Everyone throws around the word strategy, but what does it really mean? Freedman defines it as the frame-work of choices that determine the nature and direction of an organization. A Framework establishes the boundaries and scope of the business activity. Continue reading…
Rank-and-file employees often complain that CEOs don’t understand what motivates them. It turns out, CEOs aren’t much better at naming what motivates their “C-level” direct reports, either. Nearly 13% of chief financial officers, chief marketing officers, and other C-level executives say that having input into company decisions is their top reason to stay with a company, according to a survey by ExecuNet Inc., a professional network for executives. But only 7% of CEOs think that’s a central reason their C-level direct reports stick around. Continue reading…
From the outside, it must have looked like I was living the feminist dream, said Anne-Marie Slaughter in The Atlantic. In 2009, I became the first woman to serve as policy director at the State Department, acting as a key adviser to Hillary Clinton. Until then, I’d blindly accepted the idea that a woman could “have it all,” with a career as ambitious as any man’s and a family. Yet like so many professional women, I found it impossible to balance a highly demanding, 60-hour job and parenthood. When my rebellious 14-year-old son wouldn’t speak to me and started spiraling out of control, I realized I couldn’t be “both the parent and the professional I wanted to be.” So I gave up my State Department job and returned to teaching. If career success requires working from dawn to dusk, no woman can “have it all.”
The idea of “having it all” was always a myth, said Mona Charen in NationalReview.com. For too long, feminists have told women that they could enjoy “a satisfying career, a high income, a loving husband, and 2.5 ego-gratifying, low-maintenance children.” But one person can only do so much, and most women “want to be there for the first words, the Little League games, the school plays,” and the countless intimate moments that “are some of the sweetest parts of life.” Wait a minute—feminism never promised that women could “have it all,” said Maha Atal in Forbes.com. The movement fought for equal opportunity and choices for women, not a fantasy world “in which each woman does whatever she wants without consequence.” And unlike the privileged Slaughter, regular parents struggling with bills don’t have a choice when it comes to juggling work and family—“they ‘do it all’ because there is no other option.”
The reality is that no one, male or female, will ever achieve a perfect work-life balance, said Ross Douthat in The New York Times. Even if we make the workplace more family-friendly, the employee who’s willing to stay later “will always, always have a professional advantage over a peer who wants to leave at 5 p.m.” So let’s at least be honest with ourselves about the trade-offs we have to make as parents, “rather than holding out hope that we, alone out of all the generations of humanity, are about to find a way to have everything we want.”
Social media affect every aspect of business and social interaction, yet because most commercial organizations rely on management practices developed 50 or even 100 years ago, businesses are not adjusting easily, particularly when that would require innovation. Even leaders who study and embrace social media are finding it difficult to integrate these new technologies into their “organizational culture, internal process or structure, and individual behavior.” Continue reading…
Business meetings are a perfect illusion. Very few professionals would say that attending meetings is the best use of their time. In one survey, white-collar workers estimated that two thirds of meeting time is pure waste. Yet, many meetings are too long, too large, and too unfocused. More broadly, many professionals use their time inefficiently because their firm’s hour-oriented culture hasn’t forced them to think rigorously about what’s really important. Sometimes, this leads professionals to spend an inordinate amount of time perfecting one particular task — say, the formatting of an internal presentation — instead of spending time where it might be more useful.
How can you remove yourself from this treadmill of long, wasted hours at work? Start by constantly evaluating your use of time — even if your organization’s culture doesn’t force you to.
That means knowing what’s important to you, your organization, and your boss — and, vitally, what’s not important. So think critically and rigorously about your priorities. Then, be prepared to say “no” to requests that don’t matter:
- Decline meetings, whenever you can. To be polite, you can explain your workload and request to see the meeting’s minutes instead.
- Don’t be afraid to use the “delete” button when reviewing your inbox.
- If you can’t say “no” to a certain request, recognize that it may only require a B+ effort. Don’t spend hours bumping it up to an A+ unless you really need to.
While individual employees can change their own habits, organizations need strong-willed leaders to make more radical changes. These leaders must thoroughly reform their organization’s implicit and explicit reward structure. Are employees praised for coming in on Saturday — even if only to finish work that could have been completed during regular hours? Are employees suspicious of others who leave early for the day in order to watch their child’s Little League games?
Of course, this change won’t come easily. It’s easy to count hours. It’s much harder to set project metrics or make subjective evaluations. But smart leaders realize that the only way they can succeed is by getting the most out of their employees. And the only way they can get the best out of their employees is to focus on results, not hours.
The phrase “inner work life” captures “the confluence of perceptions, emotions and motivations that individuals experience as they react to and make sense of the events of their workday.” Work instills a variety of feelings in people, including joy, pride, disappointment, gratitude, anger, frustration and satisfaction. These emotions vary in degree and intensity, but both positive and negative emotions affect productivity. Low morale can harm a company as much as an economic downturn or a market change. Poor spirits contribute to high turnover and subpar performance. Morale can be hard to evaluate because people hide their negative thoughts and feelings, particularly when their managers regard emotions as unprofessional and discourage people from sharing their feelings.
Current leadership philosophies stress the need for managers to use emotional intelligence to guide their behavior toward their workers. Bosses must understand that individual performance does not depend “solely on something inherent in the employee,” but also on the work environment and other factors. Individuals require context to make sense of what happens both to them and around them at work. How they perceive these events depends on their experiences and worldviews. Motivation, the impetus people feel to tackle an assignment or accomplish a task, takes three forms. “Extrinsic motivation” inspires people to work in order to get a payoff, like a paycheck, recognition or a promotion. “Intrinsic motivation” impels staff members to make an effort because they enjoy the job itself. “Relational or altruistic motivation” drives people to participate or collaborate because they want to help others and connect with their co-workers.
The Link Between Work Life and Performance
Not everyone believes that happy employees are productive employees. Some companies operate on the belief that people do their best work under pressure. Although this may hold true for brief periods of time, studies of the inner work life effect demonstrate that “people do better work when they are happy, have positive views of their organization and its people, and are motivated primarily by the work itself.” Performing well means executing at your best level in four areas:
- “Creativity” – Forming novel, valuable ideas.
- “Productivity” – Doing high-quality work consistently.
- “Commitment” – Staying the course to finish the job.
- “Collegiality” – Keeping the team working together.
The progress principle says, “Of all the positive events that influence inner work life, the single most powerful is progress in meaningful work.” Work setbacks inhibit good feelings. Even slight forward movement lifts people’s spirits and keeps them energized.
The “progress loop” refers to how progress and inner work life fuel each other and create a self-perpetuating cycle. This cycle can be positive or negative. The progress loop is positive when “catalysts” help move work forward and “nourishers” contribute to employees’ good feelings about themselves. The loop takes a downward turn when “inhibitors” impede or thwart progress. “Toxins,” such as negative interpersonal influences, make employees feel undervalued, disrespected, or bad about themselves and their work. A setback at work can undermine the progress loop and damage a person’s inner work life. Negative events, even small ones, exert a much stronger influence than positive events.
Seven main catalysts promote work on projects and boost employees’ inner work lives. Each catalyst’s opposite detracts from people’s ability to make meaningful progress:
- “Settingcleargoals”–Peoplespecific,meaningfulobjectives.Opposite:Alackof clear goals causes confusion and misdirection; a lack of meaning causes apathy.
- “Allowingautonomy”–Onceworkersknowwheretheyaregoing,managersshould let them decide how to get there. Opposite: When management overrides employee decisions or micromanages, workers are less motivated to expend extra effort.
- “Providing resources” – To enable progress, supply the necessary “equipment, funding, data, materials and personnel.” Opposite: Assigning tasks without supplying the resources necessary to accomplish them breeds disillusionment.
- “Giving enough time – but not too much” – Realistic deadlines fuel progress. Opposite: Excessive time restrictions create stress and tension.
- “Helpwiththework”–Autonomyisimportant,butpeopleachievemorewhenthey also collaborate and receive management’s support. Opposite: Isolation is harmful, and a lack of needed help can undermine an employee’s progress.
- “Learning from problems and successes” – When managers treat problems as part of the process, people learn from their mistakes. Celebrating success heightens productivity and motivation. Opposite: Assigning blame creates stumbling blocks.
- “Allowing ideas to flow” – Strong communication, including active listening, constructive debate and respect for varying viewpoints, energizes employees. Open, honest two-way communication shows staffers that the firm respects their ideas and input. Opposite: Blocked or one-way communication frustrates people’s efforts.
There comes a time in your job, career, when you need say “enough is enough”. Rather than agreeing with everyone full well knowing that it’s the wrong thing to do you draw a line in the sand and say “no !”. It takes courage but most of all it takes a person who knows that agreeing with people in meetings all the time is NOT the right thing to do for your customers, shareholders or other employees.
When you work in an environment of integrity and trust you should always respectfully challenge other people’s thinking. When we all agree with each other out of politeness, we are doing ourselves and our brand a disservice. Ideas should be tested, debated and challenged so that every possible perspective is considered. As long as an argument is grounded in objective fact and it’s delivered constructively and simply as possible, being the contrarian can be the most important role in an organization.
This of course does not mean that you disrupt your organization or company what it does mean is that there comes a time when you need to stand your ground if you really believe in what you are trying to accomplish. I have seen some really great marketing initiatives watered down to ineffectiveness because of the vested interest of people in meetings. These are people who feel that they have to exert their power at every turn, usually to compensate for a managerial or business weakness.
The reality is that too many people are afraid to speak up. They are afraid of bad reviews or worse in an economy where jobs are not easy to come by but ask yourself this; Is it really worth it to swallow your pride, ambition and what you know to be right to keep a job ? If you answered yes than this post is not for you but if you answered no then remember only you can change the present for a better future.
(Written by Shawn Murphy) Steve Jobs pointed to what I believe is at the core of a good manager. A good manager works to position his team to do something wonderful. Something wonderful that taps into employees’ sense of purpose. Something wonderful that builds business success by reinforcing the company’s purpose, vision, direction.
It takes a selfless kind of management. It’s so simple it’s easily overlooked, over-analyzed, refuted. Enable and engage employees and their hearts, minds, and talents to do good for them, and in turn do good for the company.
Unfortunately, there are destructive, unexamined management behaviors and beliefs that interrupt doing something wonderful. Here are 12 destructive examples. In italics are reactions to or perceptions of these behaviors, beliefs shared with me by employees.
1. Treating people like replaceable cogs
“She doesn’t have time to get to know her employees.” A manager once told me that he didn’t care if employees left. He could find and train another person easily. To him employees were widely-available, unspecialized cogs in his “factory.” People came and went. He spent a lot of time training, retraining, complaining, stressing. Wonderful and sense of purpose is not possible in this kind of work environment.
2. Self-serving agenda
“My manager’s needs are more important than the company’s or the teams.” Power in business will always exist. It has it’s place, but not when it undermines what’s good for the company, even employees. Self-serving agendas place the manager’s needs above others and the business. It destroys trust. It depletes workplace optimism. It limits success. No wonderful here.
3. Avoiding giving feedback
“Inappropriate behavior is okay. He thinks we don’t need to hear good news.” Feedback has negative associations for many managers and employees. Consequently employees go without feedback to improve performance. Or they go on without hearing praise and recognition. Mediocrity settles in. What’s at stake: loss of unity; confusion in expectations; muddied purpose.
4. Not making time for coaching
“I don’t have time to coach employees.” Translation: I’m too busy with projects and other demands. Developing my employees to contribute at higher levels is not important. My meeting-marathon is more important. I can’t prioritize meetings and coach my people.
5. Avoiding conflict
“It’s okay to undermine quality relationships by letting my fear of conflict matter more than people.” Workplace conflict can be difficult to handle. Letting it go unresolved, though, will chip away at team effectiveness. It lets dysfunctional behaviors poison teams and relationships.
6. Sitting on employees’ ideas
“My ideas don’t matter.” Employees involved in the daily operations of a company have invaluable insights into what’s working and not working with a company’s operations, products, or services. When a manager chooses to NOT share employee ideas with decision makers, they limit success, growth. Furthermore, they risk entrenching command-and-control leadership philosophies. This is the antithesis of “doing something wonderful.”
7. Short-term thinking
“Management is not interested in the consequences of today’s decisions.” Not all decisions need to keep in mind long-term impacts. Yet a decision like laying off employees is too often made with short-term mindsets. Overhead expenses may decrease, but quality, customer service, morale are hammered. The trade-offs can be more damaging.
“We just need to do what is expected.” Want to deflate meaning? Purpose? Want to create an uninspired work environment? Want to reinforce order taking? Managers who don’t share differing viewpoints or challenge making uninformed decisions are settling for mediocrity. Combine this destructive action with sitting on employee ideas and toxicity in the workplace becomes a real possibility.
9. Out of touch with employees
“He has no clue what what’s going on with us.” I recall an executive making a statement that his employees have saved money for these hard times. It was in a conversation about low employee morale and cutbacks. Stunned, his senior managers left wondering how he was informing other executives about the team’s performance and needs. Managers out of touch with employees’ realities risk turning bad into worse or good into bad.
10. Allowing meeting marathons
“Meaningful work? What’s that?” When managers don’t intervene with employees’ back-to-back meetings, they give up the right to question why work time lines slip. Similarly, they give up the right to question why work quality is down. Employees can only work so much overtime before flaming out. Flaming out and doing wonderful work is not sustainable.
“Everything has been done already.” Do you want to be bitter or better? Managers who let their cynicism on life, people, and business poison teams. It’s a selfish behavior that places a lid on performance. Meaningful work is hardly possible working for a manager who can’t manage his own cynicism.
12. Lacking Humility
“He’s climbing the corporate ladder. We’re a rung on the ladder.” Teams are critical for any department or business to succeed. No rocket science in that statement. A manager who sees his team as a means to moving up the ladder removes joy from work. He destroys trust making it impossible to do something wonderful.
We will always have managers who make their role about their goals. It’s a choice that limits growth. It limits possibility. In these complex times where traditional approaches to management and leadership are no longer enough, new ways are emerging. And as it should.
It doesn’t matter if you made management about your goals. You can always chose to help make something wonderful. You can always chose to tap into your employees’ sense of purpose. You can chose to redefine what success looks like that enables and engages employees and their hearts, minds, and talents.
Meetings are a necessary and important way to make collaborative progress. But we all know that too many unnecessary or overpopulated meetings can rob even the most brilliant people of their creative energy. Many businesses follow an instinctive but misguided principle: The more critical the project, the more people must be thrown at it. The operative theory is that more brains equal more ideas. That’s hard to argue with–except that only occasionally do more brains mean better ideas.
The more people involved in the effort, the more complicated briefings become, the more hand-holding is required to get people up to speed, and the more time must be spent reviewing participants’ work and offering useful feedback. A smaller group offers the most efficient way to succeed–assuming that it also has the smarts. To say that putting more people on a project will improve the results is basically saying that you don’t have a ton of confidence in the group you started with.
Over the years, Apple’s marketing group has fine-tuned a process that’s been successfully repeated, revolution by revolution. Project teams are kept small, with talented people being given real responsibility–which is what drives them to work some crazy hours and deliver quality thinking. Because quality is stressed over quantity, meetings are informal and visible progress is made on a weekly (if not daily) basis.
One reason why large, unwieldy groups tend to be created in many companies is that the culture of a company is bigger than any one person. It’s hard to change “the way we do things here.” This is where the zealots of Simplicity need to step in and overcome the inertia. One must be judicious and realistic about applying the small-group principle. Simply making groups smaller will obviously not solve all problems, and “small” is a relative term. Only you know your business and the nature of your projects, so only you can draw the line between too few people and too many. You need to be the enforcer and be prepared to hit the process with the Simple Stick when the group is threatened with unnecessary expansion.
Few of us have the willingness or capacity to be this honest 100 percent of the time. It’s not that we’re devious. It’s just that in certain circumstances, we become discomfort averse. We might want to spare someone’s feelings or avoid being the one to wreck the positive vibes in the room. These things were nonissues for Steve. Whether you were friend or foe, the truth was the truth and his opinion was his opinion. It had nothing to do with whether or not he liked you or valued your contribution, and it certainly had nothing to do with the mood in the room.
Clarity propels an organization. Not occasional clarity but pervasive, twenty-four-hour, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners clarity. Most people never perceive that this is lacking in their organization, but 90 percent of the time it is. Just open a few random emails on your company account, activate your brutal-vision, and read. The muddying messages are rampant. If people were brutally honest in their emails, the time we spend sorting through our in-boxes would surely decrease by half.
Steve Jobs demanded straightforward communication from others as much as he dished it out himself. He had no patience for those who beat around the bush. He’d cut you off if you rambled. He ran his business as if there were precious little time to waste, which well reflected the reality for Apple—as surely it does for any company serious about competing.
Being straight with people does not alone make you a heartless bastard. It does not mandate that you become manipulative or mean. It’s simply a matter of saying what needs to be said to push your team to deliver the best possible results.