Sunday, June 17, 2012

5 Business Lessons From Dad

Dads have the ability to give us different life lessons than our Moms.  Dads state things differently, have a different view, and most of the time they don't worry about sugar coating the lessons.  Here are 5 business lessons from Dad: 

Lesson #1:  Keep your eye on the ball.  My dad was the one that taught me how to throw a ball.  It's because of his teaching that allowed me to play on various traveling softball teams and contributed greatly to my All Conference award in high school.  This lesson translates seamlessly over to business.  All too often we get side tracked and distracted.  When you take your eye off the ball, it rolls under your glove allowing a hitter to get on base.  In business, when we take our eye off the goals, opportunities will slide right out from our grasp and allow the competition to get ahead of us.  

Lesson #2:  If you're going to do a job, do it right.  I remember this lesson well.  When I was a Girl Scout, one of the badges had a requirement to build something.  Dad taught me how to build a shelf.  I was quickly bored with this project.  I wanted to ride my bike and go outside and play with my friends, not hang out in the garage and build a stupid shelf.  To that end, of course I started going too fast.  Dad slowed me down and taught me the importance of "measure twice, cut once".   As we go through our day in the business world, this same lesson still applies.  You can always tell when someone is just dialing it in.  Make sure that when you're assigned a it right.  Yes, it matters.  

Lesson #3:  Sometimes all a bully needs is a good karate chop.  My sister was getting picked on by this guy on the bus.  He would put his arm across the seats blocking her way to get off the bus.  Dad said to just give him a good old fashioned karate chop on the arm and he would never block her way again.   This turned out to be true.  While it's not ok to just karate chop someone in the office, it's important that as a leader and manager that you handle the bullies.    Steps to take: 

      1.  Address the problem with the employee in a 1:1 meeting with examples of the behavior that should cease.  
      2.  Allow the employee to comment on these examples and give them a chance to come up with the action plan they will follow.  They may give you some insight as to why they are acting this way.  
      3.  Make sure you are prepared with the action plan the employee should follow going forward and present to them if they did not come up with the appropriate response on their own.  Keep in mind that there may be actions that YOU will have to do as well to help them (and the team).  
      4.  Follow up with this in writing and make sure you've let the employee know the consequences should that behavior continue.  
      5.  Like a karate chop, do this swiftly so their actions don't get out of control and involve HR when appropriate.   Inability to take action will hurt your team. 

If YOU are the bully:   Cut it out.  Seriously.  There is no need for managers to be bullies.  You already have the power...use it for good.  If you don't know how to do that, email me for some 1:1 coaching on how to be a better manager.  My rates are reasonable.

Lesson #4:  The less you talk the smarter you look:  My Dad is a man of few words.  He chooses his words carefully and therefore has earned a reputation of being an intelligent man.  Good news...he really IS a smart guy.   As leaders,  we should remember the old adage:  We have 2 ears and one mouth and they should be used in proper proportion.   At one point Dad and I were working at the same big company in different departments.  My employees got to know him and would often see him in the cafeteria and on breaks.   I always got HUGE compliments on how great he is.  Even to this day, my old team will still ask about him.  Leaders, let's be careful with our words...everyone is always watching and waiting to hear what we have to say and how we say it.  Then they watch to see if our actions match what we say.  

Lesson #5:  It's ok to let star players move on....handle disappointment with grace:  When I was 11 or 12, I played softball in a recreation league and my Dad was the head coach.  He believed that recreation leagues are there to give everyone a chance to play.  Well, I am super duper competitive and a good athlete.  This was not ok with me.  I felt like I needed to be on a team that was focused on winning.  I think it disappointed him that I didn't want to play for him, but he let me go play for my friend Natalie's Dad who's coaching was more in line with what I wanted.   He did this with grace...he understood it was the best thing for me at that time.  As leaders and managers, sometimes we have to let our star players move on...and let other stars emerge.  It's disappointing when our top performers want to leave...we try entice them to stay with more money or more perks.  There are times when this works out well.   Leaders, go with your instincts on KNOW when it's time for the star to leave for another opportunity.  Make sure you're building a strong bench of players that can step in.  

As this Father's Day comes to a close, take a few moments to reflect upon the lessons we've learned from great men in our lives.   

Sunday, May 13, 2012

3 Lessons From Mom that Managers Can Learn From

If there was a "Mom Playbook", I imagine that it would hold many similarities to a "Manager Playbook".  Out of that playbook, I've chosen three different lessons that we learn from the mothers out there.

1.  You wear many hats.

Growing up my mom had many duties.  Until we got to "chore" age, she handled all these duties by herself.  Even after we learned, I bet she had to go behind us and re-do some of the "work" we had done.   Well, probably just what my sister did, I'm sure I did everything right.  :-)  Mom was the cook, the maid, the chauffeur, teacher, bank teller, tailor, detective (you know it's true), disciplinarian....I could go on and on.   She wore all those hats seemingly effortlessly and while she has hung up the cook hat (for the most part---ha ha), in her home she is still the maid, does the laundry, and I still call on her incredible skills as a tailor.

In management, we do the same thing.  Often we have to change hats depending on what we are doing.   Sometimes we find ourselves wearing a coaches hat and calling the play.  That's the fun part of management...being IN the action with the team.  The other hats may not be as fun but are necessary.   My excel guru hat is battered from all the forecasting over the years in that tool.  There are days when you wear the therapist hat and listen to what is going on in the lives of your team member.  The detective hat comes on when we have to figure out how a deal (or employee) has gone awry.  Even when we get to put on the party hat with the team at the company holiday party, it's still important to keep in check so that it's not embarrassing to show up the next day.  Oh, you know what I'm talking about.  ;-)

2.  You teach independence.

From an appropriate age, Mom taught us to help out with chores.  To this day, I still load the dishwasher the same way that mom taught me to.  She taught independence by giving us chores in increasing levels of difficulty.  When I was old enough,  Mom encouraged work.  I started with babysitting, then was a lifeguard at the local pool and started waiting tables at 16 so that I could earn money.  She took the time early to teach that we could do things on our own, sending us the message that we had abilities and could make it.

A manager's goal is to do the same thing.  We want our employees to be able to excel!  Here are some things that we have to make sure they know to be independent on the job:  

   a.  Make sure they understand the tools needed to do the job.
   b.  Get them a mentor (either inside or outside the company) so they continue to grow.
   c.  Give them a safe environment to ask questions so they will not take on a 'victim' mentality.
   d.  Ensure they understand the consequences to non performance.
   e.  Make sure they know the progression path, even if there is not one!!
   f.  Meet on a regular basis to discuss how they are doing on their goals (work and personal!).
   g.  Don't forget to tell them what they are doing RIGHT as well as ways to improve.

This a starting point to getting independence from the team!!

3.  Sometimes you have to be the bad guy.

No one likes to deliver bad news.  While growing up, I was certain that my mother was the original Dr. No (not in the good James Bond way).  It was not until much later that I learned that Mom had to be the bad guy sometimes so that I wouldn't get into even more trouble than I did on my own.

"No, you can't stay out until 2 am"
"No, you can't wear that mini mini mini skirt"
"No, you can't beat on your sister"

All good lessons that I adhere to even today.

Every manager has had to deliver bad news.   Whether it's a reduction in benefits, layoffs, a termination or even a less than stellar review,  there are times when managers must be the bad guy.  Here are a few tips on how to be the bad guy in the best way possible:

   a.  Keep the message brief and direct.
   b.  Be respectful and don't sugar-coat.
   c.  Take ownership of the blaming.
   d.  Don't be a coward...deliver the message face-to-face, not via email.
   e.  When appropriate, allow for a question and answer session.
   f.  Keep your own emotions in check...role play ahead of time to get wording down.

As this Mother's Day comes to close, take a few moments to reflect and be thankful for your Mother or the mother figures that you've had and have in your life.