Don’t Be A Pac-Man!

Are you getting swallowed up?

Do you remember the game Pac-Man? This is going back a bunch of years, but it was one of the first video/arcade games where the Pac-Man travelled the course swallowing up all the cookies as he goes along. Never stopping. Devouring the cookies.  The cookies just go away.

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I used to work for a developer who required weekly updates to the project schedule. They developed a spreadsheet where everything was connected so when we were actually ahead of schedule, the final completion date would just move up to coincide with our hard work in trying to get ahead. So much for being ahead of schedule!  All of our hard work disappeared. The Pac-Man just swallowed it up!

I’ve seen the Pac-Man emerge in other places. There are times when we have an employee or team member that excels or works extremely hard in tough situations. They are just good at what they do. Dedicated and a hard worker.  These are your best employees.

They consistently STEP UP and take care of business.

They work HARDER and FASTER.

They carry MORE weight than the others.

And what happens next? The Pac-Man comes in and eats it all up.

All of the extra effort and skill actually becomes expected. It’s no longer seen as extra or exceptional. The bar just gets raised up under your feet. They move the goal posts!

Do you have a team member or employee that just knows how to get it done? Have you forgotten how much they really contribute to your business? These are your go-to people. Have you REALLY thought about what would happen if they left? Decided that enough was enough?

LEADERS: Don’t be a Pac-Man! Recognize what you have. If you continually move up the bar and deem this performance as normal you will WASTE your best workers.

Don’t get used to exceptional. If it’s exceptional then recognize it and reward it. Continually. Non-stop.

You will not explode if you say “good job” over and over again.  I promise!

Stars are stars. If they don’t shine with you, they will shine with someone else. Keep your eyes open! LOOK at what you have. Don’t be a Pac-Man or it may be GAME OVER for you!

So what do you think?  Have you seen the Pac-Man at your workplace?  Click “Like” to tell me you agree.  Or , click on “Leave and Comment” and tell me your story!  I ALWAYS appreciate your comments and insight!

The Office Whisperer

We’ve seen the horse whisperer and the pet whisperer. What about the office whisperer?

The horse whisperer has a way to talk to a horse and connect with them. Reassure them. Calm them down.

The pet whisperer has the skills to find out how a pet is stressed. Find out the things that are causing problems. Trying to make things better. Provide a better quality of life.

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The office whisperer has other intentions. They often want to discuss people. They want to gossip! Not to improve. Not to help you. Not to make things better. To put themselves forward.

Scheming. Controlling. Divide and conquer.

There is nothing that is good that comes out of a whisperer. Nothing.

There is a reason they are whispering. They don’t want others to hear what they have to say or more importantly- what they are doing. The message is generally caustic. You don’t make a positive comment in a whisper. Think about this. Really. It’s like acid. It burns!

The purpose for whispering is about power. Period. You can comment below if you disagree. I wish you would!

Closed door meetings are fine and needed. There is a time in management when you need to close the door and discuss issues with staff. But how often do you find yourself whispering? I think that when you whisper you are really showing your cards. You are posturing. You are manipulating. You are trying to gather folks for your position. You are whispering to make your point. Why do you it? Why do you whisper? Please- really thing about this!

When I close my door it’s primarily to avoid the noise. Yes, I have to discuss things in private with folks occasionally. And that’s OK. But when I close the door, I don’t feel like I need to whisper. When you whisper you are delivering a secret. A special, often strategic message. Don’t bite on this. When the level goes low- think! Why do I feel like I need to whisper? Why can’t I talk in a normal tone? Who does this benefit? There is usually a reason for the whisper. Adults generally get rid of this when they leave the playground. Right?

Remember what your Mom told you- if you can’t say something good about someone then don’t say it at all! There is a time to discuss performance and management issues in a closed door setting but this should not need to be a daily event.

It’s really good advice from your Mom. Don’t whisper. Listen to your Mom!

So what do you think?  Do you know someone who regularly lowers their voice.  Do you agree with the me that whispering is a sign of a problem?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think!

I No Like

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I have a friend who says this. He doesn’t have have the greatest command of our language but I completely get what he is trying to say. I no like.

The saying goes surround yourself with the best and the brightest. There is a reason for this. If you want to have a great organization, you have to surrender things. Give it up. You have to admit that you are not the greatest at everything.

If you have done well you are obviously talented. You are probably exceptionally good at some things. But you are not good at everything. You have to leave room for others. Admit the fact that you can’t be best at everything.

Surround yourself with the best and brightest.

The rub comes here. You may not even like them. They are likely different than you. They may even intimidate you. They may make you uncomfortable.

It’s OK. You don’t have to like them.

Leaders will often surround themselves with people that they like. People that are like them. It’s natural.  People that make then feel good. What is the result?

One-sided decision. One-sided management. One-sided solutions. And a leader that is sitting there scratching their head. What went wrong? Why are we struggling?

The fact is that diversity is power. You can’t win without it. You need people that are not like you. You need to challenge yourself to understand them. We are wildly different- and it’s for a very good reason.

If you want to feel good, then surround yourself with people like you. People that agree with you. People that are wired like you. People that make you comfortable. People that you naturally understand. But realize this.

It’s really all about you– right? What makes you feel good. What make sense to you. What you are comfortable with.

Don’t do it! Stretch yourself. Listen and learn. Uncomfortable is the way you learn. We should never stop learning. Never stop. Never.

So what do you think?  Do you agree with me?  Or am I full of it!  Let me know what you think!

3 Life Lessons I Learned Coaching Youth Basketball

I coached youth basketball when my kids were young. I loved the game and I love kids so it was a great match for me. Basketball is a perfect mix of skill and strategy. This was also evident in the kids. Some where great athletes and some made it through being smart and working hard. I was a student of the game. I studied and observed different defenses and offenses and also what made up good mechanics and personal skills. While I was the teacher when it came to basketball, I learned some valuable lessons that have been ingrained into the way I manage people and the way I look at the world. Yes, these are big statements, but they are true. I still go back to these truths and use them for teaching moments when I am mentoring or problem solving.

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Here are these truths:

Talent Blindness: Some coaches are great at judging talent but most are not. The reason is not because they are not skilled or unintelligent- they are human. We have a very tough time being completely objective. Coaches will tend to provide preference to the kids they like. The kids that make them feel good. The kids of the parents they like. The same can be true in the business world. We provide preference to the folks that are like us. The ones that make us feel comfortable. The ones that make us feel good about ourselves. We can be so talent blind! We judge talent based on how we see the world and how we feel. We can easily miss a diamond because they are different, peculiar and not like us.

Another Set Of Eyes: When I was coaching, I would sometimes get caught up in concentrating on the nuances of the offense and defense and miss big things that were going on. Sometimes I would leave kids in the game too long. Sometimes I would miss that a particular player had a hot hand and was scoring and I would inadvertently pull them out of the game. Its hard to watch everything. No really its impossible. I valued my assistant coaches to speak up and set me straight. In business, we can miss the big picture while we are drilling down on particular issues. I must have a group that I empower to tell me whats really going on and have the guts to confront me when I am doing something stupid. A support group. A few trusted advisors to help us avoid getting caught up in the game.

Emotion Cloud: I struggled with the referees. Kind of a lot. They were often times volunteers and high school kids and their skill level varied. Some were pretty good and some were just horrible. I remember throwing my clipboard on the gym floor of an auxiliary gym once in the middle of a game and then- the gym went completely silent! Not a shining moment for me but a great lesson. You just can’t let emotion take over. People will let you down and do things that are wrong and out of line. You can count on it. It’s how you react that matters. Once I let emotion rule, my head goes to mush and all I got is to fire back. A poor example of leadership no matter where you are. Keep your cool and keep your head!

These are a few of the valuable lessons that I learned while coaching. It’s funny how I consistently learn while teaching others! Learning just never ends. I am always seeking the lesson in things that happen to me. How about you? Are you learning as you go? Do you see the world as a giant classroom? Stay alert to things going on around you. You will be better for it. I promise!

So what do you think? Have you learned while you are teaching? Did this story remind you of a lesson your learned? Click on “Leave A Comment” and tell me what you think!

Trust is the Glue

The power base of any cohesive and unified team is trust.  If you believe in your people and you have confidence in their abilities and decision making, it has a way of multiplying the impact of the team.  You are, in effect, advancing your leadership to all of your team members.

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Leaders often have a tough time passing this responsibility on to others.  They are often used to making the decisions and developing the strategy for the group.  Leaders have confidence in their abilities to provide direction with effectiveness- that is how they became a leader.  The problem is that one person cannot think for the entire organization.

Once you let go of the reins and allow others to think and make decisions, you are tapping into more brain power.  Much more brain power.  The front line team members often know the situation better than the leaders.  They are involved in the struggle every day.  They see things first hand.  They know the intricate details that are involved in the process.

Most employees have no problem following direction.  They will proceed as directed.  If the plan is flawed from the start, they will generally avoid blame for the outcome.  The tension develops when you allow your team to think for themselves.  When they are allowed to put together their own plan and strategy, they are now open for scrutiny.  They feel vulnerable to judgement.

How do you remove this apprehension to leading?  Trust is the key.

Once the employee knows that his manager and the company are squarely behind them, they will feel the freedom to step into a leadership role and make decisions.  Without trust, there is a breakdown in authority.  And trust must go in both directions to bind the team together.

Trust is the glue that holds together a successful organization.

Mistakes will be made.  There is no way to completely avoid them.  You must always be ready to help clean up a mess resulting from a poor decision made by someone other than yourself.  This is natural- but not fun.  You can’t avoid it.  This is part of the learning process.

To unleash the power of your entire team- you must trust them and they must trust you.

There is no other way.

So what do you think?  Have you experienced a lack of trust that kept you from acting?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and let me know what you think!

Angry, Cool, Weird and Stupid

Ah, here we go again- another election cycle!  I used to really enjoy politics.  Political science was a favorite of mine in school.  I love the unique characteristics of politics and the history that goes along with it.  But I can tell you politics is not something I care for anymore.  I really dislike the new face of politics.  The discourse is broken.  There is no civility.  It makes no sense to me.  Here are a few observations in this election season and the leadership lesson that goes along with it:

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Angry:  Voters are angry and the politicians are completely puzzled. Why are they so angry?  What could possibly be wrong?  Maybe years of gridlock, ideology and rampant spending?  Voters want anyone but the establishment.  And this is really evident on both sides.

Leaders:  The problem with angry is that you can make some really bad decisions when you are angry.   Leaders need to guard their tempers and stay composed.  If your team is angry, you need to address it head on.  Don’t put your head in the sand and let it fester!

 

Cool:  There is a new phenomenon emerging- the cool factor!  This is the breeding ground for the PC (politically correct) group.  We have become obsessed with the coolness principle.  What is cool anyways?  Are we still in high school?  I just don’t get the attraction.  Grow up please!

Leaders:  Cool at its roots is being self-centered.  I do what is cool so I look good.  Cool people make me feel better.  If I get invited to hang out with the cool group then I am cool too.  Be approachable- not cool!

 

Weird:  Both sides are convinced that the other side is weird.  They are freaks.  Guns, global warming, faith, same sex marriage, abortion, environment- anyone that doesn’t think they way you do is just weird.  They are broken.

Leaders:  Everyone is different so get over it.  Diversity is a strength.  You will never feed innovation if everyone thinks the same.

 

Stupid:  Both sides are convinced the other side is just stupid.  If they were just smarter they would see that I am correct.  They are just ignorant.  I am smart and have this all figured out.  Really?  Do you actually think you are just superior and everyone else is not up to your intellect?

Leaders:   Look at all sides of an issue.  Don’t get tunnel vision.  Don’t typecast others as stupid just because of your title.  A line person has first hand knowledge.  You can’t completely understand things until you are in it.  Don’t assume you have it all figured out.  Question yourself.

 

We have become intolerant of any viewpoint except our own.  Can you see the crazy arrogance in this?  We will never solve the problems in this country without an open mind and you will never be an effective leader being close minded.  Consider other options.  Look at the other side of the issue.  You may see a better solution.  And keeping an open mind will make you a better leader!

 

So what do you think?  Do you have any insights on the elections that you would like to share?  Do you think we have become increasingly intolerant?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and let me know what you think!          

Twenty Questions

One of the most common management practices is to enter the office of your report and after a few little icebreakers, begin to fire off the questions:

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Is the project on schedule?

Have you handled the budget overrun?

Were you able to engage a vendor yet?

Did you fix the issue with the client?

And on and on it goes….

After the twenty questions and reassuring answers from your report you leave the office feeling good about the project as well as your special abilities as a great manager. You can now check the “I managed” box. I took care of my management duties!

But did your really manage here? Did your twenty questions change anything? Have you really made an impact?

Maybe or maybe not!

The fact is that the answers to your twenty questions are probably half truth. Most employees that know the twenty questions management style will tell you what you want to hear. They may not be actually lying to you, but they may spin the facts or tell you only part of the story. You may be only making yourself feel good regardless of your ability to craft great questions. So what can you do other than twenty questions? Do you need to be an interrogator or have the skills of prosecuting attorney in order to manage a person or a process? Here are a few ideas beyond the questioning:

Look at the numbers: The truth will likely be in the numbers. Always. Develop systems to track things statistically. It’s tough to spin facts and figures. Find ways to track performance with numbers.

Look downstream: Instead of quizzing your report, ask others downstream, your clients or other stakeholders for feedback. This will be results driven feedback- not a measure of action or effort by the report.

Be observant: Most problems will leave clues long before they blow up into a full fledged forest fire. Watch for hints that things are not progressing properly. Build some early warning systems to head off problems. Don’t simply rely on talk.

Build trust: The best way to manage is to have the report come to you for help or to get advice on a situation. If they don’t feel that your office is a safe place, they will never walk through the doorway. It is far better to learn about a situation or problem in this manner than trying to pry it out of them.

Face the music: Most of us tend to be inherently optimistic and believe that things will work out in the end. If things are going poorly, they are likely to continue going poorly and changing things from bad to good can be very difficult. Face your problems head on. Don’t fool yourself that things are going to get better because you received answers to your questions that make you feel good.

Twenty questions can be a dangerous way to manage people. Asking good questions is valuable in management, but you can’t rely solely on the answers that you get. Don’t be fooled. Put systems in place to measure progress. Keep your eyes open to what is really going on and make yourself open to be a resource instead of an adversary. If you really enjoy the questioning- then go ahead and change careers and go to law school!

Are Your Best Employees About To Leave?

I don’t typically post articles but here is a great article from Inc. Magazine.  I could relate to most of these at one time or another in my career.  This may be a great time for you to examine the conditions in your company and reflect on the value of your key employees!  Most companies have a few key persons who carry a big load.  If they get frustrated and leave- you got BIG problems!  The market is strong in many industries so making a move is a REAL option.  Protect your HR assets!  Enjoy! 

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Your business wouldn’t exist without your best employees. Unfortunately, many employers feel blindsided when they get a two-week notice from a top employee. They shouldn’t. There are plenty of red flags, and nurturing employee loyalty is something that takes constant effort.

There are countless reasons why employees quit, and not all of them can be addressed. However, the five major reasons employees quit can be wholly preventable if the employer takes notice–and action.

Click HERE to read the rest of the article!

Money Wart

I grew up in the construction business- literally. My father had a subcontracting business and fact that he was in the construction business affected many things growing up. He would be fixated on the weather. The weather determined the schedule and a large portion of his life. Also as business was good and bad it influenced the family purchases and the grip on the family purse strings.

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My father taught me a great deal about business and how to take care of the customer. He had a great reputation and worked for some of the most respected builders in the business. He also taught me about the importance of doing a great job and letting your work product speak for itself.

I remember him telling me- “Don’t worry about the money. Do a great job and the money will take care of itself.”

This really made an impression on me and it has been one of my guiding principles. Make the customer happy. If it costs you some money, don’t sweat the costs. Do the right thing and the money will follow because of your actions, your commitment, your heart. Don’t worry, it will happen naturally. Don’t be a money wart!

This is really simple business logic. However, do your actions really support the principle that money is not your primary concern in your business? Do you get hung up just continually counting your money like a Monopoly game just obsessed on the financials? Is the mark your trying to hit always a financial target? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Where do you spend your time? Do you spend your days pouring over cost projections. profit and loss statements, cash flow projections, etc? Yes, we are in business to make money and you must be good stewards of the resources you are blessed with but at what percentage of your time? Are you completely consumed with the numbers? You are just counting your money.

What is your focus? Do you spend significant company time and resources on improving your product? Are you an innovator and continually looking for ways to improve your product? Or are you satisfied with producing the same acceptable product because being an innovator costs money. You are just counting your money.

Is it costs or revenues? Do you focus on the cost side or the revenue side? If you are continually trying to squeeze costs you may be a money wart. Working the revenue side is about expanding your business and your influence in the industry. Increased revenues have a way of taking care of financial issues. More revenue helps with overhead and fixed costs. Expanding revenue will reduce the need to squeeze and reduce the pressure on the company and it’s clients. If you are a squeezer, you are just counting your money.

What do you spend on product improvement? If you are not improving your product you will eventually be out of business. What are you doing as a business to get better? Are your improvements always focused on reducing costs. Are you recognized as a market innovator? Focusing on your product and being a leader requires resources. I was recently in Rochester, NY, the home of Kodak. What happened to Kodak? They were convinced that digital photography would never be better than traditional paper photographs. Look what happens when you fail to be an innovator. They were just counting their money.

Are your employees well compensated? My father also told me, “Don’t look in your employees pockets. If they are making good money then you will too!” Again, simple logic, but the employee pockets can be an easy target. You can always find cheaper help and squeeze payroll. But, what is the cost? If your employees are not making a superior wage, then how can you expect superior work. If you are known to pay better, the best of the best will end up coming to you to find work. Trying to save on payroll is just counting your money.

So, like the saying goes, where you put your time is your treasure. Are you continually focused on money? This is a sign of plain and simple greed. Life is not a race to make the most money. You were put on the earth to serve others by producing a product or providing a service to address a need. The goal must be the product or service first. What if your mission statement read “Make as much money as possible by controlling costs and providing a mediocre product.” Look hard at this and determine what is truly first in your business! Obviously, costs and money are important. Just don’t get them in front of everything else. Don’t be a money wart. Produce a great product first and the money will follow. It always does!

So what do you think?  Do we get hung up on the money too much or am I full of you know what?  Click on “leave a comment” or click “like” if you agree!

How to Create a Drama-Free Workplace

Most of us love a good drama at the movies, but not so much at work.  Office drama can be draining.  It’s hard enough to keep the plates spinning without the added pressure of drama.  It seems like finding the right mix of folks is like a science experiment.  Unfortunately, in a drama filled environment, we often hire the person who is non-threatening instead of the best candidate.  Then one day you look up and wonder how in the world these folks ended up on the payroll!

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The root of most office drama is insecurity.  The problem is that it’s not easy to see during the recruitment process.  You may have a candidate that appears confident and assertive, yet they have social or personal issues that won’t appear until they are introduced into the mix.

Intent can also skew your thinking.  In a recent post in Forbes, (link here) Erika Anderson points out that staying positive with others intentions naturally diffuses drama.  All you have to do is believe their intentions are good.  Seems easy- but for some that live their lives in the negative zone, it can be very difficult to trust that other coworker’s intentions are good.

Many managers see drama as purely a result of immaturity.  But it often goes much deeper than that.  Many times there are wounds or events from the past that have shaped the person into who they are.  Don’t always dismiss poor behavior as simply a result of immaturity.

Many of the deeper issues that result in office drama are not easy to fix.  There is likely a long process involved and it may even require professional attention.  Aside from the complex cases, there are strategies to address some of the common office strife.  Here are a few of them:

Dump the Stupid Rules:  Drama feeds off of petty infractions of the rules.  As a manager you may think this is counter intuitive.  You may be tempted to add more rule when you have drama.  The fact is if you give more power to the “rules police” you will only add fuel to the fire.  Turn the conversation back to performance.  If the person is doing a good job, then give them grace on the rules.  Get rid of as much of the petty rules as you can and you will benefit in the end.

Choose Your Managers Wisely:  In the book “Managing for People Who Hate Managing”, Devora Zack divides managers into two categories, Thinkers and Feelers.  Both can be great managers but you have to understand that they see the world differently and will react differently.  Drama feeds off of emotion.  It is very important that your managers are emotionally intelligent.  They must understand there own emotions and how they are affected by the emotions of others.  Just dismissing drama as stupid or silly emotion will not solve the problem.  You can’t tell someone who is upset that they are just being a baby.  There are great management strategies on how to be empathic, yet not feed the fire.  If you have a manager that is unskilled they will react incorrectly and make poor decisions that will only continue to feed the fire!

Watch for Type A’s:  The talented and driven are often a target for the drama group.  They are threatening to the status quo.  They want more.  They are used to getting what they want.  I have witnessed “the pack” systematically run off talented folks.  You need to watch for this and address this as soon as you see it.  Find the leader of the opposition and discuss the situation objectively.  Reassure them that this person is not threatening their position and reaffirm that they are not going anywhere and they need to develop a good working relationship.

React Well:  Be very careful how you react to the situation.  Strong reactions feed the drama fire.  If there is a situation that needs to be addressed, do it quietly and without fanfare.  Be very careful about getting both parties together to “hash things out”.  I have done this in the past and have had both good and bad results.  Try to respect the position of the person who is upset, but be very careful that you don’t add emotional fuel to the fire.

Watch For Alliances:  The office can be similar to an episode of  “Survivor”.  There are alliances that will naturally form, and you must be aware of who is where.  Sometimes you can break up problem workgroups.  The main thing is to see through the drama and find the alliance.  Seek out the leader and discuss the problem directly with them.

Don’t Let It Smolder:  Drama tends to naturally escalate.  If you are aware of a problem, it is best to address it quickly.  The longer it smolders the group will internalize and the issue will become fact.  This is human nature.  Find a confidant on the inside and try to pinpoint the issue.  The quicker you address the problem the better.

Make Changes:  If the drama is always centered around one person, maybe it’s time to make some changes?  Office drama is damaging.  Don’t be afraid to dismiss a person who continues to cause trouble in the ranks.

Have Fun:  Office outings and fun environments can help lessen office drama.  When you provide opportunities for interaction with someone outside of work you may find that you have things in common and actually like to hang out together.  It’s not uncommon to find out that the person you have a problem with is actually just like you!   Don’t forget to do some team building by having fun with your group.  This can pay off big in diminishing drama.

The business world is hard enough without having to deal with office drama.  Dealing with drama is difficult as it involves people, personalities and emotion which is a pretty scary mix for anyone.  As you become more skilled in sensing what is really going on you will be better equipped to address the situation.  Devora Zack cautions to be careful in how you address these issues in asking questions.  By asking the questions in the wrong manner you can actually reinforce the toxic thinking.  Ask questions about the outcome not the problem– i.e “What do you want?”  “What will this get you?”  “How will this benefit everyone?”  The fact is that keen management skills are often the key to killing office drama.

See- we all want to have “peace in the valley”.  Work is hard enough- right?  So…let’s leave the drama for the movies!

So what do you think?  Do you have other strategies that you have used to address drama and agitators?  Do you have a story to share here?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!  Click “Like” if you can relate!