Tuesday, December 29, 2009

How to Disagree With Others Without Being Disagreeable

Someone once said, “Everyone has the right to his own stupid opinion.” Another person of the same ilk said, “You can disagree with me if you want. But you’ll still be wrong.”

We’ve all been in situations where we’ve disagreed with someone's idea or opinion. Differences in opinions often lead to defensiveness and closure. One of the difficult challenges of interpersonal communication is having the ability to disagree with someone without causing them to react negatively to the dispute.

As a management consultant I’m often called upon to mediate conflict between members of work groups or cross-functional teams. My role is to help people stay open as they work through their differences. I try to provide people with ways they can respond to each other that will encourage open dialogue rather than cause people to close down.

Here are nine techniques I teach people to use when they find themselves disagreeing with another person. These skills allow you to disagree without sounding disagreeable.

Since people always seem quick to interrupt someone when they are in disagreement, the first skill is to keep yourself from jumping into the discussion prematurely. You cannot argue with a point you have not heard. Most people start arguing at the first point of disagreement in a discussion. They don’t listen to the other person’s entire statement. This is what I call “arguing in process,” or disagreeing before the person is done. Many times, after being forced to stop and listen to the entire statement, you’ll find there is no disagreement once you’ve heard the entire message. You only thought you were in disagreement because you prematurely judged what the other person was saying.

This leads to the second confrontational skill. Make sure you understand the other person’s perspective first before stating your view. Or as Steven Covey says, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Ensure you have a clear grasp of the other person’s position. Find out why they see things and do things the way they do. As disagreements arise use statements like the following:

• “Help me to understand the reason why you do it that way.”
• “Walk me through your thought process so I can understand how you made that decision.”
• “What procedure do you follow when you do X?”
• “Let me make sure I understand where you’re coming from.”

Sometimes when people disagree they really are closer to agreement than they suppose. Unfortunately when disagreements arise most people go straight to the point of contention rather than stating the items on which they agree. This quick rebuttal makes the other party think there is disagreement on every aspect of the issue when, in fact, the person may only disagree on a few minor points.

By breaking down the various points of the discussion you can state where you are in agreement first. Identify what you like about the other person’s idea or actions before you address where you disagree. Tell them how close you are to agreement.

For example, you could say:

• “I agree that we should do X and Y. I’m not so sure about Z.”
• “I like what you’ve proposed about X and Y. I don’t think Z should be changed at this point because . . .”
• “I’m about 80% in agreement. I just have a couple of questions I need answered before I’ll be fully convinced that it will work.”

Some people ask a lot of questions because they’re trying to convince themselves that the idea or opinion is right. Others ask probing questions or make contrary statements because they want to see how committed the person is to his or her own idea or opinion. In these cases the person actually isn’t in disagreement, but the rapid-fire questions make it appear that way. Likewise, some people play the role of "devil's advocate" as a means to further explore the validity of an idea. But the devilishness of the advocate often hides the virtue behind the questioning.

To keep from being seen as an adversary, you should state when you’re playing the devil’s advocate role. You also should state why you are taking a contrary stance. The majority of people who play devil’s advocate do it to discover loopholes or problems with an idea or opinion. They do it to make the idea better, not to shoot holes in it. They do it to help solidify the idea or opinion, not to destroy it. On the other hand, if someone plays the devil’s advocate role just to stir up trouble or to be divisive, this individual should be the target of feedback about their disruptive behavior.

In all aspects of your discussion you should avoid using the word “but”, such as in “I agree, but . . .” Instead, replace “but” with “and,” or end your comment with a period where you would normally say “but.”

• “I agree with Z, (but) and I think we should consider replacing X and Y before implementing Z.”
• “There is validity in your point (but). Let me share another perspective.”
• “You’re right, you have been coming in on time lately (but). I expect you to be on time every day.”

Before you start offering suggestions for improvement, ask the recipient if they would like your input.

People are more receptive to feedback when they have asked for the feedback. However, there are times when you need to give feedback to people who have not asked for it. Since the probability is high that at some point you will need to give a colleague feedback, you should establish a “groundrule” in advance for how this is to be done should the need for feedback arise. Ask people in advance if they’d like input from you. Also ask them in advance how they would like to receive that feedback. For example:

• “I don’t have any ideas right now, but if I ever see something in your area that needs improvement, how would you like me to pass that information along to you?”
• “I have a couple of thoughts on how you might be able to do X faster. Would you like to hear my ideas?”
• “We have an interesting way of handling problems like that in our department. Would you like to know how we do it?”

Whenever you give someone feedback on how to improve, don’t load the dice. Give them only one or two issues to work on at a time. If you have several concerns, break up your feedback into separate sessions. Let them fix one problem at a time. Compliment them for taking action on the first issue, and then share another concern.

If you want to sway other people to your point of view it is best to acknowledge the other person’s position before you inform them about your view. Acknowledge their opinion or idea before you share yours. Verify your understanding of their perspective before you try swaying them to your position.

When you acknowledge the other person’s view up front with a responsive statement they normally will be more receptive to listening to your take on the issue. Examples of acknowledging statements are:

• “That’s an interesting idea.”
• “I can see how you could draw that conclusion.”
• “You’ve obviously put a lot of thought into this.”

Sometimes all a person needs to not feel offended is a simple acknowledgment of their concern or opinion. Men (who are from Mars) often raise the ire of women (who are from Venus) when they quickly inform her of what can be done to fix a problem without taking time to hear and acknowledge her frustration. Too often parents are quick to inform their teenagers of their reasons for saying no before they understand what really is being sought by the adolescent. The lack of acknowledgment of the validity of the teen’s request leads to feelings of rejection and resentment.

Finally, you need to understand that you cannot move another person until you move yourself. If you want to get other people to accept your perspective or move to your position, you’ll move them a lot faster by first moving yourself to their perspective. Once you have walked in their shoes or seen things through their eyes, you’ll have a much better chance of bringing them over to your idea or opinion.

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If you would like more information about how Innovative Management Group can help build effective teams within your company, please contact us at 702-258-8334, e-mail to mac@imglv.com, or visit us on the web at www.imglv.com.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How to Get the Work Done With Less People

If your company is like most businesses during these distressed economic times, you’ve been forced to layoff staff in order to improve the financial viability of your business.

What you hope is that the remaining employees will understand the business imperative for the layoffs and continue to perform at acceptable levels without adversely impacting the customers. To most managers this typically means you hope your employees will maintain the same level of production that was being achieved before the layoff -- only with less people. And you hope the quality of the work doesn’t diminish either.

This, of course, is impossible.

A building contractor cannot build a specified building with less material without reducing the quality of the building. A symphony conductor cannot eliminate a section of the orchestra without impacting the quality of the music. Likewise, a report that previously has taken four full-time employees a week to produce cannot be completed in the same amount of time with only two employees. A waitress who can provide great customer service to ten tables at one time cannot cover 15 tables equally well at the same level of quality.

If your employees are already working at or near full capacity, it will be almost impossible for them to do more with less staff without adversely impacting the quality of their work.

I like to demonstrate this by holding up four 3x5 cards, each representing 25% of an employee’s time. If 100% of an employee’s time is taken, and you want to give that employee more work to do (represented by another card you wish to add to the deck of four), how is it possible to add more work to the employee’s schedule when 100% of the employee’s time is already gone? The obvious answer is the employee must somehow find time to do the additional task. Or the employee must reduce the quality of the work being done on one or more of the already assigned tasks.

Historically employees somehow find the time to accomplish the added tasks when bosses load them up with work. But where did the additional time come from? If it’s true that 100% of the employee’s workday is filled, then the only way one can complete the additional work is to come in early, stay late, or reduce one’s lunch or break time to get the added work done. However, there are better ways to accomplish more with less people, as I outline later in this article.

There is an adage at work that says: “If you want to get the work done, give it to your busiest worker.” This tends to be true because your hardest worker usually is your most responsible employee. Responsible employees tend to do whatever they have to do to get the work done, even if it means sacrificing their own time.

Human beings have a great capacity to “kick it in gear” to get work done in a pinch. They can do more in less time. They can give 110% of their effort. They can sacrifice their families and personal time for the good of the company. But they can only do that for a limited time before they burn out.

It is possible to go to 110% percent on a nuclear reactor and get greater production by doing so. But staying “in the red” too long can have dire consequences.
The same is true of people. It is possible to push people in times of great need to do more – to give 110% – but they cannot do so forever without causing damage to themselves or the company. Eventually, the stress of working beyond normal parameters will cause a “meltdown.”

Consequently, if you've downsized your staff and still want to get the work done, you need to take certain actions as a manager. One of the greatest problems after a downsizing is that managers typically don’t do anything different from what they were doing before the layoff. They continue going about their work as if nothing has changed. But a great deal has changed; which means the manager must change, too.
Just like your employees, your workload increases the moment you lay off staff. There are numerous managerial duties you must perform immediately after a layoff if you want your employees to continue to perform at acceptable levels.

The first thing you need to do after a layoff is to identify what work is core to the business and what work is not. It’s easy to believe that everything you and your employees are doing is important, but when business is going good businesses typically become bloated and bureaucratic. “Pet projects” and “fluff” are easily allowed when a company is profitable. A downturn in business forces you to look at what you’re doing to determine what really matters to your customers. I can assure you that some of the work your employees are currently doing really doesn’t matter to your customers. They don’t care. Nor does it positively impact the bottom line of your enterprise.

You need to take a hard look at everything your staff is doing. Identify the work that is core to the business, and get rid of the rest. Be very clear about what things you will stop doing since you no longer have the staff. Remove all unnecessary tasks and responsibilities from your surviving employees before giving them the additional duties of the downsized employees. Pull unnecessary “cards” from their deck of duties before adding new cards to the deck.

While you’re looking at core work – what is and isn’t important to your customers – you also should identify which quality and service standards matter to your customers.

People’s expectations change as situations change. For example, customers who never would have shopped at Walmart during prosperous times may suddenly find Walmart quality to be acceptable during a distressed economy. Customers who expected attention to detail and added-value perks when flying high during the economic boom may quickly lower their standards when forced to pay extra for such privileges during a recession.

You may have to lower your quality or service standards during a recession since you may not have the staff to perform at a higher level after a layoff. The good news is that your customers may find the lowering of such standards to be acceptable, provided you know what is and is not important to them.

Obviously, one of the most important things you can do after a layoff is to prioritize the work. During stressful times people can easily lose focus as to what is important and what is not. They can spend too much time on trivial issues and too little time on major priorities. You need to help your employees identify where they should channel their energy and effort. You need to help them focus on the things that matter most. This is particularly important when new duties have been assigned to them that previously were not their responsibility. People tend to do what they have always done unless specifically instructed to do otherwise.

When people have been given additional duties, you may have to specifically teach employees how to multi-task. Don’t assume your employees will know how to link previously unassigned tasks with their current assignments. You may need to walk your employees through each step of their work processes and show them which steps can be optimized, minimized, synthesized or altered. Teach them how to do several tasks at once.

Look to your exemplar employees to discover ways to perform better. Your most productive employees have discovered little “tricks” to perform better, cheaper or faster. The best food servers, for example, have learned to scan all of their assigned tables while walking to or from the kitchen. They’ve discovered how to carefully stack the dishes on their arms so they can carry more plates in less trips. They mentally know how much time it takes to cook certain orders so they can perform other duties while they wait. They carry a water pitcher and a coffee pot at the same time, knowing someone will ask for one or the other as they pass by.

The most efficient production line workers in a manufacturing plant know exactly how to hold a tool or position themselves on the line to better reach the equipment they’re working on. The best auto mechanic can quickly diagnose a problem by asking a few simple questions or probing certain areas of an engine.

Every exemplar employee has discovered tricks that help them perform well. You need to teach the performance enhancing tricks of your exemplar employees to all of your workers so they can perform equally well.

By now you should realize that a company downsizing means you have to train and cross-train your employees to do the new tasks assigned to them. I’m continually amazed at the number of managers who assign the duties of laid-off employees to surviving workers and expect these workers to pick up the new tasks and perform to standard without significant training. Obviously there will be learning curves on newly assigned work with a decrease in quality and performance while that new tasks are being learned. You must expect diminished performance and implement the training necessary to bridge the gap between the employees’ current skills and those needed to accomplish the tasks.

Of course, the best scenario is one where the employees don’t have to learn the new tasks because you give the tasks to your customers instead. This may sound strange, but you may be surprised to discover how many tasks your customers are willing to do themselves. For example, when there are less bellmen at a hotel due to downsizing, sometimes all a company needs to do is provide self-serve bell carts at the front desk so customers can take their bags to the room themselves. Customers may also prefer a self-serve kiosk rather than having to stand in line for a human attendant when staffing levels are low.

If you use technology instead of people, you many find you don’t have to on-load as much work to your reduced staff as you supposed. During prosperous times companies tend to use human beings to add a “personal touch” to their business. But this personal touch may be completely unnecessary. Some customers may prefer automation, self-service, on-line purchasing, push-button technology and other means of conducting business rather than having to deal with over-worked and stressed-out employees. Never do manually what could more easily and more cheaply be done through technology.

Finally, from everything stated above it should be evident that your primary responsibility before, during and after a company downsizing is to clarify roles and expectations for your employees. Workers need to know exactly what is expected of them. They need clarification regarding the standards to which they must perform. Managers must take the time to clearly explain how each employee's work has changed in the new economy.

As can be seen by the comments above, it is unrealistic for you to expect fewer people to perform at the same level that the full compliment of employees did before the downsizing without significant changes to the way you manage. Life is significantly different for all surviving employees in a company after a layoff, and that includes you. You must manage different. You must undertake specific and deliberate actions to maintain the performance of your employees if you wish to satisfy your customers and keep your employees motivated and happy.


Innovative Management Group can help you maintain the enthusiasm and commitment of your employees, even in distressed times, by focusing your efforts on the things that matter most. For more information, contact us at 702-258-8334 or email to mac@imglv.com.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Four Feelings to Evoke From New Employees on Their First Day at Work

Public speakers and people being interviewed for a job know they have just a few minutes to make a good impression with their audience. They know rapport and relationships will either be solidified or damaged during those precious moments.

In a like manner the quality of your company’s new employee orientation and departmental training programs, to a great extent, determine the quality of performance you will get from your employees later on. Many managers miss the wonderful opportunity to capture the initial enthusiasm a new employee brings to the company on the first day of work. Yet doing so can keep that enthusiasm going throughout the employee’s tenure at the company.

An employee’s first day at work sets a precedent and makes an indelible impression on the employee. How she or he feels at the end of the first day determines whether the worker’s enthusiasm and commitment to the job will wax or wane. Your job as a manager is to make sure your employees feel good about the work they do, feel good about the company, and feel good about working for you. The key determining factor of how well an employee will perform is how good they feel at work. People who feel good generally do good.

According to a Staffing.org survey, companies spend anywhere from $2,000 to $11,000 to hire a new employee, but few put much effort into helping workers acclimate and become productive once they are hired.

If new hires don’t receive proper training and support early on, 47% leave their jobs within the first six months. This means the most important training a company can provide to its employees may be that which occurs immediately after the employee is hired. Unfortunately, many companies have weak or non-existent new employee orientation or on-the-job training programs, thereby missing a great opportunity to capture the enthusiasm and commitment from new employees from their first day at work.

I’ve been designing new employee orientation and other employee training programs for companies for over 30 years. I’ve become adept at delivering high-quality training products at a very low cost because I have a systematic way of developing courses that achieves very specific performance and behavioral outcomes.

The strongest indicator of a training course’s impact and effectiveness is how the participants feel at the end of the session and how capable they are to carry out the needed tasks at the desired performance level. Both the right capability and the right feeling are necessary for employees to fully internalize what is taught and to actualize the performance behaviors they’ve learned.

Over time I have concluded that, regardless of content, every training – particularly new employee orientation and on-the-job training – must result in four essential feelings at the conclusion of the event. To succeed in their jobs, new employees must feel comfortable, confident, proud, and included in order to perform at acceptable levels. The sooner the employees exude these feelings, the sooner they will perform competently in their positions.

Consequently, new employee orientation should be designed to help employees feel comfortable with their new company, work environment, job classification, manager, and colleagues. People in new situations are out of their comfort zone. They are unsure about who the key players are in the organization. They don’t know where things are. They are uncertain about what is or is not acceptable behavior in the company. They proceed cautiously, hesitant to make even minor mistakes.

On-the-job training should anticipate the discomfort new employees experience and design into the training ways to alleviate the uneasiness of the workers. Everything possible should be done to lessen the stress of learning a new job.

New employee orientation and training at both the company and department level must provide the employees with the requisite knowledge, skills and behavior to perform all job requirements without hesitation or timidity. By the end of the training new employees should feel confident they made the right choice when they took the job. They should feel fully capable of performing their assigned tasks at the performance level required.

Self-confidence is the key to self-action. The more a company does to build the confidence of its employees the greater the chances are the workers will perform at optimal levels.

When designed properly, orientation and training programs ought to make the employees feel proud of their new company, department, and team. The content of the training should instill a sense of ownership and wholeness within the new employees. The greatest indicator of successful training would be for employees to leave the session telling others how proud they are to be a part of the organization or group. Proud employees are the best recruiters for future employees.

Finally, the orientation session should ensure the new employees feel included as bonafide members of the team. By the conclusion of the training the employees should be viewed and treated as fully functioning, contributing members of the team, not as rookies. They should feel a sense of unity and oneness with the group. Most importantly, they should feel they are on the same level with other employees in the group.

Those companies who consciously and deliberately design their orientation and training programs around these four critical feelings will ensure their employees literally hit the ground running from the first moment they step into the workplace. More important, good leaders will realize these four feelings are what employees must feel each and every day they come to work, regardless of how long the employees have worked at the company. These four feelings are the keys to maintaining the commitment of employees over the course of their careers with your company.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Colin Powell's Lessons on Leadership

Colin Powell, former Army Chief of Staff, Colin Powell, outlines six “rules” of leadership he discovered while in the military.

First, Make the Difficult Decisions. “Being in charge means making decisions, no matter how painful," Powell says. In today’s businesses we need leaders who will do what is right, even if it is politically painful. Powell continues: "If it’s broke fix it. A leader cannot allow the majority to suffer under a bad situation to spare the feelings of an individual, or an organization.”

Second, Don’t Punish Every Mistake. “No body ever got to the top without slipping up. When somebody stumbles,” Powell explains, ”I don’t believe in stomping on him. My philosophy is: pick ‘em up, dust ‘em off and get ‘em moving again.” Too many managers spend inordinate amounts of time and energy criticizing every little mistake employees make. There are so many little things that just don't matter. Don't sweat the little stuff.

Third, Have Clear Objectives. The Vietnam war was a perfect example of the failure that can occur when the objectives are not clear. “Leaders must establish clear, achievable objectives and apply the means to accomplish those objectives,” Powell says, “or they are just wasting time, resources, and, tragically, lives.”

Fourth, Make Your Team Feel Important. “Find ways to reach down and touch everyone in a unit. Make individuals feel important and part of something larger than themselves.” Or, as Ken Blanchard has promoted for many years: "Catch people doing things right!"

Fifth, Be Skeptical of Experts. “Don’t be buffaloed by experts,” Powell warns. “They often possess more data than judgment.”

As I have often said, too many organizations rely on external consultants when they have the abilities and experience within their own employees. Use the talents within your company first. Then look outside for additional support.

And finally, Never Beat Down Enthusiasm. When employees get excited about something, get out of their way and let them do it. You’ll be surprised at how much they can accomplish when their excited. “Enthusiasm can overpower incredible obstacles,” Powell says.

“During my years in the Field, I learned what makes American soldiers tick,” Powell explains. “They will gripe about being driven to high performance. They will swear they would rather be somewhere else. But at the end of the day, they always ask proudly, ‘How’d we do.’

Powell concludes that “Americans love to win. They respect leaders who hold them to high standards and take them to the limit — as long as they see a worthwhile objective.”

Good advise for every manager!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Four Types of Employees and Four Reasons Why They Work

Once, while enjoying a dinner social at my church, it dawned on me that there are four types of church members when it comes to cleaning up after an event. There are chair-carrying members and non-chair-carrying members. In other words, there are those who willingly help out and those who absolutely refuse to help out. The non-chair-carrying members stand there while others work around them. Or they leave immediately after the event so they don't have to do anything.

In between the two continuum extremes of chair-carrying and non-chair-carrying members are two additional categories of church members.

The third category includes people who will carry chairs, but only after they are asked. They only become aware that assistance is needed when it is pointed out to them. Then, having been asked directly, they chip in and help with the work.

Finally, the fourth category includes those who will carry chairs when asked, but they only do the minimum amount of work to make it look like they are helping. These members typically sneak out after fulfilling their minimal obligation. They hope no one will notice their laziness.

Employees seem to fall into these same four categories.

There are those employees who always work hard and regularly pitch in without having to be asked. There are those workers who when asked, will do exactly what they are told. There are those who, when asked, will do the minimum amount necessary to make it look like they are doing what is asked. And there are those employees who won’t do anything, even when asked.

Upon reflection I’ve also noticed at church that people keep the commandments for four different reasons. Although the results may be the same, the quality of the experience is vastly different.

Some people maintain the standards of the church out of obedience. They do it because they have been commanded to do so. And they fear the consequences if they are disobedient.

Others keep the commandments because it is their duty as a member of the sect. They feel they must model certain behaviors because it is expected of them; and they dutifully comply.

Still others obey because they know when they do so they will receive the blessings that are associated with keeping the commandments. They are motivated by the promise of a higher status if they perform well.

Then there are those who are truly converted. They keep the commandments because they love to serve, they love their fellow man, or they love God. They don’t do it for blessings, out of duty, or fear of disobedience. They do it because it is the right thing to do. They do it because it is who they are.

Not surprisingly, employee motivations seem to fall under the same four factors.

Some employees only do their job because they have to. They obediently comply because they have been commanded to work. But compliance is not commitment.

Other workers do their duty by doing exactly what they are told. Still others do it for the money, the status or other rewards that come when one performs well.

But the best employees are those who love their job, love their colleagues, and love to fulfill their tasks because they know it is the right thing to do. They do it because of an inner resolve and a personal commitment. They do it because it is who they are.

Why Is It So Hard to Deliver Good Customer Service?

Delivering good customer service seems so simple. So why is it so hard for so many service providers to get it right?

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting really tired of being treated so poorly by people who are supposed to be serving me. I’m not that demanding as a patron. I don’t need that much. I just want the basics of customer service. I want people to give me what they would expect if our roles were reversed.

This past week I was up in Canada working with a client company. I was staying at the “finest” hotel in the area. But they couldn’t even get the basics right. All I wanted was a clean, safe, quiet, comfortable, and fully-functional room. They missed on all five critical points.

I think guestroom attendants must clean the hotel rooms in the dark. That’s why they miss so much when they clean. This also would account for why they didn’t know that the light bulbs were burned out in the bathroom. Not a single light in the bathroom worked.

These same guestroom attendants also must not know people want to sleep in. I guess they assume everyone wants to get up early since they have to get up early. That’s why they stand in the hallway outside the hotel room and talk to each other in loud voices. I have no idea what they think the “do not disturb” sign on the door means.

But I really wasn’t sleeping anyway. In fact, I hadn’t been asleep all night. In order to save money (I assume) the builders of the hotel used only a single door between adjoining rooms. The thinness of the door allowed me to hear every word of the conversation of the people in the room next to me. They must have had a lot to say because they stayed up all night talking.

My next fun experience was in the shower. In another effort to save money the hotel didn’t provide bar soap in the room. Instead they had a soft soap dispenser in the shower. What a hassle! Do you know how many times you have to push the button on the dispenser in order to get enough soap to clean your entire body? Later that day I went to the store and purchased a bar of soap so I wouldn’t have to go through that experience again. I don't understand why I have to bring my own supplies to a quality hotel.

They also didn’t have a drain plug in the bathroom sink. Well, actually they did. It was one of those little rubber stoppers. I haven’t seen one of those rubber things since the 1800s. But it certainly works. The trick is unplugging the drain afterwards. I had to reach my hand into the dirty, scalding water to pull the plug. Not exactly what I consider to be a quality hotel experience.

As I left my room that first morning I noticed that the door to my room was open. Apparently the door did not close fully on it’s own. I hadn’t noticed. That meant the door was open the entire time while I “slept” that night, while I was in the shower, and while I was getting dressed. I’m glad no one came in and saw me in my unaware.

I think hotel owners and employees should be forced to spend several weeks living in their hotel so they can suffer what their guests suffer. Then they would see what I have to go through each week when I travel. Again, all I want is a clean, safe, quiet, comfortable, and fully-functional room. It can’t be that tough to get it right, can it?

The other day my wife and I went to a movie at the theater. It was a very suspenseful movie. Just at the most intense part of the movie near the end two theater employees in the projection room started a loud, lighthearted conversation. We could barely hear the movie over their laughter. When we complained to the manager she grilled us with the third degree. We had to be mistaken. There was no way we could have heard theater employees talking in the projection room. Then she went on to complain that other patrons had complained about the noise too. She never offered to investigate, never said she’d take any action, and never apologized.

Why did we even bother to tell her? Because we thought management would want to know so they could do something about it. But no one seems to care anymore.

I avoid using drive-up windows at fast food restaurants anymore. The odds of getting the wrong order are increasingly high.

I ordered a pizza delivered this past week. I didn’t notice until after the delivery person drove away that it was the wrong pizza. I wish I hadn’t tipped him so much.

I seldom ask clerks in stores technical questions about the merchandise. Most clerks have no idea about the products they are selling. It used to be that salespeople learned about their products and those of their competitors so they could help the patron make an informed decision before a purchase. But now, it seems, clerks only know how to ring up the sale on the cash register. Unfortunately, some don’t even know how to do that.

I wish when clerks asked if they could help you, they really could. I wish people in the hospitality industry would be hospitable. I wish service providers would provide service. I wish I didn’t have to wait for waiters. I wish I could trust that I would get good service wherever I go. I wish I had confidence when I patronized a business that it would be a good experience every time.

I would be such a loyal customer to a business that merely gives me what I want, how I want it, when I want it. I really don’t expect that much. I want my hot food hot, my cold food cold. I want what I ordered. I want things I buy to work. I want my bill to be accurate. I want a good night’s sleep in a hotel. Is this too much to ask?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Busting Two Management Myths: That You Must Be Consistent and Not Have Favorites

Those who say managers must be consistent and not have favorites are wrong!

In this article I intend to wax philosophic on several management issues. My management philosophies have been forged over the 35 years I’ve worked as a management consultant. I have to warn you that some of my management philosophies are contrary to popularly held beliefs by many noted business gurus.

For instance, the moment I heard it I disagreed with Abraham Maslow's thesis that people have an ascending "hierarchy of needs." From personal experience I’ve witnessed many people who sacrifice their lower “survival” needs for things that are much higher on Maslow's hierarchy. For example, countless employees have been fired because they couldn't control their ego, thereby jeopardizing their security and safety needs. Many artists have sacrificed the security of steady employment for the artistic freedom of self-actualization. Other people choose socialization over work, again showing basic survival is not necessarily as basic as Maslow suggests.

Another area where I disagree with the gurus is regarding the need to be continually learning. Notable thinkers encourage managers be up-to-date on the latest managerial practices. I, on the other hand, try to get managers to stop reading the plethora of many management books that are out there. I do this for two reasons.

First, I've seen too many managers who have yet to master the basic fundamentals of management. I'd rather have these managers develop a foundation of the old, tried-and-true principles than have them charge off after another novel management theory every time a new book comes out.

The second reason why I discourage managers from reading is along the same line. Some managers have a tendency to jump from one management fad to the next craze every time they read another book. They never stay in one place long enough to master a technique or principle. They never get good because they're constantly trying to get better. They become the promoter of many management philosophies, and the practitioner of none.

In this article I wish to put to bed forever two prevalent management philosophies that, I believe, are damaging myths in the workplace. You may find yourself initially disagreeing with what I espouse. But, if you will quietly ponder what I suggest, I think you may find yourself in support of what I propose.

The two management myths I wish to bust are: 1) the myth that managers must be consistent, and 2) the myth that managers should not have favorites.

Myth #1: Managers Must Be Consistent

Perhaps the most prevalent contrary position I take regarding management is that I firmly believe managers should be inconsistent rather than consistent in their managerial practices. I encourage this even though consistency from management is one of the most frequently stated qualities of the “ideal manager” by participants who attend my management training seminars.

When employees list the positive characteristics they want in a manager they almost always mention they desire a manager who is consistent and fair. On the flipside, favoritism is almost always listed as the most negative factor that employees despise in a manager.

Usually these comments stem from a common misconception of what consistency, fairness and favoritism mean. At first brush one might think employees want managers to treat everyone equally. When asked this very question employees quickly agree that equal treatment is what they mean by consistency and fairness. But when the concept is explored deeper, equal treatment really isn't what employees want. That's because, deep down, most people know that in some situations there is nothing more unjust than the equal treatment of unequals.

If being consistent actually did mean treating employees equally, then management would treat the poor performer exactly the same as the exemplary performer. If consistency means equality, then management should reward the lazy and indolent worker equally to the diligent and industrious laborer. Likewise management should respect those they do not trust as if they are trustworthy and respectable. Or, worse yet, treat workers they trust as if they are untrustworthy, and those they respect as if they are not respected.

The Declaration of Independence declares that "all men (and women) are created equal" and endowed "with certain unalienable rights." This is certainly true. All men were created equal and all should have certain rights by birth. But then something happens. After birth men become unequal. Differences arise as people travel divergent paths based upon their own ambitions, desires, beliefs and understanding. Some people do well in life while others do poorly. Some people progress while others remain dormant. Some people succeed where others fail. The choices people make and the actions they take throughout the course of their lives determine their position and status in society. People become unequal because they invest unequal amounts of energy and effort in their lives.

Similarly, all employees are equal the day they are hired. They are entitled to certain basic rights outlined in the core values and policies of the company. Every employee deserves to be treated with basic dignity and respect. But, it is what the employees do after they are hired that should determine how they are treated beyond the basic rights of employment. Each employee should be treated differently — I might even say inconsistently — based upon how he or she performs and behaves in the organization. Individual treatment of individuals and situational responses to situations is the only fair way to manage.

Deep down the majority of people want society to be a meritocracy, where merit is rewarded. We seek an environment where all can rise according to his or her talents. It is the American dream that, through one’s own hard work, the cream can rise to the top. The poet, Robert Frost said: “I don’t want to live in a homogenized world. I want the cream to rise.”

At the end of the day we wish to live in a world where those who do good thrive, while the not so good do not. We seek a world where the rewards of life come to those who work the hardest.

Those who profess and practice the equal treatment of all employees will soon find that all incentives to perform well, and all penalties for not performing, vanish. Where there is no incentive to excel, there is no excellence. Where there is no consequence for failure, people fail to perform. Equality often breeds mediocrity. The fact that the second and third string on a team must work hard to become first string, makes all strings on the team perform better. Performance only improves when there is a payoff for better performance. When everyone on a team receives a trophy, regardless of one’s effort, there is no need to strive for excellence.

Good managers who are honest or introspective know they shouldn't treat employees equally because employees are not equal. Some people have greater skills and talents than others. Some are wiser, more insightful, and capable of making profound decisions; while others are more limited in their scope of understanding. Some workers are fast, producing twice as much as their colleagues. Some are creative thinkers or great problem solvers, capable of designing next generation products for their employers. Some employees have more value than others because they accomplish more at less cost to the company. Therefore, those who do more deserve more, while those who do less deserve less.

Bad managers treat everyone the same, falsely believing all have the same worth. And in their consistency these managers are unfair and wrong.

Good managers know treating every employee with the same consistency can be grossly unfair because employees have different needs in similar situations. One employee, for example, may need great compassion from one's manager while grieving over the loss of a loved one. Another employee may desire just the opposite, wanting the manager to apply more pressure, forcing her to work harder in order to keep her mind off of her loss and grief. One employee may need constant communication and feedback from the manager, while another employee may work better with limited or no interaction with the boss. One worker may put family first and demand more free time, while another employee may be a workaholic and spend long hours at the office.

Bad managers believe they should treat everyone the same regardless of their situation. They believe what they do for one they must do for all, and what they cannot do for one they cannot do for another. And in their consistency these managers are unfair and wrong.

Myth #2: Managers Must Not Have Favorites

Good managers, who are honest or introspective, admit they have favorites. Good managers favor those who perform well. Good managers favor those they trust over those who work only when the manager is present. Good managers favor those who do their jobs to standard and disfavor those who willingly or spitefully perform poorly. Good managers unhesitatingly provide special favors to those who perform favorably because those favors are predicated upon good performance.

Bad managers wrongly believe that no one deserves special treatment, even if an employee performs extra specially. They believe there are no exceptions to the rules, even though an employee may be exceptional. They offer no favors, even when performance is favorable. And in their consistency these managers are unfair and wrong.

Of course there is a wrong form of favoritism which bad managers may exhibit that is driven by personal biases or interpersonal relationships. Any type of favoritism that is not based solely on performance is wrong. Good managers can separate their personal views of an employee from their professional assessment based upon the worker’s performance. Bad managers favor employees for reasons other than performance. It is this kind of favoritism that employees despise.

Good managers often are reluctant to admit they actually do have favorites and do treat people inconsistently, even though such favorable treatment may be subconscious. But I believe managers should consciously and deliberately treat people differently based upon their differences in performance. This is a fundamental management practice – where those who perform to standard are recognized and rewarded, while those who do not perform as expected are coached, counseled, disciplined and, sometimes, terminated.

I believe managers should shout from the rooftops that they will treat people inconsistently. Managers should make it obvious to everyone exactly why some people are treated better than others in the workplace. They should make it known that all employees can be the manager’s favorite if all perform favorably. They should clearly state that they will treat good performers one way and poor performers another. They should let it be known that those who are trustworthy will be trusted, those who are respectable will be respected, those who are supportive will be supported, and those who act dignified will be treated with dignity. Employees need to understand that the way they will be treated by their manager is a reflection of what they do and how they act at work.

It has been my experience in life that friendly people usually have friends. Those who love others are loved. Those who are kind receive kindness in return. That which one sows, one reaps. This is true in life, and should be true at work.

I have a special name for this reap and sow truism. I call it the "Life is a Mirror" principle. Life is a reflection of who one is and how one acts. What a person receives out of life is directly linked to what he or she gives. Grumpy people tend to see the world as a grumpy place. People with negative attitudes generally see the world in a negative light. Happy, optimistic people, on the other hand, usually see the world as upbeat and positive.

Sometimes managers need to remind employees that life is a mirror. Contrary to the Golden Rule of treating people as they want to be treated, managers should treat employees the way they deserve to be treated. Employees who perform and behave well ought to be treated well, while those who perform and behave poorly ought to be treated less well. The message to employees from good managers should be this: "If you like the way you’re treated at work, it’s because you deserve it. If you don't like the way you’re treated, then change your behavior. I'm just mirroring the way you act. I'm treating you the way you deserve to be treated based upon your actions and reactions at work. Life is good when you are good. When you do good and are good you’ll feel good."

Although the following ditty from John Gay’s Fables may be somewhat crude, it seems to reflect my philosophy:

“By all accounts, let’s not be cheated.
“An ass should like an ass be treated.”

Even reflective Human Resource professionals know real performance management practices are specifically designed to treat people differently. Good managers recognize and reward those who perform well and coach, counsel and discipline those who do not. It is wrong to treat people consistently in the workplace. It is wrong for us not to show favor to those who perform favorably. Hopefully, some day all managers will wake up and recognize the negative impact of perpetuating the two management myths discussed in this article. Some day managers will boldly proclaim their intention to be inconsistent and to have favorites.

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Mac McIntire is the president of Innovative Management Group, a Las Vegas-based training and consulting firm that helps companies define their strategic focus, align their internal effort, and gain the commitment of their workforce to achieve long-term profitability and growth. If you would like more information about how we can help your company, please contact us at 702-258-8334, e-mail to mac@imglv.com, or visit us on the web at www.imglv.com.

Ten Critical Elements of Effective Meetings

Meeting leaders can improve the effectiveness of their meetings with ten important meeting leading elements

Have you ever been in a lousy meeting — one that was a total waste of your time?

If you’re the typical business manager, the answer to this question is a resounding “YES!” In fact, the odds are you’ve been to more lousy meetings than you have productive ones.

Managers today spend more time in meetings than ever before. As computers have automated routine paper-pushing jobs, more workers are doing project-oriented work, which requires updates and collaboration. Other trends, such as the use of outsourced suppliers and consultants, leads to more coordination meetings between work groups.

Surveys at 3M revealed that the average manager reports spending one to one-and-a-half days in meetings per week. The survey showed that the managers judged over half of those meetings to be a waste of time.

Even though very few managers, and perhaps fewer companies, seem to do anything about it, the keys to holding effective meetings are relatively simple. There are ten essential components necessary to having productive meetings. Improvement in any of the ten areas will produce dramatic results in your meetings.

There are ten essential elements to effective meetings. These ten things determine whether or not productive results will be achieved in the meeting. Meeting leaders need to make sure these ten things are a part of every meeting.

Essential Elements of Effective Meetings

1. Goals and Results — meeting goals that are clear from the outset and are successfully achieved in the meeting.

2. Preparation — participants who are informed, prepared, and ready at the appointed meeting time.

3. Agendas — a flexible, workable, written outline that is followed in the right order and includes time frames and processes for each item.

4. Audience — the right people in attendance who have the authority to make decisions.

5. Participation — attentive listening, active interchange of ideas, and a balance of involvement.

6. Time Control — effective facilitation of the meeting so everyone stays on track and completes each topic in the allotted time.

7. Climate — an open and honest meeting climate that establishes trust and a fair exchange of ideas.

8. Public Record — a visual way to track the group’s discussion and decisions so all ideas are captured and preserved.

9. Process Awareness — participants who are conscious of both the tasks being accomplished and the processes used during the meeting so both can be improved upon in future meetings.

10. Closure — a meeting that results in decisions being made, actions assigned, loose ends tied up, and issues resolved.

Innovative Management Group offers training and facilitation services to executives, managers and cross-functional teams to help them conduct powerful, non-time-consuming, effective meetings that produce high quality results. We’ll show you how to implement these ten essential elements in every meeting in your organization.


Innovative Management Group offers a four-hour training course on "Effective Meeting Management" that teaches managers how to conduct productive meetings that achieve powerful results. For more information contact Mac McIntire at 702-258-8334 or email at mac@imglv.com

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How to Annoy People at Work

Every once in awhile the burden of helping companies become more productive gets to me. It’s then that the evil consultant in me comes out and makes me share ideas that actually are disruptive to production.

Here are some ways to annoy your colleagues at work. I got these out of Casino Magazine.

• Page yourself over the intercom without disguising your voice.

• Every time someone asks you to do something, ask if they would like fries with that.

• Call a meeting wherein you encourage your colleagues to join you in synchronized chair-dancing.

• Put your garbage can on your desk and label in “In.”

• Pretend like you have an unnatural fear of office products.

• Finish your point with, “at least that’s what my psychic says.”

• Don’t use any punctuation or capitalization in your memos.

• Find out where your boss shops and buy the exact same outfits. Wear them one day after your boss does. (This is especially annoying if your boss is of the opposite gender.)

• Respond to everything someone else says with, “Is that what you think?”

• Put mosquito netting around your cubicle.

• Tell your boss, “It’s not the voices in my head that bother me. It’s the voices in your head that do.”

If you want to annoy people outside of the office, you may want to try some of these:

• Specify that your drive-through order is “to go.”

• Sit in your parked car along the side of the road and point a hair dryer at passing cars to see if they slow down.

• Call a psychic hot line and say, “Guess who?”

• When the money comes out of the ATM, scream “I won! I won! Third time this week!!!”

• Tell your children at dinner, “Due to the economy we are going to have to let one of you go.”

• Every time you see a broom say, “Honey, is your mother here?”

Powerful Training Course Forces Managers to Assess Their Effectiveness

The most effective management development programs cause leaders to piercingly look within themselves in an honest introspective assessment of their management style. The best training courses provide managers with powerful tools and techniques to improve their leadership approach.

Every management workshop developed and facilitated by Innovative Management Group is designed around what we call the Four Phases of Personal Development. During our workshops we help managers become AWARE of their management philosophy and style. We help them ANALYZE the value and effectiveness of their management practices to determine where changes are needed. We then provide them with skills, tools and techniques to take the necessary ACTION to improve their performance. Finally, we encourage them to continue on the correct path until they ACTUALIZE the learning into their daily routine.

Attendees at IMG’s Effective Management Practices Workshop experience each of these four phases. By the end of the course they have gone through the developmental process again and again, resulting in very specific, real, long-lasting changes to their management behavior.

During the first section of the training, Building Team Commitment and Trust, the participants experience a thought-provoking exercise that challenges their behaviors concerning trust. The exercise brings out the participants’ best and worst characteristics during a negotiation experience between competing teams. The debriefing after the exercise, which sometimes lasts many hours, begins the self-awareness and self-analysis process the participants will be confronted with in every subsequent activity.

In the next section, Establishing a Productive Work Climate, the participants assess the work environment of both their company and their individual work unit. They learn about the elements that create an effective organizational climate and compare and contrast it to the work climate they have created as managers. They analyze how effective their management practices are and identify specific actions they can take to improve their work climate.

During the Communicating in a Productive Work Environment section the participants take a self-assessment survey that identifies how well they interact with subordinates, peers, and superiors. The tabulated results of the survey provide the participants with three perspectives of their managerial abilities. From this survey the managers gain significant awareness of the differences in their communication patterns when they communicate with subordinates, peers, and superiors. They learn how sharing of information (exposure) and solicitation of input (feedback) is altered depending on to whom they are communicating. They then analyze whether this is good or bad and assess what action, if any, should be taken to increase their effectiveness.

From this experience the participants then use what they have learned to assess their company’s communication style, as well as the communication patterns they’ve established in their work unit. This self-awareness and self-analysis results in the development of specific action steps to be taken to improve the communication practices in their organization.

The next section, Communicating Managerial Expectations, provides the participants with significant insight into the impact of their management actions. They first read and analyze a case-study called, “A Manager’s Influence.” It shows the impact of a manager’s management style on three employees. From the story the participants become aware of how their management behavior impacts the performance of their workers.

They next are given a “totem pole” exercise where they’re asked to force-rank their employees. They’re also asked to categorize their employees according to the employees' effectiveness and analyze any impact their management style might have on their employees’ performance. Most managers are shocked (awareness) at the influence they have on the performance of their employees. From this, of course, they evaluate what actions they can take to improve their employees’ performance by improving their own managerial skills and style.

This pattern of self-awareness, self-analysis, and self-action continues throughout the workshop. In one of the last sections, Building an Effective Team, the participants are provided with the strongest self-awareness and self-analysis tool yet. Having worked in teams throughout the workshop, they now assess the effectiveness of their workshop team members and provide specific feedback to each other concerning the strengths and weaknesses they’ve observed during the three-day workshop. This exercise provides final reality to everything that has been discussed in the workshop.

The last section, Data Analysis, provides a structured format for the participants to develop action plans to implement all they have learned. This is a very meaningful experience. We’ve had participants who have stayed many hours after the workshop ended pondering the feedback they’ve received and evaluating how they can become better managers because of it. Which, of course, is the purpose of the workshop.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Motivate Employees With a Dash to the Performance Finish Line

Several years ago I wrote an article entitled, Winning at Work: How to Instill Enthusiasm and Commitment in Employees. In that article I used a sports analogy to identify nine elements from the sports world that can inspire employees to achieve the same remarkable levels of performance that athletes exhibit when they “work.”

One of those essential motivational elements is that in the sports world at some point the game comes to an end.

The fact that one game ends and another begins has significant impact on the way people perform. The National Football League did a study on scoring in the NFL and discovered that more points are scored in the last two minutes of each half than in any other twenty-minute period.

When players know the game (or the half) is about to end, they perform much harder. As time runs down the players realize they need to put forth the extra effort to protect their lead, to get back into the game, or to win. Having paced themselves for this very moment, athletes produce an enormous amount of energy to score another touchdown in the final seconds of play.

Professional fund-raisers know 80% of the money raised will be gathered in the last few hours of the event. Items at the end of an auction are sold at higher prices. The fervor of excitement rises as people become motivated to solicit more, give more, or get more as the end of the event approaches.

Sadly, in the workplace employees often perform repetitive, ceaseless activities with no hope of reprieve or an end to the process. Workers leave the office or factory floor without having experienced the excitement that comes from knowing they’ve edged out the competition or achieved a new “world record” in productivity. Employees need to experience the emotion of making a game-winning score in the final seconds of play. They need to feel the exhilaration and personal satisfaction that comes from breaking the tape at the finish line.

Managers need to find ways to stop the production game clock and assess the score. The most motivational work environment is one where employees can tell every day whether or not they are winning. The best performance feedback mechanisms allow employees to measure their progress, celebrate their success, and recharge for the next production push.

Managers can motivate their employee to perform at higher levels by breaking up the work into performance periods with a beginning and an end. They need to set performance goals at the beginning of the period and measure their achievement of those goals at the end of the period. They also need to celebrate the victories when the team wins or refocus the team after performance failures.


If you would like help developing an effective performance management system for your company, or would like a copy of the "Winning at Work" article, please call us at 702-258-8334 or e-mail mac@imglv.com.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Making the Unconscious Concious

I’ve received many compliments throughout my career as a management consultant and trainer, but two comments in particular mean the most to me. I believe these two comments encapsulate best who I am and what I do.

The first declaration was made several years ago after a strategic planning meeting I facilitated with a group of executives at a large corporation. The session went very well. It was one of those unique times when every executive in the meeting opened fully and dove deep in their assessment of the business, and of themselves. When that happens learning is profound and meaningful. That day the depth of insight and understanding was intense. One could actually hear and see people’s attitudes and behaviors changing in the room. For some this session was a life-changing experience. For the company the decisions and actions made that day set the future tone for the business. That meeting made a difference.

After that session the Chief Executive Officer of the company came to me and said these words: “Mac, do you know what it is you do? You make the unconscious conscious! That's why we're able to accomplish so much when you facilitate our group.”

That comment hit me like a bolt of lightning. That is exactly what I do! I draw out from the deep recesses of people’s minds the hidden truths and insights they know, but cannot articulate. I cause people to discuss that which they refuse to discuss. I help people confront that which they cannot confront. I bring truth to the surface and set people and organizations on fire with that insight.

Galileo said, “You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him to find it within himself.” That is what I do.

I’m often amused, but not surprised, at the number of clients who say the reason why they hired me as a consultant was because they knew they couldn’t hide from me. They knew I would make them address the real issues, no matter how difficult. That’s because no one is “safe” from me. I am no respecter of title or position. I will make people confront the tough issues. I will find truth wherever it lies and bring it into the open. I will make the unconscious conscious; for only when something is conscious can it be addressed. I engage people who may not want to be engaged on issues they may not wish to address, but need to address. I do so for the good of the whole, as well as for the good of the individual. When people address real issues in an open and realistic way, great things happen.

A short time ago I received the second most meaningful praise I’ve ever received. It, too, explains well what I do and who I am. A woman was participating for the second time in an Accountability Management Workshop I facilitate. I gave her my condolences that she had to sit through the same session twice since I always conduct the session the same way and tell the exact same stories each time. Her response surprised and pleased me, although I’ve heard similar comments before.

“You are like a good movie,” she explained. “Each time I watch and listen to you I learn more. Each time I participate in a meeting with you I get something new and totally different out of it.”

Several years ago a manager at a large utility company in California expressed a similar comment. He’s been through my Team Start-Up Workshop seven times. The workshop is four days long. It’s a great workshop and helps cross-functional teams achieve tremendous results. But 28 days of listening to me teach team skills seems like cruel and unusual punishment. Each time this manager brought a new team to the session I was embarrassed that he would be listening to my instructions and stories once again. But he too declared that it was worth it. He said that each time he attended the session he “got a little more out of it.”

Then one day this same manager came to me and said, “Mac, I think I’ve finally got it! I’ve finally become what you preach. Now this is who I am. I am this team stuff!”

This is who I am. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?

Customers want employees who are customer-focused, not just those who pretend to be friendly. Employees want mangers that are employee-centered, not just those who do it because it is good managerial technique. Companies want leaders who truly are leaders, not just those who by rote implement that which they read in a management book.

So how do I get people to confront themselves — to go deep — to bring about the changes necessary to actually become better individuals and more productive work teams?

To get people to change their behavior — to become what you want them to become, or, even more important, to become what they need to become — they must “go inside themselves.” They must become introspective. They must see themselves as they truly are. They must understand how they truly feel and discover in what they truly believe. They must know why they do the things they do. They must become conscious of their unconscious motives.

The first step to consciousness is SELF-AWARENESS. An individual must first become aware that a need for change is necessary. They must recognize that something is amiss in the way they behave or act. They must see that what they are doing is not as effective or as helpful as it could be.

The key to this awareness is that it must be self-awareness. Behavior change does not occur until an individual personally accepts the fact that a change is needed. Few alcoholics stop drinking until they want to. Family members can beg, plead and nag, but until the person accepts the fact he or she is an alcoholic, they will not change.

Self-awareness usually occurs when something happens to cause the awareness. Some people learn from books. Some learn from observation. Some learn from their own mistakes. Some learn from the mistakes of others. Still others only learn when the consequences are severe enough to bring the problem to their consciousness. Life events and significant emotional experiences can cause self-awareness. So, too, can one become self-aware through simple assessments found in magazines or offered in training programs. Personal feedback, management pressure, advice from a spouse, or a seemingly innocent comment from a child can make one aware. But sometimes it takes a good facilitator or therapist to help people accept that which they cannot accept without guidance.

Generally people are more convinced by the reasons they discover on their own than by those given to them by others. However, external factors or other people can be a catalyst to the change. The job of a manager is to help employees become aware of their actions by making those actions conscious to the individual.

Once a person becomes aware of their dysfunctional or off-purpose behavior, the sudden awareness can be overwhelming. Sometimes when people become introspective they become depressed because they see themselves as being totally bad or completely wrong. But no matter how serious the discrepancy may be, the person still has value. And it is the manager’s role to help the employee to see their value. I always say the last step after giving someone corrective feedback is to "put back the person's self esteem." This means the person must leave the counseling session feeling good about themselves.

Even the most derelict employee is not bad all of the time. How they act and what they do may be bad sometimes, but certainly there are other times when they behave and act well. There are times when they are effective and times when they are not. This is why the second step to behavioral change is so important.

Once a person is aware of the need to change they must go through SELF-ANALYSIS to determine what works in their behavior and what doesn't. They must analyze where they are effective or ineffective, good or bad, helpful or not helpful, appropriate or inappropriate. This requires an honest assessment of one’s strengths and weaknesses.

Someone once said, “Strength is not the absence of weakness but how we deal with our weaknesses.” Consequently, the third step in bringing about personal change is for the person to take the SELF-ACTION necessary to make the improvement. They must deal with their new found shortcomings in an appropriate way.

Notice the third step is self-action. No one can make the change for the individual. They must do it themselves. But the person may not know how to change. They may need help in determining how best to make the change. They may need tools or techniques that are not within their normal repertoire of skills or behaviors. To change they may require ongoing feedback as they adjust their performance. They may need reinforcement, encouragement and coaching from the manager.

After the individual has learned to take the necessary actions to improve one's behavior or performance, the final step to personal change is SELF-ACTUALIZATION. Self-actualization occurs when the new found behaviors or performance have become a part of who they are. They finally "become this stuff."

It may take many days, sometimes months, before a person internalizes a change and actually becomes what they seek to become. In the beginning the person may have to consciously think about their actions and force oneself to do the right thing. Eventually it will become easier for him or her to perform well without conscious thought. A person becomes self-actualized after they consciously and consistently take the corrective actions needed to bring about the change. After doing the right things over and over the new found practices become a natural part of the person's behavior. They can do the right thing without thinking because it is who they are.


To find out more about how I can facilitate your team to greater results, please contact me at 702-258-8334 or email mac@imglv.com

Friday, October 30, 2009

Five Critical Success Factors During Times of Economic and Organizational Uncertainty

I received quite a few telephone calls from executives and managers after I sent out an email blast of my article entitled: Keeping Spirits Up When Bottom-Line is Down. It seems to have struck a nerve. Many of those who contacted me felt they or their company had not responded well to the current economic downturn.

During times of economic and organizational uncertainty companies need to focus on the things that really matter — the things that will ensure the viability of their business in the future.

The great Chinese military strategist, Sun Tzu (pronounced son-eat-sue), identified “five constant factors” that determine success during a battle. Said he, “He who masters them wins; he who does not is defeated.”

The five constant factors in war that determine either survival or ruin are: 1) moral influence, 2) weather, 3) terrain, 4) commander, and 5) doctrine.

I believe these five factors have business parallels. He who masters the five constant factors of business will win; he who does not will be defeated — regardless of the economy or any other market conditions.

The first constant factor, or moral influence, of business is a spirit of mission. To survive economic turmoil a company needs the strength of belief and a sense of purpose that rallies a fighting spirit and generates a firestorm of commitment from its employees. Those businesses that constantly keep the company’s purpose in the forefront of the minds of the employees (and customers) will win.

Sun Tzu’s weather constant equates to outside forces that affect the enterprise. The surge of consolidation sweeping through every industry is an outside force. So too are the reality of global competition and the influence of environmentalism. Companies need to constantly monitor the shifting changes in the world around them and then adjust their strategies accordingly.

The “terrain” is the marketplace. Just as a general must know the terrain of the battlefield, so also the businessman must consider the scene of action – the place, people, products, promotions, price, and other factors that determine success.

The commander, of course, is the leader of the company, division, or department. The attitude, philosophy and skill level of the leader greatly influences the performance of the employees. Effective leadership principles are the same even during a crisis. Too many companies jettison healthy management practices and lose their sense of direction during a business crisis. Those managers who maintain their stability and stay the course during tough times will lead their company to success.

The final constant, “doctrine,” is comparable to the guiding principles, core competencies, or core values that are vital to the company’s current and future growth. A company’s core values should never be abandoned in tough times. Rather, they should be the rallying standards that drive everyone’s behavior and performance.

The key to success during business uncertainty is to refocus the “troops” on the things that will ensure a victorious outcome for the company while battling the bad economy.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Knowing the Score Helps Employees Put Forth the Effort to Win

A significant aspect of performance measurement is providing feedback to employees so they can tell whether or not they are winning. When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates.

The Measurement Must be Objective

Managers can learn a lot about performance feedback by looking closely at the sports world. In the sports world scorekeeping is objective. A goal is always a goal. The ball must go through the hoop to count. Close isn't good enough (except in horseshoes). A person either is competent or they're not. There's no such thing as almost being a national champion or almost making the winning touchdown. You must score more points than your opponent to win, and only winners can be champions.

Things are different in the work world. Some managers have been known to rate less competent employees as proficient and reward people for goals not achieved in the false hope of motivating them to produce more. Not surprising, employees become discouraged and perform less well when they see less committed workers receiving the same praise and rewards as those who are dedicated and diligent.

People want to be evaluated fairly for what they do. They want others to be rated by the same standards. They become demotivated when they, or anyone else, receives undeserved rewards. Unfortunately, few performance appraisals possess the objective integrity shown in the way athletes are evaluated.

In the first episode of the reality television show The Apprentice, one of the contestants, Sam, tried to convince Donald Trump to reward him for his effort rather than results. Trump rightfully chastised Sam saying, “But you didn’t sell any lemonade.”

The Measurement Must be Dynamic

Scorekeeping in sports is also more dynamic. In sports you can always tell when someone scores because lights flash, horns blow, cannons roar and fans cheer. Gigantic scoreboards display the results for everyone to see. Everyone knows who is winning and who is not.

Dynamic scorekeeping creates an exciting and productive mood for everyone involved. Both those playing the game and those watching are emotionally committed when the score is prominently displayed.

Organizations can create the same dynamic, energized work environment by providing daily performance information to their employees. With this information the employees can review their score and know immediately whether they need to alter their performance to accomplish the goal.

The Measurement Must be Self-Measured

Managers would be even wiser to let their employees keep track of their own performance. Golfers keep their own scorecard, joggers set their own stopwatch, and successful sports teams keep individual statistics so each player can evaluate and upgrade their own performance. Most athletes monitor their individual statistics so they have immediate information on where they can improve their game. Although the scoreboard displays the team totals, most athletes are more interested in knowing where they stand personally so they can do what is necessary to better themselves. Joggers know how many seconds they need to trim off their time. Golfers know the score they must shoot to beat their best game. And every baseball player can tell you what it will take to achieve a .300 batting average.

Additionally, in sports, players can easily compare their current performance to
their performance in the past. They can evaluate their effort based on a set standard and know exactly how much further they must go to break the conference record or move into first place.

Managers can turn their employees into “world champions” by providing their staff with the tools and methods to measure their accomplishments and adjust their performance based upon the feedback they receive. Constant assessment and constant feedback are the core elements of success in both the sports and work worlds. Employees must know exactly where they are performance-wise and be able to improve their individual score by their individual effort.

Innovative Management Group provides companies with the training, tools, and resources to pinpoint and measure individual and team performance to ensure the success of the company and every employee within the company. For more information, please contact us at 702-258-8334 or by email at mac@imglv.com

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How to Measure Performance

Of the eight core competencies of effective management that we introduce and teach in our Accountability Management Workshop, the competency managers say they struggle with the most is measuring and monitoring performance.

Many managers either do not know how to measure employee performance or have the mistaken assumption that certain tasks cannot be measured. The fact is every job classification and every job duty can be measured – reliably and with considerable precision – even “white collar” job skills.

The accurate tracking and measurement of performance is critical to business success. Measurement is the first step leading to control, and eventually to performance improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. And if you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.

Nothing is more critical to creating competence than establishing clear, valuable, and measurable goals. Measurement is the science of knowing where you are, where you want to be, and identifying the steps necessary to accomplish your goals.

The Nine Measurement Dimensions

There are nine measurement dimensions by which to assess individual performance. Some job classifications can be rated in each of the nine areas, while others may only be measured against a few of the dimensions outlined below.

The three broad categories of measurement are Quality, Quantity and Costs. Under each main category are three specific measurement dimensions.

The Quality measurement dimensions are Accuracy, Class and Novelty.

Accuracy is the degree to which an accomplishment matches a standard without errors of omission or commission. Omission is when something is left out. Commission is when something is inadvertently added. Examples of accuracy measurements are:
100% compliance with all OSHA regulations
Balance out within +/- $2
Within designated specifications
Hot food hot, cold food cold
Given correct change

Class is a comparative superiority of an accomplishment beyond mere accuracy. Market share, opinion polls, survey results, best of show, and other benchmarks are examples of class measurements. The following are class-type ratings:
Customer Satisfaction Survey scores
Five Star / Five Diamond hotel rating
The largest Chevrolet dealer on the West Coast
Voted #1 three years in a row
Two thumbs up

Novelty is a measurement of innovation and creativity without sacrificing any other qualities. Employees who develop leading edge technologies or patentable products add great value to an organization. An employee in the vault at a large bank in Las Vegas came up with a novel idea for breaking open wrapped coins by tossing them into a cement mixer. This saved countless man-hours of work. Other examples of novelty measurements are:
Number of employee suggestions placed in the company Suggestion Box
Number of Nobel Laureate professors at a college
Number of new patents
Improvements made to processes, procedures, practices, equipment, materials, etc.
Labor or cost saving ideas

The three Quantity measurements are Rate, Timeliness and Volume.

identifies the amount of items produced within a specified timeframe. These include such things as:
Being able to type 110 words per minute
Number of covers per shift in a restaurant
Average daily room rate for a hotel
Number of calls per PBX operator
Number of widgets produced per hour, per day, per week, per month, per year

Timeliness is a measurement of an accomplishment within a specified timeframe, where the emphasis is on the time rather than the amount. Examples of timeliness measurements are:
Get out of town by sundown
In by 8:00 out by 5:00
Shipped within 24 hours
One day turn around
Loans approved within 48 hours
Answer the phone within three rings

Volume merely is a measurement of the total amount produced. This is the simplest and most common measurement. It entails the simple act of counting something. For example:
Number of salt/pepper shakers refilled at the end of the shift
Total sales, total revenue, total costs, etc.
Number of managers who attended IMG’s Accountability Management Workshop
Number of rooms occupied
Number of butts in seats

Finally, the three Cost measurement dimensions are Labor, Material and Management.

Labor costs – the measurement most conscious to managers – are the costs associated with an accomplishment. These include:
Wages, benefits, overtime, etc.
Training and orientation
Travel and entertainment

Material is the measurement of the amount of resources and materials needed to produce an accomplishment. Employees who produce an outcome using less materials than their counterparts have greater value to an organization. Consequently, material measurements identify such things as:
Yield rates
Scrap rates
Amount of waste eliminated through automation
Paperless processes
Steps eliminated through process improvement initiatives

Management measurements are the costs associated with the managerial or supervisory support needed to accomplish a task. These include:
Management salaries and administrative costs
Supervisor to employee ratios
Number of days an employee works without direct supervision
Number of self-directed work teams
Number of layers of management

Someone once said, “That which gets measured, gets done.” Managers are paid for getting things done. Competent managers, therefore, are those who measure and monitor performance to ensure employees accomplish the things that need to get done the way they need to be done.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Crayon Pictures Reveal Company Culture

If you would like to know how your employees really feel about your company values and culture, let them draw you a picture.

One technique I use to get employees to honestly describe their work environment is to give them a box of crayons and a blank piece of paper. I then ask them to draw a picture showing what it is like to work in their company. I tell them to draw a vehicle, a tool, or some other representation that conveys a visual image of the organization. The results are always very telling.

At a railroad company in the Midwest one employee drew the 30-story corporate office building. Each window of the building had a window shade. The shades in the first floor windows were up completely. At each higher floor the shades were pulled down more and more until the window shades were completely down on the top floor, which housed the executive offices. This employee felt those who were leading the company were blind to the realities of the real work world. They didn't have a clue as to what was going on outside the comfort of their offices.

At another company an artistic manager drew a picture of a circle of pioneer wagons. Each wagon represented a different department in the company. Around the wagons rode the competitive Indians shooting at the company wagons. Those inside the wagons were also shooting, but their guns were pointed inward toward the other wagons in the circle. They were shooting at themselves while the company was under attack.

An employee at another company drew a picture of “the company bus.” Outside the front door of the bus smiling people were waiting in line hoping to get on. The people seated in the front row on the bus also were smiling. But the smiles of the passengers decreased as they moved toward the back of the bus. At the rear of the bus frowning people were jumping out of the emergency exit. Once they were free of the bus these former passengers started smiling again.

You cannot fool your employees. The real values and culture of your company can be seen and felt by your workforce. They experience it in their work environment every day. If you want to know how they really feel, give them a box of crayons.

Innovative Management Group provides expert assistance in creating the right culture for your company. You can contact us at 702-258-8334 or email mac@imglv.com

Friday, October 16, 2009

There Will Be Change in the Future: How Will You Respond to It?

There are three types of change. Each may bring about positive results, but the pathway to the change is much different. So also are the feelings one experiences during the change.

Change By Crisis

Change may be precipitated by a crisis. You have a heart attack. Your spouse leaves you. You lose your job. You go bankrupt. These events are “wake up calls” that bring about forced change -- often for the good.

An alert person would have seen the warning signs and taken action earlier. The less astute reacts after they are confronted with the change. The response of the latter usually is to cope with the change and try to adjust to the impact the change has thrust upon them.

The physical, mental, emotional and financial cost of changing by crisis usually is very high.

Change By Evolution

Another way to change is by evolution. This kind of change occurs when a person notices other people are changing. So they change too. They adapt their strategies and tactics to mirror those around them. The external environment provides the primary motivation to change. They evolve as the world evolves around them.

The problem with change by evolution is that those who change this way often don’t react fast enough to stay competitive. Me-too change is always a few steps behind. By only changing when the need to change is obvious, they are obviously late in doing so.

Change By Anticipation

In this type of change the person takes a mental journey into the optimal future and creates a vision of where he or she wants to go.

With a clear destination in mind, the person then compares where they are to the vision. They use the gap between the two to propel themselves into the future.

In anticipated change, people create their future. They see change as a challenge or adventure and take on the change willingly. They respond to conditions rather than reacting to them. They look forward and position themselves for success by anticipating future situations and conditions.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Here is What Others Are Saying about Innovative Management Group

I have received some wonderful compliments from my clients and thought I might pass a few along to toot my: horn. Here is what others are saying about Innovative Management Group:

Melanie Walker, VP of Human Resources at the Excalibur Hotel Casino says:

“Mac somehow always knows our business better than we do. He can guide an executive team to see that having clear intent and a laser focus can deliver measurable results. The best class I've ever taken (yes, I said EVER and I've been in a million) is Accountability Management, that Mac facilitates. He gets rave reviews from participants, and I've seen it change a management and employee culture time and time again. I'd hire Mac anytime, anywhere. He creates results that will leave a legacy in your organization.” Top qualities: Great Results, High Integrity, Creative

From Kerrie Peraino, SVP of Corporate Diversity at American Express:

“We hired Mac to help us work with a group of high-potential directors. His approach was both innovative and practical and helped to catapult our progress in developing these leaders for next level roles. Mac comes to the table with solutions as well as an open mind to tailor those solutions to best meet the needs of his customers. I enjoyed working with Mac and would do so again.” Top qualities: Great Results, Expert, Creative

Punam Mathur, SVP of Human Resources at NV Energy adds:

“Mac is simply a best in class business consultant. His work with our senior leadership on strategic planning made a huge difference. He knows his business!” Top qualities: Great Results, Expert, High Integrity

Paul Hobson, General Manager of Atlantis Casino says:

“I have worked with Mac on more than one occasion and he has never failed to deliver impressive results. Whether diagnosing operating problems, identifying business opportunities or providing management training, Mac will leave your team with the tools and the plan for high achievement. Top notch!” Top qualities: Great Results, Good Value, High Integrity

Mohamad A. Hakimian is the owner of the five-star Madison Hotel in Memphis. He adds:

“Mac is totally knowledgeable about what makes a fabulous service environment and takes a practical approach to creating training documentations that facilitate managers training functions. He immediately develops credibility with the managers and as a result gets the team excited and motivated to take charge of the process.” Top qualities: Expert, On Time, High Integrity

From Barbara Falvey, SVP of Human Resources at Hawaiian Airlines:

“Mac has proven time and again that he can provide focus and results to executive teams in the development of strategy and action plans. I would highly recommend Mac if you are looking for a skilled facilitator that is not afraid to challenge the status quo and who can drive the team to develop accountability and achieve results.” Top qualities: Great Results, Expert, Good Value

Craig Ghelfi, Chief Executive Officer at Greektown Casino comments about one of Mac's books:

“Mac's program significantly changed the way our our organization communicated and managed. His book "Stepping Forward Together" opened my eyes to the best ways of relating to subordinates, peers and superiors. Outstanding book (and program) that I would recommend highly!” Top qualities: Great Results, Expert, On Time

And one more from Gerad Hardy, Vice President of Operations at Seneca Gaming:

“Simply put Mac is the best of the best when it comes to consulting/training in teamwork, strategic alignment, and organizational effectiveness. His unique understanding of organizational behavior allows him to take complex issues and problems and translate them into easy to understand models that create lasting results. I highly recommend Mac to any business or Senior Executive looking to enhance the effectiveness of their organization.” Top qualities: Great Results, Expert, High Integrity

There are more than 30 more recommendations on Mac McIntire's profile at www.LinkedIn.com if you are interested in what others are saying about Innovative Management Group.