The road to success is paved with mistakes

mistakes - Thomos edisonHave you ever see a toddler become a success learning how to use a spoon to feed themselves? It all starts with mistakes: Miss their mouth -> Spill, Closer to their mouth -> Spill, Spoon in the mouth -> Spill, Spoon in the mouth -> Success -> Success -> Success…Once the toddler perfects the method of using the spoon, they continue the same process with all current and new food. They forget the mistakes, and remember only how to be a success.

This is the same process we should follow in every new opportunity: Allow yourself to do it wrong before you learn how to do it right, then keep doing it right.

You have to try things that don’t work to find what does work. Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

This works for individuals and it works for teams. Leaders make the environment where their team can try new ways to find what works.   When they do find what works, leaders focus on the success, not the mistakes that led them there. A large part of success comes from what you focus on. Since the leader sets the vision for achieving the purpose of the team, they also determine where the team will be focused. Bruce Lee once said, “What you habitually think largely determines what you ultimately become.”

The first company that launched the combo gas and convenience stores found that in their first year of operation more than half of the stores exceeded expectations while the rest fell short. The company assigned a team to analyze the results. They produced a list of all the reasons that the underperforming stores didn’t succeed. For the next year, the company focused on not making the mistakes on the underperforming store list. At the end of the second year, more than half of the stores fell short of expectations.

What happened? Why didn’t they improve?

They didn’t improve because the focus of the company was to avoid mistakes instead of achieving success. There were no celebrations of what did work, only reprimands for what didn’t. They didn’t know that the road to success is paved with mistakes.

There’s leaders, and there’s everyone else.

leaders know the wayWhat separates leaders from everyone else? It isn’t the title, or the authority. It isn’t even a long history of successful projects, or even companies. It’s five simple things that most people do at one time or another in their lives, many people do frequently, and few people do consistently. Read on and see if you can identify yourself in these five traits:

Leaders seek the future. “What can this become?” Is a question that leaders ask of themselves every day. “I can do this if…” is a statement leaders make every day. “Step one is…” begins the plans of every leader reaching their goals. Leaders are always moving forward to how they envision the future.

“Transformational leaders don’t start by denying the world around them. Instead, they describe a future they’d like to create.”­ – Seth Godin

Leaders set the vision. Once the future is envisioned, leaders decide how they and everyone around them will get there. Leaders have a very clear plan on the direction to move, the role everyone will play, and the outcome at each step.

“Leaders make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is not leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to changes things for the better.” – Harry Truman

Leaders serve others. The ultimate goal in the life activities of a leader is to better the situation of everyone they come into contact with. This is all done in the pursuit of the future goals, following the visionary plan, however it is accomplished through helping others succeed to their fullest extent.

“True leadership lies in guiding others to success. In ensuring that everyone is performing at their best, doing the work they are pledged to do and doing it well.” - Bill Owens

Leaders develop future leaders. When one task is completed, one project achieves its objectives, one team wins the prize, or one company leads its industry, one moment of success is marked in time. But, the accomplishment of developing someone into a leader who also develops future leaders, sets in motion a series of successes that are endless.

“As we look out ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others” – Bill Gates

 

 

Building something to last – focus on the fundamentals

built to lastIn Jim Collins 1994 book Built to Last, he analyzed companies that were successful over the long term.  Not one hit wonders, not those that are remembered for a product, but those that transcended changes in technology, customer needs and wants, and changes in leadership. The basic tenant of building something to last is to focus on the fundamentals.

“In a world of constant change, the fundamentals are more important than ever” – Jim Collins

Listed below are five main themes from Built to Last.  Let’s see how each of those applies to leadership today.

“Make the company itself the ultimate product—be a clock builder, not a time teller”

This is the difference between fulfilling one need one time, or building a company, process, or person that can fulfill many needs many times.   

“Having a great idea or being a charismatic visionary leader is time telling; building a company that can prosper far beyond the tenure of any single leader and through multiple product life cycles is clock building.” – Jim Collins

Here is how you can use this theme in your leadership practices:

Companies – “We don’t have products we sell to customers, we have customers that we sell products to.” – Denis G. McLaughlin

Processes – “We don’t use people to complete projects, we use projects to complete people.” – Denis G. McLaughlin 

People – “Don’t strive to earn a million dollars, instead strive to become a person capable of earning a million dollars.” – Paul Martinelli

“Build your company around a core ideology”

Change is the only thing that will consistently happen.  The economy changes, regulations change, customer needs change, and leadership changes.  To be successful over the long term, you must adapt to these changes.  According to Collins, the only way that this can work is for a company to “be prepared to change everything about itself except its basic beliefs as it moves through corporate life.”

Here are a few examples from the book:

-3M’s dedication to innovation

-P&G’s commitment to product excellence

-Nordstrom’s ideal of heroic customer service

Other leaders have viewed this theme in their leadership practices:

We succeed only as we identify in life, or in war, or in anything else, a single overriding objective, and make all other considerations bend to that one objective.” – Dwight Eisenhower

Success demands singleness of purpose.Vince Lombardi

You have to know where you’re going. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never know if you’ve arrived.” – Denis G. McLaughlin

“Build a cult-like culture”

Having a strong core ideology, or purpose, is foundational. But unless that ideology is lived out it is just words. You have to have a plan for establishing a culture that supports the ideology.  Leaders are responsible for defining the purpose, articulating the purpose, and rewarding achievement of the purpose.

Once you establish your vision, you must clearly articulate it, over and over, to maintain focus.

Theodore Hesburgh said, The very essence of leadership is that you have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” 

People will naturally repeat the very things that they are rewarded for achieving. First, set goals that when successful completed, lead to achieving the purpose. Second, reward the employees who participated in the successful goals.  This is more than money.  Rewards come in many forms, all which should be used with regularity, as earned:  Public and private praise, increased responsibility, new challenges, more training,

“The only way to get people to like working hard is to motivate them. Today, people must understand why they’re working hard. Every individual in an organization is motivated by something different.”  - Rick Pitino

 “Homegrow your management”

I view succession planning with equal importance as setting the vision and strategy for the company or team.  I fact everything that I do is about succession planning, including setting the vision and strategy.  Leaders should use every opportunity to teach and grow leaders in the organization. 

One of the things we often miss in succession planning is that it should be gradual and thoughtful, with lots of sharing of information and knowledge and perspective, so that it’s almost a non-event when it happens.” – Anne Mulcahy

If you aren’t teaching someone else how you do what you do, you are letting opportunity pass you by. Your main role as the leader is to prepare a successor while you lead the team. It shouldn’t be something that is part of your long term plan to get to when you are near the end of your season – that’s too late.

“From now on, choosing my successor is the most important decision I’ll make.  It occupies a considerable amount of my thought almost every day.” – Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, nine years before he retired.

Are homegrown managers effective?  Don’t we need new ideas from outside of the organization?  Collins summarizes the success in developing CEO’s in house with some examples from his book:

“Consider that the founders of Ford, Hewlett-Packard, Johnson & Johnson, Marriott, Merck, Motorola, Nordstrom, Philip Morris, Procter & Gamble, Sony, Wal-Mart, and Disney remained in the role of chief executive for an average of 37 years each. They were founder-entrepreneur types and manager-builder types. Not only that, their immediate successors—all homegrown insiders—remained in office for 24 years on average. 

“Stimulate progress through experimentation and continuous improvement”

Throughout this article we have stated that companies that were built to last were those that transcended changes in technology, customer needs and wants, and changes in leadership.  To survive change, one must be willing to change.  However, the willingness to change does not bring with it the perfect ability to successfully change.   

The secret to success in a changing environment is to allow for continuous improvement through small experiments that yield small successes in finding ways to take small steps forward. 

“The way to simulate the drive for progress is to create an environment that encourages people to experiment and learn—to try a lot of stuff and keep what works.” – Jim Collins

Companies that are built to last do not rest upon their current state of achievement.  Instead they are always looking forward to the next change, challenge, and championship.

“Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.” – Tom Peters

The secret to leading virtual employees

leading a virtual workforceThe days where all employees work in one building with desks, cubes, offices right next to each other from 9 to 5 are gone. The advancement in computer technology has enabled everyone to be a virtual employee of some sort and the trends show that an increasing number of us are taking advantage of this ability.

The definition of a virtual employees has evolved over the years.  It used to be a select few that didn’t work in the office with all of the other employees.  The work they performed could be completed remotely, at their home for example, and their hours could be set differently to fit their personal situation.  Then it expanded to include the off-shore and on-shore workforce where certain specialties could be centralized for a lower cost apart from the office. Today it is common place to have a percentage of the workforce completely virtual and in most cases the entire workforce partially virtual.

Why did this shift to virtual happen? According to Global Workplace Analytics there are some compelling real-life examples of the benefits of virtual employees:

Costs. Forty percent of the IBM workforce operates without a dedicated office space. The employee to desk ratio is currently 4:1, with plans to increase it to 8:1 in field locations. IBM saves $450 million a year in reduced facility infrastructure and associated initiatives through telework.

Productivity. Ecolab, a Fortune 500 sanitation and food safety company, reported a 16% increase in the number of calls answered and a 10% increase in quick call resolution among its teleworkers

Absenteeism. British Telecom realized a 64% reduction in absenteeism due to its flexible work program

Lifestyle. More than a third of college student in the US (37%) say they would take a lower salary (up to $10,000 less) for the option to work wherever they are most productive and happiest. When the same question was put to existing employees, the percentage who would take a lower salary was 38%.

Employee engagement. According to a 2013 Gallup study, 39% of employees are virtual for some part of their work.  Those that are remote for 20% or less are the most engaged (35%) compared to those that are not remote (28%). 

What is the secret to leading virtual employees? The needs of a virtual employee are no different than those that work in an office.  Today’s leader needs to focus on the same leadership areas – Clarity, Communication, and Connections -  But using the technology that empowers the virtual workforce to keep virtual employees engaged – video conferencing, skype, gotometting, and some frequency of travel for the in-person connection.

Clarity. I think of clarity in very simple terms, “Get everyone on the same page, and keep them on the same page.” The importance if this simple idea can’t be stressed too much.  There are two main areas where clarity is needed: Purpose and Priorities.

Purpose:  If you want your virtual employees to be connected to the success of the team, they need to understand the big picture goals of the team.  Make sure you are talking about the purpose of the team and the success in achieving that purpose on a regular basis.

“Any idea, plan, or purpose may be placed in the mind through repetition of thought.”  - Napoleon Hill

Priorities:  Knowing the purpose of the team is very important, but what drives the achievement of that purpose is the tactical actions that each member of the team executes.  Everyone needs to understand the priorities for their work, for other members of the team, and how it all fits together. 

“It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?” – Henry David Thoreau

Communication. Whether your employees are virtual or in the office, they are people, and people need communication.  They keys to communication with your team is that it be planned and purposeful.

Planned: Communication is an important part of leadership.  I have found in my career that if something is not scheduled it is not done.  It is too easy for perceived fire-drills to overtake all of your time. So plan out your communication schedule.  Devote time every week for one on ones; get your leadership team together every month; meet every quarter with your whole team; and complete year end reviews on time.

“Failing to plan is planning to fail” – John Wooden

Purposeful: As a leader you should never hold a meeting without a clear goal in mind of what you are trying to accomplish with that meeting.  Meeting just to meet is a waste of everyone’s time. When you do this right, your team will feel the impact of the positive outcomes.

-In the one on ones your directs, be available for them.  It is their time to update you on progress, ask questions, and maintain comfort that they are heading on the right track. 

-In the leadership team meetings it is time for a higher level of updates across your team leaders.  This is an education for your leaders so they are aware of all that is important outside of their direct responsibility.  This level of knowledge helps them to see where they fit in the big picture and how what they do impacts others.

-Each quarter you should meet with your entire team through conference calls, video conferencing, or sometimes visiting in person.  Here you need to re-present the strategy and give them an update on how the entire team is doing.  This is time to celebrate successes.

-And finally, while you may be meeting with your directs frequently, the year-end formal review is important. Take time to talk through what went well and develop a plan for ongoing development. 

“Meetings are a symptom of bad organization.  The fewer meetings the better.” – Peter Drucker

Connections. All people need to feel connected personally to other people and professionally to a great cause.  There is no better proof of this than the world-wide success of Facebook and Twitter.  This is virtual connection at its finest. In business today, it is imperative that people are connected to learn from each other – the world is changing to fast not to take advantage of everyone’s expertise.

The obvious answer to fulfilling the need for connection with a virtual team is to use what has been proven to work.  Set up internal blogs, wiki sites, and other forums for electronic exchange of information, conversation and mentoring.  Of course the phone call now and again to just catch up works – like the coffee break conversations.

“No one lives long enough to learn everything they need to learn starting from scratch. To be successful, we absolutely, positively have to find people who have already paid the price to learn the things that we need to learn to achieve our goals.” -Brian Tracy

What is the secret to leading virtual employees? The needs of a virtual employee are no different than those that work in an office.  Today’s leader needs to focus on the same leadership areas – Clarity, Communication, and Connections – But using the technology that empowers the virtual workforce to keep virtual employees engaged.

 

 

It’s time for the midyear review. How am I doing?

midyear reviewAt midyear we stop and reflect on where we are in relation to our goals.  You will be looking at your employees’ accomplishments and talking to them about the second half of the year.  If you have an employee who is not quite where you would like them to be, what do you do?  Start at the beginning and refocus.

All employees are given resources like money, training, equipment, and sometimes a team of their own to lead.  These resources are an investment from their owner intended to fulfill the goals of the company.  If the goals are not being met then the employee is spending the resources that were provided in areas that don’t generate the expected return for the team or the company.

If you find that one of your team members is fully using every resource that you have provided but not generating the success that was expected, they are likely focused on the wrong goals.  From the surface it often appears that they ignored the goals that you had for them and pursued other goals that achieved individual success but did not accomplish the purpose of your team.

Before you settle on the easy conclusion that this employee only cares about themselves, I suggest you follow the advice from Jim Collins, author of Good to Great.  In essence he said, “In times of success great leaders look out the window to credit others, and in times of trouble great leaders look in the mirror to evaluate what they could have done better.”

You see, people are very capable of generating success when provided adequate resources.  Your job as the leader is to focus your team’s strengths on successfully accomplishing the vision of the team.

Here are four questions to review together with each employee that is not on goal:

Do you understand the purpose of the team? If you have not fully defined the purpose of the team, your team has two choices; operate with no purpose or define their own purpose. Absent a clear purpose, the employee who is geared to success, will have chosen their own purpose.  You are responsible for defining the purpose of the team so each employee will seek to accomplish the same end.

“You have to know where you’re going. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never know if you’ve arrived,” – Denis G. McLaughlin, The Leadership GPS

Do you understand how the vision achieves the purpose? Even if you have a clearly defined purpose for your team, there are many ways to achieve it.  Your vision sets the route your team will take to reach its purpose.  If you don’t over communicate how your team will achieve its purpose than you aren’t communicating enough.  Left undefined, the employee will define their own vision.

The very essence of leadership is that you have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” - Theodore Hesburgh, as quoted in The Leadership GPS

Does you understand how what you do fits into the vision? Ok, so you have a clearly defined purpose and vision for your team.  There is one more level of understanding you must focus on: taking the vision down to the employee level.  The employee may struggle in seeing the connection between their individual goals and the larger vision and purpose of the team.  Remember, employees are success driven, without this connection they will instead focus on what they think will help achieve the team’s goals.

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who…offer a solution everybody can understand.”  - Colin Powell, as quoted in The Leadership GPS

Are you achieving personal success in accomplishing the success of the team?  Each person is looking for personal satisfaction in their life and in their job.  For your vision to be effective you have to set it in motion and it must have an immediate impact on your team members.  With each success, they need to feel that their job satisfaction is improving, along with the purpose if the team being accomplished.

“Successfully achieving your team’s purpose comes through a vision that consistently delivers small successes for each team member.” – Denis G. McLaughlin, The Leadership GPS.

 

 

 

Can you have too many Type A people in a group?

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type a personalityCardiologist Dr. Meyer Friedman and his 1974 book, Type A Behavior and Your Heart first documented his study of what he called “Type A” personalities and the link to heat disease.  This linkage was first identified when Dr. Friedman noticed the chairs in his waiting room wore out on the front of the seat and the arm rests; different than expected as patients sitting for periods of time should wear out the back of the seats.  After careful observations he noticed that these patients tended to get up frequently and ask how much longer they would have to wait.

Here is one way that Type A is described:  A competitive drive, whereby the “victim” struggles constantly against time to a number of goals which the victim themselves has accepted.

Before we go too far let’s settle one thing, Type A is nothing more than a group of strengths that, like all other strengths, can be positive or negative if not managed.  Here are some examples:

            Positive Type A Qualities                  Negative Type A Qualities

            Competitiveness                                 Self-Critical (Never good enough)

            Time Managers                                  Impatient

            Ambitious                                           Aggressive

As a leader of people with strengths, some which may be Type A personalities, here are ways to draw the most success for the person and the team from their unique strengths. I hope that you will find that the suggestions below are just plain old good leadership techniques applied to one set of strengths – those of the Type A person.

Competitiveness

Focus the competitiveness of the Type A person on doing their best at all times in all things.  Recognize their success in meetings, sales presentations, projects, or while on vacation (tell them things ran smooth while out because of their dedication before they left).

“I play to win, whether during practice or a real game.  And I will not let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win.” – Michael Jordan

Focus the competitiveness of the Type A person on their strengths.  Everyone is more successful when they work within their strengths.  The Type A person will work their hardest to succeed and will succeed faster and better in their strength zone.

“The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting above average effort.” – Colin Powell

Focus the competitiveness of the Type A person on helping others succeed.  If you really want to harness the power of the competitive spirit for the betterment of your entire team, set goals for the Type A person to share their knowledge and empower others to be successful.

“Put completing fellow leaders ahead of competing with them. The whole goal of healthy competition is to leverage it for the corporate win.” John Maxwell

Time Managers

Focus the time management of the Type A person on achievable goals.  They will accept as much as you delegate and work their hardest to accomplish all of them.  Be clear on the expectations.

“To do two things at once is to do neither.” – Publius Syrus

Focus the time management of the Type A person on short goals that will lead to the big goals. This keeps the recognition of success coming at shorter intervals. 

“Make measurable progress in reasonable time.” – Jim Rohn

Focus the time management of the Type A person on helping someone else on the team every day.  The success of others that you helped multiples success across the team, and the Type A person will multiply their feelings of their own success.

“A day wasted on others is not wasted on one’s self.” – Charles Dickens

Ambitious

Focus the ambition of the Type A person by helping them achieve their dreams one success at a time.  Use your leadership to provide opportunities for additional responsibility after each success.  Don’t let fulfillment of your team member’s ambitions only come after years of trying or at the expense of others’ success.

“Ambition can creep as well as soar.” – Edmund Burke

Focus the ambition of the Type A person on their personal life.  Get to know them as people not just employees.  Ask them about their vacations, graduations and other personal life events.  Care and show you care.

To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition.” – Samuel Johnson

Focus the ambition of the Type A person on helping others succeed.  In your team make the very definition of getting ahead the results of helping others get ahead of where they were to where they can go. 

“People say it’s not ambitious, but it is actually quite ambitious wanting to help people.” – Prince William

 

Manager or Micromanager?

micromanager directs everythingWhat is the difference between being a manager and a micromanager?  In one simple statement, “A manager delegates, while a micromanager suffocates.” Let’s take a closer look at how each of these impacts employees.

A manager sets vision, goals, and timelines and lets employees decide how to achieve.  A micromanager sets vision, goals, and timelines and tells employee how to achieve.

President Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best executives are the ones who have sense enough to pick good people to do what they want done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

When a manager delegates, employees learn how to make appropriate decisions within their level of authority.  When a micromanager suffocates, employees are afraid to make decisions outside of the status quo.  Micromanagement stifles new ideas.

A manager checks in at key steps to give encouragement, answer questions, and provide course correction.  A micromanager directs every step to keep control, give answers, and provide course direction.

If you always tell your employees how to do everything, you will have to always tell them how to do everything.” – Denis McLaughlin

Employees like to be encouraged and hear they are on the right track once in a while.  A manager stops by at just the right time to say, “Keep going, you’re doing a good job.”  A micromanager discourages employees when they stop by all the time and say, “Here is what you do next.” 

A manager gives credit and takes responsibility.  A micromanager takes credit and gives blame. 

A good leader takes a little more than their share of the blame, and a little less than their share of the credit.” - Arnold H. Glasow

A manager empowers their employees to grow by allowing them to try out their new ideas in a controlled environment without fear of failure – after all that is how we learn.  A micromanager expects employees to follow the ideas given to them and failure is attributed to not executing correctly.

Be a manager and not a micromanager

Employee rewards and motivation

rewards show me the moneySHOW ME THE MONEY!

Cuba Gooding Jr. says that line many times in the movie Jerry McGuire.  As a professional football player, Gooding’s character knows what other players earn and he wants to be similarly paid for his contribution to his team.  As you watch the movie it becomes evident that the line, “Show me the money,” wasn’t really just about the money; it was about recognition and respect for the character’s abilities.

In a recent survey by Gallup, people were asked if they would continue to work if they won a $10 million dollar lottery. You may be surprised to find that even among those actively disengaged, only 40% would stop working, and 20% would stay in their current job.  At the other end if the spectrum in terms of job satisfaction is those who are engaged.  For this group only 25% would stop working and 63% would stay in their current job.

These hypothetical lottery winners now have at least a comfortable $5 Million after taxes, yet the majority of them will still keep working. Why?  Because job satisfaction is not just about being shown the money.  Certainly employees want and deserve to be fairly compensated for their work.  However like Maslow’s hierarchy, once the need for food, shelter, personal and financial security are met, people seek relationships, respect, and opportunities to do their best.

The great Zig Ziglar put it like this, “Employees have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.”

Interesting work.

For work to be interesting it must provide an opportunity for employees to use their strengths, grow personally and make a difference.  Without these three opportunities work is a drudgery, boring and meaningless. Here’s why:

Using strengths.  According to Marcus Buckingham, former Global Practice Leader with Gallup, and coauthor of Gallup’s best-selling management books First, Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths,A strength is an activity that before you’re doing it you look forward to doing it; while you’re doing it, time goes by quickly and you can concentrate; after you’ve done it, it seems to fulfill a need of yours.” Working in your area of strength is fun because you are good at it.  No one wants to be in a job where you struggle all day.

Growing personally.  People are genuinely pleased when the company they work for is successful; this brings job security and pride in their association with the company.   Sustained good feelings though, come from also having personal success which only comes through personal growth. Leadership expert John Maxwell said, “Growth is the great separator between those who succeed and those who do not. When I see a person beginning to separate themselves from the pack, it’s almost always due to personal growth.”

Making a difference.  True fulfillment comes from helping others achieve success.  One of my favorite phrases is, “We don’t use people to complete projects; we use projects to complete people.”  Successful projects really aren’t that hard to accomplish.   Focusing on developing successful people isn’t easy, but the rewards are worth the effort. As Tom Brokaw said, “It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.”

Recognition for doing a good job

Everyone wants and needs to hear “Good Job.”  It is one of the easiest rewards to give, and one of the best to receive.  It’s good to hear in private, and great to hear in public.  Sometimes we put too much emphasis on “Producing a Moment,” instead of just telling your employees that you appreciate what they did.  Certainly there are recognition ceremonies for special events and those are worthwhile, but don’t forget the quick email, phone call, or comment in a meeting as well.  As a leader you should also realize that this is not only good for the employee but great for the team and the company. 

Tom Rath, Bestselling Author & Senior Scientist at Gallup has studied the effect of recognition in depth.  His findings show that, “Employees who report receiving recognition and praise within the last seven days show increased productivity, get higher scores from customers, and have better safety records. They’re just more engaged at work.”

Being let in on things going on in the company

This one has nothing to do with gossip.  It’s not water cooler talk.  Employees feel empowered and will do a better job if they are involved in decision making that impacts their job.  Involve them from the beginning to the end.  Ask for their opinion when writing your mission statement, ask them what the most important projects are, and ask them what they think is the best way to accomplish the important projects.  Not only will you motivate your employees, you will get better ideas and better results in your company.

“Effective Communication creates Engaged Employees who create Loyal Customers who in turn create Bigger Profits.” – Andy Parsley

What is the importance of diversity in leadership?

diversity choicesInformation, knowledge, wisdom – while they all have a slightly different meaning, the overarching theme is it’s good to learn and good to understand different options when you make choices – especially in leadership.  Abraham Maslow said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you are likely to perceive every problem as a nail.” What he meant by that oft-used phrase is that an individual is limited by their talents and experience in their ability to offer ideas to solve problems.

Talents

There is a great book titled Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham.  The theme of this book is that each of us is born with natural talent, or strengths.  Now this doesn’t say what job or career you can or cannot undertake, but it does identify how you will be naturally good at what you do if you use your strengths.

The book discusses the thirty-four possible strengths that people have.  When you take the online assessment offered in the book your top five strengths are identified in order from one to five.   Here is where the idea of diversity really stands out.  The number of possible combinations of top five strengths in order from one to five out of a possible thirty-four strengths is amazingly high.  There are over thirty three million combinations – 33,390,720 to be exact. 

Imagine, the people who work with you have a very high probability of having a completely different set of strengths – or talents.  It would be a waste to just pick the hammer you know when you have so many other available talents to draw on. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Hide not your talents.  They for use were made.  What’s a sundial in the shade?”

Experience

Now you know that your team has a broad set of talents to bring to the forefront in decision making.  Added to their talent is their experience.  While talent is the foundation of what someone is naturally good at, experience gives people a front row seat at what has worked, and likely more important, what hasn’t worked before.  In other words, when you have experience you have made mistakes and seen other people make mistakes. 

As a leader you want every person on your team to share their experience when evaluating options.  Not that you would reject every possible solution just because it didn’t work before, but knowing this information might give you an edge if you decide to try it again.

“Experience enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.” Franklin P. Jones

Ideas

Diverse talents combined with diverse experiences will lead to diverse ideas – that is what every leader needs.  Remember, your job as a leader is not to have all the good ideas, but to find all the good ideas.  As former Yale University President Alfred Whitney Griswold once said, “The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.”

Finally, I really like the way Michael Abrashoff, the former commander of the USS Benfold describes diversity by asking this question, “In what way can someone be a superstar?

How many managers does a company really need?

too many managers not enough workersIs there an ideal percentage of managers in a company? Yes, but it depends on the situation.

“The organization chart will initially reflect the first system design, which is almost surely not the right one.  As one learns, the design changes.  Management structure also needs to be changed as the system changes.” – Fred Brooks

So how many managers does a company really need?  In the Human Resource arena this is called analyzing the Span of Control; this means the number of employees that directly report to a single manager.  On one end you can have a narrow span where each manager has few employees – this results in very close supervision and allows for greater coaching and mentoring one on one.  This is useful in situations where either the employees or the team is new, or where the tasks are highly specialized and require frequent interactions.  On the opposite end is a broad span where each manager has many employees – this model has less direct oversight from the manager and is usually used when managing simple repetitive tasks and/or an experienced team.

The trick to picking the right span of control model, is to fit the model to the task and the people performing the task. Which means there is no one right answer. 

Situational Leadership

In the 1970’s Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey developed what they called the Situational Leadership Model.   This is a four box model that matches the leadership style and span of control needs with the task and competence level of the people performing the task.

“Effective leaders need to be flexible, and must adapt themselves according to the situation.” – Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey

situational leadership chart 1Leadership Style

S1: Telling – Is the most basic of leadership styles. It is used when managing a new and often repetitive task where the employees are likely to be novices.  In this quadrant the manager can handle many employees as their role is simply telling the team what, how, when to perform the tasks.  The manager can oversee the entire group at once.

S2: Selling – In this quadrant, the manager is still working with employees that are on the more junior experience side.  But now, the role has changed from just getting the work done, to training the employees to become more proficient, learning why the work is done the way it is, and gaining their buy-in to the process.  The manager will have a smaller team so they can invest time coaching, mentoring and selling the process.

S3: Participating – The manager now moves from directing how the work is done as in the prior two quadrants, to partnering with the employees to develop the best methods.  These managers will have smaller teams as they invest significant time discussing methods and drawing out ideas from their employees.

S4: Delegating – In this final quadrant, the manager can once again can handle a larger team as the highly experienced team has been delegated responsibility and authority to perform the tasks and make decisions about the best methods to accomplish the tasks.  The manager’s role is once again to monitor the entire team’s results.

Keep in mind that employees can move amongst the quadrants as they take on new opportunities where they have less experience.  That is why this is called situational leadership – the right style and right span of control depends on the situation.

 

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