Sense of Direction

August 13, 2010

A recent post on Twitter said something like, “if constantly looking back at where we have been we are prevented at looking to the future”.

Successful management is more about the what can be versus what was.  Having a leader that focuses on what didn’t happen can lead to low morale and fear of making mistakes.  Analysis paralysis!

What is your plan?  Is it clear to your team?  Are you able to maintain the vision from week to week and month to month?  Do you have the passion to stay the course or will you be swayed by shiny new ideas that sound good but tarnish with time?

If you as a manager have a strong sense of direction………use it!  Lead people with what you know is right and be consistent with your message.  Most of all, deliver the message to your team.  Support their activities.  Let them grow the vision while providing necessary adjustments along the way.  Clarity and autonomy are empowering!


Autonomy and the Three Hoops

July 2, 2010

We all want autonomy.  Managers say that they want their staff to be autonomous.  Really?

There is a simple formula to make this all come together in the staffing world.  Just use the theory of three hoops.

When making decisions, problem solving or simply establishing a direction there are three hoops you will need to “jump through”.  The first is will it benefit the customer?  The second is will it benefit the contractor/ consultant?  The third is will it benefit our company?

If you can answer yes to all three questions the decision should be easy!  What manager in their right mind would find fault in a decision-making process such as this?

Undercover CEO

February 10, 2010

The recent debut of Undercover CEO was a pleasant surprise.  I liked it because it spoke to the idea of staying in touch with the people who drive the day to day business.  While leadership, direction and vision are all key attributes of an executive manager, it is important to understand the work that is being done and who is doing it.

As was demonstrated in the first episode, objectives that sounded good in the senior management meetings were actually next to impossible and even undermining when implemented in the field.  That push for more comes at a cost and that cost could be a slow and negative slide in moral and even attrition.

Knowing the impact of a decision is good but it requires staying in touch with the people that are tasked with execution.  Stay visible and follow through in understanding how decisions have been implemented.  The difference between the original directive and the actual implementation can be huge.  Follow the thought to ensure that your vision is actually working for you, your team and your customers.  It takes time but it is time well invested.


February 4, 2010

The other day I was watching a youth sporting event with several high level business managers.  Attention to the game was diverted by one of the coaches and his running commentary of his team.  Specifically, he was highly critical of his players and their efforts and was constantly shouting out obvious mistakes.  We watched as his players dropped their heads and effort started to decrease.

One of the people in our small group finally commented, “nine times out of ten a player knows when they make a mistake so why is this coach constantly stating the obvious?”  His question was followed up by another question relating to the negative and critical nature of this particular coach.  As our conversation progressed we asked “when is the direction simply criticism and no longer coaching?”

As I walked away from the game my thoughts continued to focus on coaches but also managers in the business world.  It is easy to second guess a persons efforts both on the field and at work.  Having the benefit of hindsight is priceless and should be treated with respect.  When managers sit on the sideline and are quick to criticize but are rarely offering praise the environment becomes toxic.  People will continue to work for that manager but will the company gain the results that they desire?  I think not.  Negativity becomes a way of life.  It is easy to be critical. lt is harder to be a constructive coach. 

It’s a decision.  What type of manager do you want to be?

If You Didn’t Have Any Problems…..

April 21, 2009

Years ago I worked with a gentleman by the name of Bob Feeney.  Typically when people would start to complain about the problems in their work day Bob would respond with:

“If you didn’t have any problems, you wouldn’t have any business.”

When you grow your business you are bound to have more problems.  When you deal directly with the public you are more than likely going to have problems.  The trick is to not have repeat problems.  Most of all, treat each problem with respect.  Your reputation will grow based on your ability to resolve the issues that come up.  Grow your business by managing your problems.


April 17, 2009

Bill Nowlin passed away this week.  He was forty one years old and had lived with brain cancer for the past two years.  My last conversation with Bill was humbling and will stay with me for the remainder of my life.

Despite having known Bill for multiple years it turns out that I really didn’t know him well.  After being diagnosed, Bill started a blog so that he could keep friends and family posted as to his treatments and other life stuff.  I subscribed and as I was reading his profile it turns out that we both shared an interest in the books written by Janet Evonovich.  It would have never dawned on me that another guy would find the tales of Stephanie Plum to be of interest but we both did.  I contacted Janet and she was kind enought to sign a book for Bill which I was able to personally deliver to him at home.  Despite ongoing treatments and a recent surgery, Bill was able to spend about ninety minutes with me in his yard talking.

As the conversation progressed and our thoughts turned to our sons, it was me that expressed a level of frustration with something that we had in common.  Bill and I had talked about this topic many times in the past and it was one that was sensitive and emotional for us both.  That day was different.  Instead of getting worked up Bill became visibly calm.  Almost serene.  It stopped me in mid sentence.  What came next was not expected.  Bill summarized our past conversations and asked “with all that has been said about this problem, what have we accomplished?”  He went on to share his experiences with cancer and how it had changed his perspective on the things around him.  On life in general.  It boiled down to focusing on what we had and that it was still good and that despite it not being perfect there was pleasure and satisfation to be found. 

I was uncomfortable with this perspective.  Not because I thought that Bill was wrong but because I had allowed myself to lose perspective.  The problem that had me so worked up was energy spent poorly.  There were solutions in front of me but I choose to focus only on the problem.  Bill afforded me the opportunity to get back on track and I thank him for his perspective. 

While I didn’t know Bill as well as I would have liked, he will remain with me for life.  He is a special man who afforded me the gift of perspective.


April 13, 2009

The public apology seems to be fully in vogue.  With the recent arrests of several (more) NFL players there is the obligatory public apology issued.  Usually this statement is released by the players agent and seems to be a “cover all bases” type of apology.  No heart felt remorse.  No drilling down to a fundamental problem with the need to address.  More like “I’m sorry that I got caught” sentiment.

Has the apology lost it’s value?  Can we offer a better opton in our lives?  Must every problem be managed with an automatic apology that seems more mechanical than real? 

When I read that a person that was caught for a third time has issued an apology (again) I find it hard to believe that they mean what they say or will work to stay out of trouble.  If you don’t mean it, don’t say it.  Actions do speak louder than words.

Could This Be Trouble?

March 17, 2009

Recently I have heard from members of the legal profession regarding recomendations that are posted on Linkedin.  The concern is that these postings could be used against a past employer in the event an employee is released from their job.  There is an additional concern that this practice is a violation of a companies printed reference policy (if the policy is to not provide references). 

It seems to me that as social media moves further into the work place that we as employers should re-think the topic of references and how they can be regulated.  If we all end up putting disclaimers on our various sites, does the message become diluted?  Can we change the definition of what constitutes a reference?  It’s worth asking the questions.

There is a common belief that a candidate would never give a bad reference to a prospective employer so why would a recomendation on Linkedin be any different?  We have the opportunity to review the post prior to release.  The person we asked can decline.  So really what does it matter and is this simply another aspect of the world around us being over thought? 

My preference is to take these testimonials for what they are.  Use common sense both when asking for a recomendation and when providing one.  Let’s keep this social and not make it legal.

Making Marketing Happy

February 18, 2009

My marketing department is not happy with me. They are all about blogging and the benefits of social networking .  I have responded that blogging is like Talking To Myself and that the various social networks are way to “me-centric” for my taste.  Still………

LinkedIn has proven to be a great way to stay in touch with people that I value, trust and respect.  There are those of you out there that I still need to connect with and I will.

Facebook  poses a different challange/ opportunity for me.  Yes I want to stay in touch with my friends but I’m more interested in what you are doing to “change the world” versus “how full you are” following a binge session at the Counter in Santana Row.  Still, I am looking to build my network.  Not like Tila Tequila who has more friends in cybersppace than she knows what to do with.  Just regular people that are interested in me and I in them.  People that are willing to occassionaly read my blog.

So heres my point.  If you read this entry and think that it is worth your time, reach out and connect with me on either Facebook or LinkedIn.  I’m interested in expanding my world (in a 2.0 kind of way) and I’m asking for help.  Suggest friends or simply comment on my blog.

Perhaps this is another version of the snowball effect.  In any event I’m looking to open doors.

Where Are You From?

February 6, 2009

It seems that many conversations engage the one general question, where are you from?  It is a great way to open up the discussion and to learn more about the person we are speaking with.  It’s an easy question and generally a safe one.  The answer can be interesting, informative and at times amusing.  Still, would we be better served changing the context of this approach?

A different approach (and at times more difficult) is, where are you going?  I try to build this into my conversations both at work and at home and find the responses to be interesting.  From clear and precise answers to “what do you mean?” I have heard a full range of resposes to this query.  Still, it generally provides insight and an opportunity to build a conversation and understanding.

Good sales people do this intuitively.  Others don’t and are surprised when they lose a contract and/ or are left holding unpaid invoices.  To better understand where our clients are going is to better understand where we ourselves are headed.