Posts Tagged 'leadership'

All Behavior is a Function of it’s Consequences!

Ever hear that line before? Sound like psycho-bable? Shrink speak? Well, BINGO! That is precisely what it is. And, oh…by the way…it happens to be true!

Just back from a consulting visit with a good client. The owner and senior manager are very interested in improving management and staff performance. They want things….like customer service, to work better for the company. They want fewer customer complaints, fewer lost customers, and greater lifetime values. That’s what they want.

Reviewing recent issues, situations poorly resolved or left dangling for a later day….I did what I always do…I called it as I saw it…warts and all. Nobody disagreed. In fact, everyone felt my analysis was spot on…to use an MBA phrase for an accurate description of what is what!

Then, the good part. I laid out a couple of options, things that could be done to create improved performance. Each involved confronting the realities of today, to bring about a better tomorrow…for all. Each option required management to draw a line in the sand and commit to changing the status quo. Each would mean that what is wrong today, will be gone tomorrow.

Guess what happened. To quote senior management…”We don’t want to go that far”. Huh? Then why am I here,  I wondered. “Just do the best you can to explain the right way to do things”, was the direction given to me. “OK”, I replied..and that is what I did.

What will change? Nothing. Why? Because behavior really is a function or the result of how we, as leaders, repond to it. Not complicated. When unacceptable behavior is met with a “discussion” of what should be…but no other reaction, the message is “we think you ought to change your behavior but..if it’s uncomfortable for you…fine.” And so it goes.

My mesage today is…first, don’t begin initiating change unless you are willing to follow through. But, if you are, you can change behavior with your serious and ongoing reactions to what you see happening. And your reaction to poor performance cannot be a suggestion; your reaction must be a declaration in word and deed that, from this day on, some of the things we do, will be done differently. No big deal; no revolution; just modified behavior. Then, as you take each small, easy step toward improved behavior, you celebrate and reward it! Your positive response will keep the changes going. Behavior will improve because the consequence of doing it old way will be corrective action in the form of a negative and unswerving response from leadership.

Honest, folks..it can be done. But you must be less willing to put up with unacceptable behavior than you are to confront reality. I can tell you this…people like to be led. Leadership and positive direction will, over time, be met with improved behavior. But, you can’t stick your head in the sand and expect a consulting to make it happen!

Sorry to rant but…as I learn over and over again, wishful thinking has never and will never change behavior. Your reaction to the performance of your staff must be real, serious and continuous.

Good luck!

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Get off the doom and gloom kick!

Flash! People are sick and tired of this recession. Over 90% of all Americans, those who want jobs, have them! And, despite what you hear, most have medical benefits too!

So, why are we hanging our heads? I’ll tell you; because the media is making hay, driving ratings scaring people to death! I don’t know about you but I’msick of it!

Don’t want to sound successful or anything not PC but…I bought a new 09 general motors car this year. And, low and behold…it’ still running! In fact, it’s a great car! So, life as we know it has not ended and, unless we let the sobbing, politically motivated pundits control our emotions, we can survive!

Let’s all decide to be positive for a change. We’ve been through tougher times….much tougher..and we’ve survived. And we can now. I’ve never Americans so down in the dumps without reason in my life. Don’t misunderstand…out of work is out of work. But, we can work through it if we go forward and get our heads out of the sand.

If you run a company, you’d better be showing a postive face 24/7. If you are an employee, representing a company, you’d better push back against consumers who are being sold the doom and gloom story. If we kick consumer spending in the rear, if we begin, again, to invest in the future, we’ll actually have one.

I know my positve view is not exactly typical but, I was part of a home serivce business during the 1987 recession..a tough time for the service business. I saw people pull in their horns and expect to fail. No surprise, they did! Self-fulfilling prophecy, I suppose. But my company did not! And my clients this time around are growing! Why, becasuse the refuse to buy into the media dribble which, in my view is mainly responsible for the malaise that has overtaken our country.

Good news! Our attitudes are ours! We can choose to be up…or down. Stay in the dumper if you must but, as for me..I’m not taking part in the negative recessionary doom and gloom any longer.

Gee, I feel better already!! How about you?

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!

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?

A Leader’s Secret Weapon

  “Can’t talk…gotta go”. 

 “Hey, boss, hang on…I got a question”.

 “I said I gotta go…upset customer”.

Humm….sound familiar?  Boss can’t talk to employee, has customer issue to resolve. And, of course, as we’ve all been taught, THE CUSTOMER COMES FIRST!  Or does he/she?

Take a closer look at how you really outght to run your business.  I have a slogan; I use it in all my triaining/consulting sessions. It goes like this: “CRM [Customer Relations Management] begins with ERM [Employee Relations Management].  Get my point?

I don’t care what business you are in, if you have customers, you need to focus on serving them in a special way.  If you don’t, in this economy, with choices galore, they will disapprear like the morning fog.

So, how do we successfully serve, retain and profit from our customer base? Through our people.

If you want happy customers, start by building a culture that includes and is based on happy people. “Can’t be done these days”, you say.  Wrong. It can is is being done…today.

Without a long explanation, suffice to say that a primary cause of business failure, is a preceding failure to focus on your key resouce, the human resource.  We work real hard on planning, figuring out how to execute, etc. But, when it comes to the people on whom we depend to make it happen, we spend little time and attention to ensure success. Period.

A moment on something I learned as a young, know-nothing econ student; The Pareto Principle. All who sell, or have ever sold anything, have heard of it.  Still, if the PP is unfamiliar, let me lay it out as concisely as possible.

In 1906, an Italian eonomist named Vilfredo Pareto, while studying the laws of distribution [how things are naturally spread out], discovered something important. Simply, that a majority [he figured about 80%] of the value of time spent and effort expended, came from a minority [he fiuured about 20%] of the things we do.  We get most of the return on our time and effort from a very few things we do during a typical day, week, month or year. Lately, this distribution principle has been termed, The Pareto Principle.

The lesson, to a young sales rep is, figure out who your highest potential customers are and spend you time with them. Don’t waste time on the masses that return little in payback for time invested.

The PP can be applied to management time in any business, as well. Ask yourself..how do you spend your day….on things or on people?  Because people are tougher to deal with and control than things or tasks, we tend to gravitate to things we can control. Even familiar problems precede dealing with our people in terms of the percieved degree of difficulty and discomfort. So, for most managers/leaders, people come second.  The team comes second.

Now, that would be fine…except for one thing..it’s our people who enable us to succeed, to reach management and company objectives.  No doubt about it…as good old Vilfredo learned, you will get more bang from your time use and focus buck when you spend it on high payback activities that involve people!

What kind of activities? Oh, let’s start with recruiting, attracting the best in your business segment. Then, how about training them; ensuring they succeed, which, of course is hugely motivating to the worker, leading to greater productivity and lower staff turnover. And how about follow up coaching; reinforcing learning to form strong productive habits? Am I getting through?

Stop focusing on things, spend your time with your people and the investment will be returned 10 fold.

Smart managers and leaders know the secret to success…the secret weapon; the Pareto Principle.

Coaching Required for “Gen Y” Workers

Coaches Win – Bosses Lose!  It’s really as simple as that.  Try to “boss” today’s workers and you might as well hang out the white flag of surrender because it just doesn’t work.

Do you know there are almost 40 million “millineals” out there?  If you are a manager, or are involved in staffing, that fact alone should get your attention.  And, the “millineals” or “generation y” workers tend to think differently about work.

Basically, younger workers [between 18 and 26], today’s “millineals”, with more career choices, are pickier about where they work and why.  Even in a recessionary economy, workers have more career destination options than only a few years ago.  In our service economy, people are typically the key factor in determining a companies success or failure.  And workers make career decisions based on this premise; I will take a job if it looks good, but I will only keep it if it feels good.  And it had better feel good fast! Now that is changed thinking.

So, what’s new?  How have expanded career options impacted worker thinking? Here’s a starter list:

  • I no longer work to live, I live to work, my way.
  • I don’t take a job to make my company a success, I work to get what I want from the company.
  • I want maximum flexibility with a minimum of rules, procedures and boundries.
  • I’m convinced my lack of experience simply makes it easier for me to see the world objecivley and that “old time” managers are jaded by the screwed up life they’ve lived.
  • I want money, and I want benefits, and I want them day one on the job.
  • I expect a complete training program with lots of “hands-on” follow up on the job.
  • I demand respect … before I’ve earned it.
  • I want my opinions included in the decision making process…whether or not I have an intelligent idea.
  • I want to be taught, not told
  • I want you to sell me, not tell me.

I could go on…but won’t.  The point is, if you are in a position of hiring, training or leading people in today’s workplace, you’d better learn to be a coach vs. a boss! You’d better understand that the way to keep your winners is to teach them how to succeed, and begin day one!  If you stake your management success on a building great plan and simply make assignments, without concern for worker motivation to hit your goals, you’ll come up short every time.

Houston, we have a problem; many of today’s managers haven’t lived in this “new world” of people management. They have not been coached, they have been bossed. They are the survivors of an outdated management culture. And many sturggle mightly to lead effectively.  They simply don’t have the requisite skills.

Back in the 20th century, lots of research was done on people, and their attitudes about working.  Most managers fell into a style described as “Theory X”.  These folks believe in work, period. Hard work built America. It’s the task that’s important, not the person doing it. People, they believed, don’t really want to work but will do so if, and only if pushed, prodded and threatened.  No surprise, this thinking came from the hardships of the great depression. During the 30s and 40s, the period before WWll, people took any job they could find.  Of course, many hated what they did each day but working  put food on the table. 

Things are different today. Even in our recessionary economy, workers have more choices. So far, putting food on the table has not been an issue; not for most. Today, gen y workers struggle with decisions like which laptop to buy or where they’ll sit at the critically important concert this weekend. They want to spend more time on themselves, less at work.  Fewer hours, more flexibility, that is ther objective.  They want choices, and they want them now.

So, in view of this undeniable paradigm shift, will you lead effectively? Will you be able to accomplish your business goals through people? Or, will you sit back and complain about how nobody wants to work anymore. Your choice.

These days, I spend most of my time helping managers cope with the unavoidable requirement to learn leadership skills, to impact behavior.  Anyone, I believe, can learn to lead, and must.

Building new human interaction or coaching skills requires ongoing management learning.    Take a close look in the mirror. Ask yourself if you are prepared to win with people.

A few questions for you:

1. Are you a coach or boss? Do you understand the difference?

2. Is employee turnover an issue in your business?

3. Are you attracting enough of the right people?

4. Do you prioritize tasks or people?

5. When performance is unsatisfactory, do you know how to change it?

6. Do your team members respect or resent you?

7. Do you inspire your team to achieve, to be the best they can be?

8. Bottom line, are you living in the management past?

Training On The Job

The busier you are, the tougher to schedule pure ‘training time’.  For years, I’ve encouraged the use of ‘small bite’ training in the form of Monday morning meetings or, as they are known in landscaping, ‘tail gate’ sessions. 

 

To really change behavior, your training technique must be more than effective in the classroom; it must easy to use on the job.  Recently, working in the field with a new hire, I was reminded of the necessity to ‘teach not tell’.  As I attempted to explain what seemed like a simple task, I recognized the unmistakable stare of a new employee who had no experience and didn’t really get my message.  In a hurry, I repeated the message… “Just do it the way I told you to,” I repeated.  For the second time, the new person failed to properly perform the task.  While it might seem obvious, I realized that I had forgotten a cardinal training rule… “Teach don’t tell”.  I had not taken time to DEMONSTRATE the expected performance and relied on words to communicate.

 

Every now and again, I have to remind myself that we are visual learners.  Experts have shown that as much as 85% of our knowledge is gained visually, while only about seven or eight percent comes through the spoken word.  In sales training sessions, I have often taught learners that “words create pictures” and that communicating on the phone requires the effective use of language and speaking skills.  But there is no question that SHOWING BEATS TELLING every time.

 

Here is a simple process you can use to train effectively; I call it the “AC/DC” process. 

  1. ACTIVITY performed.  Assuming the trainee has received proper advance instruction, have the trainee perform the task or “activity”.
  1. CRITIQUE.  Observe the action, reinforce proper procedure, identify any changes needed.
  2. DEMONSTRATE.  Perform the proper procedure for the trainee.  Show, don’t just tell!
  1. CRITIQUE.  Again, observe and critique.  Be sure you reinforce proper procedures…explain and demonstrate any corrections indicated.

 

That’s it…AC/DC!  A training/coaching process that’s easy to remember, easy to use.

 

Just a note about the critique: It’s important to let the trainee know what he/she is doing right!  If you are talking only about what it wrong, the message is “you are a loser”.  Complimenting satisfactory performance is important to keep the message positive.  Remember, when a trainee feels they are making steady progress, they will be motivated to continue learning.  That, of course, is the objective.

 

Finally, readers may know by now that my view of the trainer’s responsibility is that we trainer’s are responsible to not only teach job skills but to help ensure that employees are willing and able to execute what they have learned…and do so consistently. In a later post, we’ll explore training techniques that will help get your crew through the busiest months of your business season.  But why wait?  Start thinking now about the need to plan and show your concern for the physical and emotional condition of your team members.