3 types of confidence leaders must measure

confidence catOn the Velocity Channel I watched a reality show about a classic car restoration shop in Canada. In the episode I saw, the owners of the shop had hired an apprentice mechanic. After a few months on the job they considered him worthy of increased responsibilities, so they gave him a project to manage.

As I watched I found the apprentice’s reaction telling. I am reasonably confident he was more than capable of doing the work because the owners of the business have a reputation for high quality work and they are an old and very profitable company. They did not achieve success by being foolish.

The apprentice accepted the project then began the task of examining the vehicle to be restored so as to determine the scope and sequence of the project. For the next several minutes he called in more seasoned and experienced people around the shop, one by one, to look over the project, asking of them a series of questions. Most of the questions were the same ones he asked of the others.

So what was the problem?

Confidence, or more accurately, a lack of it.

It is entirely to be expected given his inexperience and short time with the company. He seemed to be a conscientious person so I am certain his motivation was to fulfill his responsibilities and complete the project on time and on budget. But it was a big jump in responsibility and he needed assurance and reassurance.

I heard the exchange between him and his boss when the boss gave him the project. The producers might have edited some of the conversation out so I cannot be certain I heard all of it. What I did hear seemed reassuring enough. But obviously he was not completely confident.

But there are three types of confidence that leaders must understand.

The first is Self-confidence – that certainty one has of their own abilities, judgment, authority, and standing within the company or organization. Let’s look briefly at each:

Confidence in one’s own abilities – the knowledge of and acceptance of one’s gifts and talents and the level of refinement of them proven by experience. It also implies an acceptance of one’s limitations. For most people, especially younger workers, there may be a large unknown factor here that contributes to a lack of self-confidence. Conversely, one with an inflated self-opinion may be over-confident because of a lack of confrontation with challenges in life.

Confidence in one’s own judgment – job satisfaction and happiness with life choices play into this. It is impossible to keep personal and professional lives entirely separate. We are what we are and what happens outside of work affects how we feel which affects how we perform on the job. If people have made good decisions they are confident of making more. If not, well then, their abilities to pull the trigger on hard choices will be affected. Whether on the job or off, decisions one has made either build self-confidence or erodes it.

Confidence in one’s own authority – This has to do with how well a person has been backed up by superiors when they’ve had to make decisions. The right to make decisions and pursue actions is critical to developing capable people. People need to know…and be confident or…the power that have to do the job. Keeping folks on a limited power budget (limiting their right to make independent decisions) indicates a lack of confidence (this may be perfectly called for. I am NOT suggesting that you give complete autonomy to anyone unless you have complete and utter confidence in them.) I am suggesting that most employees and associates know there are limits. Not knowing can promote a lack of confidence. The unknown, in any realm, almost always provokes fear and fear promotes caution and slows the pace.

Finally there is confidence in one’s standing within the company and relates to authority. In the case I wrote of in the beginning – the apprentice was assigned a complete project – his challenge was to understand the extent and limits of his authority and what he can and cannot do. And he needs to know what the company will do if something goes wrong and how they will reward him if it goes right. If he suspects he is being set up or manipulated, confidence will drain away quickly.

Self-confidence, in the context of the workplace, directly impacts Task-confidence, that certainty one may feel about their ability to complete the job. I am convinced that most employees and associates really do want to be successful and do a good job. Indeed, a study of Millennials here in the US has shown that job satisfaction, the feeling one gets from doing a good job in a position that matches personal values, is as high on the scale of importance as is monies earned. An otherwise confident and self-assured individual may become quite quivery when they are asked to embark in a new and untried area.

Company-confidence is the certainty one has that the company will not surprise them. No one likes surprises. Leaders don’t like them. Employees and associates don’t like them. It is best to be completely frank in the very beginning about expectations and dangers.

So, what about the apprentice and his many questions? Well, his response is clear evidence of a lack of confidence. Since I was not there when the project was given to him and I will assume that the producers edited everything for time and content, I cannot know for sure what was said. What I heard sounded good enough. The boss sounded like he had confidence in the young man. But there is always a need to consider how we communicate and reinforce confidence in our charges. We must be explicit and say precisely and completely how we feel.

Words mean things. Words are absolutely critical. When you are handing of a responsibility to someone, say exactly what you expect, when you expect it, and what you will do or not do.

But implicit expressions are very important too. How you conduct yourself after the hand off, whether you are meddling, inquiring, or pestering them or whether they feel abandoned, or whether they know you are a resource for them communicates how you really feel.

Developing people is your major job. Measuring the confidence levels of others is an oft-employed skill. How do you do that? I’ll tell you on 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.

The price of greatness

triangle leader version 2Leadership is often and usually thought of as a position of visibility, certainly one of importance. Snipers wouldn’t shoot at officers if the officers were of no value. Leaders have the capacity to inspire, motivate, impress, and command.

The opposite does happen and leadership may be handled badly, but I want only to acknowledge the downside. Today I want to zero in on the up-side, the positive benefits and privileges of leadership.

Leaders usually sit at the top of things, stand at the front of the pack, or occupy the main office space. They are first ones identified with the project, company, or organization.

In my research into this subject there are two individuals from the not so distant past that exemplify this better than almost anyone else.

One is Prime Minister Winston Churchill; the other is General George S. Patton. Both were out front kind of leaders. Neither were they content to simply orchestrate strategies from their headquarters. They wanted to be in the fray and made it a point to be there.

But there are cautions.

1.       Be prominent but not dominant.  A one man band looks funny and sounds even funnier. Your circle of concern is greater than your circle of ability. You need others to reach the vision, fulfill the dream, or accomplish the objectives. You cannot expect to accomplish much if you lead a phantom army.

2.       Be a catalyst for action not a point of reaction. Sometimes your associates will respond badly but by and large you should strive for and expect that those you lead will respond to you rather than react to you. Happy associates produce more. Friction between people does the same thing as friction between material objects. It slows things down. You want to speed things up. Learn how to minimize friction and resistance.

3.      Even if you stand in front, you can lead from the back. Building a team of independent thinkers should not threaten you or endanger your position. This is about the vision, not personalities.

4.      If everyone is responsible, no one is. There are lots of parts in a car but only one steering wheel. We went through a debilitating period when the popular philosophy of leadership was to even things out, to diminish the role of a central figure.  As egalitarian as that might seem and as much as we admire equality, it simply does not work. Someone must sit at the top, stand in front, or occupy the prominent space.

5.      Remember that everyone is watching inside and outside the organization. When you have the top spot you can see…and be seen. There is great opportunity in this and great danger.  Be careful.

6.      Leaders are not only responsible for ????, they are responsible to ????. I left those question marks deliberately. We are responsible for our mission, our vision, or our department’s results and to our superiors, our constituents, and our selves. We are expected to produce results and leave things better than when we joined the company.

A position of responsibility is not one that everyone shoulders well or willingly. Some won’t shoulder it at all. But, as Winston Churchill said, “The price of greatness is responsibility.”

6 secrets to keeping your team working for the same goals.

road closedDoes your right hand know what your left hand is doing and why it is doing it?

In assisting organizations, businesses, and individuals in developing and implementing an effective vision one of my first questions is what is your vision for this company? After hearing their definition, I will ask the department heads, the associates and assistants the same question.

It is seldom the same answer. But it should be. The right hand knows not what the left hand does or why.

This is the inherent problem with vision statements. They tend to arrive from somewhere up the chain, migrate onto a plaque or posters hung on a wall, and fade from memory.

Why am I harping on this?

Because the people who work for you and with you are, for the most part, intelligent, conscientious, ethical people. (I know, I know, there are some low level employees who seem incapable of processing anything so far-sighted as a vision statement, but I’ll address that condition later.) The people you’ve recruited and hired are responsible and you have every right to expect them to honor their sense of responsibility. They deserve to know what the vision of your company is, will better serve the company when tey know it and what it means, and are better served by the company when there is consistency between what you claim to be and what you actually do.

So, processing the IMPLICATIONS of a vision statement is not unrealistic if, and it’s a big if, those implications are defined and explained in real terms.

So here is what I recommend:

  1. Take the vision down off the wall and burn it into the collective and individual consciousness. The vision cannot and must not be a mere corporate or organizational document relegated to the archives. It must be something every person who makes up your organization understands and can connect to real work and life in the company. Repeat it often, apply it always.
  2. The vision must become part of your brand. They don’t call it branding for nothing. The brand, which in cowboy circles in burned into a cow’s hide so anyone and everyone who sees it know whose it is and what it represents. There must not be disconnect between what you say you want to be and what you are. This causes cynicism to displace enthusiasm. The brand becomes confused.
  3. Do not displace the vision with platitudes. It seems that every industry and every organization, even religious ones, develop their own dialect and promote the use of jargon. “Bringing the whole world to the foot of the cross” sounds so noble but is not anything everyone can grab onto. Platitudes and jargon often deliberately keep the relationship between the vision and the activities that make up the day fuzzy and indistinct. As you will learn the next several posts, the vision directly impacts what everyone does and why they do it. Effective leaders are scrupulous about making the connection and making sure everyone understands how this job relates to that statement.
  4. Find ways to regularly determine if everyone on your team is on board with the commitment to vision you’ve made. If not, why not? Do they not understand it? Do they not agree with it? Check out this blog post where I explore this more.
  5. Restate the vision in other than its written form so others can see how comprehensive it is. When a customer found the window coverings specialist at Lowe’s, that specialist was discussing her department with the assistant store manager. The customer complained that his order was complete and installed except for one small part which was still not installed even though it had been 5 weeks since he reported it missing from the original order. “Take care of your customer,” the manager said to the specialist. “Lowes takes care of its customers.” This is incarnating the vision in everyday activity and relationships and it is the primary venue wherein that glorious sounding statement on the poster meets real life.
  6. Celebrate incremental advances toward the vision. This is one of your most powerful tools as a leader. When you connect what an employee or associate does and make the celebratory connection to the overall objective it powerfully displaces cynicism (see #2 above) and replaces it with a sense of success. Everyone wants to be part of a winning team. Keeping score lets everyone know just how well they are doing (another reason I hate 6 month performance appraisals if that 6 month interview is the primary time you talk to your people). Read Ken Blanchard’s One Minute Manager if you want to see how this is done.

It’s time for your own personal performance appraisal. How well are you doing each of the above 6 jobs? If you thought your job was primarily with numbers and forms, how does knowing these 6 things change your perspective about your work and how does it alter your task list today?

The principle of promissory note

broken eggYou see them too if you ever scan the listings. I am talking about the jobs sections of Craigslist. You can make thousands of dollars working for an unnamed company whose application address is a blind one.

This is a common theme of mine.

The setting was a private school. The newly installed headmistress faced a tall pile of unresolved challenges. The school was not a wealthy one but did allow for some reduction in school fees in exchange for volunteer commitments from parents. Therein lay a problem.

The new headmistress was confronted daily with parents who simply did not show up at their scheduled times to shoulder their promised responsibilities. Most didn’t even telephone in to say they weren’t coming. When the headmistress began to hold those parents accountable, one of them said something incredilble.

“We’ve never had anyone who actually expected us to do what we said we would do.”

Keeping promises is critical in every relationship. You cannot build a solid team on unreliable people.

In fact, a national poll released just this week (December 2, 2013) shows that most American do not even trust each other. So bad has it become that we not expect to be misled and let down more than we expect to be told the truth and given promises someone will actually fulfill.

In the first installment of this mini-series, I wrote about the principle of good faith, that law that assures people who work with us that we are worthy of their trust. A relationship, even those on the job, are like banking, loans, and bank accounts. They are built on the unexpressed but nonetheless vital principle of mutual trust.

Whenever I hired people for my businesses I would tell them that I hire people to solve problems not make them. I had no need to pay people to create problems for me because I am more than capable of creating ample quantities on my own. I also warned them that I had a zero tolerance policy for no shows. “If you don’t show up and if you don’t call me, then don’t come back.” If people I hired could not keep that simple requirement then they could not earn wages from me. And I enforced it.

Here’s why.

When you do what you say, others learn that you mean what you say. Never promise what you cannot deliver. Never make rules (like my “don’t show up” rule) and fail to enforce it. If you do, others will learn the very first time that your word in meaningless. Motivation drains away when that happens.

Keeping promises you make and holding others to promises they make synergizes to make a key ingredient that is mandatory for long-term relationships – RESPECT. The esteem and regard held by others towards adds to our line of credit. They grant us greater authority. If there comes a time when you cannot keep your promise, do not simply ignore it. Speak clearly and honestly to those affected and never try to BS your way through. It will only make it worse. When we have respect for those who work for us and with us, we regard them too highly to do anything less than be completely honest.

This principle is called promissory notes because it communicates the image of obligation. Indeed, the fabric of civilization is woven with the threads of personal responsibility and fulfillment of obligations.

The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office. Dwight Eisenhower

The Power of Example – two reasons why it is imperative that we practice what we preach

good-example-good-advice“He that gives good advice, builds with one hand; he that gives good counsel and example, builds with both; but he that gives good admonition and bad example, builds with one hand and pulls down with the other.” Francis Bacon

You can get to the top of our profession and game by being conniving, ambitious, and ruthless. You really can. And it may be something you can live comfortably with. The name of this website may even suggest that I am willing to take the most direct route to success and accomplishment. After all what is more practical than doing whatever it takes to get whatever you want.

But I have not, and have not ever suggested that the validation of effectiveness is results. There are rules by which effective and principle-centered leaders play.

Most of us have worked for Machiavellian leaders at one time or another, perhaps you are working for one right now? If nothing more, you can learn from the power of a bad example. So I’ll say it again just to be sure I’ve said it clearly, expediency, as defined as the quality of being convenient and practical despite possibly being improper or immoral, is not validated by reaching an objective.

Fundamental to my definition and application of practical leadership is not expediency but a noble, worthy, wholesome, and better future gained by means whereby everyone is benefited and no one must compromise their principles to get there.

The ends do not justify the means…never have…never will.

Therefore, effective leaders do the right things in the right way so that the right outcome is realized in the right time.

Leadership is:

To get people to want what it is that you’ve got because you reflect with your life what it is that you say that you ought to be.

Then,

Don’t give it to them but show them how to get it for themselves.

Here it is why we practice what we preach:

To get people to want what it is that you’ve got, people have to be able to see it. Your associates and employees are not blind and they certainly are not stupid (well, most of them aren’t most of the time, anyway). Motivation is like an internal combustion engine. The fuel is applied to the right place at the same time a spark reaches the cylinder to cause the release of energy to make the machine produce. You, the effective good example apply some of the fuel and all of the spark. To internalize this, your associates and employees will gain this from your example because they like what they see, identify with who it is that you are and what it is that you stand for. You, by your example create

  1. Inspiration – a dream comes alive
  2. Motivation – energy is released to move in the direction of the dream
  3. Aspiration – effort is applied when the person determines to reach for and attain the possibilities your example has projected.

To maintain the inspiration, motivation, and aspiration you have to reflect what it is that you say by what it is that you do. Okay, maybe the grammar isn’t the most scholarly, but the principle is. You gotta walk the talk. All the time. The fastest way to kill the engine is to reveal that you are not what you’ve led everyone to believe. How do you avoid that? Not by duplicity! I have never suggested and do not suggest now that we as leaders ever engage in manipulation of the facts or circumstances to mislead. It is commonly done and I think it reveals more than the truth about who someone is, what they’ve said, or what they are doing.

It reveals an ingrained disrespect for the associate and employee.  When a boss tries to mislead or hide the truth s/he has little respect for the intelligence of the one(s) s/he is trying to mislead. When a boss tries to mislead or hide the truth s/he has little respect for the worth of the one(s) s/he is trying to mislead. You see, if we leaders and managers hold those who work for us and with us in high regard, we would never live, work, act, talk in any manner except what the circumstances demand ­­­­­- the best always and ever.

On the obverse, what you do is unmistakable evidence of who you are and what you believe. Anyone can say anything, can espouse the most grand and glorious rhetoric. It is what they do that is the evidence of who they are and what they really believe.

There are bad examples up to wazoo…but there are really good ones too. We tend to remember the bad ones more because they are a like a dark stain on a light garment. When the calling is high, the responsibilities upon the leader are heavy.

Now you may object that your role as a leader or manager is not so grand. Perhaps you do not lead an organization. Perhaps you manage a crew that stamps widgets out of whatzits. Well, history has proven the efficacy and worthiness of products well-made. Regardless of the grandness of the title or the exalted position of the office, it is the attitude and perspective of the person with the mantle of leader or manager.

I’d like to hear about the good ones though and so would your fellow readers. Leave a comment below and I’ll post it for the others. I’ve had to disable automatic posting because of spammers who daily fill my inbox with offers of marriage from Russian women and sure thing investment opportunities. But I do look at them all so I’ll read yours too.

The work ethic and common sense of Elbert Hubbard

col001He started out a dedicated socialist although what he meant by socialist as defined in his own writing would not be what the word generally is understood to mean these days. When describing himself as a socialist he said…

“I believe in every man working for the good of self; and in working for the good of self, he works for the good of all. To think, to see, to feel, to know; to deal justly; to bear all patiently; to act quietly; to speak cheerfully; to moderate one’s voice — these things will bring you the highest good. They will bring you the love of the best, and the esteem of that Sacred Few, whose good opinion alone is worth cultivating. And further than this, it is the best way you can serve Society — live your life. The wise way to benefit humanity is to attend to your own affairs, and thus give other people an opportunity to look after theirs. If there is any better way to teach virtue than by practicing it, I do not know it.”

He finished his life an ardent defender and proponent of free enterprise. Elbert Hubbard (not L.Ron Hubbard the Scientologist) was born June 19, 1856, in Bloomington, Illinois. He died, along with his wife, when the Lusitania, the ship on which they were travelling, was torpedoed by a German U-boat on May 17, 1915.

He sold Larkin soap products and published a number of magazines and books. But he is best remembered for founding Roycroft, an Arts and Crafts movement community in East Aurora, New York in 1895. There he and his artisans produced handsome, if sometimes eccentric, books printed on handmade paper, and operated a fine bindery, a furniture shop, and shops producing modeled leather and hammered copper goods. They were a leading producer of Mission Style products.

It is here that he wrote what has come to be considered his best work, a short story called “Message to Garcia” extolling the virtues of personalcover resourcefulness and responsibility. I have produced a copy of that book available here free of charge with a catch. You will also be signing up for our FREE newsletter. If you already subscribe, you can still get “Message to Garcia.” Just sign up anyway, you will not get duplicate newsletter deliveries. And you can unsubscribe at any time. The link is just below.

The book is a PDF file and includes another Hubbard classic “Get In or Get Out of Line,” an essay based on a letter written by President Lincoln to General Hooker in 1863. I’ve read them both, had them in my library for many years. Those of you who have been reading my posts here or been in any of my workshops and seminars will doubtless see the “family” resemblance. Enjoy this special edition of Hubbard’s most remembered works.

Free Message to Garcia Download

Power Plays – Getting the job done

Power Lines diagram functionA friend once remarked that “It is amazing how much you can get done if you just do it.” A look at a jobs offered column on line or in a newspaper will inevitably turn up several with the qualifier “Must be a self-starter.”  Why? Because you hire people to extend your reach, multiply your effectiveness, and divide your work. You do not, or at least you should not, hire people who make your life and job more difficult or complicated.

I’ve been writing about the flow of power within your department, company, or organization. If you’ve been following along, you are familiar with this diagram. The flow of power starts with and returns to you, the leader and/or manager. You’re the one to get things going, to set things in motion and ultimately to qualify their success.

The act of delegation, discussed in this post, passes a job off to a subordinate or associate.

The key is to pass off a responsibility, discussed here, not simply place someone in a position. The title is not the central focus. The responsibility is.

When the responsibility is defined and assigned, commensurate authority is assigned. In the article I wrote here, I explain how authority is conditional even while it grants some degree of autonomy.

Next, in this post, I discussed how you and those who work with you will define and describe precisely what terms by which the job and their performance will be evaluated. It is very critical that this step not be neglected. Institute a “no surprises” habit. You don’t like being blindsided, your associates don’t like it either.

The reason for and method of accountability comes next. The circuit, the flow of power starts to cycle back to you here. The mechanisms for reporting may be formal such as in written reports or informal such as a verbal report or both, but they need to be there.

Then, once you have defined what you are going to hand off, the person or persons to whom you will assign that responsibility is defined and solicited, the responsibility is defined, the authority is assigned, the evaluation criteria are agreed, and the method of accountability is contracted, then, and only then, do you hand off the task.

Function begins then. Admittedly some associates are well dialed in to what needs to be done and their responsibility in getting it done. Over time you develop levels of experience and trust that can leave some of the above steps implied simply because you’ve covered that ground with that person enough that everyone knows what’s what.

But for new people and new situations, you’ll need to make a judgment call about how much to define. My advice is to err on the side of caution at first. I will discuss how this can become annoying and irksome to trusted people in a future post.

The circuit, necessary for the safe flow of power, is complete. And it repeats itself over and over as you hand off more and more.

Why do you hire someone? Because they possess the skills and personality to do a certain task or set of tasks. Then let them do their job. Meddling is not managing. Pestering is not conscientious oversight.  Leadership is bringing people willingly to a place of growth, contributing to that growth when necessary but allowing those you lead the experience and satisfaction of doing their job. Most people want to do a good job.

But some employees and associates find it difficult to focus. They are easily distracted. They could be eager to please and over-responsible so they get drawn off into another job to help you or someone out. Then they are drawn off into another one, then another and never get back to their original responsibilities. This can be understandable because we all know that we cannot control every minute of the day. There are inevitable interruptions and at least some of our time is at the mercy of someone else.

Or they could be lazy. I worked with someone once who spent huge amounts of time figuring out ways to get out of doing his job. Or they could be in the wrong spot. It might be they don’t have the skills to do what they need to do and are either need more training or to be assigned somewhere else.

But all of that should either be discovered and discussed in the beginning or very shortly thereafter. If they can’t do the job, find someone who can. Remember, this is not personal. It is business. I hired a young man to work as a semi-skilled assistant in my shop. It became evident to me early on that he was not going to be a good fit. A visiting friend  of mine suggested that the poor fellow had a bad family life and needed a father figure to guide him in life. I reminded my friend that I was not a therapist and my shop not a therapy center. I had orders to fill, work to be completed, and hours to bill. If the fellow couldn’t cut it he couldn’t cut it. Nothing personal . Everything business.

The next articles in this series address power systems – how power is wielded, both properly and improperly. See you Thursday.

Power Plays – Accountability

Power Lines accountabilityNot long ago I sat across a desk from a small business owner whose business has experienced rapid expansion in the past two years. Going against the trends in the general economy his company was invoicing $750,000 annually last year and will invoice approximately $2,000,000 this year.

Among the items we discussed, one emerged that seemed to trouble him the most. In the expansion of his business he has hired several new technicians. However, there are two who have been with the company a long time. Neither of them have been able to keep pace with new technology and the inevitable changes in procedures and standards that come when a company expands that rapidly and to that degree.

“What,” he asked, “should I do with those two?”

I explained that the most personally challenging part of managing a business is addressing the problem of employees and associates who fail to keep up with the demands of their position. So here is what I advised:

  1. Business is business and all aspects of it eventually must be addressed as business. Delegate jobs and establish objectives using business objectives, not personal ones. Evaluations are to be made by those objective and subjective criteria that you have already established.
  2. Hold everyone accountable to the same standards if they are doing the same job and by the same standard of standards if they are not. Bricklayers are not plumbers but in both cases there is a level of acceptable work that must be maintained. If a person cannot meet that level, they cannot have the position. It’s not personal, it’s business. Never ever play favorites of any type in any manner.
  3. Morale will suffer and your credibility will begin to fail if you allow standards in one you don’t allow in another. Do not fool yourself. Others can and do see what’s going on.
  4. Every time I let someone slide and made personal and individual consideration for them, it came back to bite me. Take it from a seasoned veteran of the workforce trenches, you cannot expect reciprocity. If you let standards slide, make accommodations, or otherwise personalize a position thinking it will build loyalty and a sense of ownership, it won’t. Investment is made when it costs the investor something, in this case the effort to meet the responsibility. Granting indulgences only sets the grantee up for more grants.
  5. The action of holding accountable subordinates and associates, those to whom you have delegated responsibility, and the manner in which it is done may be the primary indicator of one’s leadership ability. Business ownership and organizational leadership means taking the heat for doing the hard things. That really is why you get the big(ger) money.
  6. There is a reason why the military distinguishes rank. Higher ranks have higher responsibility, can see the big picture, and know how to lead. Higher ranks quickly lose their capacity to command by being one of the guys. They are them and you are you. I am not even remotely suggesting that you remain aloof or be unfriendly. I am suggesting that there is the need to maintain distance. More about this in a future post.

Accountability, which is one of the traits of keepers I wrote of here, is:

  • The obligation to give a record of what has happened or not happened,
  • Accept responsibility for success, partial success, failure or partial failure, and
  • To disclose the results transparently, holding nothing back.

Show your associates and employees the diagram that accompanies these articles. Explain the process, and enforce it. You need to know and they need to be accountable, it’s part of being a responsible component in the organization.

Next week I tackle the final link in the power grid. See you on Monday.

Power Plays – Evaluation

Power Lines evaluationSo far, you have articulated your vision for the company or organization. You have identified your circle of concern and your limited circle of ability. You have listed the tasks that can be delegated to someone else and created a list of people to whom you can delegate those tasks. You have identified and articulated the responsibility in terms of performance and objective and you have agreed contractually or what is to be done, how, where, and when.

Next, you have the responsibility to monitor performance. Now, I am not talking here about a 6 month performance appraisal. If 6 month or annual performance appraisals are all you do, please reconsider. They should NEVER be the only formal evaluation you do. I think they are terrible ineffective and not worth the effort. Get a copy of The One Minute Manager and read it. You can do so in less than an hour and then put it into practice.

Nor am I speaking here in this context of a personal evaluation for a raise or promotion like companies regularly do. You do those and they should be based on criteria you have developed for your situation.

I am speaking here of the evaluation that must be made of delegated tasks and responsibilities.

Thomas Monson – “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates.”

Depending on the level of autonomy you’ve been able to grant, schedule periodic performance reviews accordingly. To refresh, here are the six levels of autonomy you can grant I listed in a previous article:

  1. “Look into the problem, report the facts to me. I’ll decide what to do.”
  2. “Look into the problem. Let me know of the alternatives, include the pros and cons of each and recommend one for my approval.”
  3. “Look into the problem and let me know what you intend to do. Don’t take action until I approve.”
  4. “Look into the problem and let me know what you intend to do. Plan to do it unless I say otherwise.”
  5. “Take action and let me know what you did.”
  6. “Take action, no further contact with me is required.”

Be fair. Evaluate against commonly understood criteria. Focus primarily on objectives, less so on techniques. In the end you are not as much concerned about each incremental step as you are the outcome. Indeed, there may well be steps that must be taken to meet safety, procedural, or accounting demands and there is a danger in freestyling. But all being said, you want results and within whatever latitudes you can live with, concern yourself mostly about outcomes.

You are going to evaluate objective and subjective components

Objective components:

  • On Time – make sure everyone knows what it is.
  • On Budget – how much is it and how do we count it?
  • On Spec – what are all the specifications? Make sure everyone who is involved knows all of them.

Subjective components:

  • Resourcefulness – tapping into people and the physical components necessary to get the job done
  • Attitude – cooperative or adversarial
  • Team building – Success in enlisting cooperation and assistance from others if the job demands it.
  • Communicating – providing the right information to the right people in the right time
  • Conflict management – handling friction generated by time constraints, personality clashes, or confusion about roles
  • Strategic thinking – the capacity to see the bigger picture and how an incremental task fits in
  • Making presentations, negotiating, personal habits, friendliness, selling skills, dependability, conscientiousness, pride of work and any other traits if they are germane to the job

Any and all subjective evaluations must be defined in terms of expected outcomes. Do not rely on statistical analysis. For example, I was looking to hire another craftsman for my shop when a man came in with all the right credentials. There could be no doubt he had the hard skills for the position. When I checked references, however, I discovered he had such an abrasive manner that within a very short time he had previous workplaces in complete turmoil and disarray. I did not pursue hiring him.

Team- member evaluation

If the delegated task or the assigned position calls for working with others (almost all of them do), then soliciting the input and evaluation of others can prove useful. If you do be certain that there is never the slightest hint of retaliation or threat. When I worked for a major home improvement retailer the store managers got a lot nicer in August because the corporate evaluation forms hit our store in September. When the forms did come, you had to go to the HR guy who gave you the one with your name on it. Inside there was a code you punched in to a computer program to access the evaluation. Many, if not most, employees flavored their evaluations more favorably to the store because they did not believe that the evaluations were anonymous and they feared retaliation. The store should have provided a box full non-personalized access codes, enough for every employee in the store. Then when an employee came in s/he drew one of the codes, entered it, and completed the evaluation. The corporate suits would have an honest evaluation from that store and the employee would be anonymous. Instead, they actually believed their entries were tied to the number which was identified to be them.

Self-evaluation

I’ll be honest here and tell you I have never found this to be very reliable. It takes a very self-aware and psychologically secure person to provide a self-evaluation of merit. You can discover how another feels they did and get an idea of their soft-skill attribute of awareness. You can discover how confident they might be. And on occasion you will learn how things are going. But, that being said, this is a tough area to evaluate and I never relied much on it. I did not discount it altogether because it is important to give an associate their say.

The element of evaluation should be discussed and agreed upon at the time the task is delegated or the position is assigned. Institute a no surprises policy. The worst thing you can do is what Kenneth Blanchard calls the “let alone – zap” method of management which means you say nothing until something goes wrong then you lower the boom. Define what is to be done and how you BOTH are going to determine the degree of success or failure.

The element of accountability is next. See you on Thursday.