Why leadership training programs fall short

file0001625497945The American Society for Training and Development reports that U.S. businesses spend a whopping $170 billion on leadership training programs.  They largely fail or at the very least fall way short of the expectations set for them.


Because you do not train leaders; you develop them. Training does have its place. We can train workers to build things or connect widgets to whatzits. We can inform, the one thing formal education does reasonably well.

But leadership development is more than an informative process. Much more! It is a transformative process.

Back in the days before digital photography, the process of creating an image was far more hands-on. Someone had to compose a photograph and shoot the image with a camera which allowed light to affect film which had been coated to react to it. Then, the film had to be taken into a darkroom and “developed.” There chemicals were applied to the film which revealed the image on the film and produced a negative. The negative was exposed to light which affected paper which was then immersed in a chemical bath which caused the image to appear. The picture was then “developed”.

At the risk of oversimplifying the process, let me draw some parallels between that and the subject of this column today.

Training programs essentially assume that with exposure to the right information, anyone can be trained to lead. This is simply and practically untrue. Many notable business people advocate that leaders are made, not born. I disagree and disagree vigorously.

The exposure to chemicals and light reveal an image that is already there. They cannot create something that does not exist. Leadership development applies light (information and truth to use that word in a philosophical and academic sense) and the right outside forces to reveal what is already there. Leaders are born…then developed over time and experience.

Training focuses on the things being taught but development focuses on the person being developed. While training superimposes a curriculum on a time schedule through which a person must endure, development provides the right sort of components, including but not limited to information, within which a person may grow and mature in their experience.

Finally, training may be efficient and is constructed to be efficient, but development is far more effective. The secret is, of course, the image, as it were, unrevealed but already resident within. No training program can ever hope to impart the nuanced and profound understanding that development does. It takes time and exposure to do that.

Corporations, associations, the seminar industry, and the educational establishment try but fail. Indeed, I propose that these institutions actually work against the effective development of leaders…but not deliberately. And I am not implying anything duplicitous in either their methodology or their curriculum. I think they mean well but continue to churn out graduates who are not equipped to lead. At its worst it impresses a person that s/he is ready to lead when they are not. As evidence I point to a close friend who told me that he was the best husband he had ever met and he made that statement without a hint of sarcasm. He actually did believe he was. When I asked him how he knew that, he pointed to the fact that he had attended and graduated from a marriage training course which, by his assumption and implication, made him a stellar husband. He was legendary alright, but only in his own mind. The mere exposure to information had led him to believe in something that was untrue and to propose that he was something that he was not (I asked his wife).

Most people in the real world don’t believe training is adequate either, that’s why they seek candidates with experience. They know that information and personality must be tempered in the fires of life to sharpen and harden them into a useful instrument.

If your company or organization has training programs, I suggest you take another look at them. If they are intended to impart hard skills like attaching widgets to whazits, then fine. If they are intended to train leaders, well, maybe they deserve a more careful examination and challenge to their presumptions.

Leadership Challenge #1 – the innocently rude sales clerk


customer serviceRemember the challenge from Monday? Here it is. My response is below.

You are the owner/manager of a retail department store. Your store is busy so high sales volume also means a lot of returns.  One of the new employees is tasked with handling the checkout register and for restocking items as they are returned when checkout traffic permits. The employee has gone through the company’s orientation and training but has been working the floor only for a few weeks.

You are working the floor, walking the many departments to watch for problems, help where needed, and answering questions. You see a customer browsing the rack of trousers in the men’s wear department. The customer has focused in on one garment and has pushed surrounding garments aside so he can look more closely.

The new employee approaches with an arm load of clothes to restock. She approaches the customer looking at trousers and says, “Excuse me.” Then without waiting for a response from the customer, she pushes the trousers he was looking at back together, spreads others apart, inserts the ones she is carrying, and walks off.

You see the customer’s look of surprise. As the employee walks away, the customer turns and leaves too without selecting a garment for purchase or even looking further.

What would you do?

Here’s what I would do?

  1. Try to find the customer before he leaves the store and apologize. Do not justify the employee’s behavior. Do not try to explain. Just apologize and offer a 10% off compensation. This addresses the effects of what happened immediately.
  2. Find the employee and speak with her. Do not wait until next week or even think about trying to address this in a public meeting. Give her the benefit of the doubt. It is unlikely she considered what she did as rude. She was probably just trying to be efficient and conscientious. She does double duty on the floor and at the cashier’s counter so she was likely trying to get through floor duty so she could get back to the counter. Guide the conversation but do not reprove, at least not at this stage. If you take the time to inform and train now, and see her do it again later, you can be sterner then. But now, explain what happened and why the customer felt the way they did. Then explain what should be done when stocking or restocking merchandise.
  3. Review your training and orientation curriculum. Make sure that it covers situations like this. Do not assume that employees will understand. Some will. Most won’t. They aren’t naturally rude or thoughtless, well most aren’t anyway, but they can be blind to the bigger picture. Change whatever might need to be changed. Add whatever might need to be added to address the finer points of customer relations and service on the sales floor.


Leadership Challenge #1 – The Customer Service Fail

customer serviceYou are the owner/manager of a retail department store. Your store is busy so high sales volume also means a lot of returns. One of the new employees is tasked with handling the checkout register and for restocking items as they are returned when checkout traffic permits. The employee has gone through the company’s orientation and training but has been working the floor only for a few weeks.

You are working the floor, walking the many departments to watch for problems, help where needed, and answering questions. You see a customer browsing the rack of trousers in the men’s wear department. The customer has focused in on one garment and has pushed surrounding garments aside so he can look more closely.

The new employee approaches with an arm load of clothes to restock. She approaches the customer looking at trousers and says, “Excuse me.” Then without waiting for a response from the customer, she pushes the trousers he was looking at back together, spreads others apart, inserts the ones she is carrying, and walks off.

You see the customer’s look of surprise. As the employee walks away, the customer turns and leaves too without selecting a garment for purchase or even looking further.

What would you do? And most importantly, Why?

I will answer this on Thursday and I want to hear from you. I’ll select from the answers I receive and post them along with mine. This is NOT a test so there are no right or wrong answers. It is an exercise in leadership training and discussion is the name of the game. Send your answers to me at Jack@ThePracticalLeader.com

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.

5 ways to make your important sales quotas, annual projections, and other vital numbers completely worthless.

He had one of two nicknames which I had given him and I used one or the other depending on my mood. He is the sales manager of a large retail outlet at which I worked for two years on my way to retirement from working at large. (I have since “retired” but powered up a whole new engine of activities, none of them involving golf.)

As a sales specialist in my department (millwork – doors, windows, moldings, and custom components) the company established sales quotas by some unknown and obviously esoteric formula. Those sales quotas were both general and specific. In general they set an overall number of total sales expected for the month. In specific they established targets for component sales, installations, and custom orders.

The first time it happened I chalked it up by reasoning that he must be really busy. Here’s why I thought that. The sales manager would walk down the main aisle and enter each department at the same quickstep pace, just short of a run. Then he would pass behind the desk and, without slowing his pace, he would drop off three sheets of paper on which were the sales quotas for each salesperson in the department. Often, he said absolutely nothing, just dropped off the papers and kept moving. Once in a while he would mumble something like “here are the sales numbers for the month.” But he never paused, never said more, always fled the scene. That’s why he got the first label I gave him – Drive By Shooter.

In my more generous moments I simply called him the paper boy because of the way he tossed the papers onto the desk.  Can you surmise what I did with my copy?

Correct! I threw it away without even looking at it. Why? Well, I will give you the same answer I gave the general manager of the store. “If it is not worth discussing, it is not worth paying attention to. If you expect me to give heed to the numbers at all, you must instruct your sales manager to take at least two minutes and talk about them.”

Brian Wernham, in his book “Agile Project Management for Government” says that

“People are motivated by the targets they are measured against. These targets need to be collaboratively arrived at, unambiguous, transparent, and engender trust by being safe from gaming.

So, let me list out the criteria by which effective goals, whether they be sales quotas or production numbers establish and maintain their effectiveness.

  1. Never let it be thought they the numbers are anything less than valuable. I was discussing the reported rankings that the store I worked for distributed monthly. They took the overall tally of sales made by sales specialists and compared them to those in other stores. Now there were issues with the numbers that intelligent and aware sales people saw through. Some big numbers came from sales people is very large stores that commanded a very large share of the market so obviously sales people in big stores had a leg up on those in small stores. Second, the numbers were raw numbers which tallied total sales dollars and did not factor in returns or mistakes (some rookie sales people would order the wrong thing, often several thousand dollars’ worth of the wrong things but they had “high” sales numbers.) For the intelligent and aware sales people, the numbers began to lose their luster when they realized this. But the worst revelation when the General manager of the store revealed that the list were largely vanity and held no real value. It was but a device used to massage the egos of sales people so they would feel good be more comfortable in their jobs. Now, this may indeed be enough for some and if so, more power to them. I found it highly insulting that I could be bought with such flimsy window dressing. Once the vanity aspect of your sales numbers or quotas is made known, they hold no value at all, at least they didn’t for me. So, if they are anything less than valuable, don’t bother with them.
  2. They work best when they are mutual. They work worse when they are mandates. Collaboration is the key. Engage your associates in the process, give them access to your thinking, to the reasons behind the numbers. In the store I worked at neither the sales manager nor the store manager set the sales numbers. They were set by someone working in a cubicle at the headquarters who, in almost 1oo% probability, had never spent even ten minutes as a sales person on a real sales floor. So, instead of throwing your list onto a desk where they sooner or later (in my case sooner) ended up in the trash, either don’t pass them out at all or take as much time as it takes to discuss the desired response to them. If they are collaboratively arrived at, they are better received and more likely to be met.
  3. There must be some payoff for reaching them and it should be personal and relevant. Get up from behind your desk, walk over to where the person works, look them right in the eye, and tell them they have done a great job. Do not, DO NOT, merely send congratulations for numbers met or exceeded in an email! Do not even once send congrats in a general email to all associates without having spoken it personally and directly to the deserving person first. If they work somewhere else, at the very least call them. Pay attention to your producers and they will produce even more. Neglect them and they will wander. Remember that man shall no live by numbers alone.
  4. Leave the “What have you done for me today?” approach to divas. Never use it on successful associates who regularly demonstrate the ability to accomplish objectives. One associate at my store had a fabulous week selling well above the quota. On Friday, the end of the fiscal week, the phone rang at her desk. On the line was the general manager and, as she told me, she expected him to congratulate her on a great week. Instead, he made no mention of her success. No mention at all. Instead, he said, “I see in the computer that you have about $6000 in outstanding estimates. Give those people a call and see if you can’t bring that end today. Thanks.” Then he hung up. She confessed to me she was deeply disappointed. He bungled an opportunity to score points, solidify his relationship with a top-producing sale associate, and add spark to the fire. I am confident that if he had called to congratulate instead of pointing out the obvious, she would have tried to close the sales on those outstanding estimates anyway. How do I know that? Because of her track record as a top performer. Too many leaders and managers do themselves damage by forgetting that those who produce will produce more if given the right acknowledgement. That manager either didn’t know this (forgivable but not for long) or he knew it and did what he did anyway (not forgivable and the mark of an amateur in over his head).
  5. Never game the system. If you promise something, don’t game it. You game the system when you use technicalities and loopholes to weasel out of keeping promises, of rewarding behavior, of doing the right thing. The other sales specialist in my department was a former employee of another large home improvement store. At that store he was the department manager over building supplies and lumber. As the end of the fiscal year drew near, the general manager revealed that the annual bonuses were not going to be paid because the store had failed to reach its projected sales goals and then asked everyone if they could help find a way to put them over the top. My friend called one of his contractor buddies, a man who regularly bought large quantities of building materials and sent them to a development project in Central America. The contractor came in and made a very large order which put the store beyond its projected numbers and triggered a bonus…for everyone except my friend who had made it possible. It seems that in order to be eligible one had to be a regular employee for a certain number of days and my friend fell short by two days. TWO DAYS! “Sorry,” the general manager said, there’s nothing I can do, but maybe next year you’ll make it.” My friend quit the same day. He discovered that the managers of that company could and would game their system to their advantage. So, remember that the people who work for you and with you are not machines. They think and feel. Don’t screw around with them. If they perform well, move hell and high water to make sure their effort is recognized and rewarded. And no, an “Employee of the Month” award is not enough. Give them the money!

Ok, there you are. Don’t sabotage your own efforts by thinking numbers on page will do for you what fair treatment and kind words will. You need numbers and numbers will reveal a good deal, but they will not and they cannot fuel the engine of productivity by themselves.

Management 101 – Part 4 – Control

steeringThe first three installments in this series covering management’s most basic principles addresses Planning, Organizing, and Training. Once those have been done, or more realistically, once those are being done, the final principle is that of controlling action.

If nothing is moving, the first challenge is to get things moving in an orderly manner. One that happens, the next logical addition is to control what is moving; minimize waste, maximize efficiency, and focus efforts.

Control happens when movements are contained within certain parameters. In engineering those parameters would be called “tolerances” because a certain degree of latitude is allowed. In retail businesses, they control inventory by budgeting for shrinkage, which is the loss of inventory, through breakage and theft. In manufacturing, control is exercised by managing time, predicting and planning for the supply of component parts, and monitoring specifications.

In all applications of control, there has to exist a standard from which all variance is measured. Here it might be helpful to borrow a term and concept from surveying. When new territory is being plotted, surveyors lay a base line, a straight line running a fixed length along which all other measurements are to be made. When the original settlers of the San Bernardino valley laid out the city their base line, now a busy street, ran for many miles. All other streets and the plots of land that would be parceled out to settlers were measured from that on line.

Management and leadership uses the same principle. A standard is established which becomes the target for measuring performance and therefore a basis for controlling action. Corporate run restaurants establish the target number of diners and their average purchase amount and they control costs by carefully controlling portions in both recipes and servings.

Corporate run casinos know how much money the average gambler will lose at a blackjack table per hand that is dealt. They also set the standard for how many hands the dealer should deal per hour and thus can predict with reasonable accuracy how much the table should earn. They then monitor the take from that table and can see where it deviates from the base line. If a regular pattern emerges, say one particular dealer is earning less than those who precede of follow him, the house begins to look for the reason why.

Base line control works just about everywhere. It was Peter Drucker who said that “if you cannot count it you cannot control it.” So the concept and practice of control is a counting action. Leaders do not do so well at this because the nature of leadership is less specific and more inspirational. However, if inspirational and motivational influence does not somewhere and somehow translate to measurable advances, leadership is relegated to platitudes and concepts. They’re pleasant but produce little in the way of lasting effect.

Control is a concept many people are uncomfortable with because it requires them to hold people accountable for results. We live in an age of fuzziness where we confuse feelings and attitudes with genuine advancement and progress. HR people and social scientists have proposed that we focus on the feeling side of work which can have a counterproductive effect if not balanced with real control targets. Your role as manager is to place the right people in the right positions so they can do the right job at the right time and produce the right results. Feeling good, loved, accepted, and fulfilled has value as long as that focus does not override the objective – to produce results.

On the other hand, too much control can result in friction (see my post here about that subject). If things are functioning smoothly and on track, a different kind of control is called for. MacGregor’s X and Y management styles addresses this and I will too in future posts (this is also the subject of my next book “How To Light A Fire Under Almost Anyone Without Getting Burned”) so be informed that that this subject is by no means exhausted here.

In summary, here are the 7 key components of the principle of control:

  1. Management is a game won or lost by numbers. To be able to control is to be able to count.
  2. A base line needs to be determined and laid out so EVERYONE who is accountable to it understands it and what it means. It is unfair to hold people to standards they are not aware of.
  3. Ineffective managers keep moving the base line. This inevitably causes confusion and resentment. If you arbitrarily move the baseline to put more money in your pocket while taking money OUT of the pockets of the people who work for you, count on your best and most productive people moving on.
  4. Ineffective managers have no baseline going in or they refuse to reveal it to their associates. People respond best when they know what is expected of them. If you are going to hold people accountable for numbers make very sure they know what those numbers are.
  5. Monitor deviation from base line numbers and find out why before jumping to a conclusion. There can be more than one reason why numbers are not met or exceeded.
  6. If you move numbers higher because of better than expected results make sure it is a joint effort and a reasonable one.
  7. To control results you’ll need to coordinate efforts. Until you have clear evidence otherwise, you may assume that most people want to do well in their jobs and will continue to do so if given the right tools and competent management. Demanding more with less will doubtless provoke resentment, grumbling, and plots of rebellion (just ask an ancient Pharoah when he demanded his guest workers, the Israelites, to make more bricks with less straw).  It takes lots of fuel and gear grinding to get a vehicle moving, but once it is on the road, a different type of control is necessary. You can let the machine do what it was designed to do and simply keep a supply of fuel, lubrication, and guidance to keep it on the road an on the way.

The first three installments of Management 101 are available here:

Part 1 – Plan

Part 2 – Organize

Part 3 – Train

I am yet in Uganda, East Africa. I spent the last two days on the road travelling up-country arriving back in Entebbe last night to discover that my internet access was no longer functioning. As of mid-day today it is still out. I have a wireless modem used here through the mobile phone providers but it is so slow I hesitate to use it. Nonetheless I have. Even getting airtime is fun. A trip downtown to the currency exchange office to but more shillings, then a walk down the street to the mobile phone office, a wait in line, then it’s my turn. Select the number of gb’s I want for a month and pay the fee while the tech retrieves the SIM card registration, gets the airtime and downloads it onto the stick. I am using the stick modem now. Thanks for your patience.

Management 101 – Part 3 – Training

trainingAfter I sold my business in the Caribbean, I took a job at a major home improvement retailer (the one with the blue, gray, and red logo not the orange one). I had owned and operated a millwork business in the islands so I was very familiar with doors, windows, trim, and custom work so when I was offered a job in that department I thought it would be a simple transition.

The training process my new employer offered consisted of a series of computerized modules intended to introduce new hires to the processes and procedures of the company’s products and the methods of placing orders.

The morning I “graduated” from the training and was escorted to my spot behind the millwork desk on the sales floor. As the HR guy left, he said, “You’ll catch on.” That was it.

I soon discovered that the computerized training had two flaws. First, it did not effectively simulate life in the real world. The training modules had obviously been created by people who, talented thought they were in creating computerized training systems, had obviously never worked on the sales floor. Second, it failed to consider the complexities of an unfamiliar system. It did not introduce new hires like myself to the intricacies of the company’s outdated and convoluted computerized ordering system.

The third element in Management 101 is training after planning and organizing. The concept is simple enough – give someone the skills and information they need to get the job done. The problem is in the execution. The problems stem from two flawed assumptions.

Assumption #1 – that the trainee knows a lot already. Usually this comes from people who are too busy to invest the time and effort into effective training so they assume their charge knows what they need to know and a brief or summary training is sufficient. But it may not be that you’re too busy. It might be that you just assume too much. They did this on my job. They assumed that because I owned and operated a millwork business that I knew the subject already. I knew the subject. I did not know the company’s products, the local codes that affected the customer’s choices in products, nor the wacko system the company used to process an order. Every company or organization has a particular product line and even old product lines come out with new products. Every company or organization has its own peculiarities; its own ways of getting things done that may or may not mesh with what your trainee has learned. The solution: Find out. Ask questions, watch the trainee’s performance, assure them that you assume nothing so that they have ALL the tools they need to get the job done, but they can move through the process already if they’re covering familiar ground.

Assumption #2 – that the trainee doesn’t know anything. If you’re going to err, err on the side of this one. It is better to be over-prepared than under. Nonetheless, you don’t want to insult them either so be sure to communicate both your intent and why covering old territory. Everyone needs to review the basics now and again (Just look at you. You’re a seasoned manager or leader and you’re reading through a series called Management 101). In today’s litigious climate, many companies are covering all their legal obligations by having employees follow a systemized training program so that everything is covered and everyone goes through the system. In your company there may be little you can do about this assumption, but try to fast track the quick learners and the experienced pros.

Abraham Maslow’s now famous study of human behavior and learning suggested that the trainee should be exposed to what s/he does not know, their level of conscious incompetence, so that they are motivated to acquire the knowledge and skill.

Since this article is more on training as a concept that training as a practice, I must leave the tasks and techniques of training to another series. Here are the key concepts of training:

  • What does the trainee need to know?
  • What do they know already?
  • What new skills do they need to acquire?
  • What old techniques do they need to unlearn?
  • What is the best way to get the trainee from where they are to where they need to be?
  • Where will you begin? Where will you end?
  • How will you know that the training is completed?

A plan is primary. Organizing people, time, and stuff to execute the plan builds the structure of permanent accomplishment. But it is training that populate your organized plan with the animated figures who make it happen.

The first two installments in this series are:

Management 101 – Plan

Management 101 – Organize

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


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 of leadership – Task # 1 = Envisioning Goals

paintingThe following is list of the activities effective leaders pursue. It is not a list of items to schedule throughout the day. The precise things you do should support the 9 tasks. Sound confusing? Well, it is easier demonstrated than defined so let’s step in.

Task #1 – Envisioning Goals

The challenge of keeping the future connected to the present is always there. Managers of necessity must focus on immediate tasks and make sure quotas are being met and processes are being followed. Leaders must focus on the ultimate objectives of the group and its role in the larger organization. Manager’s live and die by numbers. Leaders live and die by less rigid criteria.

Everyone knows that goals must be SMART – Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Trackable so I will not cover that ground here. Leaders neither ignore those goals nor sabotage them. They ENVISION those goals. They paint a picture of what it will be like when the goals are attained. More correctly, they have envisioned the end result BEFORE any goals were defined. Doing things is one thing. Doing the correct things, that is doing those things that will lead one down the path to the correct destination is another thing. In this setting the object is not to go there but to get there.

The task of envisioning goals you will fulfill as a leader is 3 dimensional.

First, you will describe what the group can be at its best and do your best to assure and inspire the group that they can indeed be that group. You will lead people with confidence, with uncertainty, with cynicism, with doubt, with fear. It is your task as a leader to inspire them to overcome their hesitancies, uncertainties, cynicism, and fears.


By clearly painting a picture of an attractive and realistic future. Don’t speak of goals without pointing out past successes, your appreciation of those past successes, and your confidence that the future goals can indeed be reached.

Celebrate incremental victories along the way without mentioning in the same celebration all the work yet to be done. Let victories be savored before throwing more work out there, before pointing out all that remains to be done. I wrote about the deflating effects of such poorly executed tactics here.

Second, point toward solutions not problems. Don’t ignore problems, but don’t focus on then either. The summary concept in the task of envisioning goals is FOCUS. What stands in sharp contrast in your word picture and what is in the foreground fuzz or background haze? FOCUS on the solution and its manifest resolution. In the world of digital photography and graphics, the concept of high resolution has come into common vocabulary. In that setting, high resolution is the inclusion of detail and sharp contrast making the photo or graphic more visible, more appreciated, more attractive. In your setting high resolution focus does the same thing. It brings the whole picture of an attractive and desirable future into focus because you made it so.

Third, define overarching goals that unite people and focus energy. The concept of teamwork and team function is everywhere, but not always well-executed. Comprehensive goals, goals that place one person’s contribution with another, one group’s participation alongside the others enables your team to see how the team functions. This cannot be done in a passing manner. I will address the means of communication very soon, but let me add here that your most important task is speaking with the people you work with. Email has its place, memos serve a purpose, general announcements do their job, but nothing, I mean NOTHING takes the place of a personal conversation with your staff. If you’re too busy to do this, you have allowed the wrong priorities to overwhelm.

The next post on Thursday will cover task #2 – Affirming Values.

How to Multiply Your Effectiveness – 2 critical assessments you must make

4 levelsJeff does not enjoy performance appraisals. His lack of enthusiasm for the task stems not from any reluctance on his part to scrutinize and identify strong and weak places in his staff’s performance nor does it arise from apprehension over the need to make corrections if needed. Indeed, Jeff’s lack of enjoyment comes from his opinion that most people suffer at least some delusion as regards their performance on the job. In the previous chapter I recounted Phil’s incapacity to see how others perceived him. Jeff considers that capacity for self-deceit, sometimes to the point of delusion, to be nearly universal. So do I.

Jeff set an appointment with a young man we’ll call Louis who was serving as an intern during his summer break from classes at college. He was and is a very pleasant young man. He’s gentle-spirited, easy-going, and willing to work hard, but he’s not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. Being young and inexperienced Jeff did not expect him to understand the scope of the organization or the many tasks that had to be performed. Jeff’s typical approach to performance appraisals is to ask the worker to first appraise his own performance because…

A person’s ability to discern and accept his own zones of competence and pockets of incompetence is key to successful personal growth and improvement.

Associates and workers with the capacity for accurate, unenhanced self-assessment are the safest and most reliable building blocks in your organization. When you ask someone, “Can you do this?” you have to be confident their answer is based on your powers of evaluation and their capacity for reliable self-assessment. Why? Because you are committed to extending your reach, multiplying your effectiveness, dividing your work, and quickening your pace and you must achieve those objectives through other people.

A responsible person is one who is response-able.

Response-able associates can both understand just what it is you are asking of them and know whether it is within their capacity to meet your expectations. A response-able worker has the capacity to return the assignment to you completed on time, brought in within budget, and finished at the level of refinement required by the job criteria. This means there are two factors that must be measured.

Competence – the expertise, skills, talent, and capacity necessary to fulfill the objectives of the assignment.

Confidence – the motivation, commitment, and capacity to work independently, even at a minimal skill level.

Jeff had experienced some challenges in work assignments given to Louis. Jeff had found Louis needed almost constant supervision and tasks assigned to him had to be broken down in small incremental actions if he was ever to get through them. As the performance appraisal interview progressed, Jeff asked Louis to rate himself on the scale found in figure 2. How did he rate himself?

Find out in the next post Monday. Thanks for dialing in.