Vol.13 No.7 May-27-2013

The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. Facing Harsh Truths From Your Subordinates

What do your subordinates really think of your leadership? Bosses often wonder, and HR blogger Suzanne Lucas shares on Inc.com some harsh truths that subordinates may well be holding back from you:

  • You’re underpaying them: When you hired them, you negotiated a salary that was appropriate then, given their skill, your needs, and the market. But is it still fair? If they can make more elsewhere, you are underpaying them.
  • You never listen to their ideas: You may be an idea person, but they have ideas as well. “Are you listening? And by listening I mean actually considering their ideas,” she writes.
  • You need to fire someone: Employees hate it when their bosses ignore bad or incompetent behaviour by coworkers. They want you to fix it – if necessary, fire the jerks.
  • You are a micro-manager: If you need to know every aspect of what is happening in the office you’re a pain in the neck. “Hire the right people and let them do their jobs. This may require sitting on your hands for a few weeks until you get the hang of this,” she advises.
  • You are too hands off: This is the opposite of micro-managing, and equally frustrating. Nobody wants a boss who doesn’t have a clue what is going on, and can’t give suggestions or direction. Hold regular – probably weekly – one-on-one meetings with direct reports so you know what they’re doing.

2. How To Read A Book

You have been reading for many years so no doubt assume you’re proficient at it, but if you are reading a non-fiction book to gain information, management consultant Keith Eikenberry has some suggestions that might enhance your effectiveness:

  • State a goal: When you pick up the book you should know why you are going to dive into it. “Once you set in your mind your purpose for reading, your subconscious mind will help you reach that goal. Keeping a clear goal will keep you from getting lost in a section or spending too much mental energy on the writing style, etc.,” he writes on his Leadership & Learning Blog.
  • Scan the book: Spend a few minutes looking the book over to plan your approach. Read the table of contents. Flip through the various sections. Notice the parts that are best fitted to your goal. Perhaps the whole book isn’t even relevant to your goal.
  • Read what you need: You may have grown up with the belief that when you start a book you must finish it. But sometimes only a chapter or two is all you need. “You will become a more effective and efficient reader when you stop feeling the need to finish every book to the last page,” he stresses.
  • Be active: Keep your mind active by taking notes, highlighting, and asking yourself questions. After finishing, own the ideas by talking or writing about the concepts and lessons, which will help you to synthesize and learn.

3. Tips For Writing A Company Policy

When you are crafting a company policy, consultant Bob Nelson says that you should keep the policy short and simple.  And to keep your policy book similarly short and simple, he advises that you get rid of two old policies for every new policy you implement.

Long-time executive Eric Jacobson, on his blog, shares three other tips for writing a policy, drawn from Nelson’s book 1001 Ways To Energize Employees:

  • Make sure that your organization’s policies and procedures are written to serve your employees and customers — not just your organization.
  • Don’t write a policy in reaction to a single incident.  The problem may never arise again.
  • Don’t write a policy longer than one-page, no matter how large your organization may be.

4. Signs Your Star Employee May Leave

When your star employee stops complaining about daily irritations, that is not the time to breathe a sigh of relief. Workplace consultant Liz Ryan in BusinessWeek says the absence of complaints may be a sign you’re in trouble: “People stop complaining when they realize their energy is best invested elsewhere — and they’ve started sending out resumes.”

You also want to be alert when the star performer starts asking for statistics on job performance, since that may signal he or she is burnishing a resume, or seeks an external-facing assignment. “If you can’t understand why an overloaded manager suddenly wants to attend every trade show in which your company participates, keep in mind that trade shows are great places for job-search networking,” she adds.

5. Zingers

  • Bring Dragon’s Den To Your Office: Consultant Michael Kerr suggests creating your own panel of four dragons who once or twice a month convene to hear innovative ideas from employees. But he urges you to keep the spirit of it fun and playful, spoofing the show, to encourage employees to find ideas and take part. (Source: Humor At Work Newsletter)
  • Hold That Email:  Sending emails is usually a quick, fire-action response. But tech blogger Brian Lee urges you to slow down, thinking before sending. If you have any doubts, save the email in draft form. You’ll be surprised at how many drafts of seemingly-brilliant ideas that you accumulate. (Source: Lifehack.org)
  • Clarify The Deliverables:  One potential problem with custom work is getting trapped in an endless cycle of presenting ideas or work to a client only to be told that “it’s not quite right”. Entrepreneur Seth Godin recommends clarifying personal tastes with new clients in advance of the work. Demand benchmarks or similar examples, and then, before you present the finished assignment, remind the client of exactly what scope of work or expected outcome was agreed to at the outset. (Source: Seth’s Blog)
  • Selling To Multiple Decision-makers:  Two-thirds of B2B buying decisions are made by two or three decision-makers, while only three out of ten decisions are made by a single person.  So in marketing or sales, how do you get to those three people? (Source: MarketingProfs.com)
  • Use Test Assignments When Hiring:  Kris Duggan, CEO of games program designer Badgeville, makes job candidates undertake homework, preparing reports or handling a test assignment similar to the work they will be doing, since that helps eliminate biases about the individuals and focuses on the quality of their work. The candidates set the deadline, but are then judged on how they keep to it. (Source: New York Times)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:  Family In The Office

Question:  This summer I am bringing in my daughter, who’s just finishing high school, to work at my office. Any suggestions?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter replies:

That brings back high school memories of working in my father’s store, and being given the worst assignment for Saturday morning delivery boys — taking a few boxes of groceries up an impossibly steep hill on my bicycle for a customer who was not a terrific tipper. Groan.

But even then I knew the message my father was sending to me and others: I wasn’t to get special treatment. (But one of his chief subordinates subverted that intent every Saturday evening by giving me a relatively easy delivery to a terrific tipper.)

So some thoughts that might help:

  • Be sure there is real work for her that she can do. Anything less will hurt her and others.
  • Make it clear at the outset to your daughter and your key subordinates that she is to be treated equally – which means no better, and perhaps even a little worse, than others.
  • Sit down with her and ask her to outline any goals she has for the summer. Then discuss how realistic they might be. Have your own list prepared of what you would like to see her accomplish and, if it seems appropriate after she shares her own goals, give it to her and discuss it.
  • Discuss with her the difficulties she may face from others being the boss’s daughter. Share a few scenarios of the awkward situations she might face. You may want to discuss her prospective responses, or just leave it to her to figure out the responses on her own, depending on your relationship and her maturity.
  • Consider whether any benchmarks can be created for her performance. Certainly at the end of the summer have her main boss discuss performance with her.
  • Don’t do anything in advance to influence her judgment, positive or negative, of the colleagues she will meet. Let her develop her own opinions – and give her the chance to keep them private, if she wishes.
  • Similarly, brace yourself for the possibility she will like this summer opportunity — and your office — far less than you do.
  • Find learning moments to discuss.

7. News From Our Water Cooler: Strategy’s Companion… Change

Last week a client concluded a planning session with the observation that developing strategy always seems to involve a heavy focus on change.

It’s a thoughtful point: Strategy development depends on fundamental choices about priorities and direction; successful implementation of strategy typically means managing sustained change and transition.

After all these years, John Kotter’s classic eight-step model for successful change is still highly effective:  Create a sense of urgency, recruit a coalition of powerful change leaders, build a vision and communicate it effectively, remove obstacles, create quick wins, and build on your momentum. Over the longer term, you’ll have to make a continuing effort to anchor those changes in the routines, practices and habits of your organizational culture.

In two separate studies a few years apart, Kotter found that 70% of substantial change efforts did not succeed — some failed and some weren’t fully launched, while others were in fact accomplished, but late, over budget and/or with great frustration.

Our experience suggests you can significantly increase your odds of full success by giving more than cursory attention to the first and last steps of this model.

The early step: create a sense of urgency

When asked about the single biggest error people make when pursuing change, Kotter’s answer was: “They did not create a high enough sense of urgency among enough people to set the stage for making a challenging leap into some new direction”. This step is so important that he later expanded his answer into a full book, A Sense of Urgency. A true, broadly and deeply felt sense of urgency generates motivation, an essential asset you can use to overcome complacency and/or resistance to the changes essential to your strategy.

The late step:  make the change stick

In Phil Buckley’s recent Change With Confidence, the author makes a strong case for anchoring change, and having answers to questions such as:  How do I prevent the return of old ways of working? How do I hand over oversight responsibilities from a change group to the normal operating team? Too often, whether from exhaustion or a premature sense of completion, we let up before the transition has really taken root and started to pay its longer-term dividends.

All steps in the cycle for strategic change are important, but there’s a tendency to focus mainly on launching the operational changes. Take time to prepare hearts and minds in advance, and cement the new habits afterwards.

8. Closing Thought

“Love affairs with the status quo continue even after the quo has lost its status.”

— Howard Stringer


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