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?
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.
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.
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.