Management 101 – Part 2 – Organize

organizing calendarWhether you’re planning a meeting with your associates or the launch of a new product, the plans are doomed unless and until things are organized. Plans may make us feel better and plans do give us a sense of accomplishment and purpose.

But plans, in and of themselves, will remain locked in and of themselves. Organization must logically follow. It must be determined:

Who will do what.

When will it be done.

Where will it take place.

How will it be accomplished.

What will be required to get “it” done.

Who will get the stuff that will be required….and on the list goes.

The only why that should be asked is to validate the component pieces, i.e., why is this person or that thing needed at this time?

Organizing includes:

Specialization of participants and resources – This is the ability to focus on the tasks at hand and the  objectives those tasks are supposed to bring about.

Division of work – An organizer recruits or assigns personnel to the tasks that must be done, hands off work to them (delegation) and makes assignments requiring measureable results. By definition and implication organizers are precise not vague and they clarify not obfuscate.

Forming tasks and workers in logical and sequential order. – To organize is make lists, assemble resources, arrange components, and sequence tasks.

Organizing can be simple or complex depending on the size of the project and the skill and experience of those involved. Inexperienced personnel will need greater detail. More experienced people can get by well with more generalized plans.

Here are 7 Benefits of ORGANIZATION:

  1. Efficiency – To organize is to gain the most productivity from the least effort and hassle. Organization minimizes waste or eliminates it entirely. Duplication of effort is reduced, multitasking can result, or unneeded items can be eliminated from the budget.
  2. Fluidity of movement – Organized efforts avoid whiplash of the attitudes. Poor organization produced false starts, abrupt stops, and wild changes of direction.
  3. Economy – An organized manager/leader realizes the most expedient use of the resources at hand saving the company money and himself effort.
  4. Humane consideration of your associates – organizing gives evidence of planning which is the result of care. When you care about someone or something, you plan for them or it. When you are concerned about the outcome you pay attention to the in-between events that take up the space between the idea and its manifestation.
  5. Organization defines structure clearly, reveals how things fit together, and diagrams what relates to what, who relates to whom, and who cares for what. The entire organizational system might be in your head or it may be revealed in organizational charts. Whatever the depository, it should be shared an known by everyone who works within ints structure.
  6. Organizing enables managers and leaders to see where responsibility resides, where and how authority should flow, and from where accountability should come. See # 5.
  7. Organization builds the channels within which delegation functions so that power, the authorization to act and the releasing of resources to act, can flow more freely.

Remember the three fundamental objectives of effective leadership? To extend YOUR reachmultiply YOUR effectiveness, and divide YOUR work. The product of organizing is not more work for you, but to create less, to enable you to get more done by empowering others to execute plans that will accomplish your goals. Some managers and leaders are not naturally gifted organizers, and they do accomplish things, but at great labor, often much frustration, and a good amount of wasted effort.

Almost anyone can learn the basic skills of organization and many tools exist to help us.  The simplest is the venerable task list. I’ve tried the task list in Outlook. I use OneNote and Evernote. I’ve tried Google’s Calendar. All of them have been some help. None of them have been as handy and readily available as a pad of paper and a pencil.

Complicated projects require more planning and therefore more organization. You may have built in organization where you work. The chain of command, reporting procedures, and audit systems can be helpful when you understand them and work with them.

Tight organization may be required when risks and consequences are high. Looser organizational systems may work well when participants have a PROVEN record of responsible behavior, careful accountability, and mature use of authority.

Every effective manager is a competent organizer. Many effective leaders are not. Management’s specific domain is that of organization and implementation while leadership is to inspire and project. However, effective leaders recognize this and soon employ the assistance of capable organizers.

The first lesson in this series is Management 101 – Part 1 Planning. The next lesson is T = Train. Who is the most effective trainer you know? I have two more lessons in this series before beginning another. What would you like to see covered here? Drop me a line or leave a comment.

Management 101 – Part 1 – PLAN

planningPOTC – the four elemental components of any effective management strategy

I am still in Uganda and will be for several more weeks. It is my privilege to be training some new managers as they make the transition into the realm of those who lead others.

I am well aware of the Peter Principle which says that in an organization, personnel tend to rise to the level of their incompetence. And I am aware that not everyone can make the transition into places of authority and to the command of others. But one works with what one has with the understanding that some will make the grade and others will not. Even seasoned trainers cannot always predict who will rise to the challenge until the person gives it a go.

I am also aware that it is almost certain that if adequate preparation is not provided, the attrition rate among new managers will be higher. So I am here giving what amounts to basic training in management to a team of people we hope can rise to the level of ability and responsibility their jobs require.

Reaching back to the fundamental principles of management I am emphasizing the four elemental components of an effective strategy – POTC:  

 

PLAN     –     ORGANIZE     –     TRAIN     –     CONTROL

PLAN

No manager can skip the planning stage. Getting somewhere demands consideration of where you want to go connected to where you are and a PLAN for getting from here to there. It demands knowledge of and consideration of the conditions and components that will be necessary to get the plan operational. Planning does these 9 things for the manager/leader:

  • It makes your work and the work of others more efficient. Translate to mean it gets more done for less time, less effort, less money which can only mean one thing – profit. Even if your position is in a non-profit organization there is still the imperative to efficiently utilize the organization’s resources and funds. Therefore,

 

  • Planning enhances efficiency because planning denotes and connotes ORDER. Order creates more out of less. For visual evidence of that, think of a cluttered closet or cupboard. When disorder exists in a storage closet, all available and useable space is filled with a jumble of items. Putting those things in order creates useable space that was not there before. It creates more out of less. Part 2 of this series is ORGANIZE where I will examine the topic more thoroughly.

 

  • Planning manages risk. The very act of planning means looking into what is going to happen and factoring in what could affect wither the outcome or the path to the outcome. Planning tries to accommodate the circumstance that could impact events so that their impact is not life-threatening.

 

  • Planning mechanizes people and processes in the sense that it coordinates them avoiding or at least minimizing duplication of effort, minimizes waste of either effort or resources, and perhaps most importantly, reduces friction that always occurs whenever two parts in motion make contact. If nothing is moving, if nothing is happening, no friction exists because nothing is moving. Planning considers that friction will occur and addresses it.

 

  • Planning enlightens the manager about what will need to be done and what are the expected results, therefore the manager wikll better know what skills and attitudes will be required. Planning anticipates training, the third topic in this series.

 

  • Planning focuses the direction of the organization toward agreed upon objectives that in turn validate the company. It is not enough to do things. It is necessary to do the correct things in the correct sequence. Planning does that.

 

  • Planning assists in maintaining control. I will address the control factor soon (hint: the “C” in POTC is? You guessed it. Control.

 

  • Planning unleashes motivation and keeps it at a healthy level. Responsible people respond positively when they see their efforts actually mean something. People hate busy work. They respond negatively when they are asked to do something just to do it. They respond better when they can readily see how what they do has meaning, relevance, and importance. Planning means you actually thought about this before you asked them to do it.

 

  • Planning requires you, the manager, to be attentive, creative, and innovative. Managers have to think, they have to understand, they have to have ideas. This is one of the key differences that separates leaders from followers.

The next article will cover ORGANIZING. Until then, what benefits have you seen from planning that I did not include in my list? What did you discover when you or someone you worked for failed to plan well?

9 tasks, #4 – Managing – The 4 laws that demand your attention to keep your organization running smoothly

cowFor centuries inventors have dreamed of a perpetual motion machine, one that will run unattended forever. No such machine exists nor can it in this environment. Leaders have dreamed of a perpetual motion company too, one that will run never needing attention. If there is a common failing in novice leaders it is that one. They want to think that once a process or strategy is introduced and put into effect, it will run by itself. Like the fantasy perpetual motion machine the unattended company or organization will never exist.

Why? There are 4 laws that prevent that from happening.

Law #1 – the law of friction.

When two parts or two people work together the natural and expected result is friction. Friction generates heat. Heat causes components to expand beyond their normal size which will affect working tolerances and will slow the machinery ultimately leading to a breakdown. Careful engineering and attention will forestall, but not prevent, the ultimate need to replace parts. Even then, they need regular lubrication which in this contect means attention from you. Greasing the wheels is a subject too large for this one post, but it means rewards in the form of money, title, prestige, affirmation, and responsibility.

Law #2 – the law of cause and effect means that for every action there is something that causes it and some consequences as the result of it.

Push too hard and risk burning out the works. Ignore your producers and they will eventually run out of fuel. Neglect careful planning and chaos will result. Forego making decisions and anarchy sets in. Fail to keep the vision alive and apathy takes over.

Law #3 – the law of wear and tear

Nothing and no one stays the same. People change. They get tired, they get better offers, they get bored, they get…well you get the idea. Renewal is required for every and all moving parts. The only time wear and tear does not apply is when a piece of equipment is in cold storage. Nothing happening means nothing will happen. Motion means movement and progress (hopefully). Motion and movement mean wear and tear. Wear and tear mean maintenance. Take care of your people and they will take care of you. Neglect them and they will take care of themselves first.

Law #4 – the law of unforeseen events and independent will

When I owned a millwork business in the Caribbean, one of my employees was a retired US Air Force Officer. We would discuss the parallels between military strategy and business…and they are remarkable similar in principle. One that stood out was this law. Regardless of how clearly you envision the future and how thoroughly you plan the strategy and how ccarefully you consider the contingencies, no plan, no system, no directive survives contact with the real worl without some modification because of unforeseen events and the independent will of those who work with you (your staff and associates) and those who work against you (your business competitors and those within you own company who for whatever reason are determined to prusue their own agenda over yours).

The trouble with cows is that they never stay milked. You can select the most productive cows, provide them the most beneficial environment, give them the most healthy food, but if you milk them this morning they will need to be milked again tonight. Leadership requires more than painting pretty pictures with a broad brush. Grand plans demand diligence and detail to execute.  Leaders must manage if it means nothing more than managing your managers. The ultimate responsibility for the smooth operation and productive output of your company or organization is yours.

On Monday, Task # 5 – achieving workable unity.

See you then.

Barrier #3 – We Have Preferences Because of Our Personality

relayraceEvery person is a blend of attitudes, opinions, gifts, and experiences. There are open people who will readily reveal things about themselves. Others who are more closed would not tell someone very near them. Some are quite direct and to the point. Others can be so indirect that some consider them devious, even scheming and conniving. If you are open and direct, indirect and closed people will find you forward and threatening. If you are indirect and open, others will wonder why you don’t get to the point and focus on the topic at hand. If you are indirect and closed, others might consider you to be devious. If you are direct and closed, others will likely consider you to be solitary and hard-driving.

In the grand setting of leadership and life, no personality style is superior to another nor is one more effective than another. They’re just different. People of every personality type achieve success and enjoy effectiveness, but the really successful and effective ones have done two things.

First, they have accurately identified their personal manner and style, understood what advantages they lend and what disadvantages they offer. They learn, hopefully sooner rather than later and easier rather than harder, that the personality they brought with them from birth through adolescence both propels them forward and holds them back.

Second, successful people add to themselves those who will supplement their strengths and compensate their weaknesses. Only secure, confident people can do this. They identify what they will need before they qualify whom they would add.

The upshot is that you will likely be able to relate well to only about 25% of those you work with.  (Check back to this post for a real-life example of how this syndrome manifested itself in a real-life setting.) The problem comes when we don’t recognize this as a fact of life and take action to compensate for it.

I do not think you can correct it. You are who you are by virtue of the personality your encoded genetically and by the training you received as your matured. With some knowledge of your personality type and management preferences, you can adapt…somewhat. In an earlier post I addressed the differences between Y and X style leadership, first identified and articulated by Douglas MacGregor. This calls for an adaptation of your APPROACH to managing tasks in any given set of circumstances. As an intelligent and self-aware person, you should have little challenge managing this.

But the large set of behaviors that make up your overall personality which manifests itself all day every day is another story. Those behaviors are written in the code and cannot be readily rewritten. So, accept that as a fact and do what must be done to compensate for it. This series is dealing with the four barriers to extending your reach so that you are able to find and address the limits of yourcircle of concern circile of concern which doubtless extends well beyond the circle of your abilities.

Knowing what those limits are is a start. Accepting those limits as you would accept any set of conditions is progress. Doing something intelligent and appropriate is great progress.

Here’s a common mistake. When leaders add people to their strategic staff, they often add people who are just like they are. Those staff additions are people with similar personalities and temperament. Why do we add people like ourselves?

Because we are comfortable with them. We understand them. We like them. But that will not readily extend your reach! Surely, they can do more things because they are another moving body. But they cannot do things necessarily differently and better than you can, just more of the same.

You will want to add people who possess skills and traits that complement yours but not simply duplicate yours. The idea is to get more done, yes. But it is also to get everything done. And that demands people with additional skill sets and personality traints. They can reach people that you cannot easily and comfortably reach. They can motivate and connect with others who might find your personality uncomfortable to be around (admit it now, there are those who just don’t like you and that’s not because your an unlikeable person).

We call personality and skill deficiencies SHORT-comings because they cause us to fall short of where we want to be. Longer reaches require others who can make up for those short-comings. So, identify yourself. Use plain and accurate terms to detail who you are, what you can readily do, and who you are not and cannot readily do.

List out the skills and traits that compensate your own generous set of skills and traits. Find those people and bring them on board. Hear’s a caution though. Find people who possess the maturity to COMPENSATE you not COMPETE with you. In no uncertain terms define what you are ddoing with them, why you have selected them to compensate, and what you expect.

Monday’s post will reveal the final barrier to extending your reach. See you then.

Barrier #2 – We Can Do Many Things, But Not Everything

busyIn the previous post I defined Barrier #1 – We Have Limited Time. Today I will define barrier #2 – We can do many things but we cannot do everything. (Hint – this is a longer article than I normally like to post but I am confident you will find it worthwhile.)

So then, what talents do you have? By this time in life, you probably know. But can you list them? Maybe not.

Many people just do certain things and avoid others without considering why. What do you do for a hobby? Of the many tasks that confront you every day, what tasks do you perform first? What bores you? What do you put off as long as you can? If the schedule gets tight, what falls through the cracks? What do you do when no one is paying you to do it? What do others consistently ask you to do?

We typically gravitate toward tasks and responsibilities that employ our innate gifts and away from those that don’t. While knowledge may be acquired and skills developed, talents are what come naturally and easily to you. Talents, when put into action, make us feel good about ourselves and what we have done. We employ them precisely because they are comfortable. Tasks and responsibilities outside our natural deposit of talents make us feel stressed, anxious, or unsatisfied.

Talents show up everywhere – at home, at work, in recreation. If we have a talent for planning, we plan everything. Even the routine of planning is planned. If we are visionaries, we see the future with excitement and anticipation. If we are organizers, we organize everything and everyone who will let us. But as much as talents are natural and show up everywhere, they are invisible.

When do others get annoyed with you? This question is so often the best clue of your talent. Our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness because we overuse our talents, especially when we don’t know what our talents are. Unrecognized talents are dangerous. We rely on our talent even when it’s not needed. For instance, a skillful planner ignores creative input because she’s too logical. A take-charge manager unwittingly discourages others from sharing his ideas. A research scientist continues to gather data long after it’s time for a decision. An entrepreneur takes unnecessary risks when it’s critical to play it safe. There’s an old saying: To someone with only a hammer everything looks like a nail. When we know our talents, we can optimize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses.

Want to find out what your talents are? Complete this sentence:

I am _____________________________________.

  • Don’t respond with a job title. This exercise is not about your career, it’s about you as a person. Respond with adjectives that describe the unique qualities you bring to any situation (innovative, creative, determined, easygoing…).
  • Respond with nouns that define the roles you most often, most comfortably play (leader, follower, number-two person, planner, organizer, motivator, problem-solver, etc.).
  • Insert the word “that” and complete the sentence with words describing the benefit others receive from your presence and participation ( resolves conflict, gets things going, builds coalitions, etc.).

When you’re finished it should look something like this: “I am a focused, creative visionary that gets things going.”

Below is a list of fifteen possible talents. Identify several talents that are easy for you. Remember, talents are natural, knowledge is acquired, skills are developed. Which of these possible talents jump out and attach themselves naturally to you?

I am a Creator – I love to innovate.

I take abstract ideas and turn them into concrete projects (or timelines, products or services) that others can use. However, once the idea or project is fleshed out, I lose interest.

Implementer – I am action-oriented.

I know how to get things done. I often don’t come up with the original idea, but I know how to make things happen. Just tell me what’s needed and turn me loose. Everything starts moving when I’m involved.

Facilitator – I keep the process moving.

I make sure that people are getting along and focusing on what needs to be done. I see the value of different views and help people appreciate other perspectives.

Visionary – I see what can be.

I see where we need to go in the future. My ideas are ahead of their time. I can imagine what does not yet exist. I see new possibilities. It takes others a while to see what I’m trying to describe.

Analyzer – I see the factors at work in situations.

I can take in large amounts of data and identify trends. When something goes wrong, I can sort through the facts and get to the bottom of it. I use a rational, logical approach to solving problems.

Planner – I put things in sequence.

I anticipate what’s needed. I can see where problems might arise and what we need to do to have everything work out well. I lay out what needs to be done and if people follow my plan, things go smoothly.

Coordinator – I join this to that.

I like to orchestrate events. I bring people together and coordinate a host of details in order to pull off a project or event. I can keep track of a million details and bring it all together in the end.

Mentor – people look to me for advice, direction, input.

I enjoy developing people. I am often a coach or a sponsor for individuals or initiatives. I like to teach or advise individuals and I take an interest in them.

Promoter – I talk things up, get people involved.

I get others interested in new ideas, products or services. I generate enthusiasm by talking to lots of people and bring attention to new ideas, projects and possibilities.

Integrator – I fit things and people in.

I bring people and ideas together. I see the interrelationships between ideas or tasks and connect them to achieve a common purpose.

Improver – I’m not critical, I simply see flaws easily.

I quickly see problems inherent in a new design or document or plan. I quickly find the mistakes and flaws. If you don’t like criticism, don’t run your ideas by me. I like to improve an idea and make it better.

Developer – I build something where there was nothing.

I like to develop new ideas, projects or businesses and make them successful. I can take a small project or idea and develop it into a large, successful project, prototype or business that has value and that others want.

Investigator – I sniff out information.

I like to research the facts. I gather data from many sources and synthesize what I find. I search out new information from diverse sources. I never have enough data. If it requires research, let me do it.

Broker – I network this person with that one.

I like to put people in touch with one another. I have a broad network of friends and associates that I connect with each other. Others come to me to find valuable resources they need for projects.

Communicator – I like being the one in the know and letting others in on what’s happening.

I like to communicate what’s going on. I am often in the know about things. People come to me to find out what’s happening.

 

Knowing what I’m good at is one-third the equation.

We also need to know what we’re not good at. If I do some things well, I do other things not so well and I do some things poorly. If I want to extend my reach, multiply my effectiveness, divide my work, and quicken my pace I can use help in those things I don’t do so well and absolutely must have help for those things I do badly. But there is a final element that threatens both of the first two.

Because you are effective as the result of your unique talents, you probably think that others should be like you. It is hard for planners to understand why others can’t, or won’t plan. If you broker people together, you might not have much patience with someone who prefers to work alone. Trying to make everyone like yourself, or even assuming they should be, is a fatal mistake.

Without doubt, you have discovered that your talents have yielded a certain degree of success, maybe even a great degree of it. And you probably consider your particular talents to be more valuable and worthy than those manifested by others. Most humans do even if they won’t or can’t admit it.

The reality is they aren’t.

There are reaches of your circle of concern that are out of reach for you as you are. And if you are out of touch with yourself, your strengths, and your weaknesses, they will remain elusive. Discover who you are, what you are good at, what you are not so good at, and what talents you need to fill the gap.

Further, it isn’t a good idea to add someone too much like yourself to the mix because of inevitable conflict.

Two planners will battle over whose plans will be used. Two promoters will vie for the loudest voice. Two visionaries, perhaps the most dangerous marriage, lead to the most threatening condition – two visions, which is division. So while you are likely most comfortable with someone of like mind and ability, and you will be stretched to make room for someone whose strengths do not match your own, it is a good tension. For example, if you’re an innovator, you might feel someone who is an analyzer is slowing you down. Just remember that you select the talent you need. You don’t need and shouldn’t try to add every other major talent to your strategic partnership of assistants. Pick people whose talents, knowledge, and skill further your own in the dimensions of concern that are uniquely and particularly yours.

Inasmuch as you are naturally gifted and talented, you are as uniquely developed as a personality. Your genes provided the basic mix of traits that make you, well, you. Your childhood molded and shaped them further. The sum of personal experiences, good and bad, produced the person living inside your skin at this moment. That personality causes you to relate to others, and consequently provokes them to respond to you, in a manner both beneficial and detrimental.

On Thursday, I will define barrier #3 – We have preferences because of our personality.

The first of 4 barriers that hinder you from reaching your circle of concern

clockThere are four barriers that stand in the way of everyone and anyone. Once you realize what they are and define what they do, then and only then can you determine what abilities an associate should possess. You cannot readily find the people and means to overcome the barriers until you know what they are.  Until you realize what those limitations are and how they affect our work, you should not add anyone to our staff.

You must have people who will add to your effectiveness not subtract from it.

You need associates who will complement your efforts not compete with them.

You must find staff members who coordinate with your efforts not confound them.

Barrier #1 – You Have Limited Time

Time is yours in two dimensions, circular and linear. Like wheels that carry a vehicle, twenty four hours roll around and around transporting you through morning to evening and morning again. Twenty-four hours for me, twenty-four for you. No one gets more.

On only two days will we receive less – the day we were born and the day life passes from us. Between those two days we use up all twenty-four hours every day and none can be carried forward to the next day. Every hour, every minute must be used as it arrives.

With a sense of urgency, many of us are driven to achieve and succeed. You cram days full of meetings. You participate in events. You take on more tasks and make yet another commitment. Finding enough time seems to elude us. The frustration at having too much to do and too little time in which to do it first warns of the need to get help. When it goes on long enough, when the frustration mounts to a critical stage, the need for help becomes imperative.

Let me state here that this usually comes about because you are doing good things, not bad. Raising a family, building a business, pursuing a dream, and making a difference in society are worthy pursuits. But having too much to do and even more we want to do presses upon us. If we could find competent people to shoulder the load with us, we could actually do more by doing less. The tyranny of the twenty-four hour day enslaves us if we attempt to do everything or nearly everything ourselves. That same twenty-four hour barrier can prod us to learn, and implement, new methods of getting more done with less effort.

Equally exacting as the twenty-four hour rotation, time’s linear dimension leads to an ultimate and unavoidable conclusion. Life will come to an end too quickly, too soon. Life’s fleeting nature creates the urgency to do more.

Unlike children for whom time moves slowly because they have so little capacity to plan beyond the immediate, it gathers speed for us nearer the end because there’s yet so much more we want to do, so little time in which to do it, and decreasing reserves of strength with which to do it.

The capacity to plan and execute plans makes each day seem too full and the number of days seem too few.  Roger, the one whose story began this study, knows it all too well. A rare and dangerous heart condition prods him to complete what he’s started, to move farther down his list of challenges to address. He knows very well he doesn’t have forever. But the very process of increasing the pace threatens both his life and that of the organization he leads. Because of his heart condition, he should avoid too much stress, take more time off, learn to relax, and back off on commitments. His brush with death before the condition was discovered should impress upon him that the organization he leads will not have him forever. If it will continue to enjoy the considerable successes he’s led it into, a trained successor will be necessary.

What is Roger doing? He has backed off somewhat, but still works at a steady, fast, overtime pace. As to a successor, the last time I saw him he seemed less motivated to find one.

I don’t have a heart condition, at least to my knowledge. But I do have a number of Rogers in my range of acquaintances, and enough have passed on to emphasize to me that life has a linear limit. The lesson?

Ironically, it is the drive to succeed that points first to the imperative to do less!

Don’t simply get busier. Building and deploying strategic partners not only extends your reach as you work now, it extends your work far into the future.

You need, and must find, people whose values reflect your own but whose talents supplement your own.

In an organization, it is especially important to find someone whose style and gifts differ from your own. You have brought your group or company to where it is because of your unique capacities and if it hasn’t done so already, it will arrive at a point where it can’t go any further because of them as well. Find complementary people. Your talents are proven and necessary, and yours may be many, but not even you have them all.

On Monday, the second barrier in this series.

2 choices & 3 tasks to change your life today

 width=In the previous post I listed the four benefits gained from an effective strategic staff. Just to be clear, that strategic staff may be formal (paid and designated as your associates) or may be informal (either paid or volunteer but who round out your work load because you have come to rely on them and trust them). If you’re joining this discussion here, you might want to read the first and second installments of this topic. Having laid the foundation in those two posts, there are two choices before you.

Choice #1 – You can maintain your present practices and hope things get better. You can hope something will happen somehow that will finally permit you to address what’s most important to you (your circle of concern). I have a friend who’s a retired Air Force colonel who often reminds me that “hope is not a valid strategy.” You know that if you do what you have always done you will get what you’ve always gotten.

Choice #2 – You can learn the skills and techniques that will enable you to light a fire under people without getting burned. It will be critical that you avoid generalities. It is my expectation that by the end of this series you will have found the time to work on the things that are the most important to you. You will have progressed well into the process of handing off responsibility to others. What I will discuss in the posts yet to come will gain significance if you can immediately and specifically enclose them within the context of your real life.

Here Are Three Simple Exercises That Will Change Your Life TODAY!

First, Make a List of Everything You Do. Since we’re dealing primarily with your professional life, list out every task, every responsibility, every commitment. This will take some time to do it well. Don’t be general, writing something like “Oversee the marketing department.” Be more detailed. List individual tasks like, “plan monthly sales meeting, write copy for new product catalog page…” Remember, you will be finding people to extend your reach, multiply your effectiveness, divide your work, and quicken your pace. You have to know what responsibilities you shoulder before you can safely give some of them away. If this seems too big, then tackle one segment of your life. Here’s a hint: begin with the area of work you dislike the most. If you’re going to give away work, there’s no reason to keep the tasks you don’t like to do. Let’s get rid of them first.

Next, of the list you’ve just made, mark those items that Only You can do. While there are some things on your list that you, and only you can do, there should be many, many tasks that can readily be handled by someone else. When you’re finished with your list, go over it again. Be honest, logical, even brutal in your assessment. Remember, your objective is to be able to focus on those things that are of the absolute highest importance to you and to give everything else away. Don’t worry now about whether you have anyone else to do them. That’s not the point of this exercise. I want you to distill the fog of activities that obscure your vision, allowing the important things to precipitate.The fog of so much stuff to do and so many demands on your time keeps you flailing about. You cannot see clearly until you rid yourself of the fog. You do that by thinking, evaluating, categorizing, organizing, and most of all, deciding. I want you to measure the essence of who you want to be and what you want to do with your life. When your list is edited, you should have a summary of what you have to do and what you want to do.

Next, Make a List of the People Who Are At Hand, Those on Staff, Persons You Can Immediately Conscript. Before you can light a fire you have to have firewood. There are people around you who might be able to handle some of the things on your give away list. It is these names you will begin to work with and through. Later on, you will define the limitations of that list and implement a strategy to acquire more talent where it is needed.

In the posts that follow you will discover how to do just that. Traditionally we have hired people by examining their skills, experience, and capacity to meet the requirements of the job. This is actually step two in the fire lighting process. Step one begins in the next post.

See you again on Monday. Until then, let me know what challenges you about this process. I promise to answer your questions and elaborate on your concerns.

4 paybacks from an effective strategic team.

 width=A strategic team is a person or persons who, by virtue of their competencies, motivation, and reliability will:

Extend Your Reach – they make it possible for you to influence people and events far beyond what you naturally could. They provide access to people and events to which you would not normally have found entrance. In the next chapter I will explain how to discover what limits you and how to break through those barriers to a greater dimension of worry-free accomplishment!

Multiply Your Effectiveness – the efforts of many people, when focused towards one vision, make possible more dimensions of success than do the efforts of one. Settle it right now – this is about you. As much as you will need to be sensitive to your associates, you will need to become comfortable with putting your objectives and ambitions first. Your associates, employees, staff, whomever you work with and through are there to make you more effective. In chapter three I’ll show you how to do just that.

Divide Your Work – competent, responsible strategic partners relieve you of tasks because they become problem solvers rather than problem makers, they become profit not overhead, they permit you to focus on whatever it is you do best. Your work load will not likely decrease, but it will shift outward into your circle of  concern. You can find the time to do what you like to do because you have found others to do what you had to do. Chapter four shows you how.

Quicken Your Pace – Most successful people carry around too much baggage. They handle too many responsibilities, oversee too many tasks, and maintain too many commitments. Forward movement personally, and usually professionally, slows when their number of activities increases. In chapter five I’ll show you how to lighten your load, how to get more done in less time and with less effort.

Without a staff to do these things for you, you are indeed limited. If your staff is not fulfilling those four reasons, they are most likely getting in the way and you are almost certainly better off doing things yourself.

Typically, your circle of concern is greater than your circle of ability. You’ve picked up this book width= because you want to learn the what’s and how’s of getting more done, achieving more successes, impacting a wider area than you ever have before. You’ve wanted to trust others with responsibility, but it hasn’t always worked out. You’ve met with limited success when you tried to garner the cooperation and employ the efforts of others.

Certainly, it takes time and energy you can scarcely afford to find and develop a strategic team. Lighting a fire under someone is not simple and I won’t mislead you, not just everyone is a promising candidate. But the paybacks will be substantial. If you can accomplish much now, just imagine how much you can get done when you are assisted by capable, trusted, cooperative, and knowledgeable associates.

My guess is you are reading this book because you’ve tried to light a fire under someone, but you’ve been burned. So, like Robert, you’ve probably decided it’s just easier to do it yourself. You can extend your reach, multiply your effectiveness, divide your work, and quicken your pace!

Your circle of concern is ALWAYS greater than your circle of ability. You care about a wide range of many things and care very deeply about a few things. Your natural abilities, refined by education and experience, yield a certain level of success.

But not enough!

There remains that outer perimeter of concern not yet touched. Your considerable energies produce an admirable amount of work.

But there yet remain things to be done!

Your people-handling skills and personality garner a wide field of influence. However, marching only to the cadence of the urgent, the summons of the important remains an unanswered call.

On Thursday: Two choices and two exercises.

How to light a fire under almost anyone without getting burned – part 2 – Four Reasons Why We Work Alone.

Four Reasons Why We Work Alone.

 width=First, We Find It Too Daunting to Release Responsibility to Others.

 We have an  intuitive understanding of our ultimate objectives and the things that need to be done in order to reach those objectives. Often the people to whom we would release responsibility don’t. Our natural instincts, insight, and understanding make us singularly capable. Yet that very deposit within us also creates a barrier preventing or at least impeding the entrance of other people who could enhance and extend our gifts and enable us greater reaches of influence and accomplishment. We know the what’s, why’s, and most of the how’s but we are often not so good at revealing them to others so that they can grasp our vision and make it their own.

 Second, When We Have Attempted to Add Others to Our Team, We Have Nearly Always Picked the Wrong Candidates.

A common and debilitating misstep, it often makes leaders gun shy. Having pulled the trigger on a misfire, it “blew up in our face” and we’re reluctant to do it again. We tried to light a fire under someone and got burned. The practice and art of selecting the right people receives a thorough investigation and I will explain in detail over the next several weeks, so I won’t elaborate here.

 Third, We Find the Task of Keeping Others Motivated to Be Too Distracting and Too Draining.

We feel, and correctly so, that the job of stoking the fire takes us away from what we really like and need to be doing. As people are added to us as strategic partners, there is an initial period where more attention is required from us towards them and less towards what we want done. But if, and I emphasize if, we have carefully selected people to work with and through, and if we know how to light a fire under them, the temporary “distraction” of fire kindling and stoking pays remarkably huge dividends over the longer term. The fire will ultimately burn independently, we’ll be able to move away from its flame, and we won’t get burned!

 Finally, We Simply Do Not Want to Take the Time and Effort to Channel the Activities of Others Unfamiliar With Who We Are, What We Do, and Where We Intend to Go.

We have too much to do in too many places. Our gifts have made us successful. That success has created a demand for what we do. That demand has expanded to the point we simply cannot even consider adding one more task to our list, especially ones so mundane as selecting, training, and deploying visionary strategic partners. That’s the paradox. Working busily on really important objectives, we need assistance. But that would mean taking time away from what we do to recruit and train assistants, time we think we cannot afford.  So, we have assembled and almost exclusively limit ourselves to tactical assistants.

 Competent Tactical Assistance is a Must.

Without it the stream of activity in your professional or personal life loses its direction in the same way a great river descends into its delta. The energy and force that characterized its flow as a young stream becomes lost in a broad range of relatively shallow activities. Focus, force, and direction enable great rivers to cut new paths, change the landscape, and alter the environment. Over time and distance, that focus broadens and clearly defined purposes and objectives become fuzzy. The river’s force dissipates and it finally empties itself out. Its direction becomes less certain, less definitive, more inclusive. The best features of the river seem to lie behind, in the past, upstream.

But it doesn’t have to be!

With deliberate planning and execution, we can maintain focus, sustain force, and preserve direction. Rescuing us from a multitude of organizational and mundane tasks, tactical assistants do enable us to accomplish more than we can alone.

But not nearly as much as we could do if we utilized a strategic staff!

You simply cannot accomplish as much in as wide a range at as high a level by yourself as you can with a staff of competent, motivated, reliable associates. In your realm of  responsibility and activity there are many things that just about anyone can do. There are many things some people can do, but there are a few things only you can do!

It is usually those few things only you can do that make possible your success. Your unique blend of personality and proficiency needs to find the center spot on your plate of responsibility and activity. To reach the highest levels of accomplishment, discover what are the things only you can do and do only them.

GIVE EVERYTHING ELSE AWAY!

Leaders and managers who hold an objective of accomplishment, appropriate the skills and obligate themselves to the challenge of creating and deploying strategic partners. They have learned to light a fire under others. Robert, the man I referred to in the previous post, having tried and been burned or perhaps couldn’t keep the fire going without providing too much fuel which he himself had to provide, simply gave up and indirectly, perhaps even unconsciously, decided to limit his personal and professional successes to what could be accomplished using only tactical assistance.

Tactical teams are more easily managed because their tasks can almost always be defined in quantitative terms. You can post or schedule a list of activities – filing, typing, setting appointments in an office environment, drilling holes in widgets, attaching whatzits to wherezits in a manufacturing environment. Then the list can be quite easily managed by plotting tasks that must be done against the time it will take.

But they will not, indeed they cannot provide the broad sweeping support and multiplication that comes from a strategic staff of associates. And that is the subject of Monday’s post. Talk to you then.

In the meantime, I’d like to know what problems you have encountered in your quest to develop and deploy associates. I promise to direct future posts to answering your questions. Either leave a comment below or send an email on the CONTACT ME page.

How to light a fire under almost anyone without getting burned – part 1

When your circle of concern is greater than your circle of ability.

 width=Robert’s second floor offices are crowded with papers, files, memos, phone messages, charts, and project plans. On his belt hangs a smart phone. A secretary in a front office handles the business telephone, which rang a dozen times in the few minutes I sat with him.

He is a busy, busy man, and not without reason. Robert is singularly responsible for the redevelopment of downtown districts in two small cities, for creating an arts district in an neighborhood of blight, crime, and decay, sits on the boards of a half-dozen more companies and foundations, and has taken his organization from nothing to something significant in just a few years. He has done so for two central reasons:

First, he is a very capable person – his natural gifts, post-graduate degrees, personable manner, and skills honed through considerable experience equip him to accomplish much.

People possessing abundant personal attributes, like Robert, expect much of themselves and consequently require much of others. They have placed high demands on their time, drawn deeply into personal reservoirs of strength and skill, and pushed themselves (or allowed themselves to be pushed by the opportunities presented to them) to the limits of personal talent and stamina. Because of their abundant personal attributes, the Roberts of the world think farther ahead and at a deeper level than almost everyone else. They are usually quick studies, grasping new ideas and possibilities with ease. They get a lot done in a remarkably small amount of time. The Roberts of the world seem to be able to do everything.

However, this both reassures and intimidates co-workers. It inhibits others from getting involved because they consider their abilities to be no match to Robert’s and therefore of little possible use to the project at hand. So they are reluctant to offer their assistance. A superman-like atmosphere implies to others that Robert has the task well in hand and has no need of their assistance to the point they don’t even offer.

So his abilities have brought Robert to an advanced level of success which has filled his plate with responsibilities. He simply cannot work any longer or any harder. Therefore, working alone, Robert’s abilities have produced an enviable level of achievement but at the same time almost certainly preclude further success. He will neither be able to maintain his present level of activity (too hectic and demanding) nor expand to new regions of interest or need (not enough time or energy).

Secondly, he is a very concerned individual – his is a big world, a world of many personal interests and ambitions, a wide circle of people, events, circumstances, and conditions he wants to impact professionally and participate in personally. He is not content to put in his eight hours and go home to vegetate in front of the television. He is a participant, but not a meddler.

Participants involve themselves because they are concerned about OUTCOMES; they want to better the world in which they live, the company or organization for which they work, the people to whom they relate. Meddlers, however, involve themselves because they are concerned about CONTROL; theirs are issues of power, domination, and manipulation. They get involved because they consider their participation to be a buy-in enabling them to interfere in the affairs, techniques, methods, systems, procedures, processes and to some extent, the very lives of others.

But this is not Robert. Robert is concerned for the right reasons. He is a caring person. He likes people and wants to enable more people to live better lives.

So he works hard at it. Regardless how hard he works, his circle of concern will always be bigger than his circle of ability. I went to see him because everywhere I inquired in the city, Robert’s name popped up. “You need to meet Robert,” I was told. His reputation is excellent , his successes obvious, his role in the community crucial. I scheduled an appointment to learn more about this leader and the reasons behind his successes. I wasn’t disappointed. As we talked, he reviewed his many achievements, responsibilities, and ambitions. I wondered how well and how much he employed the talents of others. What I discovered was no surprise because it is so typical of so many leaders in every field.

His feats are almost entirely singular. Although he doesn’t work alone, those working alongside in his office are almost entirely tactical. They are paper handlers who organize, store, then retrieve the many documents collected and generated by Robert. They answer his phone and make his appointments, and maintain his office.

It isn’t that he has no choice but to shoulder the workload alone. He has always worked in a group setting where the responsibilities were greater than one person could manage alone. In each and every setting there have been those who have offered or been directed by superiors to assist. Some have done so more successfully than others.

In his present position, Robert stepped in at the infancy of the company and built it to one of significance and considerable effectiveness. So he finds himself in the top position of a smallish organization, and for reasons discussed below, can afford to determine who will work with him, with whom he will work, and what those workers will do. By deliberate choice forged on the anvil of circumstance and under the hammer of experience he mostly works alone.

I don’t mean to imply a hermit-like seclusion from the world, laboring away in some dark, musty room surrounded by stacks of books, papers, and empty take-out Chinese food cartons. Robert’s work environment is one of bright, well-trafficked offices, gaggles of meetings, close associations with government officers, bankers, and board members, jangling telephones, zipping printers, and taps on the door. He works with lots of people. Except for his clerical staff (which I refer to as a tactical team) those other workers plug away on their own projects steadfastly pursuing their own objectives.

As to Robert’s circle of responsibility and concern, well, he handles that alone. When someone offers to come on board, to join the team believing they can make his organization even more successful, Robert declines the offer. He surveys the challenge of informing, training, motivating, and managing another person and is convinced, because his experience at developing and deploying associate workers has apparently failed, it is easier to do it himself. When I met with him it was apparent that doing good was not good for Robert. He had tried, and failed to light a fire under others. Either some just would not ignite, or, more often, he’d been burned by well-meaning, well-intentioned associates. They had let him down.

Robert’s success has pretty well put a lid on greater success because he has not learned to light a fire under others without getting burned. Would you like to know how? Come back to this blog on Thursday for the next installment in this series