Thursday, December 30, 2010

Little Green Book

Thanks to a tweet from Disney Institute today, I discovered this quote from Walt Disney - “We developed so many talents as we went along that I lay awake at night figuring out how to use them. That's how we become so diversified. It was natural branching out."

How many times have you had a great idea in the middle of the night or while sitting relaxing at the pool, beach, or back porch and told yourself, “I’ll write it down later”. How many times has “later” never come? I wish I had a nickel (or a dollar, to account for inflation) for every time I said that but forgotten the idea 15 minutes later.

Ideas, and thoughts on how to develop them, begin streaming when we’re relaxed - when we don’t have the stresses of phone calls, meetings, and people popping into our offices. And, because we’re not prepared, we lose many ideas. We have to be equipped for these instant concepts at all times.

That takes me back to my Navy days. I ALWAYS carried around one of those little green, government-issue memorandum books in my back pocket - constantly at the ready to record my thoughts or work schedule of the day. It was a great asset (and great application for CYA).

These days, that little green book has been replaced by a smart-phone. It can record thoughts just as easily and they can be converted directly to memos or emails.

Make sure you have the available means to record your instant thoughts and the next time you can’t sleep, at least be productive and pull out that “little green book”.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Share The Milk and Cookies

Who's one of the greatest manager/leaders of all time? Look no further than the North Pole. Yes, I'm talking about Santa Claus.

One of my favorite leadership books is "The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus-How to Get Big Things Done In YOUR "Workshop"...All Year Long". It's very easy to relate to.

Santa says that one of his biggest benefits of being him is the fact that he's on "the point". All of the elves and reindeer work their "ears and antlers off" all year so the mission and vision can be fulfilled, yet Santa's usually the one that gets all of the credit. He's the one that gets to travel all over the world, attend meet and greets, and have his picture plastered all over greeting cards. The elves and reindeer don't get to experience all the fun so "their feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment must come in different ways".

Just like you as a leader, Santa must help his elves and reindeer see the "positive differences" that they're making. He practices MBWA (management by wandering around) just like you should be doing. He shares thank you letters and posts them on a bulletin board labeled "SEE WHAT YOU MADE HAPPEN" - just like you should be doing. He uses crayons to draw diagrams showing the link between the elves and reindeer and the smiling children that get the presents - that's communication that you should be providing (maybe not with crayons though).

Nothing motivates an employee - whether elf or not - more than actually seeing that they're contributing and making a difference for the organization and their customers. So look for ways to make it happen for your staff.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Suck Em In

I looooove Chinese buffet's. I could eat there about every day. General Tsao's Chicken? . . . The bomb. Anyway. Earlier this year we had found a buffet pretty close by. What a find, right? Wrong. It was close but the price was $10.99 for a buffet that was the size worth MAYBE 2/3 of that price. And not all that tasty. Of course we never returned.

So, last week we happened to be doing some Christmas shopping at the strip mall where this buffet is and I noticed a sign on the door that said $6.99 all day on Tuesday's during December. BINGO. So guess where we ate last night? A Mexican restaurant . . . just kidding. We went to the Chinese buffet.

Well holy cow. They had, at least, doubled the size of the buffet and added a made-to-order sushi counter. It was fantastic . . . and now worth the $10.99.

But on the way out we spotted another price sign that says beginning January 1st, the everyday price would increase to $11.99! Ahhhhh, the hook.

This restaurant implemented a few great marketing strategies. They:
- lowered their price for December to bring in more customers that have less expendable cash due to buying Christmas presents,
- lowered their price to bring in more customers to learn about their great strides in improvements, and
- informed their customers of the price increase following their great meal - in which they devoured more food than they normally would in two days - making $11.99 seem more justifiable.

This seemed to me like a well thought out marketing plan. Many times these types of establishments (buffet's, etc) just throw things at you - $6.99 one day, $11.99 the next - with no warning or justification. My hats off to New China.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Why Work Doesn't Happen At Work

If you want to understand the true feelings about office work at your organization - take a look at this video.

I came across this video, "Why Work Doesn't Happen at Work", by Jason Fried, through a post on the Disney Entrepreneur Center group on LinkedIn. I thought it sounded like it might be interesting so I clicked on it. I quickly found myself smiling and nodding my head in agreement while I watched . . . especially because here I am sitting in my "man cave" at home . . . working. *after watching, you'll know why that's humorous.

Take a look (click on the blog title) and think about what Jason is saying - it's so true. The office is basically, not a conducive place to do work. Those of you in "cube farms" know exactly where I'm coming from.

Maybe there are things that you can't change, for one reason or another. But after watching this video I think you'll have a brand new understanding of how things (people) actually "work".


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Manage Stressful Times

In stressful times people tend to change in one way or another. They take shortcuts in procedures - they hurry through steps - they skip steps in reviews. Procedures are made for a reason . . . to document correct ways of doing things so that there is consistency throughout the organization.

Supervisors need to step up during tense times to ensure that procedures are being completed correctly. Depending on the type of company you work at, skipping steps may not be a real big deal. In others, like the medical field for instance, it could literally mean the difference between life and death.

Do things right the first time, all the time! If people are allowed to slack off, at ANY time, there's a good chance that it's going to happen more often than what you want. They soon begin to reason for themselves in order to substantiate non-conformance. That will then trickle down to other staff and soon into the training of new employee's. Then you've got new employee's thinking that it's the common practice and now you have new issues to work with - in particular, additional time for retraining.

Walk the talk. It's up to the supervisor to be a role model for employee's. If they see you slacking off and taking shortcuts it becomes an excuse for them to do the same. Put yourself in the customer's shoes. No matter what kind of business you're in, would you as a customer, tolerate anything but perfection? Of course not! Act as if you're part of the team, not always the head of it.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Your Endless Journey

You should NEVER end your journey of learning.

In the December issue of SUCCESS magazine, Paula Deen is asked for her "ingredients for a life well spent". Here's, in part, how she answered (buy the magazine to get the rest):
  • "I think it's about the journey. It's about learning things about ourselves. . . . It's about lookin' over your shoulder and learnin' from your mistakes. . . . It's really about that journey, you know, and the people we meet, the opportunities that we need to go after. It's about our relationships with our family and our friends. It's so much more. I'm not through with my journey yet."
Paula is right on. You can't improve and continue to succeed by ending your journey. I know for some people it's a chore just to get the journey started, but you soon find out that you're much better off.

Learning doesn't end with a high school or college diploma - they're just the anchors. Don't think of it as the end - they're the beginning. Your formal education gets you on the right track and provides the basic footing to a long and prosperous journey. Add your relationships with family, friends, and business associates and you have a winning combination. Jim Rohn said:
  • "Learning is the beginning of wealth. Learning is the beginning of health. Learning is the beginning of spirituality. Searching and learning is where the miracle process all begins."
Each of us is defined, and enriched, by our relationships to others. You've heard the ole saying, "you are what you eat"? Well . . . you are who you meet. Our relationships are a fundamental source of learning.

So what are you waiting for? Get going. Go read a book - develop a relationship - read a book about developing relationships. Just don't stop.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


This week I was looking around at new laptops and had narrowed it down to two. One was at a major office supply store (not Depot or Max) and the other at Best Buy. The two were very similar but with spending that much money, I wanted to see them both in action to determine which would suite my needs the best.

I did all the prerequisite research on Google of course so was heading out with my wife to check them out in person. The first place we went to was the office store. We headed right for the laptop area and looked and looked. We couldn't find the one we were looking for - which happened to be on the front page of their ad that week. To make a long story short - they didn't have the laptop on display. They were ALL in the stockroom - in their boxes. Now do you think that they'd at least take ONE out of the box for customers to see? NO. Instead they tried to talk me out of seeing it because if we decided not to buy it they'd have to sell it as an open package.

Hence comes the big question - Unless you've done some massive researching, or are just that much more knowledgeable than the average joe, who's going to buy a computer sight unseen?

Needless to say, Best Buy got our business (and we received EXCELLENT customer service - thank you Matt) and the office store will have to settle for our "staples", paper, and pen purchases.

I worked retail for a number of years and know that there's just too much competition out there to do things like this. Customer service has got to be the name of the game at all times. Businesses, such as office stores, are so similar that the quality of your customer service and satisfaction are the main - or only - things that differentiates them from one another. You HAVE to make yourself stand out . . . in a positive way.

Keep in mind that, either consciously or even unconsciously, you're compared to other companies with every contact.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Well Jiminy Cricket

In sports, when a time-out is called just before the tie-breaking point is played, the coach reminds team members what's at stake . . . the rewards that await the players who make the winning effort. As a leader, you challenge team members with the memory of their past victories, with examples of what they accomplished.
- You enthuse,
- you excite,
- you encourage,
so they believe they can do it. Motivating and inspiring are about them, not you. It’s about instilling the confidence and energy that helps them to achieve the desired results. It’s what causes them to get excited enough to take ownership of their work.

In 1940, Walt Disney stopped production of Pinocchio because he thought Pinocchio was looking TOO wooden. He called the young animator Ward Kimball into his office.

Kimball, who was already upset because his long hours of work on Snow White had ended up on the cutting-room floor, was planning to use the occasion to resign when Walt called him in. But the young animator never had a chance. He got so excited listening to Walt talk about his dreams for the film and his ideas about Jiminy Cricket that Kimball entirely forgot about his own intentions of resigning.

Ward Kimball went on to become one of the greatest animators of all time. How many leaders can say that they enthuse, excite, and encourage that way? Had it been you in Walt’s situation, would Ward Kimball have stayed around?

Monday, October 25, 2010

But It's Not Illegal!

C’mon people. Lets drop the unethical behavior and act the way you’re expected to. Try to remember the Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Ethics are the inner-guiding moral principles, values, and beliefs that we use to analyze or interpret situations in order to decide what’s the “right” or “appropriate” way to behave or react. Laws tell us we either CAN or CAN’T do something. If there’s no law – or a law that’s not well enough defined – we're left to use our own ethics (or lack of) to decide how to act. Problem is, TOO many people these days are unethical.

According to the annual USA Today/Gallup Poll, less than one American in four rates highly the ethical standards of business executives, attorneys, members of Congress, or stockbrokers. Bankers had it especially rough in the latest poll: their approval rating fell from 35% to 23%. Only 22% of Americans held state governors in high esteem. With two unethical candidates, I would guess that Florida is even less than that.

It’s not just business and politics. A report by the Josephson Institute showed that 64% of high school students cheat and 30% steal. WOW! Nothin like starting early.

Neither laws nor ethics are fixed principles. Both are always changing. Unfortunately, people will always try to get away with things by going around and misinterpreting laws, so continuous change will always be necessary.

People will always argue that, “it's not illegal”. Maybe not. But keep this in mind the next time you have a thought like that – not being illegal does NOT make it ethical.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Keep On Wandering

I sware by Tom Peters' Management By Wandering Around (MBWA). It’s really more than what the name implies. It’s not enough for leaders to just “walk around”. It’s also not “just a theory”. MBWA has been embraced, over the years, by highly successful organizations such as Hewlett-Packard, GE, PepsiCo, LucasFilm, Disney, and 3M.

As you “wander”, in order to be effective, you should be doing at least these three things:
• listening to what staff are saying,
• using the opportunity to continuously discuss the organization’s values face-to-face, and
• be prepared AND able to give people on-the-spot assistance.

At first, staff may suspect that MBWA is just an excuse for you to spy and interfere. That'll subside when they see the walk-arounds happening regularly, and they see that it actually benefits THEM. It works best when staff see that you are genuinely interested in them and their work and also see that you are there to listen and help. If things you see or hear require some type of follow-up, then make sure you take care of it.

Here are a few tips to assist in making MBWA a success:
• Publicize the fact that you are out wandering 50% of the time.
• Appear relaxed as you make your rounds. Staff will reflect your feelings and actions.
• Remain open and responsive to their questions and concerns.
• Observe and listen.
• Make sure your visits are spontaneous.
• Talk with staff about what they like – family, hobbies, vacations, or sports.
• Ask for suggestions to improve operations, service, etc.
• Try to spend equal time in all areas.
• Have meetings in others’ spaces rather than your own office all the time.
• Catch staff members doing something right and recognize them publicly.
• Convey the image of a coach – NOT an inspector.
• Encourage your staff members to show you how the “real work” of the company gets done.

The point is - make your walk-arounds count. Go out there with a purpose, and make a difference.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Walk That Talk

In the past, I’ve known so many supervisors and managers that talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. Good leadership means that you “walk the talk”. Leading is sometimes like raising children – sometimes there’s really not much difference at all. If you’re going to say “do as I say”, you also have to “do as you say”. That goes for any situation. You, as a leader, are on stage . . . the star of the show. You’re being watched more than you realize. In some cases, some may even call it stalking.

Over the past number of years, leaders have been getting more into the “employees are important to me” frame of mind. That’s a good thing. But at the same time, if you tell your staff, “if you are ill, stay home”, you can’t take things away from them or give them bad appraisal marks if the do (unless it’s obviously being taken advantage of).

If you keep telling your staff that they’re doing a good job when they’re not – that’s your fault. You can’t take things away from them or give them bad appraisal marks.

If you give your staff a survey to find out what’s on their minds or what problems or issues they have, then never do anything with the information, youuu might be a redneck. Oops, sorry - actually they’ll lose confidence in you and your abilities to effect change.

If you reap praise on your staff, as you should, but then take all the credit when it comes to your bosses – they’ll lose confidence and acceptance in you.

Are you seeing some kind of trend here?

Leadership Rule #1 – You’re the Leader – You’re being watched – You must be the example – You must set the bar – You must do as you say.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's All About ME

Rufus Wainwright said,“Everything I do, I feel is genius. Whether it is or it isn't.” Ahhh, arrogance.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines arrogance as: “An attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions.”

Let me see. Does that definition fit anybody we know? Just a hunch, but I’ll bet you could apply that definition to a lot of people occupying leadership positions.

Some have been given their leadership roles too quickly and therefore pick up a degree or two (or three) of arrogance along the way. Unfortunately, the people around them end up suffering for it.

Arrogance causes natural confidence to disintegrate while the person primarily serves themselves. The real sad part is that the arrogant assumes his views and opinions are the truth. He sees no weakness in himself and may even secretly rejoice in finding flaws in others. Team cohesiveness quickly goes down the drain.

You DON'T have to put up with arrogance. Give the arrogant the benefit of the doubt - consider confronting him after he's displayed inappropriate behavior. Explain how you interpreted the behavior and let him know you're trying to help him and the team.

Many people quickly realize they were perceived negatively and work to deal with their arrogance. Even if they're not completely successful in altering themselves, they're now at least aware of it and should be able to limit the behavior to some degree.

Sure, there'll be others that won’t get it . . . at all. You did the right thing though, by making them aware of how they're perceived and you may want to bring it up to him again at a later point. But give him some specifics on what he's doing and how it's impacting the team.

Bottom line - watch it! If it's your supervisor that's the arrogant one, subtly let him know. If it's you that's the arrogant one, listen to your peers and learn to change.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's Show Business

Whatever business you’re in . . . it’s show business. Everyone from the attraction cast to the costumed characters to the housekeepers in the hotels, Disney’s cast members know that they're part of a show designed to delight and entertain guests. Whenever they’re “onstage” (Disney-speak for any area where they might encounter guests) they have to keep their smiling, approachable, helpful demeanour. At Disney, every employee follows the same guidelines as a cast member on Main Street. Make eye contact. Smile. Never eat, drink, or smoke in guests’ presence. Disney executives will never step over a piece of trash: like any cast member, they’re expected to help keep the park clean.

Does any of this make any sense at all to you? It really should. Whatever business YOU'RE in . . . it's show business. Any time your employee's interact with or can be seen by customers, they're onstage.

Exceeding your customers' expectations means maintaining professionalism, cleanliness and friendliness beyond what's already expected, and giving “that something extra". You have to show that you'll go the extra mile to make customers (guests) happy, even if that means you open the doors 10 minutes early or close 20 minutes late. If you can satisfy your customers (guests) with their experience, they'll come back. And if that means it costs a few extra dollars, that great service will overcome all else.

Disney cast members are taught to take the extra step - just like your own employee's should. No matter what role they play, the goal is happiness and exceptional service. No one should EVER have to hear the words "It's not my job" from ANY of your employees. Employees should always be onstage and exceptional service should always be the norm.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Go Home and Change

You never get a second chance to create a positive first impression. It’s said that it takes only 4 seconds for someone to form an opinion of you at the first meeting. That's not long. So you can actually handle situations much better just by dressing right. The better your self-image the more confident and positive you'll be about your work.

Perceptions are formed by three modes of communication:
- what we say,
- how we say it,
- what we do and how we dress.

What we do/how we dress (body language) can account for OVER ½ of our message.

If you’re in a position where you’re likely to interact with angry customers, you have a chance to use your image as one of your more effective tools. You can use your image to signal your,
- power,
- control,
- knowledge, and
- composure.

If you’re dressed inappropriately (wrinkled and dirty) or too casually (jeans/t-shirts) for your position and business, customers are more likely to push to get their way, and call for a higher authority if they don't like your response.

In other words, if you’re the supervisor, dressed inappropriately, and your new guy is standing next to you, spic and span – who do you think the customer is going to approach? Well it’s sure not you!

Any career building learning will tell you that you should always dress for your NEXT position. ALWAYS look your best – it improves service. ALWAYS look your best – it gets you noticed. ALWAYS look your best – it improves your own self-image.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Feelings . . . Nothing More Than Feelings

Emotional intelligence (kind of contradictory for some, huh) is the ability to understand and manage your own mood and emotions and the moods and emotions of other people. Leaders with a high level of emotional intelligence (EI) are more likely to understand how they're feeling and why, and they're more able to effectively manage their feelings. When leaders are experiencing stressful feelings and emotions such as fear or anxiety, emotional intelligence enables them to understand why and manage the feelings so they don't get in the way of effective decision making.

Understanding how your subordinates feel, why the feel that way, and how to manage their feelings is important in developing strong interpersonal bonds with them. Moreover, it has the potential to contribute to effective leadership in multiple ways and can help leaders make lasting contributions to society.

Recent research suggests that EI may be especially important in opening and enhancing employee creativity. Avon CEO, Andrea Jung says that, "Emotional intelligence is in our DNA here at Avon because relationships are critical at every stage of our business."

It's about time you get your emotions under wraps. Since EI has the potential to increase our understanding of how individuals behave and adapt to their work and social environment, I'd say it could very well be an important topic for you to start taking a look at.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tell The Truth

I just read the coolest quote from Pixar President Ed Catmull. He said, "Management's job is not to prevent risk but to build the capability to recover when failures occur. It must be safe to tell the truth."

Wow. The End.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Recognize Daily

Good leaders remember to recognize and motivate employees. Great leaders do it every day. Take a look at the following methods for ensuring that praising employees becomes a part of your DAILY routine:

Make employees a part of your weekly "to do" list. Add the names of the people who report to you to your list of goals to accomplish. Then cross off names as you give them praise.

Use voice mail. Rather than using it only to assign tasks, leave employees voice mail messages praising them for a job well done. Do it from your cell phone on the way home if you need to.

Write notes at the end of the day. Keep a stack of note cards on your desk, where you can't ignore them. At the end of the day, take a couple of minutes to write thank-you notes to any of your employee's who made a difference that day.

At the beginning of the day, put 5 coins in your pocket. Throughout the day, each time you praise an employee, move a coin to your other pocket. Pretty soon it will become habit and you won't need the coins.

It doesn't always take a lot to make that leap from good to grrrreat. A bit of appreciation goes a long way.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I Won, I Won

A lot of supervisors think that what motivates them also motivates everyone else. That's simply not true. Everyone is different. You didn't hire clones. If you're going to hold a public presentation of an award for one of your staff, you may just be DE-motivating them. If they don't like public attention, they may just fall back and punt, not wanting it to happen again.

As far as awards and motivation goes, take a queue from The Walt Disney Company. They do something that more organizations should think about doing (one of many). When a new castmember (employee) is hired they're given a survey which asks them how they like, and don't like, to be rewarded and what motivates them. By doing this, their supervisor can tailor, to that particular castmember, the way they're rewarded. You need to know this information because some people just don't like to get up in front of a crowd to receive awards - but then again, some people thrive on it. Again - too much public recognition can be DEEEEE-motivating.

It's commonly believed that money is the biggest motivator for employee's. Nope. A number of research papers over the last few years have proven this wrong. Sure people like money, but they also like recognition, education, career development, and influence.

Two of the most important types of recognition programs you can have are peer and customer. It's very easy and cheap to start a peer recognition program where co-workers can nominate others for going above and beyond. A certificate and maybe a gift card is all you'd need. It goes a long way.

Customer recognition is another biggie. If you have ANY means of receiving customer feedback in which employee's or teams are named, SHARE IT with them. They can then see that what they do really matters to someone other than the boss.

Whatever you end up doing, make sure that your motivation techniques and rewards always revolve around organizational goals. Employee's often attribute their success to how they're able to contribute to the organization.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

We're Never Finished

The park means a lot to me. It’s something that will never be finished, something I can keep developing, keep ‘plussing,’ and adding to. It’s alive. It will be a live, breathing thing that will need changes . . . not only can I add things to it, but even the trees will keep growing. The thing will get more beautiful year after year. And it will get better as I find out what the public likes.” Don’t you think that’s the way every business should be run? Well, you should.

This is a quote by Walt Disney, back when Disneyland was first developed. It’s a very simple concept. Being able to continuously make changes allows the Park to grow and makes it possible to entertain more guests (visitors). They keep technology up-to-date (actually it’s on the cutting edge) allowing the rides and attractions to improve and stay exciting. It’s what people want. It’s why so many people keep returning to the Parks.

A successful business will find out what their customers want or need and develop their products and services accordingly. You don’t “build it” for yourself, you build it for your consumers. Think about it – you’re not the one buying the products or services.

Always be looking at what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and what you could be doing differently. In Rich Hamilton’s book, Disney Magic: Business Strategy You Can Use at Work and at Home, he says to ask the following questions:
- What can you change about your business to get the work done faster, or better, or for lower cost?
- What can you do within your business to serve your customers better, to make them want more of your products or services, or to purchase from you more often?
- What can you do to make your business new for your customers, so that each time they come back they can enjoy the experience in a new way, even if it is a subtle difference?

You don’t need to make major changes to make a difference. Some customers will see the changes right away, while others will see them at a later time. No matter when they notice – or if they even consciously notice – they’ll have a much better experience with your business.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I AM the Manager

This week I’m going to share a tale with you. A tale of bad customer service by a manager – not a leader – a manager.

Recently a colleague and I went to Vero Beach to hold a couple of classes for our counterparts. We stayed over night so we brought our spouses along (separate rooms of course). The hotel we had reservations at was a nice one, not upscale but a very comfortable business and travel site. When we checked in we were given wonderful service by the woman at the desk (Betty). She was friendly, accommodating, and would do anything she could to make our stay memorable. I was thoroughly impressed.

Since my partner and I were going to be heading to class at about 6:45a.m. (ugh), we asked that we be allowed a late check-out. Betty said that we could have until 1:00p.m. – that’s all that she could authorize. Well that was much better than 11:00 so we said that would be great, and thanked her. Then one small omittance brought about our customer service snafu. Betty recorded my late check-out in the turnover book, but forgot to record my teaching partners. Oh-oh.

The next day my wife had no problem, however the other party did. He was called at 12:00 and told he had to get out (in not so many words). When he went to the front desk to sort the issue out, he was greeted with rudeness. He asked to talk to a supervisor and was told by the gentleman he was speaking to that, “I AM the manager. Long story short, nothing changed – no apology, no concession - just get out.

Because of that ONE person - and the manager at that - none of us will ever stay at that particular hotel again.

In any service organization all staff should be constantly asking themselves, “How can I make these customers’ experiences better than from other places or better than they were the last time?”

Remember that “Everything Speaks”. Everything the customer sees, hears, smells, tastes, or touches will impact their experience with you. It’s a darn shame when the only “bad taste” comes from a correctable predicament made worse by management – the very person(s) that you’d expect to make things better.

As they teach at the Disney Institute, (even though this time the guest WAS right) “Guests may not always be right, but they are always our guests.”

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Meet Me Before Work

A good leader is going to provide a supportive environment for his staff. You have to encourage them to think (and act) like they belong to a team. In order to do this, you’ve got to give them the “time of day”. Provide staff adequate time for short pre-work meetings to start each day. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. “But we don’t have time,” you say. A mere ten minutes a day will add up to more than 40 hours of free education a year! Imagine what that much training would cost if you sent staff to seminars for that long.

Pre-work meetings provide opportunities to:
- have two-way communication daily,
- tell staff what’s important,
- thank them for their great performance,
- answer any questions,
- provide product and service knowledge,
- find out what they need to perform properly, and
- inspire them.
And on top of everything else, demonstrate faith in their ability to succeed.

A common mistake leaders make is trying to cover too many issues in a pre-work meeting. With too many points to concentrate on the group learns "everything and nothing." The key to holding successful pre-work meetings is to stay focused on one or two short objectives. If it helps, think of your pre-work meeting as a pre-work “moment”. In a world of “too many meetings”, that’ll help you stay clear of the meeting “stigma” and you’ll be able to get everyone to focus in a more relaxed manner.

You want to be able to keep your teams attention so make the meetings interactive. Have questions ready so you can bounce them off your folks so they have to respond. Don’t ask “test questions” where everyone’s going to dread getting together before their shift. It should be an enjoyable interactive communication experience.

Remember that pre-work “moments” are opportunities to teach, inspire and pump up energy levels of your teams before they "go on stage." Your enthusiasm for both teaching and having FUN learning together will drive the day. Toni Kottom, Director of Training at Perkins (yum) puts in it perspective when he says that, "Attention goes where energy flows."

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I’m In Voicemail Hell

Voicemail. Oh, don’t get me started . . . too late. I just dread pushing those couple of little buttons on the phone to get my messages because I just KNOW that at least one of them is going to have me wanting to shoot myself in the temple before the caller has finished his message.

Voicemail was invented in the late ‘70s by Gordon Matthews. I’m sure he thought he was contributing something really spectacular to the business world. But I don’t think he could have imagined the abuse his little office miracle would be getting 30-some years later.

There’s a good chance that you, and everyone you know, has been in a voicemail nightmare. It’s not a place that you want to get to know. Leaving messages should be a very simple and SHORT process. They’re not meant to get everything off your chest. Be PREPARED, prior to making your call, to leave a coherent and concise message if the person doesn’t answer.

When leaving messages, have mercy on your listeners and do the following:
1. Speak slooowwwly and clearrrly and leave your phone number at the beginning AND the end of your message. Please save us from having to listen to the whole message twice in order to get your number.
2. Limit your comments to one or two quick subjects.
3. If you find yourself rambling, for the sake of my sanity (and your reputation), stop yourself and re-record the message.
4. If you need some type of action, simply state what you need. Voicemails that simply say, “call me” are just plain irritating . . . and may possibly be ignored. Give a short sentence or two about WHY you want me to call you.

And while we’re on the subject (soapbox) of phones, you know that little speaker button on your phone? FORGET you have one. If I wanted to call you AND everyone in your cube farm, I would have made a conference call.

When used properly, voicemail can improve communications dramatically. It can be a great asset. Just think about what it would be like if YOU were getting your message.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wah - Get Over It

We all have at least one person we work with that just crawls under our skin (and slowly eats away at our very being – did I write that out loud?). It ends up affecting the morale of your other employees who get tired of having to constantly hear and see the skirmish. What’s worse are the two employees that come to you "telling" on the other one. Don’t you just want to say “Wah!” sometimes? It takes up a lot of time to deal with them. But you have to deal with them a bit more judiciously.

You – the leader – have to take control of the situation BEFORE it gets out of hand. While conflict in any environment is inevitable, when it goes unchecked and effects the workplace environment, it’s getting to be too late to deal with it quickly. It’s always easier to resolve the disputes before they become problems.

Here are a couple of things that you can do to help the situation turn around:
1st, Bring the two employees together so you can:
• show them how their behavior is affecting their colleagues and workplace,
• advise them that anything that’s interfering with a nice pleasant workplace (that you’ve tried so hard to develop) must be resolved,
• remind them that they’re both valuable employees and that you’re confident that they can resolve their differences and be able to work together (give them the benefit of the doubt),
• get their COMMITMENT to work out their differences so they can work together, and
• ensure that they understand the seriousness of the problem and that – here’s the KEY - while they don’t have to like each other, you do expect them to learn to work together.
And don’t forget to DOCUMENT everything – just in case.

2nd, Review the options with your problem children employees:
• They can work it out on their own.
• You can meet with them to address the issues.
• You can bring in a mediator to work with them to resolve the issues.
• They can refuse to work on the issues, in which case, you will be accepting their resignations in the morning (tough love).

It’s never easy, or desirable, to have to deal with these types of issues. But a good leader is going to be ready for it. This is something that you can plan on happening at some point in time. Stash this little checklist away and be ready to pull it out at the earliest onset of a problem – don’t let it get to the full on problem stage and you’ll have a much easier time dealing with it, all the way around.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Try These Words On For Size

Knowing the right way to communicate is important because, as the good leader that you are, you coach, coordinate, counsel, evaluate, and supervise through it. It’s the chain that keeps you connected with the members of your team. It’s not really all that hard either, no matter what you may think.

Often leaders shy away from simple lists of suggestions and guidelines. They’ve seen it all, heard it all, and know it all. Yet by following a few basic suggestions we can become better leaders and enhance our communication skill tremendously.

Most managers try to get “buy-in” from their staff. Try this for a change – rather than getting buy-in from people, get them engaged by allowing “input”. Instead of spending your time trying to influence them, help them to feel more a part of the organization or process by making them feel like their opinion matters.

I recently read the following countdown to the most important words you can use as a leader but unfortunately the author is unknown.
- The six most important words:
"I admit I made a mistake."
- The five most important words: "You did a good job."
- The four most important words: "What is your opinion?"
- The three most important words: "If you please."
- The two most important words:
"Thank you,"
- The one most important word:
- The least important word: "I"

Effective leaders recognize the importance of good – and honest – communication (like admitting fault). Communication problems can cause bottlenecks in the organization. The next time you’re tempted to blame staff for bottlenecks, stop and examine a bottle. Take a little note of where the neck is. HINT: It’s not at the bottom.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Delivering Happiness

This week I’m breaking with “tradition” a bit in order to write a review of a new book. Like I’ve mentioned before, I received an advance copy of Tony Hsieh’s (CEO of upcoming book – it’s actually released today – Delivering Happiness: A Path To Profits, Passion, and Purpose. Let me just tell you this – it’s a must read.

Many books on business jump right into the business at hand without a lot of early background. Tony takes us on a journey from his early childhood entrepreneur beginnings to the billion dollar success of He tells us about his money making ideas as a child, including making buttons (which he advertised in Boys Life) and selling greeting cards. He manages to take us “mid-agers” right down Memory Lane.

We get an inside look at how Zappos grew, following Tony’s sale of LinkExchange (to Microsoft) in 1989 for $275 million dollars. Eventually all of the money would be gone as a bunch of friends tried (and succeeded) to keep afloat a company they dearly believed in. During that time, Tony would grow a relationship with a friend that may be seen accompanying him, to this day, to “breakfast, lunch, and dinner”. That friend being a little drink called Red Bull.

The ups and downs that the Zappos team went through prior to becoming a real success story would have been enough to cause most mere mortals to give up. Not so here. Zappos has a close, family-like, relationship that embraces every employee. They work together, play together, drink together, and basically have fun together.

Zappos’ main focus has always been on customers. The customer experience is literally number one on their list. I challenge you to find another company that allows returns, with free shipping - for an entire year. Do any of the internet companies you work with automatically upgrade to next day shipping? Free of charge?

Sure Tony and friends have made mistakes along the way. But they learned valuable lessons with each one of them. Most notably was that you “never outsource your core competencies”. If you want the best warehouse – run it yourself. If you want the best customer service – take the calls yourself.

Probably the best example of all of how important and transparent the customer experience is, is the Zappos Culture Book (I have one). They put together a hardbound culture book that includes comments from employees, customers, partners and even vendors. Included are the good AND bad comments. Again – how many companies do you know that would do that? Needless to say, most comments ARE good. The book is described as a short-term expense for a long term investment. Get one for free at

Now I could go into so many more examples and stories, like the 10 Core Values, or the leadership training available to everyone, but I don’t want to take anything away from your reading experience. If you’re interested in employee motivation, leadership development, corporate culture, or just Zappos in general, do yourself a favor and head out to your local bookstore (or go to and pick up a copy. Then grab a Red Bull, sit back, and enjoy.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

So. How Am I Doin?

This is a question that your staff shouldn’t have to ask you. If you’re “managing by wondering around” (MBWA) and giving clear concise FEEDBACK, they shouldn’t have to. But many leaders do put off giving feedback to staff even though they know that giving and getting honest feedback is essential for growth and development of successful staff and organizations. Hmmm. Maybe it’s because there are so many ways to mess it up and people just don’t know the most effective way make it right.

I know, I know. You’ve heard all the tips and common mistakes for feedback. Well, you must be an expert then. Wrong. I’m continually finding new and interesting twists. And here’s one now. In an article by Brian Ward called "How To Provide Feedback", he gives these five easy tips:

1 - Never just 'deliver feedback'. Feedback should be part of a larger process which includes coaching for superior performance. Feedback is ONE step in that process.

2 - Provide feedback to the whole person. Treat each person as a whole person, not just the part that you observe that needs attention. The person receiving feedback isn’t broken, and they don't need to be fixed. Provide praise and reinforcement when you catch them doing something right, as well as feedback when they are off track.

3 - Make feedback a conversation, not a lecture. Keep it conversational. If a conversation does not happen naturally, then back off and ask yourself and the other person a simple question "what are you feeling (or thinking) right now?"

4 - Think about their goals as well as yours. Discuss the feedback in the context of what will make the person more successful. Don't just concentrate on your goals or the company's goals. That makes the conversation too one-sided. If the person has no goals, then . . . that's what you need to address first.

5 - Finish on a positive note. Okay, so some feedback sessions may not finish that way. But you have to ask yourself why that's so . . . is it because you've let the issues compound, and perhaps it’s gone too far? Either way, offer support to the person as a way to stay in the picture. Never let them struggle alone . . . stay close to them and coach, coach, coach!

If you’re not doing these things then who is? Probably no one, I’d imagine. You OWE it to your staff, yourself, and your organization to make good feedback part of your continuous development regime.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

. . . Till Her Daddy Takes The T-Bird Away

I’m of course talking about Fun, Fun, Fun. Work CAN be fun. Yes it can. Yes it can. Trust me. More and more businesses are turning to fun as a part of their business model. And they’re very successful businesses. A couple of good examples: Google, Zappo’s, eBay. I know you’ve heard of them.

Now Google, Zappo’s, and eBay are very large organizations. Money? Oh yes, they also have a lot of money. But you don’t need to have a lot of cash though, to have fun. The real problem comes from being taken out of the comfort zone. People just aren’t used to having fun at work. Taking on a fun initiative is just plain difficult – it’s CHANGE. But by taking action and making fun a priority, businesses have been able to excel in areas where challenges and problems had been the everyday norm (does that sound at all familiar?). Having fun may not be “the one” tactic that turns your business around, but it’s one that may make the biggest difference.

Employees value fun as a means of becoming more successful at work. According to a survey conducted by Interim Services, nearly 75% of employees believed that promoting fun would make their jobs more attractive and reduce turnover. Use fun to improve customer service, sales, marketing, and human resources. And don’t forget leadership.

Keep in mind that everyone’s idea of fun may be different. You can’t just make up one activity and expect everyone to love it. It’s not fun unless they can be included in it – to have the opportunity to be included. People need a reason to stay these days. According to a USA Today study, people change jobs an average of nine times before they’re 32 years old. NINE times. Having fun is a pretty good reason to stay.

As a leader, you’re at the front line of your “Magic Kingdom”. All you really need to do to get started is lighten up and learn to laugh at yourself and with others. Notice that key word – WITH – not AT. As in any other situation, LEAD BY EXAMPLE. Create a sincere atmosphere of fun around YOU and your employee’s will soon follow.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It's Your Call

Decisions. In Lee Iacocca’s autobiography, he says, “If I had to sum up in one word what makes a good manager, I’d say decisiveness. You can use the fanciest computers to gather numbers, but in the end you have to set a timetable and act. And I don’t mean rashly. I’m sometimes described as a flamboyant leader and hipshooter, a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants operator. But if that were true, I could never have been successful in business.”

This quote from Lee Iacocca illustrates how you’ll never get anything accomplished unless you’re prepared to make decisions. When you reach the top, the workers below you will only be as effective as YOUR decisions.

A decision can go one way or another – either POSITIVELY or NEGATIVELY. INdecision, though, can only be negative. Now that you have that nice office with the window, it doesn’t mean that you sit around reading the sports section all day just letting things happen. Get off your duff. The more decisions you make, the better your judgment and decisions will become. Not sure how to make the best decisions? Here a few tips:

- Never make decisions based on emotion or to prove a point. That will bring you more problems then you had in the first place, and ones that tend to escalate.

- Make sure you have a good grasp of the subject. Write it down and list the pros and cons. Don’t take too long to make decisions. Writing things down will help move it along.

- Get input from people whose opinions you trust. Use your network – if you don’t have one, build one – now.

- Once you make your decision, make sure it’s executed swiftly and fully.

You’ve been making decisions your whole life. Now’s the time to put together everything you’ve learned. Be confident, carry it, and show it. You owe it to your team and yourself.

EXTRA NOTE: I'm currently reading an advance copy of Tony Hsieh's (CEO of, book, "Delivering Happiness". It's a great book detailing his early childhood entrepreneurism up to current time. It will inspire your own success, better customer service and focusing on your company culture. If you'd like a chance to win an advance copy, comment back to me the name of the company that Tony sold to Microsoft. If you'd like to find out more about Tony's upcoming book release (June 7) go to

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Apologize And Learn Your Lesson

Have you ever made a mistake and not known what to do to make things right? You say you don’t make mistakes? Let me tell ya – you make more mistakes than you think you do. Mistakes HAPPEN, whether you want to admit it or not. A mistake can be the result of misinformation, confusion or just a simple accident. Once discovered though, a mistake can shake trust and cause people to question your abilities. Making amends following a mistake is one of the most important things you can do. It helps you move beyond the confrontation and prevent the same mistake from happening again.

The first thing you need to do is ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY. Admitting that you made a mistake and letting others know you're to blame makes people more receptive of your apology. APOLOGIZE to the people you offended. Be genuine and forthright. Without going into great detail, explain the reason you made the mistake and reassure the person(s) it won't happen again.

Try your darndest to MAKE THINGS RIGHT if you can. Take any opportunity to reverse the effects of your mistake. Unless you own a DeLorean with a “flux capacitor”, you cannot erase the mistake you made, but striving to improve the situation is crucial to making amends.

You may actually have to BACK OFF a bit because some people feel wounded when they’re the victim of someone’s mistake. Trying to push for acceptance of your apology may leave them feeling resentful. Give them time to recover and re-establish trust with you.

After proving through your actions that you have LEARNED YOUR LESSON, try to regain a sense of normalcy in your relationships (hopefully "normalcy" is good). The other person's demeanor and body language will indicate when you've made satisfactorily amends. MOVE FORWARD and put the incident behind you.

Remember to let the other person(s) set the tone for your interactions until things get better. In trying to put it all behind you quickly, you may become overbearing. That’s the last thing you’ll want. TIME heals all.
EXTRA NOTE: I'm currently reading an advance copy of Tony Hsieh's (CEO of, book, "Delivering Happiness" (it's reeaaly good so far). If you'd like a chance to win an advance copy, tell me what was the name of the company that Tony sold to Microsoft. If you'd like to find out more about Tony's upcoming book release (June 7) go to

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Watch The Snake Oil

Hey, you’ve been reading leadership books. Great! Before you try out something new, remember – you have to lead according to your own style. Books and articles are wonderful but they’re a base from where you need to begin. If you want to implement the styles that you read about, do it in the most successful manner.

If you come across an exciting new idea that you read about in a book, you’ve got to read and learn more about it first. You can’t read one book and be ready to go. Read a number of books or articles by different authors. You need to have a good grasp of what it’s all about BEFORE you start. One author may make it sound great – different authors may not.

Remember that management “fads” or "trends" are TOOLS. They’re going to work in some situations, but not others. Taylor it to your own needs and beliefs. Be sure you know WHY you’ve picked these tools and HOW you’re going to use them. If you don’t know how you’re going to measure your success, then don't do it.

For gosh sakes, when you do implement your new style, be sure that you stay with it. Don’t get into the "flavor of the month" mode. With each new technique will come a new failure, and increased disparagement from your team. If you keep ringing the bell, sooner or later the dog won’t come (Pavlov).

Part of being a successful leader is being consistent. Get new ideas . . . discover new tools . . . but don’t try to be something you’re not. If the tools WORK for you, then great. Go for it. Don’t try to force it just because you like the ideas of this new style. Keep in mind that authors write books to make money. They make these things sound as good as possible. Go with the things that sound like they’ll be the best fit - for YOU.

Special Note: I'm privileged to be reviewing an advance copy of CEO, Tony Hsieh's new book, "Delivering Happiness". Stay tuned for my take. The book will actually hit the stores June 7.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Best Is Yet To Come

So. You’re getting into that middle aged (or over) area and you haven’t fulfilled your “destiny” yet, huh? So what? Maybe it’s not time for your destiny. If God would fulfill all of our destiny’s early in life, what would we have to look forward to or work towards? The best may be yet to come.

Famed business guru Peter Drucker wrote 39 books. Wow. Took a long time to do that, right? By the time Drucker turned 65 he had only written about one-third of his books. For you non-math majors out there, that means he wrote about 26 books after turning 65. Now you can say WOW.

Zelda Rubinstein was 48 before she had her first acting role, a minor part in “Under the Rainbow”. She’s most known for her "debut" in the “Poltergeist” film series starting the following year (“Now clear your minds. It knows what scares you. It has from the very beginning. Don't give it any help, it knows too much already”).

Colonel Harland Sanders didn’t begin his Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise until he was 65. He used $105 from his first Social Security check to fund visits to potential franchisees.

Baseball pitcher Randy Johnson was celebrated for having one of the most dominant fastballs in the game. He made his Major League debut at 25, but didn't reach superstar status until he was 30. In sports years (kinda like dog years) that’s a pretty advanced age.

Ever heard of seven-time Grammy Award winner Al Jarreau? He released his critically acclaimed debut album, We Got By, at age 35.

So what are you going to do? Give up? Take a back seat? I don’t think so. Hold on to your dreams and aspirations. Keep moving forward and keep LEARNING. The best is yet to come!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I Want The Window!

Employers look for staff who have that special something - the skills, tendencies and attributes that help to keep productivity - and profits - up. They look for people who are going to make a positive contribution for the company.

“So what are these things?” you ask. I’m glad you asked. More and more organizations are looking for employees with strong "personal" skills, not just the right “experience”.

Here are five of the top attributes employers are looking for:

Creativity: You've heard of the saying, "thinking outside the box"? Employers want innovative people who bring a fresh perspective to the organization.

Discipline: They look for the ability for you to keep to the task at hand and complete projects without becoming distracted or bored. Being well organized helps you to work without major distractions. Organizations want employees who have high aspiration levels and work hard to achieve their goals.

Good Attitude: This has been shown to be able to predict counterproductive work behaviors, job performance and even theft. Willingness to connect personally in workplace events is very important. A positive attitude goes a loooong way toward productivity.

Influence: Groups need strong leaders to guide the way. Influence includes positively impacting circumstances by speaking your mind and becoming a group leader.

Sociability: How much you enjoy interacting with coworkers affects how well you work with them. This isn't just about job knowledge, but knowledge of coworkers and the environment. It includes being able to read other people's motives from observed behavior and using the information to guide your thinking and actions.

To have these attributes means a better chance of being hired or moving up. To master these attributes means moving into that nice office with the window.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

You Don't Know Me

In the April edition of SUCCESS magazine, Food Network star Guy Fieri said that one of the top three elements in his marketing strategy is having an “organized effort”. “We don’t need everybody thinking the same way and doing the same thing, otherwise somebody’s not necessary.”

What a concept. But you know? Many staff and leaders do look at certain positions as not being “necessary”, or sub-human even. This is why organizational charts and job descriptions are needed. Each specific position needs to be planned out. But chances are, if you're a new supervisor, you have no control over it. Unless you’re in on the ground floor of creating an organization or a new department, it’s all set up already when you come in.

So where do you start? A-ha – getting to know the org charts and the job descriptions – along with your new staff. These things should have been looked at enough already for you to know that you do indeed need all the staff you just inherited. Don’t fall into the trap of believing you don’t need someone or that they’re not important just because you don’t know what they do.

I’ll give you a good example. Anyone that’s been in the military knows that Mess Cooks, or whatever your branch calls them, get a bad rap. “They don’t do anything.” “All they do is cook.” “Heck, I can cook and I didn’t need any training.” All things I’ve heard before. Okay you know-it-all’s, let’s see what happens when they don’t show up for work. Are you going to jump in and cook up your famous scrambled eggs for 1 - for 5000 people? Ahhhhh, now it’s a different story.

Never underestimate others or their positions within the company without first LEARNING what they’re all about. As Socrates said, “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.”

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Linked To LinkedIn

In case you haven’t gotten out much lately, LinkedIn, the social network for professionals, has been taking on greater importance on how people conduct business, learn, and network.

Information you include, or exclude, in your profile could affect your overall identity on the Internet as well as future job opportunities. The downfall of a poorly constructed LinkedIn profile, or utilizing bad etiquette, can alienate your connections or even turn away potential employers or customers interested in hiring you. You can’t afford that these days, so listen up.

A couple of important pieces of information to look closely at are your LinkedIn Summary and Biography.

Many magazine and website articles don't get read without a good headline. This is where a good Summary comes in. You need to be very concise and engaging in your Summary. If the Summary doesn't draw people in, all the great accomplishments you've had over the years may be looked right over. Then you’re just wasting your time.

The Summary is where you want to express your personal brand. Show us who you are, what you do, and why you’re unique.

A problem a lot of people have is not being quite so honest on their resume - tsk, tsk, tsk. I mean, who do you know that’s going to see it, right? LinkedIn encourages honesty in your resume since your profile may be viewed by any of your colleagues and customers – and bosses. So keep your experiences on the up and up.

While you want to include your past accomplishments, emphasize your strengths and highlights while providing background on your job responsibilities. You’ll need to shorten it up in order to be suitable for a few different areas of your industry. This isn’t the place for full on resume. Keep that for the recruiters.

In addition to a good Summary and Bio, here a couple of other quick tips to help you stand out.
- Most LinkedIn profiles URLs (web address, for you non-techs) will have a slash and then your name (/andyuskavitch). Some names (other than mine) can be common. You can change your URL to whatever you want – just make sure it’s professional and recognizable – no /studmuffin.
- Remember that you don't matter on the Web if Google can’t see you. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is public and includes keywords that people might search for.

Don’t just set up a profile and let it go. Use LinkedIn. Search to see who else you know. Post something AT LEAST a few times a week and get involved with some groups. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn and who you can meet.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"Damn It Jim, I'm a Doctor, Not a Mechanic"

People are not machines! We’ve read it many times in leadership books. But just for shites and giggles, lets think like that for a moment. With a machine, you use it as it was designed to be used in accordance with its operating manual. But to effectively use it for a long period you would also have to include maintaining it in good condition (well lubricated, fueled or powered, overhauled, parts replaced when worn, etc).

You know that if we continued to use the machine and never properly cared for it, the machine would degrade steadily over time and eventually suffer some misfortune which would render it useless. Right? So you have to include routine preventive and corrective maintenance in order to "maintain" the machine in the best operating condition. The better we maintain it, the better its output. No rocket science here.

So really, are people any different than machines?

To be successful at maintaining machinery or a function like operations, you must thoroughly understand that machine or function, how it works and what it needs. Is it any different for managing people? Nah, not really.

You need to “maintain” your employees by keeping up high morale. You need to provide them a strong sense of ownership for their work and create an environment where they can use their full potential and creativity. Your employees need to be kept productive, motivated and committed in their work?

There’s one pretty significant difference between machines and people. People have a brain! They have the capability of deciding what, when, and how they should do something before actually doing it. Thinking this way would suggest that managing people is more about maintaining their natural abilities rather than just “using” them.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bombs Awaaaay

I was Googling around the Internet the other day and came across a leadership style that I’d never heard of – but it’s catchy. Being from Florida, it’s quite appropriate - “Seagull Management”. This is an expression used to describe a style of management where the person “flies in, poops on you, and then flies away again”. Gotta love it. It was actually referred to in Ken Blanchard's 1999 book 'Leadership and the One Minute Manager'.

When these folks are around, they typically give criticism and direction, often with no real understanding of what the job actually requires. Then, before you can object or try to clarify what they’re really looking for, they have an “important meeting” to get to – swoop, there they go. “Wow. Yuk. What just hit me?”

This type of management is by no means a positive one. When they’re around, these people talk continuously and actively discourage anyone else from saying anything. That includes avoiding eye contact and incessantly talking over people. Staff may typically feel under-valued and quite generally abused.

The Seagull Manager likes to think of themselves as important but they know they don’t know that much and fear being exposed by staff asking questions. So they immediately grab the reigns and don’t stop until they can duck out.

Seagull Management is something you need to AVOID . It may seem like an easy way to do things – swoop and leave - but it’ll alienate and demotivate your staff very quickly. The people above you will eventually find out what’s going on and your advancement will come to quick and painful death. So keep up good, meaningful relationships with your staff. Give them the time they deserve, respect, and communicate regularly AND with INTEGRITY.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

You can look forward to many new duties as a new supervisor. So what can you expect? First off, supervisor duties WILL include employee interaction, and you will have the most direct contact with the employees. Interaction helps to assure that the work is meeting organizational goals. Part of this will be making sure that people receive the training they need to do their jobs capably. Otherwise you’re fighting a losing battle.

The smart supervisor delegates some of thier work, and training could be part of this. In many different environments, the supervisor may not have the technical know how of line staff, and the training assignment may very well be delegated to other staff or technical groups, like engineers, instead. For supervisors that have risen from the ranks, they might choose to do as much of the training as possible. Training should include basic things such as work ethics and work responsibility . . . don’t just rely on the dreeded Orientation Week (or two) training. Ideally, training should never stop, and though less intensive, providing a continuing work/learning environment will be most valuable.

Supervising also includes MOTIVATION. Yes you! Some supervisor duties could include offering incentives or assigning special projects. Motivation should be reflected in the way staff get treated by their supervisors. They look up to you. Typically motivation is highest when staff feel valued and appreciated and when they see that you work as hard as they do - this is key – money doesn’t always talk. Walk the Talk.

One of the supervisor duties that you also may have is scheduling. Many supervisors will have the responsibility of determining when and how much each staff will work each week. This could be flexible, or it might stay relatively fixed.

In working with management, duties can be much more extensive. You could also be responsible for disciplining employees that break the rules, implementing new rules, or in stricter organizations (yuk) occasionally acting as a liaison if an employee wants to approach management (don’t work there). Some supervisors will also handle HR functions to hire and fire employees, or handle payroll.

Those that are interested in a career in supervision will find MANY possible paths. A lot of people get hired from line staff positions. Others are hired directly into supervisory roles. Having strong people skills, being precise in your work, and demonstrating responsibility are all valuable attributes to have.