Just Say No to Your Inner Control Freak

"Project management is God's gift to the control freak." -- Unknown. A forceful personality can provide certain advantages in a competitive workplace, helping you work your way up the ladder more quickly than you otherwise might. But fair warning: if your favorite management slogan is "my way or the highway," expect a few delays in your drive to the top. Granted, you can survive with this attitude, especially if you're a genius or use less-than-scrupulous tactics to advance. But nobody loves a control freak. Your subordinates will never you give you 100% if you disempower them, hover over their shoulders, or constantly disparage their abilities or judgment. They'll either resent you or will get so nervous they won't be able to do their jobs right. And if you're always in their business, … [Read more...]

To Collaborate…Or Not?

"Every sin is the result of a collaboration." -- Lucius Annaeus Seneca, ancient Roman philosopher. As Will Rogers once pointed out, "It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so." Sometimes we make unwarranted assumptions that just don't hold up under close scrutiny...but they survive longer than they should because we don't scrutinize them. Here's a good workplace example: collaboration. As much we might like to think otherwise, not everything requires it. I can almost hear the shocked gasps from those enthusiastic souls who've bought into this sacred cow, seduced by cheerful slogans like "Teamwork Makes the Dream Work!" and "There's No 'I' in Team!" Now, please understand: I believe wholeheartedly in the value of teamwork. It's as obvious as a slap … [Read more...]

Managing Your Availability

One key to leadership success is limiting your availability. To be a strategic enabler of business, you must find the time to be strategic. Therefore, you must guard what little you have, so you can complete your high-value tasks.  Managing your availability requires close attention to the truly important. Once you reach higher levels in leadership, you can't allow the mundane to distract you; you shouldn't be running around putting out brushfires, especially when others can do so less expensively. Additionally, that style of management comes perilously close to micromanaging.  Always keep this in mind as you climb the corporate ladder: in almost every case, what you do as a leader will affect the organization more than anything you did while you occupied lower rungs. You forget this at … [Read more...]

Closing Communication Loops

One of the traits that sets humans apart from the rest of Creation is our ability to communicate in great detail, with a minimum of confusion and unproductive "noise." Still, we fail to communicate unusually often. The annals of history contain endless episodes of poor communication (or a complete lack thereof), leading to widespread misery and pain. On a lesser scale, individuals and businesses deal with miscommunication issues every single day; in the workplace, these breakdowns can have an impact not just on individual productivity, but also on the bottom line.  Even minor miscommunications can prove costly. For example: I once worked with a corporate president who called an analyst in finance to get a figure to put into a speech he was planning. The president expected the finance guy … [Read more...]

Delegation: An Extension of Your Hands

"I not only use all the brains I have, but all I can borrow." -- Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States "The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it." -- Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States. Smart leaders soon learn the value of delegating responsibilities and authority to team members. You can try to do it all, but if you do, you'll keel over within a few weeks from sheer exhaustion. Obviously, you need metaphorical hands to extend your reach. You have a staff for a reason. Ideally, each possesses talents, knowledge, and abilities that combine to form the extra hands Mother Nature didn't see fit to give you. That being the case, … [Read more...]

Finding More Time to “Do” Leadership

"Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes." —Peter Drucker As a leader, you know how valuable it can be when you consistently, thoughtfully apply good, old-fashioned “leadership.” And yet at one time or another, nearly all of us have looked up to discover that we've let true leadership go by the wayside in the workaday hustle of just getting by. It’s far too easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of the operational piece of your job; in fact, your greatest occupational hazard as a leader is forgetting you manage people, not paperwork. If you find yourself too busy to do your “real” job—or at least inexorably drawn in that direction—then something's askew with your personal productivity. Perhaps it’s time for a … [Read more...]

Clarity of Outcomes: Clear the Air Before You Commit

"The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision on what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out and meet it." -- Thucydides, ancient Greek historian. Clear, practical decision-making represents one of the hallmarks of the competent professional...though sadly, the commodity seems in shorter supply than it should be. People often make decisions reflexively, without sufficient data to understand the potential repercussions. Oh, sometimes they hit the bull's-eye through sheer luck. But since when was business a game of chance? You have to be able to see your target to hit it consistently, which makes clarity of outcomes your #1 goal in any decision-making process. Never blindly assume you understand what will happen if you do this as opposed to … [Read more...]

Delegating to Providers Inside and Outside the U.S.

These days, the ability to effortlessly send data just about anywhere in the world makes international business much simpler and more profitable than ever before. One result is that national borders don't mean as much as they used to; and therefore, offshoring—i.e., delegating specific business functions to service providers in other countries, where labor is cheaper—has become a common practice. Who hasn't contacted a call center and ended up talking to someone with a melodious Indian accent? Offshoring represents a natural evolution of business in the global village. But don't forget the benefits of "inshoring": i.e., outsourcing business functions to providers in your own community, or at least your own country. I don't mean to belittle offshoring by any means; it certainly has its … [Read more...]

How Communication and Connection Boost Employee Productivity

How Communication and Connection Boost Employee Productivity

One of the trickiest parts of leadership is finding a way to strike a balance between your employees as subordinates and your employees as real, live people. Read on for some important points to keep in mind as you work to build relationships with those around you. Not a leader? I hope you’ll read on anyway. Managing relationships with the people you work with (and for) is as important to your everyday productivity as it is to your career. Teach people how to treat you. You know how you want to be treated. But do you actively take the steps to make sure it happens? Always think about the precedents you are setting as you interact with other people – whether you work with them every day or are meeting them for the first time. If you let others speak to you disrespectfully or … [Read more...]

Executive Excellence – Shaping Emerging Leaders as Productivity Resources

"Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things." -- Peter Drucker, Austrian management consultant and social ecologist. "Leadership and learning are indispensible to each other." -- John F. Kennedy, 35th U.S. President.   "Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There's plenty of movement, but you never know if it's going to be forward, backwards, or sideways." -- H. Jackson Brown, Jr., American author.   Succession planning—i.e., providing for future leadership—is crucial to any organization's long-term success. Essentially, this process boils down to "buy or build." Either the organization hires proven leadership from outside as needed (often at the expense of loyalty), or it cultivates new leadership from the ground up. The … [Read more...]