Thursday, November 20, 2008

24 Lessons in High Performance Management

Lesson Eight
Take Steps to Grow as a Leader

You shouldn’t wait to start learning how successful leaders think and act until your boss starts looking for your replacement. If I had known then what I know now, my boss would have never come in and set my pants on fire. I would have paid $10,000 for a single copy of this book back then.

The way others successfully handle pressure can educate you so that you’ll never have to experience similar situations. Do you know someone who never seems to be on the hot seat? It might well be that while you had your nose to the grindstone that person had his or her head up and looking and learning from other people’s experiences.

That means:

• Attending seminars, live or online.
• Reading books, magazines, and newspapers.
• Taking to lunch people from whom you can learn.
• Monitoring your own people for things you can learn.
• Gobbling up audio/video multimedia training programs.

It’s not enough to merely study. True learning is the application of knowledge. Things get exciting for everybody when successful techniques are put into practice. Keeping all of your great new knowledge in your head won’t do a thing to increase productivity.

I speak three to five times every week there’s never been an audience that didn’t have at least a few educated failures. Some of them possess enormous amounts of information about the latest leadership methods, yet they’re stagnated or failing. When I ask them how many of the new techniques and strategies they have incorporated into their organization’s daily routines, they hesitate to answer. The truth hurts. The fact is that for most of us there’s a gap between how we do our jobs and the way we know how to do our jobs.

How did you score yourself on the ten leadership characteristics outlined earlier? Now, do it again––as your people would probably rate you as a leader. If you’re gutsy, you might want one or more of your people who have read that lesson to do the rating.

The score your people give you is the real one. You're only as effective as your people’s perception of you. The rating the employees give their boss is always the most accurate measure of effectiveness.

Here are three tough points to consider. You might even want to jot down your reactions:

Imagine your improvement over the past year charted on a graph: If you asked your team members to graph out the improvement they've seen in you as a leader in the past year, what would their graph look like?
• Plan your growth: What do you need to start planning in order to grow as a leader in the next twelve months?
• Think about how you’ve improved as a leader by handling problems: Pick a problem that your leadership has solved. What did you learn from it?

"Take a mentor to lunch before somebody else eats yours."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

24 Lessons in High-Performance Management

Lesson Seven
Cultivate Characteristics of an Effective Organization

These days, the word creativity makes many businesspeople automatically think of finances, in the same way that stretching used to be something you only did during exercise. But creativity here is originality of thought and execution, which are becoming increasingly necessary in today’s business arena. Creativity is the power that leads to progress.

When the heat’s on, the same old way of handling situations just won’t cut it any more. In fact, the same old routines are probably what got you into those situations. Down pressures are changing in nature and intensity. Up pressures are coming from the rapidly changing dynamics of a workforce with a new identity. Lack of originality in thinking and behavior is a sign that you're oblivious to the vise slowly closing.

Any effective organization has an energy you can sense as soon as you enter the office––even if there’s only one person there at the time. The thought might even pop into your head that this could be a fun place to work. Andrew Carnegie, the great industrialist, said, "I've found there is little success where there is little laughter."

When you walk into an organization with low or no energy, you feel that too. It’s like walking into a big refrigeration unit: the chill makes you shiver––even if there’s only one person there. Some organizations might as well have a sign on the wall that says: Fun is forbidden. Anyone caught enjoying what they’re doing will be punished.

Where there is no fun, there is no energy. How long does it take to detect energy or lack of it in an office? Within five seconds, you can tell how much fun it is to work there. Your customers can tell the same thing within five seconds of being greeted by one of your team members.

Change is what happens when you mix creativity and energy. An effective organization is a changing organization. You can’t reverse that equation, because it’s possible for management to change the look, the staff, the location, and a thousand other things about an organization in an attempt to produce effectiveness artificially.

Change that does not emerge from a healthy combination of creativity and energy will feel synthetic. Creativity combined with energy produces change from within. Changes imposed from outside feel like impositions. Changes from within are self-regulated and guided by realism.

Here are three methods of building energy, creativity, and change:

Analyze the steps used to solve a very difficult problem: Think of one that you or a team member handled in recent months. What did you do?

Consider your team from an outsider’s perspective: Learn what "vibes" the average customer picks up when initially meeting any of your team members.

Identify a change you can initiate right now: What one thing could you do at this point to make your organization more effective?

"Team morale and customer service,
on a scale of 1-10, receive the same score."

Monday, November 3, 2008

24 Lessons in High-Performance Management

Lesson Six
Practice Humanagement

Humanagement is simply the ability to use the job to develop the person while having fun in the process. My entire emphasis changed as I stopped managing my people like a herd of livestock and began leading them as people. It occurred to me I could help each individual unlock his or her talent, as well as:

• Set more meaningful goals (personal and professional).
• Better understand and plan their time.
• Use more of their creativity.
• Better handle their stress.
• Feel safe pushing their envelope.

If I had an office full of happy, growing people, I thought, there’s no telling what we could accomplish. Sure enough, when they began going home at night with their minds renewed and enriched instead of sore, tired, and aggravated, our entire universe expanded beyond anything we would have previously thought possible.

Don’t forget the “while having fun in the process” part. I don’t mean you open the office with a joke every morning. My experience has proven time and again that people who grow and develop and become more capable of handling problems are happier. They are happier because they are more fulfilled and actualized. When employees become more fulfilled and actualized, morale goes up. With higher morale comes higher productivity. I’ve never seen it fail.

Staff turnover also drops. With low staff turnover comes more bonding and team spirit. High turnover results in suspicion and a lack of personal investment in the job. It’s difficult to feel a part of an organization if the probability of losing your job is high. There are the managers who swear their organization has a terrific atmosphere, but people leave because the money is not competitive. There are also bureaucracies where people stay forever, even though they are miserable. A good logo for them would be: “Repeating Yesterday, Inc; Home of the Living Dead.”

Nobody is having fun in either case. People leave organizations because they’re not happy, not because there's more money elsewhere. The value of having fun on the job ranks above money. Enjoyable work in an enjoyable environment exerts a stronger hold on people than higher wages in an unpleasant job and environment. Here are three ways to help get positioned and mentally prepared to practice Humanagement:

Decide on ways to practice Humangement: Think about ways you can set a better example for your team.

Rate yourself from the perspective of your team members: If you ask them to rate how much fun they have working for you, what grade would they give you?

Imagine yourself the topic of conversation: If you were a fly on the wall in the homes of the people who work for you, what would they be saying about you in the evening?

"Help a team member grow, and you will receive respect in return."