Monthly Archives: February 2011

//February

Out of touch or misreading the situation?

February / March is the time for many boards of directors to meet and go over their targets for 2011.  And many of these meetings spill over to congresses with employees and customers alike.  While it is very easy to get caught up in the trap of over emphasizing one’s own importance; it is essential that we allow for opportunities for active listening.  There is an old fashioned notion that ‘the bosses’ have the power and the responsibility to provide the strategy and answers, but in our complex and ever changing world, too many people rely on the few to somehow make sense of it all.

If I learnt anything from being an on the road salesman it was that customers, more often than not, had a completely differing view of the company I worked for than those that ran it.  And although you might think that this is normal, the problem is that over time the sales force tends to agree with their customers, thereby creating a chasm of perception and opportunity.  So if we assume that our sales team is the closest thing we have to our customers then we had better listen to them.

I am routed in the opinion that the business leader that genuinely knows their customers, that understands their needs and their aspirations, is the best person to formulate the strategy.  However, this assumes one thing:  that our customers know where the market is going.  Sadly this is far too often not the case, and they can easily lead the subservient company director down their own path to extinction.

In 2011 there is a sense of urgency required for companies to communicate in a way that brings them in touch with both their customers and employees, not just on a business case level but on a meaningful and personal one too.  And those directors that go about separating themselves from those that make it all happen are the ones that will become out of touch and unable to read accurately the real situation.

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Have a good week,

Harley

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The Problem is: “it’s really not my problem”

“I know” he said “the management really should do something about it”. If there is a sentence that gets my blood boiling it is that one!  I am not referring to shop floor workers complaining about a lack of soap in the shower room but the whining lament of lazy middle class professionals that go around thinking that the problems confronting them need to be solved by anyone else but themselves.  In short I am talking about taking responsibility.

Over the last thirty years I have worked for many organizations, large and small, and the saddest experience I ever encounter is always apathy.  I am not sure where it comes from but it seems to me that there are some people that are born to take responsibility and to try and solve issues and there are others that simply stand on the sidelines waiting to see what happens. 

It is true that companies that do not invest in people development and constantly ignore the ideas and ambitions of their most precious resource, tend to end up with a grumbling layer of apathy within them.

In Egypt recently,  we have witnessed a revolution like no other before.  And if it has come about, in part, because of the use of the internet and multi-channel communications, then I cannot help but take encouragement that with the continued growth of social media tools impregnating the boundaries of company intranets and extranets, that maybe we will witness similar events inside poor performing multi-national corporations?

Now I do not see overthrows of power, with people waving flags and banners trying to out the CEO.  But I do see ambitious people finding new ways of circumnavigating the clay layer of ineffective managers that hold back progress and new ideas.

A question remains for Egypt. When the new Government is elected; will the people go back to relying on them to solve their problems or will this new sense of people power remain like some kind of religious awakening?  I am told that people don’t change, this may be true on an individual level but group behavior certainly does. I like to think that a tap has been turned on that can never be fully closed again.

Have a good week,

Harley

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You’re such a loser!

Perhaps this is not what we want to hear, especially so early into 2011 but according to some personal coaches this is exactly what we need to hear to motivate ourselves to do even better than in 2010.  At a time when many of us are writing personal appraisals for members of our teams, perhaps it’s useful to consider how high we should set the bar of success, to ensure that everyone becomes a winner?

And here lies the dilemma.  We live in a society of winners and losers.  According to Vince Lombardi, the famous one time coach of the Green Bay Packers (this year’s Super Bowl winners) “If it doesn't matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?”  For Vince winning was everything, his style rallied around such one liners as: ‘If you aren't fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm’.  Now this might work on the football field, but I do not believe it can be taken too seriously into the work place.

Each and every one of us lacks enthusiasm every now and then, so the question is how can we set personal targets that will encourage our teams (and even ourselves) to be stretched far enough to find personal satisfaction in learning new things and growth, while at the same time not de-motivating us so much that we simply give up at the first hurdle?  

The secret lies not so much in the target itself but the visualization of it.  Once our appraisal forms are filed away for another year, our targets are soon forgotten, and here lies the danger.

My advice for this year is to ask each of your team members to visualize what success in life means to them. (It can be out riding their horse or, being on holiday with the children; perhaps it is owning a mobile home to travel across Europe in).  Whatever it is, encourage them to put a photograph that symbolizes it on their desk.  And next to it, a small plasticized list of the objectives they have set for themselves for this year.  The list is not so much to remind them but to remind everyone that they work with, because rest assured, whether or not they achieve their objectives will most likely be down to the encouragement and support they get from you and their team mates.  There is no personal objective in the world that can be achieved in isolation.

As Vince Lombardi once said “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual”. And this is one I can fully confer with.

Have a good week,

Harley

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