Posts Tagged ‘individual’

Work hard and you wil get far? But where?

“Work hard to accomplish things in life” it has been a phrase that since little you always hear people say, our parents, friends, mentors, coaches, especially when trying to achieve success or completing tasks that requires some sort of skill or patience.

“There is no substitute for hard work.” Thomas Alva Edison

“Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you haven’t planted.” David Bly

All implies that hard work is most on the time needed or required to accomplish things in life. But a person (mostly me) can argue that it is the actual “doing” or “work” that is require and accomplishes goals not the “hard” or “soft”. What about the way we do work? Does that matters? Will only working hard will get me somewhere? How far can you go just working hard? How many hours working hard do I do every day? And sometimes feeling that I need to work even harder? And then what does the passion for what we are doing got to do with this?

“Working hard and working smart sometimes can be two different things.” Byron Dorgan

Even as that statement makes some sense to some I am going to propose that a better statement can be something like this,

“Working hard and working smart are two different things. Get used to it”

I know that is semantics, but really, it does makes a difference when you dig a little bit more into it. For example when an athlete wants to improve in his sport of choice it does it not by working hard, but by finding ways to improve and working smarter, improving the movement, style, accuracy, increasing stamina, improving the form, managing the shape and rhythm, thinking and doing. Do not get me wrong it is going to take work (actual doing) and sometimes a lot of it. My argument is that is more than just doing work. It is finding ways to improve by analyzing current state and trying things to get somewhere faster, to accurately get things in the right place and/or achieve the ultimate goal. Accomplishing this, is not done by just throwing the ball hundreds of times. It is by throwing the ball one time, thinking, adjusting, improving and test throwing the ball again. This will mean that perhaps doing this again and again and again a hundreds time to achieve desirable results. Adjustments. Improvements.

Working smart also includes working as a team/group. It is not necessary working hard the way to go, but finding ways to work together smarter. Communication, interactions, cross-checks, etc.

Same goes for your job, office, coworkers and life. Think about this; have you ever notice few co-workers working, working and working taking on work and extra “work” long hours, many days and at the end of the day delivering on few things either correctly, half-baked or right on the spot? Sometimes not or towards the bottom line? And have you notice others perhaps fewer of them, that seems to keep delivering on an on, sometimes making it look easy without necessary expending the long hours and “extra work” that the previous group spends but delivers and accomplished more?

The reality is that there are no secrets to work effectively when doing tasks or work. There are plenty information in the web and also there are many, many more ways still uncover or publish. The thing here is the mindset. The mindset that differentiates the hard workers vs. the smart workers is a mindset of efficiencies. The smart workers will constantly look for ways to achieve goals in an effective and efficient ways. For example, working with multiple screens (Whether single monitor or not) and programs that allows them to quickly navigate, produce, weed and gather information. They know the advantages and deficiencies of the tools they use and use that information to their advantage. They are tool inquirers, knowledge gatherer. These people are willing to invest and invest heavily for the sake of effectiveness. Improving?

For example, you might have an employee that is being ask to deliver a report every month that requires managing a large set of data and converting it into a readable report. This person spends a considerable amount of time, effort and work hard to deliver the task at hand and it does meeting initial expectations. It does so by moving information and data manually between cells and spreadsheets to accomplish the request over and over again. Next month it will start from the same spot as it started the month before. Taking exactly the same if not more, cause it might of forgotten how things were done the previous month/week.

In the other hand you might have another employee with the same request, but address it differently. 1st the employee will gather information about the request from the position of what is the data needed for. Also knowing that this requires time and every month report, it might actually spend some time thinking about how to organize the work. It will create staging areas, templates, macros, formulas, shortcuts, SW features and other tricks and helpful documentation that will allow him/her to shave time next month.

Also it will learn from doing the task from last month and it will start thinking on ways to improve the process to become more efficient and better resource. Also the person will test to whether there is a better format to convey the information, adding more value to the task and making the organization more efficient in the long term. Continuous improvement process, lean process, six sigma, and other tools or terms might be coming to your mind, but the reality is that those tools, methodologies or fads will do nothing if you do not have the right mindset. This is a mindset to work smart not hard.

Work hard to get somewhere or work smart to get where you want to go.



New Management Model?

The other day I was spending some time visiting family and friends. We, like always, end up taking about the past; interesting stories and revisiting the good old advice that once or twice we might have received during our life. In this case it was very interesting to hear the following advice that was provided to my friend when he was promoted to a people manager role.

His story goes something like this; When the news about the promotion arrived at the building where he works, he of course started to receive the usual congrats, good job, you deserve it and very happy for you.  But one experience manager asked him to go to his office and said that he was going to do something different. He was going to provide him with a gift. The gift of the untold underground management learning skill, the kind of advice is not in any book and only comes from experience in managing group in large organizations. It was the unwritten rule on how to strategize your group composition to minimize headaches and maximize return and

He then started to explain that in groups, individuals can be identified by two general criteria, one being Smart or Dumb and the other Lazy or Hard Worker. He then started to explain that this was very important to understand since the cohesion of the group and the overall performance depended on being able to classify the individuals and being able to plot them in the following chart.

Simplistic managemnt model

Then he explained that you most likely will have people in all quadrants and understanding this is the very 1st part of the advice. This will become “key” during evaluating performance and generating the “List”. The second part will be how does affect your work and team performance. Lastly and more important is what to do with the individuals in each quadrant.

With team member on quadrant A (Upper, Left) you need to understand that you will most likely will not get much out of them. These are lazy, non-responsive and have most likely lack of knowledge about the work they
need to do. The experience manager then explained that you need people like this in your group, at least one, preferably two.

Here is what his strategic thinking comes into play. In very large organizations there is what is known as forced curve when it comes to ratings/rankings. This will force management to select the lowest performance to put in corrective action and sometimes to move out of the organization. That is the purpose of having and keeping these individuals in your group. The argument here is that if all of your team are high performer and deserved to be on the top, but you are force to determine the lowest performer of your team and assigned a low performing rating, it will mean that the person most likely will be out of any type of compensation (monetary, salary increase, bonus, stockS, options) Even though the person performed as a top performer in comparison with others in other organizations. So, having one or two of this type will allow you without penalizing the actual hard workers conform to the rating/ranking distribution.

Now interesting enough, the next quadrant is one fill with controversy. The Dumb but Hard Worker quadrant will be filled with the names of people in your team that are going to do more damage than good to the group. Here to my understanding from what I was able to capture, people in this quadrant are individuals that are very busy, busy doing things, busy creating work. Do not get me wrong, busy might not be in most cases a bad thing but in this case it is.

The people residing on this quadrant are going to create headaches and inefficiencies that will drag you group performance and quality of work. Because they are busy doing the wrong things they will create unnecessary fires, situations in which will require damage control. Also and unfortunately, they will put a strain to the rest of the group because they are going ending up doing the job for them. By having to clear up their messes, undoing the wrong and fixing it the good worker would not be able to spend time working on what matters and what was assigned to them. Work will take longer and deliverables might be put at risk because of this. As different of the top left quadrant this are the people that you want to depart from. Either moving them out of your group (To a better role suited for them) and/or out of your organization or business. This is due to negative impact that keeping these individuals will cause in the long term to your group. You do not want a team that has anyone like this. The allowance number for this type of individuals is Zero.

Now this next quadrant is your main quadrant. Here is where you find your working bees. Here is the high performance of the high performance of the team. The people in this quadrant make things happens, they are smart and hard workers.

You assigned work to this group and it gets done. They are achievers and always looking forward to find ways to contribute. You want to take care of this group. Give them a lot of TLC, they deserve it. Provide ways to keep them motivated. Find ways to enable training and professional growth. Listen to their needs and find ways to remove barriers that prevents them for doing the work (Like having people on the lower left quadrant near them.) You should strive to have 80% to 85% of your group composition with team members in this lower right quadrant.

Here is the other controversial group, the smart but lazy team members. The funny part is that I know you know someone that fits these criteria. These individuals are very creative and strategic in figuring out ways to get the job done as long as they can minimize the actual work or doing to get the job done.

They will find ways to delegate the work to others in your team and outside the group/organization. They will look for ways to find efficiencies, cut out waste and strategically put themselves in a position of just tracking that the work gets done. They will look around to delegate, transfer and without hesitation will feel confident that the work will get done and take credit for it. Indeed, this is your management potential. They are charismatic and great influencers that will convince others that the work is important and needs to get done. They will most likely have a vast network; will understand ins and outs of the organization. They aren’t afraid to drop a few names here and there to let you know they the who’s who in the organization.

The best way to handle these individuals is to get them ready to promote to managements role. Since they look for ways to improve and take advantage of the existing system you will learn a few thing that you can put in place or leverage. Their network is also part of your network. Since you are already in management it is most likely you will share a few similar traits too.

What it is interesting to me about this management model is that it does take in consideration two aspects that rarely gets mention on management books; 1) The reality that medium and large organization are going to have a force a performance rating distribution that is going to force behavior. If that is the case, you need to strategize one way or another, from the beginning and keep that in mind while managing the group. 2) Your succession pipeline and management material that can be develop, nurture and promote not necessary come from the usual suspects.

My take on this is that even though many managers pursue a similar approach I want to be a believer that if you as a manager have a top performer group, compose with top of the crème individuals, there is no reason to have anyone in the lower rating/ranking, even if the organization forces a distribution. One key element is that the distribution is held true (or force) with a certain minimal amount of team members, this being 50 or more in most cases.  And like mentioned before if you strategize for a force distribution to conform to it, you can also strategize to not to conform the force distribution. This will required to take on challenging project, high visibility programs and a complex but highly effective communication strategy.

Of course it is a risky move and the safe thing if to conform and follow the untold model/strategy. I will argue that you will be a better manager if you are able year after year manage to reward your team by not having any low performer selected (because there is none) and providing them with the right projects, challenges and contribution to the bottom line.  This will include proactively promoting their work, value and contribution throughout the management chain. Since other managers will follow to manage conforming to the rating/ranking process you need to understand their weak links and without any doubt add higher value to the business than other groups in the organization.

Resources? who cares?

     It is sometimes frustrating to be working in a medium or large company or business and see resources/people with great potential got to wasted in the vast ocean of conformity and lack of challenges. As a people manager or leader you have the greatest challenge, responsability and opportunity of your career in your hands, people. Genuinly developing people I believe is rather an art than a science or a skill set. Although there are plenty of books about it; How to develop people, How to develop teams, Teamwork In action, Leadership Pipeline, Ways to Develop People and so and so, it really takes more than reading or getting tools in hand to be successful at it.
Do not get me wrong, I am not good at it either but I had a share of really good bosses and bad ones too to learn enought to produce my own conclusions. From which I learned a lot of it comes during my job and career in a people manager role and developing high performing teams. Now what I am going to share with you it is just a brief/short of few key points that I have learned and that I believe can be key to initiate development in your organization, resources and individuals that are reporting in one way or another to you.

1) Every individual is an individual: Get it in to your head, there is no short cut, you must spend some time with your team in an individual conversation to understand their strengths, weakness and potential. The key during this conversation is mostly to listen. And then listen some more. One thing you are going to find out is that the perception that you might have on the individual might be wrong or change with time. You might learn something new that you omitted in the past or were unaware off. You will also learn about what motivates the individual and what is the career path that they think would like to follow. That information is essential to develop and determine how to approach the individual, their performance and development.

2) Conduct an assessment: Consciously divide your information in the three main areas;

  • Strengths: these are great attributes, skills and knowledge that the individual have or projects that you can select to encourage, enhance your group/organization. Now because is a strength in the overall scheme it might not necessary something that the individual needs to continue development. But in some cases you want to increase the efficiency or impact of the strength.
  • Weaknesses: It is very important to truly understand this list, because you do not want to necessary spend too much time and/or effort in improving or addresing items in this list, unless is essential to the job/role of the employee. You need to make a critical decision regarding what to do. For example you might decided to work on it, supplement by pairing some else with strength in the area or do nothing at all. And by doing nothing at all, I do not mean ignore it, but intentionally making it irrelevant to the job at hand, to the development and to the career goals.
  • The last list is one of great importance because is the “I do not know what to do with” list. Here there are item that you as a manager will have in the back burner as point of reference. There is no use at this point in time for this information but it will help you decided as opportunities for development arrives. For example, you might have an employee that during the conversation he/she mentions that would love to become a people manager. They have lots of project leadership experience, but has never led direct reports. (Which by the way is different than being a leader) At that point in time you might caught or sense a fear of providing positive/negative feedback to a person, co-worker or partner. Something that every people manager should be comfortable doing and that great managers do very tactfully and effectively. At this point in time you might do not have the tools or ability to enhance or complement the request. It is also not a strength or weakness, because it has not being tested or evaluated. There is no performance or metric to make a baseline. But in the future as an opportunity might arise you provide the employee the opportunity to coach a new team member or find someone in the organization that is looking for a mentor in a specific area in which your employee is good at. Here is an opportunity that you can use to provide the employee the opportunity to gain the confidence while providing knowledge cross sharing and leveraging of one of his strengths. This of course will require coaching and/or follow up conversations, but you get the idea.

3) Take Action: With the information at hand, as previously discuss it is time to have our eyes open for the opportunities to share. These can be in a form of a job, role, training, networking, partnering, coaching, listening, reading material, and the list goes on and on. Every day there are opportunities for learning, development and increase the experiences of our team members.

Remember, take action and take care of your resources. They are your best asset, no matter what business you are in.