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How Nice But Incompetent People Survive March 18, 2013

Posted by David Dirks in Management, Performance issues.
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DirksProPhotoHaven’t you been a bit curious as to how people you work with who might be nice (but sometimes not) and are incredibly incompetent…but yet survive to live another day.  In business, you run into these people and often end up shaking your head…wondering how they do it.  How is it they can be so incompetent – often at a very noticeable level – and still have a job?  What gives?  And you know the people I’m talking about!

A few years ago, the secret to the incompetent success was revealed to me.  There was a person whom I and more than a few senior managers knew was about as incompetent as they come.  Nice guy who couldn’t manage his way through a paper bag.  Probably came close to getting fired more than a few times in his career but nonetheless survived.  How?

Ready for this?  Here are three reasons he (and the other incompetents) survive:

1.  They often work cheaply.  Low price point?  That can be the winning number.

2. They’ll often work like dogs and do what they are told to do.  I guess there’s something to be said for people who don’t talk back.

3. They’ll take abuse and keep on ticking.  Remember as a kid – the inflatable bozo the clown that you could punch and it would come right back at you?  That’s the one.

Apparently there is some utility value of the person who has a low labor price point and who will do the dirty work that others will not do.

Of course, there’s always the family-member problem – where a completely incompetent gets to stay because the have a blood line connect to the owner of the business.  Not much you can do about them as blood truly is thicker than water, as the saying goes.

Since learning this about incompetents, I often just smile and keep on going.  Incompetents have their place in the business world and I get it.

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The Business Value of Integrity September 12, 2011

Posted by David Dirks in Management.
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You can have the best business model in the world but if it isn’t backed with impeccable integrity, it’s a business model that isn’t worth much.  The common dictionary definition of integrity is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.”  One thing I know is that there is no strategy for having integrity.  You either have it or you don’t.  Integrity is learned at a very early age and by the time we’re teenagers, we either have it or we don’t.

The business value of integrity is worth far more than gold.  Integrity in business has another name and a distinct, definable value: goodwill.  Goodwill is defined as “the established reputation of a business regarded as a quantifiable asset.”  So, if you have a business that is engineered on a great business model that rest on a solid foundation of integrity, you win two ways.  Your first reward is a business that is growing and profitable.  Your second reward is a business that is worth far more than what your accountant would call “fair market value”.

What I personally like about integrity and the resulting goodwill that it produces over time is that there is no ‘formula’ for it.  There’s no ” 5 Steps to Integrity” or some other swill.  You either possess it now or you don’t.  That’s refreshing.

What’s Your Profit Strategy? November 27, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Management, Solving Business Problems.
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The headline from a recent article in the Wall Street Journal:  “PSA Chief Unviels Profit Strategy”.  It seems that PSA Peugeot (the car maker), reeling from the car industry woes, is about six percentage points below the average operating margins of five of its best competitors.  The new CEO has declared that 55% of his project increase in profits over his 3 year plan will come from general cost cutting.  The balance of his estimated increase in profits will be generated by increased sales in high growth markets and better sales performance in Europe.

I noted a couple of simple things.  When a business is in dire trouble from a profit point of view, the 911 is on creating a ‘profit strategy’ that is designed to get a business back on the right track.

How does that profit strategy take shape?  If you study profit strategies of companies seeking to climb out of losses and into the green of profitability, you begin to see a few basic ideas:

1.  Wringing excess out of the overall cost structure of a business wherever possible. This is typically where the bulk of profit improvement generally comes from.  The responses to this strategy run the gamut. Some businesses undertake a slash and burn process without much thought to the what, why, when, where, and how of cost cutting.  That results in sometimes creating more weakness in the business by cutting out things that are critical to operational effectiveness the real excess.

The other side of the equation are those businesses that are slow to make the needed cuts that gives them the ability to redirect resources to other key areas of their business.  That slow response to incrementally reducing costs over time can lead to a sudden rush to implement draconian cost-cutting measures of all shapes and sizes.

There is no easy answer to how to approach cost cutting as a strategy for managing a business.  If you think about it, shouldn’t we always be looking for opportunities to wring the waste from our businesses wherever possible?  Companies like Walmart have created a culture of making sure that expenses are always measured and alternatives can be generated to reduce them.

Unfortunately, that’s not how many businesses operate.  I was once told that profitability can cover a lot of mistakes.  True enough, when times are good and cash flow is everywhere (the good old days!), we can be much more liberal in our overall spend.  Sometimes, our businesses can suffer from ‘cost structure creep’.  One day you wake up and wonder how you ended up with such bloated pockets of expenses.

If there are any redeeming values for an economic downturn is that it creates an opportunity to manage expenses like we should have done anyway.

2.  Selling assets to pay down debt & refinancing short term debt. AB InBev, the firm that bought the mega American beer maker Anheuser-Busch did just that after the merger and the economy created a drag on profits.  That strategy lead to a healthy increase in overall profitability despite a decline in overall sales of about 10% worldwide.  Getting rid of assets that are not essential and/or central to the core business you are in is always a great way to reduce expenses and, most importantly, re-direct resources to those areas of the business that need it most.  In the case of AB InBev, the need to increase sales volume and protect its most valuable brands, like Becks, Bud, and Stella Artois is going to take some additional investment…investment that will come from the increase in profits that can be redeployed for those efforts.

3.  Cost cutting is never a substitute for investing in your core business. AB InBev has opportunities to sell more of its Budweiser branded beers in different markets where they have an already well-established marketing and distribution platform.  They are also introducing some new beer products like Bud Select 55 and Bud Light Golden Wheat.  Those are key strategies and initiatives that require investment in their core business and brands.

Another example would be Chrysler.  There is a company that could probably cut costs all day long and never approach profitability.  Aside from their auto industry and economy woes, Chrysler forgot (or perhaps it’s last owners, Mercerdes Benz, ‘forgot’) to invest in new products to help it stabilize and maintain market share.  Instead, Chrysler now has the least amount of product coming through its business compared to just about any other competitor.  Cutting investment in their core business and reducing the percentage of their car line that they replace over time with newer models was clearly not an effective cost cutting tool for them. The result is continual bleeding of profits and loss of market share in an already troubled industry.

4.  In times of peace, prepare for war.  In times of war, prepare for peace. I’m not sure who said this statement but I didn’t create it.  However, it does have immense implications for how we deal with economic upturns and downturns.  In times of robust economic growth, particular focus needs to be paid to how we manage our expense structure and how we allocate investments in our core business.  When the economy turns sour and if we have been diligent in managing our costs, we’ll have the ability to invest in our core business (creating new products, expanding into new or emerging markets, buying additional market share through acquisition, etc.) when everybody else is scurrying to cut out or drastically reduce costs and investments into the core business.

———————

We’re quick to focus a lot of our energies on the usual suspects of strategy:  product, competitive, marketing, sales, and operation.  I would also include making an investment in a ‘profit strategy’ as well as an overall guiding influence over all other strategies.  A profit strategy should answer to basic questions:

  • Where are we going to wring out excess in our business and why?
  • What areas of our business deserve additional investment to help us meet our profitability targets?

Both of these questions have implications for the short, intermediate, and long term health of our business.

Building rapport in a global environment June 20, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Building rapport, Building trust, Communication, Global leadership, Knowing your people, Leading globally, Management, Networking.
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Building rapport with global team member is a daunting task for most global team leaders.  The Big Dogz know that using a structured approach and a consistent information capturing tool goes a long way toward helping you be effective at building rapport over the chasms of time and distance.

In building rapport, the first thing all effective leaders focus upon is the people. What do I want to know about my team members? What information would be useful for me to customize my approach and interactions with the team member? Actually, the techniques for building rapport over time and distance are no different from building rapport face to face.

Create a list of topics that would be useful for you.

Here are some work related examples:

What job experiences do they have?

What are their career objectives?

What is their preferred communication style?

How do they like to receive feedback?

What is their favorite (most and least) work assignment?

What are their strengths?

What skills would they like to acquire?

What is the anniversary of them joining the company or your team?

Here are some personal related examples:

What is their commute?

What hobbies do they have?

What pressures do they experience outside of work?

What is their family situation?

When is theiur birthday?

Who are the people they admire?

What is their favorite television show?

Do they like sports? What teams?

Another key set of information that may be useful in a global environment is cultural data such as:

National holidays

Tourist attractions

Key historical events

National heroes

National sports teams

Public figures

Geography

Climate

You can develop your own list of information that would be helpful to you. Try to fill in the information for each item that would be useful for you.

Acquiring this information is an art form in itself! I am not suggesting you conduct an interrogation to discover the answers to these or other questions you may have about your team members. An effective technique to help you discover both work and personal related information is to first share something about yourself. To discover someone’s hobby, you might mention that you went on a hike this weekend and enjoy hiking. They may respond that hiking is not something they do, but they prefer cycling. Or, they may not respond at all. The key is to listen for information that can help you build rapport.

Once you have acquired information that is useful to you, I suggest you put that information into a file related to this person. Sales people use this technique when acquiring information about key clients. Standard contact management software like Outlook and BlackBerry have specific places where you can store this information. I am not well known for my ability to recall information about people, so for me, this technique is quite useful. Prior to making contact with people, I frequently review my information file to allow me to customize my approach to them.

The Big Dogz also know that people are interested in them. Think about what you would want your global team members to know about you. Prepare a short introduction presentation and deliver it to any new team members. Periodically review the salient points of your introduction at team meetings. Give people an opportunity to build rapport with you.

Focus on what information is important, capture that information and use it to customize your approach to building rapport with global team members.

Key cultural patterns for global team leaders June 9, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Global communication, Global leadership, Management.
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When dealing with a global team, the Big Dogz know that one needs to take into account cultural differences to be effective.  The Big Dogz have a checklist of key cultural patterns they analyze before trying to interact with global team members. Global team leaders who do not understand these patterns often find themselves confused, frustrated and behind schedule!

 Here are the key patterns to investigate: 

  1. Communication styles — how do people communicate in this culture? Are they more direct, more circumspect or more reliant upon non-verbal or tone cues? How soon can you expect a response to a question? What does silence mean? Is it appropriate to interrupt? What exactly does that English word mean in this culture? Non-verbal signals do not always mean the same thing in different cultures.
  2. Attitudes toward conflict — what is the accept method to deal with conflict? Do people raise issues when they disagree or do they behave in less assertive ways? The Big Dogz learn to recognize the cultural signs that there is a conflict.
  3. Getting things done — what is the pace? How do the people feel about milestones and reporting status? When someone says, “I will do that.” What does it mean? You may be surprised that it doesn’t mean the same thing in all cultures!
  4. Decision-making — how do people expect you to make decisions? Does the leader make all the decisions? Can you expect people to contribute to the decision making process? When there is a decision to be made, will the person make it or wait for you to make the decision?
  5. Information disclosure — how open are people to sharing information, especially information about progress? In their culture, is it appropriate to share new knowledge with someone who is higher in the hierarchy? What if they find out some information that would help you divert a disaster; would they share it with you voluntarily?
  6. View of time — is it appropriate to arrive late for meetings or telephone conference calls? How long is the workday? What parts of the workday are not really for work?
  7. Humor — what is funny in this culture? Why don’t my jokes work? Is my view of something funny offensive to them?

 If this seems like a lot to figure out, do not fear. There is an excellent resource to help you sort through all the cultural differences.

 Try http://www.executiveplanet.com/ for insights on how to do business in many different cultures.

Instant messaging best practices for the global team leader May 12, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Communication, Global communication, Global leadership, Grow your skills, Leading globally, Management, Networking, Uncategorized.
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When the message is urgent and simple, the Big Dogz use Instant Messaging (IM) to communicate.

 Some of the advantages of using IM are:

  1. It is quick, saving time that can be used for other tasks
  2. Using an IM option, you can save the conversation for later referral. This feature eliminates the need to call someone back and ask the same question again!
  3. It allows people to work on important tasks while waiting for an important asynchronous interrupt from colleagues or clients.
  4. If a person is busy working on that high priority project you want done NOW, others know to leave that person alone.
  5. It allows you to communicate immediately to everyone at once.
  6. Studies have shown that when IM is used, email traffic goes down; sometimes significantly.

 Here are some tips to using IM to help communicate with your global team.

 Define a policy for IM use. You as the leader can establish guidelines on how and when the global team will use IM. However, do not be so inflexible that your people think you are inhibiting their creativity. Periodically review your policy to make sure you are getting maximum advantage of IM. A good starter policy is to use IM for quick information about project status, meeting times or if a person is available.

 IM should never be used to transmit confidential or sensitive information. This type of communication is high on the interpersonal scale and the complexity scale. Face to face communication is the most effective followed by the telephone call.

 Create criteria for people to be added to “buddy” lists. Separate business contacts from personal, clients from team members, etc. to avoid the possible conflict of interest in an IM situation.

 Make you team aware that all IM conversations will be recorded to facilitate archiving of essential information.  IM is not to be used to disparage others or to complain.

 If you decide to use the file attachment feature of IM, make sure you have the appropriate security measures in place. If you do not understand this comment, check with your IT support group before you attempt to allow file attachment. Failure to follow this tip could result in serious damage to your team.

 Depending upon the IM software you use, there is some exposure to non-intended people seeing your IM’s. Include in your policy a prohibition of using IM to send phone numbers, passwords or other sensitive information.

 Keep IM communication short. IM is an effective communication technology for urgent and simple information. If an IM session becomes more complicated, move it to another communication technology up the scale. A conference call would be an effective choice. With the communication technology awareness of today’s global worker, a virtual meeting might be even more effective.

 IM can be an effective way to set up a discussion or a phone call. A global team leader (GTL) in one of my workshops gave this tip about using IM to communicate with a global team member (GTM) about a complex issue. Here is the IM conversation:

GTL: Are you there?

GTM: Yes

GTL: Do you have 10 minutes to discuss “complex issue?”

GTM: Not just now, how about at 1030?

GTL: Great, I will call you at 1030

GTM: OK

It is simple and it is really effective. Using an IM in this manner demonstrates respect for peoples’ time and still communicates the urgency of the situation.

 One of the most effective features of IM is the ability to set your status to “busy” or “not available”. When you send an IM and get one of these responses, leave a short message stating your purpose and when you need a response. When you can not be interrupted, set your presence indicators accordingly. When you do become available, reset your indicator.

 Always check to see if someone has the time to chat with you. If they don’t, respect that judgment and make an appointment.

 When you are engaged in an IM session, give the other person(s) an opportunity to respond. This conversation is just like a face to face conversation; people need time to process your requests.

 Use proper English. IM has spawned a whole new language complete with emoticons, abbreviations and jargon. This is fine when communicating with friends but is not effective in a business environment. Of course, the use of common terms within your global team is appropriate and can facilitate quicker communication.

 I ran across an excellent article on using IM. The article is written by Stowe Boyd and is useful for the novice as well as the expert IM user. It is worth a read:

 http://www.stoweboyd.com/message/files/EIM.pdf

 The Big Dogz know that with the global distribution of team members, global team leaders need to take advantage of fast and effective communication technology like Instant Messaging.

 What are some of your tips for using IM? What things do people do with IM that drive you nuts? Please respond to this post or send me and email at rbronder@gmail.com

Global communication technology April 14, 2009

Posted by rickbron in 18916129, Bronder On People, Communication, Management.
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Communicating in a global environment is a significant challenge and can sometimes be a daunting experience. The first aspect of global communication the Big Dogz focus on is the technology.  Matching the communications technology with the situation will go a long way toward making your global communications more effective.

 

Choosing the optimum technology starts with looking at two major dimensions of the communication.

  1. How much interpersonal interaction do you desire?
  2. How complex is the content?

 

Using these two dimensions, the Big Dogz can determine the optimum communication technology. Here are eight possible technology choices.

 

1.      E-mail

Use this technology when the interpersonal contact is low and content is the least complex. Effective uses of e-mail include specific answers to questions, announcements, quick thank you notes or conversation summaries. E-mail is the most preferred communication technology amongst global leaders. It is also the least effective communication technology relative to understanding. E-mail is widely used because it is quick, easy and can withstand time zone differences. When you select e-mail for other than simple communication, you can count on spending more time later sorting out the problems! The Big Dogz consider e-mail the technology of last resort. Use it sparingly.

 

2.      Voicemail

Voice mail adds the power of tone to your communication. Tone is important for communicating urgency. This sense of urgency addresses the slightly higher need for interpersonal contact in the communication. Also, you can address a more complex topic with voicemail. Voicemail is a more effective choice than e-mail because of the tone factor. However, it is always a good practice to follow up with an e-mail since that is the preferred communication technology.

 

3.      Instant message

When you have an urgent message to send and the message is simple, instant messaging is an effective technology. In recent time, IM technology advances have been spectacular, and IM has become almost indispensable for communicating when people are working at the same time. IM is quick and allows two-way communication. You can also save the content for later reference to make sure you understand what transpired. For those skilled it its use, the IM technology, in some situations,  can be as effective as the next technology.

 

4.      Telephone call

Good old fashioned talking to one another! This technology is effective for high interpersonal contact and content complexity. It is two-way communication without the non-verbal signals. The lack of non-verbal signals is a major drawback; however, most people can accommodate the difference with more emphasis on tone. The telephone allows the highly interactive paraphrasing that is the hallmark of effective communication. The Big Dogz use this technology when the topic is important or personal.

 

5.      Telephone conference

Ahhhh, the joys of a virtual meeting! This technology is most effective when you need interpersonal contact to share information or generate solutions to complex issues. The telephone conference allows you to involve more people simultaneously and to deliver more information quickly. One of the major mistakes made in telephone conferences is that there is no validation that everyone understood the same thing! The Big Dogz know that taking some time at the end of a teleconference to verify a common understanding makes future teleconferences shorter.

 

6.      Groupware

In this category, the Big Dogz include tools like Microsoft Live Meeting, Webex Meeting and others for conducting virtual meetings. Using these tools adds a significant improvement to the virtual meeting. They allow anyone at the meeting to display visual representations of information. Even simple slides with bullet points are more effective than trying to explain with just spoken words. Once you conduct a global meeting with one of these tools, you will never go back to just conference calls. Of all the technologies here, I believe this one has the highest return on investment in providing communication that is more effective. One of the drawbacks to this technology is that is it same time technology and that does not address the time zone challenge. However, the Big Dogz will use this technology anytime they can!  Interactive virtual meetings address a need for high interpersonal contact while allowing the global tem to discuss and resolve complex issues.

 

Also in this category are the tools that allow you to share stored information on the internet or within your organization’s intranet. Having a team website falls into this category. The team website is a great place to store common documents, status reports or to contain information about the people on the project. Recent major advances in website development tools have made it easier for anyone to create a website. This is no longer a request to the IT department. One big advantage of the team website is that it spans time zones.

 

7.      Video conference

Video technology takes the virtual meeting concept to the next level. With video, you get the non-verbal component, which adds significant power to the communication process. Video conference technology is often difficult to find in any but the large corporations since it is so expensive. Again, technology has come to the rescue in the form of the webcam. This technology is very effective for one-on-one meetings between the global leader and team members. It addresses the need for high interpersonal contact and high complexity. Using webcams in regular team meetings also increase the interactivity of the team members. The good news is that webcams are relatively inexpensive and available everywhere. The no so good news is that webcams consume large quantities of internet bandwidth. The Big Dogz check to see if they can use webcams and use them whenever possible.

 

8.      Face to face

OK, well not exactly a technology. Face to face communication is by far the most effective way to communicate. You get all three major components of a communication — the content, the tone and the non-verbal signals. This technology is most effective for building rapport and commitment. Of course, the major drawback with this technology is the cost in time and money. The Big Dogz do everything they can to get at least one face to face meeting with each member of the global team.

 

Choosing the optimum technology can significantly improve your capability to lead a global team successfully. The Big Dogz know that you can’t always use the technology you want, but you can make an informed decision and be aware of the potential problems that could arise from using less than optimum technology.

 

In my next entry, I will describe some of the best practices with each of these technologies.

 

 

Leading a global team April 7, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Getting what you want, Management, Management Principle, Team basics.
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Do you have to lead global teams? Many companies are expanding globally to take advantage of the basic economics of hiring workers. While some of us may not agree with that strategy, it is widely adopted. It is not the purpose of this entry to discuss the viability of international outsourcing. It is my purpose to give you some tips and techniques on how to be more effective in that environment.

 Some of the most common challenges facing managers and leaders in a global environment are:

  • Staying connected
  • Time differences
  • Alignment or mis-alignment of goals
  • Language
  • Culture differences
  • Expectations of senior management
  • Managing performance

 Not everyone can be successful as a global manager or leader.  Effective global leaders typically have:

  • A willingness to communicate, form relationships with others, and try new things
  • Good cross-cultural communication and language skills
  • Flexibility and open-mindedness about other cultures
  • The ability to determine if a global worker is performing up to expectations

 The principles that guide us in becoming an effective team leader with co-located teams also apply in the global arena. However, the effective global leader is aware of four factors that affect their performance in a global situation.

1.      Pay more attention to time. Things just take longer when you are acting globally. It is sometimes difficult to convince senior management of this concept, but it is true and the global leader must consider it. In addition, the effective global leader understands that not everyone lives in the same time zone.

2.      Have more patience. Since things take longer and people do things differently across the globe, the effective global leader has more patience. I once had a manager tell me, “I know I need to learn more patience. How long will this take?” Learn how to breathe deeply or learn the art of Zen or something to increase your patience. You will need it.

3.      Make effective use of technology. The purveyors of technology are rapidly working to close the global gap. Global leaders have telephone and visual technology available to access people in any part of the world. Learn the technology and use it to help you close the global gap!

4.      Adapt to different cultures. When everyone shares the same building, it is easy to interact culturally. Once you go more than 50 miles, nuances start to creep into the culture. Just imagine the cultural differences when the person is over 5000 miles away. It is the responsibility of the global leader to create a team culture. That culture must not violate any of the cultural taboos of the global community.

 Using these four factors as a foundation, I will be writing a series on leading global teams with emphasis on communicating, building rapport and getting results.  Stay tuned.

Feed the Big Dogz March 21, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Coaching, Feedback, Fixing performance problems, Getting what you want, Management, Performance issues.
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Do you want to get even more from your top performers? The Big Dogz know that it is very effective to spend your coaching time with the Big Dogz rather than the low performers! However, some managers tend to spend their precious coaching time with the low performers trying to get them to perform at the acceptable level. Although this strategy may sound effective, it does not represent the optimum use of your time and energy. Just where am I supposed to focus? Let’s look at the range of performers you may have to manage, and then map an effective approach to investing your coaching effort with each of those performers.

 

Star performer — this is your go-to person. The star is highly motivated, willing to learn and is ambitious. The star performer is always looking for ways to improve productivity in your team. Normally they are self-starters and need little of your time. Just the kind of person you want on your team.

 

Spend most of your coaching time with this performer. It is effective to schedule very frequent coaching session to develop the contributions of this performer. It would not be an ineffective use of your time to meet with this person 2-3 times per week to provide coaching. Give them effective feedback and provide opportunities for them to develop and contribute. These performers will take up more than 50 % of your coaching time and effort. Coaching this performer will most likely stretch your coaching skills to the highest level and you will grow in your capability to coach. So, there is some personal benefit for you by spending time and energy with this performer.

 

 

Rising star performer — this performer is also highly motivated, willing to learn and ambitious. What makes this performer different from the star performer is the level of skill and experience. They really want to do whatever it takes; they just need some guidance. The rising star has some ideas about how things could be better, but is reluctant to come forward. And, by the way, this person will seldom ask you for help. Having performers like this on your team is an opportunity waiting to be developed.

 

This performer is your next highest ROI (Return On Investment) for using your coaching time. Encourage them to come to you for advice and support. Meet with them as often as you can; at least once per week. Have a detailed agenda on what topics you will coach this performer. Use a consistent coaching model to have them perform self-reflection on the coaching focus areas. Identify learning opportunities for them and provide encouragement. Look for opportunities to pair them with a star performer on a team activity. These performers are generally the easiest to coach. They want to learn and be successful.

 

 

Solid performer — this performer is motivated, somewhat willing to learn and is not overly ambitious. The solid performer is a person you can count upon to deliver quality work in a reasonable time. The solid performer has the process figured out and will accomplish what needs to be done. They do not feel it is their responsibility to make changes to the work process. However, they always have ideas on how things can be done more effectively. You can count on them to deliver what they say they will deliver. Having people like this on your team can allow you the opportunity to develop the stars and rising stars.

 

These performers are not necessarily interested in making larger contributions, nor are they slackers. They may have other higher priorities in their lives. Meet with them on a regular basis, perhaps 2-3 times per month to discuss development activities.

 

This performer is a good source of ideas for development opportunities for your stars and rising stars. The solid performer sees things that could be changed or improved, but is not motivated sufficiently to actually make the changes.

 

Some mangers try to convince the solid performer to make the effort to become a rising star. I know this because I was one of those managers! Do not take this approach. It will just irritate the solid performer and frustrate you. If the performer does express an interest in raising the performance level, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity. Often management has neglected and taken the solid performer for granted. Value the solid performer and appreciate their contributions. This performer is usually self managed and will allow you time to coach the stars and rising stars.

 

 

Struggling performer — this performer is not well motivated, wants things done the way they have always been done and is not ambitious. The quality of their work is low and it takes them longer than the performers above to get something done. They complain about the process of getting work done and have many excuses why they are not able to perform. They often give the appearance of “trying hard”. Having a struggling performer on your team is a major drain on you and the other members of your team.

 

This performer may have been mis-managed in their career. Probably, this performer is frustrated in their job. For almost every situation, they will explain to you why they cannot be successful. It is always someone else’s fault. Helping a struggling performer to become a solid performer is hard work and one of the most difficult coaching tasks. If you are not successful, then move them out of your team. Do not invest in regular coaching session with this performer. Effective coaches use a one time coaching approach to help the performer improve. The first step in this coaching process is to determine the source of the performance problem. Is it ability or motivation?

 

To find out if it is ability, ask the struggling performer what they are doing to accomplish their work. If they obviously do not know how to do it, then arrange for a development opportunity for them to acquire the skill. Monitor this process closely to insure the person has the opportunity to acquire the skills necessary. The time allocated to this activity will be in the 30-60 day window. If they cannot acquire the skills, then you will have to move them into a position where they can be successful or move them out of the business.

 

To find out if it is motivation, ask them how they feel about working in your team. If they have the ability to do the job, why aren’t they doing it? What motivates them? If you can, set up an environment where they will receive the motivation they need. If this is not possible, then you clearly state the consequences of poor performance. In most situations, you would put them on a 30-60 performance improvement plan. Work with your HR professional to help you meet statutory requirements.

 

Coaching the struggling performer takes a great deal of time and is best limited to a one-time effort on your part to help this performer improve. When you are successful in moving them to the solid performer category, treat them like any other solid performer in terms of your coaching time and effort. Many struggling performers are stuck in this category because of poor management and coaching. By paying attention and holding them accountable, you may experience one of the most positive outcomes of this type of coaching engagement. You have a high probability of helping this performer skip the solid performer category and vault to be a rising star!

 

Unsatisfactory performer — this performer is not only personally un-motivated, but is a demotivator for others on your team. Their work products are often incomplete and of poor quality. It is amazing how these people continue to be on the payroll. They show up late, leave early and complain about everything. Having a performer like this on your team makes more work for everyone else and drains your personal power for not handling the situation.

 

This performer has moved from being a struggling performer to a performer who has given up! You may have worked with this performer and they have not responded. They are most likely not skilled enough for the position and have a poor attitude about the job. Usually, when you inform the unsatisfactory performer of their status, they will make an effort to improve. However, this effort does not last, nor is it sufficient. In most cases, unsatisfactory performers lack the ability to do the job. This lack of skill is serious. A reasonable skill development activity cannot overcome this deficiency. The unsatisfactory performer is most likely suited somewhere else.

 

Coaching this performer is also a one-time activity and is usually a much shorter engagement than coaching the struggling performer. Get your HR professional involved because your objective is to get this person out of your team and into the job or profession that suits them.

 

Where are you spending your coaching resource? Are you getting the most effective ROI on your investment of time and energy?

 

Take a quick inventory of how you are spending your coaching time. For the next 25 business days, take a couple of minutes at the end of each day and answer these questions:

 

Whom did I coach today?

How much time did I spend on that coaching engagement?

(Be sure to include any preparation time you spent)

What result did I get?

 

After the 25 days, you will be seeing more improved results with your coaching investments! Remember, feed the Big Dogz.

 

 

Principle of organizational memory January 13, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Decison making, Getting what you want, Grow your skills, Handling hot buttons, Management, Management Principle, Managing up.
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Does it irritate you when senior management reserves the best parking spots for themselves? How about when the executive have their own dining room, or when they travel, they travel first class. The Big Dogz do not like these irritants any more than you do — they ignore them for now. As the Big Dogz build their personal power and acquire more position power, they remember what it was like to be in the trenches. The Big Dogz apply the principle of organizational memory!

 

It is not effective to complain or fret about senior management actions or attitudes. These actions are not within your circle of control — you cannot change them. The Big Dogz capture the irritants in an ongoing file called “Things I will not do when I get to be a senior manager.” It is not the place of the Big Dogz to publicly criticize or critique senior management behavior. If you are asked for feedback or your offer of feedback is accepted, then you may give your observation. Otherwise, make an entry into your file. When you get to that level, review your file and make sure you are not doing those actions.

 

Many times, the average manager will automatically adopt the behaviors of their predecessors. Well, the VP of Development gets to park in this spot, so I may as well do it. I deserve it! I am flying on that business trip with two of my people. They are in coach and I am in first class. I deserve it! What these managers do not recognize is that the things that irritate them also irritate others. Why do something that irritates your followers and reduces your personal power? One of the first tasks you undertake when you are promoted is to evaluate what your predecessor did that irritated you. Then decide if you will continue or eliminate the practice. But first, you need to be promoted. You get promoted by managing power.

 

I have talked about how to get power in previous entries, but here is a quick review. First, you get personal power, and then because you are more effective than your peers are, you are promoted to a job that has position power. You use this position power to access more potential personal power. This new personal power gets you more position power – and it is a growing spiral.

 

Here are some examples of applying the principle of organizational memory:

 

  • Management planning meetings are held offsite at a nice place and include lunch or dinner. Key project planning meetings are held in the big conference room and everybody gets their own lunch. The Big Dogz will make sure that moving management meetings off site are really required. They will select key project planning meetings to be held offsite.

 

  • Senior management waits until the last minute to make change announcements, and then they expect a quick implementation. The Big Dogz know that sometimes this is unavoidable for solid business reasons. Most of the time it is not! When you get to be the senior manager, you will include as many people as early as possible in your decision-making.

 

 A classic example of organizational memory is the response of General Norman Schwarzkopf in the 60 Minutes interview during Desert Shield. He talked about how when he was a battalion commander in Vietnam, the generals were in the rear eating off white tablecloths and being served by soldiers. His response was “That’s not going to happen in my command. It better not happen!”

 

Not all us have the opportunity to have such clear irritants. For sure, you experience actions and attitudes that irritate you. I think this situation is quite widespread in the corporate world, but I need data to support that assumption. I have a request of you.

 

Please send me your observations about something senior management does that is irritating. In this economy, there is an abundance of examples. If you could state what they did and how you would do it differently, it would be useful for everyone.

 

When I get a large enough number of these responses, I will summarize and post them here. I will also send you an email alerting you to the posting so you can see how others are applying this principle along with a file containing the responses. I promise to scrub them so the source is not identified.  Having current real world examples can really reinforce this principle and give the Big Dogz suggestions on what to do in their organizations. Please take the time to be heard.

 

rbonder@gmail.com