There are a lot of things out there which are made to sell a product, or service, but many of us overlook because of that. It does not mean that it is not a good product – if we do not purchase more of what the advertisement is selling. I came across a Microsoft reference card set for the Office Suite. I like to think of myself as a competent “Office” user, but was taken back a couple of steps this week. At work, and home, I use Office 2013. Due to a discount from work – I have always used the same setup at both places which allows for a lot of perks (same formatting abilities, knowledge of the program, etc.). This week I upgraded to a Surface Pro, which I might as well exclaim how much I LOVE it. I do… I absolutely do not know why I am laggard and go last of the adoption curves. With the new device I was also upgraded to Microsoft Office 2016. While the program is very similar – there are subtle differences that I was not prepared for thus, slowing down my efficiency as I searched for how to do… this or that. While I was doing some research I came across this freebie which is available to you through TradePub. The short PDF is a quick reference guide to the major office applications. I have downloaded a copy and placed it on here for you to take. It is free. If you like it – I strongly encourage you to go here and sign up for future notifications from this great company.
Monthly Archives: November 2016
Take advantage of the day: carpe diem. Very few people wake up hoping to have a bad day or wish that they would be a number in a crowd with no intellectual value. We should do this on a regular basis. It should not take a holiday to bring out appreciation in anyone. The “company” needs to publicly celebrate with the team members. Team members need to express appreciation for peers, manager, and sub-ordinates alike. The work is not performed by itself and it takes a group effort to transform our goods and services from one state to another. Take a moment today to shake hands, notice your teams, and express the gratitude that you have. Take a notepad and hand write a letter expressing thanks – hand written letters are still valued.
Below is a small list of ways that you can thank employees – beyond words (if you so desire).
- 101 Ways to Reward Employees (Without Giving Them Cash)
- 16 Clever Ways to Show Employee Appreciation
- 52 Epic Ways to Reward Your Employees
Organizations usually have some sort of reporting structure. That can vary based on the size or maybe the model that is being used. Typically an individual contributor reports to a supervisor or manager who then reports to a manager or director (and so on). Much like a pyramid there are more people at the bottom and less as you climb to the top; one director has two manager who each have three reports etc. While I do believe that no one is more important – the responsibilities tend to change with the hierarchy. On the front lines much of the work is hands on with day-to-day in mind. As roles change to manager (etc.) focus shifts from day to week to year; tactical to strategy. One would normally expect this sort of management. Communication passes up and down the ranks and each role performs their piece to allow the plan to come to life. When done right it can be a breeding ground for future managers as well as various other promotions. For the sake of this post, let’s call it “managing up a level.” Inside of this up one level mentality it would be common to see empowerment, stretch goals, grooming opportunities as well as overlapping responsibilities. The work looks like a Venn Diagram; each circle is clear and distinct but shared at points. In this model people are supportive of each other as well as weave a strong braid.
Yet, inside this structure a counter culture can lurk; hard to detect afar but extremely noticeable from the inside. This decay of the system creates a pull downward; or managing “down a level.” Each tier of the organization is not capable or does not complete tasks (for whatever reason). Leads perform non-lead work and supervisors spend the days working inside of fires vs. planning and improving processes. Instead of roles being empowered they tend to request affirmation at every transaction. Often, Peter’s Principle is at work. The great lead does not make a great manager does not make a great director and so on. Every role works one level(+) down to compensate for responsibilities. While doing this each position effectively (or ineffectively) performs subordinate work and ineffectively performing his or her own work. The time and energy that was once spent in grooming, or growing people, is used to micromanage, draw and redraw boundaries. It probably feels more like chaos and striving to keep the ship afloat or train on the track…
If you suspect that you are in a managing downward situation, stop, and reflect. What led to this point and what can you do to change the culture? It did not happen over night so do not expect to flip some switch or change directions midstream with no ripple effect. It is the right thing to do – to step back – and start to empower your team. However, it is not the “norm” depending on how long the culture has been in place and like anything previously set, will take time to change. You can start by setting a plan into place which includes stretch goals and empowering/ownership expectations. The key is that you did notice and are taking action.
Hope the week is treating you well.
Some time ago, I posted an entry which discussed staying in the game. In poker, you may not go all in, on purpose. Sometimes it is about holding and outlasting the balance of the players. I have found myself watching the election results and am in awe about how breaking this is. Breaking in both a good change – and a bad change – depending on which stance you hold. I am not here to discuss that; one good thing about the election day – it is OVER after that day. I want to say – have a cup of coffee, take a breath, gather your thoughts and make a plan based on the cards you have been dealt.
A sign caught my eye on the way to work one morning. There are advertisements everywhere and why this one caught my eye, I am not sure. I suppose it was the fact that the delivery vehicle had a large toilet paper roll on the outside of the truck. Clayton Paper, a local company, had an advertisement with the message (paraphrased) “There will always be a need for paper.” Below the quote was a large roll of toilet paper. While I find the advertisement effective for now – I started to drift in thought. I started to think about alternatives to using toilet paper. I mean, after all, there are some now. Granted, they are not as widely used, accepted, or even known to some folks. Yet, there I was – pondering.
Later on that day while I was teaching a 5S course, I ran into a few situations where I had to shift some paradigms. “We have always done it this way,” or “It will never change.” We are creatures of habit – and I am just as guilty not liking change from time to time. I also do not have a business (Clayton) riding on a model with that philosophy. I did look at the company’s website; they have a large amount of other items for the marketplace. Again, I still come back to the thought process that lead me down the rabbit hole. That is, why do we think of now and the future in terms of what we know vs. reconceiving what could be? When I purchased my first computer I had 4 GB of space and 256K RAM. The current modem was a 26K modem and we used a land line to dial in to our ISP. I tell you this because while I was buying the unit – I was worried about space. “You will never fill up 4 gigs,” a convincing Gateway salesperson said. Today, I do not have a jump drive smaller than 16. In fact the last movie that I copied to my PC was over 4 gigs.
A business needs to develop a solid plan for each fiscal year. In those plans, there should be a detailed plan as to when and where the money is going to come from. Projects should be feasible and realistic to the times. You would not want to bank on a large savings from non existent technology unless, of course, you are pioneering the way with lots of research for credibility. I would propose, however, that in your idea chest you keep a section of ideas that could happen some day. Through each ideation session, capture the ideas and revisit old ideas. Eventually the ideas will be pruned out or come alive based on new developments. To be cutting edge, or progressive (as I have heard it coined), you should think of what could be… I do not think you would want to build an empire on high risk unknowns, but there should be a small percentage that you can tap into at a later date.
Clayton Paper did not do anything wrong. They just happened to spark a considerable amount of wandering in my thoughts. I think that the only wrong thing we could do is assume that what we have will never need to change.
Hope the week is treating you well!
There was a book that I read some time ago. Prior to reading the book I knew about engagement of your team and sharing information. I had not thought of it in any detail; I was relatively new to supervision. Gung Ho! changed the way that I thought about the team(s) before me. The video that I watched was cheesy at best but has, to this day, been a continual reference point for me. Realistic Perspectives, a blog reviewing the material, does an excellent job of describing the three philosophies discussed in the book. If you want to understand the concepts in detail I encourage you to read the book or website mentioned above. When I first started understanding the material I had my team sit through the dramatic video. The reactions were mixed, of course, and the message was lost with some people. Sure, the occasional snarky or smart alec remarks were shared. Around the same time I started learning about lean, continuous improvement and the eight wastes. Of those, I tend to spend a lot of time focusing on “intellect.”
Back to the story. So my department was struggling. We were not doing the best in safety, our performance was sub-par and morale was low. My department was one, when you mentioned the name, people either pitied me – or smiled the kind of smile when you got socks for Christmas as a kid. I am sure that if I looked hard enough I could have found a wall with notches for each supervisor that “went through there.” After watching the video, presented to me by an human resource manager, I decided to go down the path of Gung Ho!. I have always been a servant minded manger, sometimes to my undoing, and began to take advantage of the team that I had. I began to share the information from meetings that I had with the company with my crew. Did we make money, or lose it – if so where, how, and what did it mean? I explained why we had to do some activities that no one liked (and I didn’t necessarily support). I let the team see me as a real person. When the team worked the weekends – I came in some of the weekends to work with them. During our start up meetings I shared yesterday’s results in comparison with the week goals and made educated guesses about what I foreseen coming. Granted, I could not always predict, but I shared my opinion and facts as I had them. Let’s be clear: I did not whine or cater to a victim mentality. It was not my place to “take sides” or to belittle others to gain my teams side. When tasks came to the department I had the team members lead the groups and help in my decisions. I mean, after all, it was a team – I just was the liaison to communicate where we were and needed to go. This continued for some time – and one day I stopped. A couple days went by and the team started asking questions. “How did we do” or “where are we for the week?” It had started to take shape. It was a long road, and had more rough days than good at start but it had grown, organically, into a team.
There is no miracle. Our performance did not take us to the top of the company. It did, however, improve from our baseline. We were engaged, empowered, and moving in the same direction. If you imagine a crowd moving down the street – there were runners and walkers. There were joggers and people stopping every so often. It all had to do with intellect and the fact that people were hungry to know what they were apart of. Having a known purpose adds value and creates a pull to the what or how when we known the why. When people know how they fit in – it feels much less like a single useless dot but a part of a poitalism painting. Start with why is another good resource when digging into he deeper message of what makes us inspired – or have purpose.
In summary, I challenge you to take a moment and think about your team. Do they know what they do and why they do it? Have you shared information about the department – the company? There is something to be said for a team that is transparent and takes pride in the vital role that each plays towards the end goal. If you consider it an investment over time I am sure you too will see a decent ROI.