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Have you recognized your employees strengths?

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

I once had a job as a data entry clerk at a very large organization, and I was very very bad at it, well at least half of it. I made a lot of errors, I frequently had to do corrections that cost time and energy of not just myself but of those around me, I hated it, and I always felt I was on the verge of being fired.

I went out and found a new job and when I went in to give my two weeks notice my boss asked me what it would take for me to stay. I was floored, he wanted me to stay? Why? It is not like I was some highly skilled, irreplaceable talent. It turns out that I was excellent at the other half of my job, the customer service and problem solving area, and in his mind that far outweighed how bad I was at data entry. THAT would have been nice to know before I put myself out there, interviewed and was rejected for many a job!

I did not stay, I moved on, but this lends itself to some questions. Why didn’t my boss every give me any feedback about this? Why did he still have me doing the data entry aspect of the job? Why did he still have the people who were good at data entry but poor at customer service doing the customer service job? I could name half a dozen of my fellow clerks who would have jumped at the chance to take over my data entry if they never had to deal with the customers.

In some cases you hire a person to do a job, they stink at it, and you have to fire them because there is simply no place for them. In this case my boss could have made simple duty changes for a few people and had a much more effective organization just recognizing our individual strengths, no training or employee turnover required. Remember as a leader it is part of your job to be aware and constantly thinking about how to most effectively run your staff, open your eyes and recognize your peoples strengths.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Who is a leader?

August 23, 2010 Leave a comment

I have spent time talking about leadership and I realize I have not talked about who a leader is. A leader is anyone who assumes the role or is assigned a position to motivate others to pursue a goal or vision. This is my definition as adapted from the many textbooks I have read and the US Army FM 22-100 leadership manual. I think this captures the key components.

The first key is that a leader can assume a role on their own or be assigned to a role. Those who assume the role on their own may already have an idea what their leadership style is, and may be looking to expand their knowledge. The typical audience for a blog like this is the leader who has been assigned the role because they may not know where to start when it comes to their first day on the job. Once you start down the path of leadership it is a journey of self-development.

The second key is the movement toward a goal or vision. This goal may be organizational or one of the leaders own. The reason for understanding this concept is that if you are not moving toward a goal why do people need a leader? People are perfectly adept at going in circles or going nowhere, leaders who cannot share a vision or goal provide no value.

That is where I am coming from when I say leader, what are some other definitions of leadership that you have seen?

Categories: Uncategorized

Let’s talk manners

August 10, 2010 Leave a comment

A high school teacher of mine, a man I still respect and see around town every once in a while, once told me what he said was an old quote. I wrote the words down on a scrap of paper then and still have it today, but at that time in my life I did not understand the importance of crediting a quote, so here is to who had the original idea:

“In a social circle where one man is officially the subordinate of another, the superior, if he is a gentleman, never thinks of  it and the subordinate, if he is a gentleman, never forgets it.” – Unknown (even to Google!?)

You can adapt it to be more politically correct and gender neutral if that would be more to your liking. Some of the modern day leadership guru’s will say this sounds like the old command and control model. Maybe on the surface but upon closer examination it is still very true even in the most liberal and and open workplace.

If I want to bring a new idea to my boss, under the rules above I am still free to present it and even argue its merits with her. I must be careful to remain a gentleman and be respectful. If she is following the same rule (gentlewoman?) she would be careful to be respectful of me and my ideas.

Only if I become disrespectful and break the rule will trouble start, if I as the subordinate am disrespectful, I will be reminded. This is not my boss breaking the rule, once I have breached protocol it is now her turn to remind me where I am and put me in my place. For those of you that work for others and do not think you have a “place”, I argue you are totally delusional. You are free to leave an organization if you do not like your “place”, but so long as you choose to work for this person or company that is your “place”, I recommend owning it.

It would be helpful for the new leader to keep this in mind and avoid being arrogant. Remember you cannot complete your work without your people, treat them with respect and they are more likely to respect you. If constantly reminding and mentioning to your employees that you are the boss is the only tool you have to work with, you are doomed to fail. Follow the rule above and develop some other leadership methodologies and you will go far.

Categories: New Leader

Doing things v. Getting things done

August 10, 2010 Leave a comment

One thing new leaders sometimes do is all the work. Right now I have two very different jobs, in the first I have no one working for me. When my manager comes to me and says “Kreston, I need you to …” the intent is for me to go physically accomplish the task.

At another place I have about 20 people that work for me and when my manager says to me, “Kreston, I need you to…” the intent is for me to GET the project done, not necessarily to physically do it. As I pointed out in my August 4th blog I am responsible for getting the job done, but I have people to actually do it in most cases.

It becomes my job to provide resources and support to those doing the work.

Delegation is a transition that is difficult for many new leaders or managers to make. Many new managers get frustrated watching the employees stumble through a task in 5 minutes the manager can do in 30 seconds. The problem is that as you move up it becomes more and more difficult to do all the work, plus your employees will become annoyed at this micro management.

Step back and let your employees work, they will become as good at the job as you are, or better. If they need guidance give it, but do not get in the way of their development. Learn to delegate well and you will get a lot more done.

Categories: Uncategorized

You can delegate your authority but NOT your responsibility

August 4, 2010 1 comment

I recently read the blog Be the boss, but don’t be a jerk, by Wally Bock which linked me to a blog by George Cloutier called, Your Company is not a Democracy. These two have some very different ideas on leadership and how decisions are made. The thing I think it is most important for the new leader to realize is it is ALWAYS your decision as a leader\boss\supervisor and you are always responsible for the outcome.

Lets talk about the idea of the benevolent dictator, Cloutier advocates being feared and respected, and goes on to say that your word must be final. Fear is a bit extreme but you must be respected and indeed your word is final because ultimately the responsibility is yours. The employees must know when it is time for debate and when you have made your final decision. Debate must stop and progress made in the direction you as the boss chose. This is the most obvious form of taking responsibility, there is no wiggle room you dictated and your team executed.

The other extreme is the leader who lets employees come to a consensus and then backs them 100%. These leaders practice delegation of authority and some leaders may get the crazy idea that this somehow this relieves them of their responsibility. If the results are good, your team takes the praise and you must let them. If things come back bad, it was your decision and you must bear the consequences. Using phrases like, “it wasn’t my idea” or “I did not know the details” highlights you as a weak leader. The fact is it was still your decision, you chose to let the team choose and you will answer for the decision. If you are the owner, it means your bottom line is short, if you work for a company it means you answer to your boss.

The argument between the dictators and the delegation crowd will wage on in theory, but you will learn through success and failure there is a place and time for both, a subject for another day. Through it all remember that either way you are responsible. Take responsibility for decisions and the team will ultimately respect you, and work harder for you. If you constantly try to shift responsibility for decisions to others both your boss and your team will know, you will soon be out of business or out of a job.

Categories: Responsibility

Develop a Leadership Philosophy

August 2, 2010 2 comments

In my last blog I mentioned that a new leader must develop a leadership philosophy. So what is a leadership philosophy? A leadership philosophy tells the people around you what criterion you will use to make decisions, it contains a vision and values that allow your employees to make decisions that move the company forward without consulting you at every turn. This will make both you and them more effective in day to day operations

First, a vision is the ideal place for the organization to be. The vision should include specifics on where the organization is going, why it is going there, and a general idea of how to get there. This vision only needs to be as far as your experience and position allow you to see. The shift leader at a fast food establishment may have a daily vision where the CEO may need to look 5 years or more down the road. As the vision grows closer to reality and you can start to see the next step, you adjust and communicate the new vision.

Second, the philosophy must contain your values, those things that are important to you regardless of the vision you set forth. Values are those things you will not sacrifice even if it means you are not moving toward the vision. Be sure not to list values you do not live. If you put that you value integrity but your employees see you failing to take responsibility for your actions you have just become a liar, a very difficult place to recover from.

The shift leader I mentioned may have a philosophy of, “In order to maintain our position as the best shift we will have an average customer wait time of 1 minute or less while still maintaining the high standards of quality in our food, cleanliness, and presentation.” That way the employees know they must strive for the vision of 1 minute wait time but cannot just ball up the food and toss it at the customer in order to achieve it, they must also adhere to the standards set forth in the values.

The CEO looking 5 years down the road will have more than a sentence but it must still contain the same components and allow employees to creatively contribute by focusing their experience and knowledge in the same direction as yours. Because employees know how you think and where you intend to go they are free to make decisions. If you did not communicate your philosophy they would have to ask you about every little decision because there would be no way for them to know which one would bring the organization closer to success as you, their leader, defines it.

Categories: Uncategorized

You’re in charge: how do you tell your former peers?

I recently met a woman who was promoted from within an organization that had gone leaderless for a very long time. They had been managed from two levels up, had gone through a series of temporary managers from other departments, and were in continuous triage mode. Finally a new department head was selected from outside and after a 6 month selection process selected her from within. She was now in charge of a branch which was filled with some very interesting characters including a peer with 10 more years of experience in the field than her and a new hire who was changing careers but had a lot of prior leadership experience, both had competed for the position.

What now? The woman was faced with subordinates who had no purpose, direction, or motivation and two employees who thought they should be in charge. So how does she establish her authority and begin to develop a team?

One way I have seen this problem successfully handled was for the new manager meet with each individual and discuss expectations Both people can explain what they expect of each other and the new supervisor can explain the behaviors they reward and punish, and the leadership philosophy of the new manager. Once the meeting is over put in writing what both sides expect.

The managers expectations will be the standard to which all are held. The employees expectations give the new manager a chance to gain some insight into how the employees think. These discussions are the beginning of the bigger job for the manager of developing their leadership philosophy and providing the department a purpose, direction and motivation they will need to succeed.

What are methods you have seen work for the new manager who must start by establishing their authority in the workplace?

Categories: Uncategorized