Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Space Clutter and Sacred Cows

This in from the Associated Press: More than 9,000 pieces of space debris are orbiting the Earth and it's a problem that's only going to get worse.

According to an article in this month's Science magazine, each piece of this space junk measures 4 inches or more and totals 5,500 tons. What's worse, even if space launches were immediately stopped, the debris would continue to grow as the pieces already up there collide and break into additional pieces.

The story reminds me of a blog entry I posted back in July of last year called, Sacred Cows Behind Invisible Fences. The metaphor has changed, but the idea is the same - there are all sorts of outdated policies and procedures that are just floating around out there, colliding with each other, or worse yet, colliding with individual employees, and sapping their energy, enthusiasm, and productivity.

Now I know that January is usually a time of starting new things, but maybe it makes sense to use this January as an opportunity to get rid of some old, outdated, things, too. Imagine the clutter that could be eliminated if every boss got rid of just one piece of "space debris," just one Sacred Cow?

Can't think of what you'd like to eliminate? What then would you like to see your boss get rid of? Maybe you could work on it together.


Monday, January 23, 2006

Another Linear Day

Almost forgot. Did forget, actually. Until my friend T reminded me. Today, January 23rd, in the proud tradition of 2-3-4 and 3-4-5, is another "linear" day. Well, okay, unlike the other two (and April 5th upcoming) today is only a one-dash date. But, hey, 1-23 still forms a pretty straight line from start to finish.

Here's hoping your day was a pretty straight line from start to finish, too.

-----Category: _fun


How DO You Motivate Employees?

I just finished re-reading a superb article written by one of my favorite motivational theorists, Frederick Herzberg. It's called One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees? (Harvard Business Review, Reprint R0301F).

For those of you not familiar with his work, Herzberg believed that,

"The opposite of job satisfaction is not job dissatisfaction, but rather, no job satisfaction; and similarly, the opposite of job dissatisfaction is not job satisfaction, but no job dissatisfaction."
According to Herzberg, the things that truly motivate people (things he aptly calls "motivators") are different from the things that eliminate job dissatisfaction (things he calls "hygiene factors").
Examples of hygiene factors are:
  • company policy and administration
  • quality of supervision
  • relationship with supervisor
  • work conditions
  • salary
  • relationship with peers
  • personal life
  • relationship with subordinates
  • status
  • security

Note that hygiene factors tend to be related to the job context, or environment. And although they can provide bursts of enthusiasm to help employees move forward, movement, according to Herzberg, should not be confused with motivation.

In contrast, motivators tend to be related to job content. Examples include:

  • achievement
  • recognition
  • the work itself
  • responsibility
  • opportunity for advancement
  • growth

When motivated by the work itself, an employee needs no outside stimulation to work hard - s/he wants to work hard and do well. But, if the work itself doesn't turn a person on, then no amount of hygiene will create motivation.

So how DO you motivate employees?

One way is though Vertical Job Loading. That is, by making the work itself more challenging and meaningful. (I've referred to this in the past in the context of Job Shaping.)

Be forewarned, though. While Vertical Job Loading has been proven to significantly increase true employee motivation and performance over time, the first few weeks of the transition can be tough. You, as the boss, will be challenged to stay the course, even though there will likely be a fairly significant increase in the number of complaints you get, and a temporary reduction in employee job satisfaction as they're asked to do things they don't already know how to do. And front-line supervisors will probably get pretty nervous about their loss of organizational control, too. So you need to be ready to work through all this with your staff.

But, if you do, the upside for you, your direct reports, and their employees can be significant ... and lasting.

I've tried it. And it works. Drop me a line if you'd like to learn more.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

What "Chapter" are You In?

Excerpted from There's a Hole in my Sidewalk , by Portia Nelson ... An Autobiography in Five Short Chapters:

Chapter 1.

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost… I am helpless. It isn't my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2.

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don't see it. I fall in again. I cant believe I am in this same place. But it isn't my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3.

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in… its a habit. But, my eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

Chapter 4.

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

Chapter 5.

I walk down another street.

So what chapter are YOU in? And what's your plan?


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Companies are Losing Middle Managers

According to the above-titled article in this month's Training & Development magazine, "Middle managers are leaving companies at about twice the rate of senior-level executives."
It makes sense. After years of pruning management ranks through layoffs and attrition - and keeping salaries and bonuses depressed - middle managers are fed up. Tired of being given more and more responsibility and less and less recognition, they're taking advantage of an improving job market and jumping ship.

So what are companies doing to stem the tide? Well, according to the research cited, here are the top ways organizations are trying to retain their middle managers:

If we contrast this with what managers say are the top competencies they need for their ongoing success:
      • communications (70%)
      • strategic thinking (67%)
      • leadership (64%)

it seems pretty clear that if your middle managers are starting to make some noise, providing them with a coach-to-call-their-own is a cost-effective, win/win, alternative that you can offer now, on a per-person basis, rather than having to wait for a company-wide Middle Manager Retention Initiative to get going.

And what if you're one of those under-appreciated middle managers contemplating a change? Try asking your boss to provide you with a coach-to-call-your-own and see if that doesn't help you re-engage in your work without the hassle of having to move to a new employer.

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Monday, January 09, 2006

An Executive's Sphere of Influence

The Good News about the Sphere of Influence.The Good News is that the Sphere of Influence of executive leadership runs both deep and wide:

  • Up the Chain
    •  with the boss
    • with the board
    • with key stakeholder
  • Employees
    •  with direct reports
    • with their direct reports
    • with other personnel
  • External Contacts
    •  with customers
    • with vendors
    • with partner
  • Co-Workers
    •  with peers
    • with team members
    • with other internal contacts

The Bad News about the Sphere of Influence.But the Bad News is that the Sphere of Influence of executive leadership can run both deep and wide:

  • Up the Chain
    • by creating unnecessary conflict
    • by diluting organizational focus
    • by poor decision-making
  • Employees
    • by increasing their stress
    • by obstructing their productivity
    • by eroding their trust/loyalty
  • External Contacts
    • by irritating customers
    • by alienating vendors
    • by undermining partnerships
  • Co-Workers
    • by weakening camaraderie
    • by playing bad politics
    • by derailing others' initiatives

The relevant question to consider then is this: How are you mitigating the potential that you may be becoming an increasing organizational risk?



Thursday, January 05, 2006

Is 2006 getting off to a good start for you?

Well, we're still a little less than one week into 2006, but did you realize that about 1.4% of the New Year is already gone?! Yikes!

The bigger question, of course, is what are you planning on accomplishing in the remaining 98.6%? To follow that , let's take your baseline temperature with a little personal-development activity:

Step One: On a clean sheet of paper (or on your computer), create (or paste) the following chart:

Life Factor







Personal Growth


Physical Environment




Step Two: Consider how important these Life Factors are to you by rating each one using a scale from 1=low to 10=high. Record your answers in column B.

Step Three: Now rate how important each Life Factor is to you based on the amount of time and energy you give to it. Record your answers in column R using the same 1-to-10 scale.

Interpretation: Column B relates to your beliefs about life. Column R relates to your reality in life. Any Life Factor where your two ratings vary by 2 or more would probably benefit from a little extra attention on your part.

Step Last: Identify (and take) some specific steps to re-align your reality with your beliefs and see what that does for you. But don't delay, because as Stevie "Guitar" Miller sang, "Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin', into the future."


Monday, January 02, 2006

BeeZee quoted in major Chicagoland newspaper

I was quoted in today's Daily Herald in an article written by Harry Hitzeman on making better New Year's Resolutions.

Getting my name ~ and my ideas ~ in front of 750,000 readers is a pretty nice way to start 2006, don't you think?!

>>> blog category: life <<<