Is doing what you do getting you what you really want?

bumpercars with notationsStart-ups are, in many ways, a lot easier than leading a seasoned company or organization. Once systems, methods, and procedures are in place they can become part of the corporate identity. Indeed, they become you and you become identified as them. If they work, okay. If they move your department, company, or organization toward your vision, fine.

But, when was the last time anyone checked to see if that was so. Forms, I mean paper forms or computer resident ones that need to be completed, can become the reason we do what we do. But there is one question that always must be asked…and answered.

Is doing what you do getting you what you really want?

And how do you know if your answer is correct?

This is where the roles of leader sharply contrast with that of manager. Yes, I know that managers lead or at least they should have at least the minimal skills for leading team workers, but by and large managers don’t lead, certainly not to the extent that leaders do. For weeks I’ve been writing about vision, about inspiration, direction, emphasis, values, and mission. It is the unique and rewarding realm of leadership to address those things, to articulate them and incarnate their presence throughout the company.

That’s why I said in the first paragraph that start-ups are easier. When everything is new, when there are no systems in place, you and your team of associates and managers can create them. But somewhere somehow in all you are doing, you need to know if what you do is getting you where you want to go.

There is a tyranny of systems that takes over. The very presence of forms and reports bring bondage. They must be completed. Numbers must be recorded. The act of action itself becomes its own validator. We do things so often for so long that we either lose sight of what they are supposed to accomplish and find the work itself to be its own criteria for success. But leaders can…and must…evaluate the numbers they so diligently collect and process.

In my now famous diagram (below), see how it plots out. Management typically oversees the implementation of strategy. Butbasic diagram leadership monitors all three – tactics which should support the strategy which should lead to the fulfillment of vision. There is a difference between monitoring and managing. Monitoring is to oversee and evaluate. Managing is to fine tune, repair, and keep running.

The evaluation loop must run continuously. Every action, every system, every procedure must be regularly and frankly evaluated. Managers strive for efficiency. Managers make sure things are done and that they are done correctly. Leaders ensure that first and foremost the correct things are done. Making good time is of little use if you’re on the work path. Your goal as leader is to insure efficiency AND effectiveness.

jet drill team with notationsNow for the hard part. I’ll be back on Thursday with another post. Between now and then, schedule time to inspect at least two systems in your organization. Evaluate their effectiveness in implementing strategy through appropriate tactics that move the organization along toward fulfillment of its vision and let managers report to you on their measure of efficiency. Then, decide what your response should be.

The hidden cost of meetings and why hiring someone to facilitate can be a great idea

parking meterThe scene: Window Rock, Arizona, capital of the Navajo Nation.

The participants: A group of educators representative of several organizations and agencies.

The Purpose: Develop an vocational training program to enhance the skills of leaders already in place throughout the tribe. The plan had to satisfy the practical needs of skill development and the intangible need for a sense of credible achievement usually accompanying a college or institutional degree.

We had met before and this meeting was to be the one where the system we’d been working on started to gel.

But it didn’t.

We spent the entire day and by 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon, nothing concrete had yet emerged.

In frustration, I intervened and asked?

“Has anyone here considered how much this meeting is costing?”

Someone replied an incredible, “Almost nothing. The meeting room is free. We all paid for our own lunch. So it cost nothing.”

“Wrong,” I objected. “Here’s what I want us to do right now. Each one of you write down your annual earnings paid by the organization or agency that sent you. The divide that by 2080, the number of work hours in a year. I know that most of us work more than that but let’s be systematic and used that number. How’d I get it? 40 hours a week times 52 weeks comes up to 2080. Figure it out.”

“Next,” I added, “multiply that by the number of people in this room. Some will probably make more, some less. Then give me the total you came up with.”

I collected all the totals and divided it by the number of answers to get an average. That meeting, held back in the 1980’s, cost well over $3000 just in salaries. I asked them to factor in travel costs, meals, and if they hadn’t already, proportionate amounts for benefits and the number grew a good deal larger.

Budgets are always an issue. Finances need to be accounted for and expenditures planned. The flow of funds must be scrupulously managed to satisfy the needs of the enterprise and your constituents.

But money is not the only resource that needs your careful attention. Time does too. Just consider the story above the next time you schedule a meeting. It costs someone – you if you’re the owner, the owner of your company if it isn’t you, the constituents, someone pays for the wages, salaries, and benefits consumed for the meeting. Add in planning time, travel there and back even if it is just a walk down the hall, meals if any, incidental costs like copying, broadband access, on-line fees if you’re using GoToMeeting or a similar service, the wages paid support staff to prepare for the meeting, and the time of everyone spent to follow-up.

Now, is the meeting really necessary? Does everyone have to gather or can the same thing be accomplished by conference call or other service? If everyone must gather, and sometimes this is indeed the case, then how can you expedite the process saving everyone’s time (yours included) and the company’s money?

One way is to hire the services of an outside facilitator. Yes, they cost money, but they save a lot of time. Lots of time! How?

I’ll show you at least a dozen ways on Thursday.

7 traits of a great planner

todoIt’s time to become small minded. Visionaries are big thinkers. Planners may make big plans but they think small. They take the grand scheme of things and turn it into smaller steps.

Planners are comprehensive thinkers whose skillset includes the ability to break things up into increments and whose experience has shown them the necessity to be rational and realistic. Fantasy thinkers will soon get themselves into big trouble here so practicality is the keyword.

I want a big thinker to formulate vision and I want that same big thinker to leave the planning process to people who can be real and realistic. Here are the 6 key traits of an effective planner:

First, an effective planner can take a project apart and divide it into realistic tasks, tasks that can be assigned a responsible party and a realistic deadline. They understand that the greatest of structures is put up one piece at a time. And they can install warning points along the way to keep things on track and on schedule.

Second, they function in the “now” and in the “then.” They think and work short-term and long-term. The use whatever tools they need to maintain progress towards the ultimate objective. Daily tasks lists are coordinated with and subordinated to annual, quarterly, monthly, and weekly calendars.

Third, they do not wait until deadlines approach to begin. They start early because experience has taught that almost nothing goes off as planned and if anything can go wrong it will.

Fourth, effective planners never work in isolation. They use the considerable skills and insights of others who could be in a position to add insight, understanding, and information.

Fifth, they are good delegators. The larger the plan, the more people needed to fulfill the objectives. Micro-managing will torpedo everything. There will be too much to do. Remember that your circle of concern is always bigger than your circle of ability.

Figure 1
Figure 1

 

Sixth, effective planners are tenacious but not hardheaded. They know how to focus on target and responsibly pursue it. But they are not so infatuated with their own ideas and plans that they become inflexible and rigid. Plans often need revising so “Plan B” is ready. Effective planners can think on their feet and make revisions as needed without losing sight of the objective or compromising the project.

Seventh, they never promise more than they can deliver. Some workers (and in some cultures) it is considered rude and uncaring to tell a superior or coworker anything except what they think the other person wants to hear. But this is a dangerous practice. Effective leaders never suffer sycophants or yes men. Never! Effective planners never engage in such foolish acts either. Never!

Now, it’s time to be honest. If you meet these 7 criteria, great! If not? Well, you know what you have to do. Find someone who does. The vision is far too precious to risk anything so get the best planner(s) you can find to help you bring it into being.

The magic word – planning

Abracadabra_fullWhat’s the magic word?

The guest speaker was seated on the stage, ready to deliver his keynote address. On his right sat the coordinator of the event, the person responsible for pulling all the many strands together to create a worthwhile encounter for speakers and participants alike. On his left sat one of the other speakers, a man who was known for his mystical, creative nature.

For several minutes the guest speaker engaged in close conversation with the coordinator who, without complaining, detailed the challenges he’d faced as administrator. He listed the many decisions to be made, the many components to secure, the many people to manage. As he concluded, the keynote speaker turned to the man on his left, the mystical sort of fellow.

“Isn’t this just wonderful,” he said, “how these things just magically come together.”

Two entirely different perspectives, one from a leader and manager, the other from, well, from someone who obviously is not a manager or leader.

All who lead, all who work in the trenches, wish there was a magic word, an abracadabra sort of word we could pronounce that would take what we’ve spoken and make it a reality.

The etymology of “abracadabra” is by no means precise, but in the Hebrew rendition of the word, it means “it came to pass as it was spoken.” The Aramaic root is quite similar. So, for the purposes of the topic under discussion today, something in that general meaning will do.

I’ve been writing and emphasizing the leader’s role in defining and articulating vision for the group. It is incumbent upon the person in charge to speak forth what the future will be like. This is the very incarnation of “vision.”

But there is no magic work to suddenly and effortlessly make it “come to pass as it is spoken.”

None.

But there is a magic word to make it happen; one word that will indeed make your vision a reality.

That word is “planning.”

The first in the POTCC mantra – Plan, Organize, Train, Control, Coordinate – planning is the one thing that keeps a vision from being nothing more than a fantasy.

I could compose my own definition of the word, but the one offered by the BusinessDictionary.com works very well.

“A basic management function involving formulation of one or more detailed plans to achieve optimum balance of needs or demands with the available resources. The planning process (1) identifies the goals or objectives to be achieved, (2) formulates strategies to achieve them, (3) arranges or creates the means required, and (4) implements, directs, and monitors all steps in their proper sequence.”

Remember this illustration?basic diagram management highlighted

See how the role of leadership takes on the requirements of management in the implementation of strategies and their supporting tactics in order to reach the vision. So it is with your job. Leaders lead but they manage too.

To believe that “these things just magically come together” is to lapse into the world of illusion, delusion, fantasy, and to be negligent of your duty and responsibility to yourself, your company, its customers and constituents. It won’t just magically occur because you say so.

But it will magically occur because you do so.

I once told my son that consultants and coaches are often regarded as wizards because they know things that mere mortals don’t. Often we look for magic formulas or shortcuts but in truth the “secrets” are as old as life itself. So, what are they? What do I need to do to make my vision a reality?

Those secrets come on my next post. Okay, maybe those secrets are not so secret, but they are processes most successful leaders do intuitively. I’ll list, define, explain, and review them next. See you Monday.

5 phases of your role as leader

Illus 1
Illus 1

The expectation that leadership can be a singular role is unrealistic. We wear a lot of hats. We manage, we motivate, we correct, we monitor, we inspire, we facilitate, we coordinate, we focus, we bark, we growl, we whisper, we articulate, we define, and we execute.

A couple of posts ago I wrote about our position of responsibility at the top of the organizational system. Then I wrote about our place out front, the visionary whose outsight provides direction and focus to the energy and the efforts of the team, department, business, organization, or company.

Earlier in this series I’ve written about strategies to implement the vision and the tactics that provide tasks lists and daily objectives for everyone. This is where the majority of our work will take place.

Check out illustration #1 again. Your oversight takes on two dimensions. The inspirational and motivational side of your work depends upon the capacity of those who work with you, your associates and employees, to grasp the purposes of your business or organization. If they had the vantage point you have and the understanding you possess, your job would be simpler and easier.

But they don’t.

And they shouldn’t. Indeed, they can’t.

Your position at the top and out front equips you for your role at the bottom. Yes, you do have the enviable place of prestige and visibility as the “head” of your department, company, or organization. Yes, you do have the visibility that comes from being the point man (of course, I know that you very well might be female but the term point person seems unwieldy so permit me the non-sexist use of the humanitarian “man.” If point person makes this more palatable, then please read it as such.)

But I can tell you from experience that most of your time will spent in the execution of the strategic plans at the tactical level. And therefore much of your roletriangle leader function version 2 as leader may indeed be consumed by managing the people and the things they do, the things they should do, and the things they do that you don’t want them to do. Who would of thought that your climb to the top places you most often at the bottom?

The principle at play here is:

“To get what you EXPECT you must be faithful and diligent to INSPECT.”

How that is done is the subject of much we talk about in leadership circles and the next topic on the horizon here at The Practical Leader. This diagram illustrates where your role works itself out in real life.

Yes, you and those who serve in management do indeed need to control process, contain expenses, and monitor progress. Yes, you do need to engage your top-level people and focus on the producers within your organization. But because your circle of concern is always greater than your circle of ability (what you want to see completed is more than you can do yourself) you must employ others both in the “Let’s hire some people” sense and in the “I’m overwhelmed and need to learn how to delegate better” sense.

The director of one organization I worked for followed his mantra of POTC – Plan, Organize, Train, Control. It worked for him, somewhat at least, but he was highly suspicious of the competence of anyone and everyone he’d hired so he spent most of his time and energy controlling. The work suffered because he simply could not leave anyone alone and it bottlenecked at him who had to assign, monitor, and approve almost everything.

But control is necessary to an extent and only to an extent. If you are a control freak I can predict that your organization will stifle and suffer. I want to add two more letters to the POTC mantra…another C and an F.

POTCC – Plan, Organize, Train, Control, Coordinate and Facilitate.

Effective leaders know very well how to coordinate and facilitate the efforts of those who work with and for them. They know how to light a fire under almost anyone without getting burned (BTW that is the subject of my next book due out later this year).

Those five letters P –O –T –C –F outline the next several posts. Planning is up on Thursday. See you then.

7 ways to kill strategic implementation of vision before it gets off the ground

cautionIt was to be the biggest and most comprehensive realignment of health care ever. When President Obama engineered the Affordable Care Act the vision for the project was grand and promising. (NOTE: I am NOT concerned about politics here. I reference this ONLY because it is a graphic and present example of how things go wrong and what we can learn about implementing visionary changes in our own business, department, or organization. What your political beliefs are in this matter are irrelevant as are mine.)

1.     Fail to secure the cooperation and support of the ENTIRE executive team. Don’t even think about trying to bring the senior leadership on board by mandate. Simply issuing a directive that the new vision is here and you expect their cooperation is really short-sighted. Why? Because the objective is not the start of the project. The objective is its implementation and completion. When you try to bypass this and simply get it passed by a simple majority you risk giving fuel to opposition.  The more sweeping the vision the more critical the need to get everyone on board. You cannot lead, support, follow-up, and live the results of the strategic planning process by yourself. You can’t even do it when a large portion of the support staff are either unenthusiastic and ambivalent or outright hostile. True enough, in politics one will almost never secure the complete and utter compliance of everyone but to not even try is a serious error in judgment. When something goes wrong, and it always does, you will need the help, advice, and validation of others to recover and get back on track. Without it you’ve made enemies when you could have had friends and you’ve made things that much harder for yourself. Visionaries are supposed to be inspirational so that others are enthused about the vision not conscripted. Do not say things like “Well, I’m the boss (CEO,CFO, Director, just fill in the blank with whatever your title is) so you have to go along. Make it easier for even the naysayers to give the benefit of the doubt.

2.   Spin the facts. Spinmeisters always come off as deceptive and conniving. Always. Doesn’t matter which side of the issue, don’t spin the facts. Like a spider, those who spin the facts often get caught in their own web. Be frank, open, honest, and objective. You’ll get much farther than trying to baffle someone with BS.

3.   Delegate all your responsibility. You have articulated the vision, don’t try to pass it off onto others. I think the President erred in letting others write his signature legislation. He apparently wants it to be his legacy so why would one pass it off to someone else. It is, ultimately, the leader’s responsibility. Make sure those to whom you engage for implementation share your sense of responsibility for it. I wrote about responsibility and accountability but it’s been a few months ago in this blog so it’s good to review it now. Yes, you need others. No, you can’t divorce yourself from the process. The more comprehensive the vision, the more engaged you must be along the way. You absolutely do not want to get to the day of unveiling and have things go catastrophically wrong. Even if you recover, it damages your image as a star thrower. Nothing succeeds like success and nothing stains like the tinge of failure. Lowe’s tried to re-orient the company into a new reliance upon and use of technology. The last I checked it still was not functional even two years after the announced date of implementation. Which brings me to my next point.

4.   Carelessly manage delay or outright failure along the way, it result in a rising tide of cynicism, negativity, and declining employee morale. Refer back to #3. You just can’t turn the key, flip the switch, and expect things to manage themselves. Leadership and management overlap (check out illustration #1). Encourage, admonish, exhort, correct, engage, stay connected.

5.    Don’t walk the talk. This must not become a we vs them situation. You are the visionary head and leading from behind is impossible. Leaders lead.

Illus 1
Illus 1

Eloquence is not enough. There comes a time when you must demonstrate with your life what you’ve said with your mouth.

6.   Don’t change measurement systems. Quantitative measures may not tell everything. Measurement systems benefit your associates and employees and they benefit you, too. Don’t spin numbers and don’t celebrate numbers that have little to do with the changes you want to bring about. Reward and recognize progress towards the vision.

7.    Ignore the challenge of change. Some people react well to change, most don’t. Some are change junkies, they like change all the time and get bored with routine. Most don’t. Expect the challenge of change and deal with it. Don’t even think about trying to squelch it. Suppressing the anxiety, doubt, and dismay of team members does nothing to fix it.

You’re the leader, so lead. It is never a one and done proposition. All day every day, your role varies in three ways. What are they? Check back in on Thursday.

The next 2 steps. What to do after you have a vision statement.

rapidsThe vision is in place. It’s been focused, defined, and articulated. Now what do you do with it?

First, you’ve got to get the word out. Everyone must know and must come on board. I may be assuming too much here, but you didn’t create the vision entirely in isolation did you? I am assuming you tossed it around the key members of the company’s organizational body. Members of the board of directors, top level staff, and key associates should have been in on this from day one.  Every effective leader knows that the key to corporate success is buy in, the magic that occurs when the key people are on board, enthusiastic, and energized. If you haven’t sold it to them the odds of selling it to everyone else and moving the company towards it are pretty grim.

Second, you’ll have to walk your associates and staff through the painful process of change. Many companies and organizations say they want to turn around a dying company, to re-energize a lagging organization, but it just is not possible to change without change. I’ll confess, this is the toughest job. Selling your team on a bright and beautiful tomorrow is relatively easy. Getting them to buy in is a bit tougher. Getting them to make the changes that must be made is the most difficult.

In fact, a company or organization is like a human being. The term corporation is from the latin word corpus – a body – and there are similarities. Like humans, corporations have a DNA. They are genetically programmed to act a certain way. And they face a life cycle. Also like humans, that life cycle can be extended. The “body” can rejuvenate itself and change its habits so healthy practices are substituted for unhealthy ones.

Remember this from a previous blog post:

No Vision = No Destiny

No Destiny = No Purpose

No Purpose = No Direction

No Direction = No Progress

No Progress = No Growth

No Growth = Decay and Failure

In an article for Bloomberg Businessweek, Phil Buckley identified five key questions are helpful in determining the likelihood that a major change will succeed or fail:

  1. How is the vision different, better and more compelling?
  2. Are the leaders personally committed to the change?
  3. Does the organization have the capacity to make the change?
  4. How ingrained is the current culture?
  5. And will the change actually deliver the identified outcomes?

These are questions to which you must know the answers. Your ability to navigate the turbulent waters of change is a real time gauge of your leadership skills. I’ve opened this up with my posts on vision, strategy, and tactics but there is so much more to be said.

It is the how’s, the practical techniques that are critical…and those skills will make up the next portion of this series. See you on Monday.

Viability – lessons from Studebaker

Studebaker_Champion_(Rigaud)They started making wagons for farmers, miners and the military in 1852. Incorporated in 1868 under the name Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company, they entered the automobile business in 1902 making electric vehicles. By 1904 they were making gasoline-powered vehicles and for the next 50 years became a major player in the business. With a reputation for quality and reliability, Studebaker produced some of the most iconic cars in America’s Golden Age of the Automobile.

They’re gone now. A bloated and sluggish manufacturing system, poor capital management, and an ill-advised merger finally did them in with the last vehicle rolling off an assembly line in 1966.

But they’re not the only company or organization to disappear from the scene. Blockbuster is gone. So are Woolworth’s, Kresge,  E.F. Hutton, Pullman (plush railroad cars),  Lionel (electric toy trains), Zenith (radios and televisions), Montgomery Ward, and American Motors are but some of the many that were once viable companies. To be viable is to be capable of working successfully. But a company or organization may be capable of working successfully in a shrinking market or for a changing constituency. What worked well back then, may not work so well next year.

Why? Because one must maintain viability.

Viability – the ability of a thing (a living organism, an artificial system, an idea, etc.) to maintain itself or recover its potentialities.

This concept, this definition is precisely why I’ve been hammering on the topic of vision and emphasizing that strategies and tactics MUST follow vision, not the other way around. Viability means your company or organization possesses the following things and does more than offer mere lip service to them.

Relevance – the product you offer, the services you provide must have meaning and necessity to those for whom you provide them. Those people or companies must have an emotional engagement with that product or service. You know that sales are almost never logical. They are almost always emotional.  But even that is insufficient. There must be a need for what you offer. This should be evident in your promotional materials which should, if they are written effectively, describe the benefits your product or service provides. To maintain relevance is to maintain an ability to satisfy the needs of the user. This involves more than the product. It also demands the acquiring experience. Look at the evolution of supermarkets through the years. Today’s prosperous companies have well-lighted stores, wide aisles, and products appropriate to their local customers desires. Just consider the development of online business to see how relevance plays such a critical role.

Relief – there is a pain/promise element to every transaction. The customer or constituent experiences some pain, even if it is minor. They need something. The question is always “do we as a company and do I as a salesman understand what that customer needs?” Companies and organizations that maintain viability are successful at promising to satisfy that need and then fulfilling it. All economic transactions are problem-solving ones. They have a problem, we solve it and get paid to do it. That pain may be multi-level. Someone may be in the market for a car but need transportation and more. They may need to feel the rush of a powerful and responsive driving experience. They may need to feel safe and comfortable, too. Companies that maintain viability offer relief because they understand what their customers and constituents need.

Efficiency – Studebaker neglected to update their manufacturing plants. At the time of their demise, their plant had a break even number at 500,000. The company made no money at all until a half million cars were sold! This is the particular domain of leadership to envision and management to enact.

Effectiveness is gauged by measuring all three – relevance, relief, and efficiency.  A comprehensive vision born out of real world circumstances and cunning prognostication pursued by responsible management of resources and a light on your feet adaptability adds up to a viable company.

 

Leadership’s happy family – Vision, strategy, & tactics

basic diagramOne non-profit agency operating in Africa opened restaurants as part of its fund-raising strategy. A charitable organization working on the African continent developed a focused vision and successfully imprinted it upon those who worked in the organization both in the US and in Africa. The board and the organization’s director turned their attention to the pursuit of that vision. They developed comprehensive strategies for pursuing the vision and for funding the project.

Part of the fundraising strategy included operating businesses in the country within which they pursued their charitable work. Some of the businesses they opened are restaurants. The restaurants provided jobs for local residents and profits from them funded the administrative costs of the organization. More than one local business advisor suggested that the restaurants would produce higher revenues if they were less family-oriented (this means that “girls” would be hired to shill for drinks). Since the charity had already defined its values as being wholesome and family-focused, the suggestion was never even considered. It simply did not fit in any way so their response was an easy and simple no.

A defined and articulated vision builds the fences within which your company or organization can range.  Once the vision is in place…and not a moment before it is in place…strategies can be devised and tactics can be implemented.

The qualifier is NOT that it works. The qualifier is that it fits within your strategic plan’s criteria and that it should work.

But it might not. Do not allow you and your company or organization to become inextricably wedded to a tactic. They come and go, work then don’t. The vision is the only constant. Everything else is not.

Churches continually struggle with this but companies do too. We as leaders and managers are always in tension between the forms we’ve inherited and their present viability.

That’s why we need a continuously operating EVALUATION LOOP. See the accompanying diagram. This clearly illustrates the major distinction between leadership and management.

Leaders are primarily (but not exclusively) concerned with the overall direction of the nature of their business. Managers are primarily concerned with the implementation of the strategies and tactics. The best managers are also competent leaders in their own right because they know how to keep people enthused about the job and make productive corrections when they aren’t. The more effectively leaders can imprint vision upon their associates and employees, the more efficiently managers can implement strategies and tactics. Why? Because it makes sense.

The logical connection between all three – vision, strategies, and tactics – builds confidence within those you work with because they come to really believe that you know what you’re doing and you know how to make things happen. No one and I mean no one, responds well to confusion or disconnect between what you say and what you do.

So…don’t allow confusion to enter. Marry the vision to the strategy and raise the children (tactics) in a happy harmonious home.

Step 3 – the ABC’s of effectively managing the vision

GPSJust about everyone has access to one and uses it probably more often than they need to. I drive an older vehicle and I do not use a smart phone but even I have one. What is it?

A GPS device. Mine is a TomTom, a gift from my son a few years ago, which plugs in to a power outlet in the cab of my Ranger. Admittedly I don’t use it much except when I am going somewhere I’ve not been before.

Let’s tie this in to my posts in this series. I’ve been writing and posting about vision, about setting a destination and a direction for your company or organization. The same thing happens with a GPS. It will not tell you where you should be going although it will help you search general destinations. No, you need to know your destination and then enter the coordinates, address, or identity into the device.

There are no devices which will automatically tell you what your destination is. That is up to you. So, you enter it into the GPS and press the button to continue. The system then does something marvelous. It finds out where you are and plots the course from here to there.

You have to find out too. Knowing where you are is only one part of the equation. You must know where you are BEFORE you can plot a course. That is the next step in effectively leading your company, organization, or department.

Assume nothing. Even if you think you know, assume nothing. Check and recheck. Follow the ABC’s of effective management:

Assess your present situation inside and outside the organization. What are your staffing strengths and weaknesses? What challenges and opportunities do you face right now? What is your competition doing? How is the economy in general and specifically where you are? Using the SWOT technique, determine your organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (challenges). Stop what you’re doing. Look around to see what can be seen. Don’t just look for evidence to reinforce and support your preconceived notions. Look to discover what is really going on. Listen to what you hear. Again, don’t just listen for things to support what you think you know. And don’t do so just once. The GPS suggests you log on and get updated maps from time to time. The principle applies here too. Effective leadership demands that you understand the times and everyone knows that times change.

Believe what you find out. I know you think you know better but you really do need to accept the findings. Cynicism has risen in the workforce because of disbelief. Employees do not believe employers listen to them. Employers do not believe what their employees tell them. Do not rely on written assessments alone. Get out from behind desks and paper. See for yourself. Have confidence in your own powers of observation and understanding.

Change what needs to be changed. I’ll talk about this more in the coming posts, but assessments and analysis are meaningless unless and until some relevant action follows.

Assess, Believe, Change.

Once the GPS knows where you are, it can tell you how to get where you want to go. But it cannot do so until the present location is known and you have confidence in it. You can’t either.