productivity

With only 346 days left in 2013, what future are you going to create? 1

Joel Quass asks what are your goals in 2013?

What do you see this year?

I have read dozens of articles about making New Year’s resolutions, both pros and cons. Many state that the very act of writing resolutions down helps solidify them in your sub conscious, and you are more likely to achieve them. Others quote Napoleon Hill and say, loosely paraphrased, “New Year’s Resolutions made without any action towards their achievement, are merely dreams”.

This morning I read – Strategy? Gut or Intuition? on LinkedIn. The author ends stating:

THE BEST WAY TO PREDICT THE FUTURE IS TO CREATE IT.

Without going into the debate about self-determination, I want to encourage finding that scrap of paper where you wrote your New Year’s Resolutions. If they are not on paper yet,  jot them down and tape them to the side of your computer monitor.

Sure there are only 346 days left in the year. But if you use them wisely, you can create a future that more closely mirrors your expectations.

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.

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.

 

Where did everybody go? 5

Labor Day Holiday

The last week of “summer” is usually marked by a lack of productivity. As the Labor Day sales ads hit the airwaves, people who have not taken a vacation jump ship and head for the beach.  Many have already taken this week off, knowing that their plates will be full after Labor Day.

There are many signs that this week is not about work. On a Macro-scale, volume on the NYSE drops significantly. This year is no exception. On a micro-scale, many of my Facebook friends are posting vacation pictures. Re-tweets to my Twitter posts are down this week. On LinkedIn, there are very few new connection updates being posted. Traffic to my blog is down for the first time this year.

I have not joined the ranks of the vacationers yet. But I hear the weekend calling and I will soon yield to its call. If you don’t hear from me until Tuesday, you will know why.

Enjoy the holiday!

Are You Using Your Vacation Time This Year? 1

 I met Steve when he spoke this spring at a WCBS and The Wall Street Journal sponsored Small Business Breakfast in Connecticut. He’s a fascinating guy with an interesting background. The story of how he became the spokesman for Jobs on WCBS is a story to itself.

Take a listen to Steve’s thoughts on vacations from his recent Podcast.

Then weigh in on your vacation plans.

 

Does Your Organization Create Bottle Necks? 6

 You never know when and where a bottle neck will occur. I had arrived in plenty of time for the new officer training class. All I wanted to do was to meet with a friend before the morning session began. But the only entrance into the meeting room was blocked by the registration table.

At the time it was a little annoying, but I finally worked my way through, registering as I passed the table. Perhaps that was the idea. But the meeting was being held in a private company’s conference room and the building was back from the road on a tree-lined campus. I don’t think they were afraid of gate crashers.

After almost three hours of presentations, we broke for lunch. Guess where the lunch table was positioned? Just outside of the only exit from the meeting room. By this time, getting out for many was very urgent.  There had been no bathroom break.

As I struggled to maintain my composure while the line slowly moved towards the exit, I made the attached sketch.

I wonder how many times this happens? Are there bottlenecks in your organization? Are they merely inconvenient or do they impact productivity and cost money?   What types of bottle necks have you seen?

 

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.

Seven ways to take charge of your To Do List 9

So you want to be more organized and have a list of things to accomplish. Now what?

  1. Create your list at the end of your workday, before leaving the office (give yourself permission to plan your next day, you’ll sleep better and will arrive at work feeling organized)
  2. Budget 10 – 15 minutes for planning and solitude (make this a daily priority on your list; Without a plan, you are just busy, not effective)
  3. Rank your list (deadlines for projects, client calls to return, you know what’s most important)
  4. Do the task you ranked #1 first (this is soooo… hard when there is e-mail to look at, YouTube video to share The Tickle Me Plant and co-workers to talk with)
  5. Check your tasks off as you complete them (there is a certain satisfaction in completing a task and the act of checking it off causes the body to release positive endorphins. Occasionally, I will write something I did on the list, just so I can cross it off)
  6. As new items come up during the day, add them to the bottom of the list. You will rank them at the end of the day (KEEP ONE LIST. If I write a note on a little slip of paper, I carry it in my hand until I can write it on my list. When I put a note in my pocket, the odds of it ending up on my to-do list decrease exponentially)
  7. “Do first things first and second things not at all” – Peter Drucker (The point of a list is to focus your attention on the most important aspects of your job. When you cross off your number 1 item, number 2 becomes your new number one.)

Apply these seven techniques and you will find you have taken charge of your To Do List.

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.

Three reasons Warren Buffet was wrong about Management 2

“Lacking standards, managements are tempted to shoot the arrow of performance, and then paint the bull’s eye around wherever it lands,” said the “Oracle of Omaha”, Warren Buffet, CEO and the largest shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway.

We have all been guilty at times of taking whatever limited success we have achieved and finding a way to put a positive spin on it. “Mission Accomplished” on the deck of an aircraft carrier springs to mind. Yet the very idea that we must always know what we are measuring before we measure it seems awkward as well.

Here are three reasons to “paint the bull’s eye last:

  1. You only see the problem - Knowing what the problem is gets the project started. After writing my book, I was working to understand my Brand, my strengths, what I could offer. The search led me to recognize that I had interviewed thousands of people and had read over 5,000 resumes and applications. This realization led to a my Onestopjobsonline.com Jobs board and moved the target
  2. Getting feedback as the project evolves helps you see where to place the target – As I received more and more questions about interviewing and hiring skills, I began to write tips, articles and this led to presenting a staff training program titled “You’re Hired” for the NJ Dept of Labor in Toms River. When I first shot the arrow, I wasn’t aware of the local agency
  3. It’s hard to hit a moving target – To survive and remain successful means growth and movement. Wednesday I shot the cover picture for my next book, Write this down, you will need it later. The book is targeted at students. Many times at graduation, students have many transferable skills, but little real world work experience. My latest project is filled with information on how students can package their accomplishments into a personal brand that is recognizable during the interview process.  I will be taking this message on the road, working with students to give them the tools they need to land jobs.  When I sat down to write the first words of my first book, my focus was much narrower.

I admit I would not have made much progress without targets.  In fact, I have hundreds of targets, each with its own date and time attached to it.  Being competitive requires a target to measure against.  All of us put up mini-targets all day long; to get to work by 8AM, to get the kids to band practice, to pick up our dry cleaning before the shop closes.

Yet, for the big picture, with all due respect to the “Oracle of Omaha”, I would recommend not being so quick to paint the bull’s eye. You may be surprised how much bigger your target becomes.