CULTURE | Tapping Its Potential

“Once a superior service delivery system and an appropriate service concept have been created, no other component is more crucial to the long term efficiency of the service organization than its culture and philosophy." – Richard Normann Revisiting the wise and visionary words of Richard Normann that he wrote in his classic book Service Management: Strategy and Leadership in Service Business. Richard was my teacher (from his books) as I started to understand the human dimension of People at work. That invisible dimension coloring how we interact together to accomplish the mission of the organization. What inspires us, what engages us, what binds us together. We tend to get caught up exclusively focusing on the service product and its delivery systems and we forget about the powerful binding force of culture. A force that informs our behaviors and actions. It is emotionally based. The emotional side of the work we do. We've been conditioned to eschew emotion at work. The focus is virtually on the rational side of business. Traditional (and still dominant) efforts to shape culture via value statements are just that, statements (slogans) that have a poor track record of influencing the operating fabric of an organization, where work and human interaction takes place. It’s needed more than ever before as it is the (largely untapped) source of organizational agility, speed, resilience, and productivity. Yes, productivity of People at work, individually and collectively, as it drives human engagement, satisfaction (happiness), trust, and frictionless collaboration. Think about your current situation. What is the level of [...]

By | 2019-02-21T17:48:09+00:00 May 21st, 2019|

Teaching Life Lessons Will Build Your Management Legacy – Be a ‘Larry’

If you want to truly be remembered by those who work for you, teach life lessons, not just task execution to those who work for you. In 1979 I was a college intern, working as a computer programmer on Human Resource systems at Honeywell Information Systems. During my time there I was trying to learn about business and how to make my mark in the world.   I had a manager named Larry whom I will never forget.  He was my first manager in a true business setting.   He also took the concept of a “college internship” very seriously and felt a responsibility to teach me about more than just my daily tasks.  He also tried to teach me about business and life in general. On the business side, he told me to be ethical and good to people because, after a few years, it would seem that only 250 computer people worked in New England (I’m in Boston) and they just cycle from company to company.  At first glance, this may seem like a meaningless piece of advice, but it was actually incredibly insightful, very true, and extremely valuable to me.  Certainly, there are tens of thousands of computer people in New England, but over the years, you run across the same people again and again. Therefore, good, bad, or indifferent, your reputation precedes you in almost every professional endeavor, particularly if you stay in the same industry and technology throughout your career. On the personal side, Larry asked me “If I wanted [...]

By | 2019-02-22T02:20:48+00:00 April 25th, 2019|

Willingness to Let Your Staff Fail Drives Growth, Innovation and Change

This may sound a little harsh, but once you understand the meaning behind this statement, I believe that you will see that I’m suggesting a way to help, not hurt, those who work for you. Within certain bounds, giving the members of your team the opportunity to fail provides them with a safety net over which they can feel comfortable taking calculated professional risks and, in turn, help advance the organization and simultaneously grow professionally. By allowing members of your team to fail, I don’t mean losing a major client, hurting their professional reputation, or costing the company a large sum of money that could cost them their employment.  It does, however, allow them to: Define new techniques that improve existing department processes Design new product concepts Make a client presentation with you sitting in the back of the room helping them succeed if needed Try to develop a new skill that’s good for the company and their career Sit for a certification exam that they only have a 50% chance of passing Experiment with new technologies that could create company value if they are successful In essence, you are creating an environment that facilitates experimentation, innovation, teamwork, and the chance to have a real business impact.  By not giving your team this opportunity to fail, you are in essence telling them not to try anything new unless they are 100% sure that it will be 100% successful the first time and if not successful, their promotion, future pay raise, or even their [...]

By | 2019-02-22T02:17:34+00:00 April 18th, 2019|

FLOW | Unlocking Five Fold Increase in People Productivity

Any fans of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced Me-hi Chiczen Me-hi) out there? He is the originator of FLOW, the secret to human engagement, contribution, fulfillment, and happiness. In the work environment this translates to a five-fold increase in people productivity. It’s a simple concept really. People enter a state of flow when they can continually grow. It is a function of Challenge and Skill. Does the work they are doing challenge them promoting personal growth? That they can handle the challenge given their current skill level? Stretch them enough to get into the FLOW CHANNEL, but not too much where they enter states of Worry and Anxiety. And when the work they are doing doesn’t challenge them enough, states of Apathy and Boredom set in. Unfortunately, people often are not in the FLOW CHANNEL at work. Either the work they are assigned does not offer them opportunity for (comfortable) personal growth or they can’t focus on it as distractions in the work environment prevent them from doing so. Distractions such as interruptions, meetings (meeting madness), and attributes of the physical work environment such as noise, crowding, clutter, lighting, and so forth. Did you know that interruptions consume 28% of peoples’ time at work? And that it takes 23 minutes to get back into a state of deep concentration resuming the knowledge work once interrupted? So, not only focus on work assignments but also the barriers in the work environment that prevent people from getting and staying in the FLOW CHANNEL. It’s an elegant model and it’s fascinating! [...]

By | 2019-02-21T17:44:33+00:00 April 15th, 2019|

Take Advantage of Hidden Team Abilities to Fill Skill Shortages

Do you know all the non-task-oriented skills and abilities of the people on your team?  Does someone in accounting have an undergraduate degree in English?  Is your administrative assistant fluent in French and Spanish? Does your Human Resources Representative fix computers on the weekend for extra money?  Is the new writer just hired into the marketing department also an accomplished artist or photographer? As a manager, these questions and questions like them can dramatically increase your department’s success, if you can find innovative ways to take advantage of these hidden skills. Using an example from above, as the Marketing Manager responsible for the company's website, having someone on your team who is an accomplished amateur photographer may provide the opportunity to save company money. Asking the person on your team to take headshots of the senior executives for the website's "About" page, rather than hiring an expensive external photography agency. As a second example, if you have an English major turned accountant in your midst, this person may be able to help you proofread department presentations before presenting them to customers and/or senior management. Being aware of your team members' hidden skills has a number of advantages for both you and those working for you.  Let's begin with the advantages for your team: Allows employees to illustrate greater value to the company Provides the employees the opportunity for multiple potential career paths Gives employees a way to expand their professional accomplishments Allows employees to enhance their expertise in currently unused skills Increases the [...]

By | 2019-02-22T02:14:32+00:00 April 11th, 2019|

Who Inspired Your Management Style?

Who are the managers you have had in the past that have inspired your management style? The interesting thing about this question is that inspiration can come from many unexpected places. Have you ever had a great manager that you looked up to? As a child did you have a sports coach that you looked up to? Did you volunteer your time to a charitable, religious, or civic organization and are spellbound by the leadership’s ability to lead and inspire others? In many ways managing people is like raising children. That said, can you draw management inspiration from your mother and/or father? Did you have a high school teacher or college professor who changed your life? If you think it’s easy to properly manage a classroom, you should try it.  Like most things in life, it’s much harder than it appears. Is there a person in your life, such as a relative or friend, who you admire and try to emulate? Management inspiration can also come from negative experiences.  Have you ever had a manager who was indecisive, unorganized, professionally incompetent, uninterested, or just plain mean?  The reason it’s very appropriate to learn from your worst managers is because it teaches you what not to do.  Working for a really poor manager teaches you what it feels like to report to this type of person.  Chances are you don’t want your team to look at you the way you look at and think about your less than desirable managers. The reason that it [...]

By | 2019-02-21T23:07:51+00:00 April 4th, 2019|

Great Managers Are Also Great Teachers

As managers, we wear many hats, including delegator, commander, disciplinarian, leader, decision maker, facilitator, and role model.  Great managers, however, are also teachers, providing instruction and insights to their staff on topics such as: Job specific skills Navigating company politics Leadership skills Interpersonal skills Professional growth and career advancement Life skills, when asked for personal advice Incorporating teaching into your management style has many advantages for your company, your staff members, and you personally. Regarding the advantages to the company, teaching your staff is a triple win.  First, improving the skills of your staff can enhance company morale, boost productivity, increase quality, and reduce employee attrition.  Second, as your staff becomes more highly skilled, due to your tutelage, they increase the company’s bench strength as new projects and challenges arise.  Third, you may be the manager, but you are still an employee. Hence, the more you learn by teaching, the more valuable you become to the company in regard to future promotions. Regarding the advantages to your staff, they’re learning new job skills, gaining insights on navigating their professional careers, have the benefit of working in a nurturing environment, and are enhancing their future professional marketability. The advantages to you personally include: You learn by teaching. The reason you learn when teaching a topic is because students’ questions cause you to consider things from different perspectives, this giving you deeper insights into the topic/subject you are teaching.  Also, teaching makes you break down tasks into steps so you can explain them to the [...]

By | 2019-02-21T23:07:18+00:00 March 28th, 2019|

Leadership Requires of Vision and Articulation

When some people see or hear a statement that resembles the title of this column, they often say something to the effect of “Ya, ya , ya, I know, to be good a leader you must have a vision and then communicate with others. Bla bla bla." The reason for this, dare I say, uninspired attitude toward defining leadership as a combination of vision and articulation is twofold.  First, is because it seems to be stating the obvious. Second, is because vision and articulation is only part of the leadership story.  Let’s discuss these reasons one at a time. Regarding leadership, vision provides the direction of where you want people to go.  Articulation is the process of communicating your vision to others. If done correctly, this communication is much more than just stating what you are thinking and how you would like things to be.  The problem is that doing it correctly is very much harder than it looks. At its best, this communication is a combination of the following: Clearly defining the current state: This tells those you are trying to lead, what you are leading them from. Clearly defining the end state: This tells those you are trying to lead, where you want them to go. In essence, this is your vision of the future. Providing compelling rationale: This describes the “why” behind the “what”. This provides the reasons that your vision is worthwhile to pursue. Facilitate transference:  This is the process, through your words, passion, body language, tone, and stature, [...]

By | 2019-02-21T22:57:25+00:00 March 21st, 2019|

Embracing the Human Age

On December 31, 2016 I wrote a post entitled Emergence of the Human Age, and that it is only beginning to emerge. It was a brief post about what I saw as a new age where people will thrive enabled by the 2nd Machine Age. That humans will be liberated to be human again, freed from the shackles of the Industrial Age, tapping into uniquely human creative potential atop the digital platform. That digital technologies are eliminating work and routinized decisions heretofore the domain of humans, it is inevitable. And this is good. It is freeing humans to be human again. The Execution Engines of value creation systems are being digitally integrated and automated augmented with embedded artificial intelligence, diminishing the need for humans to do this work. And this is good, it is freeing humans to do what we uniquely can do that machines cannot, and that is to create, to innovate. This means that competitive advantage lies not in the Execution Engine, but in the Innovation Engine, fueled by the human mind. The digital platform is enabling exponential growth in human productivity. This is a complete shift from Industrial Age thinking where the status quo was dominant, the Execution Engine was king, where innovation threatened smooth running of the machine. Innovation was highly controlled, compliance with process and procedure ruled the day. Recently I had another epiphany, that we are evolving into an age of continuous transformation, where flexibility in the Execution system across the value creation system is king, fully automated, [...]

By | 2019-02-21T17:35:53+00:00 March 15th, 2019|

Management’s Decision Shades of Grey

Experienced managers know that most business decisions can’t be judged as simply right or wrong or as black and white.  Most of the decisions made in a management capacity, particularly if the issue deals with employees, risk minimization, future planning, sales forecasting, are more art than science. There is an old expression that says “You gain the experience you need to effectively deal with a specific situation about fifteen minutes after the situation happens.”  A second old expression deals with the experience needed for proper decision making is “Hindsight is 20/20.”  The reason that these expressions have endured the test of time is because they’re true and provide various insights, including the following: When making an important decision, try to sit back and reflect on your potential actions, rather than simply shooting from the hip and making a quick decision. Seek out the advice of your peers or more experienced managers who have previously dealt with that type of situation. When you make a decision, both good and bad, make a mental note of the situation, your decision, and the ultimate outcome. This personal reflection will help you: Grow as a manager Reduce the chance that you will make the same mistake twice Increase the chance that you will be successful more than once Provide you with examples to use when mentoring less experienced employees Help you grow as a person, because very often interpersonal lessons learned at work can help you grow personally Another thing to consider when making a business decision [...]

By | 2019-02-21T22:54:44+00:00 March 14th, 2019|
Load More Posts