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Golden Oldies: Self-starter Does Not Mean Self-managed

Monday, January 11th, 2016

http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1209643

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over nearly a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written. Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

The effort to flatten management has been going on for awhile culminating in the idea of totally eliminating it and culminating in holacracy . I’m not impressed. Read other Golden Oldies here

How 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.

I’ve read multiple articles on holacracy, including Tony Hsieh actions at Zappos, but I believe that most people enjoy working for good managers and that they excel more and grow faster.

Of course, the operative word is “good”.

Image credit: iamwahid

Entrepreneurs: Killing Sales

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1209643

Over the years, certain posts I’ve written I seem to require reposting, because the subject keeps coming up; not investing management time in your self-starters is one of them.

Self-starter Does Not Mean Self-managed

When your company is new just how flat can the organization be? How well do “self-starters” manage themselves? These are crucial questions for startups and small businesses since how they are addressed can make or damage your company.

One of the first important outside hires made when a company is ready to grow is in sales. Today, founders are often technical with a biz type who handles sales and marketing. Unfortunately, technical people often have a tendency to think that non-tech jobs are no big deal, especially in sales and marketing.

They believe that hiring salespeople is no big deal—that as long as they have a good track record in their previous sales position and understand the 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.

Previous to hiring me this CEO hired a salesman, we’ll call him ‘Jack’, with a fantastic sales record selling 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.

In that year Jack’s commissions totaled only $15K.

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

What was the difference? 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.

When Jack left he admitted that although he had no knowledge or training in marketing, he spent substantially more time than he should have on it — but he had no choice.

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.

So remember when you hire that “self-starter” does not mean self-managed. Even the best will need direction, structure, and accountability in order to perform brilliantly.

Beyond that, tomorrow I’ll be sharing information Friday on the biggest sales error made by many startups and small companies.

Join me tomorrow to learn about the other major sales error made by many startups and small companies.

Image credit: iamwahid

Doing it Differently

Monday, November 4th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/21560098@N06/3523627575/It’s the same whether in business or athletics.

Call it habit or tradition, when a new boss takes over she’s likely to bring in her own team.

This is especially true when the new boss is there to turn things around.

Common wisdom says the boss needs people who are loyal and know how she works.

But when Urban Meyer was brought in as head coach to turn Ohio State around he changed the standard game—and he’d started long before he got the offer.

Meyer figured he would eventually coach again, and he knew that his next head coaching job, his fourth, would be different. His staff would not be stocked with loyal assistants who understood the Meyer Way and its demands. (…) He wanted coaches with local ties, who understood the tradition at Ohio State. He also paid attention to the coaches’ wives. He had seen others “create conflict in our programs.”

Instead, he worked on a list and identified the people he wanted for his new team—relative unknowns as opposed to highly paid stars—and it worked.

To that end, he hurriedly assembled a group of relative strangers when he took over at Ohio State and then kept the group intact for a second season. Together, they have won 19 straight games, their next challenge coming Saturday against Penn State.

I hope you take time to read the story about this boss who brought in disparate people with disparate backgrounds, shared his vision and approach in detail, worked especially hard on strengthening the culture and avoiding previous mistakes.

Because, so far, all the stakeholders are winning.

Flickr image credit: Nina Matthews

If the Shoe Fits: How do You Communicate?

Friday, September 13th, 2013

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mIf you are looking for the worst advice on which to build your company culture, be sure to add this piece of un-wisdom from Ashok Kushwaha (whoever that may be).

“I am responsible for what I say, not for what you understand.”

The first half of the sentence is true, you are responsible for what you say, as well as the way you say it.

It’s the second half that will royally screw you up and contribute to your company’s destruction.

It is your responsibility to be sure you are understood, whether it’s working with your team or explaining your vision and market to investors.

And it’s not just when you’re the boss.

The same holds true as a friend, volunteer, parent or the grown child to your parents.

In fact, the second part relegates the whole to one of the stupidest sentences I’ve heard/read in my lifetime.

However, it does fit the current attitude that eschews personal responsibility and believes that any word/action/behavior is justified/excused as long as there’s a reason.

That said, the possibility of success should be reason enough to make sure that whoever your audience is has a clear understanding of what you mean, since not understanding provides a clear path to failure.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Who is Your Customer?

Monday, June 10th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/angelaarcher/5166009978/Customer service is a major topic these days (more on the tomorrow); as is employee retention, but do they really have anything in common?

Absolutely.

Every manager, from team leader to CEO, is also a customer service manager, because your people are your customers.

That’s right, customers.

More accurately, that makes you an ESM—employee service manager.

Why do you service your people? To

  • help them achieve their full potential;
  • assure high productivity;
  • lower turnover; and
  • create an environment that’s a talent magnet.

How do you service your people? By

  • cultivating the kind of MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) that truly values people and understands how important it is to manifest that;
  • offering high-grade professional challenges to all your people and making sure that they have the resources and all the information necessary to achieve success;
  • fostering fairness so that people know they are evaluated on their merits and favoritism plays no part; and
  • always walking your talk and living up to your commitments.

What’s in it for you?

  • Better reviews, promotions and raises;
  • increased professional development;
  • less turnover and easier staffing; and
  • what goes around comes around—everything that you give your people will come back to you ten-fold!

Flickr image credit: Angela Archer

Ducks in a Row: Remedial Orientation

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

I managed over 12,000 people at Groupon, most under the age of 25. One thing that surprised me was that many would arrive at orientation with minimal understanding of basic business wisdom. “Haven’t you read any business books? Good to Great? Winning? The One Minute Manager?” I’d ask. “Business books? Not really our thing,” was the typical response. I came to realize that there was a real need to present business wisdom in a format that is more accessible to the younger generation. Andrew Mason

www.flickr.com/photos/akandbdl/4929956813/While “most under the age of 25. (…) arrive at orientation with minimal understanding of basic business wisdom”  surprised ousted Groupon CEO Andrew Mason, it probably doesn’t surprise most seasoned managers.

Managers have always assumed there was a general business learning curve when hiring new grads, but what has changed is how steep it’s become.

One exasperated manager described it as “remedial orientation”—from showing up on time every day looking presentable, being ready to work and paying attention during meetings to not wearing an iPod/checking Facebook/playing Angry Birds in front of customers—much of what used to come under the heading of ‘common courtesy’ and ‘basic living skills’.

Mason’s solution is recording a “seven-song album of motivational business music.”

Reading business books has never been high on the list of most 22-year-olds, so what has changed?

My own view is that most of the time the need for remedial orientation can be traced back to parents and how they chose to raise their kids.

Flickr image credit: Keith Laverack

Ducks in a Row: Helicoptering Adults

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/akandbdl/4930526656/Helicopter parents are a serious problem that cripples kids and doesn’t seem to end when they enter the workforce; plus it can have a detrimental effect on good managers.

The helicopter mindset is spreading, so that people who are inclined that way are also hovering over spouses, friends and colleagues in the name of helping.

New research shows that it isn’t a good thing.

It seems that certain forms of help can dilute recipients’ sense of accountability for their own success.

When managers helicopter most people feel it’s a form of micromanaging, but when the source is a parent, spouse, friend or colleague people are more open to it.

Unfortunately, the results are the same.

People end up with less confidence in their abilities, take less responsibility for their own actions and question their own competence more.

How do you help without either helicoptering or micromanaging?

The answer, research suggests, is that our help has to be responsive to the recipient’s circumstances: it must balance their need for support with their need for competence. We should restrain our urge to help unless the recipient truly needs it, and even then, we should calibrate it to complement rather than substitute for the recipient’s efforts.

Which, in turn, means shutting up and really listening to your child/spouse/friend/colleague to determine the minimum of what is really needed.

Finally, it takes enough self-discipline to allow them to fail and then pick themselves up.

That’s how everyone learns and grows.

Flickr image credit: Keith Laverack

Ducks in a Row: Remote or On-site

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/gidzy/3425345627/

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer started a brouhaha recently when she ended the company’s policy of allowing staff to work from home; many insiders said it was a good move, because remote workers weren’t performing.

However, low productivity and lack of accountability is a management problem, so if she only brings people on-sight without directly dealing with the underlying management problems the results probably won’t improve much.

Hubert Joly, the new Best Buy CEO, dumped the ROWE culture in favor of 40-hour on-site workdays for the headquarters staff as the best way to boost performance in the turnaround; he also wants to  sure that everyone knows they are dispensable (himself included).

However, nothing I’ve seen indicates that the work wasn’t getting done, so dumping ROWE may prove of questionable value.

Tony Hsieh thinks on-site is better not because of accountability, but because “companies with strong cultures outperform those without in the long-term financially. So we’re big, big believers in building strong company cultures; note that Zappos’ business lends itself to having all its staff on-site.

Whereas IBM has a strong, unified culture in spite of being a global company with thousands of employees who work off-site.

Bottom line: It’s not a matter of on or off-site; it’s a matter of the strength of the culture, which is dependent on the skill of the management.

Flickr image credit: Gidzy

What Goes Around Comes Around

Monday, January 14th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/katidjah/6155740302/

 “When they discover the center of the universe, how many people you know will be disappointed that they are not it?”Bernard Baily

How many of them have you interviewed? How many of your recent hires required remedial coaching to understand how the real world works?

It’s a well-known fact that actions and attitudes are contagious—yawn and others will start yawning, smile and they will smile—and entitlement, the attitude of “I am special, therefore I deserve…” is catching.

You see it when you’re driving and shopping, but it’s most annoying at work.

More and more bosses are seeing that attitude and not just in their younger workers.

It’s a well-known fact that actions and attitudes are contagious—yawn and others start yawning, smile and they smile— and there’s an epidemic of ‘I’m special’ happening that isn’t necessarily age-related.

The deprived generation of the Depression raised the entitled generation of Boomers who raised the much entitled, very special generation of Millennials who are raising a yet more special, more entitled generation.

And so it goes.

But there is a kind of rough justice best captured in the attitude of ‘what goes around comes around’ or, more specifically, ‘as you sow, so shall you reap’.

Guess who will be hiring all these special kids in a decade or two.

Flickr image credit: Maudy Apon

Expand Your Mind: Leadership with Dan McCarthy

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

Dan McCarthy, along with Jim Stroup and Wally Bock, are of the rare breed that write on leadership, but don’t see it as an elitist function, genetic gift or an ability defined, let alone guaranteed, by position or promotion.

Tuesday Dan wrote one of the funniest (and shortest) posts I’ve seen in quite awhile—and turned me green with envy.

The post was truly “ripped from the headlines” and I offer it in full with Dan’s gracious permission.

10 (+1) Dumb Leadership Mistakes from Recent Headlines

Come on now, how hard can it be to be a great leader? It seems the bar keeps getting lower and lower every day.

All you need to do is browse the headlines and you’ll easily come up with examples of what not to do as a leader. Just follow these hopefully easy to adhere to rules, do a reasonable good job, and you’ll be running your organization in no time:

1. Don’t drop too many F-bombs at work. Or, as far as I’m concerned, don’t drop them at all.

2. But even if your employee does, don’t fire your employee over the phone. F2f is the only option for canning an employee.

3. Don’t slap your employees. Two words: anger management.

4. Don’t hit on or party with your employees. Some may argue with this one, but I’d say you’re only asking for trouble.

5. Don’t upstage your boss. It’s always better to let your boss go first.

6. Don’t launch an IPO and get married in the same week. It’s all about focus.

7. Don’t fire an employee for being “too hot”. Or for being too ugly. But you can for a dress code violation. But not over the phone, see #2.

8. Don’t flirt with the jurors during your corruption trial. I’d file this one under the competency of “judgment”.

9. Don’t lie about your education (let’s hear it for New Hampshire!). Or about your ethnicity (Hey, if I’m going to mention NH, I couldn’t spare Massachusetts). Better yet, just don’t lie, period. It’s easier to remember things when you don’t make them up.

10. Don’t steal your company’s money. Or “borrow” it, or “misplace” it, or whatever.

Last, but not least – and I’m sorry to have to mention this in a family leadership blog – don’t ever, ever, have sex at work, under any circumstances. Asking “was that wrong?” will not save you from being fired.

Hope you enjoyed this tour of leadership ineptitude headlines. Anything you’d like to add to the list? By the time this post is published, I’m sure we can come up with 11 more.

Seeing as how four days have gone by since publication I’m sure there are far more than 11.

To make it interesting, add your own link and comment for a chance to win a copy of Claudio Feser’s Serial Innovators. Winner chosen by random drawing.

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