked about by Napoleon Hill. The story was of a man who had purchased a claim and had found a very large seam of gold. He had mortgaged everything and borrowed from his relatives to mine the claim. After a few weeks, the “mother lode” went dry. No more gold. What did he do? He sold his equipment to a junk dealer for 10 cents on the dollar and went home. He didn’t go far enough.

The junk dealer hired a surveyor. The surveyor went to the mine and told the junk dealer, “dig ahead a few more feet and you will find the seam again”. The junk dealer did that and found one of the richest gold mines in California.

Whether shopping for vegetables for dinner or running a business, make sure you go far enough. Don’t settle for creamed corn when you have your heart set on brussel sprouts. And never, ever give up your business or your dreams before you have gone far enough. Because, during the act of going far enough, you will almost always find your answer.

The junk dealer learned that in 1848. And because his wife went a little farther, the man I saw in the supermarket yesterday learned it too.

What’s a good manager worth? 2

As a manager, what are you worth?

Much has been written about the value of CEOs. Companies justify huge bonuses and compensation packages to keep top talent from moving on. But what about middle management, department managers, shift managers? How can their worth be measured?

The National Bureau of Economic Research published a working paper written by Edward P Lazear, Kathryn L. Shaw and Christopher T. Stanton . It is titled The Value of Bosses. What I found exciting is they looked at value from a productivity standpoint.  There were three conclusions:

  1. The choice of boss matters. There is substantial variation in boss quality as measured by the effect on worker productivity. The average boss is about 1.75 times as productive as the average worker
  2. A boss’s primary activity is teaching skills that persist.
  3. Efficient assignment allocates the better bosses to the better workers because good bosses increase the productivity of high quality workers by more than that of low quality workers.

Simply put, you can get more out of your better workers when they are led by a better boss. Better bosses teach. Better bosses inspire.

Better bosses make their employees more efficient. Michael Quinlan as President of McDonald’s Corporation said that “one of the most important aspects of his job-and one at which he spends approximately one-third of his time-was cutting red tape.

Productivity is a wonderful measure of worth. As a manager, you create value for your team (and for yourself) when productivity increases. Every one of us as managers should look at the value we are currently providing and make sure we are doing the things that will continue to show our worth as boss.

Don’t Practice Helicopter Leadership 0

“Whether you’re going to be a head coach, a leader of the team or the father of your own household, it is not about being friends; it is about actually being a leader.”

Phil Simms

What a great reminder of how a leader must act.

The article was featured in today’s Harvard Business Review. It was written by William Rhoden of the New York Times. Make sure you take a look as you decide how you will lead today.

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.

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

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 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.