Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What Will You Celebrate?

Imagine what would happen if, after a lot of time and hard work, success of a large project was achieved but the leaders never communicated the news, and never acknowledged the staff who helped in making it all happen. There would be a great loss of motivation and desire to work as hard on the next projects and assignments. “Why should I work so hard if no one’s going to appreciate it?”

Celebrating success is a valuable opportunity for leaders to reenergize their staff by thanking the people who helped make the achievements happen. By not celebrating these important landmarks, you’re missing great opportunities.

It’s all too common to see organizations focus on communicating successes to customers but forgetting to pass the word to their staff. If you take advantage of the opportunities to positively connect with your staff, each one can become a part of the marketing department by sharing their enthusiasm with customers, business associates, friends and family.

By holding some type of celebration you’ll hear people commenting on how refreshing it is to work for a company that acknowledges staff for their contributions. That’s usually followed by stories about working at other companies that did NOT bother to celebrate their achievements, and the negative impact that had on staff morale. What a great, and easy, way of placing yourself in the “I wanna work there” category.

A great leader doesn’t go it alone. Because of that leader there develops a talented group of people who align their vision with their leader and the organization, and who will work very hard to achieve the desired results. You have to motivate your folks to want to follow you. A smart leader will make his/her staff feel empowered by giving them a sense of ownership, and recognizing their accomplishments. Celebrating achievements is a great way to make that happen!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Responsibility and Owning Your Job

I recently read a speech by Admiral Hyman Rickover, the Father of the Nuclear Navy, that he delivered at Columbia University in 1982. He was one of the most successful - and controversial - managers of the 20th century. He was big on providing clear purpose, emphasis on staff development, and a willingness to give them ownership. Admiral Rickover was definitely a management visionary. Trivia: Admiral Rickover and his team designed and built the first nuclear submarine in just 3 years.

This week I'd like to share the following few paragraphs from Admiral Rickover's Columbia speech:

"When doing a job - any job - one must feel like he owns it, and act as though he will be in the job forever. He must look after his work just as conscientiously, as though it were his own business or his own money. If he feels he is only a temporary custodian, or that the job is just a stepping stone to a higher position, his actions will not take into effect the long-term interests of the organization. His lack of commitment to the current job will be perceived by those who work for him, and they, likewise, will tend not to care. Too many spend their entire working lives looking for their next job. When one feels he owns his present job and acts that way, he need have no concern about his next job.

In accepting responsibility for a job, a person must get personally involved. Every manager has a personal responsibility not only to find problems but to correct them. This responsibility comes before all other obligations, before personal ambition or comfort.

A manager must instill in his people an attitude of personal responsibility for seeing a job accomplished. Unfortunately, this seems to be declining, particularly in large organizations were responsibility is broadly distributed. To complaints of job poorly done, one often hears the excuse, 'I am not responsible.' I believe that is literally correct. The man who takes such a stand in fact is not responsible; he is irresponsible. While he may not be legally liable, or the work may not have been specifically assigned to him, no one involved in a job can divest himself of responsibility for its successful completion."

There is no substitute for hard work and determination. Take responsibility. Do these things, as the leader, and staff will follow your "lead".

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Playing Favorites? Or Just Your Perception?

The boss is having a Monday morning laugh with one of your counterparts. You wait for him to stop by and have a laugh with you but, alas, he passes right by with a “morning”. Favoritism? Maybe. But yet again, maybe not.

Some leaders actually do play the favoritism game. We all know - or should - that this is just wrong. There is no place in the workplace for it. It causes disengagement and distrust. But the “perceived” favoritism just may be a case of liking someone better than others. Workplace or not, it’s just human nature. But it doesn't make it any better.

Take a look at who you’re dealing with. Who are you socializing with? Who are you engaging in small talk with? If it’s the same people all the time, while disregarding others, you’re going to have to do some changing in order to keep everyone in tune.

Now this doesn’t mean to just cut out socializing. Socializing is a big part of establishing rapport with staff. You need to be establishing a rapport with everyone, not just the people that you “like”. Having that rapport can be thought of as a kind of recognition by some. It’s a motivator. If staff see you yucking it up with some, but not with others, it’s perceived that you just don’t care about them. That’s definitely not what you want. It IS, however, one of the things that you just have to deal with in today’s world – negative thoughts come before positive ones. Once a perception is ingrained, it’s hard to reverse it.

Talk with all of your staff. Get to know a little bit about them and their families. Find out a couple of key likes and dislikes. A short conversation here and there is all you need to make EVERYONE feel appreciated.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Risky Business

To steal a quote from a classic 80’s movie, “Sometimes you just hafta say WTF”, (Risky Business).

In their drive to be successful (or to stay on the payroll) leaders, especially new ones, often begin to be driven by a fear of failure which actually ends up overshadowing their desire to succeed. This puts them into risky areas that can't be sustained for long periods. People begin to look at their past successes creating undo pressure on themselves. Questions start swirling in their mind as to whether they’ll be able to sustain the great performance they’ve been used to. About the worst thing you can do is start thinking, “how am I going to top that?” The more you do this, the worse it gets. Leadership speaker Mark Sanborn says that, “The longer a leader is successful, the higher his or her perceived cost of failure.” You can’t let fear drive down your success.

When leaders are driven by the fear of failure, they become unable to take reasonable risks. They tend to stick with the time proven, “we’ve always done it that way” (I hate that statement), accomplishments. Ideas – great ideas – that come about (or could come about) never get developed. Remember, we’re talking reasonable risks here. Good leadership never takes reckless chances that could end up risking things that have already been achieved, but you also can't sit back and do nothing.

Take a good look at yourself and your accomplishments. What have they been? How did you come up with them? When were they? What have you been doing since? You may be in a rut and don’t know it.

So take a queue from an old 80’s classic movie – or a shoe advertisement – and just do it!