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Management is Like Coffee

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/25187937@N05/5525163305How much management/coaching is too much?

I hear that question a lot.

Most managers want to do a good job and are looking for ways to improve.

But, as one commented recently, if you do everything recommended by the experts you would use so much of each person’s time that productivity would tumble and even the best coaching would have a negative impact.

Which is why I say that management and coffee are similar.

In the right amount coffee is good for your brain and may help you live longer.

The right amount of management/coaching is good for the brain in that it provides challenges that foster growth; it also lowers frustration and stress, which enhances mental and physical health.

According to the research, the “right” amount of coffee is around 20 ounces a day, i.e., one venti-size Starbucks.

That equates to the most effective management/coaching, which provides all the information needed to do the job at one time (not more nor less) and then gets out of the way while staying accessible if needed.

Many of the coffee-fueled are more likely to drink three to five ventis a day, which is detrimental to health and longevity.

A comparable amount of management/coaching is detrimental to health, productivity and retention.

Flickr image credit: Kurtis Garbutt

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Skip the Jargon

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Last Friday I cited HBS research that indicates that the best results are achieved when those in charge are both good managers and competent leaders and that the key factor is excellent communications.

Whether you think of yourself as a leader or a manager, communications is about more than talking clearly, it’s about providing all the background necessary for your people to understand why they are doing their jobs, as well as what jobs they are to do.

Think of it this way,

  • operational communications provide people information on how to do their jobs, while
  • management communications tell them what their jobs are and why they do them, giving form and purpose.

People need both.

Many of the problems that managers face daily stem from their own poor or inaccurate communications, often as a result of using jargon in an effort to sound sophisticated, knowledgeable and with it.

Jargon doesn’t work for several reasons.

  • You may not totally understand or be comfortable with the jargon;
  • your people may have their own individual understanding or be guided by their previous boss’ definitions that have nothing to do with your intended meaning. This happens often enough with words of one or two syllables, let alone multi-syllabic management-babble; or worse,
  • your people may shut down when they hear jargon.

You can create a relatively jargon-less environment by

  1. keeping it firmly in mind that your goal is to provide your people with all the information needed to understand how to perform their work as correctly, completely, simply, and efficiently as possible; and
  2. providing clear, concise, and complete communications at all times.

Follow these two steps religiously and the results will amaze you,

  • Productivity will skyrocket; which will
  • make your company more successful;
  • your employees happier; and
  • you a more effective manager with better reviews and an enviable reputation.

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Be sure to check out this months Leadership Development Carnival; it’s been broken up to run over several days, so I can’t repost it here.

Flickr image credit: kevinspencer

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Managers Build What Entrepreneurs Start

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Talented managers are taking flack these days for not becoming entrepreneurs.

Whether hinted at or stated outright, their value is demeaned when they choose to stay in corporate positions and they are accused of wasting their talents when they could be out creating jobs by starting companies.

Kindly put, this is a crock.

As Andy Grove pointed out, after the first couple of years job creation is about the same in growth companies as large corporations.

Now Valley legend Esther Dyson, CEO of EDventure Holdings and an active investor in a variety of start-ups around the world, weighs in pointing out that without managers there would be no companies.

The real spur to job and value creation is not turning hundreds of college grads (or dropouts) into entrepreneurs, but hiring thousands – and hundreds of thousands – of people into growing companies that can organize and motivate them and make the best use of their talents.

Thank you, Esther!

This needed to be said by someone with a lot more clout than I have.

Startups are much like marriages.

In marriage, the real work starts after the bride and groom say “I do.”

In startups, the real work starts when the first “outsider” is hired.

There is a reason that very few founders build and run their companies—it’s not what they’re good at.

That’s why we should be celebrating managers with the talent and skill to build the company for the long-term.

Flickr image credit: HikingArtist

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Silver or Lead?

Monday, November 14th, 2011

“There is no silver bullet that’s going to fix that. No, we are going to have to use a lot of lead bullets.”  --Bill Turpin (quote source)

5824460045_54bb0ccb55_mAlthough Bill Turpin said this in reference to technical problems at Netscape, I see managers at all levels and across industries spending time looking for silver bullets with which to “fix” their people.

There are two reasons that this is a major waste of time.

First, I can categorically state that there is no such thing as a silver bullet. No matter what you are trying to do there is no tool or methodology that can be guaranteed to work in every situation and under every circumstance.

Second, No manager, past or present, has ever fixed anyone. The best that any manager can do is identify the problem, present the information and offer support, but any change or ‘fixes’ must come from the individual.

Lead bullets, however, are how most problems are solved and behaviors changed.

By some measurements lead bullets are expensive, since they cost time and effort over a longer period, but they typically have the highest ROI of anything a manager does.

So, time spent searching for a silver bullet fix or time spent chipping away at the problem with lead bullets?

As always, it’s your choice.

Flickr image credit: mdanys

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Self-starter Does Not Mean Self-managed

Friday, February 19th, 2010

dream-realityHow flat should an organization be?

How well do “self-starters” manage themselves?

Crucial questions for startups and small businesses, since how they are addressed can make or break the company.

Often the most important hires made when a company wants to grow are in sales.

Founders and owners often have technical, marketing or business backgrounds and many have a tendency to shrug when it comes to sales.

They see hiring salespeople as no big deal—there is an assumption that as long as they have a good track record in their previous sales position and understand the new product they can manage themselves.

If this sounds off base to you, you’re right, it’s not that simple. To use a real-life example, I had a client who thought that way.

The CEO hired “Jack” (before my time), a salesman with a fantastic record selling a parallel product to the same market.

The CEO personally taught Jack the product line and explained what the company was working to accomplish and then pretty much gave him free reign.

In the year Jack was with them he sold only two accounts, spent a good deal of his time on marketing and managed one large client; commissions totaled only $15K.

When he left he went to work in a field completely unrelated to anything he’d done before and in a market about which he knew nothing. In his first year at the new company he earned over 125K in commissions.

The difference was management.

Based on his track record both the CEO and Jack assumed that he could manage himself.

However, Jack didn’t have, and didn’t create for himself, the structure, accountability, etc., necessary to be successful.

During his exit interview he admitted that although he had no knowledge or training in marketing, he spent substantially more time than he should have because it was new and exciting.

After the CEO and I had fully analyzed what happened he concluded that the failure was 80-20, with the 80% his responsibility.

Hind sight is 20/20 and my client believes that if he had taken the time to do what was needed, instead of expecting Jack to completely manage himself, that he would still be with the company and doing a spectacular job.

The important lesson here is that “self-starter” does not mean “self-managed.” Even the best will need direction, structure, and accountability in order to perform brilliantly.

Image credit: iamwahid on sxc.hu

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Ducks In A Row: Noticing the Obvious

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

ducks_in_a_rowMany times the solutions we seek are waltzing around in full sight, but we don’t see them.  Let me give you a personal example.

I started RampUp Solutions in 1997, but finding a simple way to describe what we did took several years.

In the show Gypsy there’s a song that says, “Ya gotta have a gimmick” to succeed and I doubt that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

I wanted one clear, concise term that gave insight to RampUp’s coaching approach, not a couple of paragraphs—no matter how well written.

When the light finally went on I had to laugh. The term I settled on was MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) and the humor comes from the fact that I’ve been talking about mindset, attitude and philosophy my whole life—even using those terms.

But formalizing it never crossed my mind, which just goes to show how blind we can be.

There’s a reason ‘you can’t see the forest for the trees’ achieved the status of an adage more than a century ago.

Some people are focused on trees, while others have the opposite problem and focus strictly on the forest—neither offers optimal performance.

In my case it didn’t matter that much, sure, it would have been easier to create the company’s marketing messages, but it didn’t cripple us.

However, if your forests are made of people then it’s critical that you see them both.

It’s only by seeing your people as both individuals and collectively as a team that you can recognize the obvious solutions you miss when you focus on just one view.

Since Leadership Turn is ending December 29 I’ve been encouraging you to click over and follow me at MAPping Company Success.

Ducks in a Row will continue every Tuesday; check out Why ‘Cracked Pots’ are Good For Your Team and you’ll know why you should subscribe via RSS or EMAIL.

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Image credit:  ZedBee|Zoë Power on flickr

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Ducks In A Row: People Are Like Bats

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

ducks_in_a_rowDid you know that as nimble as an ordinary bat is when flying it can’t take off from a level place?
If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and painfully until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air. Then it takes off like a flash.

That’s also a good description of what happens to workers who aren’t given what they need to succeed.

Whether it’s coherent instructions, correct and complete information, additional training, viable feedback, or something else, without it they struggle to survive, let alone thrive.

If you want your people to perform and succeed then it’s your responsibility to provide the slight elevation from which they can launch themselves.

Identifying and providing that slight elevation is your responsibility, whether you consider yourself a leader or a manager.

That small height isn’t one-size-fits-all nor is it necessarily what works for you, which means you need to learn through interaction and discussion what constitutes a feasible elevation for each individual and provide it.

That’s your job, whether you are a CEO, team leader or anything in-between, that is what you are paid to do.

So if doing it doesn’t float your boat and give you an adrenalin rush every time someone takes off you’re in the wrong position. You may like the paycheck, but you’re leaving your people to shuffle in circles and setting them up to fail.

And doing so will come back and bite you at some point.

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Image credit:  ZedBee|Zoë Power on flickr

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Good Enough?

Friday, December 11th, 2009

enoughI often do work around my house, fixing, redoing and maintaining stuff, as do most of us.

When I moved and bought this house in March 2003 I found that every time it rained water ran under the garage door. Typically, I’m a jerry-rigger, especially fixing stuff around my home, but I thought I would do it “right” this time.

Over the next few years I spent over a thousand dollars on drywells, barriers, etc., but was still getting water under the door.

Having run out of affordable do-it-right options, I went back to jerry-rigging and usd a clear, vinyl shower curtain, tape, and a few bricks—no water under the door since then and I just check the plastic each fall.

This got me thinking, how much is too much?

How “right” does a fix need to be?

How “fixed” does a challenge/problem need to be to count as solved?

Every day we all face a myriad of challenges, any number of which may upgrade (downgrade?) to the status of problem in the blink of an eye, so this isn’t a casual question.

What do you do?

Managers, like the rest of us, have their own routine for evaluating and deciding on solutions, corrections and fixes.

I’m not saying you should change yours, but I am suggesting that you give thought to what end results you really need in order to avoid overkill in your decisions.

In other words: Does it need to be “right” on some cosmic yardstick—or does it just need to work.

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Image credit: TheMuuj on flickr

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Ducks In A Row: Leaders are NOT Silver Bullets

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

ducks_in_a_rowRecently Dan McCarthy asked if there was a leadership crisis or is it a branding issue and I’ve been stewing ever since. (Please take a moment to read the post and the discussion.)

I’ve been stewing not so much because I disagree with Dan’s individual points, but because I disagree with the whole leadership-for-the-chosen-few attitude prevalent since the end of WWII.More than that, I am vehemently against the leader-as-a-silver-bullet school of thought.

The extent of this attitude has become glaringly apparent and the Presidential election is the highest profile example.

Yes, I voted for Obama, but not with any expectation that he could take office and resolve the global economic crisis, provide an abundance of high-paying jobs and reverse outsourcing, end our involvement in the wars and provide universal healthcare during his first year—or even his first four years.

There is no human being on the planet who could have accomplished any one, let alone all, of those goals.Hero-leaders, god-like leaders, God-as-leader—none are going to lead us anywhere because none is universally acceptable.

And it is time to stop looking to others to clean up our messes.

Real change starts as a grass roots effort, not as the vision of a larger-than-life figure with a title that is more like a target.

But we love to have a scapegoat; someone to shoulder the responsibility and take the blame for an effort doesn’t work—and that we can laud in the event that it does.

Remember when financial writers talked about share prices and compared 2005 prices to their pre dot bomb highs?

I think that comparing leaders/managers who functioned brilliantly during an up economy to those are performing now is just as ridiculous—there is no similarity between running a company in 1999 or 2006 and now.

Just as importantly, I believe we have a crisis in ‘followers’, both the actions and the brand.

Initiative is expected in the select ‘high potential’ few, but if you aren’t in that group initiative is often shot down. So, by de facto definition, followers are lower; a lesser breed from which to expect little more than compliance.

When high potential is identified early “late bloomers” are often nipped in the bud—or leave to flower somewhere else.

Developing and rewarding initiative, no matter the source, helps build leadership into a core competency throughout the organization.

That, in turn, builds strong, thinking followers and positions the company to thrive no matter what.

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Image credit:  ZedBee|Zoë Power on flickr

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December Leadership Development Carnival

Monday, December 7th, 2009

leadership-development-carnivalMark Stelzner at Inflexion Point is host for the December Leadership Development Carnival and he’s done it with such flair and good imagery that it’s silly for me to try and improve his snowstorm analogy.

Although the weather outside may be frightful, this Carnival’s writers are so delightful. So stoke the fire, grab a blanket and get ready to curl up with some of the best leadership writing from the past thirty days. Cozy yet? Good… let’s jump right in. Leadership Whiteout The good thing about a whiteout is that you have no choice but to stop and pay attention:

Surviving The Blizzard 2009 has been anything but easy:

Plowing Through We often have no choice but to push forward:

Finding Snowflakes Let’s face it, some employees/leaders may be more unique than others:

Brain Freeze Sure it’s cold, but that’s really no excuse:

Good stuff. Mark asks, “What issues would you like this crowd to tackle in 2010?” Let me know and I’ll pass on your comments or post them at Mark’s site.Your comments—priceless Don’t miss a post, subscribe via RSS or EMAILImage credit: Great Leadership

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