Leadership Lessons From The Fireplace

We are all Tools!

When I was a kid growing up in Southern Utah almost everyone I knew had a fireplace or a wood burning stove of some kind. Almost without exception, sitting next to the wonderful heat producing factory was a kit of tools. In this kit contained a mini shovel, broom and what we called a poker! The shovel was used to remove the ashes from the fireplace, the broom for cleaning the around the fireplace after you inevitably spilled ash and charred wood on the floor. My favorite, the poker, was used to stoke the fire, move burning logs around so you could place additional pieces in the fire.

As managers and leaders in organizations, regardless of size, we have to always be mindful that we are leading people who have specific talents, skills, and abilities. Each of your employees is different! They have different drivers, biases, abilities, etc. and leaders need to take the time and get to know their team members. Who are the extroverts, introverts, the career driven, the content, the charismatic and the list goes on.

Talent management is vital to achieving the goals and overall mission of that organization. We are not the same and cannot all achieve the same level of performance at each task as everyone else. For instance, the shy, introverted, data analyst is not the best person to give a facility tour of your new freight distribution center to prospective clients. You have to pick a different tool for that job. If you have an underperforming branch and need a quick turn-around, who do you send? A poker! Not a broom or a shovel, you need someone to move things around, shake things up and stoke the fire. Who is your poker? When your organization suffers from loss, whether a tragic personal loss or your poker pushed the team and they still did not meet the goal, what leader do you send?

Very few companies are operating at this level of leadership and management. It requires deliberate thought and deliberate action to specific situations. We are tools. I am a specific tool for specific jobs. I know my limits and will not let personal pride hinder my team from accomplishing our goals and the overall mission of my organization. I will call in other leaders/tools to deal with specific situations when I am beyond my limits.

Be aware that some of your brooms want to be pokers and vice versa. This is dealt with during feedback and in my experience will cause conflict, which is good. If you go back to your conflict-resolution training, avoidance, in this case, is not an option. A broom can never be a poker!

The next time you see some ashes try to pick them up with the poker! You will see my point…

I’ll leave you with this;

What tools are sitting next to your fireplace?

-Do you need more options?

Are you aware of the tools you have available to deal with all the situations in your company?

Unfortunately, unlike purchasing a Fireplace Took Kit online for about $100, developing your supervisors and managers to look for the right person to attack specific concerns will not be that simple, but well worth your time to invest in.

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Government Shutdown & the Organizational Leadership Lessons

I don’t believe anyone considers our government is the proper model to structure our organizations after.  But there are valuable lessons in the failures of our government and the continued political grandstanding that rips the branches of our government to shreds.  I’m currently awaiting news to see if I’ll be paid, but with the help of some DoD leaders and other great organizations like USAA, we will be taking care of.  To say we need change is grossly understated. But, I digress, here are some lesson you can watch out for in your organization.

Allegiances to Subordinate Teams

A massive problem with our government is the loyalty to their party and not to the good of the most significant and more important team.  In this case, the house and senate are loyal to their political party and are looking to push their agenda even at the cost of the people.  This is made clear by the 95% vote of “yea” by Republicans and a 5% vote of “yea” by Democrats for a recent proposal to keep the government open.  Clearly, the allegiances are to their party…

Each department or section in the organization can’t only be concerned for their own success.  Different departments will naturally lobby for what they need, and all organizations have a finite level of resources, but each department should know and be aware of the needs of the others.  They should be equally concerned about their success.  When the marketing department dominates resources and prevents the HR department from having all the tools they need to be successful, the organization will fail.  What do you need great marketing for if you have a failing HR department?

No Direction

Our legislative branch of the government has no direction.  Each major and minor political party have fractured the legislative branch to the point that I’m shocked they can get anything done. The problem with this divisive organization is they lack a unified and overall direction.

A successful organization brings each department together to create synergy.  They are not just the sum of the parts; they are more than that. The prevailing direction brings the departments together, they are no longer selfish but work out problems together.  Manager’s ambitions do not outweigh their appetite for reasonable, calculated risk.

Competing Priorities

This is probably the most significant reason for the failures of our government.  They have competing priorities.  The Democrats are looking to push the Democrat’s agenda, and the Republicans will push their agenda.  These agendas come at the cost of the legislative branch as a whole.  Don’t get me wrong; there needs to be debate, their needs to be conflict, negotiation, and compromise.  But this is not it.  Their priorities are to their party, not to the country or its people.

In your organization, you must ensure the organizational priorities are aligned.  Each department should work with the others to make the team prosper.  There must be a willingness to sacrifice your department to ensure another department is successful.

 

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Why is the foosball table killing your start-up?

Start-ups are well known in the world, however, what are they precisely? We can describe them as small organizations which are just starting their journey. Most of them don’t have their particular investment. However, they are financed by people who have. Due to that, we can often see a start-up without a genuine item, which means it is only beginning to develop.

The main issue with start-ups is that they need to start from the scratch. They have made a study, they have tried the market and they trust that their product or service has its place under the sun. The only word we have to focus on the last sentence is “trust”. It is the most important feeling in every person connected to the start-up.

Looking for the best people for the job

Upon taking the first step, developers need to start with looking for the best individuals for the group. Before that, they design the office and they get lost in it. The majority of them adore the possibility of a perfect office loaded with cool things which will help them bring the best people for the business. And that is a mistake. If you hire a person who came to you just because you have a cool office, then a “foosball table” will definitely kill your start-up.

What most developers don’t understand is the fact that new businesses are a just starting a battle for their place on the market. That is the reason you must be cautious when you are picking the people for the group. One individual might be a specialist in his field, yet that doesn’t mean he will be the best for the team and the start-up.

What this has to do with a foosball table?

In the most recent decade, Google has opened its way to the best office on the planet. That office is a mix of work and play. Individuals there can play foosball, eat as much as they prefer, sleep and do other things besides the ordinary work stuff. That makes Google a good example for organizations everywhere around the globe.

Google has the ideal workspace

Each organization wants to resemble Google, and they begin that by planning workplaces like Google. What they don’t think about is that they aren’t at a similar stage where Google is. Google can have all cool stuff, and it won’t matter because people will work hard to stay in Google. No matter how the office looks.

Start-ups can pull in wrong workers with cool office design, and that can be very bad for the business. What start-ups need are people who believe in their product or service? Those people will stay late at work if they have to, they will work for less money, and they won’t mind because they believe those people know that a little sacrifice can work a long way in the future of the company. By working hard now, they are investing in their future, and that is not so uncommon for workers who believe.

Workers who come in your organization because you have a foosball table or cool office should leave immediately because they won’t give their best and they will probably play foosball more than work. Your task is to discover persons who will work hard like you, so you can together build up an organization where a foosball table is an award and not a reason to work there. Try not to utilize a foosball table as the fascination apparatus; use it as a reward for your team. That way, the foosball table won’t stand in the way of your success.

Author bio:

The post is composed by Mark, who is a blogger and a wild foosball fan. He writes a blog about foosball to show to the general population that foosball is a standout amongst other game tables. He adores sharing his opinion about foosball, and he does that by being a part of the Foosball Zone. You can check out his work on this link: http://www.foosballzone.com/harvard-foosball-table/

Work-Life Balance? Or Work-Work Balance…

Work-life balance is a tricky subject. Many believe that the right balance between work and your personal life is about 50 hours of work a week. I’ve heard this number several times in my career and through other conversations. So, if we break down 50 hours a week, you end up with about 10 hours a day if you take the weekend off. This seems reasonable, especially if you get paid for the extra 10 hours. A big problem is when you are paid salary and once you hit 40 hours, you’re mostly working for free. There are many arguments for and against this. For example, many salary workers are given other benefits and perks to make up for the extra hours they won’t get traditional overtime pay. Or time over 40 hours is given back to them in the form of additional paid vacation. No right or wrong combination will make everyone happy, which is the key to this article.
There is no right or wrong combination of work-life balance. Everyone is different; everyone has different circumstances, everyone has different beliefs and different needs. What works for you will most likely not work for others. This is why it is imperative that you figure out what works for you and then help your people work out what works for them. Many run into problems when their work-life balance works for them but not their spouse, kids, or other obligations. One thing to remember is you will probably do what you find most important. And sometimes it is to sacrifice early to make things better later on. This can be dangerous, because you may never be able to escape that frame of mind.
Organizational managers or the organizational leadership needs to understand how work-life balance works for their employees. There is a belief that employees display dedication and commitment in the amount of time they spend at work. That those employees that get to work at nine to five are not as committed as the employees that work from six to six. Managers need to articulate how much time they expect employees to stay at work. They also need to know that there is much more to life than work. And unless the employee is in love with what they do, they don’t want to spend all their time in the office. It’s more important than ever to know your people!

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6 Steps to Keep Employees

There are many ways to keep employees around.  The key to employee retention is to create an environment that any reasonable employee will enjoy being a part of.  Not every job is glamorous, and many times people do not enjoy what they do.  Creating a happy working environment and having great managers by following the below steps will make things much better!

  1. Track your retention levels

There is no way to effectively manage the retention level in your organization if you do not track it.  The most common goal for employee retention is around 90%, but the reality is every field and organization is different.  The caliber of your staff that are leaving and the critical positions they are vacating might be crippling to your organization even if the number is higher than 90%.  Additionally, a little turnover is a good thing; fresh ideas, fresh perspective, fresh attitude, and the motivation of a new employee can be a great boost to the team!

  1. Culture

Culture is what you make of it.  You can deliberately determine culture, or you can let the culture grow on its own developing into whatever it happens to become.  Most managers do not take an active role in culture, and that is why many organizations have a poor or negative culture.  The first step to changing the culture is to decide what culture you want.  Write it down!  Print it on paper and tape it to your desk or in another area that is visible and read it often.  These parts of the culture you write down will need to guide your decision making.  If you are making policy and decisions, you should ask if your decisions and policies are in line with the culture you are trying to create.  If not, you need to change the decisions or the cultural goals.

  1. Invest in your Employees

Investing in your employees is usually seen as providing them education or training that helps the organization.  And if you can align a person’s wishes or passion and your organization’s goals, then you have the winning formula.  But in many cases, you will have a box packer that wants to be a nurse.  Or a concrete finisher that seeks to be a CPA.  So, in this case giving them training in the field they are currently in, will only get you a marginal improvement.  If you can make it happen, the best thing to do would be to provide aid for your box packer to go to nursing school.  Or give them a week of paid time-off so they can spend some time with a real nurse to see if it is something they want to do.  If you can help your employees realize their dreams, good things will always come back to the organization.  And it is the best thing to do.  Who knows, maybe you can bring him/her back after nursing school to create an on-site nurse position/department.

  1. Recognition

Recognition is one of the easiest things to do, but one of the most neglected.  A formal recognition program is mandatory.  If your company does not have one, then create one.  But outside of the formal program, you need to pay attention to the opportunities presented to recognize high-quality performers.  Add a reminder to your phone on a weekly basis to get out from behind your computer or whatever you are doing and find people doing good things.  Leaders seek out opportunities to thank their people and encourage positive behavior.

  1. Feedback

This is another thing that is easy but often neglected.  Informal feedback is super easy and very powerful.  Formal feedback can be detached and robotic if not done properly.  The key is to have clear examples of the behavior the person displays and use these models to eliminate negative behaviors and reinforce positive behaviors.

  1. Quality evaluations that strengthen the all of the above initiatives

Lastly, build or rework the evaluation system of your organization.  Take the time to review what your evaluations value.  What message do they send? They need to incorporate the new culture, initiatives and measure the performance of your people against the critical standards.

 

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THE LEADER IN THE MIRROR

Robert E. Wood

To find a potential leader in an organization, we usually do not have to go very far. Just about the time you think there aren’t any candidates to fill a leadership position, a guy like me comes along and tries to help you see the not-so-obvious. Leaders are all around us, they just have to be proactively sought out and developed. A shortage of leaders is more often than not due to a shortage of leadership and training. Not everyone can look in the mirror and readily see the leader within even though the reflection could build a great deal of influence if properly coached.

Some leaders didn’t even know they were a leader until someone else enlightened them to the fact, then all of the sudden the unwitting leader begins to focus on his/her teammate’s actions and response to his/her approach. This is the usual progression from someone who was satisfied with their current situation, then is offered an opportunity to take on a larger role in the organization.

When we say a leader’s job is to make more leaders, it’s because leaders aren’t natural born; they’re trained to help others recognize and develop their true potential. Most people, who accidentally do something great, get credit and some positive reinforcement from a leader; usually feel good enough to want to do it again. This is the beginning of the shift to greater influence.

I would rather mentor a multi-disciplined employee who has proven their commitment to the success of the organization over someone with a degree or skill. A degree doesn’t prove competence or commitment and skills can be taught. A leadership team that is focused on reinvesting in their own employees will find more of those employees recognizing the leader in the mirror.

Too Busy? How to Find Goldilocks!

I hear so many people talk about how busy they are.  It is constant.  Each new task, each new problem, the same response every time, “I’m too busy to add more to my plate!” We’ve all heard it and might be true in some cases, but other times it’s just hyperbole.  It seems like the cool thing to say as a manager, that you are the busiest and have no time for anything else.  That you are overworked and many other descriptions of the same thing.

The problem is being busy is a bad thing.  How can you or your organization be agile and be able to adjust to meet demand if you are so busy?  A great quote I read once is “You can’t be too busy mopping the floor, to shut off the faucet.”  So being busy is just an exercise in priorities.  Sometimes you won’t have the option of what to do or which priorities you have, but you can always discuss it.  When you are in a position to determine your priorities, it is all about doing what is important for the organization to be successful.

So, how does an organization do this?  There need to be deliberate discussions about what is and what is not a priority.  Hopefully, the items determined to be a priority align with the organizational goals.  If they do not align, then this is a good indicator you have either the wrong goals or the wrong priorities.

Achieving a balance is needed because cleaning the bathroom might not be an organizational priority that will align with an organizational goal, if it is not done regularly, nasty things will happen. This is where the problems begin because at some point everything will become a priority.  What you end up with is managers not being able to distinguish priorities for their work.

Look at the typical tasks you are required to complete and build priority groups.  Doing so will help the members of the organization responsible for creating a suspense for these tasks a way to determine how long to give the group to respond.  You might create five priority groups that your organization can assign tasks to, then when something is a low priority, people won’t ask for a same-day turnaround.

Take, for example, a low priority task like providing the IT department the type of paper you use.  This job would easily fall in the lowest priority category.  That category would come with a minimum two weeks completion time, meaning you have two weeks to respond.  If the priority needed to be bumped up, clear and compelling justification would need to be provided.  Once your organization knows how to prioritize, it will be easy to find the balance that is “just right.”

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