Tag Archives: teamwork

Staying Alinged

One thing that bad golfers do (and I’m speaking from personal experience here) is to misalign themselves. They might point the clubface at their target but they fail to get their hips, shoulders, and knees properly aligned. When they go to hit the shot, inevitably the ball goes someplace other than where the golfer desires.
I thought of that this morning as I read the results of a study on marketing compensation. Conducted by MediaPost, the study found that:

Agencies and their clients are far apart in terms of what they deem to be the most fair method of compensation, according to findings of a survey of advertiser and agency execs conducted recently by Advertiser Perceptions for MediaPost. While labor-based fees are the No. 1 method preferred by agencies (45%), incentive methods were the top choice among marketers (40%).

You might not be a marketing agency or a marketer, but there is something to be taken from that for whatever business you’re in. Think of a car’s four wheels. When they’re properly aligned, the car is easy to hold on the course you set. If one wheel is out of alignment, the car pulls left or right and you’re constantly having to fight to keep it heading where you want.

Your business is no different. Your goals and your customers’ goals have to be in alignment. So too do yours and your team’s. Being paid fairly is a critical part of the employer/employee relationship, and no one is going to do their best work if they feel like they’ve been treated unfairly. I’ve known agencies who’ve resigned clients because they felt that they were losing money servicing the account. I actually had a client who hired me to complete a project over a few weeks. When I presented the completed work in a little over a week, they asked to reduce what I was being paid since “it didn’t take as long as we thought.” In that case, it was my fault for not being sure that their expectations (how long it would take and the value of that time) were in alignment with how I did the work and the value of the project regardless of the time spent. Sure, I could have sat on the completed work until it was due, but that has no benefit to my client and only helps me justify what they’re paying.

All the wheels need to be aligned. The club face and your body need to be aligned. The goals and expectations of everyone in your organization need to be aligned, and that alignment must extend to your customers as well. Hard to do sometimes, but always worth it, right?

 

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Filed under Consulting, Huh?

My Board Is Meeting

If you’ve been wondering where the screed has been for the last couple of days, the post below from 2009 will explain everything. Originally titled “The BOA,” the “meeting” I’m attending is an incredibly valuable gathering both for me and for my clients because it helps me be a better advisor. Enjoy!

I leave tomorrow morning on an annual trip I take to Myrtle Beach.  In theory, it’s a golf outing but it’s more of a 5 day stay in a rest home getting my batteries recharged.  13 of us go, 12 of whom play golf.  The other guy is a “social member” – most golf clubs have them – who enjoys the non-golf activities – cards, movies, and general guy banter.  Like “Fight Club“, the first rule is we don’t really talk about it.  However, what I can talk about that these are the guys whom I trust, to whom I can turn for advice, and who are honest – often brutally so – with me about everything from my golf game to my attitude.  For all of the social networking tools available out there, nothing beats the face to face contact with this group for me. There is a business lesson in this as well.
Every businessperson needs a “board of advisors” for themselves, not their business.  While your significant other is a great start, like a business BOA, you need multiple diverse points of view.   My group has a few lawyers, an accountant, a few “money” guys, a restaurateur, another digital media expert  – you get the idea.  Ideally, these are people who can get past how you say things and hear what it is you’re saying. They are comfortable enough with you to know that their candor will be taken in the open, supportive spirit in which it’s offered.  When their advice isn’t taken, they’re not offended and are smart enough to hold their tongues when it turns out their advice was right.

So off I go to meet with my BOA. I’ll try to keep posting over the next few days but if I don’t, please understand it’s because I’m in a Board meeting.  When is your next meeting? Do you have a board to gather?Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

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Filed under Helpful Hints, What's Going On

Writers And Editors

I frequently collaborate with other consultants on both projects and proposals. While our skill sets often overlap in some areas, generally we bring different things to the project. One thing I’ve noticed about the process is that some of us are writers and some of us are editors and I think it’s important for any business to have a mix of both. Here is why.

Writers create things. Those of us who think we can write (and I hope 2,000+ blog posts show you that I can!) are right-brain oriented, in my opinion. We see things or hear things and are moved to put our own spin on them. When it comes to business, we can look at or listen to a situation and ideas begin to germinate. In my case, it’s often analyzing the situation at hand and synthesizing a plan based on situations from the past. Sometimes a totally new concept emerges and I write it up as fast as I can because ideas are butterflies – they are beautiful but fleeting.

Editors, on the other hand, seem to be more left-brained. They can take a writer’s ramblings, see the central idea, and make it better. How? By asking questions raised by the writing and demanding answers. They can add structure. Since the ideas are not their own, they have neither a vested interest in protecting anything written nor any insight into what’s being communicated if it isn’t on the page. I think while we need t be passionate about our creations in business we also have to understand that our ideas need to be understood by our audience. Editors make that happen.

As a writer, I’m happy to be edited because a great editor can make me look better than I am. Writers make connections between things and editors make those connections more clear. To a certain extent, writers “do” and editors “help”. And to be clear, I don’t think one is necessarily one or the other. I like to think of myself as a writer who can edit. On these collaborations I referenced, I will frequently put out the first draft for the team but once that’s out there, everyone becomes an editor, refining the proposal or project until it sings.

So where on the spectrum do you fall – more a writer or an editor? Do you have both or your team?

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Filed under Thinking Aloud

Braces

A female mouth with braces.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I went to the dentist last week for a cleaning. Despite having worn braces when I was a kid some of my lower teeth have shifted as I’ve aged and the dentist said I should think about having them straightened out (again). Having endured braces long ago, I told him that unless there was some reason beyond the need to be extra diligent as I brush and floss I would pass. It did, however, get me thinking about braces and I think there is a business lesson here.

Braces work by putting steady pressure on misaligned teeth. Over time, the pressure moves the teeth into the correct position. Orthodontists use rubber bands or springs to exert specific pressure to push the teeth in the proper direction. The trick is that there is constant pressure, and any of you who remember sleeping with the extra pressure of that contraption they had you wear at night will agree that while the pressure isn’t overwhelming it’s quite noticeable.

As managers, we need to act like braces. Organizations often have parts that are misaligned and which need to be moved back into place. As with teeth, one can’t just remove and replace the misaligned elements, at least not until all other options have been exhausted. It’s too traumatic. Figuring out how things ought to line up and applying steady pressure is what we ought to be doing.

The same goes for dealing with people. Really excellent people often have a flaw that can be fixed with time and patience. It’s identifying the problem, applying the corrective devices, increasing the pressure in a helpful but not painful way, and waiting that is the key.  The steel railroad ties of my youthful brace experience are long gone, replaced by barely noticeable orthodonture.  That’s how managers need to think as well – using a light, barely noticeable hand can be just as effective with the right pressure and design.

How are you fixing things today?

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Filed under Consulting

Are You A Mechanic?

Unless you are a very knowledgeable gearhead, you’ve probably had the experience of something going wrong with your vehicle and heading to a mechanic.  Hopefully, I’m not the only one who is immediately paranoid about the diagnosis offered.  I’m always concerned that what I’m being told is causing a rattle is a broken motor mount that requires expensive repairs when it’s just a loose hose that could be fixed with a zip tie.  By the way, if you think I’m exaggerating, read this article. 

The mechanic situation is an example of someone with more knowledge and, therefore, more power taking advantage of you.  You might be reading this while shaking your head and saying I would never behave that way.  I’m sure on the surface that’s true.  Let’s think, however, about another situation in which you might just be behaving just as badly and taking advantage of someone.

An employee leaves and you ask someone else to cover that work as well as their own.  Given that most jobs take at least a month (and generally more) to fill, what are you doing to compensate that person for assuming the extra workload?  Is it possible either to have several people cover or maybe some things just go undone while you go through the hiring process?

Another example.  No one ever really leaves the office anymore.  Email is never off and most people carry email access on their persons at all times.  That said, we’ve all heard of situations where someone sends an email at night and when it isn’t answered in a few minutes, follow up with either a second note or a phone call.  Unless it’s a major crisis, why can’t that wait until work hours resume?  It’s one thing to make these demands of salaried management; it’s quite another to ask hourly employees to keep working outside of work since they’re not getting paid for the time.

Finally, when was the last time you said “thank you” to every member of your team?  Sure, a paycheck is a nice “thanks” but you’ll be surprised how far a few kind words can go.  It makes the folks with whom you work confident that you’re not the evil mechanic who is taking advantage of their situation.  Willing to try?

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Filed under Reality checks, Thinking Aloud

My Bat, My Ball

A long time ago I had a boss who used to recite a little rhyme when he’d get into a discussion with other managers about how something ought to be done. It’s stuck with me: 

My bat, my ball
My ass, my call

In other words, as the person in charge of our division, I’m the one who answers to top management if things go wrong, so I get to decide how things are going to get done. I thought of him as I read the results of a survey by General Electric (GE) and Edelman Berland, which asked respondents to choose their three most challenging best practices to implement for enabling innovation  This was reported by eMarketer.  There were two best practices which the respondents found most difficult to implement.

The first was creating a connected culture where idea-sharing is facilitated and where all the contributing parties are recognized and rewarded.  The second was creating a set of metrics to decide which product or service should be funded or killed, as well as having a clear process and structure in place to manage innovation.  These we cited by over 40% of the survey respondents. What struck me about that, and how it relates to my old boss’ saying, is that both are about control.

With respect to the first point. If you’ve worked in any organization larger than a handful of people you’ve probably come across the dreaded silo effect.  You know what I mean: people not allowing anyone outside of their immediate group to see into their area and the lack of communication and cross-departmental support often found in large companies.  As a boss, you can mandate that people play nicely with other departments but the reality is that unless you proactively facilitate it and monitor it, it doesn’t really happen.  The second half of the point about reward is also about control since rewarding subordinates is often how managers keep people in line.  Shocking news: managers often play favorites irrespective of some folk’s contributions.

With respect to the second point.  That same boss had another saying: let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good story. Again, a control issue.  He wanted to decide what we did and how we did it.  We would innovate HIS ideas and we’d kill something when HE decided, irrespective of the data we had.

The real challenge these points raise is that of being adult enough to relinquish control in order to gain control of the business.  Turning a dictatorship into a benevolent monarchy is hard, but necessary.  Are you up to the task?

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Filed under Consulting

Cooks And Bakers

It’s Foodie Friday and today I want you to think about if you’re a cook or if you’re a baker.  Your immediate response, assuming you spend time in the kitchen, might be “Gee, I do both.”  That’s probably true.  When I’m preparing the Thanksgiving feast, I bake pies and the occasional cake but I am definitely NOT a baker.

One of the bakers at Boudin Bakery in Fisherma...

(Credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe it’s my rebellious nature (those of use who lived through the 1960’s have that streak) but baking is way too rigid for me.  Baking is chemistry.  It’s Baroque music to cooking’s jazz.  One has specific formulas and rules; the other encourages improvisation.  I know how certain flavors go together and armed with just an idea and my tools I can usually make something pretty good.  Try that with baking.

When you make a baking mistake it’s pretty obvious.  Not so with cooking.  I can eyeball a tablespoon of oil for a pan.  Try eyeballing a tablespoon of baking powder armed with the knowledge that if you’re off the whole project fails.  This is not to say I think less of bakers.  They are far more precise and patient than I tend to be in the kitchen.  I can’t see very many bakers I know or see on TV going off on a rant while many of the chefs appear to be aggressive, anxious, and on edge.  Walk in to any restaurant and you’ll see them both.  Which is, of course, the business point.

Like a restaurant, any business needs both bakers and cooks on the team to produce a complete product.  You need the team members who try new things and crave pushing the boundaries.  You also need the ones who are calmer and more grounded in the “recipes” that make your business go.  Which brings us back to my initial question.  Are you a baker or a cook?  There is no right answer, but whatever your answer is should remind you that you need someone to make the other half of the menu.  You might be a cook who can bake a little (me) or a baker who has kitchen skills but finding both types are what will make your business well-rounded and last.

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Filed under food, Thinking Aloud