Tag Archives: Management

Advanced Leadership – The Disappearing Act

As a manager first starting out, I learned an effective, easy method to increase staff productivity: “Managing by Walking Around.” While this is a great method to keep in your leadership utility belt, to evolve from manager to leader, it is necessary to mix in different tactics. First, I will explain “Managing by Walking Around,” and then I will describe its equally important counterpart: “Leading by Disappearing.”

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Managing by Walking Around

Most successful managers are either taught this method, or figure it out from common sense and observation, early on. It is extremely simple, effective, and easy to see immediate results by doing this.

The principle is simple:

  • You are the boss.
  • Employees want the boss to think that they are doing a good job.
  • By you merely being present in front of employees, they will work harder.

Simple enough, right? In the rare instance when a person does not want the boss to think that they are doing a good job, you should probably reconsider that individual’s employment status. It’s one issue if an employee does not do well, it’s an entirely different issue if an employee just does not care at all. This is all assuming that this is a decent place to work, has a successful culture, and that you are not a complete asshole…

So, simply being visible to employees will improve productivity. However, the real benefit from this method is when you actually engage with the staff:

  • Ask them questions.
  • If you see any mistakes, this is a perfect opportunity to immediately correct.
  • If you see any positives, this is a perfect opportunity to praise an employee (remember: praise publicly, correct privately).
  • Use this time as a chance to reiterate the overall vision or important factors that affect the business.
  • Do role-play scenarios that challenge them by seeing how they would react to a variety of obstacles.
  • Teach, teach, teach! “This is what to do when x happens. This is why we do it like that.”

By being present, you’ll make your staff more effective, but only for the duration of your presence. You cannot always be everywhere, which is why you engage with the staff during your “visits.” You encourage them, correct any errors, start having them buy-in to the vision, and prepare them for situations when you will not be available.

It is necessary to engage with the staff in this way, in order for your staff to start wanting to do things the right way. Managers improve productivity by staying involved. Leaders improve productivity and develop staff by convincing them that the “right” way is best (regardless of if you are there or not).

See the difference? A manager gets short-term results by successfully getting the team to be more effective, because the staff wants to do a good job. A leader gets long-term results by successfully getting the team to be more effective, because the staff wants to do the right thing. A leader’s role is to prepare the team for independence. A leader will create more leaders among the staff, by setting expectations, encouraging positive behavior, and most importantly making employees believe in what they are doing.

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Leading by Disappearing

Now that you are engaging, role-playing the unexpected, and instilling the vision to the staff on a regular basis, you are ready for some “advanced” methods. The “Disappearing Act” is one of my all time favorites. I have found it to be extremely effective in developing new leaders, as well as getting a reality check to just how effective your team really is.

As I said, please do not attempt this until you are already doing those things above. Otherwise, you are only setting up your team for failure.

It’s a bit more than just disappearing:

  • Be spontaneous.
  • Go out the front door… come back in the back door 15 minutes later.
  • Have a minimal schedule and don’t even follow it.
  • Call and say that you’ll be there in 45 minutes. Walk in the door 5 minutes later.
  • Show up 5 hours late for work.

“That sounds like a terrible boss!” No. Remember that as a leader, you have a different role to play in the big scheme of things. Your “lack of reliability” is irrelevant, because it is not your job to make the staff better when you are there. It is your job to make the staff better all the time, regardless of who is in the building.

By combining these two methods, you will slowly start to develop leaders out of the staff. You will see who takes responsibility and “keeps it going” in your absence. That’s what I would have done, when I was just starting out. That is the sign of a natural leader.

You know that they aren’t just acting perfect when you are around and slacking off the rest of the time. If you do not believe that there are employees exactly like that, you are blinded to reality. What better way to test their credibility than by seeing how they act when you are not there.

FYI: nothing destroys employee morale more than when one of these two-faced, suckups get wrongfully promoted. Plus, do you really want to promote someone like that?

The Single Most Critical Skill for the 21st Century

The Future

In this era of accelerating change, knowledge alone is no longer the key to a prosperous life. The critical skill is foresight. Knowledge quickly goes out of date, but foresight enables you to navigate change, make good decisions, and take action now to create a better future.

We often think people are successful because of luck, when in fact it was their foresight that made them “lucky.” Foresight prepared them so they were ready to act on their opportunities. If you look at any successful person, organization, even a country, you will find a high degree of foresight. That’s why foresight is…

The Secret Ingredient of Success

Foresight is critical to achievement in all areas of your life, including your major life decisions. People who lack foresight are likely to find themselves unemployed when jobs are unexpectedly lost to new technologies, competition from overseas, or shifts in consumer tastes. Foresight is the key to survival in a world of disruptive innovation.

Foresight enables you to see opportunities, avoid threats, and chart the fastest path to your goals. The key to success is seizing opportunity when it arises. But you need to see the opportunity and be prepared to take action. That’s why foresight gives you power and agility to achieve any goal you want to achieve.

 

ENTPs Make Poor Managers but Exceptional Leaders

I was asked on a forum “how an ENTP can be an effective manager.” My original advice:

  • Look busy.
  • Keep making the rounds.
  • Allow people to know you for your spontaneity and use it as a plus (like you could be checking up on them at any time).
  • Stay available to reach.
  • Find a great ISTJ assistant who naturally thrives on organization.

When I try too hard to stay organized, I usually end up exhausting all of my effort into creating the organizational tool (that’s just me personally). I find that by staying in motion and in touch with every department, your natural Ne will pick up on the missing pieces. I could spend ten hours inventing a method to stay on top of everything, or I could simply walk around and allow it to happen naturally.

ENTPs don’t make good “traditional managers,” but can still be quite effective, even in traditional corporate environments (if the structure isn’t too rigid).

To add upon my earlier half-joking statements about “looking busy and keep making the rounds,” or my support of getting an ISTJ secretary, the true power of an ENTP manager / leader comes from their ability to delegate, empower, and encourage. It is this quality that makes for poor ENTP managers but exceptional ENTP leaders.

ENTPs don’t want to demand stuff of others, because we hate it when it’s done to us. However, an ENTP can delegate out responsibilities by simply asking, explaining why it’s important, and making their subordinates feel empowered and trusted. This makes an ENTP manager / leader a force to be reckoned with, and soon you’ll have the staff working with you to accomplish the goals, not simply working for you out of fear of reprimand.

Surprise me

The staff will respect and trust you, because you respect and trust them. I know it sounds cliché, but it actually works. Employees will work HARDER for you than any other type of manager, or should I say, leader. Good luck!

Strategic Thinking and Systems Thinking

Strategic Thinking is also called Systems Thinking, critical thinking, solutions thinking, future and forward thinking, long-term thinking, and high level thinking. It is not analytic thinking, which is tactical, mechanistic, reductionist, and either/or thinking, one-best-method.

  • Systems Thinking focuses on relationships, multiple outcomes, holism and boundaries, the environment, the larger system, and feedback.
  • Strategic Thinking is about clarity and simplicity, meaning and purpose, focus and direction, relationships and feedback, and desired outcomes.
They are the Same Thought Process

Despite being referred to differently, depending on the context, Systems Thinking and Strategic Thinking are fundamentally the same concept, only applied in different circumstances.  It is a heuristics-based mindset, exactly what’s needed more of in today’s business environment.

Systems Thinking Skills

Senge’s 11 Laws of Systems

In The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Senge suggests 11 laws of systems that support that essential understanding:

  1. Today’s problems come from yesterday’s solutions. Leaders are happy to solve problems, but don’t always think about intended and unintended consequences. Too often, our solutions strike back to create new problems.
  2. The harder you push, the harder the system pushes back. Humans have a stubborn tendency to bully our way through tough situations when things are not working out as we would hope. We charge ahead without taking time to think through solutions to find better alternatives. Sometimes we solve problems; more often, especially in the current environment, we find ourselves up to our ears in more problems.
  3. Behavior grows better before it grows worse. Short-term solutions give temporary improvement at best but never eliminate fundamental issues and problems. These underlying problems will make the situation worse in the long run.
  4. The easy way out leads back in. Leaders often have a few quick fixes in their “quiver” of solutions that have brought quick and easy success in the past. Too often, the easy way out is retrofitting these fixes to any situation without regard to the unique contexts, people and timing.
  5. The cure can be worse than the disease. Often, the easy and familiar solution is not only ineffective but addictive and dangerous. It might even induce dependency.
  6. Faster is slower. At the first taste of success, it is tempting to advance at full speed without caution. Remember that the optimal rate of growth or change is far slower than the fastest growth or change that is possible.
  7. Cause and effect are not always closely related in time and space. We are good at finding causes, even if they are just symptoms unrelated to root causes.
  8. Small changes can produce big results — but the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious. The most grand and splashy solutions — like changing company policy, vision, branding or tagline — seldom work for transforming change. Small, ordinary but consistent and repetitive changes can make a huge difference.
  9. You can have your cake and eat it too — but not all at once. Rigid “either-or” choices are not uncommon. Remember that this is not a dilemma if we change our perspective or the “rules” of the system.
  10. Dividing an elephant in half does not produce two small elephants. As a leader, failing to see the systems as a whole is at your peril. This flaw in perception and vision often leads to sub-optimal decisions, repeated tasks, lost time and energy, and maybe even losing followers.
  11. There is no blame. People and organizations like to blame, point fingers and raise suspicions about events, situations, problems, errors and mistakes. Sometimes we even believe the blame we throw around. Ourselves, the cause of events, situations, problems, errors and mistakes are all part of the system.
Understanding Systems Thinking is Essential

In fact, it is the foundation and catalyst of leading change.

W. Edwards Deming first pointed out the need to understand the system in post-World War II America. Deming stressed that learning must be emergent, designing out the system aspects that are wasteful, sub-optimizing, and unnecessarily redundant.

To improve performance, the system has to change because the system drives 95 percent of any organization’s performance. He also said that any improvement that does not involve human system change methods was doomed to failure in the short-, mid- and long-term; you cannot implement a new system in an old environment and anticipate success.

The Key to Achieving the Necessary Human Mindset Change Lies in Curiosity:
  • Ask questions.
  • Learn by doing.
  • Observe.
  • Think about what could be.
The Future

Deming’s messages fell on deaf ears in the U.S. post World War 2 boom. Thinking did not change, and thinking must change for the system to change.

Strategic Thinking versus Strategic Planning

Strategic thinking is the bridge that links where you are to where you want to be.”

– John Maxwell

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In today’s fast-changing business environment, both managers and individual contributors alike need to have a broad perspective, an awareness of the cultural trends, and business developments shaping the world.

Many managers focus on delivering ‘today’s’ business results, preoccupied with daily responsibilities that they fail to place themselves for long-term success.

In this period of rapid change economically and business wise around the globe, strategy in business is moving away from the basic strategic planning to more of strategic thinking in order to survive the crowded and competitive global environment.

To stay competitive requires organisations to keep their strategic management process dynamic, continuously learning and adaptable and taking advantage of emerging opportunities.

Strategic thinking thus becomes a key competency for leaders and managers responsible for the design and deployment of business and functional strategies. Strategic thinking needs to be at the center of the entire strategic management process, constantly re-evaluating, re-visiting and re-defining mental models of the business. The label strategic planning should be dropped because strategic planning has impeded strategic thinking.

Strategic planning is about analysis while strategic thinking is about synthesis.

Strategic planning means breaking down a goal into steps, designing how the steps may be implemented, and estimating the anticipated consequences of each step.

Strategic thinking is about using intuition and creativity to formulate an integrated perspective, a vision, of where the organization should be heading.

In practical terms, strategic thinking should help to analyze, explore, understand and define a complex situation and then develop planning actions that will bring the greatest possible positive impact towards a pre-defined goal, hence it is justifiable to conclude that strategic planning is subordinate to strategic thinking.

Strategy

Strategy positions a business in a certain level based on the goals and possible positive changes they intend to achieve. This is why most companies require executives and managers to have a strategic mindset because this obviously sets them from those who think in a conventional manner.

Thinking strategically also helps predict the future of a company. With this it is easier to develop steps on how to get into what has been planned for the future and stay away from paths that may lead to business failure. Moreover, through this kind of thinking, a business is able to become more adaptable to change.

The distinction of strategic planning and strategic thinking therefore leaves many confused on which one to prioritize on. It is a reality in business today that strategic thinking and execution of strategic planning is proving to be a challenge among many leaders. Therefore a clear understanding of the value and the benefits of strategic thinking is indispensable.

From the source article here.

That Company Used To Be So Innovative…

The innovative rebels that inevitably become part of “the machine.”

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A company starts off innovative, flexible, defiant, and adaptable, and in these formative years, they predominantly solidify “who they are” and “what they’re about.” As the company becomes increasingly successful and starts to expand in size and resources, a certain degree of that flexibility that they started with goes away, too.

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The reason companies struggle with societal transition is that they originally focus on creating the product or service. Once they prove themselves, they shift focus to expansion and maintaining, what they believe is, their “key to success.”

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What may have started as 5, 10, or 20 employees grows into hundreds, if not thousands. In order to keep such a large organization running successfully, they must set up systems, rules  and hierarchies to keep it running smoothly. The most significant aspect of this is cost. With such a large organization, absolutely every small cost matters, because it is applied across their entire infrastructure.

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As they carry out these systems, it creates limitations on the ability for the company to be able to stay as adaptive and flexible as when they started out. It means that they cannot innovate as quickly, and tend to lose the creative spirit or mindset that they began with.

As this increases, less and less people in the company are actually willing to take the risk involved in innovation, since it has such a massive impact. All the brilliant ideas never see the light of day, and are smothered by rules, project groups, etc.

In the modern world, the real “key to success” is the ability to adapt — to keep a fresh flow of new ideas coming in, and to constantly prepare for the future.

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This has to be built in to the culture, from day one, not after they wake up one day, suddenly realizing that they’ve lost touch. At that point, they have to go into “fix everything, change everything, and scramble to adapt” mode. This is much more costly and ineffective.

experience

I learned this lesson back at 19, when I just started out managing for the first time at a large restaurant.

I was a phenomenal problem solver and thrived in chaotic situations. When a problem popped up, I would be the first to jump in and tackle it, and I would tear it up. It even gave me a bit of a rush being the one who “saves the day” while everyone else panicked.

Then, one day, a mentor completely flipped my perspective forever, and I’ll never forget it:

“Why are you exerting so much energy and attention into putting out fires, instead of figuring out how to prevent them from occurring in the first place?”

Wow…

Yes, I could solve any problem, but I could also apply the same skill set in a different way:

  • I began to pay attention to patterns in the flow of business.
  • I began to pay attention to unspoken cues from the staff members.
  • I began to pay attention to what these patterns would result in 10-30 minutes later.

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I started to notice the inter-connected nature of the entire business:

  • When a large part of the tables had that “I’m done eating” look, I could communicate to the busing staff to get ready to clean a bunch of tables in the next 5 – 10 minutes.
  • I could also let the host stand know roughly how many tables were opening up soon, and make sure all of them were up there ready to go, or even grab a few waiters to help.
  • I could tell the kitchen to be ready for a swarm of a new orders coming in.
  • I could make sure that the waiters had the support they needed, so that no one ended up sitting there for 10 minutes without being greeted.
  • and so on and so forth…

The main lesson was on shifting my focus from being ready to tackle any challenge, to actively using predictable patterns, which prevented most of the challenges from ever happening.

This same method applies, on a massive scale, to any type of business and in any industry:

Our nature is to focus on the present and immediate future. However, by incorporating a mix of the past, present, and future, it allows you to start seeing patterns. Then, you can adjust your operations and shift from being reactive to proactive.

Yes, I’m talking to you: CEOs, board of directors, VP’s, and Executives.

Using the past and trend spotting, you can not only predict the future, but enhance it.

  • This only works if you actively create teams to brainstorm, and if you actually listen to their advice.
  • This only works if you stop focusing so heavily on the next quarter’s earnings report, and allow yourself to see past it.

If you’re providing the best experience and the best product, the numbers will take care of themselves. Do not disregard these things entirely, but join other methods into your operations… methods that may not be as neat and clean on a piece of paper.

If you rely solely on what your company’s performance reports look like, by the time they start looking like shit, you’ll be in deeper trouble than you even realize.

It’s not only prevention and protection, but also a way to take yourselves to the next level.

  • Dig deeper into these patterns.
  • Go back further into the past.
  • Forecast further into the predicted future.
  • Brainstorm how events already occurring will naturally affect this predicted future; adjust accordingly.
  • Brainstorm and imagine like crazy to imagine all the potential opportunities.
  • Follow it up by brainstorming skeptical counter-arguments for each one of them.
  • Continue this process back and forth, until you’ve narrowed it down to the best of the best.
  • Then, create an feasible strategy to carry out this new, radical idea over time.

You Are the Champion!

When the inevitable shift in society or technology occurs, you will be the one introducing it, not the one scrambling and adjusting to its effects.

Become the bomb, not the one cleaning up the wreckage.