Leadership

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.

Tiger Woods wins PGA Event after 923 day drought – Can your business bounce back from a major set-back? 0

923 days later, back in business

As you can see from his website, Tiger Woods is a business. Like all businesses, his customers make him successful. On a fateful night in November, several years ago, he lost the trust of many of his customers (fans). Then there was the famous news conference and the rehab. His business lost sponsors. For those first few months it seemed like Tiger Woods as a business was over.

Yesterday all the newscasters could talk about was the new Tiger. One pointed out that many golfers have an initial burst of success, followed by a plateau, followed by a second wave of success in the sport.  Tiger’s initial burst of success included winning 71 PGA tournaments and the Arnold Palmer six times. His win yesterday is what is surely the first of many more as Tiger Woods continues to take the steps needed to once again be successful on the golf course.

As I watched Tiger play the final holes yesterday, my mind shot to the chapter in Peter Shankman’s book, Customer Service – New Rules for a Social Media World. In chapter five Peter talks about Stopping Small Problems From Becoming Big Problems.  On February 19, 2010, one of the headlines was “Will Tiger Woods quit golf for good?” That same day Tiger held a Press Conference. “People learned more about Tiger in the past 15 minutes” than they have through his whole career, said Geek Factory CEO Peter Shankman on Fox News.

After the news conference, Religion reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman outlined her thoughts on how Tiger could recover from this; Admit your wrongs, take responsibility for them, express your regrets to all who were harmed, and spell out your path to return to integrity and righteousness.

No one likes to think that something bad will happen to their business, but not having a plan on how to handle set-backs is bad. By thinking ahead about the unthinkable, you  may be able to minimize the damage, keep your customers and even turn them into raving fans in the end.

So it’s on to Augusta as the new Tiger continues to reinvent himself, both on and off the golf course.

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.

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 .