Leaders and managers have a tendency to get myopic. The focus is on the job at hand, getting results, leading the way, setting vision, etc. And I suppose this is as it should be – at times.
One of the easiest things to forget is that we are also responsible for the people around us. What result are we getting from them? Or better question, what result are we getting IN them? Are they learning, improving skills, gaining opportunity, taking leadership?
A quote I read this weekend:
Treat people as if they are what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of being. (Johann Wolfgang van Goethe)
Made me pause a bit and think about where I might have missed the mark. Am I treating people as if they are what they should be right at this moment? What am I doing to help people become what they are capable of being?
In the midst of management angst and the drive to complete a task, maybe it is time to step back and think that the task might be completed better if I spend more time investing in the team around me.
Respect – it’s a dying art.
Wondering how to write an email that will guarantee it is classified as junk/spam and ignored? Write one like this:
I wanted to follow-up on the email that Peter Clark, our CEO, sent last Friday. We are now open in Toronto.
Is there anything we can connect on?
- Never heard of this person
- Did not receive the email from the supposed CEO
- Don’t work in Toronto so don’t really care if they are open there or not
- Don’t even know what they do – so how can I know if there is something to connect on
Where do people come up with this stuff?
Why is basic etiquette in business communications so difficult for some people. Especially when it comes to email. Is it a function of the “I’m too important to bother” syndrome? Or maybe the, “I can be more efficient if I don’t reply” syndrome.
Let’s review some basics:
- If someone emails you asking a question, respond. Even if it’s a simple “We’re thinking about it.”
- If it is an email that requires a third person being pulled in to the conversation, let the originator know the email has moved on to the third. Even better – copy the originator into the forward.
- Be clear in your subject line.
- Don’t SHOUT unless you mean it.
Email will be with us for a long time and we all get a lot of it. That doesn’t excuse boorish behavior.
For some reason, there are non-profit leaders who believe that the cause they serve is the reason you should work there. And because of the cause, the staff are there to serve, no matter what the conditions. Why? Shouldn’t the job itself be enjoyable? Is there a need to be a jerk and make working conditions difficult?
Why can’t you have your cake and eat it too? Be a leader that treats people right, manages with integrity, and recognizes personal shortcomings and you will have staff that will go to the ends of the earth for the cause – and for you. And along the way you might find your organization runs more efficiently and with less staff turnover.
Just a thought.
When dreams die, it is painful. The sense of loss of direction, the feeling of failure, and the soul searching question of “why” are all felt strongly. And yet . . .
Out of the ashes comes the new. It may take a while to be defined. It may not seem logical. It’s probably not all that exciting initially. But in the end, it’s right. It is where you are supposed to be.
Dreams are great. They provide a framework for direction and motivation. But we are human. And we don’t always dream in the right direction. If we always had the right dream, there would never be any nightmares while we sleep.
In work life, dreams can be broken at the organizational level (bankruptcy, closure, market shifts, etc) or they can be broken at the individual level (project collapse, marketing plan failure, promotion not given). Sometimes the organizational impacts the individual.
How do you tell when a failure or setback requires a new direction or just more/harder work on the same project? Failure can be a learning tool. It can bring about a sharpening of the senses. But sometimes it is terribly difficult to tell the difference between the need for a sharper focus on an existing project vs the need to abandon the project all together.
Not all dreams are worth pursuing at all costs. Finding that point, that clear indicator of the death of a dream, is the challenge.
Seth Godin posted a great short thought provoker this morning. In it he talks about how the age of the internet has spread influence and opportunity away from the center.
I’d like to take that a bit further and think about it in terms of organizational dynamics. In many organizations there is still this urge to think that unless someone is at the core of the business or center of the leadership team they don’t have anything to offer. This thinking is a result of the old “executive dining room” mentality. If you were not part of the club, you just did what you were told. No need to think strategically. Don’t offer up visions of new opportunity. That’s for the core.
Guess what – it doesn’t work that way anymore. The organization that continues to look only at the members of the “dining room club” for new initiatives will eventually implode. The organization that cannot recognize and reward talent that exists on the periphery will not only lose the talent, it will grow stale and inflexible.
If you are in leadership, provide your team with the opportunity to spread their wings. Treat them with respect and watch what happens. You stand to benefit.
If you are on the periphery, push the idea/project/opportunity. As Seth concludes in his post – “The center is a state of mind.” You are the new center.
I happen to be one. I like to think I have special powers but I don’t talk about them. That would be wrong.
In a recent FastCompany article, Susan Cain is interviewed about her recent book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. I think I am going to have to get the book. Two things in particular resonated with me.
The first had to do with meetings. I hate them and avoid them when I can. Especially if they are unstructured or “agendaless”. Responding to a question about the term “groupthink” Susan states:
Studies tell us that the most verbal, assertive, and dominant person’s ideas are going to be paid more attention to. However, those same studies also indicate zero correlation between the effectiveness with which an idea is advanced and its usefulness. Any time people come together in a meeting, we’re not necessarily getting the best ideas; we’re just getting the ideas of the best talkers.
I have seen this frequently and it is particularly prevalent in corporate cultures where individual creativity and initiative are not valued. Cultures that require incessant review and approval of projects stifle the creativity of introverts as they just don’t have the personality to “fight” their way through all the talking.
The second part that grabbed me had to do with the charismatic leader syndrome. We tend to forget that leadership is case specific.
We presume you need to be bold and charismatic to be a manager, but Adam Grant at Wharton found that if a company is dominated by proactive employees you often get better outcomes with an introverted leader. That’s because an introverted leader is more likely to actually let employees run with their ideas and implement them. Extroverts, however, are often unwittingly trying to put their stamp on things and since they’re more dominant, their employees’ suggestions may never even rise to the surface.
I tend to lean to the hands-off approach of management and try to let my staff soar, supporting them when needed. I have found in cases that it works well, with staff that can live within that. However, I have also found it to fail when certain staff require constant attention and affirmation. Maybe I just manage fellow introverts better than extroverts.
What’s your style?
Had a difficult day recently. In a strategic shift for our department, we eliminated a position. It meant informing a staff member that she would no longer have a position with us. We had been wrestling with this for some time and finally got clarity on which way we wanted to proceed. Hated it. But it is necessary.
Brings me to the question of the day. How do you make those challenging decisions? Do you find them easy? We went through the following process:
1. Is the current strategy something we need to continue? (Lots of evaluative work done here.)
2. If no, why not?
3. Is there a more pressing need within the department and our overall context within the organization?
4. Define the need.
5. Can the current position holder fill the new role?
6. If yes – easy decision. If no – hard decision.
Now we begin the process of moving forward.
Are titles really that important?
No, not book titles – job titles. And if so, what do they convey that makes them important? A sense of position or rank in the organization? A sense of authority? Maybe to the holder it is a sense of accomplishment?
Unfortunately, I think the impact of titles has been diluted over the years. Take for instance the financial services industry. How many Vice Presidents do we know who are really account managers. And yet there is the sense within the industry that we won’t pay attention to them unless they have the VP title. And maybe that is true. Positioning in front of the general public can be an important concern.
I recently had a discussion with someone in the non-profit realm who was concerned that a member of the staff was not using the correct title in correspondence. He was reflecting that this individuals rank was lower than the title he was using. And yet at the same time the boss wants to make sure that the staff member is correctly positioned in front of donors. In my mind, much ado about nothing.
That being said, let me offer up these observations:
- Let the title reflect the work being done.
- If necessary, let the title position well in front of the public.
- Let the title provide a sense of rank.
- Be flexible.
- Don’t get hung up on the words.
What are your thoughts on job titles? Are they something to get hung up on?
I had an experience recently with an online services provider that illustrated the point about providing choice to your client base.
The company supplies a service to charitable organizations that facilitates third-party fundraising – allowing constituents to raise money for charity. We pay the company for an account with branded landing pages and then there is also a charge assessed to each transaction. We have been generally happy with the service though it is maybe not as robust as it could be. We have a large number of individuals who use it to raise money for us while participating in athletic events in particular – including myself.
They recently implemented a change to the way that donations are displayed on the fundraisers’ pages. The page now displays only the “intended donation” rather than the full donation. And here lies the challenge. When a donor makes a gift on a page, they are provided with the option of covering the fee that the company normally charges to the transaction. If the donor chooses to cover that amount, then the only amount shown is the gift amount. So for example, if I make a gift of $25 and chose to cover the fee, the additional $1.92 is not shown on the page. It does however come across to the charity as part of the gift when we download the weekly gift report.
Here is where I think they made the mistake:
- They assumed that every charity wanted the exact same thing from the software.
- They assumed that the fee charged to a gift when the donor covers the fee is less of a gift than when the amount is not covered by the donor.
- They assumed that all charities calculate their fundraising campaigns the same way.
- In applying the change to active pages (rather than just new pages) they placed the onus on the fundraiser to have to explain to donors why their totals changed.
In today’s world, it is about options and choice. If you don’t make your systems flexible, you lose the ability to effectively serve. You may retain customers who can’t afford to leave but those who can won’t put up with less than effective systems.
Needless to say, we are looking at making a major change.