Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Time Planning Secret––the Harmony Bath

Lesson 19

Leisure time is very important to me for many reasons, and effective time management improves both the quantity and quality of leisure time.  One of the most beneficial features of leisure time is the opportunity to recharge your batteries.  There is a point of diminishing returns in an overworked individual, and a case of burnout can render a person useless to him or herself and others.  Working oneself to death out of a personal compulsive need is not beneficial to anyone.

To avoid the erosion of morale and a general decrease in effectiveness, I’ve learned to schedule leisure time for both my staff and myself.  Setting a good example when it comes to rest is just as vital as being a good model for proper work habits.  Mental and physical renewal is vital components of a quality work ethic. 

1. Plan some quiet time alone each day. 
2. Break tough jobs down into more easily accomplished tasks. 

End your workday the right way.  The right way is to end on a high note or a point of accomplishment.  Doing so promotes satisfaction, improves the quality of your relaxation time, and helps you return to work the following day more refreshed and eager.  If you must end your day with an unresolved problem, then write down a clear summary of the problem as it stands when you leave it.  Before you leave, clear your desk or work area of clutter and distraction so you can attack the problem when you first walk in the following day.  These preparations will also serve you well before breaking for lunch, so you’ll get back up to speed more quickly and with less effort after your break.  Reorienting yourself after a break requires energy that can be saved with a little forethought before your break.

Work effectively and then take your vacation.  All too often, personal relationships with friends and family suffer because we are simply overloaded at work.  This is too high a price to pay for success. What is it all for anyway?  I used to pride myself in skimpy vacations until a mentor taught me that I was simply demonstrating my own lack of effectiveness in getting my work finished.  Never having time to take vacations is not a badge of honor, as much as it is a mark of ineffective time management.

Take your time and relax.  You’ll be a better worker, and more valuable to yourself and everyone else when you have been recharged.  This also means avoiding the urge to turn leisure time into a mini-military drill.  Relaxing means spending some time alone and engaging in activities that refresh you and recharge your batteries.

Here are some ways to give yourself a harmony bath and actually get more value out of sleeping:

·      Turn off the 10 o’clock or 11 o’clock news, with their, if it bleeds, it leads format. 
·      Spend the last 60 to 90 minutes of the day listening to relaxing music or reading or both. 

“Take a harmony bath at the end of each day.”

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Low Morale––Causes and Cures

Lesson 18

Detecting the warning signs of low morale is only the beginning.  To fully address the morale issue, an effective leader must understand what causes morale to fall.  Without knowing the causes of low morale, a leader might try in vain to correct the situation and never get to the real issue.  Here are some of the most common causes of low morale:

1.     People’s failure to understand their jobs
2.     Unrealistic or ever-changing goals 
3.     Poor communication that can take the form of:
a.     Constant criticism or Big Brotherism
b.     Inaccessible or absentee management
c.     Erratic and inconsistent discipline
d.     Being thought of as a number
e.     A manager’s lack of growth as a leader
4.     Over-inflated organizational structure
5.     Over-staffing
6.     Misemployment
7.     Poor psychological work environment
8.     Management that is not people-oriented
9.     Lack of performance appraisal and feedback
10.  Continuing education that is dull or nonexistent

These ten elements of a high-morale environment are like primary colors and can be mixed and blended in a variety of shades:

1.     Keep jobs interesting
2.     Welcome new ideas
3.     Foster a sense of accomplishment
4.     Recognize special efforts
5.     Treat people fairly
6.     Be responsible as a leader
7.     Offer fair and appropriate compensation
8.     Support personal growth
9.     Promote a sense of belonging
10.  Provide opportunity

Here are three guiding principles for keeping morale high in your organization:

·      Study the causes of low morale
·      Take immediate action to counteract them
·      Make strategic plans to keep morale from falling

"Team members' morale will never be higher than the leader's morale…for long."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Enemy of Corporate Communications


Lesson 17

"What my boss doesn't know can't hurt me."

- The Filter Builder's Motto

Everyone has a comfort zone.  There is a point at which individuals become nervous and uncertain about the security of their positions.  This is only natural.  Losing a job or a reduction in job status impacts a lot more than someone's pride and ego.  Throughout a person's professional career, she has built a lifestyle that closely reflects her professional success.  The house he lives in, the car she drives, the neighborhood where the kids go to school, the golf or tennis crowd he hangs out with, or the church she attends.  As a leader, you need to understand how much a person's life and lifestyle are tied to his or her position in your organization.
A person tends to become a filter builder over a long period of time with a company, although it can also happen quickly under the right circumstances.  The filter builders know that they can avoid rocking the organizational boat by making sure that the top decision makers don't get upset hearing bad news or by problems they might find disturbing.  If you are a top decision maker, you need to be careful this doesn't happen to you. Make sure that the information you should be receiving from the lower levels of your organization is not being filtered.

Everyone has a bigger fish just one stop up the food chain.  In management situations, everyone has a smaller fish one stop in the other direction.  If true, accurate, and factual information is being filtered or, worse yet, misrepresented, as it makes its way through the ranks, the top leaders are likely to be left in the dark about what's truly going on with their internal and external customers.  How dangerous is this problem?  There are some companies we used to hear a lot about that are now gone.  They were filtered to death.

To be an effective leader you need real information, whether the news is good or bad.  You have the power to fix problems and to help your people grow and develop.  You can't do either of those things if you're operating with limited and/or inaccurate information.  Filter Builders are everywhere, protecting their backsides.  Don't think your organization is immune.  You must identify them and deal with them.  If not, you are putting yourself, your organization, your customers, and all of your stakeholders at risk.

Here are some things you can do to reduce filtered information:

·      Develop a mobile management style of, "Management by Walking Around."
·      Ask all levels of management and team members' questions, act on their ideas, and let them know what you've done.
·      Let everyone on all levels of management know in no uncertain terms that filtering information will not be tolerated.
"Weed out filter builders"

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Plan Your Time Effectively

 Lesson 16

Most People Waste Time The Same Way Every Day.  Robert Benchley was bullish on human determination when he said, “Anyone can do any amount of work...provided it isn’t what he’s supposed to be doing at the time.”  The following thought was found in the pages of Boardroom Reports:  "All you can do with time is spend it or waste it.  Find the best ways to spend available time and the appropriate amount of time for each task.  Concentrate on the best ways to spend time, instead of worrying about saving it."

In a recent survey of business managers, people named their own lack of time management for 92 percent of the failures among those under their supervision.  This raises the ominous question, “How do managers waste so much time?”  Several reasons top the list:
     The most common contributor to wasted management time is doing an employee’s job for him or her. 
     Another cause of lost productivity in management is doing tasks that can be handled by someone with less responsibility. 
     It’s common to find a manager spending a disproportionate amount of time on a favorite or pet project at the expense of items that are more valuable to the organization as a whole. 
     Repeating instructions is another time killer.  This misguided practice teaches employees that they don’t have to take action until the boss instructs them for the third time.

Minor corrections can mean major improvements.  For example, if a manager figures out a way to save only 10 minutes every work day, that savings will total 42 extra hours gained at the end of a year.  That would be like having a 53-week year, and would result in one heck of an increase in productivity--all from just 10 minutes per day.  The average person spends 150 hours per year looking for things.  That's almost a full week.  Get organized.

Here are three of Peter F. Drucker's most important suggestions for liberating time:
     Record your time.  Don’t count on your memory for an accurate assessment of how you spend your time. 
      Manage your time.  Drucker said, “Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.”  Managing means being aware of and proactively appropriating time to tasks rather than letting time “get away from us.”  Plan your time, but also time your plan. 
     Consolidate your time.  Group chores together to increase efficiency.

Here are some of the most commonly given excuses for not planning time.  Don't fall for them:
      The excuse, "It takes too long,” really means, “I would rather focus on a day-by-day or short-term basis and just see what happens.”
     The excuse, "I don’t have enough information to plan well,” really means, “I don’t have enough faith in the information I’ve gathered so far so I’d better wait.”
     The excuse, “It’s impossible to predict the future,” really means, “I would have to give up acting on impulse and develop new disciplines.”

Friday, June 14, 2013

Goal Achievement Roadblocks

Lesson 15

    Goal Achievement Roadblocks

I once had a salesperson that was the most frustrating person that ever worked for me.  I saw potential in him that he, himself, refused to see because of a self-imposed barrier.  He made $3,000 on straight commission, almost to the penny, every month.  One month, I did everything but move in with him.  I big brothered him to death.  He couldn't go to the men's room without me standing guard at the door.  I'm proud to say that, in that one month, he nearly doubled his productivity.  He made almost $6,000!  The following month he made zero dollars.  The month after that he made $3,000. 

I had forgotten that his break-through had to be on his terms, not mine.  When we dug deeper, he confessed that he had never had any more money in the bank than his father did when he was growing up.  His self-imposed barrier stopped him just short of ever earning more than his father. Once he realized that he was setting the same standard for his children, he went out, broke through his roadblock, and was still pushing his envelope at last report. 

The following roadblocks might be impeding your progress without you being fully aware of their presence. 

Success is feared:  Many people are much more familiar with mediocrity than they are with success, and therefore lack the drive to pursue goals.  Fear of success is natural if you have little experience with it. 

Goals are not understood or seem unattainable:  If this is the case, examine your own presentation of the goals to the team members.  Did you take the time to think through, from their point of view, their possible reaction to these new goals?  Did you break the goals down into doable segments for each person?  How clear was your communication in the presentation?

The effort doesn’t appear to have adequate rewards:  When rewards don’t seem forthcoming or consistent with the level of effort required, it’s time for the leader to start selling to the team. Actually, the time for selling is when the goals are being established. 

Procedures for goal achievement are too rigid:  Flexibility is one sign of a confident and creative leader.  Too many people impose rigid structure on their organizations because they lack basic confidence in their own abilities and the abilities of their team.  Focusing on results instead of methods will open the door for your people to contribute more of their own originality. 

Try these techniques to get your people on the road to goal achievement:

  • Include the whole team in the goal attainment picture.
  • Break down goals into manageable, doable increments.
  • Frame the goals so that the rewards are clear.

“Goals are all found upstream.”

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Goal Focus

Lesson Fourteen

I did a program once with former heavyweight champion George Foreman.  Even though he is the former champion, I still called him Champ.  As we had lunch together that day, I studied his nose from across the table.  A heavyweight boxer’s nose is a work of art.  George Foreman’s nose is a monument to goal orientation.  It has been sculpted by some of the strongest, meanest punchers ever to step into a ring.  I wondered how any man could endure the incredible pain that George Foreman must have endured with so many heavyweight boxers hammering on his nose over the years, so I asked him. 

"If I see what I want real good," he answered.  "I don't notice any pain in gettin' it."

A new reality is an achieved goal.  We are headed into the future at the same rate the second hand sweeps around the clock, whether we like it or not.  We can’t hold back time.  So, given that the future is coming, how are we endeavoring to shape it?  What are we doing now that will leave our mark on our future?  Here are my steps to shaping a new reality:

Visualize Your Goal Vividly  
You must clearly see what you are intending toward.  Generalizations about your intended goals do you no good.  The greater the clarity of your vision, the more focused and efficient your efforts toward it will be.  The more diffused your vision, the less efficient your efforts will be.  I don’t know of anyone who gains value through wasted effort.

Break Your Goal Down into Doable Daily Tasks
When goals loom enormous on the horizon, it’s natural to feel intimidated and to become reluctant to even approach them.  Be realistic about what a human being can accomplish in a day and don’t expect any more of yourself or others.  Realizing goals is far less dramatic that way, but you will eventually get there.

Act on Your Goals Every Day
I'm not suggesting that you work seven days per week.  But, don’t let a workday go by without taking even a small step toward a specific goal.  Progress is progress, no matter how small, and the feeling of accomplishment is just as sweet in many small doses as it is in one large one.  However, breaking the task down into smaller disappointments will not minimize the feeling of disappointment at never achieving the big goal.

Here are some of my guidelines for goal achievement:

·      Make sure your goals are measurable, realistic, and challenging.
·      Write down your goals and divide them into short-, mid-, or long-term categories.
·      Set a timetable for achievement, begin and don't stop, concentrate on results, and celebrate when a goal is achieved.   Then immediately replace it with a new goal.
"If you don't know what to do on a daily basis to

achieve your goal, then it is not a goal--it's a fantasy.”

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Set Goals When the Heat's On

 Lesson 13

Come back a few years and picture you and me standing beside my fighter that is capable of speeds near twice the speed of sound.  You’re about ready to crawl into the rear cockpit for a ride with me as your pilot-in-command.  Before climbing up the side of this sleek, needle nosed, high performance fighter, you might have a few questions.  The first is, “Which way are we going to take off?”

“We’re parked in this direction," I answer.  "We might as well take off the same way."
“Which way are we going to go once we’re airborne?” you ask.
“This direction’s as good as the other 359 available to us,” I respond.
“How high are we going to go?”
“Until the jet quits climbing.”
“How far are we going to go?”
“I guess until we run out of fuel.”
That’s when you would quit using the word “we” and instead ask, “What are you going to do when you run out of fuel?”
“Maybe there’ll be an air field under us.”
Then you’d ask, “What if there isn’t?”
My response would be, “Look, I don’t even want to think about that! Go ahead and get in.”
Would you?  I don’t think so.

Many managers plan like that and can’t figure out why they can’t get a long-term commitment from their team.  To build a strong, committed high performance team, each individual must be able to describe in detail what the leaders’ vision is for the organization and how it will be accomplished.  Equally important is the vision the team members have for themselves.  
The vision we invite our people to share with us is the future as it best suits the organization and the people who make up the organization.  Helping your people experience the future through their own eyes is critical to effective leadership.  Do you know what you’re working for?  Can you see it in great detail?  If you can’t, how can you help your people to see what they’re working for?  Helping your people truly see what they’re working for is one of the greatest, life-long gifts you can ever give them. 

The great Mad Magazine cover boy philosopher, Alfred E. Newman, said, “Most folks don’t know what they want, but they’re pretty sure they don’t have it.”  Leading your team blindly without clear goals renders all of your sophisticated navigation equipment useless.  Being driven by a sense of dissatisfaction with the present is not enough if there is no clear course established.  A clearly charted course or plan is the second best thing to having a distinct goal. With a clearly charted course, you and your organization know in which direction you want to go.  You are intending toward something, even if the something is not well defined.

Here are four important questions that will help you get started in setting goals:

·      What do I really want?
·      What will it cost me in time, money, and energy?
·      Am I willing to pay that price?
·      When should I start paying the price?

“Deciding not to have a specific goal is a specific goal.”