Lowest Common Denominator

Manage for your winners- don’t resort to designing your management systems for your bottom tier!

If you were awake in sixth grade math you probably remember the concept of the lowest common denominator in order to work with fractions. The concept was to evaluate and manipulate the numbers to obtain the lowest common number in order to make the denominator the same in order to solve the problem.

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This general concept is also used in management by instituting a series of rules to control issues that are occurring with employees. This set of rules are typically directed to only a few violator employees who are not performing or typically ride the edge of acceptability.

The root of the problem is that these employees are either disengaged, not managed properly, or are lacking feedback on a regular basis. Management by the lowest common denominator is a passive-aggressive style of management. Rather than attack the real problem, the manager will attempt to “hem in” the problem employee by developing a set of often silly rules in order to address issues in an attempt to keep employees productive.

The issue here is that this management theory requires that these rules apply to all employees. Your best performer and your worst performers.  Your best performers will resent being held to stupid rules. So you are actually catering to the lowest common denominator instead of attacking the real problem.

Don’t default to this style of management. Concentrate on the relatively few violators and address the issues at the root. Using a rules based system to lead your team is never the best way to lead. If your team members are not engaged and need constant attention then replace them. Resorting to the lowest common denominator style of management will cause unneccessary damage.

Lead your team. Provide continuous feedback. Let them know where they stand at all times.  Give them specific tasks and deadlines. Be a leader. Don’t punish your best performers by forcing them to comply with stupid rules.

Rules are for math problems, not leadership.

So what do you think? Have you experienced this management style before?  Click on “Leave and Comment” and tell me about your experience.

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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!

Ambushed!

Last week I met with a woman on our team at work.  This meeting was long overdue.  We have been very busy lately dealing with problems and putting out fires.  This was a meeting to discuss process improvement, which seems to take a back seat when you are busy doing “the work”.  I had several items that I knew that we needed to work on.  None of my stuff was really dramatic.  Mainly just tweaking what we were doing now.

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I reviewed my items and she also shared some things that were helpful in refining our processes.  After we completed our review, she turned to me and said, “I have a couple more things that are not on the list”.  Then she started to share how she felt that our on-boarding process has been poorly executed.  She also shared that she felt a disconnect between the field staff and the office staff.  She shared that the office didn’t have the feeling of family that we had before the recession.

Ouch!  This caught me a bit off guard.  I was ambushed!  Yet, after considering her observations, I was in complete agreement.  And, it was exactly what I needed to hear.  Things are different, and not necessarily in a good way.  And most disturbing- I have always championed team building.  My boss calls me the cheerleader.  This is what I do.  And I have been seriously neglecting this role.

Isn’t it funny how we will often overlook something that is one of our strengths? Like it will just take care of itself? 

We wrapped up our meeting and I realized that the process improvement stuff was really minor compared to the things she shared.  I was very grateful that she had the courage to call me out on these items.  It was exactly what I needed.  A wake up call.  A reminder to refocus.  Get back to what I do that really matters.  Get back to serving and quit worrying about “feeding the beast”.

The reality is that problems will come and go.  They rarely make a lasting impression in your life.  What really matters is the story that you are writing as you touch the lives of others.  It’s so easy to let the activities of life cloud your focus.  Every so often it’s good to stop and assess where your at and where you are focussing your efforts.  If you ignore what is good, healthy, and lasting-  be prepared.  You are likely to get ambushed!

What do you think?  Have you been “ambushed” before?  Click on “Leave a comment” and tell me what you think!

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