Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Random Post Feature

Courtesy of phydeaux3, I've added a random blog post Quick Tab over there in the right-hand column. Enjoy!

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Monday, December 22, 2008

BNET syndicates article by Barry Zweibel

BNET quotes Barry Zweibel, MBA, MCC, GottaGettaCoach!
Just learned that BNET has picked up and syndicated an article I wrote and had published a while back. Here's the link: Find Articles - A Strategic Coach, Training & Development, Apr 2005, by Zweibel, Barry.

I'm particularly pleased by this as I've wanted to be noticed by BNET, dubbed as "The go-to place for management", for quite some time now.

Nice way to end the year, dont' you think?!

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Out-Loud Leadership

Effective leadership is about pointing others toward success. It's also about pointing out - out loud - when others are already moving in that direction.

Case in Point: While reviewing a rather content-rich spreadsheet with the employee who created it, his boss stopped mid-sentence to turn to the employee and say,

"This is really very good work, you know. Thank you."

What a great leadership moment! In less than 10 seconds, the executive had recognized the value of the work that had been completed to date, spoke out loud to that value, and took the time to recognize the employee for having been the one to contribute that value.

Was it necessary? No. But was it beneficial? Absolutely!

I know this because of what happened next: The employee smiled, sat up a little straighter and engaged even more thoroughly in the conversation the two of them were having. He was clearly delighted in having impressed the boss.

Kudos to the executive for pointing out - and saying out loud - what she had been thinking. Clearly, it had a positive impact ... and will likely continue to inspire that employee far longer than it took to say what was said.

Nicely done. Very nicely done.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Regular Staff Meetings Make Sense

What is the purpose of a boss holding regularly-scheduled staff meetings? Many-fold:
  1. To insure that employees know what their coworkers are working on ...
  2. To leverage any synergies that may/can exist with respect to that work ...
  3. To build camaraderie between/among team members ...
  4. To enourage greater teamwork ...
  5. To provide the boss with value-added insight and suggestions ...
  6. To disseminate key company information and strategy amongst team members ...
  7. To clarify priorities and alert everyone to "hot" topics ...
  8. To share "new information" on a pending or newly identified issue ...
  9. To recognize superior effort and results ...
  10. To keep the lines of communication open ...
  11. To enjoy a good laugh or two (or three) ...

Why else?

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Maintaining Morale in Tough Times

A member of a LinkedIn group I subscribe to wanted to know how to help his staff maintain morale in tough times. And, while many offered some pretty good suggestions about reminding people of their accomplishments and reiterating Big Picture goals and objectives, I took a slightly different tack:

"I’m actually not all that sure that “Maintaining Morale in Tough Times!” is the right goal in these times. I think that maintaining “realness” might actually be more appropriate. Three potential problems with the “morale” play:
  1. It can too easily come off as being manipulative
  2. It belies reality
  3. Many (most?) managers probably can’t pull it off as intended

“Realness”, however, is … well, REAL. In other words, it passes the sniff test. So I’d suggest any five or six of the following:

  • REAL authenticity
  • REAL respect
  • REAL regard
  • REAL focus
  • REAL attention
  • REAL caring
  • REAL interest
  • REAL authenticity
  • REAL courageousness
  • That is, REAL ... leadership!

Agree? Disagree? What'd I miss?

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Common Sense Office Politics

"Political skills in the workplace can determine one’s ability to perform at a high level, foster camaraderie and ultimately, be the difference-maker between a successful company and failing one." So writes Dr. William Moskal, in the December 2008 issue of Baseline magazine.

What follows are his his top 10 "common-sense management principles that can harness political energy to foster successful teams" [along with my comments in green]:

  1. If you've seen one relationship, you've seen one relationship. To achieve success, you must know what motivates people and apply that intelligence to guide them toward achieving a common objective. [And remember, just because something works particularly well for one person or group of persons does NOT mean it will automatically work well with others. Each person, regardless of the role s/he happens to be playing at any particular point in time, is a unique individual.]
  2. Without structure, there is no freedom. Without structure, anarchy reigns. People need rules about how to interact within a team in order to create responsibility and accountability. [Think jazz improvisation - total freedom "within a pre-determined, formalized structure." See my "Management as Jazz" post for more on this.]
  3. People panic in herds and recover one by one. Recall the last meeting at which employees were notified of organizational change. Likely, there were nervous glances, discreet whispers. After the meeting, employees gathered for conversations where rumors spread. [Don't assume that just one speech, meeting, presentation, or conversation will be enough. Socialize your issues - early and often. Hang out by the copy machine or where your floor's mail is delivered; chat-it-up while waiting for the elevator; purposefully take a few extra trips to Starbucks to talk with informal opinion-leaders; plug into the grapevine; etc. A well-timed conversation - even one of the shortest duration - can have amazing restorative powers.]
  4. There are no obstacles; there are only possibilities. Lead by example and maintain a positive, encouraging attitude. [Sure, it may sound a bit trite and hackneyed, but it's still smart.]
  5. The Platinum Rule: Treat others the way they would like to be treated. [A tip-of-the-hat to Tony Alessandra who coined the term.]
  6. When you jerk the socks on the clothesline, the underwear jumps. Consider consequences, assume accountability and be very clear when communicating an action’s potential impact. [Okay, so I might have used another analogy, but not anticipating Unintended Consequences has ruined many an initiative - and short-stopped many an executive's career.]
  7. Reward and recognize good behavior. Reward and distinguish the teams first and the stars second. [And reward stars for their ability to raise everyone else's level of performance, even more than any individual contribution they happened to make themselves.]
  8. If you own it, you take care of it. [I'm not such a fan of saying that a leader 'owns' his/her team, but the 'take care of it' part is rock-solid advice.]
  9. Trust requires predictability and provision of benefit. Employees need to know how they will benefit if goals are achieved and to understand the consequences if results fall short. [But don't get trapped by "The Dangerous Allure of Trust".]
  10. It’s about people, not politics. [Office politics are neither good, nor bad - they just are. If you have trouble with this concept, consider the word 'politics' to simply mean the process by which communications flow within organization. Thus, playing politics is just another way of saying that you're trying to communicate with your coworkers as effectively as possible. That some are more 'unsavory' about this than most is by and large irrelevant.]

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Time MANagement

"Somewhere along the line, though, we got sold a bill of goods that said that the scales of life could balance two things and only two things - work and family."

So writes Brad Thor in a recent issue of Michigan Avenue magazine, who's launched a "full-scale assault" to put his life back in balance by dedicating more time to doing things that he likes to do.

"I love my family and I love my work," he continues. "But if I don't take time for myself, I can't be at the top of my game in anything."

Here's some of what he's now doing:

  • Become a Regular - "Have a standing, once-a-month rendezvous with pals at the same restaurant. Enforce it mercilessly. No excuses. And the last one to arrive buys the first round."
  • Get out of Town - "As temperatures drop, so do prices on vacation rentals in neighboring states. Leave your work behind, and head to your own private beach house with loved ones for the weekend. And, while you're there, carve out some alone time - and don't feel guilty about it. Take a walk, rent a boat, sit on the deck with your iPod. All that matters is that you do something for you."
  • Take an Afternoon Off - "Even if you can't get out of town, you can still knock of early one day and treat yourself to the new James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. Consider it an investment in your manliness. There's also something incredibly empowering about sitting in a dark theatre while the rest of your colleagues are back at their desks."

"Just remember," concludes Thor, "every man has the same number of hours in his day. It's what he does with those hours that determines what kind of man he is and what kind of balance he will have in his life."

Give or take a 007 flick, so, too, could be said for women, I suspect.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

C.L.E.A.N. up after an Outage

Anyone who works in business knows that systems outages happen. But if you're responsible for correcting such outages, here's a handy little acronym to help C.L.E.A.N. up afterwards:

  • C as in “Cop to it” - Admit you made a mistake (even if it was only a mistake in judgment). Take full responsibility for the impact of your actions (or those of your staff or vendor personnel).
  • L as in “Listen for the deeper issue” - Sure, an outage is annoying, but is it just that? Maybe your customer was particularly annoyed because s/he wasn't notified as to the potential of an outage? How do you communicate with your stakeholders when there isn't an outage (yet) might be a good place to look.
  • E as in "Echo your Apology or Regret" - Don't fall into the trap of thinking that apologizing just once makes everything okay. Remember, you probably really messed up someones Monday morning, or Friday afternoon. When Henry Kissinger said, "Next week there can't be any crisis. My schedule is already full," he wasn't just speaking for himself.
  • A as in “Accept Accountability” - Taking responsibility is only part of it; accepting accountability is the rest. So welcome to the doghouse. You did the crime, now do the time! But, if you work hard, keep your nose clean, and do some of your best work in the weeks that follow, your canine-like residency will likely be short-lived and soon forgotten.
  • N as in “Never let it happen again!” - Puleeze, don’t make the same mistake twice. Find out what happened (think: Root Cause Analysis) and put whatever processes you need in place to insure that this hole is sufficiently patched, once and for all.

From my experience in managing the mission critical telecommunications systems at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (what I did before becoming a coach) every minute of down-time needs about an hour of post-outage clean-up.

If you're doing it in less , you're likely missing some essential C.L.E.A.N. steps along the way.

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