Archive for the 'management' Category

Look not to Obama for success in 09!

Expectations are way, way too high for a quick fix in 2009. We [our economy/our country] are in new and unchartered economic waters. Few alive today, very few,  have experienced, as adults,  the sort of distress. And it’s only just begun.

I’m old enough to recall my dad telling me over and over how Roosevelt and his “New Deal” in the 1930s, the government programs that were supposed to end the “great depression”, failed.  Sure, roads, bridges, lakes and damns were constructed. Sure, thousands went to work for their country.  Still, look at the facts…the economy DID NOT come back.

What brought us out of the depression was the second world war; the worst war in American history!  Sad…but undeniably true.

So, we can sit and dream, we can listen to politicians preach at us about the need for and sensibility of deficit funded  bail outs but…in the end, it’s not going to be enough.

I almost feel sorry for Obama.  This current economic crisis is not of his making. Leading us out of it, however, is now his responsiblity.  Problem is, he has so little significant control. That’s right, so little control.  About the most important thing he or any leader can do when faced with problems of this magnitude, is to act like a leader!

What he can do:

First, try doing what John Kennedy did in 1961…set an aspirational goal around which we can rally. Kennedy dazzled us with the space program. He made us believe we were good enough, smart enough to send a man to the moon and bring him back alive…”not because it’s easy but because it’s hard”.  So, Obama, Mr. almost President, do the same. Set an aspirational goal. And if you, my readers, are small business operators, you do the same. To be motivated, people need a cause.

Leaders unerstand that, when we focus on the big, overarching goal, the one that is a game changer, small problems and roadblocks fade away; they are handled as simply challenges to eliminate.

Next, find the best, most talented people to lead in focused, functinal areas. I believe Obama is doing this. But…politics have to be kept out of the staffing process. Great leaders understand that they only direct and inspire…and that it’s their people who make things happen. We must have the right people in the right jobs…and, in politics, that is not typical. So, Mr. Obama, buck the trend.

Now, give your “go team” the tools they need to make things happen. Playing with monetary and fiscal policy is a place to start but…you’ll have to go far beyond these overly complicated and slow to be effective government processes. You’ll need to get down in the weeds. Find out what the leaders need, give it to them..and do it quickly.

Then, Mr. President, we’ll need a a positive working environment. See to it that our smartest people interact , that they work together and share the best ideas, in an atmosphere that is all positive.

Most government programs are soon bogged down in red tape. Mr. Obama, you must cut it.  As he led the space program in the 60s, Kennedy cut the red tape, made the process efficient. It was essential to reaching the goal then and is now. So, facilitate the process, Mr. President.

And last…be a “hands-on” coach. Stay close to the action. Get out of Washington, DC! Get out there on the playing field with those on whom you depend to make change happen. Don’t let the status quo tie your hands. Great leaders, those who solve tough problems NEVER LOSE TOUCH WITH THE PEOPLE ON THE FRONT LINES!

If all this sounds a bit trite, that’s only because blog readers are impatient. I have to lay it out concisely or nobody will take the time, I fear, to read my thoughts.  But I know this, the process works.

So, will Obama save us? No. Can Obama quickly but carefully put in place a process of leadership that minimizes our time and national pain in the “recession”? You bet. Will he? My bet is…he’ll try.

Who will make the difference? You will; the American people. You always have and you will again. A positive belief and commitment the principles on which this country were built will be the base, the foundation of our movement out of this economic crisis.  Do we need strong, committed leaders? Sure. But who will do the heavy lifting? You and I.

Are you ready? I am. Let’s learn a lession from those brave souls on 9-11. Let’s roll!

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Wake up call for Gen Y workforce

Achtung! Wake up kids, it’s a new ball game!  Listen closely now, I’ve got a new word to add to your vocabulary….layoff.

Making my rounds as a small business consultant, in the past 90 days, I’ve noticed a perceptible change in the younger, less experienced workforce…the Gen Y folks in their early 20s. Now, I don’t want to make too much of this observation but…the new generation of workers is getting a rude awakening. No reason to repeat what you all know…times are tough. In some industries, real tough. And, compared to a just one year ago, layoffs are far more common.

Around the water cooler, staff members in the slowing home services business wonder…”Will I be next?”  As I said, to me, this newfound concern for job security is clear.

What does it mean? More importantly, what does it matter?  I believe those of us whose concern it is to manage and lead in tough times, have a real opportunity!  An older member of the management profession, I’ve seen it, lived it all before…backin the late 80s.  Recession then led to job cuts and more work for those who were kept on the team.  And, I must say, we learned alot about productivity, as delivered on a daily basis by concerned workers.

I suppose all I’m saying is….Maslow had it right! His well known “hierarchy of needs” theory is proven to be fact over and over again. Human beings react to the most urgent, most threatening situations in ways that preserve their lives and lifestyles. Nothing new here.  The point is, when people are worried about thier jobs, they tend to listen more closely to those who have the power to end their careers.  “What”, they wonder, “must I do to keep this job?” 

Smart leaders understand that, if only for a fleeting moment in time, Gen Y workers, self-possessed and focused on balance, flexibility and lots of control and immediate gratification in their lives, are going to pay more attention to how they can add value to the company.  This is a good thing!

Smart leaders will sieze the moment!  I’m not talking about grinding an extra 10 percent out of each frightened worker…I’m talking about teaching the new generation of workers how good they can be! Why? Because most have no idea how productive a person can be when focused on the task at hand vs. a consuming belief that life must be fun 24/7!

So, go for it boss! Crank up the training…have more team meetings. Let your best people know that, together, you will weather the recession and emerge a better, more productive team than ever before.

Teach your people to multi-task. Cross train everyone. Show people how good they can be and recognize the positive growth when you see it!

Let’s go America…time to turn off MSNBC and CNN…time to cut out the negative thinking….time to pull you team up by the boot straps! You can do it…your workers can do it….if you understand that it really does take an energized team approach to leading.

Go for it! After all…what is your next best option?

Managing Management Stress

Read all the books you want; consult psychological theories and the experts.  Typically, what you’ll find is lots of advice by “experts” in behavioral psychology, always sporting a PhD and ready to tell you how YOU can subdue the stress in YOUR life. Problem; they don’t and most often have never lived in your world or walked in your shoes. They, the experts, have trouble relating so, in the absence of solid, experience based data, they rely on theories…theories expounded more “experts” who preceeded them.

Think for a moment, do you suppose Sigmund Freud would be able to relate to the working environment of a modern day manager? Do you really? I don’t.

So, what we get is a series of directives telling us how the human mind works and what goes wrong, usually based on how we were “imprinted” as kids, our early experience and behavioral conditioning, without PRACTICAL ways with which to correct the problems leading to excess and unmanageable stress.

Who has time or the inclination for counseling? Few managers I know.

With the full understanding that I’m no “expert”, I’ll suggest an Rx for managing the unavoidable stress in today’s business world. Sure, it’s somewhat general but I know it helps because it worked for me and for others with whom I’ve consulted. The most practical way to deal with natural stress is to maximize SELF-CONTROL. Figurative and literal control of your time and your life.

“Can’t be done,” you say? I’ve done it; so can you.

First, and this is the gutsy one, you must determine that you and only you will decide who you are today and how you’ll spend the rest of your working life. Doing this means going through a bit of self-analysis. No, you don’t need a shrink! You must identify those things driving you nuts. I’m talking about the “put offs”, things you have decided you must do because you can’t trust others and which you simply don’t feel comfortable doing.  Do it, the sky won’t fall and your business won’t fail.

What things are really important to you? Simply put, if you identify what is most important in your life, things and people, and find you are consistently upset and “stressed” by other things and people, you have to decide to clean up the list! You are going to focus on the important and work to dump the others.

What I’m saying is, if you want to control stress, you must control youself..and that means manging the things, people and activities in your life.

I apologize for the sermon. I’ve been at this a while and made every mistake there is to make. So, I’ve learned by suffering the slings and arrows of living a phony existance. And, thankfully, I learned how to make it better. Believe me, rich or poor, it’s better being yourself!

Now, let’s get practical for a moment. “How”, you ask, “can I do it and run my business at the same time?” How can I escape the people issues, customer problems and details? Quick answer, re-engineer your organization.

Re-engineer?  Rebuild? Reorganize? Yep! All three. Recently, I worked with a small business owner on the west coast who was drowning in a sea of details and activities that were driving him crazy but which he felt he was bound to manage. Because he came from the old school…”If you want it done right you do it yourself”, he really trusted noone but himself. And he had himself boxed in. He had no time for things he really felt great doing. 

I understand, I am over-simplifying a more complex process but, bloggers are impatient.  In a sentence, I prevailed upon the manager to sit back, analyze his time and re-focus on his skills.  Surprised as he was, we were able to establish a plan for delegating the less essential tasks, tasks that were tying him up on a daily basis and let him breathe!

Result; as the manager’s day focused more and more on the “A” items, so vital to his business and let the “B” and “C” items go to subordinates, he relaxed.  You can do the same. you will now spend time where you can add the greatest value. And, you be a happier manger…with far less stress.

Bonus; you now have a process for building the skills and abilities of the next wave of mangers.  Succession planning now will become an integral part of your team building culture. And, you will have found a tool for stress reduction…no PhD, no couch required!

Again, I do apologize for the grossly underdetailed explanation above. My point is simply to encourage managers to stop feeling that suffering is a job requirement and plan a system that works for you!