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!

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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!

Me First

I hate to wait in lines. I don’t know why, but long lines just really irritate me. If I walk into a restaurant at lunch and the line is long, I’ll go back to work hungry and just skip lunch!

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Except for the line thing, I am generally very patient. I understand that sometimes to get quality it just takes time. There is no way around it. I wish everyone else felt that same way. Unfortunately, our instant everything, super fast, efficiency driven, want it yesterday world feeds this impatience. We want it now. We don’t want to wait.

A very wise woman once told me that the root of impatience is really self-centeredness and pride. You want everyone to drop everything they are doing and serve you. It’s like taking cuts in that lunch line. You don’t want to wait your turn. You want them to rearrange their schedules to make you first. So impatience is more that just a characteristic or just “my thing”. It’s much deeper.

After she shared this with me I could see the connection. When I get frustrated with the long line, I am saying that I should not have to wait in the line. It’s OK for everyone else, but not for me.

How do you avoid being that impatient person? How can you manage people without being “me first” all the time? Here are some ideas:

Clearly define the time constraints. If you need something done quickly then communicate the reasons for the rush. If you can’t really describe significant reasons to reorder priorities then it may just be a me first situation.

Consider the workload. Ask your report what they currently have on their plate. Don’t assume that they are in a position to drop everything they are doing to address your needs. Work together to help prioritize the item so that you are both comfortable with the schedule.

Quality takes time. Let’s face it. If you want quality work, it will take time. A rushed job will always show it. Give the person ample time to produce quality work. It’s a win win situation. You will get better work and they will feel better about what they produced.

Provide resources. As you are delegating tasks make sure they have sufficient resources to do the work. if they are are short on resources, then it will always take more time than it should. Ask your report if they need anything to get the job done efficiently and according to your schedule.

Consider the costs. There are always trade-offs in time management. If you are busy taking care of a special project for your boss, you cannot be doing your regular work at the same time. When you delegate, make sure that you are targeting the right person who has the time to be pulled from their regular work without serious damage to your operation. Fight the urge to further load up your workhorse employee who never says no. You will likely be overloading your best employee!

Yes, you are the boss and you can make them drop everything to take care of your special task. But is this really the right thing to do? Or is it just your pride and ego driving the boat. Next time your “me first” kicks in, remember that your stuff may not be the most important thing on their to-do list. Your reports are paid to think and prioritize. There are obviously other tasks and assignments that they are working on and they must also be completed! Maybe it’s time that you take a number and get in line!

Have you worked for a “me first” boss before? Do you struggle with waiting for your tasks to be completed? is patience your weakness? Hit “Like” if you can relate or click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

The Dangers of Meddling

“I can do whatever I want- I’m the boss!”

Have you heard this before?  This is a true statement for the most part.  If you are the boss you can do whatever you want.  But is it healthy?  Is it the right thing to do?  Will it do more harm than good?

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Meddle: 1. to become involved in the activities and concerns of other people when your involvement is not wanted.  

               2.  to change or handle something in a way that is unwanted or harmful

When you think of meddling you probably think of a mother-in-law giving advice on child rearing or your father lecturing you about your personal finances.  Meddling is not a typical way to describe a management and leadership problem, but I believe that meddling is much more common in business than you might think.  And- I believe that it can be very damaging.

When I typically visit one of our construction sites I will call ahead and talk to the Project Superintendent and give him a heads up that I am on my way to the site.  This is a call out of courtesy and respect.  I am not really obligated to call them- I out rank them.  Others like to show up unannounced to do a “stealth” visit.  I really fail to see a good reason to come unannounced.

The reason I call is that I believe that I am going out on their project site.  Yes- I outrank them, but we have put them in charge of the site.  It’s their domain.  Their responsibility.  Even though I am a company executive, out of respect and to align with responsibilities, I feel that I need to notify them and ask to be out on “their site”.

I believe this theory holds true with most areas of management.  If you put someone in charge of a particular area, then you need to respect their authority and stay out of the day-to-day operation.  You hired this person for a reason and you have given them specific duties.  There is a chain of command for a reason.  If you fail to respect the responsibilities and you drift in and out of issues as the wind blows it can be very damaging.  Here are a few of the problems that can develop:

  1. Undermining Authority: By getting involved in the day-to-day activities, you are blurring the lines of authority.  This adds a layer of confusion to who is really in charge.  The employee will be able to take the path of least resistance.  If you are trying to discipline an employee or work out a particular strategy, your efforts can be completely destroyed by a meddler.
  2. Mixed Messages: By getting involved, you will invariably be sending a different message to the employee.  It is extremely unlikely that your message will be identical to the manager who is their direct report.  If you follow the chain of command, the employee will hear only one voice and this will eliminate confusion.
  3. If Dad Says No- Go Ask Mom: We all know this tactic used by children to get what they want.  This also occurs in management.  If you meddle, you are setting yourself or your manager up to be manipulated.  By getting involved, you have added an additional person to the equation and you may be used to wiggle out of a responsibility.
  4. Nice Guy: If you are the big boss and you want everyone to like you, it will be very difficult for your manager to keep the employee focused on areas of improvement.
  5. Turns Down The Volume: If you are meddling and constantly giving direction instead of following the chain of command then the voice of the manager becomes secondary.  Due to your position, the meddler’s message will always drown out the voice of the manager.  Their voice becomes secondary.
  6. Mr/Ms Everything: You have now set yourself up to be involved in everything.  You will now field questions and problems that you really don’t want to deal with.  You can’t get away.  You can’t take a vacation without anxiety.  You loose your trust in your managers.

These are just a few examples of the damage that can occur when you neglect to follow the lines of authority.

You believe that you are better.

You just can’t stay out of things.

You can’t trust anyone to get it right.

You have to get involved in everything.

You want everyone to rely on you.

You have no real confidence in your managers.

Your opinion is the only one that really counts.

You may be telling yourself that you are just “helping out”.  Well, if that’s the case, then ask them if they really want your help.  Remember, if you truly want to help and be productive, then you need to take complete control of the issue and follow it through to the end.  You can’t have one foot in and one foot out.  You can’t bail out when it’s not fun anymore.

Be very careful.  Being a meddler is addictive. When you are involved in everything and you drift in and out of things responsibility suffers.  Who really has the ball?  Should you really carry everything?  Push everything back through the chain of command.  It’s there for a reason.

Empower your managers.  Support them.  And, most importantly, stay out of their business!

So what do you think?  Have you witnessed this behavior before?  Do you believe that you are entitled to do whatever you want when you are the boss?  Click on “Leave A Comment” and tell me what you think! 

Power Shortage

“Nobody will ever love you quite the way you want them to.  You just have to let them do their best.”

 

I saw this quote on Reddit the other day and it really hit me hard.  We really are selfish in everything- even in the way we are loved by others!

Why would I expect someone to love me just the way I want to be loved?

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Let’s face it- we are not mind readers and we are all wildly different.  And this does not even address the gender and role differences!  Yet through all of this, I can get to a place of feeling completely misunderstood.  I can sink into this feeling that folks just don’t really care about my desires, my feelings, my happiness.  I’m sure that I’m not alone.

Yet- How could they know?

I believe you can and should know how someone wants to be loved.  The problem is that we tend to default to loving others the way we want to be loved.  If you like words of affirmation, then you assume that everyone else values this action in the same way you do.  If its gifts or money, you are convinced that all you need to do is buy something for them.

 I believe this is also true for managing people.  You can’t expect that a “one size fits all” view of wants and needs is realistic.  I struggle with managers who are one dimensional in their approach to managing and motivating others.  So what do you do as leaders to love better?  How can you make your team feel truly loved and appreciated?  Here are a few hints!

Go Deeper:  If you are seeking to build strength in your team you must work to build a stronger relationship.  This takes risk.  You have to be willing to get past the surface and go deeper.  Lower your guard.  Find out what they are struggling with.  Find out what brings them joy.  By building your relationship, you will strengthen trust and understanding.  You will be able to tap into what truly motivates them.

Be a Noticer:  Watch for hints and feedback that give you a window into the person’s values and priorities.  I am always amazed how some folks can spend a large portion of their lives with someone and still not really understand them.  Be observant and get your mind off of yourself, the money, the day to day junk, the crisis of the day…and truly look at others on your team.  Simply watching and listening can provide you with a huge amount of information about others and allow you to connect with the things that are important to them.  The things that give them self worth and value.

Ask Questions:  Instead of barking out the orders and moving on, ask questions.  Engage your team members in meaningful dialogue.  Ask them for their opinion.  Make them part of the bigger story that you are trying to tell your customers and clients.  When you get your team involved, you are placing value on their opinions and their worth to you and the company.  You are acknowledging their expertise.  Ask them what they want, what they desire, where they see their role.

Gosh- such simple stuff but really powerful!  If you treat your team as if you don’t really care for them- how do you expect them to care for you and your companies goals?  Should you love your employees?   Yes- absolutely.  Should you try to give them what they want?  Yes- absolutely.  Should you make them feel part of the bigger picture?  Yes- absolutely.

If you give marginally to your team you will get marginal results back.  Is that what you want?  Not me.  Life is too short for a mere passing grade.  Get to really know your people and give them what they need.  Need a new jolt of power in your business?  The power is in loving well!

 

Playing the Game

I’m not a big TV guy.  However, on occasion, I have followed some of the TV show “Survivor” seasons.  I think the draw for me is the struggle with the environment more than the personalities.  Dealing with a deserted island or braving the harsh environment is more appealing than the chatter, deceit and alliances.

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One thing that has intrigued me about the show is how they refer to the struggle of competing and surviving as “playing the game”.  From my vantage it seems like more than a game.  Trying to survive in a desolated area, hungry, thirsty, doesn’t seem like a game to me.  I know- Hollywood is always there to rush in and save you if it gets too real!

So what is playing the game?  How do you win at Survivor?  You win by manipulation.

You know what you want.

You know how to get others to respond so you can get it.

You put the wheels in motion.

You get what you want!

Remember the great and powerful OZ?  The man on the levers behind the curtain?  This is how some view leadership.  You have the position and power and you know how to influence others to get you what you want.  I wish I could tell you otherwise, but this strategy often works.

And it’s a shame.  You can play with their heads.  You can apply pressure.  You can grab the levers.  The difference is that you will likely get what you want- but nothing more.

The real difference is found when you get more than you could imagine.  Much more than you thought possible.  How does this happen?

Rather than manipulate you inspire.  You loosen the reins and give your team the power to run.  The power to innovate.  The power to let those who do the work determine how is best to accomplish the task.

Inspiration is not intuitive.  We default to defining, controlling, manipulating.  Fear, tradition, and resistance to change will hold you back.  To inspire you need to model the behavior.  You need to believe in what you are doing.  You need to paint the picture for your group. You need to excite your group to march with you and you must march with them.

So what’s holding you back?  Are you stuck in default mode?  Are you ready to inspire rather than manipulate?  Here are some keys:

Define the goal:  Provide a clear understanding of the goal that you are trying to accomplish.  Why are you striving to make this happen?  What is the ultimate purpose of all of the work?

Personalize it:  Define the rewards for those who participate in the success.  What will I receive if we make this happen?  What is my piece of the pie?

Add milestones:  Give some intermediate goals to show progress.  This is the same reason you see landings on stairs.  A spot to rest and reflect for a minute.  A place to measure just how far you have come.

Unleash creativity:  Provide an environment where creativity is encouraged.  Let go of the wheel and let the team members determine how they will solve problems to reach success.

Celebrate accomplishments:  Have a victory celebration when you reach success.  Give credit to those who made it happen.  Acknowledge the efforts of your team and the roles that each played in the success of the project.  Give the credit to those who actually performed the work.

Inspiration provides an environment for exponential growth opportunities.  Are you taking full advantage of this power?  Or are you stuck in the command and control management style?  Maybe it’s time for you to step away from the levers?  Give inspiration a try.  It’s much better that way!

What do you think?  Do you know any manipulators who get away with it?  Don’t be a stealth reader!  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think! 

 

Laughter Wreckage

They say that laughter is the best medicine.  However, this is not always the case…

I was sitting in a meeting last week and I made an observation regarding my personal experience on a topic.  What followed caught me completely off guard.   The person at whom I was directing my comments laughed at me.  Not a laugh like something funny.  This was a “you naïve boy” kind of laugh.  A real belly laugh!  I wanted to fire back with a statement like- “so wants so funny?”  I knew that it would be out of place (the conference room was full) and it would be provocative, so I left it alone.  I sat and wondered how long it had been that someone truly laughed at me.  Sure, I get laughed at when I do something funny or silly, but this was in response to an observation that I knew was factual on a subject in which I have thirty years experience.  There was no real purpose in the laughter.  If he disagreed with me he could have simply told me so.  Instead he chose to laugh in my face.

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I have to admit that it struck a nerve for a moment or two.  And this nerve runs deep.  It brought me back to schoolyard days of being laughed at by my friends.  It’s really amazing the damage that a little laughter can do when it is used as a weapon.  There is some really amazing irony here.  The thing that can give you such pleasure and fun can also be extremely painful.

It’s really character assassination…

We must treat a person’s feelings like a very fragile instrument.  Like an egg.  You should hold it gently and protect it from damage.  I have been on both sides of this, yet there is only one side that you can control.  I have been quick to speak or direct without considering the other side and have left the burning wreckage in the road.  As leaders, we must be extremely careful to consider how our responses will be received. 

Think of trading places…

The skilled leader has the ability to actually move out of their shoes and into the shoes of others.  This includes being able to visualize how the direction will be perceived including all of the personal characteristics that are at work in the situation.  Yes, there are some that need a strong voice.  They are accustomed to that style or that style is necessary given the circumstances.  However, some are very fragile.  A loud or harsh response will cause them to withdraw.  In trading places you have to consider the effort that they are making, not necessarily their results.  If you recklessly trash their work, you are sure to hurt their feelings.  You may have to authority to say what you want in any manner that you see fit.  However, I promise that you won’t be happy with the results.  If they disengage, you will struggle to win them back.  You may never win them back.  You may hit that nerve that brings them back to the schoolyard.  Remember that the goal is results- not just exercising your authority.

What do you think?  Press “Like” if you agree!  Have you experienced the “wreckage in the road”.  Press “Comment” and let me know what you think!