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Archive for August, 2006

Map’s view of the world

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

No matter what you read, hear, study and learn; from whatever experts, mentors, friends—even me—that you find, it’s all filtered through your MAP and your MAP will change it. The changes can run from slight to considerable, but there will be changes. Some will be an improvement, some could even nullify it, but whatever “it” is, it will change to reflect your MAP.

As it should. Although new ideas frequently spark a person’s desire to modify/change their MAP. This too, is as is should be, unless the effort is to duplicate, which is an enormous waste of time and energy—and accomplishes nothing.

I’m willing to bet that there is no human being alive, or dead, for that matter, who’s MAP is so perfect that you’d be willing to adopt it in toto, giving up your own (you can’t have two versions of MAP running in one head). Even if you did, you’d be back to square one, just with different MAP making the changes, and worse, you would no longer be you.

The changes are also critical because no matter what you learn that you want to use, it’s the changes that make it your own; and you must own it in order to implement and sustain it.

Your MAP filters the world, so you don’t want to leave it to act unattended on it’s own. Make the effort to know it, understand it, and, then, evolve/enhance/change it as you choose!

MAP—your silver bullet

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

I’ve got a secret to share. Most managers spend time, energy and money (their company’s and their own) in an effort to grow from manager to leader. They study examples and best practices, read books, attend seminars and classes, take advanced degrees, check out software, turn to the spiritual (if so inclined)—you name it and it’s been tried.

The dream is to find a silver bullet; the reality is various levels of incremental improvement; the payoff is enormous—both tangibly and intangibly.

Now for the secret. You already possess the closest thing to a silver bullet that exists and it’s right in your mind.

That’s right, it’s your MAP and, like a snowflake, it’s totally unique—yours, and yours alone. And the magic that turns the bullet from lead to silver is your ability to consciously choose to change your MAP through your own awareness.

How cool is that? The very thing that frees you to soar and it’s not only yours, but also within your control. Who can ask for anything more?

Never forget! You are the silver bullet!

Supportive love, tough love and MAP

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

I’ve been harping on MAP as being critical to everything that any person does, whether personally or professionally, for as long as I can remember. Granted, I didn’t call it MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™), I only came up with that as a definitive label late last year and labels are merely a convenient way to identify a concept (I’m not claiming the idea originated with me—but I did figure most of it out for myself.)

So I was delighted to read On Managing with Bobby Knight and “Coach K” (HBS Working Knowledge, 4/14/06) describing research done by Harvard Business School Professor Scott Snook that confirmed the importance of MAP.

Now that you’ve read the article, I want to add one thought regarding managers who follow what looks like the style of Bobby Knight, because I wouldn’t want to see the anything or anybody used as a justification for abusive management. According to everything I’ve read, Bobby Knight cares deeply about his players, unlike Chainsaw Al Dunlap, who doesn’t give a damn about anyone.

I’ve always believed that the workforce is composed of

  • the proverbial 10%, people who succeed without any assistance and often in spite of bad management;
  • the 87% majority, people who work to the quality of their managers; and
  • the bottom 3%, who are destroyers because they think it’s fun.

Al Dunlap is from the bottom three, whereas Bobby Knight and Coach K are both from the top ten.

And while your choice of leadership style may stem from your MAP, your MAP is of your choosing—and you can always choose to change it.

To innovate—learn!

Monday, August 28th, 2006

As a boss (whether top or not) you need to accomplish many things within your organization (whether company or team) to be successful today. Near the top of the list are the need to

  • motivate your people (without breaking the bank);
  • strengthen and diversify your workforce (often without adding headcount); and
  • innovate (products and processes; internally and externally; large and small)

Big order, but what I’m suggesting will certainly put you on the road.

Here’s the mantra to keep playing in your head

  • Read it.
  • Hear it.
  • Do it.
  • Teach it.

To implement it

  • Build a useful library, both hard copy and online, that includes classic and current information and runs the gamut from traditional to controversial to off-the-wall. Encourage your people to read up on subjects that interest them, whether or not it directly applies to their expertise.
  • Choose “topics of the month” based on both need and interest, then encourage free-wheeling discussions on a regular basis.
  • Adapt scheduling so people can start to use, and become proficient in, the new skills about which they are reading and talking.
  • Support brown-bag classes (better yet, buy lunch) in which they may teach both their new and original skills to others. Add cross-working assignments to ensure cross-training.
  • Look inwards to be sure your MAP supports the program.

Remember, it’s a long-term fix, because there are no short-term fixes and the only thing you have that’s even close to a silver bullet is your MAP!

Laptop intimacy

Friday, August 25th, 2006

A Business Week article way back in 2004 talked about the dangers of the over-wired. In April I wrote Think, dream, innovate about the reasons to unplug and all the good things that happen when you do.

But for all of you who can’t live without your laptop, I’ve got great news. According to some of the experts quoted in a NY Times article yesterday, laptops in bed increase intimacy, and even more so when you each have one. This priceless research comes on top of a February report in the WSJ on wired bathrooms.

Of course, being a Luddite-leaning dinosaur, I don’t agree, but so what? You can keep a copy of the article in your wallet and use it to justify having your laptop (or whatever) always with you and always on.

TGIF to couples everywhere—now you can play with your computer instead of each other. Whoo hoo.

Questions sans answers

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

I write and coach a lot about hiring, why it’s important, how to think about it, how to actually do it, how your MAP affects it, etc., and now and them some of it actually sinks in. But what I can’t seem to get across is that one of the worst thing you can do when interviewing is what the legal world calls “leading the witness.”

What’s that mean when interviewing? It means giving the candidate the answer inside the question. The following is from a real interview.

  • “We at XYZ believe that teamwork is a major factor in our success and are looking to hire more, are you a team player, Ms. Candidate?” The candidate responded that she believed that being a good team player was of paramount importance for a company’s success.
  • “There’s a lot of spreadsheet work in the position, in what programs are you most knowledgeable?” the candidate responded that she was familiar with QuickBooks, good with Adobe PDF suite, and very skilled in MS Office, especially Excel.

The interview continued along these lines, the candidate was rated a great match and hired. Unfortunately, her skills and attitudes weren’t consistent with the interview answers and the hire didn’t work out.

What happened? Did she intentionally lie, or did she unconsciously say what the interviewer wanted to hear? In most of the cases I’ve seen it’s the latter. Candidates are taught that the most important thing is to “get the offer” no matter what. Add to that, that people are smart and are actively trying to please the interviewer. The result is that they will give the “right” answer, believing that they can learn the skill/ develop the attitude/do whatever is needed once they have the job.

Managers are also prone to the “whatever it takes” school of interviewing, assuring candidates that the position/company/manager/work will fulfill the desires they’ve described—whether that’s true of not. Those hires rarely work out, either.

So remember: don’t lead the candidate and don’t follow where the candidate leads! Better yet, print this out and tape it up where you’ll see it when you’re interviewing.

Rejects or stars?

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

A manager and I had an email discussion today that I thought would interest many of you. It started with a reference to a Gallup poll stating that ““Engaged performance” occurs when employees feel ownership of their jobs and invest themselves fully in their work and career.” (It also says that only 27% consider themselves engaged.)

He went on to say that one of the speakers at a networking event he attended yesterday said that “most successful companies (in the long term) retain and grow their human resource base from within the company, which insures engagement.” The speaker went on to intimate that when a company fulfills it’s human resource needs by hiring from the outside, in most cases, it’s picking up the “rejects” from other companies.”

That’s when I went through the ceiling. Of all the totally wrong-headed attitudes I’ve heard on the subject of hiring, there is only one that is comparable and, in fact, they go hand in hand. During every recession through which I worked as a headhunter, I’ve heard variations on the theme that the only employees worth hiring were the ones who were still working. Even when companies had cut 50% of their workforce and were still cutting, if you were laid off you were “dead wood.” My blood still boils when I remember the excellent people who were completely trashed by that attitude.

I do agree that growing people from within is good company policy, however, there are excellent reasons why a company would hire at levels other than entry.

First, I defy any company to grow from $X to $Y and not hire from the outside—it’s a given part of growth. For example, most startups and high-growth companies have neither the diversification, nor the depth, of talent needed when growth kicks in, so they hire at all levels. Next, hiring only at entry level and promoting only from within can create a hidebound culture steeped in a not-invented-here mentality, not only for products, but for processes—as happened at both IBM and HP.

But the major reason for my vehemence is that most people work to the quality of their managers—they don’t shine because they aren’t engaged! The saying is that 10% are “stars,” well, good luck trying to run a company on just 10% of the workforce, however, give people good managers and they can all be stars.

Finally, in addition to poor management, people change jobs for many reasons,

  • the company lays off 5-10/20/30+% of it’s workforce;
  • their manager or best friend leaves;
  • they’re in the wrong culture or it changes due to executive turnover or acquisition; or
  • they’re ready to grow, but there are no opportunities.

There are dozens of other reasons (think about your own experience), but the both the reject and the dead wood attitudes are way out of line.

Whoops, I didn’t mean to rant, but I do tend to go a bit berserk when work quality is laid completely at the door of workers with no responsibility on the managers.

Just a note: my correspondent is very pleased that in his company (my client) responsibility is placed at the door of managers, where he, too, believes it belongs; and that he works hard (successfully, I might add) to keep his people engaged.

Niche hiring

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

Last night a friend and I drove 30 miles to get ice cream. Sure, we could have gotten it closer to home, but we drove to get the same kind of strawberry ice cream that we both remember having as kids (as opposed to what passes for it now).

I’ll bet you’ve done the same thing, gone way out of your way to get a product or service ‘the way it used to be made/done,’ and probably paid a premium for it, whether you found it regionally, nationally, or virtually.

The name of the marketing game today is using value-added/service/quality to sell to the individual and to capitalize on tiny segments of the market (just for the heck of it I searched personalized & ‘market niches’ and there were 111,000 hits). The result is a surge in the extra value/tailored to fit/my way/special order mentality.

OK, what does all this have to do with your ability to do your job as a manager? A lot, fortunately or not, depending on you and your MAP, because the mentality described above is the same mentality that you need to appeal to when hiring; in other words, you’ll need to sell the whole shebang to candidates, just as they are selling themselves to you.

Your [staffing] life will be easier if you determine your position’s niche and identify the characteristics of that market. Try matching the following programming jobs (answers at end)

  1. upgrades
  2. advanced development
  3. maintenance

with the correct mentality

  1. bleeding edge
  2. tinkerer
  3. improvement

Once you do this, you can make sure that both the req and ad target the correct buyer, saving yourself time, energy, and money, not to mention generating good review points.

Answer: 1-3; 2-1; 3-2

Vacations—or the lack of them

Monday, August 21st, 2006

Do you work hard? Did you, or will you, take a vacation this year? A real live vacation during which you actually disconnect from your office/business/work. If your answer is no, you have a lot of company. The attitude/action even has a name, it’s called “shrinking-vacation syndrome” and it’s prevalent.

Smart bosses know that people need to get away, not just to recharge their batteries and creativity, but to reduce stress and rebuild coping skills—and that taking along the office defeats the purpose.

Smart people know that cramming everything possible into the available time (especially when kids are involved) leaves them more frazzled than they were.

But if you’re not PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has taken to shutting down its entire national operation twice a year to ensure that people stop working, what can you do? Several things…

If your company offers paid vacations insist that your employees use them. Not by taking them away when not used, but by including “staff taking vacations” as a line item in every manager’s review.

If you’re a small biz that can’t offer paid vacations consider allowing your employees to trade paid holidays for different days they want, e.g., working July Fourth and Thanksgiving in trade for a Friday and the following Monday off.

Small biz owners should also consider closing one Friday with pay at least once, preferably twice, a year, e.g., the Friday after Thanksgiving (or a similar day). Consider it an investment as the ROI in increased productivity and retention will surprise you.

If you’re one of the many managers, found at all levels and in all sizes of companies, who don’t believe in vacations and intimidate your people so that they won’t take one, or insist that they “deal with stuff” while gone, I sincerely hope you have few personal expectations and excellent hiring skills, since you can look forward to low productivity, high turnover, and poor reviews no matter where you work!

Thoughts of change

Friday, August 18th, 2006

I find the best stuff in garage sales, often it’s not something I was looking for, usually because I didn’t know, or think, about it in the first place. This is especially true of books. Anyway. A few weeks ago I found The Big Book of Business Quotations and I’ve been having a great time dipping around in it when I have a few spare minutes. It’s amazing how outdated some of the recent stuff is and how apropos is some of the ancient stuff.

The quotes are listed by category; some are attributed, but many are anonymous, and a large number are obscure—that’s what I really like about it. I was caught by these three under “Change” and I thought I would share. Kind of brain food for the weekend.

When the wind of change blows, some build walls, others build windmills. –Anonymous

Most of us are about as eager to be changed as we were to be born, and go through our changes in a similar state of shock. –James Baldwin, (New York, Dec. 1977)

When you are through changing, you are through. –Percy Barnevik, former CEO of ABB (HBR, March/April 1991

And one more…

It may make no sense to reinvent the wheel, but it makes perfect sense to keep reinventing yourself. –Miki Saxon, 2006

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