Monday, January 4, 2010

Remember Who Actually Makes the Money

I like to remind myself that a manager doesn’t do the work. It is the work of the people that get things done. Most managers are simply overhead and are only worth their wage if they are able to make a good team work better, more efficiently, and faster – whatever it takes to make the cost lower and the profits higher.
“I believe in the honest craft of workmen. Take a look around you. There never
were enough bosses to check up on all that work. From Independence Hall to the
Grand Coulee Dam, these things were built level and square by craftsmen who were
honest in their bones.” – Robert A. Heinlein

Mr. Heinlein wrote these words in 1952. He delivered them to a national radio adience in a broadcast interview by Edward R. Murrow. Later, Virginia Heinlein read them when she accepted NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal on Robert Heinlein’s behalf on 6 October, 1988. The award was awarded posthumously. The rest of his statement about humanity and this great nation is posted here.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Ten New Year Resolutions

A change in the calendar year seems to be a good place to start with some new goals; personal as well as professional. There’s also a good chance some of the old dreams will make a come back with renewed vigor. Whether the New Year is bringing on new goals, new plans and new dreams or a reemphasis on some important old ones, here are ten resolutions for the professional side of life.
  1. Do something just for you every single day. Seriously. People tend to get caught up in doing for others every minute of the day. If its not at work, there’s home life and other responsibilities keeping that focus shifted away from you. Resolve to set some time aside for self every single day. Exercise, relaxing, reflecting, eat an ice cream, write in a journal, garden, walk a pet. Anything that is for yourself. Make sure, however, that you’re doing something that is different than what you’re already doing all day long. This will help you feel a renewal.

  2. Learn something new every day. People can get bogged down in the same old pattern of waking up, going to work, coming home, going to sleep. We get into a comfort zone and tend to forget the excitement of something new. Read an article; talk with someone about a new process; look into what others in your industry (or outside your industry) are doing differently. The opportunities for learning are grandly available due to the internet and other sources in this information age.

  3. Listen. Do it more than you talk. Interesting how others will offer you “penny for your thoughts” but when unsolicited advice is offered, you’re throwing in unsolicited advice we often value it at “two cents”. That old adage about one mouth and two ears is generally true. Plan to listen more this year. Listen to all your coworkers are saying. Most of the time, people are seeking a sounding board, not advice or problem solving. When people feel completely heard out, they really feel like someone has listened to them, they’re more likely to realize action rather than feeling stuck.

  4. Do something you love to do, that you do best, every day. Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman of the Gallup organization explain how important this is in their book, First, Break All the Rule: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. The intereviewed 80,000 managers, narrowing down the questions asked to the twelve most clearly defined happy, motivating, productive workplaces.

    The first three were this:
    1) Do I know what is expected of me at work?
    2) Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
    3) At work, do I hav ethe opportunity to do what I do best every day?

    Those who could answer these questions positively were more likely to be happy and productive. This is a good sign of the benefits of being passionate about your work and doing something you do best everyday.

  5. Don’t be so self-important. Striving for success can cause us to get bogged down in the serious, leaving no room for levity. Take the time to laugh. One of my best mentors taught me the importance of having passion for something other than work. Find pleasure in the little things. Smile when you hear stories about what all your crazy employees are doing – we don’t have to be the work-police all the time. Enjoy their little quirks and differences. That mentor once told me, “it’s all about the food.” We didn’t have to eat at the more expensive and “nicer” places. He would look for opportunities to eat at “good food” restaurants. Where the locals ate.

  6. Give yourself credit and a pat on the back when you deserve it. In the Gallup study cited in #4, this was one of the questions that defined the most productive workplaces. People who had received praise or recognition for their work in the past seven days were more happy and productive.
    Employee empowerment is the mantra of our age. It seems odd, however, how infrequently employees are actually recognized for the work they do. In Benefits of Employee Recognition I talked about the importance of recognition. One way to help yourself with this recognition is to open a file of positive notes, thank you letters and reminders of success. I have one. I call it, “life’s bonus”. OK, that’s pretty weird but it is a good place for me to go to remind myself of the things I’ve done well. Assess your success after each project is completed.

  7. Step out of your comfort zone. We all know when we’re in our comfort zone. We also know when something is happening that makes us a little less than comfortable. When you start making those excuses about “why” you don’t need to speak, or “why” taking a stand on an issue will just cause “trouble”, that’s when you need to find a way to step outside the comfortable box. Start by just once stating what you are really thinking. After the shock wears off, you’ll find people will admire you for doing it. Honest feedback is very important for your organization, your products, your customers.

    Added bonus: once you’ve started to break through these self-imposed barriers, it gets easier to do it again. You might find your carrier thriving because you left your comfort zone and made a move toward positive change.

  8. Read! Reading is the key to learning and growing. Staying ahead of the curve doesn’t come through osmosis or by just doing what has always been done. Learn what is working in other places. Learn how to implement that in your workplace. Try to read widely and broadly. Learn about other things than just business too. Interestingly, reading on other subjects will many times enhance your ability in business too.

  9. A new hobby. Doing something that intrigues or piques your interest adds a whole new dimension to your world. Maybe this is the year of a new train collection? My wife enjoys scrap booking. I enjoy writing.

    OK, this is so very important. It’s so important that I had to make it last:

  10. Develop a method to track your goals. Use a planner. It can be electronic, on your computer or phone, or it can be the traditional calendar. Tracking your goals, daily engagements and to do lists will help you make them happen. So many people start out a new year with great ideas for improvement. Most fail because they do nothing to track their success. Using tools to track your goals provides the opportunity for your mind to do other more important thinking. It’s tool to help you get things done.

I wish you a most successful new year – happy, healthy, prosperous and outstanding. Make it happen, though, through your own actions. Don’t rely on luck or others to do it for you.