Archive for June, 2009

Smart Managers Learn To Delegate

Talked to a client yesterday….about an upcoming consulting visit.  After explaining his needs, we talked about the fix.

I asked the man whether or not he’d like to be involved in our initial meeting with the lead supervisors. He declined, saying “Nope, not me. I delegate that to my supervisors.” I made sure I understood, asking “Do you mean you don’t want to listen to what I tell them?” He affirmed his intention to let me do my thing and let his front line supervisors take the responsibility for using the information. “If there is no improvement, we won’t repeat it”, he said.

I hope some of you will understand that this senior leader was not shirking his managerial responsibility. He was simply demonstrating the level to which he’d developed the art of delegation. And, it really is an art.

As my client learned long ago, delegation starts with staff selection. You don’t delegate anything to anyone without first determining that they will likely succeed. They want the responsibility and they have the trainaing and skill to succeed. Knowing this, you delegate small responsibilities. Based on success, you go farther.

All I can tell you is that this particular client believes in his people and knows how much they want to do the job right, the first time. His confidence in them is rewarded daily by the continuity of his operations and bottom line success…even in a recession.

If you want to grow, learn to delegate. If you don’t, you will spend your management life as an army of one..and an army of one never went anywhere!

Tell me what you think.

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Teams are out in tough times!

In a football or baseball game, one person alone cannot win. To succeed, people need to combine indivudual skills, ideas and enthusiam for the good of all. But folks, staying afloat in a recesssion of this magnitude is not a team sport; at least not typically.

In times like these, my experience is clear on one point; it’s the strong, persistent individual who succeeds first. Granted, a great individual performance can and and should pull weaker players along, and the team can win. But it is the never say die leader in the group that makes it happen.

So, have your team meetings, talk about working together and helping each other, etc. After that, look for the determined person who simply is not going to be a victim of tough times. That person is your winner.

I know, sounds corny; even writing this I feel sort of corny and old fashioned. But in my consultng work, I am exposed to people every day, looking for two things: first, someone to blame for the current situation. Second, someone to solve their problems. Think about it. I’m betting you’ll agree.

Who is to blame? Our culture; high living standards and the unrealistic, never could have lasted bubble of the last 10 years. Who will solve it?  We will! The same people who allowed this country to get into the hole we’re in will pull us out. The only problem is that most younger workers and managers have never experienced anything like today’s business world. To them, it’s like a bad dream that never should have happened; not to America.

So, where are the answers? The solutions to our business probems are within every organization I work with. That’s right…every one! If we can just get over the shock and awe of realization that, as 9-11 was real, so is our bagged out economy. Once we accept that fact, we can begin to create positive, forward planning and ride the coming bounce out of this mess.

I guess my point is that, when times are tough, we should encourage individuals to come up with ideas and suggestions that we can at least try; creativity that, as in recessions, even depressions past, pulled us through.

One thing is certain, anyone who sits and waits for Washington to save us is in for a long, long wait!

Comments welcome!

Marathon Thinking Develops People

I don’t know about you, but if I had $10 for each time I’ve heard “nobody wants to work anymore” or “there just aren’t any good people in this business anymore,” I’d be rich.

Let’s set the record straight. First, neither statement is true! There are hard workers out there and there are lots of good people. The negative perception about workers is driven by two main factors: first, in today’s Green Industry, we tend to ask more of our people than in the past. Second, we fail to adequately prepare our people to multi-task at desired levels.

Why has this happened? The basic cause is that we have been forced to stretch as never before to make a decent profit.

Costs are higher; profits are shrinking. How does one recoup the deteriorating bottom line? Simple: Get more for each labor dollar.

The thought process has gone like this: “Gee, I can’t make a bag of fertilizer go any farther, and I can’t get nursery stock any cheaper. My fuel costs are stable now, but still way up and equipment costs are still growing. But labor, my people — that’s got to be the answer. No, I can’t lower their pay, but I can increase my expectations, set goals higher and get more out of them.”

It has happened gradually, sort of a creeping escalation of goals and added activities. At first, we told ourselves that if we eased it on them — the higher goals, the more and different tasks — people might grumble. But since they don’t want to lose their jobs, they’d adapt.

For a while that strategy seemed to work. But there is a breaking point beyond which people just won’t go. In many companies, that point was reached and surpassed years ago. The result was predictable: higher turnover and, as word spread about the changing work environment, inability to recruit effectively. Over time, many of our best players left the industry. Hence, “there just aren’t any good people anymore.”

The question to be answered is this: How do we rebuild quality teams, filling chairs with motivated, productive workers at all levels — management included?

I believe in people-centered “Marathon Thinking.” The strategy is to build a true people culture in the business. The focus is on developing the people who deliver our services consistently, not on maximizing short term productivity. The term Marathon Thinking refers to a mind set and development process that begins with well-planned recruiting and training, goals based on individual skills and daily management aimed at achieving small, reachable daily goals followed by consistent recognition. It’s a matter of behavioral conditioning — and it works! You develop people, not in a week or two but over time, one controlled step at a time.

Sign up for the marathon
The premise is that a person who wants the job and understands how to perform tasks successfully, in a supportive world where recognition and appreciation are ongoing, will succeed. That early success will drive the motivation, then to do even more and better work.

Below are plan requirements that will allow you to win with your employees using this strategy:

  • Commit to re-focusing your business model on achieving goals through people. People must become your key resource and drive results. Without this commitment, you’ll waste your time.
  • Plan human requirements farther ahead. Evaluate current staff twice annually and be ready to upgrade in the fall, before winter hiring. Do not keep non-performers or negative people.
  • Establish an effective recruiting plan that communicates the good things about your business. Over time, build your company reputation locally by participating and supporting local events and letting people know your jobs are good jobs.
  • Build your training program to focus on just what the employee needs to know first. Do not try to teach more than the new hire can learn easily. Appoint a trainer who wants the job.
  • Follow initial training with repetitive on-the-job coaching, enhancing gradual learning.
  • Recognize and reward consistently.

For more information, contact me at hoopes@columbus.rr.com.