It's been a busy week writing about leadership and management. In case you missed it, here's the short form with links to this week's work at Management Excellence and the Management and Leadership site at About.com. Enjoy!
Note: this post originally appeared at the Management Excellence blog by Art Petty. The pursuit of effective management is a noble calling. It's too bad that too many managers give it a bad name. Here are at least 10 unnatural acts of less than brilliant managers:
I’ll wager a month’s worth of coffee that if you asked everyone that you know to generate a list on what makes an effective leader, the output would be nearly identical. So if this construct of an effective leader is so readily apparent, why is there a nearly endless supply of disgruntled workers capable of describing lousy leader horror stories to anyone that will listen?
Little things make a big difference when a loved one is ill, and while our filters are tuned to high, doctors and healthcare professionals and hospitals are in the ultimate customer care business, and we as customers are quick to notice great performance as well as the occasional lapses. The many leadership and customer care observations and lessons are still top-of-mind following our recent experience, and I’ve noted a few below. It’s a fair bet that these lessons apply across disciplines and professions as well.
I wrote last week on “Thoughts on Leading and Managing in the Era of the Disposable Worker.” The post was prompted by an article in BusinessWeek, outlining this latest gem of management wisdom that has organizations of all types rethinking the need for employees and shifting to contract workers. Positions from the CEO suite to those types of roles that we’ve become accustomed to outsourcing, and everything in-between, are fair game. I’m traditionally leery of fads of all sorts, as they tend to be driven by hysteria, causing normally sane and rational people to act in a manner that defies explanation. I'm fearful that we are on the brink of another horrendous, value-destroying mania as we embrace the short-term cost convenient fad of creating disposable workers.
There’s an excellent post entitled, “Sorry is not the final word, just the beginning,” by guest author and Product/Project Management Consultant, Lisa Winter at one of my favorite blogs: The Art of Project Management. hosted by the UCSC-Extension in Silicon Valley. Ms. Winter describes a situation where she inadvertently upset a valuable but delicate team member on a conference call, and then went to significant lengths to apologize and regain his support. In addition to the happy ending, this fine post prompted some thoughts on a topic that I confess I’ve not spent a lot of time thinking about: the role of the apology as a leadership tool. I can’t help but feel a little guilty that I’ve not raised this topic in the past, and for that, I apologize...(OK, I had to work it in somewhere!).
We were in the early days of our trench warfare trying to save the company, so it was natural that we felt a kinship with the pilot and crew of the Belle. As we drank and watched, we began to discover business rules and management lessons within the war-movie plot. By the time we were done, we had Ten Rules of Management From The Memphis Belle. Then, Paul came up with an 11th. I cussed and said “you can’t just have an odd number like 11” - so we replayed the movie in our heads and thought of 9 more. And thus we discovered the 20 Lessons From The Memphis Belle. We had them printed up on little cards and handed them out to employees. We gifted them to strategic partners and customers. We printed them on posters and hung them in our offices. When we ran into a hard issue in the business we would refer to the Rules: more often than not there was a rule that was right on point. Each time we’d be amazed, but then we’d say: “Ah! The Rules know all!”
One of the themes that I hear consistently in workshops and in discussions with the professionals in my MBA classes is frustration over the propensity of a firm’s leaders to never say “No” to a project. Lacking a viable mechanism to compare, evaluate and select and reject projects, decisions are made based on politics, gut feel and the squeaky customer wheel. The net result of this lack of discipline is that the people doing the work end up overloaded and overwhelmed. They operate in compliance mode, focusing on surviving until the next deadline and adding little creative value or innovation to their activities. You can end this chaos and rebuild your team's morale and effectiveness by building in new systems and proper rigor to project evaluation and selection.
It’s easy to focus on the bad news. Everyone’s talking about it. We’re bombarded with news flashes and human disaster stories as the layoffs mount and the foreclosures climb. And make no doubt about it, these are tough times, but let’s start giving some coverage to the firms, leaders and entrepreneurs that have turned off the news channels and are too busy building or rebuilding to worry about the dire forecasts. For a good dose of “can do” spirit, get out of your office and go talk with some smart people working to strengthen, build or start businesses. I’m doing just that, and here's why I continue to be optimistic: