Food For Thought

The Jenks Group, Inc

“Your difficulty is not contained, primarily, in the situation
which gave rise to it, but in the mental state with which you
regard that situation and which you bring to bear upon it.”  –  Byways of Blessedness. By James Allen. The James Allen Free Library

food for thought

It is one of the hardest lessons to accept, understand and learn.  Circumstances are not negative or positive, circumstances are neutral.  It is our thinking, our mental state, our perspective, that makes a circumstance positive or negative.

Bob Proctor does some of the best teaching on this subject, using a universal law he refers to as the Law of Polarity.

“Everything in the universe has its opposite.  There would be no inside to a room without an outside.  You have a right and left side to your body, a front and a back.  Every up has a down and every down has an up.  The Law of Polarity not only states…

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Food For Thought

“Your difficulty is not contained, primarily, in the situation
which gave rise to it, but in the mental state with which you
regard that situation and which you bring to bear upon it.”  –  Byways of Blessedness. By James Allen. The James Allen Free Library

food for thought

It is one of the hardest lessons to accept, understand and learn.  Circumstances are not negative or positive, circumstances are neutral.  It is our thinking, our mental state, our perspective, that makes a circumstance positive or negative.

Bob Proctor does some of the best teaching on this subject, using a universal law he refers to as the Law of Polarity.

“Everything in the universe has its opposite.  There would be no inside to a room without an outside.  You have a right and left side to your body, a front and a back.  Every up has a down and every down has an up.  The Law of Polarity not only states that everything has an opposite — it is equal and opposite.  If it
was three feet from the floor up to the table, it would be three feet from the table down to the floor.  If it is 150 miles from Manchester to London, by law it must be 150 miles from London to Manchester; it could not be any other way.

Bad attitude
“If something you considered bad happens in your life, there has to be something good about it.  If it was only a little bad, when you mentally work your way around to the other side, you will find it will only be a little good.”

So every circumstance can be viewed two ways.  It’s the way we view a circumstance that determines its impact on our thinking and mental state.  And we know from James Allen’s teaching that that determines the quality of life that we live.

No matter how bad the circumstance appears to be, taking another look, from another perspective, reveals to us the good.  Or as Napoleon Hill, author of the classic “Think and Grow Rich,”  wrote, “Every adversity, every failure and every heartache carries with it the seed of an equivalent or a greater benefit.”

And that’s worth thinking about…….Your thoughts?

Improve Your Presentations in 60 Seconds or Less

Presentation-Public-Speaking-Performance

Most of us aren’t naturally gifted public speakers. In fact, many avoid speaking in front of groups whenever they can. However, this fear of presenting can have adverse effects over the course of your career.

David Blum*, a communication skills trainer at Well-Spoken Joe, explains that people who are uncomfortable with public speaking are at a disadvantage in the workplace.

“It does very little good to be a ‘technical expert’ or marketing master’ if you cannot effectively communicate your ideas to an audience,” says Blum.  Skilled presenters are usually the ones who get the job offer, who get the plum project, and who get the promotion. In fact, one study found that people who present at work earn $9,000 per year more than their counterparts who don’t present.

Blum suggests making five small changes that will greatly improve your public speaking skills

Show your passion

Like any good story, a presentation is only as interesting as the person who is presenting it. Even if you’re just giving your weekly status report, find something to speak about that’s meaningful to you. Your audience will only be as engaged in a topic as you are. If you’re bored they’ll be bored too, says Blum. Let them see your energy and passion! Having trouble getting your energy levels up? Check out Tony Robbins’ pre-speaking ritual which includes incantations, affirmations, and a ton of energized movement.

Fake it till you make it

Whether you’re negotiating your salary or presenting to an audience, experts agree that confidence is essential to communicating persuasively.

“Speak confidently, loudly, and clearly. Let your audience see and hear that you believe what you’re saying,” says Blum. Public speaking, like any other valuable skill, requires practice. The more you present, the more confident you’ll become.

Take a deep breath… and slow down

The average person speaks 125 words per minute. If you find yourself racing through your presentation at a much faster pace, pause, take a breath, and slow down. When you speak too quickly, the audience will assume you’re nervous and won’t receive your message. Speaking more slowly will also help you establish credibility with the audience. According to Blum, a young professional who slows down a fast-paced speaking style can instantly sound more authoritative. Need more help slowing down your motor mouth? Check out these presentation tips by Diane DiResta, author of Knockout Presentations.

Use your hands effectively

“Most people use their hands when they speak, but very few use them in a way that supports their words,” says Blum. He suggests looking for opportunities to gesture while you’re thinking through and rehearsing your presentation. For instance, are you describing something big or small, expanding or contracting, over here or over there? Use your gestures to help drive home your points. Check out these hand gesture tips by Matt Abrahams, author of Speaking Up without Freaking Out.

Have mini conversations

Do you have a fear of speaking with people one-on-one? For most people, the fear of public speaking only creeps up when your audience involves a group of people. To combat this anxiety, Blum suggests having “mini-conversations” during your presentation. Instead of speaking to “the room,” direct your presentation to specific individuals in the room.

“Having these few-second mini-conversations will calm your nerves, improve your eye contact, and engage your audience,” says Blum. Still having trouble making eye contact? Try staring at the foreheads of individuals in your audience. It will still look like you’re making eye contact without causing you to feel more nervous.

Have a tip that’s worked for you? Share it in the comments section below!

Clarifying Your Core Values

Values

 

A key element of “knowing thyself” is sorting out what’s really important to you. Without a clear sense of your personal principles and priorities, it’s almost impossible to bring the picture of your preferred future sharply into focus. Investing the time and effort to uncover and articulate your personal principles has many important benefits.

You’ll have a strong foundation to build your leadership upon. James Kouzes and Barry Posner’s study of credible and effective leaders led them to conclude, “Values are directly relevant to credibility. To do what we say we will do (our respondents’ behavioral definition of credibility), we must know what we want to do and how we wish to behave. That’s what our values help us to define.”

Clear personal principles give you a much stronger sense of your personal “bottom-line.” Knowing where you stand clarifies what you won’t sit still for.

It’s easier to make choices between conflicting opportunities that arise, where to invest your time, what behavior is most appropriate, and where you need to concentrate your personal improvement efforts.

You’ll be much closer to finding your personal energy source and developing that critical leadership passion.

Your self-identity, self-confidence, and sense of security will be strengthened.

Your principles will provide the stable and solid core you need to transform the rapid changes coming at all of us from terrifying threats into exciting opportunities.

You can more clearly see to what extent your personal values are aligned with your team and organization’s values.

To clarify your core values, develop a comprehensive list of all your possible values. Now rank each one as “A” (high importance), “B” (medium importance), “C” (low importance). Review your A and B values. Are there any that you feel are essentially the same value or one is an obvious subset of the other? If so, bring them together and rename it if necessary. Rank order the remaining list from highest through to lowest priority. You should now have your top five core values.

FOCUSING ON YOUR CORE VALUES:

Ask yourself whether these are your true, internal “bone deep” beliefs or an external “should” value. We often don’t recognize a lifetime of conditioning that has left us with other people’s belief systems. Replace any “should” values with your own.

Examine each core value to ensure that it is your end value and not a means to some other end. For example, wealth is seldom a value in itself. It’s usually the means to status, power, security, recognition, freedom, accomplishment, pleasure, helping others, or some other end value.

Write out a “statement of philosophy” that outlines and explains each of your core values. This is for you own private use, so be as honest and candid as you can.

These exercises are rarely done quickly. It could take you dozens or even hundreds of hours to sort through the “shouldas”, “oughtas” and “couldas” and get to your basic, core principles. The more meditation, contemplation, and writing time you put into this, the truer and more energizing your core values will become.

“VALUING” YOUR LIFE AND OTHERS

Your values largely affect how you behave and how others perceive
you. Identifying them is important to understanding what makes you effective, satisfied and personally successful. Once you are aware of the dominant attitudes contributing passion and purpose to your life, you will be able to clarify what drives your actions, as well as what causes conflict. For example, if you are currently questioning whether you are in the right career, knowing your attitudes will help you decide. In addition, applying an understanding of attitudes to your relationships with others will deepen your appreciation of them and clarify the “why” of your interactions.

Another way to learn more about your “values” which are your intrinsic motivators, you can take an assessment. To learn how visit http://www.thejenksgroup.com or call 858 525-3163.

 

CEOs Are Hired to be Fired, an excerpt from CEO Point Blank

CEO Point Blank

CEOs, like football coaches, don’t retire.  They always get fired.  Let me qualify that: For those of us unafraid to lead change in aging institutions, who must grapple with people in key positions who have tenure all their own, and are willing to take on the challenge of financial deficits and uncooperative teams, know this: in the end, we go out as we came in.  We get fired.  Everyone loves us on the way in because we’re going to fix things up and make their future more secure.  But once you do that, and in the process begin to demand productivity and accountability, you’re just a pain in the ass to people and they are not afraid to speak up about it.

So, no matter how anxious you are to jump in and get started at your new job, wait until you’re operating under a contract that protects your interests now and in the future.

There are many things to consider and I strongly suggest you get yourself a great human resources attorney to help you.  You want someone who works on the other side of the corporate line–the kind of attorney who, in other circumstances, might be asking you some tough questions.  I far prefer and recommend you hire an ass-kicking female attorney as in almost all the human resources litigation battles I’ve been in, opposing counsel invariably is female.  They seem to talk the talk better and also, in the majority of cases, they are talking to corporate human resources which, in my experience, is predominately where you find female executives.

Every CEO should have personal counsel that stays with you throughout your career.  He or she should understand your motives, your idiosyncrasies, your style and should help you in crafting an employment agreement that works.  Once you engage, your attorney should be kept up to date with any compensation and/or performance reviews (or the lack of same), and any other correspondence that you feel may at some point come back to harm or question you.  When you get in a jam, and you will, you don’t want to be playing dialing-for-help or worse, trying to convince a new attorney that you’re a good guy or gal.

If you’re going into a hostile environment, or if you’re going into an environment hostilely, you want a contract that basically says, hey, we all understand this is already hostile so you can’t come back later on and whack me when someone gets upset.  There are always people in organizations who are upset about change.  Where your predecessor might have let them slide a bit on meeting objectives, or let them take Friday afternoons off, you don’t; therefore, you eventually will become a thorn in someone’s side.  This can come back on you later and you want to be protected against these kinds of issues or potential allegations that come with the territory.  Your help and decisiveness that everyone loved the day you walked in are often soon forgotten.

You also need to think carefully about a parachute of some kind that keeps you going if someone pulls the plug on you.  Most contracts for the top executive will carry some sort of buyout clause.  People get sick of you, the board gets sick of you, whatever, you need to establish how much cash you have to have in order to complete the timetable of transition.  There are several tricks here.  Most attorneys will want a two-step out; the first for “good reason” or “no cause,” and the second “for cause.”  If you think you ever get a shot at the former, good luck and God bless you.  Boards always want to terminate you “for cause” and if they can get something that sticks, you lose your ability to negotiate a safe exit and you’ll wind up fighting them in court or in arbitration.   Your contract should maintain the same financial deal whether you go happy or you go being dragged down the hall on your ass.  Setting the stage up front while everyone is thrilled to be bringing you on board is a lot easier than it is when the chips are down and you are, too.  Remember, on the day they hired you they made the best decision of their lives, and that enthusiasm should work to get you the best deal for your exit on the day you start.

Another key point is to establish a travel and expense policy that meets your needs.  Write it yourself, take it to the board, have them ratify it and publish it with human resources, the controller, your executive admin, and your audit team.

Your company travel and expense policy needs to be written in accordance with your needs, which is the reason you must write it yourself.  No one in the organization understands what you do every day and also what you can’t do in order to do your job.  For instance, it is not the best use of your time to be sitting in coach, trying to find wi-fi and unable to open your laptop all the way because the guy in front of you put his seat back and is snoring happily away while you’re trying to get down the terms of a deal you just agreed to.  I always expected, both of myself and the executives who worked for me, to use flying time as work time.  There is a reason why they created first-class seats.

Make sure that the board expects the best from you and also for you.  This means you don’t always have to say who you had dinner with or who you met with in Los Angeles.  There are so many examples of how this seemingly small issue can really hurt an organization that it’s critical to your success, and the board needs to understand why.

To emphasize my advice: At one point I was actively interviewing candidates to replace two board members that had far outworn their contribution to the organization.  I had polled my executive team to discern their thoughts and we were all in complete agreement.  I set off on a journey to find suitable candidates. This required both travel and dinners, which at that level were not at McDonald’s.  Through some condition of fate, the board became aware of my actions and before I could act, they did.  In my exit interview, one of their claims “for cause” was that I failed to accurately record who I met with and where I met them.  In the interview, I refused to name the folks I talked to or where I was.  They called this insubordination and added it to the list of “for cause termination.”

In one job I had, in a company with a commodity-driven product, where I went and who I met with had the potential to move the market, and not always in a positive way.  Keeping my travel quiet and not always telling everyone where I was going was critical to my success.

Be sure your travel and expense policy allows you to move with stealth, and act to your station which may mean expensive nights out with potential execs, or flying first-class with the folks you’re making a deal with, or buying someone an expensive gift or a bottle of wine.  In short, if your board trusts you, you need to spend what you need to spend to get the job done.  Having such a policy in place helps the board remember the agreement when it comes time to part ways.

When that time comes, try not to wallow around too much in it and never allow the mud to stick to your feet.

– Ed Jenks is Senior Consultant and Chief Strategist of The Jenks Group, Inc. is a well-known and nationally recognized business professional with more than twenty-five years as a C-Suite Executive. You can follow him on http://ceopointblank.com/

What a Bit of Executive History Shows Us, an excerpt from CEO Point Blank

CEO Point Blank

The 2000s, in my opinion, have been the most trying and difficult times C-suite executives have ever faced in American history—even tougher than the Great Depression.  Not only do we have a tougher business climate, we are faced with bigger competitors—global competitors that do not operate under the same set of rules as we do in the United States.  The idea that globally things are “fair and even” and “may the best-managed company win” are concepts and beliefs shared by no one I know.

The global economy and unfair competitive practices aside, we continue to legislate and regulate ourselves internally to the point where we spend the majority of time wallowing around trying to create some kind of competitive advantage out of thin air.  I spend a lot of time thinking about exactly what happened to us as a country post World War II when we were filled with hope and confidence that when all else failed, we could outwork you.  I see great companies struggle with trying to find production efficiencies while their foreign competitors are allowed to flow products into the American market unchecked and unregulated.

I must admit to being part of the problem.  Here’s why.

Post World War II, our economy was made up primarily of family businesses that covered the range of our needs from food to clothing, transportation, and manufacturing craftsmanship.  Family businesses were passed down from generation to generation with the “secret sauce” that made the products or services unique to the region or geography they served.  You knew where your food came from, where your clothes were made, and you even knew the name of the family that made your car.

Our returning hero’s average age was twenty-six and many were returning to the family business, or turning to trades they had learned while in the military.  They were received into the workplace with open arms and the country was ready to step on the gas, fueling the largest generation of consumers the United States was ever to see.

The returning veterans were schooled in the family businesses and the discipline it took to operate them. They were charged with learning the tasks and craftsmanship of their trade because their mission was to protect the family homestead and their families relied on them.  Those that had new talents put them to use, still with the idea of making America stronger and their lives better.

The results speak for themselves.  Some of the strongest financial years in America were from 1945 through 1965.

And then things got tweaked.  Our foreign policy became unpopular.  The average age of an infantryman in Vietnam was twenty-two. Our youth (I was one of them) rebelled against everything that even resembled someone telling us what to do.  Belonging to anything was frowned upon.  I remember being at college one fall and seeing a group of guys spray painting a sign over a fraternity house door that said, “It’s wrong to belong.”  We had begun to question everything, believe in nothing but freedom—whatever that was—and reject the foundational pillars that had given us the best economic conditions in the history of the world with the highest standard of living yet to be experienced.

It took a few years for the rebellious students of the 1960s and 1970s to get around to work, as most of us went to college, and many on the six-year plan.  As we began to assume positions of authority, we slowly began to bring our rebellious nature to the workplace:  We threw out tradition. We didn’t need to wear a stinking tie–we worked better in flip-flops.  We worked in cubicles because offices created “silos.”  I remember listening with rapt attention to one of the long-haired business gurus of the time with a primetime audience tell us to break down the silos, that big oil was making too much money, and the banks were ripping us off.  He had all the answers.  Get your people a meditation room–that’s what attracts the real talent.

We all drank that Kool-Aid and we changed the face of American business just as we had changed the face of American culture fifteen years prior.  The results speak for themselves.

Please understand that I am not accusing, because I was part of that movement and I was a leader at the C-suite level.  As I look back at my career, I always felt like something was missing.  No matter my success, I always felt a bit hollow.  I think back on my college days and wonder why I didn’t buck the trend and rush that fraternity.

We had all lost our business discipline.  I could make money; that was the easy part.  But I couldn’t control my attitude and approach to anything that resembled authority and control, and believe me, I wasn’t alone.  Everyone was stupid, no one could keep up with me, and I wanted to run ahead of them and demand they keep up with me.  Rules were for other people, not for me.  I was so good at the money-making part that most of the time, people would leave me alone because they knew inherently that they were better off for me running off like a mad man and putting money in their pockets.

I am sixty years old, and though I’ve lived life well I am still discovering and facing the truth about myself and looking to be better for it.  I want to be the person who finds a way to get through to other C-suite executives and prove to them that silos work, we can be competitive globally, it is okay to be a leader, and that the single greatest gift you can bring to an organization is discipline: order overlaid with a huge dose of forgiveness.  If we are to bring our economy back to any level of dominance, we must be disciplined in our approach and willing to subjugate ourselves to our mission.

– Ed Jenks is Senior Consultant and Chief Strategist of The Jenks Group, Inc. is a well-known and nationally recognized business professional with more than twenty-five years as a C-Suite Executive.

 

MYTHS FOR AVOIDING DELEGATION – Am I talking to you?

 

delegation

Nearly all first-class managers are good delegators. If you’re not, scan this list of reasons people don’t delegate. Compare the reasons with your own behavior. Once you know why you have trouble delegating, you can work to overcome this common managerial disorder-and leap ahead.

LONE RANGER SYNDROME. (Or, “I’m the only one who can do it right.”) Some bosses seem to relish the role of managerial martyr or supervisory Sisyphus (rolling that heavy burden of decisions up the hill every day, only to have it roll back down again). Yet, at the risk of sounding negative, there are hundreds of downsized managers who deluded themselves into believing that they were the only ones who could do their former jobs correctly. Nobody but nobody is indispensable.

I’M RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT HAPPENS. You’re right, you are. Sure, it’s scary. Richard Nixon once said, “I have an absolute rule. I refuse to make a decision that somebody else can make. The first rule of leadership is to save yourself for the big decision. Don’t allow your mind to become cluttered with the trivia.” When the Watergate slammed shut on his fingers, however, he became a victim of this immutable management truth.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but agile managers have come to terms with this reality. Through delegation, they’ve prepared employees for handling certain tasks and decisions, making themselves less worried about their performance.

I DON’T HAVE TIME TO TEACH SOMEONE ELSE. Oh, really? If you don’t, who will? The higher that pile in your in-basket climbs and the longer your list of e-mail, the worse your job becomes and the more panicked and overwhelmed you feel. There’s virtually never an ideal time to teach an employee how to do a newly delegated task. The best time to begin grooming employees for delegated work is right now.

MY PEOPLE ARE OVERLOADED ALREADY. Well, who isn’t? If you can find anybody in your organization who doesn’t complain about being too busy, they’re probably prime candidates for downsizing. Although you should be sensitive to your employees’ work loads, morale, and protests, you should also realize that most workers feel “too busy” today. Besides, it’s not hard to delegate compassionately, sympathetically, and tactfully.

I HATE TO LOSE THE CREDIT. If you’re in a team-oriented organization, it’s likely that you’re sharing credit for your group’s success already. Teamwork isn’t compatible with credit thieves and Lone Ranger managers. Even if your organization hasn’t adopted teamwork, however, appreciate the wisdom and long-term benefits of sharing credit with your people. The better they look, the better you look. After all, you’re responsible, right?

So You Want to be a CEO?

CEO Point Blank

Being a chief executive is like no other life experience; it’s a thrill no drug or activity can replace and you either love it or don’t want anything to do with it.  We are not mysterious creatures. Most of us have souls, and contrary to the general opinion of most people, the majority of us really do want the best for our organizations, the folks that work there, and the shareholders that believe in us.  We have feelings beyond greed.  Most of us are not overpaid for the responsibility we carry, and we do lose sleep over terminations and downsizing.  There is not a day that goes by that I do not spend time rethinking careers that have been lost over my decisions and the cost of decisions that I’ve made in terms of both human and financial capital.

This blog series is written for a specific community: those who…

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Preparing for Your New Position – Phase Three: Settling In and Taking Charge

taking charge2

You may see yourself as a warm, easy-going boss with a high level of concern for your people. Or you might picture your managerial style as hard-nosed and highly oriented to the tasks you’ve assigned to people. And you may be correct.

What counts most as you enter your new job is NOT how you see yourself, but rather how your people perceive you. Their reactions and job performance will be based on what THEY believe you want from them.

Let’s recognize up front that performance in any group is bound to show some slippage in a crisis situation, such as welcoming and getting used to a new boss. Even if your department was producing excellent results prior to your arrival, you can expect a temporary drop-off while everyone gets accustomed to your methods and standards.

There’s an effective three-step process for managing people during a period of transition. Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Direction

Begin by letting your people know exactly what you expect of them. Tell them what’s to be done and (if necessary) how, when and where to do it. Supervise them closely to make certain their performance meets your expectations. Take corrective measures quickly if you see any evidence of performance drop-off or obstacles to specified accomplishments and deadlines.

Some managers think that being “directive” with their people requires a stern, unsmiling style that keeps them coldly distant from their subordinates. Nothing could be farther from the truth; you can be directive and warmly supportive at the same time. In fact, under normal circumstances you should be both. Your staff needs to feel that you have high standards….but also that you believe in their ability to produce the results you want. Expressing confidence in your people is usually a self-fulfilling prophesy.

However, you need to remember that smiles and pats on the back are rewards, and rewards should follow performance. If you appear a “softie” who gives rewards without first requiring satisfactory results from your people, you’ve lost one of your most powerful managerial techniques. In effect, you’ve rewarded non-performance instead of waiting until you see the results you’re looking for. When incentives are given away in advance with no need to be earned, they lose their power to stimulate performance.

You didn’t get this far without acquiring some ability to deal with people. With some forethought you can maintain a balance between friendly support and premature rewards. Once your people see that top-performers are treated differently from others, they’ll know exactly how they must perform if they want the same rewards from you.

Step 2: Relaxation

As each of your employees begins to show a willingness and ability to take responsibility for his/her actions, you can reward performance and stimulate further progress by relaxing your directive behavior. People who readily agree that you should involve yourself closely during the early stages will also become resentful if their satisfactory performance does not earn them some operating freedom.

This concept – called “positively reinforcing successive approximations” – is an effective strategy for helping your people develop professional skills and motivation. First you “lay on” the structure (direction); then, as soon as you notice the slightest step in the desired direction, you rewards the satisfactory performance by easing your close supervision. You praise them for their results. Continues progress brings more rewards, which generate more progress, and so forth.

Since your objective is to “accomplish organizational goals through the efforts of your people,” this relaxation phase is vital in developing your subordinates to the point where they can think and act for themselves.

Step 3: Delegation

Once your employees have demonstrated that they are able and willing to function on their own, your development strategy is nearly complete. Now it’s time to sit back and watch from a distance as your self-motivated and self-directed people run their own show.

To be sure, you still need to be informed and in control. The ultimate responsibility for their activities still belongs to you. Delegation is an excellent managing strategy as long as your people are functioning effectively, but you have to be ready to step in at the first sign of trouble. To an authoritative manager, delegation seems to be a risky way of doing things; but consider what happens when your people are operating on their own and producing satisfactory results:

  • You have less time required for close supervision and more time for thinking, planning and brainstorming new ideas for improving your operations or reaching for higher goals.
  • You have fewer “people” problems because your staff is motivated toward achievement rather than self-protection, unproductive competition, or other distracting behavior.
  • You’ve taken a giant step toward identifying a potential successor or two for the day when top management has another career jump in mind for you.

The three-step process can work for you, but it requires a careful distinction between group accomplishments and individual achievements. Not every member of your staff will develop at the same pace, or to the same degree. The “direction-relaxation-delegation” strategy only works with individuals and groups that are moving forward together. Be careful not to let your positive reinforcement spill over the non-performers as well as those who are delivering satisfactory results.

The COMPOSE Problem-Solving Model

Of course, the world won’t always rotate precisely as you want it to. Your attempts to “relax” your directive control of people’s activities, or to “delegate” tasks when your people appear ready to handle them, may not produce the results you expect. Performance problems can occur in the best-managed functions and, when they happen to you, you’re going to need a simple and quick method of deciding what’s wrong and providing a solution.

Further, you won’t always have the luxury of taking your time to analyze problems on the job and figure ways to get your people back on track. The COMPOSE Model is designed to help you identify quickly whatever performance problems have occurred, and then to develop “change” strategies aimed at solving them.

Acronyms are easy to remember. That’s why I’ve arranged the seven common sources of performance problems into the world “COMPOSE” (which happens to be synonymous with “putting things into proper order”):

Competence                – inability to perform as expected

Overload                     – too much workload

Motivation                   – lack of proper incentives

Perception                  – not understanding what’s required

Organization               – insufficient resources

Supervision                 – lack of direction from you

Environment               – problems with outside factors

If one of your people is having difficulties performing up to your expectations, the problem is probably associated with one of these seven factors.

Competence

Sometimes the problem is caused by lack of ability to complete the task as assigned. It’s important to remember that employees are not universally competent: some have more skill and talent in certain areas than others. Usually, job competence is a function of education, experience on the job, or aptitudes which specifically qualify certain people for certain jobs.

If you employee has a competence problem, ask yourself first whether he/she is assigned to the proper tasks – that is, could his/her talents be better utilized elsewhere in your group. If the ability is present, you might spend more time giving the employee direction: specific instructions (from which he/she can learn how to deliver the results you want), and close supervision to assure success while the employee is learning. You might identify training or development courses that would contribute to employee’s competence in the future. At times it’s constructive to assign the employee to work closely with someone who already possesses the skills, and watch those abilities “rub off” on the person who’s having problems in that area.

 Overload

Managers often assume that “if I can handle the workload, so can anyone else.” That’s not always the case, and y our first clue comes when the employee’s work begins to suffer because of overload. People become disorganized, and lack timely answers to basic questions. Deadlines are missed even though the employee has the necessary abilities to perform the tasks.

Often a case of overload will show itself in a short temper, or even physical illness caused by the continuous tension of trying to handle too much work.

If your employee suffers from an overload problem, you’ll want to re-examine the delineation of duties throughout your group and re-assign tasks more evenly. If this cannot be done, check your staffing in general to determine whether more people are need to achieve the goals of your department.

Motivation

It’s difficult to succeed with tasks if there is no motivation or incentive to perform that task. It’s important to realize that not everyone is equally motivated to perform: some folks can see their personal goals being realized by accomplishing the task, where others cannot. Some employees have a problem with willingness – the desire to do something well. Others have problems with won’tness – “I don’t like the work and I won’t put forth my best efforts.”

If incentive problems exist within your organization, check your use of rewards. Your people should clearly understand that successful performance on this task will gain them the rewards they seek – more enjoyable assignments, more pay, opportunity for recognition among their peers, or promotion later on. Positive incentives often take the form of public praise for work well done, and all your people are sensitive to how you feel about sharing the credit and giving everyone a “boost” within the group and in the eyes of your boss.

Perception

Some people don’t really understand what’s required of them in a given situation. They may possess the competence to succeed, and the motivation to try their best, but find it difficult to interpret your directions or comprehend the results they’re striving for. To be fully effective, the employee needs to know (a) what the job consists of; (b) the objectives accomplished by the task; and (c) how you want the task accomplished. There’s also a need to clarify which tasks have priority over others – what should be done first, for example.

Usually a return to the “Action Plan” will remove questions of perception regarding an assignment. Make sure your instructions are given in specific ways, to avoid misinterpretations by others. Review instructions if necessary, so that every member of your team understands what to do and why it’s important.

Organization

Every employee needs some degree of organizational support to accomplish assigned tasks. If you expect your employees to return their tools to the supply room before leaving, you’d better make sure that the supply room is open at the proper times. If your employee needs to produce a typed report by Wednesday, be sure there’s a typist available between now and then.

If there’s a problem in getting the required support from the organization, you may find yourself talking with your boss or others to find the solution. In such cases, other priorities may prevent you from getting the help you need. When this happens, you’ll have to revise your expectations regarding the employee’s assignment to avoid holding someone responsible for circumstances beyond his/her control.

 Supervision

As mentioned earlier, different people require different levels of supervision. To some, your continuing attention is a reward, because they want to spend time with you in the course of their work. To others, your close supervision can appear threatening to their perception of their autonomy. Some employees react to supervision by saying “What’s the matter? Don’t you trust me to do a good job?” while others will wonder if you trust them out of your sight.

The balance between too little supervision and too much is a matter of judgment. You need to give people sufficient operating latitude if you want to stimulate their incentive, yet too much “rope” can cause you to lose control. The best strategy is to maintain open communication with each of your employees, paying attention to feedback and adjusting your supervising style according to their wishes and your evaluation of their ability to perform on their own.

Environment

If a problem exists, and none of the preceding factors seems to be the cause, take a look at the external factors that may be influencing your employee’s performance. In some “hourly” situations, peer pressures can limit output. Gas shortages or baby-sitting problems can hamper your employee’s ability to get to work on time. Personal beliefs or political sentiments can occupy a person’s mind and interfere with productivity.

If there’s an environment problem, it’s useless to reprimand people for circumstances beyond their control. However, if outside factors are interfering with performance – and the control is clearly with the employee – a counseling session is called for. In any case, close communication with your people will create an atmosphere in which external problems can be identified and discussed so that each employee can perform without distractions.

Try the COMPOSE Model with your next managerial problem. It gives you a system for approaching problem identification and analysis during the first few months, even if you don’t have complete familiarity with the function or the people. Its orderly approach not only provides a basis for action – it also encourages your people to cooperate, since they can recognize the logical strategy you’re using.

Debriefing Your Boss debrief boss

No systematic approach to entering your new job would be complete without an official closing exercise. Earlier we discussed the need for a “no surprises” strategy of keeping your boss informed of your activities and progress. Presumably you’ve been maintaining this contact, and using the feedback to alter your direction and techniques.

Your contract for disclosure with your boss needs a wrap-up to signal your readiness to be your first opportunity to acquaint your boss with some of your operating methods, close observation has ended. One way to accomplish this is formal “debriefing” meeting at which all pertinent subjects are resolved. The objectives of this meeting are:

  • To bring your boss up to date regarding all phases of your transition into the new job;
  • To cross-check your conclusions about goals, and the resources available to achieve them;
  • To describe the improvements you’ve made since joining the organization;
  • To gain your boss’ confidence that you’re in control.

Your debriefing meeting should be scheduled within 90 days of your arrival on the job. It may be your first opportunity to acquaint your boss with some of your operating methods, Action Plans, personnel allocations, etcetera. It can lead to changes of strategy if certain approaches are not working as expected. It can be the basis for a review of staffing requirements for the future. In short, the debriefing meeting can be used to accomplish whatever purposes you’ve identified during your first few months on the job.

Most important, the meeting also establishes the potential of a long-term working relationship in which each of you can obtain the results you want.

The timing and length of the meeting are not half as important as being thoroughly prepared for it. Remember, you’re asking for your boss’ time, and a measure of your effectiveness is your ability to manage the time he/she will give you. Use charts, graphs, and other aids to clear communication. Leave materials behind to help your boss remember what was discussed.

Before departing from this meeting, get your boss’ reactions to everything presented. Set the stage for future meetings. Later, analyze what happened and plan for regular reviews and “no surprises” discussions. Identify suggested areas of improvement and make sure you’ve attended to them before the next meeting – at least to the point where you can show some progress.

Following is a “Debriefing” checklist to help you structure the meeting. Add whatever special items are necessary to customize the format to your situation.

  1. Give your boss some honest reactions to being involved in the organization, and express your appreciation of support received thus far (if applicable).
  2. Highlight major areas of concern.
  3. Review the contents of your “First Meeting” worksheets and report on progress to date.
  4. Review the subjects discussed at your “Ice-Breaker” meeting with employees.
  5. Present your Action Plans and explain your strategies for achieving results within the specified deadlines.
  6. Add any additional Items for your discussion.

Best of luck in your new position/job and enjoy the benefits of a great start!

-Sharon Jenks, CEO/President – The Jenks Group, Inc. http://www.thejenksgroup.com

 

Preparing for Your New Positions – Phase Two: First Days On The Job

first day on job

If you’re like most people, you’re anxious to “make a splash” in your new job at the earliest opportunity. Management – possibly content to wait several months for your first major contributions – will be delighted to witness your early success. Executives and managers throughout your company will mark you down as a “comer” on a fast track to further advancement (and nobody will be surprised when it happens). Your subordinates will see you as a polished leader, certain of where you’re taking them and sure of how to get there.

In fact, however, there’s a thin line between “making a splash” and “making waves”, especially where newcomers are concerned. As you join your new organization, be conscious of the line and don’t make the mistake of crossing it too soon, or without the support you need.

Up to this point you’ve been concentrating on gaining the approval and support of your boss. Equally important is the support you need from the people who report to you – your employees. It’s worth a moment or two to review the ways in which the enthusiastic cooperation of employees is earned by a new boss.

Leadership and Management

From among many definitions, we can distill the essence of leadership as “an attempt to influence the thinking or actions of people.”

Your employees have been hired because the function is too big for one person to handle. As the manager (leader) of this function, your job is to “influence” your people toward accomplishment of organizational goals. In this sense, your success depends ultimately on your people, and you must find ways to reach your objectives through their efforts.

The secret of successfully influencing people involves understanding what motivates them to perform up to the standards you expect of them. As you enter the scene, your employees’ personal “motivators” are both positive and negative:

  • Positive, in the sense that you represent a new beginning and your arrival could help them get closer to their individual career goals.
  • Negative, in that you are an unknown commodity, and working with you might not be a pleasant or successful experience for them.

Although you have many anxieties of your own about making a soft landing in your new job, be aware that your employees have questions, too:

  • What are your values? What do you stand for?
  • What do you want from them? Will you change their assignments or working conditions?
  • Will there be new rules?
  • What’s your personality like? Will you be easy or difficult to work with?
  • Will you listen? Can you be influenced?
  • Is this a “new start” or are you aware of their past successes and failures?
  • Are their positions secure? Will anything be taken away from them as a result of your arrival?
  • How visible will you be? How much contact will you want with them?
  • Will their creativity and contributions be recognized?

Each of these questions is a potential “negative” motivator because your employees’ anxiety will persist – and interfere with their productivity – until they receive satisfactory answers. Your actions and statements in the early weeks will provide those answers…..and once initial impressions are formed, you’ll have to work very hard to change them.

From the first moments on the job, you can show that you’re aware of these anxieties and begin to remove the negative motivators. Your systematic approach to entering your new job includes a thorough preparation for getting started with the people whose efforts will determine your success.

The “Easy Entry” Method

Many people fear a change in their working environment. To varying degrees, your subordinates are concerned about how your arrival will affect their lives. Under your predecessor – whether they were happy or not – at least they knew what to expect. They’ve become accustomed to being managed and evaluated in a certain way. In the beginning they’ll be watching you closely to see how your ways will differ from the old ways.

The “Easy Entry” method is a proven technique for respecting the concerns of your people while minimizing the disruptions to productivity that are caused by your arrival as leader of the group. IF you can incorporate each of the following six policies into your style, you’ll find that:

  • The group “performance drop” can be avoided entirely even though you may be making major changes in work assignments and procedures;
  • The structure of a planned entry will reduce some or your anxieties, too;
  • The “crisis” of your arrival will become an “opportunity” for personal growth and higher performance levels among all your people.

Each policy is described briefly. Based on the impressions you’ve formed from your Pre-Start review of projects, plans and personalities, you can list specific issues you’ll want to address.

 Policy #1: Learn the rules before you change them

Every organization has its traditional norms and customs, and your people are used to certain ways of doing things. Smart leaders know they have to “earn” the right to change procedures. Spend a few days getting to know how your people have acted and interacted in the past. Pay attention to traditional lines and patterns of communication. Show people you understand the system before you impose new ways of getting things done. With each change you introduce, be sure that all your employees understand why you’re improving the procedure and what benefits the change will bring.

 Policy #2: Evolution, not revolution

Even the most needed medicine is hard to swallow if the dose is too large. You may have inherited a smoothly running machine or a “clunker” badly in need of repairs. Either way, a massive dose of cure-all could kill the patient.

Plan your change strategy over an initial period (at least one month) instead of dumping all the issues on your people at once. Try to consult with key players and get them to “buy into” both the need for change and your methods of making it happen. Part-authors make very enthusiastic helpers.

Policy #3: Hold an early group meeting

Your first encounter with your employees will probably be brief and functional. As quickly as possible thereafter, schedule a meeting for everyone in your group, to calm the anxieties and set the stage for your action plans. (A structured approach is provided in the First Meeting Ice Breaker below.)

Policy #4: Get your people out of the weeds

The natural tendency for some people is to lie in the weeds, holding back their thoughts and ideas until they see which way your wind is blowing. Presuming that each of your employees is necessary for your group to be productive, you cannot afford to let them hide until it’s safe to emerge.

Potential contributors may need some prodding at first. Solicit opinions and probe for the reasons behind them. Let your employees know you’re interested in them, both as people and as professionals. Avoid judgmental reactions to their statements during your early days in charge.

Policy #5: Don’t knock you predecessor

On the surface, it’s easy to establish your leadership credentials by pointing out (even with faint praise) the failings of you predecessor’s programs and methods. It’s a quick way to show management that changes ought to be made and you’re the right person to make them. Besides, if the last person to hold the job is gone from the company or location, there’s no easy way from him/her to fight back.

Criticizing your predecessor is perilous, because at this stage you don’t know what loyalties exist in the organization. You don’t know who else worked hard to propose and execute the existing programs. A better strategy is to step with care in this area, and state your personal goals in terms of improvements rather than rescue missions.

Policy #6: Keep everybody informed

One of the best ways to foster a “team” spirit among your people is to begin with an open-communication policy. Although unwieldy in very large groups, the practice of keeping everyone informed demands little extra effort. Yet your people will know they are valuable members of the group, and their appreciation will translate into productive results in their jobs.

Of course, you’ll have more frequent contact with immediate subordinates than with others in the group. Still, you can insist on a “stair-step” communication system to assure that everyone gets the word.

Make your own personal notes on the six policies of the “Easy Entry” method, or add policies of your own.

The “Easy Entry” method can be implemented from your first day on the job. The mechanism is a series of transition meetings with your staff members. The sessions begin with an emphasis on getting to know each other (Ice-Breaker), and evolve into strategy meetings concerned with “where we want to go and how to get there” (Action Planning). Depending on your objectives and circumstances, you may need to schedule several meetings stretching over a period of many months.

Use the recommended agenda as guides, adding whatever special items you think should be covered. Divide the business items into several smaller meetings if you choose to concentrate in specific areas with your staff. If possible, send agenda outlines in advance so that all participants will know what’s expected of them and will have sufficient time to prepare.

Ice-Breaker Meeting with Your Employees

Use the following as an outline for you introductory meeting with employees. Check the items that apply to your situation, and make notes on how you intend to handle each subject.

Introduction

  •  Start the meeting by announcing its purpose: to begin a systematic transition involving two basic phases (organization analysis; action planning) and extending over a “set” time period.
  • Introduce yourself and give some pertinent information about your background.
  • Tell them something about your values, operating style, desire for future group accomplishments, etc.
  • To stimulate involvement and begin coaxing your people out of the weeds, ask each participant to describe his/her background, current major responsibilities, etc.

Business Portion

  • Describe the group’s workload (as you see it) for the next 30 days:

List current projects and deadlines

  • Discuss any changes you feel necessary for projects, deadlines or persons assigned
  • Discuss routine responsibilities for each participant, and ask staff members what your involvement should be
  • Ask each participant to describe the non-routine activities that are part of his/her job
  • Establish reporting/decision channels (explain your reasons for changing any previous customs)
  • Give the group your work schedule (including travel dates) for the next 30 days.
  • List any administrative matters to be resolved in the next 90 days (e.g. salary reviews) and schedule date/time for each.
  • Ask if there are any questions, and answer fully.
  • In adjourning this Ice-Breaker meeting, establish an open-door policy for the next 30 days (at least) and encourage each staff member to bring all delays or difficulties to your attention.
  • Add any Additional Subjects to Cover

Action Planning

As the series of meetings with your boss and staff progress, you’ll begin to feel a need for a system of recording and publishing the results.

The Action Plan format provides a simple framework for listing projects…..assigning specific responsibilities for each action step…..and tracking the results as you go along. Further, it serves as the basis for progress reports to keep your boss well informed, and for use during subsequent staff meetings.

After the Action Plan is prepared and circulated, you can take responsibility for keeping it current or assign the task to the person primarily charged with producing results. You can keep the master set on file in your office and schedule update sessions periodically.

The Action Plan helps you keep each project on schedule. Failure to reach a certain sub-goal by a given date is an automatic signal that something’s wrong and some trouble-shooting action is needed. After completion, the Action Plan worksheet is an excellent place to document performance and prepare detailed reviews for salary adjustments or other decisions.

Use one Action Plan sheet for each project.

To receive Action Plan sheet or Progress Record Templates please send an email to: sjenks@thejenksgroup.com

Look for the final phase in our blog tomorrow.

Sharon Jenks, CEO/President The Jenks Group, Inc