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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

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

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

Making the transition from Led to Leader

Welcome to my first blog! I have decided to lend my voice to the very crowded leadership field, with a focus on the NEW Leader. My purpose is to help new supervisors and managers make a quick and effective transition from led to leader. I have seen the situation many times; the person that is highly competent in their technical field, is promoted to a leadership position, and failed. Why did they fail? Were they stupid? Did they get lazy? No, they were never told that the promotion was a move from their chosen technical field to the new and entirely different specialty of being a leader.

I had my first leadership assignment being in charge of the pizza tossing station in the kitchen of a local bar, me and one other guy at the bottom of the food chain (literally and figuratively), but I was in charge, and boy did I screw that up. That was my first lesson that heavy handed techniques will only get you so far, and that I needed to learn the strengths and weaknesses of my employees. Not bad for a week long assignment.

Since then I have led many different groups from the cashiers at a large retail chain to a platoon in the United States Army, groups from 2 to 120. I have also gained more formal education, earning a Bachelor of Science in Management and Marketing from the University of Nevada, Reno and working on my MBA from the same. During the course of my education I learned how to articulate the things that have been going on around me for years. I want to use this experience and education to help new supervisors and new managers become leaders in the shortest possible time, increasing their effectiveness and making the transition from led to leader easier.

Categories: Uncategorized