Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

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.

Burden your adversary with victory

As with picking the right battles or problems to tackle, there are situations in which you must select the option to let the opposition to (intentionally) win or take on larger responsibility.
This play is strategically for the long run, not necessary the short term.
Since when in business, you need to have a really good understanding of the final goal and/or mission. Since you are probably will be “giving” something up this can be perceived as a risky move.

You might concede a market area or segment in which the opposition business might need to spend lots of resources setting up, maintaining and supporting. Things to consider are suppliers, channels, sales, marketing, market adoption and incentives needed to capture the market.
Selecting not to get into a price war with a competitor may cause the brand of the competitor to erode or diminish in the eyes of the customers.
Since resources are not limitless the opposition might spread to thin, leaving other areas vulnerable that you can take advantage of. Or allowing you to
better concentrate to address specific needs. At the end of the day you want to be successful in your business.

Whose brand is it now? Yours?

Earlier in the year, I was fortunate enough to attend an activity of the YNP of Raleigh, the keynote speaker Britt Carter talked about branding and personal branding. And after that a panel of young professional shared their experiences and opinions regarding the matter.

I won’t bore you to death with a definition of branding or definition to personal branding. But instead give you a few insights I gather and expanded regarding the topic. To me, branding it is a game of perception that it is being played whether you like it or not. At work, at the market, at church, in your home any place where individuals are present. Your brand and the perception of the brand becomes a integral part on how the conversation, interactions and attitudes towards you. This in part will control and influence what the outcomes of the interaction will be. If others are playing even if you are not, why would you leave it to them to determine your brand? So here the case is to treat it like is critical part of a product offering called YOU, take charge and controlled. I encourage you to not leave it to chance, because others will exert their influence and controlled for you. How they controlled? Well there are many ways; one of the oldest ways is gossip. Think about this, long time ago there was tribe of cavemen; compose mainly of hunters and gatherers. You may think about what the cavemen believe a member of the tribe is or is not. That will affect how is going to get treated, respected and care of. The only control the caveperson has is how he/she controls their behavior and delivers on the label the cave person want to live for.

Nowadays it gets very complex with the addition of the digital life, pictures, video, tweets, Facebook, social media and other mediums will makes it difficult to control and to manage it. If you can influence what is out in the public domain, how you are perceive and how you behave, you can somewhat maneuver your brand to improve it or sustain it.  Even though people are going to say what they want to say, whether you like it or not, what matters is how you handle the situation and what the brand says about you. But keep in mind that personal branding should not be left to chance or be purely controlled by others that might not have your best interest. Like a Public Relations (PR) team does to companies, celebrities and organizations you have to be your own PR person. Your reputation and authenticity plays a large part in defining the message that your personal brand is delivering.

The reality is that who you are and how you act have the largest impact on your reputation and your personal brand. For example, you are a very reliable, competent and savvy individual. You get to a familiar or new place and during the interactions with people you notice that they rely on you, seek advice, help and perceive you as a trustworthy person. Why? Because what you have created with your action follows you everywhere and it shows on how you project yourself, even to people that does not entirely knows you. Your brand does that for you.

But, do you really know what your personal brand worth is? As a different with products (People decided with money, buying power, the value of the brand to them), personal brand is very hard to determine the actual worth. Since people, in most cases, not necessary pay with currency for your presence, services and time. Also like products, the value is a very individual aspect of the brand, what it means to one person is different to the other. To some they do not even value their personal brand as it is something of no importance until it start to affect their life and then wonder why people treat them they way they are getting treated.

So how much is your branding worth? How would you determine the value of your brand? Part is money; part is happiness, friendship, actions and other factors. There is no formula that I have come across that defines it or establishes the worth of personal brand. But to me it is very important and it is worth a lot, enough that I need to be conscious about it and proactively manage it.

During the YPN activity one of the panelists mentioned a story about a co-worker that after many years of service with a company was laid off. Which during these tough times we all know of someone that was or still is affected by this common situation. The interesting portion of the story that grabbed my attention was that the friend has worked for a company for so long that the company’s branding was part in large part their personal branding. So much of the brand, that there was not much of the individual brand left in their personal brand to make it unique. This is a big problem, because with no personal brand and out of the job the road ahead is going to be a long one. It is because the value of what the person brings out to the workforce was in majority stuck to the previous employer brand. And it will take time, precious time to translate, change and modify the brand. That does not mean that because you work for a company you should not adopt some of the brand as part of yours. You should but, be aware to make it your own. Make sure to add enough of your personal recipe/spice to your brand to make it yours. Think about the values, attributes that your brand is and/or will be that you can take with you no matter where you go. Work and act based on those values and the brand you are trying to build or change. Remember, your brand is yours and you are the one that should control it.

At the YPN activity also they mentioned “to have a Personal Brand advisor is a good practice.” To me that was a very interesting concept, a good practice to have a Personal Brand advisor. Do I need a PR person? Do I hire one? Where do I find one? Why? Do I consider myself a celebrity now? Think about this, we look for mentors, coaches and teachers to help us during our lives, professional career and to improve technical skills, but is not that often that we seek for a person to help us with our personal brand. Or simply to help us figure out what action I can take to control, manage and improve the personal brand. I thought that the statement was a very interesting one. What if I can find an advisor/s that can provide with insights that will help me develop a plan to manage my personal brand. People that can provide me with either their expertise, stories that I can use to improve the control of my brand. Thinking about that this blog is part of my brand, to express thought and enable conversation. Why don’t you find one as well? Giving that we want to improve and retain a good branding strategy, should we all strive to improve it. So what are we waiting for? Whose brand is it now?