Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Commitment vs Skill: How to choose the best employee

As someone who has been responsible for hiring staff for much of my career, I've learned quite a bit about what makes a great hire. When I hired my first employee way back when, I didn't do what most people normally do. I was working for a medium sized company and was one of three employees in the IT department. I was doing a lot of hands on work and needed to bring in someone to do end user support as I focused more on network, server, strategy, and financial matters. Most of the people I interviewed had the required skills. However, what I was seeing in most of the candidates is that they had been doing the same job for years. It made me think, "Why have they been in the same job for so long? Don't they want to advance in their career?"

As I continued to interview candidates, I interviewed a young man with very little experience. But he had something no one else had. I remember him telling me, "I can do anything. I may have to learn it, but I can do anything". What I heard was, "hire me for my commitment, not my skills" and that's exactly what I did. He was so grateful to have a chance as I'm sure he'd been turned down time and time again due to his lack of skill and experience. He stayed true to his word. He learned everything! In fact, he learned so well he was promoted into management a couple of years later. He did such a great job there that he impressed others and was hired away. He's been in a number of jobs and now works as an executive in an internet security firm. Inside of 15 years, he went from entry level support to an IT executive. Not because he was the most knowledgeable, but because he was committed and had a level of confidence that he can do anything. These are the people you want!

I'm a college graduate. I am working on a graduate degree. I have attended endless hours of training in by IT and business related classes. I've even taught Total Quality Management and Team Leadership classes for a number of years. But none of that is important. What is important is that there isn't a job that I don't believe I can do provided there isn't a physical limitation. At 6'5" I'm not going to be the best horse jockey, but if it's a job I can learn, I'll learn it. I truly believe that people posses more ability than they think they have. Everyone has talents and abilities that may make it easier to do one thing or another, but everyone can do more than they think they can. There is no doubt in my mind that I could be a doctor, lawyer, engineer...whatever. I just need to be committed enough to make it happen.

I really have to say, I hate resumes. They list past jobs, education, and certifications; but they really never give you a good view of the candidate. I've hired people with great resumes, only to be sorely disappointed. I've hired people through recommendation who's resume didn't list a single thing required for the job and they were some of the best employees I ever had. With all the job posting boards, social media sites such as LinkedIn, and HR systems that scan for keywords, there are a LOT of quality candidates being passed over. Even with my experience across several verticals and job functions, I've received the automatically generated denial letter. I've also been in the unique position of receiving the denial letter, then having someone I know recommend me and I got an interview the next week. The old saying of, "it's not what you know, but who you know" still rings true. But the "who you know" part comes full circle back to personality. There is an old saying, "It's nice to be important, but it's important to be nice". This is as true today as it was back then. You may be the best at your job, but if you're a jerk, no one will want to work with you. The candidates who are recommended by others are usually the ones who work hard, do whatever it takes to get the job done, and will step up to any challenge regardless of whether it's "their job" or not. These are the types of folks most people enjoy working with. We've all seen a kickoff in a football game where the returner gets past everyone but is ultimately stopped by the kicker. It's not his job to tackle. He's not protected for it. He's not sized for it. But he takes the hit for his team. That's the kind of guy you want working for you, and most importantly, that's the kind of boss you want to work for.

If you have individuals on your team who aren't committed, don't see them as a lost cause. The chart above breaks down levels of commitment. In one of my previous blog posts I discussed employee engagement. These align very closely. Employee engagement has three levels. Actively disengaged, not engaged, and engaged. The bottom two in the pyramid above are actively disengaged. These employees will harm your organization as they are actively working to spread negativity within your organization. The "Compliance" tier is similar to not engaged. The employee will do what you tell them, no more, no less, and they won't complain. But an engaged employee is typically one who will be the most committed. You can gain that commitment by seeking out ways that employee can use their talents and abilities. In the technology sector, I've found most employees enjoy problem solving over being told what to do. If you as a manager tell someone what to do, they will do what you tell them. If you allow them to solve the problem and present their suggestion to you, you may be pleasantly surprised at what they come up with. I won't rehash employee engagement, but it's critically important to your organization. As a leader, it's your job to evaluate, assess, and utilize the talent you have available to you. Never pigeon hole a great employee because of their job title or their past job experience. Do your best to make them better than they though they could ever be. That's where you'll get that "I will do it!" commitment.

Most committed people are looking for that dynamic company that rewards a "can do" attitude with bigger challenges. Their #1 desire is an employer who recognizes what they are capable of doing and leverages it. They know they can do anything, if only given a chance. Hire these people!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Why Tiger winning the Masters is a big deal

I used to play golf. I liked it when I was younger and I had time to play, but as work and family began to take more of my time I left it behind. There were other things I wanted to do with my free time. While I enjoyed playing golf, I absolutely hated watching it. I think the proverbial "watching paint dry" would be more entertaining. So why am I writing an article about Tiger Woods winning the Masters? Because it's not about golf. It's about people. For those of you who know me, you know that I love people. I love helping people be their best. I love success. But what does that have to do with golf? Nothing...it just so happens that Tiger Woods is a golfer, but also a human being. If you're just focused on Tiger's winning of the Masters, you're missing the real story here.

Let's look back. Tiger hit his stride back in 1997, and for more than a decade, he was the one to beat on the PGA tour. But Tiger made some poor decisions and had some other unfortunate factors hit him pretty hard. He had a rather long fall from grace. Many considered him a has been and assumed his career was over. People are funny creatures. It's almost as if some folks delight when someone who achieves great success fails. But his fall is what made his win so great. Every year someone wins the Masters, but it's not every year that someone who has endured what Tiger has wins.

At some point, all of us fall. We all make mistakes. We all do things we wish we could go back and change. Sometimes we fall and we don't even know why we fell. We shake our fists skyward and exclaim "why me!". For some of us, this is a season of our life. One that we must endure. One that can make us better, stronger, smarter, and equipped to handle the next season a little better. That's exactly what Tiger did. He never stopped working. He stumbled, he fell, but he got back up again and won arguably the most prestigious golf tournament in the world.

That's why so many people are talking about Tiger today. Because they relate to being knocked down and having to pull themselves back up again. They know the loneliness you feel when you're at the bottom and they long for the hugs, high fives, and congratulations when you're a winner. If you cheered for Tiger this weekend, see if you can find someone who needs someone to believe in them. Give a hand up to someone. Don't judge that person who made a mistake. Help give someone else their "Tiger Moment".

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Your Best "Boss"

Who's you're favorite boss? If you can't answer that question pretty quickly, it might be because you've never had a really good boss. I really don't like the term "boss". To me, it connotates someone who tells someone else what to do. I hear that term and automatically flash back to the old cartoon The Flintstones. I can hear Mr. Slate yelling at Fred..."FLINTSTONE!!!". And along those same lines, good old Mr. Spacely from The Jetsons. Those characters are "bosses" for sure. And who can forget the  ubiquitous Bill Lumbergh from the movie Office Space and his TPS reports. 

The best bosses aren't the ones you work for, it's the ones who work for you. Being a huge proponent of servant leadership, I always work to serve my team. To not be "the boss" but to be one of the team with a different role. To represent my team to the organization and put them in the best situation to succeed. That's the tough part, because not every executive in an organization is a good leader. Most people are promoted into leadership positions because they were a hard worker and an excellent individual contributor. Great individual contributors don't automatically make great leaders. Leadership is something you really need to study, practice, and hone. There are people who are naturally good leaders, but leadership is about more than getting people to do what you want them to do. A great leader cares about his team. They know them personally. They take the time to talk with each member of their team individually. A great leader asks questions and wants feedback from their team members. I've always felt the worst situation a "boss" could ever be in is to meet with their team, then upon leaving the room, the team talks about what a horrible meeting it was and how the boss is out of touch with them and isn't engaged with the team. I attended an American Management Institute class in New York City several years back. The instructor was absolutely fantastic, and we still stay in touch till this day. I remember him saying something that really rings true, "The employee always wins". As leaders, you have to remember this. If you forsake your team, focus only on your own career while ignoring theirs, mistreat your employees, don't develop them, don't have discussions about career path and how they can achieve their goals...or worse yet...you don't know their goals. You will struggle with retaining top talent. Top talent has options. Top talent has marketable skills and will shop the market to find an opportunity where they can achieve their goals and do work that is meaningful to them. That leaves the poor leader with a team of either unengaged individuals who don't care and are "turning the crank" to get a paycheck and employees with no marketable skills who will need development which they aren't going to get.  

One of my favorite bosses had a medical procedure and was unable to come into the office. She was such a fantastic servant leader that she asked me to come to her house. We sat on her back porch, ate lunch, and talked. That meeting yielded a fundamental change in how my team performed our duties and reduced delivery of critical infrastructure to customers from 51 days to 18 days. While I'm sure she didn't feel like working, she respected me enough to make time to meet with me. That deepened my loyalty to her and earned her a higher level of respect from me. That meeting impacted several people and the organization as a whole.

Ready to do things radically different than those bad "bosses"? Here's what you can do to be a great "boss":

  1. Establish regular meetings with your team.
    • Same time each week. 
    • Unless it's absolutely necessary, DO NOT miss this meeting. 
    • ENGAGE with your team. It's the most important meeting on your calendar!
    • Sometimes conflict is unavoidable, but do your best to respect your team by always being present. 
  2. Take time to meet with direct reports individually
    • Don't make it a "status update"
    • Grabbing lunch together is a great opportunity
    • Have genuine concern for the individual
    • Ask open ended questions and let them talk
    • Get a feel for what motivates them. Keep that in mind as you make assignments and offer praise. Everyone has different motivators. It's not a one size fits all.
  3. Empower your team
    • Don't make the mistake of hiring experienced, skilled employees and telling them what to do. You'll only get your way of doing something that way. 
    • Explain the desired outcome, and let your team solve the problem. Even if it takes a little longer, let them do the work. Don't micro-manage.
  4. Give credit to the team when things go well, shoulder the blame as the leader when things don't go well. 
    • This one is tough. 
    • Never take credit for work your team or an individual does. 
    • If things go sideways, you're "the boss" and you have to take the blame. NEVER blame a team member. 
    • If you need to take corrective action, or give constructive feedback to an employee, do it in private.
    • Don't throw anyone under the bus.
  5. Remember they are human
    • Employees aren't machines. They have families, friends, hobbies, etc. 
    • Treat them with respect
    • Be concerned about them and care about them
  6. If you've had to take corrective action, follow up.
    • If you've had to correct an employee, understand it's highly stressful for them. You're impacting their livelihood and their family's livelihood. 
    • Make sure they are okay. Give them an opportunity to discuss their frustration.
    • Help them make a plan not only to fix the problem, but to move past it and be better.
  7. If you're not happy with an employee, act!
    • Don't let things fester. 
    • Address the situation as soon as possible
    • Don't assume the employee is a "lost cause". Help develop them. Set clear expectations and talk about how to achieve them.
    • Give the employee meaningful feedback! Everyone can always get better. Help them!
I've held leadership roles from entry level management to executive levels. I understand we all get busy and consumed with our own daily duties. But if you lead a team, they are your #1 priority. While it's difficult to be a servant leader in some company cultures, never underestimate the power of an engaged, empowered, happy, collaborative, team.  

And if you aren't in leadership, much of this applies to customers too. It all boils down to having the heart of a servant, loving people, and understanding that we are all in the same business...the relationship business.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Are you disengaged?

There is an old saying that goes something like this....

"It's not bragging, if you can back it up"

There is some truth to this, but the word "bragging" brings up thoughts of arrogance and no one likes to work with a cocky, arrogant, difficult person. No...that's not the type of bragging I'm talking about. If you're read my previous blog posts, you know I'm all about teamwork, collaboration, servitude, customer service, and the human aspect of leadership. We live in a very curious time. Social media allows us to put up a very convincing facade. We can brag about our fancy degrees, certifications, and accomplishments. Post up pictures of ourselves in highly interesting situations. We can make our lives seem so perfect that others envy us, which is exactly what some people want.

Since this blog is titled "Unavailing Logic", lets apply some. Would anyone put something in a resume or on social media that wasn't bragging about their accomplishments or abilities? No one is going to put up, "I'm lazy and don't like to work". While that might be true for them, they aren't going to tell the world. No one knows more about the person looking back at you in the mirror than you. Yet we seem to place so much value on what others think of us. As if we need their validation to confirm the hard work and dedication we've put into our career. Our actions should speak for themselves, yet many, including myself, feed off of the praise of others. A pat on the back, an "atta boy", or any sincere praise from leadership is a huge motivator. Now, I'm not talking about the occasional goofy certificate you get for 5 years of service, or some corporate recognition program that systematically "rewards" as many people in the company as possible to "boost morale". And I'm certainly not talking about being patronized.  No, I'm talking about true, heartfelt, sincere appreciation for you and the work you do, and the person you are. This type of recognition is very rare. Good leaders are in tune with their direct reports and learn what motivates them. They don't take a one size fits all approach to praise and recognition. They give each employee what they want and desire. Like I said...it's very rare when you have a true leader who understands the importance of employee moral, attitude, drive, desire, and accomplishment. An employee seen as a "bare minimum" performer may simply feel unheard, unused, unappreciated, passed over, and unchallenged. Basically, they're bored. Leaders need to make sure their employees are engaged and that not only their monetary needs are met, but their emotional ones as well. Perhaps I'll do a blog post on Emotional Intelligence in leadership, it's really important, but outside the scope of this post.

The above Gallup survey show only 13% of employees are fully engaged in their work. 13 people out of 100 are engaged. That overshadows the old "80/20" rule where 20% do 80% of the work. Apparently it's only 13%.

What About Me?
So what about you? If your boss asks you, "are you engaged?". Of course, you're going to give a resounding "heck yeah!", "I'm a team player", "I get things done", etc, etc, etc. But if you aren't engaged, that's more of the facade mentioned above. And frankly, if you work for a boss that has to ask, look for a new job. He or she is not a very good boss. While a good leader always asks for honest feedback, that's not what I'm talking about here. A good leader should have a PLAN to engage every employee. They should set aside time to talk with each of their direct reports and LISTEN to them. A leaders #1 job is providing their team with what they need to be successful. Any leader who is "too busy", "doesn't have time", "just got caught up in things", etc...is heading down a wrong road with their team. What they are really saying to you is, "I care more about my career than I can about yours". Some may see no problem with this, but if you find yourself as one of those disengaged employees, you know how awful it is to work in that state. How it breeds negativity. How complaining, dread, and even avoidance of work creep in, eventually harming your company and possibly your career. And if you are an employer who has leaders who allow employees to be disengaged, it's costing you a LOT of money.

I've spoken with several people who are disengaged employees. These are some of the things they've said to me:

"I just come in and do my time"

"My boss doesn't listen to me, so I just keep my mouth shut and do what they tell me"

"I've taken sick days because I've hated my job so bad I was physically ill"

"I tell everyone new, just sit down, keep your mouth shut, and do what you're told and you'll have a job here forever. If you speak up, they'll run you out"

"They [leadership] don't care about people in this place. Just themselves"

"I just want to do my work and go home and not think about this place until the next day"

 As someone who has spent the last 15 years of my career in a leadership role, studying leadership, and seeing first hand how important the human aspect of business is...these quotes are very frustrating and saddening.

So as an employee, what can you do if you find yourself in this situation? Here's some advice:
  1. Take inventory
    • Do you have a good education? 
    • Have you been successful in other endeavors (service organizations, church leadership positions, etc.)?
    • What are your major accomplishments?
    • Were you happy in other jobs under different leadership?
    • What skills and abilities make you marketable in the open job market?
    • Get your positive mental attitude in order!! We can't control the circumstances, but we can control our attitude and our effort.
  2. Ask for feedback
    • Before you write your bad boss off, try to talk to them.
    • Ask for specific examples of things you can do better
      • If your boss gives you the old "you're going a good job" or "we need ya buddy" pattern answer, there is no reason to continue the discussion. EVERYONE can improve, and a good boss will always want to provide you with valuable feedback and an ACTION PLAN to help you achieve your career goals.
    • It may be better to chat outside the office. Go to lunch, have a cup of coffee before work, a beverage after work. As his direct report, you should be one of your bosses top priorities....even over his or her own boss. 
  3. Have a Plan
    • If you've done #2 and things didn't work out, then you are ready to move forward. 
    • You know your skills and abilities. Your wants and desires.  
    • Dream up your ideal job. What do you WANT to do? How do you want to be treated?
    • People network! I can't emphasize this enough. The human side of business is the most important aspect. Regardless of what you do, you're really a salesman, and your product is YOURSELF. Always be selling!
    • Seek out companies that have a reputation for being the type of place you see yourself. 
      • Don't just apply blindly for jobs!
      • Don't settle. Jumping from the frying pan to the fire does you no good.
      • Try to find contacts who work there. Get to know them. 
      • Let the leadership team know you are seeking them out and want to be part of their success. 
    • Make a talk track about yourself. Always be ready for an "interview".
  4. Learn to Serve
    • Yes...really!
    • If you want to work for a servant leader, someone who has empathy for his team and wants them to succeed, you too must have a servant heart.
    • Servant leaders are servants in their private life too. To find them, you have to meet them where they see you as an equal. Serve along side them. Show them your work ethic. 
    • Being involved in your community and helping others will repay you more than you can imagine. Maybe not in money, but trust me, your cup will be full.
  5. Don't let others define you
    • Get demoted? Passed over for a promotion? Didn't get that internal job you applied for and they guy they hired had half your skill and experience?
    • It's not always your fault. 
    • Know your skills, know your worth
    • Always stay positive (sometimes it's hard, and you will backslide into negativity)
  6. Step it up
    • As silly as it sounds, work harder at that job you're so disengaged in.
    • If you've written off your employer and are planning on leaving the last thing you want to do is make them grateful you left. Show them how good you are. Leave on a high note.
    • Always make sure you are "eligible for rehire" even if you never plan on working there again.
  7. Never burn bridges
    • Most leaders are promoted because they were good workers, but no one ever taught them how to be good leaders. This doesn't make them bad people. 
    • As much as you want to rant on why you're leaving, don't.
      • Even in an "exit interview",  keep your comments brief and generic. 
      • Smile, say thank you, and be polite and professional
      • Stay positive! The old "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything" applies here.
    • Don't poison the well
      • Your former co-workers are still working there. Don't bring them down with negative comments or gleeful celebration about your departure.
    • Don't be the victim
      • You're leaving for a better opportunity, not because the "company treated me bad". No one likes a victim.
As of this writing, unemployment is at a record low. The economy is expanding and employers are looking for great people. Enjoy the free market! Don't stay at a job where you aren't engage. Don't work where you feel unappreciated, unimportant, or under utilized. Don't continue to be a part of the problem plaguing much of the workplace. You're better than that!

Don't be intimidated by all the social media ninjas out there. They aren't as good as they seem. If you've worked hard, earned your skills, and get a thrill out of success, you're just as good as any social media salad someone posts up. Those who do great things don't do so by standing in line with everyone else. Be different. Stand out. Get positive and get moving. Your life is yours and what you make it. Make it great!

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Comfort Zone

I've worked as an IT professional since 1987. I was 15 years old when I received my first paycheck for technology work. My goal was always to continue running the family business my father had started. My brother worked in the company as well. It was what was expected, but not what I wanted. Technology was my passion. I'd had a computer in my bedroom since 1982. I learned to build peripherals from schematics as a 12yo. After I graduated college, I went into the family business to do what was expected of me.

Through a very unfortunate turn of events, my father passed away in 1995 and the company fell on hardship. My brother was running things, and he had a conversation with me that I never thought I'd hear. "We can't afford to pay you bud". I'll never forget those words. The career I'd prepared for since I started to walk and talk, the family business, my Dad's company...was letting me go. How does this happen? Where would I work? What would I do?

I turned to the only thing I knew I'd succeed at. Information Technology. I was fairly advanced given I'd spent 14 years of my life working in IT as both a passionate hobby and professionally. But my resume was ripe with marketing, sales, and insurance industry experience. Who would hire me? Perhaps a failing company headed for bankruptcy. So, I applied at Service Merchandise Corporation for an entry level desktop analyst job. It was my first experience in a large IT enterprise. I was able to perform my prescribed duties, and when I had time, I'd volunteer to work with the more advanced roles in the company. Servers, networks, telephony, satellite communications, automation systems, program logic controllers, etc. I absorbed it all. I never had any fear of jumping into a project and I was rewarded for it. I progressed up the ranks quickly and worked at SMC until they liquidated just after the 9/11 attack.

Now well into my career, with over 30 years of IT experience under my belt across many verticals, I've come to understand that my passion is learning about a problem, simplifying the complex, and delivering a comprehensive solution using technology. It allows me to use my love of people and relationship building, my logical processing ability, and my technology background. I also enjoy being a lifetime learner. Always thirsty for more knowledge. I've identified my abilities and what drives me, but what about that comfort zone thing? How does that work? How does it relate to you and why you're reading this blog? If you're the type of person who hates going to work, only does so to pay the bills, hates Monday's, and you see your work as something you have to do versus something you have the honor and privilege of doing, then you won't get much benefit from the rest of this post. If you stay at your job because the company is stable, the benefits are good, and the pay is okay, then you may not get much else from this post.

If you want to be successful, you need to find a company who is willing to fully utilize your talents and abilities while helping you develop further. But where do you find these companies? There are several sites that list great places to work, but they assume that everyone is looking for the same thing. You need to do some research, people networking, and take an interest in a company. Find an employer who sees you as a valued member of the team. Everyone pulling toward the same goal. Take that leap of faith to move from the mundane to the exceptional. If you worked hard to be one of the best of the best, then set your sights on working for the best.

I turned 47 this year. I've had career goals since I was in my 20's. Over the years my goals have changed from the position I want to reach and how big a house I wanted to have, to the level of excellence I want to provide for my company and customer. Job title is no longer my driver. I want to do great work, in a customer focused environment, where excellence is then norm. Good enough is not good. I want to walk out of the office every day feeling as if I've accomplished something great that day. To do that, you have to leave your comfort zone. You have to push yourself to do things others think are crazy. There are no shortcuts in life. Life begins outside your comfort zone.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Golden Child

Excellence is the Esprit de Corps you feel in your company knowing that you are a part of an organization that is well run and takes pride in the products or services they provide to customers. Excellence is an attitude and a way of life. Words like "can't", "good enough", and "that's the way we've always done it" are banished from the corporate vocabulary. Excellence starts with quality leaders who are focused on strategic vision for the company. The vision is shared across the organization and employees are empowered to help realize the vision. It is not enough for leadership to say, "Do this". They must explain why, then give the employee a set of business objectives to achieve. Telling someone what to do is not leadership. Asking for their help in achieving clearly defined business objectives then supporting them by removing obstacles to their success. That is leadership.

What happens when leadership fails to lead? We see poor leadership manifested in many ways. One of which I call the "Golden Child" syndrome. One person becomes the "go to guy" for the organization. This happens because workflow processes and roles are not clearly defined and employees are not empowered to make decisions within their limits of authority. Everyone has to take every decision to the "Golden Child" who will make a unilateral ruling on the subject, often flippantly, without considering all the ramifications of their decision or who may be harmed by it. These are the people who wrongly believe that silos within an organization will protect them from any fallout. The "Golden Child" will eventually fail, burn out, or find themselves promoted to their level of incompetence.

As the quote above says, "asking more - from fewer" is the goal of a most companies. Having a fewer number of highly motivated employees with well defined processes and roles will always be better than having a bunch unmotivated employees who don't have a firm grasp on what it is they are supposed to be doing. I've personally witnessed organizations staff up by hiring hundreds of individuals and only a few people in the organization knew what they did, when to interface with them, what their areas of responsibility were, what their process are and what the inputs and outputs of those processes are.

Dr. Deming's quote above is one of the biggest issues in American business that goes unchanged in large organizations. He's not referring to computer systems, he's talking about business processes and workflows. When leaders don't focus on delivering excellence through clearly defined workflows, processes, and procedures; it is very difficult to provide excellence. How can employees be expected to do good work when leadership hasn't defined what "good" looks like? They are forced to work hard, not smart.

With the lack of defined roles, workflows, policies, and procedures a vacuum is created in the organization which creates an environment that is filled by employees who feel as if they need to "get things done". Individuals making unilateral decisions without the involvement of all stakeholders can end up creating the "Golden Child" syndrome. Poor leaders often see this employee as "dedicated" and "hard working" and do not realize the damage they are doing to the organization. Other top employees will eventually discover that their knowledge and experience is always usurped by the Golden Child employee and they will begin to stop contributing. Once those employees are silenced, they will begin seeking other opportunities or they will give minimal effort in order to keep their job. This leads to scores of "busy" employees who have no firm direction on what needs to be done. Duplication of work becomes an issue.

If you are in an organization chock full of Golden Children with no clearly defined goals and objectives you're probably very frustrated and feel undervalued. If you have marketable skills, you will eventually leave. This cripples the organization as they are left with only those employees in need of development which thereby creates more dependence on the Golden Child to do all the work and make all the decisions.

If you are a leader in an organization and find yourself with a Golden Child, make sure you clearly define their role and limits of authority to rein them in quickly. They will be intent on doing everyone's job and will often brag about the number of "hats" they wear. This is deadly in an organization. Move to define functions and roles for each business service and identify service owners and managers. Empower employees to make decisions by providing them with clear objectives.

Don't let the Golden Child rob your organization of its top talent and cripple your company.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Are you fully invested in your company?

No, this is not a post about money or retirement. It's a post about your life. Are you fully invested in your work?

As I write this, it's Friday afternoon. I can't count the number of times I've overheard people rejoice about it being Friday. Why? One would assume it's because they don't enjoy their work or their co-workers. I can understand, I've been in that situation before. It's a horrible existence to show up, punch the clock, and do your time. That sounds more like prison than a career.

I had lunch with someone today that asked me, "What is your ideal job"? I had to put some thought into it. I didn't  just think about the money, but about what the mission of the company is and how they treat their employees. I've worked in several places, and the best places to work were the places that fully utilized their staff's skills regardless of their job title. It was a true team environment where everyone helped each other and moved toward a common goal. In other words, they were fully invested in the company. They cared about each other and accomplishing the business objectives set forth by the executive leadership. They held each other accountable.

Being a detail oriented person, I decided to quickly note a few things that I believe make the perfect job:

1) A company that cares about it's customers and employees more than money
Yes, the goal of any company is to make a profit, but the day you stop worrying about the money is the day you don't have to worry about money anymore. Be prudent with your financial resources, but work hard to be the best at what you do and build strong relationships with your customers. People enjoy doing business with people they like.

2) Company leadership works for their employees, not the other way around
A leader is someone who wants to make their employees successful. I've worked for some fantastic bosses over the years, and a few who taught me what NOT to do. A good manager focuses their team on objectives laid forth by executive leadership and uses the skills and experience of the team to come up with ways to meet those objectives. People want to do good work, but they have to have motivation to do so. A good manager is a motivator, a teacher, a mentor, and above all,  a caring individual. Someone you can depend on. Communication is the key. Always let every person in the organization know why things are being done. Even if they don't agree, always attempt to get buy in from them. Ask them if you can count on their support. Everyone likes to be included and seen as someone important no matter what their role is. Dr. Edwards Deming was quoted as saying, "The emphasis should be on why we do a job". Those who aren't familiar with Dr. Deming's work should Google him. 

3) Be a good corporate citizen
I had the pleasure of heading up the local philanthropic team of a company I worked for. Not only is it excellent PR for a company to work in the community to improve it, it's also very fulling for the employees. I always received a great deal of satisfaction working with  my team to achieve a charitable goal. It builds strong teams when employees can see how much company leadership cares for others.

4) Have an employee development program
People are capable of doing amazing things. I am still amazed at someone who can run an Ironman triathlon. That seems impossible, yet people do it. Many employers hire someone for a position, and fail to take advantage of the many talents and abilities they may have outside of their prescribed duties. Each of us have talents and abilities that can benefit our company above and beyond our position. Being fully invested in your company and willing to use those abilities to make it better is a big part of what makes a great job.

5) Have a servant heart
A business exists to meet the reasonable needs and expectations of its customers. In turn for meeting those needs, the business profits. Pretty simple, right? Not really. If a business is only focused on meeting needs they can solve, they are missing opportunities to help their customer. A good company also seeks to do what's best for their client, even if that means referring them to another company that can better meet their needs. Remember the scene in the Christmas classic "Miracle on 34th Street" when Santa was sending shoppers to other stores?

6) Outside the box thinking
Good companies are always looking for a better way. Continuously improving the way they do things. Not only does this help them maintain a competitive advantage, but it keeps things from becoming dull and fosters an atmosphere of innovation. Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) in a continuous cycle. Always be improving.

This is but a short list of things that make great companies great. I could expand on it, but in the interest of time I will leave it here. If you are a manager, director, executive, or business owner...take the time to get to know your team as people, not as job roles. Becoming fully invested in them will allow them to become fully invested in their work. Instead of "is it Friday yet", you'll be hearing, "wow...Friday already...this week has flown by".