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Dan Amos’ Simple Sync Solution

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Dan Amos-Aflac

I said yesterday I’d provide a simple way to get back in sync with your people.

It’s not rocket science and certainly not new.

In fact, I’ve been telling managers for decades that if they want to know what someone thinks or wants to ask, instead of assuming or “figuring it out.”

They rarely listen, so I thought that if it came from Dan Amos, chairman and chief executive of Aflac, the giant insurance company it would carry more weight.

Aflac chief Amos admits his solution sounds obvious: If you want to know what would keep someone from quitting, ask. “It sounds like common sense, but not many companies really do it.”

I’ve also been saying that money is around five on most people’s list; making a difference, recognition, challenge and opportunities to learn and grow come first.

Employers often assume, Amos says, that everyone will just want more money. But most people’s wish lists are more complicated — and more realistic — than that. Amos started polling Aflac’s employees when he became CEO in 1990. The top requests: More recognition for their work and day care for their kids.

Many companies survey their people.

The difference is that Amos acts on the results of the survey—both requests were implemented — not just in the home office, but across the country (read the article).

Amos says that “the survey rules” and the proof is found in ease of recruiting and turnover numbers.

That willingness to listen has helped Aflac — the only insurance company to show up in Fortune’s Best Companies ranking for 13 years running — to successfully recruit talented women from all over the U.S. and from as far away as India.

It also, apparently, builds loyalty: Aflac’s annual employee turnover is pretty close to zero.

Flickr image credit: Aflac

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If the Shoe Fits: How Well do You Listen?

Friday, February 7th, 2014

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_m

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

I’ve cited Harvard Business School’s James Heskett’s insightful questions and the discussions they foster many times.  

This time he asks if listening is becoming a lost art.

In his new book Quick and Nimble, based on more than 200 interviews, Adam Bryant concludes, that, among other things, managers need to have more “adult conversations” —conversations needed to work through “inevitable disagreements and misunderstandings” —with our direct reports. Such conversations require careful listening.

In the same book he reports that CEOs expressed major concerns about the misuse and overuse of e-mail, something that they feel encourages disputes to escalate more rapidly than if face-to-face conversations had taken place instead. The latter, however, would require people to listen.

As to the concerns about email, I would add abuse to the misuse and overuse, as well as adding texting, instant messaging and, although not as obvious, cell phones. (Nobody is really listening while navigating rush hour, zipping down the highway at 70 or listening to the GPS when they are late to a meeting.)

Listening is both skill and art, but it’s also a revenue generator—just ask Tony Hsieh, whose own willingness to listen helped create a culture that’s the envy of corporations everywhere, while the listening skills he encourages in his CSRs have sold millions of pairs of shoes, or the Asana founders, who built the company on mindfulness, a philosophy grounded in listening.

Incorporating listening into your cultural DNA requires it to be universally manifested starting with you.

If you aren’t willing to put down your phone, discuss stuff in person, facilitate and carefully listen to disagreement then don’t expect anyone else to do so.

Image credit: HikingArtist

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When Execution is an Anagram of the Act

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rebeccabarray/8985496669/An executive once asked me what the single most import thing he should do and how best to do it.
I told him the answer was simple and the key to execution was found in an anagram of the act.
Can you guess the action and anagram?
The action is to LISTEN.
The anagram is SILENT.
The first is impossible without doing the second.
Flickr image credit: RebeccaBarray

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Ducks in a Row: The Old is New Again

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/smallbox/127555069/If you are a manager at any level I suggest you take time to read the results of research on managing from the London School of Economics.

“…concentrate on putting into practice things that we know work but somehow never do — less Management 2.0, more making Management 1.0 work properly. At least on the face of it, a surprising amount can be altered for the better, with little investment and to significant effect. (…) focus on why we don’t put into practice principles of good management that aren’t rocket science and have been known about for years.”

Management by walking around, spending time with your team; listening; coaching; cross-training—definitely not rocket science!

Your approach need not be as tightly structured as described in the article, because that was done in order to rigorously evaluate and measure the results for publication.

Basically the study proves what the best managers already know and practice—it’s people that make the difference and the difference is measurable.

You can achieve similar results in your group, whether your company uses the same approach or not.

Set your own goal to practice Management 1.0 actions consistently and authentically.

Then (as Nike says) just do it.

Flickr image credit: Ol.v!er [H2vPk]

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Entrepreneurs: Not Always What It Seems

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

We all know that things are not always as they seem and people certainly aren’t.

Brilliant ideas can come from any individual and are not dependent on their level or even their expertise.

By the same token, investors that sound great may not be, while those who are off-putting could be your salvation.

There are no hard and fast rules for evaluating whether what you see is what you’ll get, because each case is different—but that doesn’t matter.

The important thing to remember is that most stuff and people come with multiple layers and they may not be what they seem.

So while I can’t offer a multipurpose evaluation tool I can provide you with an unforgettable visual to remind you to look past the obvious.

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Be the Thursday feature – Entrepreneurs: [your company name]
Share the story of your startup today.
Send it along with your contact information and I’ll be in touch.
Questions? Email or call me at 360.335.8054 Pacific time.

YouTube upload credit: davidwrg

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Entrepreneurs: It Takes a Village

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Branson says, “Do well by doing good.”

Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

The women of Water Valley, Mississippi have embraced both attitudes.

But why limit your entrepreneurial energy to just a business when you can save a town at the same time?

What does it take to change the world or at least your little corner of it?

Desire and belief.

A passionate desire to push the change and a deep belief that you can make it happen.

What isn’t required is a no-holds-barred, do-anything-to-make-it-happen desire that rejects 1188949_almish_working_the_farminput from others and stomps on their ideas.

Because no matter how brilliant you are; no matter how amazing your vision; no matter how deep your belief and passionate your desire…

You can’t do it alone.


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Be the Thursday feature – Entrepreneurs: [your company name]
Share the story of your startup!
Send it along with your contact information.
I’ll be in touch.
Questions? Email or call me at 360.335.8054 Pacific time.

Sxc.hu image credit: merlin1075

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If the Shoe Fits: Staying Lucky

Friday, March 16th, 2012

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mAnalysis by VC Anthony Tjan, founder of Cue Ball, found that 25% of both entrepreneurs and corporate business builders consider themselves lucky.

That’s a big percentage for something considered random, dubious or non-existent, depending on whom you ask.

Further research found “a combination of what we call a lucky attitude and a lucky network” as opposed to random luck.

What happens next? Does that attitude continue as success mounts?

But the biggest risk for top leaders is being complacent and overconfident — which amounts to being disconnected from the reality, attitude, and relationships that can sustain and take excellence to a new place.

Tjan recommends seven MAP functions to avoid the disconnect:

  • humility, the lack of which leads to arrogance;
  • intellectual curiosity, the lack of which also leads to arrogance;
  • optimism, looking first for the positive attracts great people, while the opposite repels them;
  • vulnerability, the best preventative for arrogance;
  • authenticity, which is lost when shrouded in spin; worse, believing the spin leads to arrogance;
  • generosity, no matter your success, share your knowledge sans the ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude; and
  • openness, willingness to a listen to new ideas from 360 degrees of non-traditional sources.

Read the article (it’s short) and then share your thoughts on luck below.

Option Sanity keeps you lucky.

Come visit Option Sanity for an easy-to-understand, simple-to-implement stock process.  So easy a CEO can do it.

Warning.

Do not attempt to use Option Sanity™ without a strong commitment to business planning, financial controls, honesty, ethics, and “doing the right thing.”
Use only as directed.
Users of Option Sanity may experience sudden increases in team cohesion and worker satisfaction. In cases where team productivity, retention and company success is greater than typical, expect media interest and invitations as keynote speaker.

Flickr image credit: HikingArtist

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If the Shoe Fits: Wave Deafness

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mLast year I wrote about Tony Hsieh’s approach to employee empowerment, featuring some great quotes from him.

As I said then, the thing that sets Hsieh apart is security.

Hsieh is comfortable in his own skin; secure in his own competency and limitations, so he doesn’t need to be the font from which all else flows.

Entrepreneurs can learn from this.

Startup hiring usually comes in waves as the company progresses.

While most founders will listen to their initial team and first few hires, those hired later often find it difficult to get their ideas heard.

Unfortunately, this behavior often sets a pattern, with the ideas and comments of each successive wave becoming fainter and fainter and those employees less and less engaged—and that translates to them caring less and less about your company’s success—call it wave deafness.

Wave deafness is costly.

Costly in productivity and passion, but even more costly in lost opportunities.

As Hsieh points out, there is no way he can think of as many good ideas as are produced if each employee has just one good idea in a year.

And not just from certain positions. I never heard of a manager, let alone a founder, admit to hiring dummies for any position, no matter the level.

So if you hire smart people and don’t listen to them, who is the dummy?

Option Sanity™ rewards creativity.

Come visit Option Sanity for an easy-to-understand, simple-to-implement stock process.  It’s so easy a CEO can do it.

Warning.

Do not attempt to use Option Sanity™ without a strong commitment to business planning, financial controls, honesty, ethics, and “doing the right thing.”
Use only as directed.
Users of Option Sanity may experience sudden increases in team cohesion and worker satisfaction. In cases where team productivity, retention and company success is greater than typical, expect media interest and invitations as keynote speaker.

Flickr image credit: HikingArtist

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If the Shoe Fits: Founder or Builder?

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mIt may sound like complete heresy, but entrepreneurs rarely build companies—they found them.

Founding a company requires a product vision and enough passion to draw a few others to the cause.

Building a company in the 21st Century requires the ability to both lead and manage.

“Increasingly, the people who are the most effective are those who essentially are both managers and leaders.” –HBS professor David Thomas

Today’s knowledge workers, especially the type that gravitate to and succeed at startups, demand both leadership and management skills from those in charge.

And the key attribute is communication.

“Communication is the real work of leadership. Great leaders spend the bulk of their time communicating, and they know how to employ all three of Aristotle’s rhetorical elements.” –Nitin Nohria, Dean, Harvard Business School.

The best communicators are also the best listeners; moreover, they listen to everyone not just those in certain positions or at X level and above.

But listening and communicating require time and energy and many entrepreneurs are too busy.

They are company founders, not company builders.

Which are you?

Option Sanity™ ensures fairness
Come visit Option Sanity for an easy-to-understand, simple-to-implement stock process.  It’s so easy a CEO can do it.

Warning.

Do not attempt to use Option Sanity™ without a strong commitment to business planning, financial controls, honesty, ethics, and “doing the right thing.” Use only as directed.
Users of Option Sanity may experience sudden increases in team cohesion and worker satisfaction. In cases where team productivity, retention and company success is greater than typical, expect media interest and invitations as keynote speaker.

Flickr image credit: HikingArtist

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Positional Deafness

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

3740791077_0de85962b9_mI’ve written several times referencing Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and it’s come up in numerous conversations I’ve had.

Each time I hear that Gladwell’s premise is flawed and that if a person is determined enough they will succeed blah, blah, blah.

They claim this holds true whatever the location, including gang-ridden inner cities or third world countries; work hard enough and you will overcome.

My typical response to their rhetoric is “bullshit.”

A few days ago TechCrunch published The Chilling Story of Genius in a Land of Chronic Unemployment; a comparison between Ibrahim Boakye and Max Levchin.

It is elegant proof of what Gladwell says, as well as a warning call to the stupidity of wasting our world’s human resources.

On a much smaller scale managers waste their human resources every day through “positional deafness,” i.e., only soliciting and/or hearing thoughts, ideas and suggestions from those at X level or higher.

I’ve never understood why managers expect workers who were consistently ignored and shut down to suddenly start contributing because they receive a promotion.

  • Nobody suddenly develops a brain as a result of being promoted.
  • If they were good enough to promote then they should have been good enough to listen to in their previous positions.
  • If they can’t contribute in the position for which they were hired, why hire them at all?
  • Even new grads hired for their potential need to be heard; they are like eggs and like eggs they must be cared for if they are to hatch.

Managers afflicted by positional deafness often experience high turnover and lament the lack of loyalty, especially in “more junior workers.”

But the term ‘junior’ is very subjective; for some managers it refers to those with just a couple of years of experience, for others it’s a level within the company and for still others it’s relative, with the baseline how long it took them to finally be heard.

It’s easy to know if you suffer from positional deafness, just consider the sources of your input over the last quarter and what you did with it.

Better yet, ask the people you trust to tell you the truth, not just what you want to hear.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/waiferx/3740791077/

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