Thursday, April 30, 2009

A true leader

There is this quote from a TV show, which I always remembered and thought was funny. It is also funny that I can remember the quote vividly, but not the name of the TV show on which I heard it.

Says the French radical, 'There go my people. I must find out where they are going so I can lead them."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Freedom to choose your manager

In an interesting blog post by Gary Hamel in the WSJ.com, he writes, "In a well-functioning democracy, citizens have the option of voting their political masters out of office."

Why shouldn't employees have more say in who their managers are? I can hear the responses to this question by managers everywhere, "We can't allow employees to have that kind of power. There would be no organization and we'd have some teams bigger than others, and by the way, people should learn to work together....not everyone has to like each other."

But when an over-bearing manager is destroying passion and potential and performance, is this a better way to run a business?

I have known many people, who disliked working for their current boss, ask to be moved to a different team or assignment. The vast majority of requests, by far and going away, were denied, destroying employee morale in the process. A poor manager remains to lead people and most of the people remain, working far below their potential.

A manager's performance should be based on two factors, performance indicators (sales, productivity, quality, etc.) of the team and the team's assessment of the manager's ability to engage them...or put another way...employee satisfaction.

But too many companies are afraid to use 360 degree feedback and most of the one's that do, don't put much weight in them. What could be more powerful an indicator of manager performance than whether the people he/she manages like their job, whether they perform well, and whether they want to perform well?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It doesn’t take money. Hardly even takes much time.

I am reading the book 12 The Elements of Great Managing, from the authors of First, Break All the Rules, and it hits you like a bolt of lightning. None of the key ingredients to employee engagement cost a nickel. They all cost nothing more than a little shift in thinking and minimal time from individual managers taking a genuine interest in people on a professional and personal level. If you read this book and believe, as I do, that employee engagement will help you accomplish better results at work, then why not embrace these activities and practice them every day?

In all the years I trained and coached managers, they would tell me that they realize recognizing employee achievements is important, but “I just don’t have the time.” The more responsible managers say, “I just don’t make the time.” Regardless, there is a deeply held belief that it requires a lot of time that managers simply do not have or make.

But in each of these discussions, after thinking about it for a minute or two, managers begin to realize that the time it takes is minimal…to take a genuine interest in people. How much time does it take to say to a person, “Karen, you know, I appreciate the way you handled that customer this morning. I think you made a big difference in saving his business. I told the VP about it this morning. She really appreciated your efforts, too. I just want to say thank you.”

Doesn’t take too long does it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pick two

What’s the expression? You can have it good, fast and cheap, as long as you pick two. You can have it good and fast, but it won’t be cheap. You can have it fast and cheap, but it won’t be good or you can have it good and cheap, but it won’t be fast.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

You can either lead, follow or get out of the way

Those are my only choices?

Power leaders often cite this quote to imply that there is only one choice for success. To lead. Well, sometimes a leader has to get out of the way. Have you ever had a boss that impeded your progress or the progress of the team? Sometimes a leader has to follow. Have you ever thought your manager should have followed your idea instead of her own?

These are not absolute choices.

The quote should be changed, “You can lead, follow and get out of the way.”

Or maybe, “You can lead, follow and get out of the way. You just better know when to do which.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Give a gift and get others to owe you

In the book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert B. Cialdini presents strong evidence that giving a gift to someone makes them feel obligated to repay it. Think about it, eating all those generous free samples at Costco, makes you feel a little obligated to buy some of those products…in some cases, products you would not otherwise have purchased. You may rationalize it by saying, “let’s try it.” After all, there is nothing wrong with trying new things, right?

Of course not. But for many of us, the act of receiving a “no-obligation” gift, makes us feel a little obligated.

Why not apply this well documented psychological principle with your people at work by giving them free gifts.

Try this out for the next two weeks at work and see what happens.

Give the following gifts at work:
  1. Give the gift of praise
  2. Public recognition
  3. Share people’s accomplishments with senior management
  4. Give the demonstration of respect - ask for their opinion and listen with genuine interest. Implement some of the ideas you heard
  5. Give the power to choose/decide how people do their work
  6. Give the freedom to set their own schedule
  7. Give the responsibility and authority to make decisions
Give these free gifts with no expectation of receiving anything in return. At least some of the people who received these gifts will feel some obligation to repay you…these will likely be your high performers.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Retaining employees without cash

It's quite easy really...to retain employees who generate profits for the company...sales people or traders on Wall Street, for example, you quite simply must pay the cash. And why shouldn't you? It is variable pay...more in good times less in bad times.

For all other employees, those in support organizations, you must do two things above all...show genuine appreciation and share their accomplishments with senior management. People want to know their contribution matters and they want to feel important.

Monday, April 13, 2009

If Managers Would Just Ask What People Want

When I read this study, opportunity leaps off the computer screen. Managers have such a huge and, frankly, easy opportunity to increase employee morale and generate loyalty, without spending a dime. And yet, so often you hear from people that they hardly ever hear from their manager the top two things they look for in rewards and recognition at work.

But we don’t have the budget

Managers often think they need a budget to do rewards and recognition. Companies form committees and spend hours and hours trying to figure out how to institutionalize rewards and recognition programs, and in the end make them so complication and impersonal that they fail before they get to the starting line. As a VP of human resources once said in a meeting of this type, “are we going to end up hiring a ‘Manager of the Wall of Fame?”

Nothing personal

By institutionalizing rewards and recognition, it becomes impersonal and therefore, counter-productive. The example above, hiring a manager to be in charge of the Wall of Fame seems like a logical fix for a company that wants to show commitment to an “important” process by dedicating resources to it, ends up with the unintended consequence of removing the person’s manager from the process. What people want most is an “in-person” thank you from their immediate manager and that their immediate manager shares achievements directly with senior management. They don’t want recognition given to them by some HR manager in a remote office they never see.

Not to mention, managers now have another excuse not to participate in showing appreciation to their people because the company has a dedicated person “who handles it.” It is not intentional, but managers get busy and focus on their day-to-day tasks. Stopping to do the little things like showing appreciation gets lost. It happens.

Become one of the best managers right away

Managers have a huge opportunity to become one of the best bosses their people have ever had, and it will not cost them a cent. In fact, you can be a little bit of a rebel by ignoring company rules and processes for rewards and recognition and just ask your people individually want they want...mostly they will say, “show me some appreciation once in a while.”

Start today! Begin genuinely thanking your people, showing appreciation and sharing their achievements with senior management. Do that, and you will build a team with the highest morale and most loyalty in your company…and your people will begin showing you the same appreciation. This is the best way to show senior management how great you are at your work and what potential you have to grow in the company.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Goal Setting Caused GM's Demise?

I have seen enough quotes from successful people on goal setting and success to know that anyone who ever achieved anything of significance, set extremely lofty and specific goals...then pursued them with a singular focus most people cannot imagine. I find it difficult to believe that GM's (near) failure is a result of setting a goal to obtain 26% market share and working hard to achieve it.

GM is almost out of business quite simply because the cars it made were not as good as those of its competitors, not because it was too focused on stretch goals.

Run from anyone who tells you that setting goals for yourself is anything but a good thing to do. A lack of goals is the surest path to mediocrity there is.

"The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss
it, but that it is too low and we reach it." - Michelangelo

Monday, April 6, 2009

Taking Over from a Old Skipper

Imagine if you took over the helm of a sailboat after a long day of sailing down wind. The person at the helm had the wind at his back all day. He could take one hand for the wheel and the other for a sandwich or a coffee or to reach for the sun tan lotion. The sailing was fast and the boat was flat in those 18 knots of wind. He covered 30 miles that day in your sloop.

The next day was your turn at the helm…returning home directly into that same wind and into those 4-6 foot waves. You had two hands on the wheel all day. You were soaking wet from waves crashing over the bow and into the cockpit. You tacked at least a dozen times that day and managed to cover 10 miles before just making it to a protected anchorage near an inlet before sundown. You have one or two more days of sailing before returning home.

Is the first sailor any better than you at handling the boat because he covered 30 miles in one day and you managed to cover only 10?

Is this not the story of Jeff Immelt?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Executives Are Bewildered. Front-line is Not

In a recent survey of thousands of customers, 47% say they don’t believe company executives understand their experiences, citing problems such as rude customer service staff or employees who provide the wrong information or never solve the customer's problem.

In the same survey, executives would give their companies' customer service "B" grades; consumers give them "D" grades. That is a tragic disconnect that could have disastrous consequences for the future of these business.

Executives assume they know their customer’s experiences and problems because they have experience in the business and have access to reports that measure any number of data points. But they are missing what customers are actually complaining about during interactions with their company employees because they are not listening.

Your front-line certainly knows what your customers are complaining about…they hear it every day. Among the biggest complaints is about terrible service received from your employees.

Are your employees really not prepared? Do they really not care? Are they really giving out bad information on purpose? I would like you to consider that they are probably not. Management has in place processes and procedures that limit people’s ability to service customers.

Management does not trust people to make decisions beyond a certain point out of fear of losing money…so restrictive policies are set up to not allow customers to be served. Also, it sets up an environment in which feedback from customers and employees is not heard.

After all, why should your front-line employees communicate feedback on customer requests that are outside of policies? The last time an employee made a suggestion, their manager told them it was against the policy and nothing could be done about it.

Do you have systems in place that encourage feedback and a communication mechanism for letting people know the progress of that feedback? Are people rewarded for their feedback? Do people see others being rewarded for suggesting what customers want?

Consider setting up social networking technologies and encourage the front-line and executives to speak directly to each other about customers wants, needs and complaints. Teach managers how to encourage people to submit feedback from customers.

The front-line talks to customers every day and knows more than any report can show. Managers must learn to listen to the front-line and give them as much decision-making authority as possible when it comes to serving customers.