Thursday, June 18, 2009

Delegate decision making

Leaders should push decision-making as far into the organization as possible, and make as few decisions as possible themselves. There are two things to consider: 1) allowing others make decisions gives them real ownership and feeling of conribution, which increases their loyalty and engagement; and 2) a leader can save his/herself for the few big, important decisions that arise a handful of times per month or year.

When my friend and I were moving to Paris for a year, back in 1994, I asked him how much money I should budget for each month. He told me, "think about how much you would need to live on here in the States...now triple it, and you might have enough to live in Paris."

So I ask you the opposite...how many decisions do you truly need to make as a leader? Think about how many decisions you make in a month...now take 75% of those decisions, and have your people make all of those. Focus on the 25% big, important decisions.



Monday, June 15, 2009

You are more in charge than you think

It drives me crazy that people don’t think they can do anything about it…that they are not in charge of their lives at work. Too many managers are victims to micro-managing bosses or slaves to overly strict company policies or subject to the constant needs of direct reports.

Too many managers do not realize that they are more in charge than they think. They have the ability to make most daily decisions about how to work and how to run their teams. All they have to do is exert some ownership. You get to decide how to run your team not your boss. If your boss does decide, why are you asking how “they” want your team run in the first place?

A great excerpt from John Baldoni’s Leadership at Work blog:

To me it comes down to a simple proposition: exert your ownership. If your boss is not giving you feedback, ask for it. If your teammates are driving you crazy, talk to them. If you are struggling with an impossible workload, find ways to lighten it. Proceeding as you are is inefficient; failing to address the problem may be even worse. Bottom line, you have a responsibility to do the job for which you are paid. Do it.

All it takes is a little ownership, the belief that you do own most of how your run your work life, and action. Take action.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Being a leader is entirely up to you

If you are a manager or an aspiring manager who wants to rise within the organization, but you don’t feel your company does enough to develop managers, you are in big trouble. Companies, even those who develop managers well, do not offer as many development opportunities as they could. And for people who think their organization should offer more, know this…they never will.

Especially in lean times, one cannot expect an organization to spend much time and energy developing managers. Why should you? It is your responsibility, and yours alone, to develop yourself into a great leader. What are you waiting for? Are you waiting for that three day manager training class in August to transform your leadership effectiveness or are you waiting for that three day session so you can get away from the office?

The best leaders…those who excel at getting the most out of their people do not wait for companies to offer training programs. They attend the training programs, work hard in them, get the most out of them, and most importantly, they take action immediately on what they learned.

It does not stop there.

The best leaders read books, observe other great leaders, and have the attitude that it is their responsibility to become a great leader.

Becoming a great leader is entirely up to you. What are you waiting for?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Reduce pay, save jobs…but lose morale

In the Businessweek article, Does it pay to reduce pay? The interviewer poses the question, “In this brutal recession, more companies are doing it. It avoids layoffs, but some fear that morale and productivity will suffer.”

You will definitely lose morale and the talented employees when the economy turns around if you do not do the following:

Explain in redundant detail the reasons why

Do not be vague. Lack to detail as to reasons why leads to speculation, rumors, and adds to the view that management is taking it out on employees. Talk about how we are in this together, talk about what else has been cut first, and that this is a last resort because we don’t want to do layoffs. Communicate early and often about it. Don’t spring it on people with very little notice.

Give WIIFMs (What’s in it for me)

Explain the reasons why the pay cuts are good for them. Hard to believe there could be any reasons why a pay cut could benefit employees. Not everyone will respond to the same reasons, so talk about as many benefits as possible. Get some of your marketing people to help with the communications. They know how to explain benefits to customers. Some benefits could be…a pay cut means keeping your job, a pay cut comes with fewer hours and more flexible work schedules to spend more time with family, or the company could increase training opportunities while pay cuts are in effect. Talk in terms of your employees not the company.

Set milestones and a planned deadline

You must tell your people when their old salaries will be restored…even of you do not know due to the uncertain economy. Put a plan in place with milestones and dates and publish these openly, so employees can see the milestone, track progress, and participate in helping to achieve them. If you do not meet milestone and salaries cannot be restored, people will understand why, and they will respect that a plan was made and people worked hard to achieve it. People understand that not every goal can be reached.

Keeping the date or circumstances for restoring salaries a secret or opened-ended is deadly, and you will lose your people’s respect, their loyalty, and you will lose them to the competition when the economy turns around.

Not just for pay cuts

These principles above do not just apply these principles about to any management scenario. By explaining reasons why in great detail, talking in terms of employees and setting specific and clear expectations, you will be a better leader resulting in more loyalty from your people and higher performance.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The value of an employee

So many organizations like to try to convince us that people are their most important asset. Well, as a strategy consultant once told me, “that’s nice talk, but if you look on any company balance sheet, you will find that people are often a company’s biggest liability…looking at the line item for wages payable.”

Well that doesn’t sound good.

So which is it? Are people assets or liabilities? And what value should we assign to a manager, for example?

The value of an asset is the net present value of all future cash flows. If an employee is an asset, why not measure their value by determining the net present value of all future cash flows generated by that person?

A liability is a bill owed by the organization either on a loan or to pay a bill like a lease payment or electricity bill or salary. If an employee is a liability, he/she is simply a bill that must be paid…a necessary expense, like a phone bill.

If managers want to think of themselves as assets, and not be a liability, they should consider the present value of the future cash flows they generate. Easy for a salesperson. Not so easy for an operations manager. However, an operations manager does contribute to customer satisfaction, error reductions, process improvement, cost savings, etc. What is the present value of all the expenses saved from those improvements? Managers might want to look into that.

Are you an asset or a liability?