Grid threats increase daily - from foreign foes, terrorists, criminals and hackers. Utilities are tasked with guarding against a rising tide of potentially disruptive intrusions into their power grid and electronic networks. What will it take to keep the power more...
Monday Jun 24, 2013
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Kevin Herring is co-author of Practical Guide for Internal Consultants, and President of Ascent Management Consulting. Ascent specializes in workgroup and business unit performance turnarounds through breakthrough leadership, workplace cultures and organization systems.
Kevin can be contacted at 520-742-7300, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.ascentmgt.com.
It's that time again when organizations are abustle with performance grading, self reviews, rank ordering, goal setting, final performance evaluations, and merit pay raises all in the name of managing performance. The amount of activity and anxiety the performance review process produces could make last minute Christmas shopping look like a seasonal stress reliever. So what's all the fuss about?
When we're recruiting, we're trying to fill a vacant slot. Barring any changes, whatever the previous person did in that slot is the job description. We aren't hiring people for what we might want them to do in a few years, or what they might want to do later. Of course, odds are they won't be with us for more than a few years anyway.
What is Einstein credited with saying about doing the same thing over and over? Something about expecting a different result and needing an appointment with a psychiatrist? When he made that statement Einstein could easily have been in a 21st century company watching managers try to tackle employee performance problems.
Do you put off making difficult decisions, check with your buddies or boss before taking a stand, struggle to choose, constantly second guess yourself, avoid having tough conversations with others about performance or other problems? If you do, you're certainly not alone.
Why can't we all just get along? That's what John was wondering when he called to ask me if I could do some sort of team building exercise to fix his finance team. The team's bickering and personality conflicts were driving him crazy.
It's the championship and you're all set for an edge-of-the-seat experience for the next four heart-pounding hours. This is football at its finest. What gets your adrenaline pumping when the closest to the field you'll be is the five feet between you and the TV?
When I'm driving with my wife and I take a curve too fast, she grabs the strap above the passenger door and lets out a "whoa." Funny thing, when she's driving and takes the same curve at the same speed, I'm the one reaching for the strap and panicking.
Energetic, positive, bold, inspiring, and action-oriented. Wow! Great employee traits! Are they produced by the right environment? Or the right person? Let's peek inside a workplace and see what we can learn.
A supervisor catches a glimpse of an employee texting. It wouldn't be a big deal except for the new policy that forbids employees to text, tweet, email, or friend during the shift. The supervisor reports it and the employee gets a black eye...not literally. He gets written up, which taints his work record.
Some human resource leaders are finding out that getting a seat at the table is more than a warm body in a chair when it comes to being part of the team. Quoted in recent articles on HR challenges, a stressed HR executive says his job is now tougher because his executive team's primary strategy for dealing with the economic downturn was downsizing.
A tall, lanky, red-haired man sauntered into the office and announced in a deep Texas drawl that he was the new controller. His outgoing nature, salty language, and trademark "Buht waaa?" made him the talk of the water cooler, and it wasn't long before mimicked renditions of "Buht waaa?" echoed through the halls.
In our two previous articles, we discussed the roles of underlying intent and purpose when giving feedback. A powerfully useful underlying intent and strategic purpose can enable feedback to build a person's capabilities and contribution. But it can all fizzle when the feedback is poorly delivered. So, now we turn to the third facet of feedback, delivery, which is about how the message comes across to the receiver.
In last month's Management In Real Life, we discussed the first facet of feedback: underlying intent. In that article I covered hidden agendas and subtle "gotcha" messages embedded in communications that often result in sly verbal slaps across the face to recipients.
Think about how hard it is to get a message passed down a line of people by whispering it in each other's ear. Imagine how tough it would be to do that same exercise with people screaming at each other, beating around the bush, or trying to manipulate the person they're supposed to pass the message to. As strange as it is, it happens in companies every day.
Despite our book learning, we tend to learn how things are done in the world of work from our experiences at work. Usually, our Master Mentor is the person vacating the job we've just landed or the boss who makes sure we know the "right" way to do things.
For years we've been served the kool-aid that for leaders leading is good and managing is bad. A leader is supposed to create the general strategy and game plan for the team letting the team call the plays and execute to get results. According to the data, it works.
Not to be confused with the ever popular artificially flavored sugar water by the same name, our COLA is all about pay: annual cost of living adjustments that keep pay on par with inflation. We don't hear much about COLAs
Periodically, Inc Magazine gives us a run-down on best-run small companies. If you want to learn how to breathe new life into your organization or break out of the pack, this is a great place to get ideas. I'm going to share a few of my favorites, so you might want to pull up a chair and take some notes.
There are all sorts of workshops and seminars on leading and managing others. I can jet off to Las Vegas for a conference, or pick up a week of training in Michigan. I can even surf the internet and find dozens of webinars. But when it comes to learning to manage my Number One direct report -- Me -- where do I go? And if I can't do a good job of leading and managing Me, how can I expect to lead and manage others?
When his VP called to tell him the CEO had packed up and left, recent owner and board chairman, Chad White, realized his business was in trouble. So, Chad made himself the third CEO in six months, rolled up his sleeves, and went to work to learn the business and get things back on track.
When we go to a doctor for a health problem, the doctor will ask a few questions, poke us where it hurts, and often write a prescription for whatever ails us. In a few days, all will be well again. If the doctor doesn't bother to examine us, and simply prescribes the same treatment for everyone, we head for a second opinion. With no examination, how would the doctor diagnose our problem and know how to treat it?
At the end of the year we sometimes find ourselves wondering about somebody we haven't seen in years. Time and distance seem to make it hard to stay in touch. But being in touch can be just as much a problem between people working in the same general facilities day after day as for old friends swapping Christmas cards across the country. Often, the disconnect shows up in the worst possible ways.
Peer into the windows of most any office in the evening and you'll see accountants and managers working late trying to manage what's left of this year's crumbs and assembling a budget for the coming year. All told, the process makes for an amazing fish bowl view into the social system of an organization and what should be a wake up call to executives.
Have you ever sat around griping about a boss, manager, or co-worker who doesn't "get it" or acts like they know it all? You're not alone; my hand goes up, too. Once when I was dosing out a hefty portion of criticism about an executive I found difficult to work with, a good friend of mine asked, "So what are you doing to contribute to the problem?"
After nearly 25 years of working with leaders I know I can get a bit obsessed with extracting leadership lessons from some of the most obscure experiences. But these lessons leaped right out when a World War II veteran described his experiences as a member of a B-29 bomber crew.
Eccentricities don't just belong to individuals, however. Glance into your organization's practices and I'll bet you can spool a healthy list. Consider what you're most worried about when you hire someone. Are you mostly afraid you'll get someone without the right competencies to do the job?
The entire nation watched in awe as General Motors filed for bankruptcy in the largest manufacturing bankruptcy filing in American history and the latest casualty of the economic downturn. Tagging along with the bankruptcy filing came more gloomy announcements of additional production cuts and factory closures.
"If I had only known..." How many times have we said that when we messed things up while trying to be helpful? It reminds me of the time when a couple of core employees at a smelter made some changes to a metals refining process to get faster results.
To say it's been an interesting year for business would be an understatement, to say the least. Industry collapses, credit crises, and stock market crashes have most of us sitting up and paying attention wondering what's in store for 2009.
When leaders talk about capacity and utilization they want to know how many widgets are possible and how many widgets are being produced relative to that number. They aren't usually discussing capacity and utilization in the context of human potential and output even when talking about labor utilization. Here's what they're missing.
What kind of employee are you? Do you begrudgingly drag yourself into work each day? Do you resent feeling obligated to show up? Or do you enthusiastically hop out of bed itching to get to work and into the next exciting task? And what about your work team members? How do they stack up?
"Drive fear out of the workplace" was one of W. Edwards Deming's fourteen mantras for total quality management. Of course, he was referring to core employees who grew up in highly controlling, initiative-stifling work environments, causing them to be afraid to innovate or make suggestions for fear of being labeled by management a dreaded troublemaker, or worse.
With all the mystery surrounding the issue of how to manage employee performance we might expect to find a book on the subject adjacent to a Tom Clancy novel in the MYSTERIES section of the bookstore. Today, however, we’ll stay in the NON-FICTION section and discuss some basics of employee performance in plain terms.
Everyone is looking for ways to squeeze out a little more productivity these days, and moving people around is a whole lot easier than trying to change management practices and core worker attitudes. And how the boxes on the organization chart are arranged can influence employee experiences and their work.
It begins with an email addressed to "All Employees" announcing an important meeting the following Friday. Extracting bits and pieces of the generalized message, core employees are able to pick out phrases like "future of the organization" and "positioning ourselves to compete." They conclude that the meeting relates to the next big thing in company strategy.
Brushing the dust from his clothes, the line worker asked me if I had a few minutes. From the look in his eye and the sound in his voice, I knew he didn't call me over to talk about the upcoming Super Bowl.
Ah, the power of information! Both research and experience tells us that when employees understand how the business operates, can connect their work to company financials, and know what has to be done for the business to compete, they are likely to be more engaged. Why? Because they have context for what they do each day and the ability to contribute more.
In today's businesses, we hear of employers everywhere griping about not being able to hire enough engineers, programmers, and other technical people. Their concerns are supported in magazines that report U.S. employers will be short 10 million skilled workers by 2012.
Ever feel like there's not enough time in the day? Wish you had an extra hour or so to keep your head above water? Sometimes we think getting a handle on emails, meetings and paperwork is all it takes, but for most of us, the problem isn't so simple.
It's a face-off at the table as design team members line up on one side and production team members line up on the other. At one end sits the head of the design group symbolically digging in, both feet pressing into the carpet. Directly across at the opposite end sits the leader of the production team, leaning forward as if preparing to spring across the table at the first sign of attack.
A company of one. It may begin this way - an entrepreneur, an idea, a garage, a little money, and, as many often say, a bit of luck. Initially, the successful entrepreneur may build the product and spend most days trying to peddle it. If all the pegs fall into the right holes, the business succeeds and begins to grow - both a blessing and a curse as trying to manage everything can become overwhelming.
Sue's left hand is on the keypad; her right hand is holding the handset. She starts to dial the number for Dave, one of her managers. It's the end of the month and Dave is scrambling. The shop floor is chaotic with people running everywhere; the stress level is high.
"How do you motivate people?" I asked a group of leaders. And, no surprise, I received the usual response that comes from years of attending $100 seminars: "You find out what's important to people and provide it as an incentive."
"Always keep your eye on the puck." If I said it once, I said it a hundred times when I introduced my family to one of my favorite sports - ice hockey. The action is at the puck. And where the puck ends up determines who wins. People new to hockey seem to have a hard time following the puck. The same can happen in a business.
Few would want to swap shoes with David Neeleman whose JetBlue Airlines was flying high until Valentines Day. Some passengers described the experience as a repeat of the historic massacre as they sat stranded for 8-plus hours on planes planted on the JFK airport tarmac.
We've all experienced dysfunctional organizations as unfortunate customers, but what, if anything, do we learn from the experience beyond confirmation that it's time to hit the road and go elsewhere? Is the problem really employee incompetence? Is it a lack of concern for the customer? Or is there more to the problem than meets the eye?
"All things being equal, if you had to choose between an engineer with highly trained technical competence but only average ability to motivate and manage people, and an engineer of only average technical ability but with superb abilities to motivate and organize people, who would you choose to manage one of your plants?"
Coins, votes, and strange-looking birds are a few of the myriad methods leaders use to make decisions. Of course, some methods have proven more credible than others. Reaching back into history we find the account of Alexander the Great and his bird-omen.
We've all been taught that seeing is believing. But what if we're paying attention to the wrong information? A general manager who hired me to "fix" his management team was convinced he needed to "clean house." He said he wanted to give his staff one shot at turning themselves around before dropping the axe.
Over twenty years ago, I interviewed for a job with a large regional accounting and consulting firm. I still remember the facility tour hosted by a managing partner who showed me how each floor of the new office building had been carefully designed with small Dilbert-like cubicles arranged in groups around the perimeter of a circle.
The employees of a southwest company had little warning of the trauma that lie ahead as an acquisition target. At first, the acquisition was just another day in a fast-moving, frequently changing environment.
Here we go again. Another diatribe about how the human resource department can become like other, more successful, overhead functions. 'Kind of drives you crazy, doesn't it? This past week I heard about how HR needs to show how managing people effectively saves money as if that should somehow grab the attention of a CEO concerned about declining market share, delays in new product development and persistent customer complaints.
Just when you think you've heard everything, along comes another surprise. Then again, you probably hadn't heard of Grupo Semco in Brazil. Semco is a Sao Paulo business run by Ricardo Semler, a bright Harvard MBA (at age 20) who took the reins when his father transferred ownership and management to his son.
One of my most memorable job interviews occurred many years ago with a CEO by the name of J. Burgess Winter. I had completed most of my scheduled interviews and had taken some time to explore the community when the Corporate VP of Human Resources asked me if I could change my flight arrangements in order to stay another day.
How would you feel about a company vision that looks something like this? "Our vision is to become a firm that pays the very lowest wages possible, charges the highest prices the market will bear, and divides the spoils between stockholders and senior executives, mostly the latter." Change guru John Kotter uses this example to slam business leaders launching into transformation mode for the primary purpose of feathering their own nests.