Overcoming Inaction Epilogue

While I hope everybody picked up one gem from the blog series, I hope even harder that people will see the benefits of acting. It is not uncommon for the Return on Investment for projects I take on to be in “the triple digits” over a one year period. For example:

  • Simply giving sales people a structured process can boost results 30% or much better
  • Writing down a business case wins financing to expand
  • Developing a young leadership team that paves the way for that succession plan you’re itching to execute

These are all straight forward tactics, but they all require a leader to change and lead the change. We all have some instinct to squash personal change, when presented.  My parents came from the Greatest Generation and placed an enormous value on self-reliance. I choose an engineering profession that rewards individual innovation. I wrestled to overcome this modeling and accept that these values are not optimal in a management environment.

There are three major themes that describe resistance to change:

  • Lack of confidence: lacking confidence in skill, process, or market
  • Over-managing: relinquishing control of details undermines authority and creates vulnerability to failure
  • Too much confidence: A belief that current results will continue forever

But amazingly, I find motivation to make a change is even more significant than resistance to change. People need to believe that they can create the future they long for. They also need to cope with objectives that are 100% self-directed. There are no deadlines in creating success.

I would like to end the series with an invitation to speak with me about how you are creating success and the challenges that come with it. I don’t assume that scheduling a talk with me in any way suggests you would want to work with me. And you can pick phone, zoom conference, in-person, or whatever format suits as a platform.  If interested, click the link in the email.

SUCCESS THROUGH PROCESS

I once had a client that wanted to improve sales and worked hard to create a new, compelling business strategy. After an enthusiastic launch, frustration grew as the order numbers remained fairly flat. What was lacking was a clear sales process with measures to isolate where sales people were running into difficulty and why.  If goals are a map to set direction, then process is the speedometer. The basic building block for process is employee responsibilities. Without written descriptions, even a small business that has yet to evolve to processes will flounder. From a manager’s desk, process problems appear murky with no obvious solution in sight.

Some examples of process issues are:

  • Customers tripped up by the same service or delivery issues
  • Stifled productivity from employees welcoming a high-skill employee handling their responsibilities and, thus, becomes the bottleneck
  • Intense finger-pointing over who is responsible for a decision or to blame for an issue
  • Difficulty, or even inability, to forecast orders, cost, and delivery times

By definition, a process is an activity requiring work to be divided across multiple organizational functions. Successful hand-offs of work require a complete description of each task, who is responsible for the task, how it is determined that a task is completed correctly, and what action is to be taken if a task cannot be completed as scheduled. Here’s a questionnaire to help you assess your process expertise. Each “No” should be regarded as an opportunity to improve.

  • For the sales, operations, finance/accounting, and general management functions, is there the one name clearly recognized in your business as being responsible for each function?
  • Is there a quality policy that allows the employee closest to the assembly of the product decide if a product is ready to ship?
  • Do employees have a clear written description of their responsibilities and are able to recite how their performance is evaluated?
  • Do you have periodic reviews of key activities and process to determine which processes are obsolete and need redesign?

If you answered yes to all the questions, you likely have confident employees and satisfied customers.  Regardless of how you answered, you can download a white paper titled, “Marketing Quality Management.” And, spoiler alert: if sales are down, don’t be quick to blame the sales people.  Accelerated Achievements has helped all kinds of companies improve efficiency and quality. If questions have been triggered by this post and you want to talk, drop me a line.

OVERCOMING INACTION: SUCCESS THOUGH GOALS

Nobody plans to fail; but of those that fail, 97% fail to plan. Is the statement trite? Its impact is greatly dependent on the listener’s desire to succeed. Goals and planning is a critical area most prone to inaction. This can be due to a strong ego that believes intuition can solve problems more quickly than planning, a complacency to keep things just the way they are, or simply being stuck on how to proceed with the challenge in front of you. Not acting on the change around you carries a big cost. So, what happens when there is over-reliance on intuition?

  • Managers are getting stressed from taking on too many low-priority tasks at the cost of missing an important goal. You might recognize these folks by their complaints about being too busy.
  • Managers are pursuing projects without budgeting time and dollars and then being surprised by the cost of the project and dogged with rework and disappointing returns.
  • Managers fail to assign names and due dates to tasks and have little recourse to correct employees’ late work.
  • People work chronic overtime because they don’t see an activity with enough attraction to draw them home.

Experts agree that goal setting is the most critical skill for an executive to perfect. Assignment of work, monitoring progress, performance evaluation, and recognition are all impossible without solid goals. Thus, one of the best cost reduction schemes for a business is to do more planning. Here’s a yes/no questionaire to help you assess your goal setting expertise. Each “No” should be regarded as a caution.

  • Are goals not completed or completed late with some frequency?
  • Do you have work and personal goals that motivate you to keep a healthy life balance?
  • Do your employees know what your goals are and have goals to support the accomplishment of your goals?
  • Do you have a regular review of both yours and your employees’ goals to update status and identify new obstacles that need to be addressed?
  • Do you have a process to plan and research key growth initiatives, such as capital investments, market expansions, mergers/acquisitions, etc. that supports sound investment and staffing decisions?

If you answered “Yes” to all the questions, you are a planner extraordinaire.  If not, take heart in knowing that you are in good company and sound planning skills can be readily mastered.  For taking the time to review this post, I’m making The Life Balance Worksheet available as a free download.  If your assessment has left you with lingering questions and you want to kick around ideas about how to strengthen your planning process, drop me a line.

Secret to Retaining Young Employees

When the economy heats up, the question of “When will business pick up again?” is quickly replaced with “Where do I find talent?” A number of high-skill industries are struggling with finding younger employees to succeed aging Baby Boomers.  Before companies plan glitzy recruiting campaigns, it is best to make sure their house is in order. Jim Clifton of Gallop wrote, “The single biggest decision you make in your job–bigger than all the rest–is who you name manager. When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits–nothing.” The owner and the management team create the vibe that will attract and retain top performers.

Managers are tasked with bringing positive change to the organization. This is tricky when societal values and consumer preferences are changing at a blinding rate.  Yet, companies too often overlook investment in developing management skill and give a pass to ineffective managers. I believe that managers need to be adept in the following roles:

 

Manager as Coach At a seminar recently, I made the assertion that managers need coaching skills to develop soft skills in sales and management employees. I was surprised to get push back from a participant. There was a concern that if the manager developed close relationships with employees, they might lose objectivity in assessing performance. In my world, close relationships are indeed what we are looking for.  To be a coach, a manager must have clear understanding of the job roles, communicate the desired results for each role, and possess the ability to teach employees required skills to perform the job. If a manager can shift accountability for job performance to the employee, the employee will have a greater sense of achievement and development. Retention of young employees depends on a perception that the company is committed to their development.

Manager as Motivator A successful manager keeps an eye not only on what motivates each employee, but also on what demotivates. Managers need to be skillful at building a level of rapport that permits them to ask appropriate questions that reveal why they came to work for the company and what draws them to perform.  Organizing work assignments and offering recognition that touches those motivators will gain peak performance.

Manager as Leader Whether you are a CEO or first line supervisor, it is vital to have a vision and sense of mission for your organization. The younger generation has little patience with companies that cannot describe a brighter future that will provide opportunities for employees. Positive management values that will build trust and cooperation will shape culture and support the mission.  A question that every business leader should reflect on is whether their managers value, or even like, their employees. Younger workers prefer collaborative work environments that respect their thoughts on systems and work rules. Industries that have been stereotyped as having hierarchical authority and repetitive work assignments need to consider undertaking cultural change.

Manager as Gatekeeper Businesses today need an aggressive, strategic hiring strategy. Managers need to make hiring decisions based on character and skills without compromise. Interviews need to pose questions that discover how the candidate’s values and mission align with the company. A common interview question is “Where do you want to be in five years?”  Strong candidates will have a clear answer to this question. The question for you is, “Can you get them there?”