Great Quotations

February 12, 2010

A Manager’s Vital Toolkit – Creating Self-Awareness

As we manage our people, it’s very easy to get wrapped up in what we are doing.

Understanding whether the directions we are taking is always right can be a challenge.

One of the biggest difficulties that managers have to face is the ’emperor’s new clothes’ syndrome.

Often quoted, this is the story of the emperor who, caring so much about his clothes, hires two swindlers who promise him the finest suit of clothes from the most beautiful cloth.

This cloth, they tell him, is invisible to anyone who was either stupid or unfit for his position. The Emperor cannot see the (non-existent) cloth, but pretends that he can for fear of appearing stupid; his ministers do the same. When the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they dress him in mime.

The Emperor then goes on a procession through the capital of his country, to show off his new “clothes”. During the course of the procession, a small child cries out, “But he has nothing on!” The crowd realizes the child is telling the truth.

The Emperor, however, holds his head high and continues the procession.

No-one tells you how you are doing, so it must be OK.

Being a manager means that you either have to ensure that others feel so comfortable about working with you that they are prepared to give you the feedback that you might not want to hear – or you have to have sufficient very objective self-awareness of yourself, that you recognize when things need to change – and you have the courage to make it happen.

More, you need to be sufficiently sensitized to the need for change in yourself, as well as your business, that you are able to self-manage yourself.

Getting the right sort of constructive feedback for yourself can be hard to access, but suffice to say that feedback from others is very valuable – and more so because it builds a great relationship between you and the others on the team.

And remember awareness is also the capability to ‘sense’ how things are in others too. By building strong relationships through regular conversations, you will develop your sense of intuition too, which makes a big difference.

Personally developing the quality of self-awareness cannot be overestimated, so spending some time creating this exceptional skill is well worth that little bit of extra effort on your part, whilst cultivating your people to help you out too.

When you have your people on your side as well as developing your own self-awareness skills is a great way forward and, as they see this work for you, they will start to consider carefully and appreciate their own capabilities too.

Filed under Blog, Great Quotations, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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January 3, 2009

“It is ironic, but true, that in this age of electronic communications, personal interaction is becoming more important than ever” Regis Kenna, Marketing Consultant

“It is ironic, but true, that in this age of electronic communications, personal interaction is becoming more important than ever”
Regis Kenna, Marketing Consultant

Over the last 30 years, technology has changed the face of the world. In fact just around that time the first calculator pocket calculators were being sold to the public – before that there was nothing electronic! Can you imagine that?

Today we have an enormous range of gadgets and widgets both in our work and our daily lives, to make it easier – which it does.

The time-changing events that technology allows for have revolutionized what we can do in every aspect of the world we live and work in.

It’s important to acknowledge what that time-saved actually does. It creates more spaces to do the things we can only do ourselves, as managers, by interacting more with our people.

And ironically, person-to-person interaction is happening less, whilst it is right now all the more critical for managers to work more effectively by getting into one-to-ones with every one of their people.

By using the time and space that technology creates for us, it is vital to ensure that we remember that in the personal relationships we have as managers, we create value as only we, uniquely, can.

Technology can crunch the numbers; can move mail faster than the postman (usually) and as managers we need to utilize this so that the time we create is used to develop our ‘people time’.

From those one-on-ones, to group meetings and even through just listening to what our people have to say about anything, regularly, day-in/day-out, is our most valuable asset.

It’s vital we don’t let the technology get in the way!

Filed under Developing Your People, Great Quotations by Martin

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December 22, 2008

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often” Winston Churchill

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”
Winston Churchill

Making the effort to improve when performance is poor is tough. Especially when you are manager and it’s up to you to make difficult decisions.

Yet it’s usually the easiest thing to rapidly improve performance when you are measuring against poor results in the past.

Adding 30 percentage points on when you start at 10 is way easier than adding 30 to 70!

It’s much easier to improve on what’s bad.

What is much more challenging, is not to rest on your laurels when the going is good. You’ve done the hard work; you’ve arrived; it’s done!

Not true. Because when it gets very difficult as a manager, is when you’ve made the big changes and things are ticking along nicely. It’s at this very time when the questions need to come:-

“What else is there?”
“How can we improve on this even more?”
“Where are the next level of opportunities?”

Reviewing and changing, time after time in an ongoing upward cycle of success is when the tough really do get going.

Sure, it’s time to celebrate successes and learn from what went well. The very best managers and their teams look back into the mix and ask those questions others would pass by.

It’s a sign of quality, persistence, tenacity and great leadership that only the very best demonstrate. Showing their people how to be best in their work and their careers.

It’s the easy option to take the foot off the gas. It’s not the best option by far.

Filed under Focus on Results, Great Quotations by Martin

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December 15, 2008

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it again?”

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it again?”

Time is of the essence in the fast-paced modern world in which we live our days.

Unless we are very careful, we rush each day, fixing things as best we can, without the time to correct things so they are permanently fixed. We just about survive – on a good day!

The trouble is that when we sticking-plaster mend, it doesn’t often correct the underlying issues.

And because we don’t devote enough time to delve and fix the bigger issue, under the surface, it comes back time and time again to haunt us, wear us down and suck the energy right away.

Next time you find a recurring problem, take a little longer and invest in a bigger fix than the sticking-plaster.

It will take you longer and it might seem quite a challenge. Then as you do this, you notice that your investment starts to pay off and you will get the value of that time back, with interest.

How often in the past week did you have to ‘fix’ something you fixed before? It can drive you crazy! So, by endeavoring to get a layer beneath, you can sort out the sources and fix those, instead of the top-level problem coming up time and again.

Your people will soon start to see you do this and over a surprisingly short time, they will make sure that new tasks are right, first time too.

Frustration eases, people become more productive, confident and creative. It takes time to make things work well right away every time and when it works you know it’s been worth it’s while.

This investment of your time might seem a challenge at first. Yet, quite quickly, you will see that the outcomes you are achieving were worth those days where you put aside seemingly important tasks, to invest a little in the future.

Filed under Great Quotations, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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December 8, 2008

“A leader needs to be in touch with the employees…” – Donald Peterson, Former Chairman, Ford Motor Company

“A leader needs to be in touch with the employees and to communicate with them on a daily basis.”
Donald Peterson, Former Chairman, Ford Motor Company

It sounds almost to crazy to say it, yet it’s true. Top managers have to be in a place where they understand how their people are doing all of the time.

It doesn’t have to be formal. It doesn’t need to be heavy. In fact it’s really good the lighter the better. It’s about your people being comfortable with you and opening themselves up (it might be little-by-little at first) as you do too.

Then you get signals on your sensitive radar.

How on earth else could anyone find out about what is going on at the sharp end of a business, other than communicating directly with them regularly?

How to do it? Well, it’s all about just getting out there, showing an interest in the people your business depends on. Listening a lot and saying much less. Valuing their contribution by hearing them and how they are feeling.

The first step is just to get out there and show an interest.

Prime your conversations, by asking questions likely to stimulate interest, then, let your people take the lead and talk to you. Your listening will be very attractive to them and they will appreciate it and say more.

By asking questions that require answers from them and avoiding the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ that can come otherwise, you will truly find out what makes your people tick, one at a time.

Then work on keeping up your interactions with them – about anything – with a schedule of actions intended to maintain your visibility.

Developing long-term relationships with as many of your people as possible, is the very best investment of your time you can make.

Filed under Developing Your People, Great Quotations, Managing Me by Martin

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December 1, 2008

“If you are not focused, you will not meet or exceed the duties and responsibilities of your position” Frank Alley

“If you are not focused, you will not meet or exceed the duties and responsibilities of your position”
Frank Alley, CEO, The Brooklyn Hospital Center

It’s so easy to get bogged down in the seemingly vital everyday minutiae that face you when you walk into work each day.

The ‘busyness’ of the manager’s day never seems to go away, to leave the breathing spaces vital for focusing on results, let alone growth and development.

So, it’s really important to make sure that you do the things that you – and only you – can do best, within the context of what’s most important in your business. Whilst enabling others in your business to get on with what they are great at too.

Many managers take their eye off the ball and consequently lose the focus on where to spend their own business time to best effect. They choose to get on with what’s ‘nice to do’, and miss the point – the vital stuff – that makes their business tick.

And it’s such an easy trap to fall into, because it sneaks up on you slowly and silently. Businesses that become comfortable, run the very real risk of losing direction which can be very dangerous indeed.

As a manager, you lead from the front and need to show your people that you above all are on target, dealing with the things that are critical to success. So it’s worth checking in with yourself, once in a while, that you are doing the most important things first, before you start amusing yourself.

Then, the right things get done when you need them to, leading to the reward of a focused business performance that will deliver the results that you want.

Your people will see the best focus comes from you, leading them to discover, through your example, what is most important to the performance of the business.

Your personal capacity to focus on the key issues will lead them to develop and fine tune that most critical of skills for themselves as well.

Filed under Great Quotations, Managing Me by Martin

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November 23, 2008

“Making no choice is a choice” – William James

“When you have a choice to make and you don’t make it, that is, in itself, a choice.”
William James, American Psychologist

You can’t get away from making difficult choices in your business by avoiding them. The challenges that those choices represent are going to need fixing some way or other.

Because making no choice, is indeed a choice in itself. You are just as responsible for the consequences as if you had made a significant choice anyway.

So, by preferring the lazy and ineffective way out, the choice you make is just that, ineffective and weak, leading to the outcomes you achieve and, bluntly, deserve.

And it’s worse as well. When you fail to make the constructive choice to actively lead your team, your people start to get twitchy, because indecisive leadership gives no confidence at all.

By avoiding difficult decisions, you build only mistrust from your people, something you will find very challenging to recover from. Trust can take months and years to build, but only a few seconds to destroy.

A business that is managed by an individual who really cannot make decisions (especially the tough ones where everyone is watching!) and make choices that are dynamic – even when they turn out to be wrong – will lead to confusion and concern for team members.

Of course, you can take defensive positions a little when you have the most challenging of choices to make. There is nothing wrong if you need to take a time out before committing yourself.

If you consistently have a personal style that your people get to understand clearly, even if it means a break before a choice is made, they will learn to appreciate that and have an understanding about how you tick. They will know that you like to think and consider the options you have carefully before you choose – and then you do act and make that choice.

By the way, this works in real life as well!

Filed under Great Quotations, Managing Me by Martin

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November 22, 2008

“There are two great motivators in life. One is fear. The other is love…” Jan Carlzon

“There are two great motivators in life. One is fear. The other is love. You can manage an organization by fear, but if you do, you will ensure that people don’t perform to their real capabilities. People are not willing to take risks when they feel afraid or threatened. But if you manage people by love – that is, if you show them respect and trust – they start to perform up to their real capabilities. Because, in that kind of atmosphere, they dare to take risks.”
Jan Carlzon, Former CEO, Scandinavian Airlines System

Want fast results? Manage with fear. Scaring the hell out of your people works really well in the short-term.

The trouble is, where fear exists, your people will keep their heads down and do exactly what is expected of them – and no more. And if they are scared enough, just hang around until they have found somewhere safer.

Why would they try new ideas, just in case they get beaten-up when they do? Many decades of ‘command and control’ take some time to shake off in organizations across the globe.

Pain hurts – and no-one inflicts pain on themselves if there is another way out. So, damaged employees keep their heads down to avoid more of the pain that fearful managers heap on them.

Truth is, such behavior is so much more about the manager’s ego, than a desire to manage effectively. So much more is about their own inadequacies to evolve and change.

It’s so much easier to keep beating with a stick, rather than learn new ways. In many ways this is an indicator of the manager’s own frailties, showing up as a bully.

As Carlzon says, there is another way. A way which encourages and develops. A way that sees the future as one where sustainable growth and a workforce with a curiosity for a way of working that is inclusive, rather than exclusive.

Creating a sustainable growing organizational workforce, prepared to risk and challenge, because they feel that they can. Great managers take the time to grow their people through support and encouragement – and lose the stick!

Filed under Great Quotations by Martin

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November 21, 2008

“An idea is a fragile thing…” – Tom Peters

“An idea is a fragile thing. Turning it off is much easier than keeping it lit. Ideas shine because somebody had them and somebody helped them and nobody turned them off.”
Tom Peters – ‘A Passion For Excellence’

Your people bring with them, into your business, a wealth of creativity. In fact we are all creative beings until some experience somewhere back in our lives snuffs it out with a thoughtless word or two from someone.

If you want unique, creative solutions from your employees, you have a wonderful opportunity to develop that side of their skills.

You, as their manager have the ability to nurture and caress their ideas, by giving them some airtime and freedom to share, explore out loud their thoughts and ‘possibilities’, however crazy they might seem.

It’s time to show them the generosity they need to expand and grow, helping them develop, as well as benefiting the business that you all are in together.

Your people really do have the innate capacity to generate wonderful, imaginative and above all different solutions for you – if you listen carefully and let them.

Managers that show this level of support and encouragement are pretty rare, so the opportunity for you to make the most of those wonderful assets is almost limitless – if you take the time to recognize it.

How you personally handle their brilliant ideas can make the difference as to whether someone’s flame is nourished or snuffed out forever. It takes but a small word to close someone down, never to try again. People avoid painful experiences, so, sometimes it’s easier not to try.

It is an onerous responsibility you carry, yet one for which there is an enormous opportunity to make a difference to that person now and into their futures.

And the value their contribution makes to your business, of course.

Filed under Developing Your People, Great Quotations by Martin

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November 20, 2008

“We provide food that customers love.” – Ray Croc

“We provide food that customers love, day after day after day. People just want more of it.”
Ray Kroc

Whatever you think about McDonalds, their business model is successful.

Even though their menus have had to keep up with modern times and become a little more ‘healthy’, they remain a firm favorite with families and young people especially.

Of course, their food probably won’t win any Michelin stars, nor is that what their customers want. It’s being inexpensive, consistently acceptable and quick, that their customers want.

They need to know that what they buy will be what they expect and without surprises.

Parents, for example, don’t want to take their kids somewhere that has strange foods (escargots maybeL), that maybe the kids won’t like, or at silly gastronomic prices.

Regular customers know that what they get will be what they expect, so surprise, risk and probably even fear are written out of the equation. No one wants to ‘fear the unknown’ when they step out for a quick, easy and inexpensive meal, however adventurous they are.

So, it’s about consistency, good value and speed. Customers want to know that when they go in there, any kids they have with them will eat the food and have a good time.

In a fun atmosphere with edible food, McDonalds have made a huge difference to hot food retailing over the last 20 years, with a model that has been replicated many times over. A franchiseable deal that is easy to reproduce, and to make their business thrive.

In ‘The E-Myth’, Michael Gerber analyzes the franchise model and recommends it as a way of doing business that anyone can look closely at, whether there is a desire to franchise it eventually or not.

There is something in ‘The E-Myth’ for everyone who runs a business. If you want it more managerially focused, check-out ‘The E-Myth for Managers’ (also by Michael Gerber), which focuses more closely on the challenges that managers experience in the modern era.

Filed under Great Quotations, Managing Me by Martin

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