management

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.

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.

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.

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

You Never Know 0

All businesses have customers. Without someone purchasing the services or products that your company produces, there is no profit and no incentive to continue. Even in the non-profit sector, there are end users of the services provided by the organization and if you do not meet the needs of that group, they will leave you and find someone who will fulfill their needs.

Every day my managers, employees and I interact with our customers and work to give them the best possible experience. We give of our time willingly, proud of the products that we offer and proud of the company we work for. And because our company does a lot of business around the world and has a great reputation, we see a huge number of customers every day. So there was little time to think that what I did or said that Tuesday morning at 10:17AM would come back to me five months later.

It started out the same as any Tuesday. We opened the door a little early and made sure that everyone was ready to greet the customers. Then it was, “do you carry this?” and ” I saw this product in another of your locations, do you have it?, and “several months ago you had this product, I don’t remember the name, but it was really good, are you getting it again?” At 10:17AM I was making my way from the back of the store. As I passed the register area, I noticed a man standing near the entrance to the office. I approached him and asked if I could help.

He explained that he had purchased a product from one of our other locations and it was defective. He had returned it to that location only to find out they did not have any more. Really wanting the same item, he had asked if any other location had the same item and was told that my location stocked the product. So he packed a lunch and drove the 40 minutes from his home to see us. After researching what he had purchased, it turned out that we did not have any more of this item. Not wanting to disappoint this customer any further, our team found a slightly more expensive item that was in stock that would meet his needs. So we rang him up at the same price he had paid for the original item, loaded him up and away he went. The customer left happy and that’s the end of story. Or so I thought.

Five months later, a co-worker from another location, Debbie was riding the New Jersey Coast Line train into New York to see a matinee performance of a Broadway musical. Debbie was seated with five other employees talking about the show they were going to see, about their families and just generally making conversation as the train approached the tunnel into New York. Seated across the aisle was the customer I worked with 5 months ago. He was quietly listening to the conversation my co-worker and her employees were having. When someone in the group mentioned the name of our business, this customer’s ears perked up. He turned to Debbie and said “It sounds like you work for “my favorite store”".  She said, “yes”. He then asked “do you know Joel?” “Yes” was the reply, “we have worked in the same building in the past and I have known him for years”.  So he related to her his feelings about that day 5 months ago.

He told her that by the time I spoke with him he had been disappointed 3 times. He told Debbie that at the very moment I had approached him, he was actually preparing a very strongly worded complaint letter in his head and had every intention of never purchasing anything from our company again. But, by the time he left my location, we turned his thoughts around 180 degrees. He told my co-worker that he is now our biggest fan. We took a frustrating problem for him and turned it into a positive experience. By taking the time to hear him out, seeing what he needed and then meeting that need, we unknowingly won a loyal customer.

The most important lesson from this is that you never know. What my team and I did, we do all the time. I can’t remember thinking I’ve got to do something special or that I may run into him in the future, it was just taking care of the customer. When I  spoke to the customer on that Tuesday morning, he did not say anything about how frustrated he was or that he was thinking of boycotting our company. He was just a customer with a problem and we set about solving it. Having the positive ending come back to us 5 months later through a random meeting on a train going into “the city” was just proof that every encounter with your customers is the most important.

Most of the time you will never even be aware of the impact you have had on your customers. But every so often, the hand of fate gives you a glimpse. So do the right thing at every opportunity because… you never know!

8 Things Your Employees Need 0

8 Things Your Employees Need

In this article, Jeff Hayden says that the number one thing your employees need is freedom.  “Whenever possible, give your employees the freedom to work the way they work best.” Micro-managing comes at a cost. You hired people to work for you because your company was growing and you could not do everything yourself. You selected your employees because they had the skills you needed and their attitude towards the job, the company mission and your customers was very similar. Yet, after you give them their job assignments, you find yourself second guessing everything they are doing.

Help your employees help you. Teach them your expectations. Show them what you want, then step back and let them do it. If you have done your job correctly, they will be the “shadow of  the leader”.

Give your employees the freedom to innovate, create and be exceptional

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”!