Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house.
I’ve recently been observing a business saga that I fear isn’t destined to end well. Sam, a sales and product development director, is preparing to submit an exciting new product proposal to his company. If accepted, it could transform a significant aspect of company operations and further enhance its industry-leading standing. Unfortunately, I believe Sam’s proposal is likely to be rejected for, as ground-breaking as his concept is, he has failed to prepare the ground so that the project might be accepted, take root, and bloom.
Sam’s idea represents the culmination of years of blood, sweat, and tears to understand and serve the needs of his customers. The concept addresses their needs in a way that gives both his customers and his company a platform for growth and collaboration, and it pushes the state of the art in their field forward by several steps.
The success of the venture depends heavily on a partnership with another organization. However, the leadership of Sam’s company has a very negative Continue reading
We’re all familiar with the idea that part of a leader’s job is to build up the confidence of employees in the organization — particularly those just starting out in their careers. A recent experience reminded me, however, that sometimes we also need to build up the confidence of those who we assume are already very confident: executives and other accomplished professionals.
When Things Get Overwhelming
I had the privilege of facilitating a two-day planning meeting for a group of executives contemplating a rather ambitious project: developing a training academy and certification program that would become the standard in their industry. Working diligently in a very pleasant conference facility in the Arizona desert, the team soon had several whiteboard’s full of potential curriculum designs and course outlines spread around the boardroom. As we did a brief re-cap before dinner, I was quite struck by the group’s reaction. As each person took in the array of courses and materials noted on the boards, they vocalized a reaction I wasn’t expecting: they felt a bit overwhelmed.
I was quite startled by this. The participants were all very accomplished in their field and prominent leaders in their respective organizations. And yet, even for Continue reading
"The Office's" Michael Scott was a talented sales person but a comically awful manager, to his employee's eternal dismay. Are similar mis-matches of skills and responsibilities causing tension and frustration in your organization?
In the age of the Great Recession, it is common for managers and employees to be asked to “do more with less.” When this is pushed to the extreme – i.e., employees forced to run beyond capacity for too long with insufficient relief — it is easy to predict the results: burned out managers, demoralized employees, declining product quality, disenchanted customers, and vanishing profits.
Situations like the above are fairly easy to discern, if difficult to correct. What about a related circumstance, though – where employees aren’t asked to do too many things, but the wrong things? I encountered such a situation this past week.
The Discouraged Sales Manager
A good friend is a sales manager with responsibility for a team of field sales representatives. Over the past year Continue reading
The start of the new year is traditionally a time for fresh starts, new perspectives, and transitions. I was reminded of this recently when two close friends – both long-time, high-performing senior operating executives in their firms – confided their intentions to leave their positions this year.
Both had similar reasons – in essence, they were mis-aligned with their companies’ visions and values, and they couldn’t (or didn’t want to) fight the battles there any longer. Their situations led me to wonder, “How do you know when it’s time to say good-bye?”
Signs and Signals
When one – or certainly, a few – of the following are true, it may be time to move on to greener pastures: Continue reading
Posted in Courage, Happiness, Hopefulness, Planning
Tagged company culture, Employee engagement, influencing, management, new perspectives, New Year, resignation, signs and signals, Sisyphus
Autumn provides the opportunity to tidy up our haven't-quite-gotten-to-it lists before the rush of the holidays is upon us
The falling leaves — announcing the changing of the seasons — have brought to mind the question of “wrapping up” certain activities and preparing for what’s ahead.
Tidying Up the Sidewalk
Earlier this week, I stepped outside to stretch my legs and enjoy a moment of the beautiful autumn afternoon, the sunshine giving off a golden glow. Passing a row of twin homes near our office, I exchanged greetings with an older gentleman I often see on my walks. A distinguished fellow of dignified bearing, I noticed that he was attending to the manicured patch of grass and sidewalk in front of his home with his usual care.
It struck me that my neighborhood friend’s task was symbolic of good advice for all of us this time of year – tidy up, and prepare for the next season.
Wrapping Up … Doesn’t That Feel Good!
I would venture that most of us have a few things on our I-haven’t-quite-gotten-around-to-it list. Things that aren’t necessarily the most pleasant nor enjoyable to do – but which if we finally got them done, would take a mental “load” off our minds. No one ever gets to everything on their list, of course … but here is some encouragement to check off a least a few items! (C’mon … you can do it!).
Keeping things on the professional side (but realizing we all probably have a similar list in our personal lives, as well), below are a few examples of things-not-quite-done. The list will vary amongst HR generalists and VP’s, front-line supervisors and CEO’s, of course. Regardless of position, though, there are still 6 or 8 weeks left before holiday parties and celebrations with family and friends are upon us – time enough to make a dent on things like …
- HR Generalists: the I-9, or COBRA, or FLSA audits that need to be done but – since “we haven’t gotten sued yet” – for which higher priorities have arisen every time we “meant” to tackle these tasks. Checking one of these off the list will help protect your organization in a very meaningful way.
- Recruiters: the hard-to-fill job for which you’ve almost convinced yourself qualified candidates don’t exist. Taking a fresh look and making a renewed effort on this opening would take a great weight off of two people – yourself, and the hiring manager who really needs the position filled to move his or her operation forward.
- HR VP’s/Leaders: the global PHR certification exam that you’ve been meaning to sign up and sit for. You’ve been dealing with international issues for years. You’re confident in your knowledge. You know it would be a nice final element to cement your professional credentials. It’s true that the XYZ project is coming to fruition right when the exam is scheduled. Sign up anyway.
- Organizational Leaders: the under-performer on your team you need to address. You know you have a highly-competent, exemplary leadership team … except for Harry, who’s a great guy and a trusted friend – just not a skilled manager. You’ve been meaning to have “the conversation” with him. They’ll never be “a good time” and it’s impossible to “let him down easy.” Have the conversation any way. The team will improve; so will everyone working under Harry. You’ll feel better … and so will he.
If we don’t take a few moments – or hours, or days – when the time is available, we risk having snow cover the fallen leaves, making it all that much harder to clean up, put in order, and clear a path for the future. Consider this a huge dose of friendly encouragement – and a nudge or two – to do what we need to do.
- Day 361 – Fall Leaves (singsansimpetuses.com)
- Thankful for the Falling Leaves (acreativeneed.wordpress.com)
In the hours after the towers came down on September 11th, servant leadership was on fullest display (Image via Wikipedia)
As we approach the 10th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, a great deal will be written about the political, religious, and societal impact of the events of that day. It has oft been noted that — like the attack on Pearl Harbor, the death of FDR, and the assassination of JFK — anyone who was alive that day will always remember where they were and what they were doing when they first heard the news of the first plane hitting the tower, and everything that occurred thereafter.
Certainly that is the case for me. For my part, I wanted to share a few brief thoughts on leadership lessons learned from heroes — most who were “famous” only to their own families prior to that beautiful and awful morning — who answered the call of duty that fateful day.
First Responders: Leading Without Saying A Word
If to lead one must serve, can there be any greater definition of authentic “servant leadership” than someone who runs into a collapsing building when everyone else is running out? And yet, that is exactly what hundreds of fire fighters, police, emergency personnel, and other first responders did that day — seeking to get as many people to safety as they possibly could. They saw the task before them, and they acted — not in consideration of their own interests, but of those they were charged with serving. Many thousands lived because of their actions … countless millions more have been inspired by their bravery and selfless service.
Flight 93 Passengers: Observe, Plan, Act … NOW
As we all know now, while events were occuring in New York (World Trade Center) and Washington (Pentagon), another drama was playing out in the skies above western Pennsylvania. There, a quick-thinking group of individuals — forming one of the most remarkable ad hoc “leadership teams” in history — was determined to do all they could do to influence the unprecedented (and almost wholly incomprehensible) events in which they were now participating.
Observing the unfolding events, they quickly gathered all available data, pieced together a plan, and acted. They didn’t wait for “perfect information,” didn’t wait for others to clear a path through unchartered territory, and didn’t miss their window of opportunity. They formed a simple and powerful vision with clarity, gathered others onboard, and acted. We may never know exactly what greater destruction their actions that day saved us from. We do know that there may never be a greater example of leadership “in the moment” than their stepping forward as “Let’s roll” was declared.
In grateful appreciation. May their example always serve to uplift and inspire.
Posted in Courage, Encouragement, Excellence, Hopefulness, Leadership, Planning
Tagged Excellence, influencing, Leadership, New York, September 11 attacks, World Trade Center
In watching the conclusion of the Harry Potter epic last weekend (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2), I was struck by a number of themes that have become visible during the 10-year evolution of the J.K. Rowling book-based movie series. As Scott Eblin of the Next Level Leadership blog has written a wonderful column on the servant-leadership ideas inherent in Harry’s story, I’d like to reflect on leadership lessons visible in the making of the movies themselves.
(Director David Yates gives direction to Daniel Radcliffe on the Harry Potter set). Matching management talent to the evolving needs of the material was a key element in the success of the movie series.
These leadership points stand out to me:
Hire for “talent” … then provide them with all the support they need
I wrote several months ago about the unique challenge of casting three 10-year old leads on whose shoulders would rest Continue reading
Posted in Courage, Excellence, Leadership, Planning
Tagged David Yates, executives, Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, hiring, J K Rowling, Leadership, Patience, support, Talent management, urgency, vision
One must step back from a Monet painting to see "the forest for the trees"
It is said that if you stand too close to something (either physically or emotionally), you’re bound to miss the “big picture.” In a more ethereal way, St. Paul writes about being “in the world but not of the world.” Applying this in a corporate context is no less tricky than in a spiritual one, of course – but I believe this is an important part of HR’s role, to serve as an “internal external consultant.” Because we serve all constituencies in the organization, we’re better positioned than most to help the organization step back and see “the forest from the trees” at those moments when perspective is necessary.
Lessons from a Planning Meeting
I recently witnessed the following during an organization’s monthly management meeting:
- Meeting Leader: “The XYZ line of business is no longer very profitable for us, due to significant changes in the marketplace. In fact, we’re barely breaking even on it.”
- Meeting (sadly): “But we really love the XYZ business – it’s what we’re all about.” Continue reading
Posted in Excellence, Planning, Views of HR
Tagged Excellence, HR professionals, HR qualities, Human Resources, impressionism, management, monet, Organization, Views of HR
This is another in our series of posts on the topic of “managing by cliches.”
Last week was a very good one in my department, as a long-hoped for project moved forward in a significant way, after years of opposition from certain quarters. Reflecting on the reasons that we finally made progress, I believe it came down to two things:
- perseverance (i.e., being too stubborn to give up)
- patience (being willing to “wait it out” until conditions were more favorable).
Melding these two qualities together, I think the cliche “timing is everything” is really what was at work here.
Do we always have the patience (and perseverance) to wait for the right moment to make our move?
One might argue that “timing” is nothing more than luck — i.e., some people are just “born under a lucky star” and always appear to be “in the right place at the right time.” “Not me,” you might say. “If I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all” we might all feel in our “Charlie Brown” moments. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever thought this about yourself). While I wouldn’t argue that luck (or “good fortune,” or “kizmet,” or “serendipity”) plays no role, I do think that other more controllable factors are involved, as well.
I believe that awareness of “the moment” plays a key role in this. No one can be fully aware of everything and everyone around them, of course. But through practice and focus, we can probably all get better at this.
As one example on the “bad timing” side … our national sales director Continue reading
Posted in Courage, Encouragement, Hopefulness, Managing By Cliches, Planning
Tagged Charlie Brown, Cliché, Customer relationship management, Excellence, HR professionals, Human Resources, Meeting, Patience, strategy, Talent management
I’ve become a big fan of the tv series, Blue Bloods. Starring Tom Selleck as Frank Regan, a fictional New York City Police Commissioner, the beautifully written and acted show chronicles the intersecting public and private lives of the widowed commissioner’s close-knit Irish-Catholic family, who are all in the “family business” of law enforcement (retired cop, streetwise detective, sharp assistant district attorney, and idealistic rookie cop). It struck me while watching the dramatic season finale last week that the episode offered some excellent lessons in crisis leadership.
Tom Selleck portrays fictional NYC Police Commissioner who leads his department -- and his family -- through a series of crises
The commissioner’s youngest son (the rookie cop) privately pursues leads regarding his older brother’s murder, which occurred two years earlier in the line of duty. Finally getting in over his head, he shares the information with his father and brother (detective). The commissioner sets up a top-secret command post in his own home, staffed by those closest to him, and they eventually discover proof that the son was murdered by a group of rogue cops. As the rogue cops catch wind of the investigation and are preparing to flee the country with their considerable ill-gotten booty, the commissioner and team swoops in and dramatically captures the group en masse — with the ring leader ultimately choosing suicide over capture. The resolution finally provides the family with closure about the reason’s behind their older brother’s death.
Crisis Leadership Lessons
- Trust the voice of “innocents” trying to tell you the truth
The commissioner trusts his naive but perceptive son (the rookie Continue reading