Change by Choice or by Chance

As I look back on my career, the major milestones are combinations of things done by choice and some by chance.

I would like to claim I had made all of my decisions by choice, not chance. That simply would not be true. Regardless of the reason for making a move, in all cases, change was the common requirement.

Whether I made a job change or location move by choice, change was there. The occasional chance happenings still required some form of change on my part.

3c concept - choice, chance and change

3c concept – choice, chance and change

You can try to plan your career (and I encourage everyone to do so), but some things happen by chance that alter the course of the best laid plans. Circumstances can change in an instant when companies get acquired or spun off. Market crashes and economics alter what would have been the plan. Layoffs happen and lives are changed. Or you get unexpectedly recognized for an accomplishment and you are whisked off to another assignment.

Big change can occur almost instantly. The question is what are you going to do with such a change?

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Managing Performance: Inspect What You Expect

Here’s a little story to start today’s discussion.

A man was the first to arrive at work one morning.

The phone rang and he answered. When the caller asked for some specific information, the man explained that it was before normal business hours but that he would help if he could.

“What’s your job there?” the caller asked.

The man replied, “I’m the company president.”

There was a pause. Then the caller said, “I’ll call back later. I need to talk to someone who knows something about what’s going on.”

Could anyone say this about your department or business? What do you do to stay in touch with what is going on?

Young-biz

Once upon a time, the CEO of a very highly regarded and supposedly profitable international energy trading company was found to not really know what was going on in the C-suite right next to him. The absence of information dumbfounded much of the business world at the time. (Can you say ‘Enron’?)

Yet the discussion that followed proved that yes, there was a tremendous amount if information that was neither ever shared with nor understood by the head guy.

Personally, I found that troubling. Can the CEO of a large company know everything going on in the trenches? Of course not. But should they know enough about the direction the ship is sailing? Absolutely!

The lower down the corporate ladder you live, the more detail about your team you should understand.

I was once the department head of a group that had about 250+ employees. One day while walking the floor checking on things (management by walking around), a relatively new employee stopped me to ask a question. He posed a fairly detailed question about the analysis of a transaction he was working on. I walked him through the process and the calculation.

He seemed amazed. I asked him why the look on his face? He said I didn’t expect the “big dog” to know how to do this. I replied “How do you think I got to be the Big Dog?”

Sadly, the perception throughout much of today’s workforce is that the boss doesn’t know squat about the work being performed. Perhaps that is an evolutionary thing. But I digress.

While I cannot deny having experienced my own share of upper management who had no clue about what was going on below them, the boss who did “get it” was always a Rock Star.

Growing with the Organization

Your reputation as a leader can hinge on whether or not you maintain awareness for details running below your position in the company.

As you rise to new challenges, get promoted, and advance through your career, keep the appropriate attention to detail. When your span of control starts to exceed your capacity to manage all the little things, that is when proper delegation of authority is required.

You can delegate all you want. The key though is giving that delegation to people who have demonstrated the ability to handle the responsibility. This is where your own ability to nurture and coach your own team comes into play.

Start Small.

Identify one person on the team whom you you believe you can trust with the authority; authority given by you. As was once said “trust but verify”. At first you need to check on the things that are being delegated.Soon, assuming all goes well, you can reduce the times you verify. Maintain your own sense of reporting and accountability.

As you delegate more, create a reporting mechanism to be sure the things you want to see accomplished are happening the way you expect.

Another old saying is “you must inspect what you expect.” Don’t be afraid to check on the things you assigned to others.

A System to Help

One very functional system is the “Big 5”. This was designed by Roger Ferguson, GPHR. In Big 5, employees prepare regular recurring monthly status reports of the top five things they were assigned. The reports roll up to managers. Big 5 has even been used at several Fortune 500 companies to replace annual employee assessment tools.

I highlight that Big 5 is not a long, drawn out status report. It is accomplished with short bullet points, taking perhaps no more than a one half page email to communicate.

Supervisors and managers can use the monthly reporting cycle to review tactical performance and accomplishments with each employee. There is no waiting for the big annual review process. Feedback is swift. Remediation of less than expected performance can be handled promptly. The manager and the employee can calibrate their expectations and results.

With Big 5 there is very little deviation from the course you agreed to follow. Targets are set monthly and adjusted as work load and circumstances dictate. It is a tremendously effective way to gauge output and manage efficiently.

Lastly, when it comes to annual salary administration for merit awards, you take a look at the prior 12 reports for each employee. You’ll have 120 data points from which to make your decisions about the merit increases. It provides all the documentation you would ever need to defend a salary action. This system has been tested and proved compliant with salary disputes.

If you want to know more about Big 5, click the button below.

Tell Me More About BIG 5

Here’s a video interview I recently conducted with Roger.

BIO: Roger Ferguson is the Founder and Lead Consultant at iSi Human Resources Consulting, LLC, based in Houston, Texas.  His passion is improving corporate performance management systems and his book, “Finally! Performance Assessment That Works,” introduces Big Five Performance Management, a common sense alternative to the traditional approach.  The book is now available on Amazon and Kindle.

 

How To Stand Out In a Tough Market

This event is for professionals who are looking to jump-start their career. Attend yourself or use this as an opportunity to help a friend or coworker looking for a new job or change in career.

You will learn how to: 

  • Build a key list of achievements and successes
  • Highly target your job search on the companies that need your skills
  • Update or rewrite your résumé to create your personal brand
  • Effectively develop high-trust relationships to aid in the search/transition process
  • Communicate your value throughout the interview process
  • Create a plan to deliver your value to your new team

BONUS: This presentation will be packed with case studies and real-world examples to provide unmatched value. All attendees will get access to Doug’s directory of job search and career transition resources.

Tue, September 27, 2016
11:30 AM – 1:00 PM

Location
Norris Conference Centers – Houston/CityCentre
816 Town & Country Blvd.
Suite 210 (Pecan Room)
Houston, TX
View Map

Date: September 27, 2016
Time: 11:30AM-1:00PM
Event: How To Stand Out In a Tough Market
Public: Public

Overcoming Life’s Obstacles

When you hear about “overcoming obstacles”, the phrase means different things depending upon your own life experiences. The obvious meaning may be about a physical limitation, an injury, or financial hurdles.

There are basically four different types of obstacles that can be put in our way. As leaders, we must decide both personally and corporately how we are going to overcome or avoid those obstacles. Proper recognition may be most difficult. While some obstacles are instant and become immediately obvious, others are more subtle.

Here is why.

Events

Key events in our life can create big obstacles. These include an accident of some sort, a war wound, a financial crisis, or any other aspect of life that pivots in an instant. Things change immediately and sometimes forever.

Here’s an interview I hosted with Kristin Beale, a young Virginian woman who was injured in a jet ski accident in 2005. Her life has changed drastically, yet she has endured the recovery process as well as redirecting her purpose for living. She now is writing a book “Greater Things”. Her story is a beautiful testimony to finding balance for work, life, and faith when confronted with a big obstacle.

People

There are people in our life who create obstacles. Relationships may fail. When they do, the other person becomes a potential hurdle to moving forward with life choices and goals. Right now, you might have someone in your life who is presenting a huge challenge for you. Constant bickering or disruption of calm serenity can be overwhelming forces.

Making an effort to resolve this kind of obstacle is seldom easy, but must be done to allow yourself to move forward.

Another key aspect of the people side of understanding obstacles, is that you might be someone else’s obstacle. Ouch! Can it be? Perhaps yes.

You need to be ever-mindful of the possibility that you are, in fact, someone else’s stumbling block. If you sense that at all, you need to make amends and work through a more favorable positioning of that relationship.

This is especially true of managers who have direct reports. Are you making someone’s life miserable by your own actions? Take the occasional look in the mirror.

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Things

Yes, things can be obstacles. I am not talking about walls, hills, or other physical boundaries (although those too can be tough to navigate). I am speaking about obsession with certain things that can consume our world and change our direction. Anyone who has a sport, hobby, or holding (cars, boats, real estate, etc.) that controls a majority of time and attention has allowed an obstacle in their life.

Moments dedicated to these things rob you of valuable moments that could be invested elsewhere in building relationships and growing a lifestyle.

Failure to be present in the moment can happen when your mind’s attention or your heart’s affection is pulled away by things.

Ideas

Lastly, but certainly not least, is the notion that ideas can become obstacles. Following a new found creed or mantra based on some unique idea can possibly become another kind of obstacle.

I caution there is a delicate balance here. Why? Because learning is the acceptance of new ideas and information. While learning is usually a good thing, taking teaching to an extreme can potentially become a hurdle you may have to overcome.

In particular, if you embrace an idea and become especially dogmatic about its implementation in your life and those around you, you just might become that person who is now an obstacle for others (see above).

Balancing fresh ideas with proper integration into life change can be tough. Done properly, there can be growth rather than obstacles.

Summary

Obstacles can come from one or all of these areas in our life. Being mindful of the potential for running into an obstacle is the first line of defense. Up, over, around, or through are the usual ways we think of conquering obstacles. I like elimination whenever possible. Finding ways to eliminate the obstacle rather than merely getting around it, is a better long term solution.

Question: What kind of obstacles have you seen in your world lately? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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3 Simple Ideas for Better Relationships

Works at Work and at Home

A good friend in the banking sector uses a simple mantra for doing business. When he meets a potential lead, he actually shuns the business at first. He tells the person, “I don’t want to do business with you right now.”

Shocker huh? What would your leads do if you told them that?

But he follows with, “No, I don’t want to do business with you until we have established a know, like and trust connection. All three have to happen for our business to be successful and mutually rewarding.”

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Look at these three simple pieces:

  • Know
  • Like
  • Trust

“All things being equal people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust.” ~ The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann

Think about your most valued relationships. Didn’t you do all three before the connection became meaningful?

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Extending Smartphone Battery Life

Tips and Myths

Nothing is more frustrating that watching your phone’s battery drain down. If you have to stay plugged in too often, here are a few quick tips and myth busters about your phone’s battery life.


Tips:

Block ads. Website ads drain power. Install an ad blocker.

Use ‘Auto-Brightness.’ This dims and brightens power-sucking screens.

Disable push notifications. Nix these power draining tweets, news and email alerts. Get emails when you go to the app or have it check every hour.

Turn off weak coverage. Poor signals waste power. Turn off weak Wi-Fi or poor cellular service using ‘Airplane Mode,’ in ‘Settings.’

Play downloaded music. Streaming services (Pandora, etc.) guzzle power. Cut that in half by playing downloads.

Disable unneeded ‘Location Tracking.’ Enable only for navigation and distance measuring apps. GPS drains batteries.

Check app usage. ‘Battery’ in ‘Settings’ shows apps using the most power. Disable their background activities.


Myths:

Don’t “calibrate your new battery.” – You once had to “calibrate” by fully charging, then running new batteries to empty. Now you don’t, but capacity drops over time—so calibrate every few months for better battery meter accuracy.

Don’t “choose cellular over Wi-Fi.” –  Wi-Fi actually uses less power—except with weak signals. (See above.) Wi-Fi also saves power-sucking GPS activities.

Don’t “disable voice commands.” –  ‘Siri’ and ‘OK Google’ use power, but not much. If battery’s low, voice fewer commands.

Don’t “close apps you’re not using.” –  It takes more power to reopen apps than to run them in the background.

Don’t “avoid all third party chargers.” –  You can charge your phone with any good charger. Just avoid cheap ones—they could damage your phone and expose you to dangerous currents.

Management Endurance: Do You Sprint or Do You Pace?

Being a manager is a test of endurance. Much like running a marathon, there is a need to pace your effort to make it to the finish.

How in the world can you pace a situation that is day-to-day, in your face, and ever-present? Here are several answers.

Running the race

Courtesy 123rf.com

The Real Meaning of Endurance

Let’s re-set the true meaning of endurance. Wikipedia says this:

Endurance (also related to sufferance, resilience, constitution, fortitude, and hardiness) is the ability of an organism to exert itself and remain active for a long period of time, as well as its ability to resist, withstand, recover from, and have immunity to trauma, wounds, or fatigue.

We’ve lost the core appreciation for what endurance means. Perhaps because of all our focus on sports, for most of us endurance means playing 4 quarters, or running the race, or winning the event.

No, endurance is the ability to resist, withstand, recover from, and have immunity to trauma, wounds, or fatigue. There is no time limit on that definition.

As a manager, you may have an indefinite time scope to deal with. You have to perpetually finds ways to resist, withstand, and recover from the happenings of the day.

It’s Really Day to Day

We all deal with project plans, annual budgets, client delivery, and production schedules that impose clocks and calendars on us.

Yet execution is really just day to day. The plan is a critical piece of information to consider while we execute, but actual, “get the job done effort”, is day to day. Therefore, your need for endurance is ultimately only a day to day requirement.

Even the Bible encourages us not to worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will have worries of its own. Living and operating in the present, this moment right now, is all we have to do.

  • Do you have a mechanism for mentally processing the truth of the day?
  • Can you recover physically and mentally from the stress and strain placed on your body?
  • Is everyone OK? 

If you answered yes to all of those needs, you have an endurance framework that will get you through.

Break It Down

In the three questions above, I placed mental conditioning at the top of the list. My experience in many different situations tells me that is true. If I can mentally process what happened and is happening, I can better achieve a sense of balance.

A big part of mental strength is learning how to separate perception and reality. People above and below you will say things that sting. Do you allow the immediate perception of what was said to become your truth? Or do you evaluate the message with a keen sense of reality? As things happen around you, do you let perceptions become true or can you push them back into alignment with the reality of the situation.

All managers operate with some sense of fear. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are either lying or in denial. I think a healthy dose of fear is a natural way to protect us from doing ourselves harm. However, if you have not learned how to control that fear, you may easily let it take over when things start going wrong.  

Your mental process may be inclined to say “see, told you so, this was going to happen.” That is fear. No, you have to mitigate the fear by finding reality. What are the facts? What are the actual circumstances?

Some of the best leaders I have ever known had a keen sense of reality. They refuse to let the small voices in their head influence how they define truth in the moment.

Finding Recovery

Recovery is vital to sustained growth. When we exercise at the gym, our bodies need a recovery period. You cannot work the same muscles hour after hour, day after day without some time for recovery.

The work world is really no different. You have to find that break away time to allow recovery; both mental and physical.

Check my recent post about the science of recovery.

Were There Any Casualties?

I don’t ask this lightly. There are leaders I’ve known who have been combat veterans. You can imagine the gravity of having to ask this question after every operation.

In business, we usually don’t have actual body count (fortunately). But we do suffer other kinds casualties that impact our company, our people, and our role as a manager.

We can lose trust. Or lose customers. Lose an investment. Lose a valued employee or whole team.

How do you deal with those moments? Can you effectively regroup, reassess, and adjust the plan to move forward without suffering more casualties?

Summary

Management endurance is neither sprint nor marathon. It’s a day to day dynamic that requires mental capacity, discipline, focus, and drive to sustain.

Live each day in the moment. Don’t let fears about tomorrow cloud your judgment for right now.

Go back to the definition above. Endurance is the ability of an organism to exert itself and remain active for a long period of time, as well as its ability to resist, withstand, recover from, and have immunity to trauma, wounds, or fatigue.

Go ahead. Dive in and endure!

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A Talk With the General

New Manager Forum Video Series 2016 Episode 2 - BG (Ret) Bill Weber

Today’s post is not a post at all, but a video. I had the opportunity to interview and old friend and long-time colleague, Bill Weber, U.S. Army Brigadier General (retired) [see bio below].

Our discussion centered on Bill’s observations about leadership and management, with a special focus on young, aspiring professionals who are put into action for the very first time. Our topics include:

  • Making the move into leadership for the first time
  • Working through the first 6 months
  • Servant leadership – what is it, where does it work?

Join me for my visit with Bill.

BIO – BILL WEBER

Bill Weber, headshot, 2015, US Army BG Ret.

After soldiering for 32 years as a U.S. Army Armor officer, Bill retired at the end of 2007.  He has extensive experience in leadership, training, organizational management, budget management, and operations.  He worked as the Vice President of Business Development for McLane Advanced Technologies, as the Chief Operations Officer for three years with Advanced Concepts and Technologies International, and with Knowledge Point as an advisor to the United Arab Emirates Army leading reorganization and transformation efforts.  From September 2012 through July 2013, he worked for the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) as the Associate Director for the UTA Research Institute.  He is currently consulting with several organizations, including the Department of the Army.

Bill commanded numerous units and organizations throughout his military career and is a veteran of combat operations in Iraq during Desert Storm in 1991 and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.  His last Army assignment was as the Vice Director of the Army Staff, preceded by serving as commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Sarajevo, Bosnia and a two year assignment as the Director of Training on the Army Staff.

He earned a Bachelor’s Degree (Business Management) from Texas A&M University and a Masters Degree with Distinction in National Security Affairs (Middle East Studies) from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA.  He also attended Georgetown University as an Army War College Fellow, served as an Army Congressional Fellow, and has over 25 years of experience related to the Middle East.

He attended the Moroccan Staff School for a year of immersion in French and Foreign Area Officer in-country training and has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East.  He maintains currency on events and social, economic, military, and political situations throughout the Middle East.

His decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Armed Forces Service Medal, UN Medal, the NATO Medal, the Presidential Unit Award, and the Valorous Unit Award. He was also Ranger and Airborne trained and qualified.

He served as Mayor of the City of Woodway, Texas from May 2010 through October 2011.

Married to his wife Robin for 32 years, their daughter is a 2011 Baylor graduate and USAF pilot and their son is a 2012 Texas A&M nuclear engineer graduate.

A Mentor’s Greatest Lament

It’s easy to find a lot of talk about mentoring; being a mentor, using a mentor, and growing from mentorship. One of my most popular posts was about being a stepping stone.

Mentors come in many varieties. Anyone who’s been through some form of higher learning has probably been influenced by a teacher or professor. You may remember a magical mentor inspired you to think differently or be different. To this day, I owe much of my passion for writing to my senior English teacher from high school.

mentoringDr. William Hendricks, a well respected professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was once asked what his greatest fear may be. His response shocked the audience. Again, keep in mind, he was one of the most highly regarded faculty members there.

His answer was “To present and teach my best material, but no one learns.” Let that sink in a minute.

Here’s a well respected professor who had people clamoring to attend his lectures. His fear was teaching and no one learns.

What did he mean by that? He meant having an audience that was somehow closed to learning.

When I first heard this, I was struck by the significance of being a student or mentee and not being receptive to the teaching that is being offered.

Why would anyone do that? Well, it’s simple. There are those among us who go into a learning situation believing they already have all the answers. They are convinced there is nothing new to learn.

Whether it comes from pride or futility, the idea that you might sit with a mentor and ignore the teaching is insanity!

Have you ever known anyone like that? You know, someone who insists they know it all. They just want to sit in the class or in the program because the completion certificate somehow elevates them to the next level. The mindset that you can pass a course without being impacted by it is just plain crazy. What a waste of everyone’s time and talent.

The best leaders I have ever known knew what is was to be a follower first. Once you master following, then you are qualified to become a leader. This is a key concept that fails many would-be managers.

The lure of the power of the position trips them up. Rather than seeking more knowledge and better practices to follow, they immerse themselves in the role without ever learning what it may mean to be a leader.

I encourage you to find mentorship. Once the opportunity is open, dive in wholeheartedly. Absorb everything you can from the one who offers to mentor and coach you.

Then and only then can you earn the title of manager and leader.

 

Leadership Lift: One View Isn’t Enough

Improve Your Decision Making Skills

Decision making is a central requirement for being a leader. You get bombarded with choices to make; some are small, some are big, some are even epic. The consequences of your decisions can create destiny.

 

Young-biz

According to Thomas Saaty at the University of Pittsburgh:

“We are all fundamentally decision makers. Everything we do consciously or unconsciously is the result of some decision. The information we gather is to help us understand occurrences, in order to develop good judgments to make decisions about these occurrences. Not all information is useful for improving our understanding and judgments. If we only make decisions intuitively, we are inclined to believe that all kinds of information are useful and the larger the quantity, the better. But that is not true. There are numerous examples, which show that too much information is as bad as little information.”

What is your decision process? Are you participative; having others weigh in? Are you dictatorial? Or do you vary the process depending on the gravity of the situation?

If you Google the term “decision making” you likely will find a common sequence repeated over and over again. Experts on the subject differ in their ways to describe the process, but these key components are present in most explanations. It goes like this:

1. Identify the problem or opportunity

2. Gather information

3. Analyze the situation

4. Develop options

5. Evaluate alternatives

6. Select a preferred alternative

7. Act on the decision

Steps 2 thru 5 have the greatest opportunity to involve multiple inputs and factors.

Building consensus looks something like this.

250px-Consensus-flowchart

One View Isn’t Enough for Good Decision Making

Seldom is one view enough. Usually decisions involve a series of facts and circumstances that have to be reviewed. The various elements need to be stacked against each other, weighed and measured to come up with the decision.

Great executives have staff members around them; trusted advisors who weigh in as needed to present alternating views.

Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you. John Wooden
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/surround_yourself.html
Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you. John Wooden
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/surround_yourself.html

31289931 - business meetingRonald Reagan was quoted as saying:

Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.

Military generals make the final decision about strategy and execution of plans, but many, many others are involved in the planning.

Small businesses and work team managers can operate with the same principle. If you are the leader, you never have to be alone. Get input. Have trusted advisors; friends or colleagues who you know will provide honest, objective input.