Archive for the ‘employees’ Category

I have seen first hand the magic that come from propping up a person for job duties that are well beyond their capabilities, and they surprise themselves and succeed. I have also seen first hand the horrors that come from propping up a person for job duties that are well beyond their capabilities, and they prove everyone right and fail miserably.

There is a lot more of the latter happening in corporate America these days, which would be fortunate if it meant companies were becoming more confident in ‘fail-to-learn’ philosophies.

It happens to fall toward the unfortunate, as it really means too many companies have come up short on manpower after too many successes at cutting payroll. Still, companies are desperate to get the same level of work done despite the obvious lack of numbers to support the workload. Line managers hope for the best by giving addition duties to their workers for various reasons, and then give them hell when they can’t really handle it, even though they suspected it wasn’t going to work out from the beginning.

The real solution would be to hire back the lost employees and work at the regular levels again. That’s probably not happening any time soon. In the meantime, managers need to be extremely careful when putting the necks of the inexperienced on the line, for both of their sakes.


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This is not the first time on this blog that I have taken on the time honored tradition of the customer always being right, but I believe it is the first time I actually offered a solution that involved dealing with the customer and not just reassuring the employees who deal with them that the abuse they take is worth it.

Once again, I will admit that I am a horrible closer in sales, but once committed to a client and product, they get 100% effort, routinely overshooting their expectations. But in the cases when you are not meeting the needs of the customer to their satisfaction, despite delivering exactly what they asked for and more, I offer three solutions:

– Sell Them At A Lower Price: Times are tough right now for all of us, and your clients are no exception. They are feeling just as much pressure to cut costs or get more for the money they are spending, and they are driving you insane with worry for loss of revenue I you can’t meet their panicked demands. Now is the perfect time to take a small loss with a loyalty discount for those long time customers, especially big spending customers. A limited batch of discounted goods and services might be to ticket to keeping them at bay.

– Sell Them At A Higher Price: Custom orders, rush delivery, and last minute changes are enemies to your bottom line, especially if your customers are coming to you discounted and not premium prices. If your customers are making requests that mean increases to your normal cost of service, you are well within your right to share some of that cost increases with those customers. If your customers are just annoying, well, make sure you can both justify and prove the necessity of the cost increase

– Stop Selling To Them: If you were no longer serving the best interest of a client, you would expect them to stop using you. It is odd that the opposite is usually not an expected option. If a client becomes too much trouble or expense, and you can come to no workable discourse, you have to fire the client. You would do better using the time and energy to focus on your profitable customers or finding a new replacement customers.


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I’ve been talking to a lot of my friends who are stagehands lately, and as the summer concerts are beginning to be planed, and my mind got caught up in thinking about goals and planning.

When a band sets up a stage for a performance, they have to scout out the venue, determine their basic wants and needs for a show, figure out if the venue can actually allow them to do some cool extra things (more lights, split level stages, pyro, whatever), and then determine what the end result should be. If the band is comfortable with themselves and who they will be performing with, they know how well they move together on stage, and can easily set up a performance and tear down for a quick getaway once they know how much room you have to work with.

Take this to your work team or even personal goal planning. Think about yourself and the teams you work with, and take a closer look at the current level of talent in contrast to the limitations that have placed on you (budgets, time, authority, priority). Your limits make up the size of your venue, and whether it is the equivalent of a small club or outdoor stadium. That sets you up to gage the size of stage you can manage in the space, how much equipment and what type of equipment you can allow on stage, and the size of a crowd you have to pull into the venue to make your performance pay off. Your bosses may see a lot of potential for crowded theater shows, or they might not think your ready to come out of the garage. You’ve got to figure out what venue they’re trying to book you in before you try to negotiate a bigger room and more of the door money.

And you have to be especially honest about the level of talent you are currently working with. You can argue about the Beatles being the greatest band of all time, but they didn’t begin the British Invasion a few months after they formed. They spent years learning themselves and their audiences, and they started with humble beginning of playing in some of the smaller and more seamier dives all over Europe. They had designs on sellout arena crowds early in their career…but they to build themselves up to reaching their superstar status. And they had to build smaller steps and occupy smaller stages along the way until they could demand the biggest and the best. Don’t get fooled by your potential. Let your potential be your booking agent to bigger gigs in a timely manner.

Your first challenge is to see the venue for what it is, and plan the biggest possible stage and grandest show setup you can imagine for it. That becomes your target goal, and their is nothing wrong with taking that goal to an insane extreme. You might not sell out Madison Square Garden, but you’ll never come close if you don’t keep a few open dates in case the opportunity just happens to pop up.

Your second challenge, and what is the real hard part, is to be consistent in building the steps to that bigger stage, and not hope that talent or luck will allow you to leap from a smaller stage without the proper support. Having a team that is willing to do what it takes to sell out the Garden is great. Having a team that has the talent to pull off the show is wonderful. Having the team that has worked its way up, step by step, to grow its talent and fan base to sell out the show is what you really want. That is something special.

I’ve worked with people who have looked at the big stage and shied away from it, despite great talent, and chosen to stay in the smaller venues or even get out of the business altogether because of the time and expectations of people who perform on the grand level. More frustrating are the people I’ve worked with who you have looked at the stage we are working on and the steps we had built so far, take a chainsaw to them, set them on fire, and then drive over the whole thing with a steamroller. Then, they would stand on top on the ashes and complain that were not building an even bigger stage than the one we had previously destroyed. I have worked with far too many of the latter types of people than I care to think about, because it drains my personal energy when I have to think about the time and energy wasted in the build up. But each experience is a learning experience that you have to take something good away from.


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How many times have you past up a great personal opportunity, with the only reasoning being you figure you could live with the good thing you already had going? How did it make you feel in the short and long run, as you watched greatness continue and you flounder?

How many times have you watched as your bosses balked at the chance to go after a potentially great employee hire, get in on the bottom floor of a potentially great business opportunity, or expand on a potential great internal program?

There might be good reason (no sustainable capital, not enough physical resources or manpower, possible conflicts in our business model, contractual loopholes to battle out of, etc). Then again, there might not be any reason other than being able to live with the ‘good’ thing we got right now, even if that thing is more along the lines of ‘serviceable,’ or ‘adequate.’

How does that make you feel in the short and long run, as you watch greatness continue for other job sites and yours continue to flounder?

And in some cases, you will find not only opposition to the change that can take your good to great status, you will find much more effort and energy to keeping things status quo that taking your new initiative to greatest, especially if the current state of affairs is closer to the sub par than the par .range

Anytime you take a risks, despite how minimal you can make it, if there is no risk, there is no reward. Even getting out of bed has some risk involved, even if the much more pleasing alternative offers enough consequences to make the decision not to particularly silly.

If you get the opportunity to reach out and touch great, you need to take that opportunity.


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“Second place is the first loser.” Ricky Bobby (aka Will Ferrell) from Talladega Nights

Today we’ll have a little bonus ‘Quote & Question,’ as my wandering mind came across using a foot race as another metaphor for life. You can throw plenty of old clichés and adages to it: “The race is not to the swift,” “Slow and steady wins the race,” “Life is a marathon and not a sprint”…but then that line for Talladega Nights popped into my head, and my mind was off to the races (pun intended).

One of the few things I know for sure is that in life, you are always either in the lead or playing catch up. Whether you’re in the middle of the pack or far, far out the race, if you’re not in the first place, you are not in first place.

That was exactly what I have been dealing with in all aspects of my life, as the current economic conditions here is the US has found a way to stymie just about every well laid plan I had conceived in the past few years, and is doing to same to many of my friends and associates. Not only are more people finding themselves out of first place, they are finding themselves getting lapped. It doesn’t matter how far behind you happen to be in the race, if you’re not in the lead, you only register if you’re a threat to take the lead, and you only seriously matter if you actually take the lead.

With so many people unlucky enough to have lost a job recently, the people who are lucky enough to have jobs look like winners well ahead of the pack. In reality, most are just unlucky enough to be stuck where they are because of the lack of jobs out there. They are stuck in jobs they don’t like or jobs with no forward motion for the foreseeable future because of the overall lack of jobs. People are being given new and extra duties on their jobs that are not only insisting that they come out of there comfort zones at work, but some people flat out don’t want to do. It’s becoming a workplace reality for more employees to be overloaded with additional duties that need to get done, but have completely gotten in the way of their career pursuits.

And now, everyone seems to be behind, and all fighting just to place or show, not even targeting the person who is truly in the lead.

And that guy in first place is wondering why there are no threats to his top spot, and why he’s even running so fast anymore…

In a land where everyone loves a long shot, and the leader of the pack will often embrace the role of the villain, we have seemed to have lost it. No one wants to be on top for fear of having to defend their spot, and many racers are too far behind in laps to even make the race interesting anymore. We seem to all be fighting hard for the right to claim first loser than to be the actual winner.


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A lesson you learn pretty quickly in the military is that when the people who are supposed to take care of you take care of you, you focus on the results achieved and not the method used, because sometime you really don’t want to know.

I picked that up as a young Air Force officer, and was blessed to have dedicated staff of enlisted airmen and civilians that knew how to get things done and how to keep me out of trouble. I just had to give them the outcome preferred, a list of resources I knew I had available, and a timeline I wanted to pursue. Then, I could just sit back and let the experts at their jobs do their jobs the best way they knew how. I was really blessed early on to have teams that rarely failed, noting that that they actually overachieved about 85 of the time.

When I took me first position that allowed me to really take point on projects, I got a reinforcement of the basic tenants of ‘I got it done, but don’t ask me how.’ I now had a general presenting me his plans that he wanted executed, along and the desired outcome. His staff, knowing the general, stressed the importance of following his plans. Twice I follow the general’s plans for a project given to me, and presented the results that were well below the expected level of results. The first time the plan was blown off, but the second time, the general asked me why I would follow such a stupid plan in the first place. As tactfully as possible, I let the general know that I was given the rough parameters that I had to follow, although I really wanted to say he had given me the stupid idea that I knew wasn’t going to work, but was told has to be followed anyway.

From that point on, I stopped listening to ‘orders’ and starting listening for ‘outcome.’ Whenever that general offered up a plan, I ignored the plan completely, but I made sure that what the general said he wanted and what the troops in the field were expecting were one in the same, and deliverd that. I would put a plan into play that was solid, and ensured that I had over performed on the task when it was time to present. And I always gave the general credit for ‘his director in the formation of our plan of attack.’

I was able to impress myself with the ability make things happen when left to my own devices, and learned quickly to respect the output you can receive from subordinates when you give them a mission and then just let them achieve it with constantly meddling.

Since leaving the military, I have worked for several different managers, some good and bad. I am constantly amazed by managers who push a personal agenda that from the outside looks like a losing campaign. Their insistence on having high achievers do it ‘their way’ quickly becomes a problem, and the projects and tasks almost always come up as failures. And if the manager is spiteful, they’ll usually destroy the moral of the high achiever for failing to live up to some loftfull standard, even thought that standard is wholly unachievable, and should be blatantly obvious to most. If the manager is just foolish, the high achiever will usually ignore that person until they are replaced, or just leave the company to suffer their own fate without him.

If you’re a manager, do yourself a favor. Give your veterans and high achievers their assignments and then back away and let them do amazing work for you. Give your rookies a little guidance and instruction on a way to get their work done that works, but assure them if they find a better process, give it a try.

These are four questions you should be asking yourself when comparing your products and services to that of your competitors:

1: What is it that we do that our competitors also do?

2: What is it that we do that makes us come out better than our competitors?

3: What are we doing to make sure we stay better than our competitors?

No, you don’t ask yourself what the competitor is doing better than you. In most cases, when you look at a category where you are trailing behind the completion, you look to see what they are doing and then scramble your forces in an effort to attempt to out do them. It is extremely difficult to beat the established leader at their own game.

I call this living by an “Advantage: Us” standard. When you know your strengths, you have the advantage of working to ensure they continue to be your strengths. This viewpoint may seem a little short sided, but an “Advantage: Us” playbook will easily push back any pretenders to your throne in the eye of the customer. Just make sure you really are better than your competition for the reasons you are stating.

That doesn’t get you off the hook for the areas where you are at a disadvantage. You must acknowledge your company’s shortcoming and make note of areas where you are trailing the competition. But don’t get overly stressed. Unless your company is at the brink of going under, you will continue to get much better results by knowing why you are the leader in your field, and by doing what you can to ensure you stay that way. Just deal with the areas where you are lagging behind the competition by working hard to grow and improve, until you find yourself on par, or even better, than your competition. Then you ask yourself questions number 2 or 3 for that area.

Until then, your forth question is:

4: What else is left for us to do?

In working on my new writings, I’ve been reviewing lots of old writings to see if there are strings of pearls of wisdom that I can claim…or if I have been a classic flip-flopper. Submitted for your review and approval, and article I put on the Cool Corporate dot COM Blog in October of 2007. I actually got one comment on this, and if memory serves me correctly, it was spam…

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If you are a manager, every so often you will come across an employee in your organization, hopefully under you supervision, that just shines above all the rest of their peers without much effort. That star or potential star employee is a gem you may have lucked upon, but it will take more than a little luck to keep them working for you and your company. And even worse than them leaving for your competition, they could get sullen and just stop putting forth any effort, and are no longer working ‘with’ your company.

How do you keep your stars happily working in their cubicles and shining for your company? If you were to ask any of these employees, I bet the following items would all be on their wish list:

* Give Them Co-Workers Who Can Keep Up – Nothing is more frustrating to a highly motivated, highly mobile worker that being partnered with a slug who just simply can’t keep up. Chances are your star is not stuck up or conceited, but if you place them in teams that aren’t performing because they truly can’t perform or just don’t care all long as the checks don’t bounce, you’re just showing your star that you don’t care about their level of effort. They’ll find a place where movement at their speed matters.

* Give Them The Resources They Need – Just like being placed with bad people, having poor or no resources available to get the job done means it will be harder–if not impossible–to get the job done. Make the jobs easier to get done, and they’ll get more jobs done.

* Give Them The Time They Need – Micromanagement is awful. Insane deadlines are awful. Not letting your stars get their job done, or rushing them to complete tasks sooner than they need to be completed will frustrate, confuse, and infuriate.

* Give Them A Chance To Screw Up – If Jack Welsh gets to blow up a building and still become CEO of General Electric, a star employee in the making could surely survive a missed deadline, target, or even bombing a presentation. They’re not screwing up on purpose. They’ll learn a valuable lesson from the occasional failure, and especially from a huge failure.

You’ve got a star employee, or a potential in the making. You’ve got a prime chance to directly effect the career and life of person who could be an eventual rock star CEO, or just another business burnout. Most of their outcome will truly be up to time, chance, and their own efforts. Don’t be the jerk that makes it harder that it needs to be.

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