New to the Organization? Five Tangible Steps to Organizational Management

Below are five steps to take to help start you off on the right foot when taking a management position in a new organization.

1. Observe the Organization. Take time to understand the processes and most importantly the people. When you are new to the organization or even a new position in the same organization, it is very tempting to start changing things to the way you like them or to how you think they will be better. A better thing to do is to observe how things run. Then change them if they are inefficient or if they are not working. Employees hate to change anything even if it is better just to please the new boss! People dislike change in general, so making the change about you is not a good idea.

2. Determine the Culture. This step is critical to understanding how to reinforce or alter the culture to align it with the strategic plans you will create in the next step. If you are lucky enough to walk into a new organization with an exemplary culture, then all you need to do is to figure out how to reinforce those behaviors that drive the current culture. If the culture is less than desirable, then you have work to do. Get your team together to decide the culture you desire. Set the example of the behaviors you know will affect the culture. Make sure all policies support the culture.

3. Align the Organization: Align your department or section’s goals with the organization’s vision and mission. If your organization does not have vision and mission statements and you are in a leadership position now is the time to create them. If you are not at that level of management, lobby your leaders to develop them. Vision and Mission statements are vital to ensuring the rest of the organization is working towards the same goals. If you can’t convince them to create them for the organization, then create them for the piece you have control over and move on. Hopefully, by doing so, you will inspire those above you to follow your lead. That is what leadership is all about.

4. Pick the Proper Metrics: Make sure the metrics you measure are the ones that contribute to the primary purpose of the organization. Perhaps make the tough decision to categorize the measurable activities to know what you have to do well with and what may be category four of the organization. Some things are vital, but not measurable. Morale and engagement are two examples. Although not measurable in the strict sense of the word, there are ways to get a pulse for them. Surveys, observation, and asking the employees will give you a good sense of the organization in that respect.

5. Deliberately Lead the Organization: Deliberately leading an organization means having a purpose in your daily activities. Being placed in a management position means you are trusted to make good decisions. Have plans to reach goals and share them with your subordinates. Seek their opinions and implement their ideas to help achieve the goals. Deliberately develop your employees. This step is crucial, even if the development is outside of your organization’s lane. See my article on Deliberate Leadership here.

If you follow these five steps, you will be in an excellent position to create success for your organization and the people that work for you!

What is Your Purpose? Here’s How to Find it!

Wake up in the morning, go to work, go to lunch, go home, watch TV, eat dinner, and go to bed. Repeat the process daily and pray for the weekend to come as fast as possible! Why is it that we are so much more willing to live in Groundhog’s Day instead of taking control and doing something different? Why do we live for the weekends? It seems like we are ready to sacrifice happiness for stability and security.

Our parents told us when were little that we could be anything, but as we moved into high school and college, we were told to find a good job and start our career. But now, we have been trained since we were young to minimize risk and do what is safe: to go to college and find a good job. Settle down at some point, marriage, maybe some promotions, kids, and do that until we can retire. The cost of doing this is great in many cases. I see people every day that are only happy on Saturday and Sunday.

Happiness is not found in the amount of money you make. It isn’t found in money alone, it isn’t found in family alone, it isn’t found in work alone. Happiness is found in purpose, and in the ability to master that purpose. We find happiness in being excited about the future.

One of the most exciting things we do is talk to people about the future! Eric Thomas, a very popular motivational speaker says, “You should want to succeed as much as you want to breathe.” What I take away from this statement is that when we can’t breathe, our focus is intense and singular. We put everything we have into breathing. So what could be accomplished if we put even half this intensity into our skills? What if we found our passion and what we loved to do? And put that singular intensity into making it our strongest skill. I think you could make real change in the world and at the very least you and the people you are close too would be happier!

The most difficult thing to figure out what your passion is and once you figure that out, how do you use it to live? Unfortunately, that question is very personal to each one of you. Only you can answer that question. Perhaps others who have a deep personal relationship with you can help guide your answer based on what they see in you. But 99% of the answer resides in you.

Take time to figure it out. Experiment a little. Use the time after you get off work and when you have finished family time to do things that interest you. Spend 2 hours each night on something you love. If you love beer, why not create your own? Or maybe you just love the taste and want to experience all the beers from around the world. Start a vlog of you sampling beers. If you find you are happy with this, then you win. There are millions of examples we could go through, but the bottom line is to go for it. Don’t wait for next week. Start now!

The Rent to Own Organization

I had a supervisor (Bob) that used to ask, “Are you a renter or an owner”? It seems like a crazy question in the context of organizational management, so I would usually say “I rent my house, but own my car!” After that, I would usually get his famous LOD (Look Of Disapproval). The look was meant to get everyone to be serious when we were off topic and not focused. Bob continued to ask if we treated the cars we own better than the cars we have rented. Nobody wanted to admit it, but it’s clear we treat the cars we own better than the ones we rent. There are many reasons we do this, but one of the biggest is that we will not be around to see or even care about the long-term effects our nonchalance has on the vehicle.

At this point, we could mostly see where he was going. But the question still stood. How do you get people in an organization to treat it as if they own it? How do you convince people that are only there for a few years at a time to treat everything as if they are going to be there for 20 or 30 years? I’ll admit, it’s not an easy question to answer and there is never a perfect solution. Below are three things you can do to get a start.

  1. Give ownership to your people. An excellent way to get people to be owners is to give them ownership within the organization. Give them responsibility for processes, people, operations, or equipment. Give them autonomy to work within the parameters you set and allow them to make mistakes, learn, and they will start down the ownership path.
  2. Deliberately guide the culture. Culture can go a long way to making employees feel like owners. Culture is created from the top down. The leaders of the organization are responsible for showing the rest of the organization what is important. To drive culture, bring all the leaders together and develop a clear path to the culture you desire. Make empowerment and ownership a focal point for the culture and let the team come up with ideas to help move it along.
  3. Put people first. The greatest and most important way to make your organization “world-class” is to show your people that the organization cares for them. Do things for them without agenda or expectation that the organization will get something in return. A great example is to encourage personal progression outside of the organization. Help your people make progress on their dreams. If this action is taken, you will decrease employee turnover rates and even when you help someone get become qualified in an area outside of your business, you will gain their loyalty. These people will advocate on your behalf to other potential employees.

Apply the above three steps in your organization, and you will be well on your way to converting renters into owners!

Perfection is Dumb

There was a speaker we were invited to listen to at my organization. The topic of his speech was perfection, namely, the pursuit of perfection. He believed and wrote a book with the premise that to achieve excellence we must use perfection as the goal. Anything less than aiming for perfection is acceptance of mediocrity. By accepting these lower standards, he believes the organization is going to be less effective when it could be much better. “Practice makes perfect!” was a common theme.

Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes progress. I wish I could credit the author of that statement, but where I heard it escapes my memory. There are times when the goal of perfection is appropriate. Perfection is necessary when there is an almost a singular focus, such as professional athletes and others in very narrow fields. An Olympic sprinter most certainly does not accept 99% as good enough. Golfers strive for the perfect swing, bread-makers aim for the perfect loaf of bread; the list goes on and on. But the vast majority of organizations have way too many tasks to worry about to expect perfection.

The reality that so many of us struggle with is where do we draw the line between perfection and greatness. In addition to this decision, we also must decide what task or core function of the business needs to be focused on to achieve greatness and what can be done “good enough.” The “good enough” tasks are so difficult for leaders and managers to allow or to even acknowledge their existence.

Leaders rarely want to admit “average” into their organizations. But the reality is there isn’t an organization in the world that is great at everything. This is where the leaders of the organization need to look at their core mission and identify all the tasks and processes that go into being great at their core mission. Everything else needs to be done well enough that is doesn’t detract from the greatness.

Take extra care to know how each process affects another. In my experience, many managers have approached training as a formality and only value hands-on training to educate their workforce. Because of this, they have made the argument that training should be a “good enough” task. This is not a good example of a “good enough” task. Training affects the performance of all duties in the organization and being truly great in this area builds a solid foundation for the employee.

The bottom line, decide and communicate the processes that you must be great at for the core purpose of the organization, then decide what level of performance is good enough for the other processes. Be disciplined enough to avoid improving a task or process from 90% to 91% at great effort. The juice is not worth the squeeze in this case; especially if the process isn’t a core process you have identified for greatness.

To Lie or Not to Lie

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Should you lie to make your employees or subordinates think the management team all agrees on the decision? Is there a way to disagree with the decision but still support it or is it better to just pretend everyone thinks the solution is the best?
There is a theory with some managers in leadership positions that to “sell” a decision to the organization, leaders must all agree with the decision. They are expected to go back to people they manage and tell them the new direction as if they agree with it, regardless of whether they do or not. A higher-level manager has counseled me that I should not express my views on the decision with my subordinates. Because I am forthcoming with my viewpoint and wish to always understand decisions, managers with the “sell” mentality often find it frustrating to answer questions or listen to differing points of view.
If you have more than one person in an organization, you will have different opinions. A manager needs to know this. It is simple-minded to expect all members of the organization to believe everyone in a manager role has the same beliefs and always agrees with the decisions. Someone is paid to make a decision. All personnel below that person are there to advise them and suggest courses of action.
When a decision is made, and there is confusion about the decision, communication must clear it up. There are several reasons for this. The first is that managers will need to understand the problem and how the decision was made to properly explain it to their subordinates. As the reasons are being explained, it is a fact those subordinates will have their viewpoints and will come up with solutions they think are best. It is natural for people to do this and a positive sign for the organization. It means they care and have the expertise and knowledge to problem solve. At this point, the interaction becomes a teaching moment for the manager. The manager needs to take steps to ensure they understand the decision even if they disagree and explain why the decision was made. Nothing is worse than thinking the people who make decisions do not know why or can’t explain why they made a decision. Even worse is if they don’t feel like they shouldn’t have to explain their reasons. Walking your people through these decisions will help them grow. They will gain experience from these events and will use them in future efforts to base their decisions.

A manager with little confidence in their decision will attempt to convince people that telling others of your disagreement with a decision is insubordinate and will encourage open disrespect of the manager. They will say things like, “We need to present a united front” and “They don’t need to know we disagree.” The reality is, the leader decided and the team has no choice but to follow through. But they think they should lie and deceive the people they are in charge of for fear they will think less of the boss who made the decision.
The reality is if discussed openly and honestly, the opposite effect is most likely to happen. People appreciate honesty and recognize there are many different solutions to a problem. Once this has been discussed the questions will stop being about why the decision is made and will be about how we can best support this decision to make it successful. This is the real role of the leader. To influence people who disagree to accept the decision they did not want and to support it anyway. It’s as simple as that.

Obsessed with Leadership

Don’t call me a manager! I’m a leader! That is a typical statement throughout many different organizations. From the NFL quarterback to the Officer in the Military, the last thing people want to be called is a good manager. But being a manager is not a bad thing. It is one of the most important roles in an organization. Management is the foundation of success for an organization, and without managers, organizations fail. Additionally, a great manager is frequently the best at growing into a great leader! Their management skills will give them credibility and trust in the organization, which are key to following a leader.
So why are we obsessed with leadership? Can we afford to ignore managerial skills to live in the illusion that we are developing leaders? Because management is the foundation of the organization, the appropriate approach to this problem is to teach management skills first and let those with natural leadership skills or tendencies identify themselves for further development. Pick the ones you want to groom to be leaders and give them leadership training on top of their management skills.
This article is not designed to discount leaders. Leaders are critical; leadership is the key to moving an organization forward, without leaders organizations stagnate and fail. The point of this article is to identify (and discredit) the growing narrative that leadership is the most important aspect of life in our large organizations. We certainly need leaders, but too often when it comes time to manage the pieces of the organization we are given authority over, we only have leadership theory to draw upon in practice. This leaves people vastly unprepared for even the most basic management positions. New managers struggle until they have suffered through years of trial and error until they figure out what works. And even when they find what works it is still far from superior management skills.
The solution is to know the different between management and leadership. Start talking about the importance of management skills. Have professional development seminars about increasing management skills. An easy one to start with is time management. Google that subject, learn about it, and then spread the message. Your organization will be much better off if we focus on how to be better managers and how to take care of your people, rather than insisting everyone can and should be a leader. We don’t need to teach everyone to be a leader. Not everyone is capable, nor do they desire it.
One last item to note: your position or rank does not make you a leader it simply makes you responsible. A leader uses deliberate actions to effect change or innovation and moves the organization towards its vision. A good leader is one who does this is a positive way, and towards a positive goal, a bad leader is one who does it in a negative way towards a negative goal. You may be ineffective as a leader, but you can still be a great manager, and that is treasured in every organization.

It’s Not Just Business

How many times have we heard the term, “It’s nothing personal, just business.”? It is in music, movies, and ingrained into our general culture. The problem is business is personal. We invest in them with money, sweat, tears, and time. Many personal sacrifices go into our businesses or our work. So how can it not be personal? And what do you do about it? The answer is simple: Grow thick skin and take things personally. ​

It does not happen overnight, it is not easy, but it is necessary. People’s criticism is feedback. Feedback is essential to business regardless of what the business is. Even outside of business it is vital. Personal performance that is judged by others will rarely improve without feedback. 69% of employees state if they are given feedback they will work harder and are better because of it. Most of this is because they know they are being observed and that people care about them and the work they are doing.

If you are the author of a blog, you will be criticized. If you own and run an ice cream shop, you will be criticized. If you invent a time-machine, you will be criticized. There will always be someone who is critical of you and your work. The point is to accept that you will be criticized and keep doing your thing. Do not let it deter you from your cause. There is no doubt this is much easier said than done. I struggle with this myself. But if you identify it as something worthwhile, and are deliberate about getting better at it, then it can be done.

One way to approach this is through 360-degree feedback. If you are not familiar with 360-degree feedback, google it real quick, it’s not a hard concept to learn. The thing about 360-degree feedback is you get feedback from peers and subordinates. This is probably the most difficult feedback to accept for people. But if you do it enough and force yourself to evaluate what people tell you, you will grow thick skin and will certainly be able to take feedback from random strangers or customers.