Archive for November 27th, 2009


Real Motivation

November 27, 2009

Managing is basically a process of getting results through people. This process includes a combination of defining responsibilities, organizing, establishing goals, and generally making sure that people know what they’re supposed to do, have the means to do it, and are “motivated” to get it done.

When the subject of motivation is discussed, it is most often looked at from the perspective of how to get people motivated. Let’s change this perspective and make sure that we are not creating situations that are de-motivating or that prevent a motivated individual from making a contribution.

Think about it. The typical human being loses sleep at night over problems and challenges just like the entrepreneur. Just like his boss, the typical human being worries mostly about the things they own. The only difference is that people who aren’t bosses worry about the things they own instead of what the boss owns They worry about their job of course, but also about the mortgage, the leaky roof, their hobby, the kids etc.

It’s easy to look at other people and wonder why they don’t care, but that’s not really the proper question. They do care about many things. What really worries the manager is why they don’t care about the things the manager wants them to care about.

Cynics might, at this point, be thinking this is naive. That most people don’t care and can’t be motivated because they don’t want to deal with the problems. But how can the cynics answer the facts that show that people do want to get involved.

Listen to the chattering over the CB channels. Anonymous strangers are helping anonymous strangers all the time. Why? What motivates Red Cross volunteers and others who get involved in youth and church organizations? Teamwork and cooperation seem ingrained in our race through cultural and perhaps biological evolution.

Now, consider the so-called “unmotivated” employee. He’s not insubordinate but his supervisor has had difficulty with him for years. He is always on time for work but never seems to live up to his potential. He never commits an offense that would warrant a dismissal but his productivity is low and he has to be constantly prodded to keep his work area clean.

“I’ve tried everything,” the supervisor says, “I just can’t get him motivated to get off his butt.” A company full of these guys and you would go broke.

Sound familiar? You bet! Let’s set aside our frustration for a minute and try a thought experiment. If we could somehow follow the “unmotivated” employee around for a typical day, we might discover some interesting facts: They are probably a strict parent, believing in firm discipline. They may be a perfectionist in the workshop or kitchen, which, by the way, is neat and well organized. They work as an effective leader in a volunteer capacity in a church or youth organization. They may operate a small business on the side to help make ends meet.

What you discover about this “laggard’s” life away from the job is surprising. The key thing here is that most every human being does get involved and takes ownership of some problems. They appear motivated in some situations but not in others. Why?

Interest. Importance. Justification. Ability.

These are the key words. Where we find that people seem to be motivated, we will almost always find these four factors operating in the situation. Where people don’t seem motivated, it’s most likely that one or more of these essential elements is missing or has been taken away.

People are motivated to pay attention to interesting things and to get important things done – as long as they see a reason(justification) for doing so and have the ability or power to do so.

It’s from this point of view that the manager should look at this thing called “motivation”. If it’s missing it doesn’t need to be instilled. People are naturally motivated. Instead, in a given situation, something is taking away or standing in the way of the exercise of man’s inherently motivated nature.

Either the job or the responsibility is uninteresting, isn’t seen as important, there’s little perceived justification for doing it, or the employee doesn’t have the necessary power, authority, or skill. The fundamental motivation exists, but it has been rendered latent by and in the specific circumstances.

The question for the manager wanting to keep people motivated, or encourage the motivation of new people is “How do I make sure that the four elements are present in every job?” Because it’s your business, make sure you find the answer.

Joe Driscoll is a management consultant whose column appears regularly in the Monday Herald.


Manage Yourself, Lead Others

November 27, 2009

Is a good manager necessarily a good leader? Can you poorly execute the fundamentals of good management and still be an effective leader?

These are good questions and they are frequently asked. The concepts of management and leadership are commonly confused. All too often people try to lead by managing or to manage by merely leading.

Management is a science. It has an accumulated body of knowledge that contributes to the development of policies, practices and procedures for the effective accomplishment of agreed upon objectives. Practically speaking however, the job of management often breaks down into getting others to work, something it is not designed to do.

The management fundamentals of planning, executing and controlling are frequently interpreted as processes that we inflict on others. The fundamentals of management and the scientific knowledge about it should first and most importantly be applied to yourself. Manage yourself, your schedule, your goals, your efforts, your time, your results. Be a harsh critic and take corrective action as needed. The greater your responsibilities, the more vigorously you need to manage yourself.

Next, apply those same principles of good management to “things”. Things are projects, budgets, schedules, programs etc. The proper accomplishment of these “things” requires the application of good management principles.

When it comes to others, the place where conventional practice would indicate that management begins (doesn’t everybody say I manage x number of people), shift your focus from the fundamentals of management to becoming a leader. If you have vigorously applied all available knowledge to the management of yourself and your “things”, you are in a position to lead others.

Business and industry has changed a lot over the years and the pace of change will continue to accelerate. But progress is only made by good men and women working hard and together. They will always need effective leaders to be successful. Effective leaders apply their skills with such apparent ease that they are often referred to as “born leaders”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Leaders become leaders through experience and hard work.

There are ample resources available to help improve your management skills. What about your leadership skills? Where do you begin?

You acquire the ability to lead by taking a honest look at yourself. Hold yourself up to the standards that you admire in an effective leader. Examine your performance against those standards. Set objectives for your conduct in those areas that are important to your development as a leader. Begin by looking at some of the traditionally respected character traits of good leaders.

INTEGRITY. When you give your word, make sure you keep it. Your people are depending on you, don’t let them down. All your statements, official or casual, are considered to be true. Make sure they are. If you have made a mistake or created a false impression, don’t overlook it or be too proud to correct it. Credibility takes a long time to establish, but it can be erased in seconds, never to be regained.

KNOWLEDGE. Know your job. The charismatic school of leadership doesn’t get the job done over the long run. Most of us become reasonably expert at recognizing a phony, don’t be one. If you don’t know something, admit it. If it is important, go and find it out. Dis information and disillusionment are often distributed by well meaning individuals that “fake it” when they should have known better.

DECISIVENESS. When making decisions, get all the information that is available to you. Weigh all the facts and then issue your decision in clear and confident terms. We all need direction from our leaders. Don’t quibble over minor points and create ambiguities that will transfer responsibility to those who need direction. When you are wrong, say so. Everybody makes a mistake. The trick is not to make the same one twice.

FAIRNESS. Create an even playing field for those that work for you. Don’t play favorites. Keep anger and emotion out of your decisions. Give credit where credit is due. Recognize the hard work and good ideas of your employees and be grateful that you are associated with quality people. A lot has been recently written about executive perks from parking places to lunch rooms. True leaders get their satisfaction from a job well done and not by first feathering their own nest.

ENTHUSIASM. It is contagious. Put all that you have into the achievement of your objectives and others will follow. Display indifference and you will lead in the wrong direction. Your knowledge, interest and enthusiasm will inspire others more than any other single factor.

Because it’s your business, your career and your life, manage yourself and lead others.


Standards Of Performance

November 27, 2009

Much has been written about the effective executive. The rewards are for doing the right things, effectiveness, as compared with merely doing things right, efficiency. Does this same wisdom apply to all workers? You bet it does!

It is little wonder that performance, measured by productivity, sales, customer service or quality, falls short of expectations when those responsible for achieving results are not focused on doing the right things. A company’s success will largely depend on how well it can utilize its human resources. A high priority of all managers must be to develop systems that will focus their human resources on doing the right things.

Much lip service is given to the process of goal setting and performance appraisal. But all too often this becomes a hurried activity that is carried out in a subjective, perfunctory manner which yields little benefit and can often result in demoralizing confrontations. While it is often used for less redeeming purposes, it should not be overlooked that the only true purpose of a performance appraisal is to IMPROVE PERFORMANCE.

In order to develop an effective system for the improvement of performance, you must begin with the development of meaningful performance standards. These standards will cause attention to be focused on “doing the right things” and will establish an objective basis for appraisal. This process will improve performance in your business.

How do you get the process started? You begin by thinking through the major elements of each job. Items such as the responsibilities, duties, desired results, influencing circumstances and available options.

A standard of performance is a statement of conditions that will exist when a job has been done well. Good standards of performance share the common characteristics of being relevant, reliable, objective and contributing to the accomplishment of the organizations overall goals.

Effective standards of performance should be developed jointly by an employee and their boss. They should be written to include unambiguous statements of the results required by the employee’s activities. They should include acceptable means of measuring the desired results as to quality, quantity, time and cost.

Let’s examine the development of standards of performance for a position of quality assurance manager. In summary, the major responsibilities of this position are to minimize the the instances in which sub standard products are shipped to customers, to develop practices that will minimize internal waste and to originate programs that will further the company wide objective to efficiently deliver superior quality products.

Look at each one of the major job elements independently. First analyze the level of quality of the products that are being shipped to the customers. Review the company’s historical performance in this area. For example, if customer returns have averaged seven per month, ranging from a low of three to a high of fifteen, examine the cause of the returns to determine if closer scrutiny by the quality program can narrow that range and lower that average.

After jointly reviewing the historical performance, analyzing the causes and discussing corrective actions for improved performance, together establish the standard of performance for this portion of the job. It might read something like this.

“Satisfactory performance has been achieved when monthly customer rejections are not greater than seven per month. Superior performance has been achieved when rejections are three or less per month. Customer rejections in excess of ten in any one month are unacceptable.”

Similar standards would then be developed for each major element of the position of quality assurance manager. This process will provide a foundation upon which your employees will begin to concentrate on “doing the right things”. You will have the basis for conducting meaningful performance appraisals that will accomplish the objective of improving performance.

One of the greatest benefits of writing standards of performance is the communication that takes place during the process. The focusing of your employee’s attention on these performance issues and the focusing of your attention on the employee’s position will pay a substantial dividend.

It will be helpful to remember to concentrate on developing a limited number (three or four) of important and well written standards than generating a long list that may get neglected. The objective, after all, is to get people to focus on “doing the right things”.

Your first efforts at writing standards of performance will be more cumbersome than you think and results may not be entirely satisfactory. However, your first efforts will be better than having nothing at all and you will improve with each succeeding attempt.

Because it’s your business, make sure that your people are doing “the right stuff”.


Spot The Good Manager

November 27, 2009

“In Search of Excellence” by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman, “What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School” by Mark McCormack, “Managing Through People” by Dale Carnegie and Associates and “The One Minute Manager” by Blanchard and Johnson are some recent best selling management books.

Here are some extractions from those best sellers and one other book that is not so well known. Try to identify the source of each passage. Which does your experience agree with?

1. Busy people have short attention spans, so get to the point. Don’t drag out a presentation…..all you’ll succeed in doing is irritating them, or worse, making their minds wander. Also, learn the attention spans of the those you deal with. In dealing with some, if I’m on any one subject more than forty-five seconds their mind is going to be on something else.

2. The notion of short attention spans probably develops more from impatience on the part of owners than anything else. Keep sessions short. This is for your sake, really, so that you won’t lose your temper and spoil all the effort the two of you have put in.

3. Here’s what you must do to get ready to teach a job. Decide what the learner must be taught in order to do the job right. Have the work place properly arranged. Put the learner at ease. Get him interested in the job and desirous of learning it. Instruct slowly, clearly, completely and patiently, one point at a time.

4. Consistency pays. In training, always use the same words for the same ideas. Make training sessions pleasurable for both of you. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be serious about training. You should. But be pleasant and friendly. Patience, patience, patience. Not that they are such slow learners, but people are often unreasonable in their expectations. When you first start training, make sure there aren’t any distractions.

5. All of us are self-centered, suckers for a bit of praise. But the fact of the matter is that our talents are distributed normally – none of us is really as good as he or she would like to think, but rubbing our noses daily in that reality doesn’t do us a bit of good.

6. Whatever their disposition, you can be sure that they love praise. The only exceptions are those who aren’t on good terms with the boss. If a good relationship exists, they have learned to value your approval over everything else.

7. Put the accent on the positive. Catch people doing something right. When you see something being done right, go over and make contact. Give praise as soon as something is done right. Specify exactly what was done right and be consistent.

8. Besides the emphasis on positive reinforcement, our training technique stresses operant conditioning. What this means to you is that to be effective you must wait until the behavior you want to reinforce occurs naturally. Because this technique follows the natural behavior pattern, it requires a bit more patience in the beginning.

9. Negative reinforcement will produce behavioral change, but often in strange, unpredictable, and undesirable ways.

10. As for negative reinforcement, it is advisable only in cases which you can convince them that the bad consequences come from the environment and not from you. True, they may perform in order to escape the negative consequences, but only when you’re around.

11. Praising works well when you praise immediately. Tell them how good you feel about what they did right. Let them feel how good you feel. Shake hands or touch them in a way that makes it clear that you support their success.

12. If you pay attention to what you’re doing, praising and rewarding the exact behavior you want, they will learn easily and correctly. You’ll soon discover exactly in what form they like their praise. Some want to be pounded on the back, still others, the verbal types, would rather hear the approval than feel it. Whatever form it takes, positive reinforcement should always come in the form of praise or affection.

Here are the answers and the moral of the story. The odd numbered paragraphs come from our best sellers. #1 Harvard, #3 Managing People, #5 & #9 In Search Of, #7 & #11 One Minute Manager. The even numbered paragraphs came from our guest selection, “21 Days to a Trained Dog”. Do you ever remember having somebody tell you that you can learn a lot about a person by watching the way they treat a pet?

In addition to reading all these high priced best sellers, maybe we can learn to spot good managers by the way they treat their pets. Because it’s your business, recognize those who display common sense and a humane spirit.


It Pays To Pays

November 27, 2009

The completion of a major corporate acquisition was recently delayed for several weeks. When it was finally announced, the chairman of the acquiring company was asked the reason for the delay. He replied that there was just one matter that kept the parties apart. Money! Its always the money.!

When you look at your relationship with your employees don’t underestimate the impact of the money. It may seem obvious, but all too often the obvious is given insufficient attention.

The money you pay to your employees is one of the single largest expenditures in your business and it is most likely your employee’s primary source of income. Your wage and salary structure has an enormous impact on your business. You must recognize its importance and manage it to your advantage.

The proper development of a wage and salary structure is dependent upon a number of differing factors peculiar to each business. However, there are certain fundamentals that must be included in all well administered programs.

All consistently successful programs need a firm philosophical foundation for support. Any number of philosophies on compensation can be successful depending on the type of business involved. What is essential is that you articulate a philosophy and develop policies that are consistent with your objectives and appropriate for your type of business.

With a well thought out philosophy as the foundation of the program, attention must be given to four issues; internal equity, external equity, justification and motivation. Internal equity means that employees are compensated fairly as compared with their fellow employees. External equity implies that your employees are paid competitively as compared to others doing similar jobs in the same industry within your area. Justification means that each employee’s compensation is a worth-while expenditure for the business. And finally the program should be constructed so as to have a positive impact on the motivation of the employees.

The employee’s assessment of the fairness of the structure is important. Pay inequities within a business, whether real or imagined, have a negative impact. The establishment of equitable internal relationships can be obtained through a process of job evaluation. This process measures the relative value of each job to the business. These measurements are then used to establish the salary structure with the highest valued jobs receiving the greatest compensation and the lower rated jobs receiving the least.

It is important to recognize that the job evaluation process measures the worth of the job and not the individual that does the job. The process begins with a job analysis requiring that the content of each job be defined. Using factors such as the required knowledge and skills, complexity of assigned tasks and the scope and impact of the position, the various positions are ranked or grouped in grades. The result of the process will be a ranking of the jobs upon which equitable compensation decisions can be made.

To insure external equity, you now must “price” certain key jobs with wage and salary scales used outside your business. The jobs chosen for comparison should have job content that can be easily compared with outside positions, represent different levels in your internal ranking and include heavily populated positions within your business.

Comparisons can be made with surveys that have been conducted by business organizations, government agencies and other private groups. More than one survey should be reviewed. Caution should be given to comparing job titles. A good survey will include a job content description for each position.

You should be certain that your business is justified in creating each position and employing the individuals in those positions. Aside from the obvious wasting of resources, the continued existence of any unnecessary positions will cause problems.

The subject of motivation goes well beyond the bounds of a wage and salary program. However, incentives should be incorporated into the structure. This is done by establishing salary ranges for each position. This provides an opportunity to recognize individual performance within a particular job classification.

The size of the range will increase with the higher rated jobs. This will permit the largest incentives for those individuals that potentially have the greatest impact on the business. In addition to a salary structure that provides incentive, a good compensation program will provide additional incentives designed to meet the specific needs of the business.

Because it’s your business, don’t forget to pay a lot of attention to that one little issue, money! A well thought out and properly communicated wage and salary program will prevent problems and provide results.


Opening Day

November 27, 2009

It is the most common of our experiences. It is one that many of us have experienced on numerous occasions. It is one that hundreds are experiencing this very moment. It is the first day on a new job.

How important is that first day? Is it important enough to effect your attitude for a long time, both on and off the job? Is it important enough that it can effect the performance of your business, your employee relations, your customer relations?

Look no further than opening day of the baseball season for the answer. Even the seasoned veterans will tell you that opening day is special. It is in fact the first day on a new job. It is filled with hope, great expectations, fear and anxiety.

You are the boss now, perhaps long removed from the employment line. Take a few minutes and recall the thoughts and images that were in your mind on one of your opening days. Whether it was your very first job or just the first day on a new job, they were all special and made lasting impressions.

What can you as a manager or business owner do to make that first day a positive one for the “new guy”? First, lets make our opening day last longer than 24 hours. As often as a new employee is neglected on day one, they are often showered with attention on day one and forgotten on day two. Let’s view opening day in the work place as a transition period that will vary in length according to the demands of the job and the background of the employee.

New employees will often seem confused. That’s pretty normal behavior because most new jobs are confusing. Make sure that you have a specific plan for indoctrinating the new employee. It should be well thought out, in writing and you should follow it.

I have frequently encountered organizations that hire regularly but treat each hiring as if it were a unique event. It is a routine but important event that your business should be prepared to handle in an appropriate manner. Another common error is having an antiquated procedure that doesn’t make any sense. Not only does it contribute to the confusion, but it is wasteful and sends a negative message about your business.

It is scary to be new. Particularly for those just entering or returning to the work force. How often have you heard a friend or family member say that they were scared on their first day on the job? Try to be sympathetic to your new employee. Give them the impression that they are amongst friends.

Even a veteran who goes hitless in his first few at bats in the new season begins to wonder if that next hit will ever come.

When teaching a job, teach slowly, one step at a time. When you are nervous, as is not uncommon, it is harder to pick things up quickly. Make it obvious that you have confidence in their ability. After all, you hired them. It’s the job of a good manager to insure that a couple of rookie mistakes don’t jeopardize the confidence that is needed for a successful career.

Because of the pressures of being new and the difficulties in learning a different job, new employees can often appear “dumb” if you are impatient. Be patient. Avoid trying to teach too much at one time. Even the best of us have appeared to be “dumb” when faced with new tasks in unfamiliar surroundings.

New employees may appear to be slow and will make mistakes. Learning thoroughly is more important than learning quickly. Don’t rush someone that is performing a task for the first time. Demonstrate each operation carefully and then let them show it to you. Expect some mistakes and don’t get annoyed.

The nervousness associated with newness can manifest itself in many ways. Some new employees may act “cocky” as a means of covering up their fears. Remember that you hired this person and you owe it to them and to yourself to give them a chance. Refuse to get angry. Take a “cocky” beginner aside and calmly talk to them to give them confidence. They will be more likely to drop their defenses in a more private setting.

Treating the opening day syndrome with premeditated care and understanding will pay handsome dividends. Your business will develop a reputation as a good place to get a job. Your new employees will get off to a good start and become a more productive asset for your business in a shorter period of time. Your product quality will be better as will customer service and satisfaction.

There will always be those employees who are not right or ready to work in your business. By being sensitive to the impact of those first days on the job, you will minimize the number of employees that don’t fit. By paying close attention to this critical time, you will also be better able to spot the “bad apples” before they have done much damage.

Because it’s your business, remember that opening day is a special time, even for crusty veterans like you and I!


Higher Hiring

November 27, 2009

Most definitions of management share the viewpoint that good management is a process of reaching goals by working with and through people. That being the case, choosing your team is the first step to success. Make sure that you get the best people available.

Aim high when you hire. Recruitment and hiring are areas in which a company can substantially improve its performance with very little effort. Getting good people to work for you has the special benefit of becoming an annuity that regularly pays future dividends.

There is hardly a top manager around who does not profess that his or her employees are their business’s most important asset. In reality however, the importance of the human resource still has a long way to go. For example, given a choice between two pieces of equipment which perform the same work, one costing $5000.00 more than the other, most managers will hesitate and investigate the performance advantages of the higher priced machine. Given the same choice between two applicants for the same position, most employers will much more quickly choose the candidate with the lower price tag. Managers have generally learned their lessons about the value of their physical assets better than they have learned their lessons about their human resource assets.

Approach the hiring process from a position of strength. As a result of the great impact that small business has had on the economy in recent years and the instability of many larger firms, small business is recognized as a great place to work.

It is important to anticipate what your personnel needs will be. Too often the hiring process begins after a vacancy has been created. You then have to operate under the pressure of having an immediate need to fill. This inevitably leads to a process that is rushed, incomplete and has a low probability of yielding the best candidate. Regardless of the short term pressures, don’t rush a decision with long term consequences.

It is always a good practice to look within your organization for someone who is qualified. This person won’t always exist and if he or she does, it will create another opening that will eventually need to be filled from the outside.

If you currently have a good group of employees, referrals should be your single best source of qualified applicants. Don’t be passive above tapping this resource. Actively solicit your employees input. Let them know what you are looking for and let them know that you appreciate their input.

Newspaper ads and ex-employees are additional sources. Take the time to write your ads carefully. Ads that supply insufficient information attract inappropriate responses that only waste time. Don’t overlook ex-employees. While it generally was a common practice not to rehire anyone that left a company, that is now recognized to have been an overly restrictive policy with little benefit.

When it comes time to interview, be flexible in adjusting to the schedule of the job seekers. Remember that the best candidates may already be employed. As a prospective employer you should value the applicant who is reluctant to take time off from their current position.

For the purpose of comparing candidates, it is helpful to schedule a block of interviews at one time. Take the time necessary to meet with all the qualified applicants. You may find a good one early on, but a better one may lie ahead. Observe good interview techniques. Make the applicant comfortable, ask open ended questions, look for consistency and patterns of behavior and provide an opportunity for questions.

Reference checking usually begins at about the time that your mind is already made up. This is your last opportunity to get important information prior to making a major decision. Make sure you do it.

Don’t waste your time at the personnel department. Get in touch with the supervisors and co-workers that had direct contact with your leading candidate. Imagine buying a shining late model used car. After a satisfactory test drive and having negotiated a fair price, you are given an opportunity to speak to the people who have driven the car for the last two years. Can you imagine not bothering to call them? You would fully deserve any problems that developed.

If employees are a company’s most important asset, it is the responsibility of the boss to be actively involved in the hiring process. Make certain that you welcome each new employee to your company and personally tell them what you expect from them.

After the effort that you have put into the hiring process, don’t forget to follow-up with proper training and close supervision of the new employee. Regardless of how effective your selection process is, there will be some employees that are not appropriate for your business. For the benefit of those individuals and your business, recognize and remedy those situations promptly.

Many a game is won or lost when the teams are chosen. Because it’s your business, make the effort and take the time to aim high when you hire.