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Archive for May, 2009

Quotable Quotes: Advice To Live By

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

Together, these five disparate thoughts pack enough wisdom to live from youth to old age and never go wrong

“Friendship is an undervalued resource. The consistent message of these studies is that friends make your life better.” –Karen A. Roberto, director of the center for gerontology at Virginia Tech (I wonder if all those friends at Facebook and Twitter count?)

“Never let your ego get so close to your positions that when your position goes, your ego goes with it.” –Admiral H. G. Rickover (I call it ego merge and it’s a definite no-no.)

“That’s what keeps life moving forward, focusing on what we can do, rather than getting caught up in what we can’t.” –Trisha Meili, The Central Park Jogger (Words of wisdom from a woman who knows.)

“Small Minds Talk About Others, Mediocre Minds Talk About Themselves, Great Minds Talk About Ideas.” –Eleanor Roosevelt (Which do you have?)

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” –John Milton, Paradise Lost (True when Milton wrote it and just as true now.)

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Image credit: Joe Shlabotnik on flickr

mY generation: How The Tables Have Turned

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

See all mY generation posts here.

Seize Your Leadership Day: From, About And For Leaders

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

You may not be a CEO, you can learn from from them and tweak the information to work for you.

First is an article written by Neeraj Bhargava, who co-founded India’s WNS Global Services and ended up CEO. It’s interesting because the focus his learning curve in an overheated market, how he hired an exceptional team and got out of their way.

Next is an interview with James J. Schiro, CEO of Zurich Financial Services (they didn’t crash and burn) focusing on what he’s learned, how he manages, how he uses social media and building the company’s culture.

CEOs jobs are safer than they’ve been in a long time. That’s right, their boards and investors are sticking with the devil they know and giving them time to succeed, instead of turning them like flapjacks.

My final offering is for all you road warriors (warrior wannabes) or just people who like to work away from the office. If you have an iPhone or Blackberry you can do all your Office applications on it. (Better you than me:)

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Image credit: nono farahshila on flickr

Saturday Odd Bits Roundup: Culture Stuff

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

The last few days have been about the importance of culture, so why change now?

If you’re a long-time reader you know that I’m a culture fanatic. I believe that culture is the root, driver and cure for 99% of business and, as is said today, that culture eats strategy for lunch.

Culture also makes companies a lot of money, think Berkshire Hathaway, Apple, Google, Southwest, and Costco. And if that doesn’t convince you look at the dark side and think about what happened when Robert Nardelli trashed Home Depot’s culture.

Next, a Rambus alumni talks about how culture influences innovation in a company that makes its money by inventing and licensing its IP.

I’m a firm believe in using your company’s culture as a screening tool and I’m not the only one. Steve Balzac has some thoughts on the subject, too, including the price you pay for not remembering that people don’t magically change after they’re hired.

Finally, for those of you who believe that being constantly wired is cool, now you can do Office apps on your iPhone or Blackberry (or both).

See you all next week.

Image credit: MykReeve on flickr

Robert Sutton On How To Be A Good Boss In Bad Times

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Do you subscribe to The McKinsey Quarterly? They have a great selection of topics depending on your interests. I mention this because you may have to register to read the following, but no worry, it’s free.

McKinsey has done a great interview with Stanford prof and management guru Robert Sutton, he of The No Asshole Rule fame.

In his McKinsey interview Sutton talks about how to be a “Good Boss in Bad Times.” Take a moment and see the video interview  or read the transcript (sorry, the video won’t embed).

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Image credit: McKinsey Quarterly

Happy Workers = Happy Customers = Success

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Continuing the theme from yesterday.

I’ve written multiple times about Zappos and I’m not the only one. Any time the conversation turns to productivity, customer service, branding, leadership, staffing, etc., and chances are someone will point to Zappos.

I seriously doubt that Tony Hsieh can even spell imperial CEO, let alone act like one—his office is a cube in the middle of a lot of other cubes.

He has built Zappos around extreme customer service—only to him it’s not extreme, because he knows no other way to do business. And Zappos employees are as passionate about Zappos as Hsieh is.

During his keynote address at the CEO Summit he said that “Creating a happy workplace is crucial to building a successful company. … After looking at research on human behavior he found that happiness is about four things: perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness and vision, or in other words “being part of something bigger.””

He’s also big on using social media.

Hsieh constantly presents Zappos anywhere possible to build his brand, not talking about shoes, but about Zappos’ culture, the customers’ experience and how happy employees mean happy customers.

Companies constantly talk about the need for a ‘great customer experience’, whereas Zappos provides one.

He’s writing Delivering Happiness due out March 2010. If I was rich I’d send it to every CEO whose company can be found by searching ‘XYZ sucks’ (for example, ‘Comcast sucks’ shows 22,300 results).

Image credit: Nightline on YouTube

The Best Anti-Union Medicine: A Happy Workforce

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

In Richard’s interview with Pat Lynch regarding the EFCA, she said that employers have a choice, either take care of their people or the unions will. Lynch identified four primary issues on which employees rate their job satisfaction:

  • Employee satisfaction with immediate supervisor
  • Employee voice – do employees feel safe in challenging the status quo, do employees believe their ideas will be considered
  • Employee perceptions of procedural fairness
  • Rewards and recognition – these go far beyond compensation, which is not a significant element of satisfaction. Recognition is extremely important.

Richard suggested to start with an online satisfaction survey to learn how employees perceive management and the company and then to act on the results.

He also said, “come back Thursday to hear Miki’s take on keeping employees happy,” which isn’t really fair since everything I write is about keeping them happy and I even have a post called that.

But I’m committed, so let’s do this again.

In today’s language, ‘happy’ means ‘engaged’, which isn’t a new topic—think buy-in, ownership, commitment, involvement, etc.

Although the terms keep changing the behavior has been consistently on management’s radar for decades. The funny part is that the way to achieve it is as old as humanity and ties directly to the Lynch’s four issues.

The big four of engagement are

  1. respect;
  2. encouragement;
  3. support; and
  4. rewards.

Although descriptions and phrasing may vary, when all is said and done it always comes down to these four basics.

It’s not as if this is secret management knowledge. There are thousands of books, hundreds of classes, dozens of blogs and forums all teaching variations on this theme. I read a good article on it last year, but it was the comments that had the real value.

The real question then is if it’s that simple, why isn’t it put into practice more often?

MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) is the reason. MAP shapes a person’s actions

  • If you don’t really believe in the value or numbers 1 or 2, you can talk all day and your people will hear what you say as hollow, i.e., no authenticity.
  • Number 3, support, includes skills training and career development. Ingenuity. Not just yours, but your group’s. Your people aren’t dumb, they know when the company can’t/won’t fund training, but there are tons of ways work around that, such as sharing their own expertise with each other during organized brown bag lunch sessions.
  • Number 4 usually involves money, but public recognition often ranks higher on the scale. And when there’s an authentic, provable lack of funds to provide significant rewards, every company can find other ways to prove that they value their people’s contributions.

There’s a final component that needs to permeate all ranks of management, it’s what I call the believability factor, BF for short.

Believability is a two-edged sword. A strong BF draws people to you; it helps them hear what you have to say; see the vision that you present; and underscores their willingness to follow your lead. Without it, even the straightest shooters may be casually dismissed.

The flip side is definitely worse, because con people, crooks and even murderers often have BF in abundance.

If you’d like to learn more about how to evaluate your own BF and change it if you so desire, read MAP your BF—at work, at home, even in the bedroom!

In short, keeping people happy means embedding this stuff deep within your culture, because it can’t be faked or implemented in a couple of weeks.

That’s it; it’s not rocket science, but must be done from the top and every level down consistently, sincerely and with great enthusiasm.

Image credit: soul2love on flickr

Wordless Wednesday: Why I Hate Twitter

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

The first step in innovation

Image credit: cambodia4kidsorg on flickr

Wordless Wednesday: How Do You Brainstorm?

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

See why Twitter = TMI

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Image credit: yonolatengo on flickr

Ducks In A Row: Do You Want Busy Or Productive?

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

A senior manager I work with is having high turnover because he’s rewarding and promoting those who are busy instead of those who are productive.

He’s concerned when his people aren’t busy. He believes that if they have they aren’t working they must be slacking or are under-utilized in their position and gives no thought to their productivity.

In a comment Jim Gordon said, “In school, people are taught to do WORK and not to be productive (well, they don’t say “don’t be productive,” but rather “stay busy”).  The problem is that of conforming to peoples’ constant need to stay busy.  Often “work” is seen as productivity – if you are one who is productive and you aren’t busy, people consider that to be counter-productive.  So the tragic upshot of this perception is that you have to put forth equivalent “work” alongside them.  The result is a lot of work and a little production.”

A manager who focuses on ‘busy’ instead of ‘productive’ will not only alienate her best experienced people, but also drive away her most promising new talent who, like Jim Gordon, do know the difference.

Always being busy may be visually impressive, but it lacks substance and leaves people exhausted.

Productivity drives success, both the company’s and the manager’s, but it’s also necessary for individual self esteem—it’s what gives people satisfaction in a job well done and energizes them.

So the choice is yours.

Do you want your people productive, excited, up for the challenge or busy, bored and polishing their resumes?

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Image credit: ZedBee|Zoë Power on flickr

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