Improve your leadership profile

19 06 2007

Ever wonder if your leadership style should be less interactive, less personal with your team?

Do you believe that the “cold emotionless leader” approach will bring better results to the organization?

Teresa Amabile in an interview entitled How Team Leaders Show Support-or Not in The Harvard Business School Working Knowledge newsletter, outlines her study published in 2004 in The Leadership Quarterly, and gives insight into leadership characteristics and styles as they impact group performance and creativity in organizations.

She identified 4 key behaviors that will improve the perception of team leader’s support by the team members (and by association improve group attitude and final results).

The groups perception of the leader’s support were positive when:

  • they received on-time feedback and prompt response to problems. On-time decision making
  • they were supported in their decisions on a personal AND professional basis by the leader and a sense of relationship was developed through exchange of personal information. Create personal relationships.
  • they were recognized individually and in public for their achievements. Praise and recognition.
  • they were included and asked for ideas and input about decision making. Inclusion and participation of all team members.

Sound familiar?

They are fundamental characteristics of any leader or manager.

The groups perception of the leader’s support were negative when the leader:

  • Did not manage the work efficiently. Lack of timely decision-making, disinterest, disorganization.
  • Unable to provide clear role definition and objectives. Lack of focus and objectives.
  • Unable to solve problems or avoid them. Lack of strategy and planning.

Becoming a good leader is not all about barking orders or the implementation of revolutionary, new and improved ideas about data management and numbers analysis .

It’s about listening, doing your job and making decisions that affect others on-time.

It’s about dedicating time and applying common sense to create and maintain human relationships.

Related Links

How Team Leaders Show Support-or Not

Leading your team to mediocrity

Are we killing team performance by over-communicating

Step by step beginners guide to project management

Leadership, do you want the job or just the title and benefits

What defines an exceptional leader





The dangers of success

13 03 2007

Today a Google search for the word “success” turned up 321 million websites.

“Failure” got 218 million sites.

We all want to be successful. Leaders are expected to be successful.

We’ve been trained, rewarded, pushed and prodded to become successful. School, work, games and personal life, we are always focused upon success.

It is probably genetic in nature. Competition to survive demands success, and therefore the desire to succeed is an inherent quality in human beings.

Success brings recognition, wealth, favor and fame to the individual or group. All are benefits and rewards of being successful. We like the rewards and benefits….we really do.

Business loves success. In fact, business is not very tolerant of failures, especially leadership failures. To be a leader in a business environment means that you must be successful and get your objectives accomplished.

We strive for success, we really want it to happen, we plan for it, we train, we learn new things, we even modify and manipulate external factors to assure the outcome we desire. Despite all our planning, spending and preparations we are not always successful. No one is successful all the time.

We often forget that past success is not a guarantee for continued success, and that failure is always a learning experience, not always a bad outcome.

The illusion that we must always be successful, and the glory and attention that success brings is not always a good thing.

“Pray that success will not come any faster than you are able to endure it” Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe

Success, and particularly continued success, can lead an individual or organization into the following behaviours and attitudes.

  • Cult of Personality / Fame. The focus is on the personality and not on the present or future work outcomes. It becomes more about who is doing it and less about what to do.
  • Fear. Avoiding or agonizing about doing something different, new or original, “ we were great doing this…let’s keep on doing it”.
  • Can’t let go. Inability to let go of a success and move on to the next challenge. Unwillingness to say “that project and party is over…what’s next”.
  • Over Confidence. Invincible attitude leads to strategies, theories and attitudes that may provoke attacks on enemies or punish those in a weakened position.
  • Loss of control. Inability to gauge or control excess or weakness. Losing touch with the reality of the situation.
  • Yes Men. Lack of honesty from the people around you, no real challenges to ideas, methods and objectives.
  • Hangers on. Distractions and undesirables begin to fill the agenda and schedules.
  • Closing Networks. Cutting ties with old networks and individuals to move “up” in status.
  • Depression. When the happiness or emotion of succeeding does not reach previous levels of emotional highs or didn’t meet the expectations.
  • Risk. Anxiety about repeating the success may drive one to take larger risks, or to eliminate risks.

So go on seeking success, it’s the right thing to do.

Don’t take the failures too hard, learn from them, pick them apart and understand exactly why failure occurred.

Celebrate when you do succeed, take your 5 minutes in the limelight. Then put your feet back firmly on the ground and get back to work.

“Try not to become a man of success but rather become a man of value” Albert Einstein.

Related Links

Why do we fail

Leadership lesson – A Message to Garcia





Don’t find a solution, find a way to make it better

12 03 2007

We make a large error in our business and personal lives if we believe that every problem or situation can be solved immediately or in the short term through our decisions and application of resources.

Theoretically it’s possible, but our focus on solution instead of optimizing and making changes to make it better can blindfold us toward evolutionary processes that in the long term provide better, stronger and long lasting solutions.

I’m suggesting that every situation should be initially evaluated based on two basic criteria; can it be solved now, or can it be improved now.

The situations that can be solved now or in the short term, should be. The organization should dedicate the time and resources toward the solution.

An example would be a delivery service that has 3 trucks and cannot cover the current delivery area on-time due to an increase in customers and package volume. A possible swift solution would be the purchase of another vehicle and hiring of a new driver.

A situation that cannot be solved now or ever should be approached by identifying areas where improvement should be made. The time and resources of the company should be focused upon the improvement.

An example would be government’s attempt to eliminate poverty or disease from a population. A perfect solution is not possible or practical, but by focusing on specific areas one can find great opportunities for success or enormous impact (vaccinations for children against polio).

When we look at every situation as a problem that needs to be solved right now we may be missing the best solutions and strategies required to resolve the situation over the long term. Ask yourself:

  • Can we solve the problem quickly and efficiently with simply modification of variables or a shift in technology? If the answer is yes, then set the process and resources in motion.
  • What if the problem is not able to be solved quickly or has no practical or economically viable solution? This is where the approach of resolving and modifying parts of the problem comes into play.

This evolutionary approach to problem solving is not often requested or expected in business (the quick fix is always applauded and sought after), but often the best long term strategy is optimization and gradual modification.

This evolutionary problem solving process will provide new opportunities for change and solutions to be developed in the future.The identification of areas, processes or resources that are the bottlenecks in your organization become areas of opportunity.

Modifying and improving these bottlenecks will automatically create new bottlenecks, in new areas. The focus on identifying and solving these “new” situations leads to a process of continual improvement and a better, stronger organization.

This is one of the fundamental ideas behind the Theory of Constraints (TOC).

Common sense tells us that in a complex world not all solutions are simple, quick or painless. The “quick fix” is a great idea, but not often found in everyday life.

Observation of science, technology, philosophy and business ideas and strategies show us that change occurs through the rare revolution (paradigm shifts and new discoveries) and through the more common evolution (gradual modifications leading to continual change.

What can be changed, fixed or modified today to make the organization, process, product or service incrementally better?

Related Links

Why don’t they?

Starting over

How to systematically analyze any situation for better decision making

AGI Institute – Theory of Constraints

Evolution (Disambiguation)





Why don’t they

15 01 2007

How many times have you heard, or said, “why don’t they…….”

In the office it seems that everyone not directly involved with the decision making has the answers.

How many times have you heard:

  • Why don’t they just change or modify the process.
  • Why don’t they just lower the price.
  • Why don’t they give the supplier an ultimatum or find new suppliers.
  • Why don’t they give us the power to make decisions.
  • Why don’t they simplify the procedure.
  • Why don’t they hire an expert.
  • Why don’t they fire them.
  • Why don’t they do the right thing.
  • Why don’t they listen to us.

The next time you start with “why don’t they” stop and do the following.

  • Ask yourself what can YOU do to implement or bring your solution to the attention of the decision-makers.
  • Do you really understand the problem, it’s causes, consequence and secondary effects?
  • Do you have enough information to make an informed decision?
  • Have you mapped out the chronological actions (and costs) required to implement the solution?
  • What are the risks involved? There are risks associated with failure and with success, how can the organization prepare for those changes?
  • Have you told, written or explained your solution to the decision-makers?
  • Take action and do something about it.

An organization is strongest when everyone participates, and not necessarily when everyone participates in a linear and orderly manner. Your idea may have been missed in the analysis.

Good ideas and possible solutions are welcome (or should be welcome) at all times.

If your comments, solutions and ideas are limited to informal gripe sessions around the water cooler, it’s time to start writing them down and pushing them forward.

 

Stop waiting for someone else to do it, step up and let your voice be heard.

Related Links

Starting over

Analyze and plan using 7 simple questions

Why do we fail

Leadership lesson – A Message to Garcia

The Power of Something Extra





Are we killing team performance by over-communicating

30 11 2006

Are we killing team performance by over-communicating?

That is the premise of Kevan Hall in Drowning in Co-operation and followed up with additional comments in the Slow Leadership blog The Truth about Communication.

The idea that we must communicate and include everyone in the team in every part of the project, all the time, is a classic example of a good idea that has gotten out of control.

Teams perform well when each team member:

  • Has a specific job, not shared with others
  • Is proficient at what they do, no learning curve required
  • Has easy access to the resources, tools and information required in order to get the job done
  • Clearly understands the group objectives and expected outcome
  • Clearly understands how their input/output affects the other team members
  • Is individually responsible and accountable for their performance and on-time results
  • Is not smothered with controls and time wasting meetings
  • Shares relevant information and communicates with those team members who need that information in order to do their job correctly

Analyze how a relay race squad works together. Each member has a specific and unique function, each member runs their part of the race alone, they expect their co-worker to hand them the baton at the right time in the right place, they all share the same goal and final outcome.

There is no stopping for meetings and communication between members during the race, there are no meetings with the coach halfway around the track to see how they are doing.

The runners do not stop to explain why they are passing the baton to only one member of the team.

The coach selects the qualified members of the squad and interacts with the team members before (preparation and focus) and after the event (evaluation of results), not during the race.

The focus of each team member is on doing their job efficiently and professionally, in order to reach the shared objective in the shortest time possible.

As a leader your mission is to identify the people with the best skills required for each part of the project, empower them by giving access to the right tools and training, build enthusiasm for the project and the other team members contributions, clearly identify the goal and the expected performance for their part of the project and let them do their jobs.

Encouraging communication between team members and leadership is only important and desired when it is focused and shared with those who really need the information to get the job done.

 

Related Links

Leadership, want the job or just the title and benefits

Leadership – who do you want to lead

13 tactics guaranteed to kill any project

Step by Step beginner’s guide to project management

Slow Leadership: The Truth About Communication

Management Issues: Drowning in Co-operation





The power of something extra

5 10 2006

Here is a simple but powerful rule – always give people more that what they expect to get.” – Nelson Boswell

What defines an exceptional leader, a great manager, a super business, or remarkable experience? Something extra.

There are two words (one French and the other Spanish) that convey and represent the concept of something extra, lagniappe and pilon.

Lagniappe (hear it) is the word commonly used in Southern Louisiana and Mississippi. It’s defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as an extra or unexpected gift or benefit.

Pilon is the Spanish word used in the southern US and Mexico to describe a gratuity given by tradesmen to customers settling their accounts, it’s something extra, and not expected.

Incorporating something extra in our actions, results and as a business philosophy can be incredibly powerful.

Something extra:

  • forces creativity and innovation.
  • demands clear understanding what is expected of us by others.
  • focuses our attention of adding value, and not on cutting costs.
  • is positive.
  • is rewarded with good will and positive reactions.
  • will lead to continual improvement.
  • is fundamental to continued success.

Something extra is all about the little things and details.

Something extra is not just something “free”, it must arrive without anticipation, unexpectedly in order for it to be special and make an impact.

Something extra allows you to surprise the customer.

Something extra will make think about your results and expectations. It will make the difference between simple compliance and outstanding results.

Something extra will make you and your results different from all the others.

Embracing something extra and applying it on a daily basis, will make you great.

Giving something extra is not a difficult task. It’s all about applying small acts of innovation and creativity to your results, especially for routine and day-to-day tasks.

The power of something extra can change your life, your products, your processes and how others perceive you.

“If you want to be creative in your company, your career, your life, all it takes is one easy step… the extra one. When you encounter a familiar plan, you just ask one question: What ELSE could we do?” Dale Dauten

Related Links

Motivation – Heroic moments

What defines an exceptional leader





Individuality and chaos in the workspace

4 10 2006

Is your workspace unique? Should it be?

Does your company project the image of sameness, order and uniformity by having cubicles and work-spaces coordinated and equal to one another? Why? Because it looks good, gives the impression of order, control and discipline?

Is this sameness and order a good thing for sparking employee creativity, innovation, happiness and positive results ?

Alexander Kjerulf offers up ideas about workspace, sameness and creativity and roadwitching at The Chief Happiness Officer.

If we want to have a creative, enthusiastic workforce why do we want them to work in ordinary, uninspired surroundings?

Does it just look better when the office layout is coordinated and everything has a mathematical formality about it? Is it a fashion statement or is it about control, and the desire to reduce chaos and “environmental noise”?

Is there a study that shows that working in neutral sameness and coordinated surroundings makes us more productive or efficient?

The industrial world used assembly lines and standardization to increase time efficiency and mass production. Are we applying the assembly line system to today’s information workers without questioning the efficiency and effect on innovation and happiness?

Alex writes “…..so many workplaces have lost their human touch to a desire for sameness, efficiency and professionalism. It’s a shame, because it makes people less efficient.”

The same goes for meetings. Why are they always in the same conference or meeting room? You know the drill, everyone files, in, sits in the chair they always sit in, and the meeting drones on. How much innovation, creativity and enthusiasm will people bring to the meeting if you change the location?

Distracting, perhaps. Maybe, just maybe, people will focus on the task at hand and not the structure, hierarchy and safety of a routine. Perhaps being outside what is “comfortable” is what is needed to provoke new ideas or new ways of analyzing the same situation.

Move a meeting to the cafeteria, to the sales floor, under a tree, to the park, to the library, to another unfamiliar location and see what happens.

Ted Dewan (Link): “One thing that might be fun is renegade meeting rooms. I once heard of a group that set a meeting table up in a parking spot (they were meeting to plan Roadwitch-like activities) and they found the experience envigorating and it helped their thinking as a result. It might be a bit distracting, but depending on the sort of meeting, it’s worth a try I suppose. I’d test it first before offering it as paid-for advice, of course.”

You choose:

Choice # 1 – Chaos – Energy – Random Opportunities – Innovation

Choice # 2 – Order and Control – Suppression of Energy – Routine – Lack of Innovation

Related Links

5 ways to stimulate creative thinking and idea generation

Weird ideas that work

Successful managers should be breaking the rules

With nothing, anything is possible





Managers choice, rules or limits?

22 09 2006

I found myself in strong disagreement to this post on Lifehack.org, Reining in the Rule Breakers.

I understand the need for policies and rules to insure employee safety. This post might be appropriate for those situations. It also might be justified when attempting to standardize jobs and activities that require no creativity or individual decision making in order to function correctly. I sense the post was geared to managers dealing with these type of positions.

This approach toward strict adherence to the “rules”, just smacks of a 1930’s factory or grade school, and is the exact opposite of what I feel a workplace in 2006 requires to remain creative, enthusiastic and productive.

I do think it’s important to define limits. Very different from rules. Limits give maximum or minimum boundaries, but do not bind individuals into procedures and don’t stifle creativity.

It is important to define goals and objectives, basic coordinated procedures and time limits. Allow the team, organization or individual to find the best path to the goal. Before you scream chaos and anarchy, understand that standard operating procedures and existing policies will normally be the jumping off point for most of the organization. Any changes that occur to those procedures will often be evolutionary, not revolutionary.

Focus your energy and your people on objectives and not on blindly following the rules.

Related Links

Successful managers should be breaking the rules

What are the rules? Hopefully, none.

5 ways to promote creative thinking and idea generation

Is your boss a prison warden or party host?





Successful managers should be breaking the rules

14 09 2006

Hell, there are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something. Thomas A. Edison

I’ve found the most successful and exciting environments to work, study or play in are those with “no rules”. Environments that are open and flexible and not strictly controlled with things you can’t do. It’s exciting to be in these situations, inspiring, sometimes a bit scary, but always memorable.

Rosa Say has a brilliant read for all managers about how the use (or abuse) of rules often limits our creativity and enthusiasm. What are the Rules? Hopefully, none.

  • “No rules” requires clear objectives and goals.
  • “No rules” requires planning.
  • “No rules” requires discipline and commitment.
  • “No rules” demands responsibility for actions and outcomes.
  • “No rules” is about inventing process. Creating and forming the process required, or desired, in order to get the job done and reach the objective.
  • “No rules” is about allowing creativity and innovation into every decision that brings us closer to our objectives.
  • “No rules” is about questioning the status quo in order to explore new and different solutions and methods.
  • “No rules” is about accepting and integrating new ideas.
  • “No rules” is about tolerance and examination of new concepts.
  • “No rules” is about getting excited and energized by every life or work experience.

If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results. George S. Patton

It is good to obey all the rules when you’re young, so you’ll have the strength to break them when you’re old. Mark Twain

Related Links

What are the rules? Hopefully, none.

5 ways to promote creative thinking and idea generation

Is your boss a prison warden or party host?





An alternative to the traditional hiring process

13 09 2006

I bumped into this cool idea about hiring at The Chief Happiness Officer.

It’s an innovative strategy and procedure for hiring that seems to have worked for Menlo Innovations.  They call it Extreme Interviewing.

I really like the fact that they use the exisiting team in the process, the personality of the candidate is an important factor in the evaluation, and the focus is on increasing output, not just filling a position.

The hiring process is intensive (up to 50 applicants a week) and involves the entire organization.  It becomes an important internal event, provokes communication and idea exchange and has clearly defined objectives.

The entire company is involved and committed to making the new employees a part of the team as quickly as possible.  No wonder it’s successful.

Related Links 

The coolest way ever to hire developers:  Extreme Interviewing 

Re-inventing the job interview





Questioning the wisdom of crowds

12 09 2006

Businesspundit has commented (Link) on a piece from Inc.com entitled The Idiocy of Crowds.

Both authors are questioning the interpretation and application of the ideas presented in the book, The Wisdom of Crowds, by James Surowiecki. Surowiecki proposes that many times the group will make better decisions and assumptions as compared to any given individual of that same group.

There are very different and distinct situations and opportunities where groups may outperform individuals and vice versa. There are also fundamental differences in focus, attention and willingness to accept risk, that will significantly affect the outcome of the decision or prediction.

Predictions and Opinions. The use of groups in opinion polls and prediction markets is indisputably more accurate than an individual prediction.

Evolution vs. Revolution. A group or crowd will more often choose evolution (safe, slow, predictable change) over revolution (rapid, drastic, unknown consequences). This favors group stability and leads to incremental changes of the status quo. Decisions of this type are much more easily accepted, embraced and implemented.

New ideas and concepts. Creativity is not favored or accelerated in groups as compared to individuals. Paradigm changing concepts and ideas, leaps in technology, philosophy and science are usually created by individuals.

Human Nature and Teams. Teamwork and working in groups is part of human nature. We are social creatures and business requires the majority of us to work with others. The group interaction and final outcome may be limited or significantly reduced when compared to individual results. The decisions will be accepted and the entire group will support it.

Current business trends are focusing on innovation, and developing processes that allow us to implement innovation systems and to create the methodologies that will assist us in the creation of innovative solutions. It’s natural that we should begin to examine how decisions are made, their innovative or creative component, who makes them, and who makes the correct decisions.

The questions and discussions created by the ideas presented in The Wisdom of Crowds are what is important. Which situations are better served by individual ideas and opinions to find solutions? When should we be using “crowd-think” and groups to assist us in decision making or with our predictions?

Related Links

Businesspundit: The Idiocy of Crowds

Inc. What’s Next: The Idiocy of Crowds

There are no new management and leadership ideas

Decision-making, how they used to do it 400 BC





Re-inventing the job interview

6 09 2006

I’ve been monitoring with great interest the idea and reactions to Seth Godin’s post The end of the job interview. He questions our current job interview process and proposes an interesting alternative.

Perhaps it’s time to take a hard look at our hiring and interview processes. Are they serving our needs and requirements or creating future problems?

Reinventing the job interview and hiring process makes perfect sense when we reflect that it was developed for a 20th century workforce that consisted primarily of manufacturing laborers.

The 21st century, brings an abundance of knowledge workers and forces us to ask what is the best method to determine if they are right for our organization. The interview and process required in order to understand the potential employees abilities are very different for knowledge workers.

The top leadership and management jobs in our companies have always been filled by candidates that have come with recommendations from other companies or executive networks. This provides a certain level of security that they had the skills in the old job, but no guarantee they will succeed in your organization and corporate culture in the future.

We are already seeing a shift in how we hire and select candidates. The use of networking and on-line social networks are allowing job seekers and employers access to individuals (at all levels of the company) who come with a certain degree of “recommendation”.

Dr. Ellen Weber has added her opinion to Seth’s ideas at Brain Based Business. Her piece Seth wants to bury job interviews for his own alternatives adds scientific and psychological perspectives as to why or why the concepts might just work.

David Maister lends his voice to the discussion with a resounding “I’m of the belief that the overwhelming majority of recruiting interviewing is a complete waste of time. In Screening for Character he argues that we should be hiring attitude and character, and our goal in the hiring process is to identify these traits. But there is a catch. We are not trained to do this. He suggests that candidate recommendations from others that we respect and trust are our current best method to assure “success” in the hiring process.

It’s a profound, extensive and obviously well known dilemma in our society and organizations. We know exactly what’s broke and not working well.

Now, who knows how to fix it?





5 ways to promote creative thinking and idea generation

28 08 2006

“To stimulate creativity, one must develop the childlike inclination for play and the childlike desire for recognition.” Albert Einstein

The process of innovation and creation begins with the analysis of current situations. Once we know where we are, what we want, or what we don’t want, the next step is the creation and exploration of ideas and alternatives.

Idea creation should be supported and facilitated by all members of the organization. We must feel free to create. We should know that the generation of the ideas is of great importance to the organization. We should feel comfortable and in a supportive environment for this to occur (children don’t play unless they feel safe).

It should be clear that the next step in the innovation process is the evaluation of the ideas by others in the organization. Our ideas will eventually be analyzed and criticized to determine their viability or economic impact. This is a separate and distinct process, and should occur only after the ideas are generated and not during the brainstorming period.

In order to spark discussion and interaction, brainstorming and idea generation here are some simple, low cost methods to get you and your organization moving in the right direction toward the creation of ideas and innovation.

How to promote creative thinking and idea generation

1. Purchase or subscribe to various magazines that have nothing to do with your industry (not world, national or economic news or analysis). Pass them out and give permission to mark or highlight any articles or ideas of interest. Give a time limit, 3 or 5 days. When the magazines come back, send them out to different people. Examples would include trade magazines from other unrelated industries, magazines dedicated to; design, art, travel and living, tattoos or wresting, music, movies, technology (backpacking or camping equipment, boats, bicycles, home office, cameras, computers, etc.).

2. Encourage book reading. Give out gift certificates to the local bookstore once a month. Start a community bulletin board with recommendations on great books, no matter what the subject.

3. Ask everyone to identify where or what makes them creative or gives them inspiration.  Where are they when they get their ideas?  What triggers innovative or creative thinking?  What time of day and what day of the week?

4. Move the furniture.

5. Bring in toys or puzzles that require manual manipulation. Toys unlock reasoning and assist in activating parts of the brain required for creativity.

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” Mary Lou Cook

Related Links

Weird ideas that work

Does your company like new ideas?





10 Things you should never do on a Friday afternoon

24 08 2006

To complement my list of 10 things you should do on a Friday afternoon (Link), here are some of the activities that should be avoided on Friday afternoons.

Things you should never do on a Friday afternoon

  1. Initiate a major project
  2. Schedule any type of meeting or seminar with customers or employees
  3. Give an employee review
  4. Make important strategic business decisions
  5. Ask people to work extra hours
  6. Give bad news to the office, your team or co-workers
  7. Raise your rates or product prices
  8. Obsess about or relive any failures that occurred during the week
  9. Go out for a 3 martini lunch and come back to the office complaining
  10. Give the boss an ultimatum or try and force a decision

Related Link

10 things you should do on Friday afternoon





How to systematically analyze any situation for better decision making

24 08 2006

The ability to analyze and make decisions is one of the most important qualities of anyone in a leadership and management position.

How to systematically analyze any situation

  • What does the information I have really mean or reflect?
  • What are the questions I should be asking in order to increase my understanding of the situation?
  • Who are the people who have the information and answers to my questions?
  • Ask the questions and accumulate the required information.
  • What are the fears, expectations, limits and points of view of the involved parties?
  • What have I learned, and what am I going to do about it?

Example: Imagine that your salesforce reports that customers are demanding delivery of your products to their store two times a day, at 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM, instead of the current delivery schedule of 3 times a week. What do you do?

Begin the analysis.

What does this mean? The customers needs or desires have changed. Our salesforce has detected a change in the marketplace.

What questions do I need to ask to understand this? Why is the customer requesting the change? Who requested the change, is it driven by costs, lack of inventory space, new management, competitors? What do our people think about this? What customers are requesting the change?

Who are the people with the information and answers to my questions? Your sales-force and logistics department. The CEO, purchasing managers and warehouse managers of our customers. Who is going to contact them and get more exact information about the situation?

Expectations and points of view of those involved? The sales-force knows that without this change they will lose customers and market share. The customer’s executives and purchasing managers have found an method to reduce inventory and stocking costs with your competitor. The warehouse managers are losing personnel and control and are unhappy. There are significant costs associated with implementing and operating the program. Your competitors are aggressively investing in order to take away your market share.

What have I learned and what am I going to do about it? You discover that a competitor is providing deliveries twice a day, and stocking the customers shelves, reducing costs for the customer. They have made significant investments in trucks and personnel in order to provide this service. Your top 20 customers are affected now. Failure to provide equal or improved service will result in the loss of the customers and your market share. It’s time to bring in the company decision-makers and create an appropriate solution and response.

Related Links

Was Peter Drucker right, is it all about attitude?

9 Steps to better decisions





10 things you should do on Friday afternoon

18 08 2006

Friday afternoons are not known as the most productive times in an organization. Why not take advantage of Friday afternoon, and do the following:

10 things to do on Friday afternoon

1. Clean up your desk, file the important documents, throw out the rest. Make your desktop visible again.

2. De-fragment and tidy up your computer and files, backup important information. Boring, but has to be done right?

3. Make a list of the projects and tasks you wish to deal with on Monday morning. Make Monday easier.

4. Review your calendar and schedule for the coming week, confirm appointments and make sure you’re prepared for meetings and presentations. Be on time and prepared.

5. Return all pending phone calls that have accumulated during the week. Follow-up.

6. Clean up your email inbox. Follow-up, follow-through, keep the communication moving.

7. Smile a lot, get excited about the weekend. Think of the future, not the past.

8. Call your spouse, significant other or best friend. Tell them to get dressed up and go out to a casual relaxing place that you have not been to in a while. It should remind you why you worked so hard all week. Give yourself a reward. Enjoy it.

9. If you are in a leadership or management position. Get out of your office and walk around, talk to people about anything but work. Ask if they have something special or exciting planned for the weekend. Listen and learn.

10. Do small random acts of kindness for subordinates and co-workers, these might include; give out Milk Duds and Lemonheads, buy a lottery ticket for everyone, take the “front line” workers out for a drink. Random acts of kindness. No ulterior motives.

Related Link

10 things you should never do on Friday afternoon 





Intellectual wealth, sharing ideas and knowledge

17 08 2006

There is a quote attributed to Carlos Slim, the richest man in Mexico, about wealth.

“Economic wealth is like an orchard, it must be protected and cultivated carefully so it can grow and expand. If you leave it unprotected, or try to divide it among all the people it will soon be destroyed and cease to exist.”

That might be true for economic wealth, but what about intellectual wealth, created by ideas and knowledge?

Ideas are valuable and important. They should spread and be disseminated to as many people as possible. Once these ideas are processed, filtered and modified they provide us, and society with richness.

Intellectual wealth (which benefits us all) can only increase if we share our ideas and knowledge.

Remember this the next time you’re in a meeting and have an idea but are afraid to mention it

Remember this when a new employee begins work in your company.

Remember this when speaking with children and young people.

Remember this when talking with customers or creating marketing campaigns.





20 challenges faced by a family owned business

17 08 2006

Every business organization has a unique set of challenges and problems. The family business is no different. Many of these problems exist in corporate business environments, but can be exaggerated in a family business.

Family business go through various stages of growth and development over time. Many of these challenges will be found once the second and subsequent generations enter the business.

A famous saying about family owned business in Mexico is “Father, founder of the company, son rich, and grandson poor” (Padre noble, hijo rico, nieto pobre). The founder works and builds a business, the son takes it over and is poorly prepared to manage and make it grow but enjoys the wealth, and the grandson inherits a dead business and and empty bank account.

Prepare now and help your grandson avoid the poorhouse.

20 challenges for the family business

  1. Emotions. Family problems will affect the business. Divorce, separations, health or financial problems also create difficult political situations for the family members.
  2. Informality. Absence of clear policies and business norms for family members
  3. Tunnel vision. Lack of outside opinions and diversity on how to operate the business.
  4. Lack of written strategy. No documented plan or long term planning.
  5. Compensation problems for family members. Dividends, salaries, benefits and compensation for non-participating family members are not clearly defined and justified.
  6. Role confusion. Roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined.
  7. Lack of talent. Hiring family members who are not qualified or lack the skills and abilities for the organization. Inability to fire them when it is clear they are not working out.
  8. High turnover of non-family members. When employees feel that the family “mafia” will always advance over outsiders and when employees realize that management is incompetent.
  9. Succession Planning. Most family organizations do not have a plan for handing the power to the next generation, leading to great political conflicts and divisions.
  10. Retirement and estate planning. Long term planning to cover the necessities and realities of older members when they leave the company.
  11. Training. There should be a specific training program when you integrate family members into the company. This should provide specific information that related to the goals, expectations and obligations of the position.
  12. Paternalistic. Control is centralized and influenced by tradition instead of good management practices.
  13. Overly Conservative. Older family members try to preserve the status quo and resist change. Especially resistance to ideas and change proposed by the younger generation.
  14. Communication problems. Provoked by role confusion, emotions (envy, fear, anger), political divisions or other relationship problems.
  15. Systematic thinking. Decisions are made day-to-day in response to problems. No long-term planning or strategic planning.
  16. Exit strategy. No clear plan on how to sell, close or walk away from the business.
  17. Business valuation. No knowledge of the worth of the business, and the factors that make it valuable or decrease its value.
  18. Growth. Problems due to lack of capital and new investment or resistance to re-investment in the business.
  19. Vision. Each family member has a different vision of the business and different goals.
  20. Control of operations. Difficult to control other members of the family. Lack of participation in the day-to-day work and supervision required.




How impersonal is your life and your world?

15 08 2006

We live in an impersonal world. I hear this constantly and wonder exactly what people mean when they say it. Is this a warning, an observation, a criticism, a declaration of failure in their ability to create and maintain relationships?

The world has always been impersonal, it’s just not possible that millions of human beings will relate to one another with familiarity. It’s an impossible scenario.

So why all the focus on how impersonal our lives are lately?

Is it a cry for help, a diagnosis and awareness that something is wrong or could be better?
It’s because we have isolated ourselves, by ourselves.

Impersonal is what YOU make it, it has to do with your interaction and participation with others. You are in control, you are not a victim.

Our access to wealth, communications and easy travel have allowed us to travel and move our residence often and meet thousands of people throughout the world during our lifetime. This was not possible 100 years ago.

We no longer live in Norman Rockwell’s Main street America, in a small town, where we know the neighbors, the teachers, the firemen, clerks and shop owners. We didn’t invest enough time in a safe stable environment in order to learn about others and become secure with ourselves and diversity.

In today’s world it’s so easy to walk away from ideas, behaviours and people who are not like us. We can now live by ourselves, in our own little world, designed by us and just for us. The only problem is, we are social creatures and we do want others in our lives. We have created a dilemma by isolating ourselves.

It’s just common sense that this exposure to so many people we don’t know, and who don’t know us, is bound to create a bit of tension or coldness in our initial contacts. Depending on how you respond and interact with others, these interactions can remain cold and impersonal, or might warm up and become pleasant and more personalized.

Simple acts that allow others to let their guard down are all that’s necessary. A smile, a hello or thank-you, a question or comment that initiates a conversation is sometimes all it takes to break the ice.

Relationships are made and created through trust and time. It’s about giving your time, showing interest, and learning. You cannot expect to become best friends with anyone in a week or month, be realistic. You cannot create a meaningful relationship by watching co-workers or neighbors through your window.

Proof of how easy it is to begin a relationship can be found with the Internet, social networks, chat-rooms, etc. All you have to do is throw out a comment or question and in a matter of minutes be involved in communication with a perfect stranger. Why then the complaints about an impersonal world? What’s different when you are not on-line, and are face to face with another human being?

If you think the world is cold and impersonal, take a look at your actions and behavior and determine if you are actively participating to open the door in your communications and relationships. Does your world revolve around you, your problems and your little internal universe? I’ll bet you think the world is impersonal.

Are you interested in giving, sharing, listening, learning and accepting others and their diversity? I’ll bet you think the world is a pretty fine place to be.

Related Links

Lonely and have no friends

What happens when we have no friends

Social networks, are they a part of your life?





Build your organization, don’t destroy it

14 08 2006

Pragmatic business people know that strategies must be reviewed before, during and after implementation. Difficult questions must be asked and answered throughout the organization. Results analyzed and reviewed in order to identify flaws and errors.

Many times this exercise can push us into seeking and identifying problems instead of solutions. Too much time spent on what can go wrong and not enough focus on what can be created. Gridlock sets in, no solution is good enough, there is always a flaw.

All to often we find ourselves criticizing the work of others and the efforts that did not succeed as expected. We spend time taking things apart to find out what went wrong, and seeking to identify who was responsible for the “failure”. Our days are spent destroying the ideas of others.

Why not focus an equal amount of time on the positive aspects?

What did or will work, and why?

Creation is much more difficult than destruction. Support the creation of ideas and solutions in your organization, make your first analysis focus on the successful or positive aspects.

Ask yourself, “what am I creating today”.