“YOU CAN’T SEND A DUCK TO EAGLE SCHOOL”
In browsing the teamwork section of a website for professional and personal growth I found the above book by Mac Anderson that captured my attention. In it he focuses on some important steps you can take to improve your business.
Mr. Anderson says: “my goal with this little book is to share some of my “lessons learned” in a brief, but engaging way. Because so many times, it’s not what is said, but how it is said, that turns the switch from off to on. For me, one of the most exciting things about business and life is that one great idea can change our life forever.”
This first excerpt I’ve included relates to employee relations:
“There is one question that every employee will love to have you ask … What can I do to help? So many times as leaders, we assume we’re doing all we can do, however, these 6 words:
“What can I do to help?” will usually prove your assumptions are dead wrong.
The question should address three areas:
1. What can I do to help you serve the customer better?
2. What can I do to make your working environment better?
3. What can I do to help you better balance your work and family life?
Obviously, it’s important to let them know up front that you may not be able to help with everything they ask, but you’ll do what you can. In other words, a chauffer to and from work is probably out of the question.
You’ll usually be amazed to hear about a few small things that will cost you next to nothing. You may find they need a new file cabinet, their chair is uncomfortable, they need flex-hours 1 day a week, a new headset for the phone, or a small space heater in the winter months.
The truth is, the fact that you’ve taken the time to listen to their personal concerns is far more important in their eyes than what you’ll “do” for them.
Gallop polled over I million employees who thought they had a great boss and asked them one question. Why? You got it! The number one reason was the boss was willing to listen to what they had to say.
It’s the little things not the big ones that will earn the respect of your people.”
The second excerpt isn’t quite as easy to implement as it is about recognizing your strengths/weaknesses and surrounding yourself with the right people in the right positions to keep the company moving in the direction you are reaching for.
“One of the biggest reasons many leaders fail is their unwillingness to accept their limitations. Ego gets in the way. They feel they’re smart enough to do it all, and mistakenly feel that what they don’t know they can learn “on the fly.” So many times it’s a recipe for disaster, especially for entrepreneurs.
Walt Disney failed many times early in his career. He had brilliant ideas, but his ability to execute them was painfully lacking.
He also, believe it or not, was a lousy artist. So after the third failure,
Disney was finally convinced that to succeed he must surround himself with great artists who could bring his animation ideas to life. He also needed his brother, Roy, to handle the financial side of the business. These two moves made all the difference and freed Walt up to do what he did best, which was using his imagination to plan their future.
I can definitely relate to the Disney story. From 1991-93 we were on a roll at “Successories”. We had gone from $5 million to $45 million in three years. Then came 1994, and Murphy’s Law hit us like a ton of bricks. We had grown too fast and no longer had the right people or infrastructure to handle it. Early in 1995, I realized that I had to make significant changes. After a lot of soul searching, I realized my strengths were people skills and creativity; however, my weaknesses were operations and accounting. To grow the business and rebuild the infrastructure, I had to hire good people who had been there and done that, people who could complement what I did best. This was a very painful wake-up call, but I learned some of the most valuable lessons of my life.”
We can all take a lesson or two from Mr. Anderson and learn to ask the question of “What can I do to help?” and also realize that we can’t “do it all”, should acknowledge our strengths, and understand our weaknesses to build the team that will drive our business success.
ETHICS – You read about it in the papers; you hear about it on the evening news; it’s plastered on industry publications and legal journals. Almost everyone is talking about it – almost everywhere you turn, it’s front-page news. The “it” is ethics … and it has quickly become today’s most critical business concern.
If you turn to a dictionary for help, you find definitions such as: “a system of moral principles or values; the rules or standards governing the conduct of the members of a profession; accepted principles of right and wrong.”
Our grandparents, and generations before them, would probably be amused (and disturbed) by the fact that we now create departments, appoint officers, and even write books – all to make sure we do what they knew as the only way to do business … thenatural way to behave. But then, they didn’t face the same intense workplace and career pressures that lead to temptations of stretching the truth, trading quality for expediency, managing by exploiting “loopholes,” and chasing short-term, end-justifies-the-means, quick profit.
The good news is that most businesses, and most people that work in them, are doing right, fair, honest things every day. And that’s how it needs to be – that’s where YOU need to be – because the risks are great for doing otherwise. The reality is your reputation and your organization’s is at stake.In the business world, reputation is everything. Fact is, your success hinges on it. Customers have choices. They research and compare vendors. And they do business with reputable organizations. Commit one ethical faux pas – which will overshadow scores of previous good actions – and you’ll watch your customers go elsewhere.
Your job is at stake. If your business loses business, there’s less of a need to keep you around. Whatever job protection you may have had becomes non-existent. And, with today’s increased sensitivity and focus on business practices – combined with the need for organizations to protect themselves – ethics violations can result in job loss. That’s precisely why you should care about ethics. Whether or not you have an ethicsdepartment, or compliance officers, or a “code of conduct,” the ethical make-up of your business begins and ends with YOU … and all the other “you’s” with whom you work. The actions you take, the decisions you make, and the daily behaviors you exhibit – whether big or seemingly insignificant – are ultimately how you and your organization will be judged.
One of VIA’s three topics for our Connecting to Success curriculum is ethics. While the rest of the curriculum is rich in needed guidance, teaching the concept of how imperative it is to understand the importance of ethicsand how it affects every part of your life to the high school juniors in our valley is the most valuable part of the program. When it comes to ethics, everyone is responsible.
I was having a conversation with my daughter-in-law, who has a 3 year old and an almost 3 month old, when she said that she was “over this newborn stuff”.
Although I didn’t say anything to her, it reminded me of my mother telling me not to “wish my children older”. That I should enjoy the stages as they grew as much as possible or I would be sorry later since it goes by much too quickly and you can’t get it back.
She was right.
It is the same as the other moments in life and in business with the advice to stop thinking “I’ll be happy when…” such as:
“when we get that next contract,” or
“when we buy that new building,” or
“when business turns around”
Because, what usually happens when that “when” finally takes place?
We replace it with a new “when.”
My husband said to me last Friday, “It seems as if it was just Friday where does the time go?”
In reflecting on how quickly time passes I’m going to try and take this advice and work harder to enjoy life, family, friends, work, and the moment I’m in.
I came across this book called “How To” Strategies and Practical Tips For Leaders at ALL Levels” by Eric Harvey and Paul Sims. It appealed to me as a refresher to those of us who have been in management for a long time as well as a training tool for people just beginning in that arena.
I’ve copied some pieces of their message below:
“If you’ve been in management for any length of time, you’ve undoubtedly come to realize that it’s a multi-faceted profession – a somewhat complex calling that includes the classic and academically described duties of “planning, directing, controlling, etc.” … and much more.
Like a coin, leadership has two sides. There’s the proactive side – the actions you initiate to positively affect people and their performance. And there’s the reactive side – the actions you take in response to unanticipated issues and situations. The key to these equally important sides is ACTION. And the way we see it, in order to act properly and effectively in these fast-paced times, your management “toolbox” needs to be filled with solid nuts and bolts techniques.
Here are some “How To” tips that should help:
- Address Performance Problems Early. One of the surest ways to demotivate employees is allowing people to do sub-par work. When that happens, others have to pick up the slack. You owe it to the rest of the team to address an employee’s deficiencies as soon as you become aware of them. Waiting only increases the intensity of everyone else’s bad feelings.
- Think “Development.” Make developing the members of your team (and yourself) one of your top priorities. Besides providing formal training, pursue opportunities for building skills, awareness, and confidence that require minimal time and resources (e.g., watching videos, distributing industry publications, mentoring).
- Always Give the “Why.” A combined lesson from Human Nature 101 and Common Sense 101: There’s a much better chance that people will be motivated and give their enthusiastic support if they understand the reason behind a goal, assignment, or decision. So, always follow the what with the why!
- Teach Business Literacy. One powerful way to get people motivated is to teach them the business of the business. The more people understand how a successful organization is run, the better they’ll be able to contribute to your overall mission and the bottom line … and feel like they truly are a part of your success.
- Let your employees lead. Help others on your team develop by letting them take the lead on certain activities and projects. Most of us like “being in charge” – at least some of the time. It’s a great way to build skills, commitment, and responsibility.
- Involve them in Decision Making. Have an important decision to make? Let employees decide! Or at least ask for their ideas and suggestions. They are, after all, the ones who will feel the impact the most. Besides, you’ll probably end up with a better decision – one that your people will be inclined to support because they helped make it.
- Keep them informed.Hold regular “state of the business” meetings to keep everyone informed on what’s happening within the organization (future plans, new products or services, planned purchases, etc.). Make sure people do NOT feel “kept in the dark.
- Spread the wealth.Rotate the drudgework so that everyone shares part of the load. Likewise, spread around the high-profile assignments so that every person has an occasional opportunity to strut his or her stuff.
- Respect their time. If you expect employees to believe that their work is important, you have to believe it, too. More importantly, you have to behave like you believe it! Don’t expect people to drop whatever they’re doing every time you need something. Instead, ask if they have a few minutes to chat. Better yet, ask for a time when they’ll be available to meet with you.”
All of these are very solid tips that can help all of us become and/or remain better leaders for our businesses.
This topic is something many of us employers don’t think about until we find dissention within our workforce.
If you’re looking to narrow the gaps that inherently exist between different workplace generations the above titled book by Laura E. Bernstein offers the following tips each manager needs to do!
- Acknowledge that everyone wants to be treated with dignity and respect. And, remember that those expectations will likely be defined differently by different people.
- Give coworkers, customers, and suppliers the same benefit of the doubt that you wish from them.
- Presume that everyone you interact with is motivated by good intentions – unless they prove otherwise.
- Accept that you can learn from others’ different life experiences, perspectives, and approaches – just as others can learn from yours.
- Make an effort to focus on your similarities with others rather than your differences. Find, appreciate, and celebrate the common ground you share with those you work with … and work for.
- Be willing to flex your natural style and preferences in order to work more effectively with all of your colleagues. Increased cooperation and collaboration results in greater success … for EVERYONE!
- Be open and tactfully honest about your personal “hot buttons” (i.e., recurring sources of tension or conflict) and mindful of the things that bother others.
- Remember that each individual brings something special (and needed) to the table … each person represents a piece that must be present in order for your organizational puzzle to be complete.
- Focus on what really matters: productivity, teamwork, customer service, and mutual success.
- Accept the fact that how you treat, deal with, and respond to others is purely and simply a matter of your own choosing.
I believe that many of these practices should be followed not only in business but are equally important to observe in our daily lives.
Bayless Engineering & Manufacturing
In trying to find ways to improve our company’s working environment I continually search for resources to help guide me in my efforts. Since most organizations often find communication problematic, “The Manager’s Communication Handbook” by David Cottrell and Eric Harvey addresses the issue. Here is an excerpt from the book’s introduction you may find interesting.
“What is the greatest frustration for most employees? Could it be they think they’re not getting paid enough? Or that the workplace is cramped or noisy? Maybe they think management expects too much from them? Could organizational bureaucracy or politics be number one on the frustration list? All of these possibilities are easy to imagine … and justify. However, in survey after survey, employees place communication problems at the top of their frustration list.
Yes, communication. Most managers spend so much time and effort communicating it’s hard for them to believe it could be a major problem. The paradox is that while employees are frustrated by a perceived lack of communication with their managers, most managers feel they are outstanding communicators. In a recent study, researchers asked a group of managers to evaluate their personal communication skills. The study discovered that 90% of the managers rated their communication skills in the top 10% of all managers. Obviously, 80% of the managers think they are better communicators than they actually are. Do you think their perceptions are a little off from reality?
We often hear that “communication is the key” or “leadership is communication” or any number of slogans about the importance of communication. These slogans are common because they’re true – communication is critical. It’s one of the most powerful tools managers have in their “toolbox.” Communication can be as tactical as posting the daily numbers or as strategic and profound as sharing the purpose and vision of the organization.
With so much emphasis on communication, how could it be such a big problem?
Actually, communication may not be the problem, and communicating more may not be the solution. In most cases, employees don’t need more information. Most of the information they receive doesn’t get read; that which gets read is frequently not understood; and that which is understood is usually not remembered.
The real problem is that the communication being delivered is not the same as, or connected with, the message being received. In other words, managers’ communication is often filled with so much “static” that the message is not understood, supported, or accepted by employees. The static preventing connected communication could be many things including ambiguity, confusion, inconsistency, conflict, or distrust.
What causes this communication static?
One factor is the proliferation of communication methods in recent years – e-mail, voice mail, meetings, conference calls, cell phones, pagers, memos, video, intranets, newsletters, etc. With so many options, we tend to pay more attention to how we’re going to communicate than what we’re going to communicate. In other words, it’s more about the method than the message.
As a result, most managers think of communication as an activity as opposed to an outcome. The focus is on producing slick graphics, writing a clever memo, or delivering a great presentation, instead of creating commitment, passion, and enthusiasm among employees.
Another reason for the communication static is we’ve forgotten that true communication is a two-way process. Some of the technological advances that have made communication easier have also de-personalized it. It’s not enough to just put out a message and hope employees “get it.” We have to follow up to be certain we connected – to make sure the message received was the same one we intended to give.
To effectively eliminate communication static and build understanding, support, and acceptance, we need to make a shift and think of communication as an outcome. To do that, we want to look at communication from the receiver’s perspective. We should ask the question, “What is my desired outcome with this communication? What do I want employees to think, feel, and do after receiving my message?”
At a minimum, our objective should be for others to understand our communication. But employees can clearly understand the message and still not agree with it or be willing to follow our direction. The ultimate goal is to build support and acceptance – to have receivers internalize your message, to move them to action. Understanding is intellectual; support and acceptance are emotional. It’s like the difference between compliance and commitment – which one would you rather have from your coworkers?”
This quote, written by Eric Harvey reminds us of important leadership objectives that many business leaders often neglect or forget in the heat of everyday “doing business”.
His team turned to those who truly know and understand what effective leadership feels and looks like. They surveyed thousands of working individuals from a full range of professions, experiences, and geographic locations – asking them one simple question:
“Based on your experience, what is it that truly effective and highly respected leaders DO?”
Over 500 responses were received from employees, team members, and leaders from all levels around the world – of which 145 were selected and assembled within the 10 topic chapters that comprise this work.
Following are some quotes from the first chapter focusing on learning and development that resonated with me.
The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.
Harvey S. Firestone
An effective leader should always prepare the next person to take on a leadership role. A good way to do this is to identify a potential leader on your team. When the leader has been identified, talk with the person to ensure they have the same goals that you have for them. If both of you agree, start working with that person by setting expectations, encouraging leadership courses, attending meetings with you – or in your place, assigning high-level duties, and be open if he or she has a different way of approaching situations than you.
Kathy Ibrahim, Burlington, North Carolina
Many leaders are so busy leading that they neglect to take time to think, vision, plan, and develop themselves as people.
Tommy Echols, Cicero, New York
Remember that knowledge and experience are not for your secret memory file. When you have the benefit of knowledge and experience, don’t brag about them or use them as weapons for chastising your team. Instead, use them as tools for development. Share your knowledge and
experience so that others may learn. It does not take anything away from you, and can come back to you in multiple ways through the success of your team.
Nancy Springler, New Orleans, Louisiana
As an author, speaker, and writers’ group leader, I’ve learned that while it’s great to be organized, goal oriented, and enthusiastic, be wary of enjoying the sound of your own voice. A violin solo may be beautiful but lacks the strength of many instruments blended into a mighty orchestra. Become a group maestro by making eye contact and being aware of body language and the emotion behind the words. An active listener absorbs and repeats or rephrases the speaker’s words and seeks clarification: “So what I’m hearing you say is … Is that right?” Remember: Effective Leaders Listen!
Virginia Nygard, Port St. Lucie, Florida
My goal is to make my team members more effective – and prepare them to become my bosses through the use of the 5 “E”s. Empathize, Encourage, Educate, Empower, and Expect.
Freddie Cogburn, Maryville, Tennessee
Support others in reaching their own goals by asking them on a regular basis how they are getting on with the task at hand and offer them your help or experience if they need it. You could perhaps give them an example of a project you were working on and how someone else helped you meet your goal.
Julia Reedshaw, Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK
AND THIS IS MY FAVORITE QUOTE:
Truly effective leaders must be PRESENT! With the pace of change, globalization, technology advancements, and doing more with less, whatever happened to management by walking around? Too often in today’s environment, leaders are so distracted that they are disconnected as to what is happening with their people. One-on-ones are put off for other “strategic priorities” and performance feedback is infrequent – missing opportunities for meaningful, timely, and productive personal development discussions. All of this can lead to a distrusting, disjointed, and disenchanted environment.
Effective leaders are accessible and present; they consistently engage with their people, give their people their full attention, view their people as a priority, and develop them accordingly. They align their actions with their words, do what they say they are going to do, and equally reward good performance, as well as
uphold the consequences for poor performance.
Effective communication – an essential attribute of leadership – can often be lost in today’s fast-paced world of technology! Don’t miss the opportunities that managing by walking around can reveal! When was the last time you stopped by the desk of a direct report and asked, “How are things going? … What can I do
to help?” Your PRESENCE matters!
Tasha Delaney, East Fallowfield, Pennsylvania
Harvey’s closing comment adds a perspective we all should remember:
As a manager, act with the understanding that your management role has an objective of developing and encouraging others to succeed by doing the right task at the right time … every day … every week … every month … to become the best they can possibly be.
Bayless Engineering & Manufacturing