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Archive for January, 2008

Attn leaders/managers: people are people

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Ideas from Leadership Turn

Ignoring for the sake of this post that I think leading and managing are heavily intertwined, consider the biggest thing they have in common—people.

Call them followers or employees/volunteers/staff they’re all people. No matter their age, attitude, education, economic status, gender, etc., they’re still people. And it doesn’t change with country, industry, or situation.

So why do educators, pundits, the media, etc., insist on presenting so many things as specific only to the group under discussion?

puzzle.jpgLast December I wrote how ridiculous this was after reading an article about what turns Gen Y off in their leaders/manager. The list included

  1. Inflexibility.
  2. Judgmental attitudes.
  3. Close-mindedness.
  4. Unwillingness to listen to and respect Gen Y’s opinions, ideas and views.
  5. Intimidation.

Well, duh. You show me anybody who likes these traits under any circumstances.

Today, I read about seven mistakes made by church leadership, including

  1. stopping listening.
  2. getting distracted.
  3. getting complacent.
  4. becoming arrogant.
  5. failing to delegate.

Well, duh again. Same reason.

There seems to be a great commonality in how people want to be treated, so why is it so difficult for those in charge?

Your comments—priceless

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Talent in good times and bad

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

puzzle_key.jpgTalent availability goes up and down, up and down all through the town—and the country and the world. Thanks to a strong global economy and an aging population talent has been in short supply for awhile, so if the economy slows and more talent becomes available staffing should be easier—right?

Not really. It was still difficult during the last recession when all the information channels were saying that there was an abundance of well trained, highly qualified workers available.

A looser talent pool doesn’t mean that it’s easier to hire; it doesn’t mean that turnover is less costly, because the 80/20 rule still holds true.

The overt costs (20%) during good times include recruiters, relocations, and over-sized salaries/sign-on bonuses and they all but go away during lean times. But the covert costs (80%), including interviewers’ time, slipped schedules, lost opportunities, lost productivity, and lowered morale, are still present.

Hiring itself isn’t easy, either. In 1999, an ad might generate 80 responses, 90% of which weren’t a fit; in 2002 the same ad generated 500 responses, but 90% still didn’t fit.

Other fundamentals don’t change, either.

  • A corollary of Murphy’s Law states, “No matter the condition of the labor market, the specific skills being sought by any given company at any give time will be
    a. the least available skills
    b. the same skills that are being sought by every other company,
  • No matter how long or hard you work, your organization will not meet its objectives without the right talent.
  • A manager’s raises, bonuses, stock options, and even job, depend on the ability to hire the right person, at the right time, for the right reasons.
  • Without the ability to hire and retain people in a timely, cost-effective manner, managers are gambling with their own success. After all: You are who you hire.
  • People retention is critical, and retention is the result of good hiring practices.

The days of labor famine come and go, but even in days of labor feast, staffing is too costly to ignore good retention practices.

What do you do to retain your talent?

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Corporate exercise

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008


What kind of exercise do you indulge in at work?

Wordless Wednesday: Proof of global warming

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008


Every subject needs some levity, but for real information visit Greener Assets.

What will the 21st Century look like?

Your comments—priceless

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8 steps to mentoring success

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

In the comments on Learning to lead Luke says, “…Anyway, after having the ability to look back with 20/20 hindsight I can see a great deal of improvements that could’ve been made if I had the benefit of some well thought-out guidance. At what point does doing need to be tempered by hearing and seeing (teaching)?”

Luke doesn’t have “…the ideal is to work for a leader, learn by watching, apply what you’ve learned and receive thoughtful critiquing…” so I suggested creating “an informal leadership advisory board.”

bear.jpgTo reach their goals entrepreneurs and other small businesses are big users of advisory boards and there’s no reason you can’t create one on a more personal level.

Here’s how to do it, but don’t just think it, write it down.

  1. Think through what you want to accomplish and how the advisors can/will help.
  2. Describe specific areas in which you want assistance, e.g. leading, managing, career planning, job hunting, parenting, etc.
  3. Describe in what you want from each advisor and how doing this may also benefit them.
  4. For each area think about someone you respect, who will listen to you and to whom you will listen.
  5. Present your request with enough context for them to understand the above points, the approximate time commitment and your specific reasons for asking them.
  6. Discuss it with the person, don’t push them or guilt them into doing it. You want people who are excited/pleased to work with you.
  7. In terms of benefits there are many things you can offer other than formal compensation, e.g., be appreciative; if appropriate offer to do the same for them, take them out and discuss stuff over a meal; send flowers; give them chocolate; use your imagination and knowledge of the person.
  8. Never overload or abuse your advisors time/energy/interest

How many advisors do you need? That depends on a) what you want to accomplish, b) the people you can access and c) the time involved. Don’t put your advisory group together to impress others (yes, I’ve seen this done), because advisors don’t commit for life and don’t grow on trees you want to access them wisely.

Finally, your advisors aren’t there to stroke you—if you want strokes call your mom—they’re there to tell you hard truths, help sort out confusion and assist you to overcome challenges.

No matter their age they have wisdom, experience and smarts—otherwise why did you ask them in the first place?

Do you think a board of advisor could help you?

Your comments—priceless

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Stress management by thunderbolt

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Yesterday, a client said to me, ‘How do you manage to stay so laid back? When I can’t do everything I’ve planned, I still find myself very frustrated. Sometimes I feel that I’m running out of time—not to achieve greatness, but to just get done all the things that need doing. I know you’re in the same situation, but it doesn’t seem to affect you.’

Part of my answer is that I burned myself to the point that I don’t over-commit the way I used to, but mostly my solution falls under the heading of “head-games.’

Years ago I learned that overcoming a bit of frustration would heighten my feelings of accomplishment and success, but more than a bit would leave me feeling that it (no matter what “it” was) was hopeless.

thunder_boldt.jpgThen, one time when I was super stressed, I really got to thinking. What really would/did happen if I didn’t get something done? My boss/clients would holler, but, lo, no thunderbolt shot down from the heavens to incinerate me; the sun continued to rise in the east; and the task was still there at the dawn of the new day.

Since that finally sank in, I find it much easier to prioritize and schedule me (both biz and personal) by applying what I call the Thunderbolt Theory of Importance.

Since then, I’ve been a lot happier and rarely stressed. I find very few things stand up to my Thunderbolt Theory, so I have very little that falls in the do-or-die category—of course, this applies to my clients, also. Knowing that I can’t let a thunderbolt hit them, either, keeps me from making commitments that I can’t realistically meet. It doesn’t always work, but it sure helps!

What do you do to reduce your stress?

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Leading the Millennials

Monday, January 28th, 2008

obama_hillary.jpgLast week as part of the Odd Blog Couple, I wrote Can youth lead? and over the weekend I had an interesting email discussion with Jim Gordon over at BossHatch. (See all the Odd Blog Couples.)

Jim is midpoint in the youth demographic and mentioned that he had attended an Obama gathering at his campus.

How was the Obama meeting? Do you think the youth (18-29) crowd will go to the polls if “their” candidate isn’t doesn’t make it to the finals? I really am curious about this since it was my Odd Blog topic.

Well campaigning at colleges is total hit or miss. Half of the student body is registered to vote in another state, unfortunately. On the other hand, you find that people like him will really convert a lot of undecided votes. I, personally, don’t want Hillary to win (way to conform to the expectations of my age group?). I think the fact that Hillary wants MORE government involvement (and power?) really annoys me. She does not settle well with the young voters – at least in the southeast. Either way, Obama is very charismatic.

These days, I find that I go to the polls to vote AGAINST a candidate and for the person most capable of defeating him/her. Do you think that’s enough to motivate your generation? If they had done that in the last election GWB would likely not be in office (apologies if you’re for him:)

GWB is an idiot. Kerry is an idiot. We were choosing between two styles of crap, and the nation chose smell over texture. I think the main motivation is no longer “change.” “Change” is an overused buzzword. I think young voters ARE voting against and they are looking at the issues. My generation has been patronized by older generations and other candidates. Even races are being patronized. For example, a republican candidate came to Clemson University with Chuck Norris and Rick Flare (a wrestler). His whole speech was some stand-up routing… which, frankly, was insulting.

There have been articles on CNN that say “Who will win – the black candidate or the female candidate?” Young voters aren’t voting for race or gender – we are voting on issues, we are voting against issues, and some of us aren’t even voting. Our motivation is what can be done now. We are the online generation, so we are used to instant gratification – candidates need to be talking about short-term if they want to see results in the polls. As reckless as that sounds, that is how it is. We’re a generation of cynics.

Hope that gives you an idea of what we are thinking (or some material to write about).

As far back as I can remember the candidates have been idiots, that’s nothing new.

Your generation might give some thought to that fact that many of the big problems, such as global warming, exist because the thinking has been short term for too many decades. The ironic part is that you are saying exactly what every previous generation, starting with mine, have said about the current older generation. I don’t know about before mine, but probably. You guys have no monopoly on believing that the previous generations messed things up and that only you can fix them.

Is Jim right? Will the need for instant gratification drive the vote? Will it cloud the issues? And can the issues that engage youth—health care, the economy, social security—respond to short-term fixes?

Your comments—priceless
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Truth in reviews

Monday, January 28th, 2008

2-guys-2.jpgI’ve written on and off about the importance of, and how to do, performance reviews. So in yet another effort to convince you doubters out there that honesty is the best policy and that your people really don’t want to hear feel-good fudging, prevarications or outright lies.

Social psychologist William B. Swann in a new study published in the Academy of Management Journal… People don’t like to be treated positively if they know it is not heartfelt. If people are coming across as inauthentic and forcing you to come across as inauthentic in return, that can be enormously stressful.

His work has centered on an idea known as self-verification theory. All people carry around an image of themselves that tells them who they are, whether they are good-looking or average-looking, for example, or clever at math, or kind and thoughtful or largely self-centered. Inasmuch as people want to be recognized for the things they are good at, Swann’s work suggests many people also want honest acknowledgments of their flaws, and that when these flaws are minimized or wished away, people end up feeling worse rather than better.

Just remember, honest and authentic don’t mean abusive or destructive. Offering recognition of what the person does well and being candid about areas that need improvement are two hallmarks of a good review.

Finally, there are no surprises, which means that you’ve been giving candid feedback throughout the year.

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Is Wal-Mart a leader in hypocrisy and social irresponsibility?

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

wal-mart_logo.gifOKaaaaaaaay. Here’s Wal-Mart as white knight riding forth to save the masses and bring relief to the environment and health care crisis.Wal-Mart is positioning itself as a do-the-right-thing leader. In a speech yesterday “…president and CEO Lee Scott today said the company would continue to demonstrate leadership and work for change on major issues important to Wal-Mart’s customers, communities, associates and suppliers worldwide. …working to lead an effort by major global retailers to create common social and environmental standards for suppliers. The company will also require all of its suppliers to meet specific environmental, social and quality standards and it will make compliance with those standards part of its contracts… “What if we extended our mission of saving people money so they can live better…“”

Isn’t that great? Have you seen the ads for $4 dollar prescriptions? Terrific, right? Gee, maybe a leopard really can change its spots.

But before you get too excited take a look at another article in Business Week called The Ugly Side of Microlending.

And remember that CEO Lee Scott is at the top of the approval chain for this move.

Wal-Mart Stores, which obtained a Mexican banking license a year ago, began offering loans for purchases at 16 of its 997 Mexican outlets in November. In the U.S., the retailer markets itself as a friend to the budget-conscious. In Mexico, it charges interest rates that might set off popular and political revolts back home, although Wal-Mart describes its terms as appropriate to the Mexican market. At one store west of Mexico City, a 32-inch LG plasma TV with a price tag of $957 can ultimately cost as much as $1,474, thanks to a 52-week payment plan that carries an annual percentage rate (APR) of 86%.

Doesn’t that warm the cockles of your heart? Wring your profits out of the poorest of the poor while positioning yourself as the leader in “saving people money so they can live better.”

What do you think?
Is hypocrisy and social irresponsibility alive and well at Wal-Mart or have they truly turned over a new leaf?

Your comments—priceless

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Learning to lead

Saturday, January 26th, 2008


learning_to_ride.jpgRegarding my Jan 17th post about why leadership training doesn’t provide leaders, Wally Bock comments, “Leadership is an apprentice trade.”

So true. His comment reminded me of an ancient Chinese proverb that holds the true secret of learning and growth.

As with most real wisdom, it hasn’t lost its meaning or its value over the ages.

I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember.
I do and I understand.

How do you learn best?

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