Businesses prize individuals that work well in a crisis. We have all seen this. A situation becomes very tenuous and the fire drill starts.The fire fighters are called in. A great deal of activity and commotion ensues,and then usually a good result is obtained. The crisis team’s and the firefighter’s reputation continue to grow.
This has always seemed to be a dysfunctional organizational structure and habit to me. Much the same way that the public is urged to “help prevent forest fires” instead of becoming better fire fighters, we should urge management to do the same. Business leaders need to anticipate business situations and take action to avoid a crisis, instead of allowing a crisis to occur and then applauding those that fix it.
There are some very simple steps to anticipating, avoiding and preventing a crisis. The biggest step is to be realistic. Understand the state of the economy and plan appropriately. Understand the state of your industry and plan appropriately. Be aware of your sales and expense monthly/annual profiles and don’t bank on the fourth quarter “hockey stick”. Have a back-up plan ready if you should need to adjust to changing conditions. Track your progress in the numbers. You know that your management will.
Finally, act early. If you are deviating from plan,smaller course adjustments to your business plan early in the year will help you avoid the necessity of drastic changes later in the year. There will always be a need for fire fighters. A good leader who anticipates the needs of his business just won’t need them as often.
Information is power. We
have all heard this. It enables us to make intelligent decisions. It helps us
create strategies and chart courses. It is vital to the continued well being of
any business. That is why we continue to pursue it, search for it, and mine it.
However, the real power of information is not in just having it. The power of
information is in sharing it.
This idea sometimes runs
counter-intuitive to what we believe. As we progress through our assignments and
our careers, we acquire more experience, more responsibility, more power and
more information. It is part of what we believe makes us valuable to the
business. It is for these reasons that some managers try to “horde” their
information. It is an effort to become indispensible.
Information that is horded
and not shared is the same as no information at all. If you know something and
don’t tell anyone, it is no different in the eyes of the business than if you
did not know it. The more information you give to, and share with the
organization, the more valuable you are to the organization.
Most of the good things that
have occurred in my career were usually the result of my bringing the knowledge
that I had acquired to a larger group, without being asked. It helped others
make better decisions and create better strategies. It helped me bring value to
I am sure as children we have all heard the parable “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?” No matter how you answered the question, the rejoinder was “How do you know for sure?”
The business equivalent of this parable is “If you work very hard all month, and you do not generate a monthly report of your activities, did you really do any work?” The answer to this one is a little bit simpler. If you did not document your progress and activities then in reality you didn’t do any work. If you want to argue this point, my rejoinder will be “How will management know for sure?”
I have heard many reasons and excuses for not generating a monthly report. It takes too much time. I didn’t have a great month so I don’t want to document so little progress. I had a great month so I don’t want to seam self aggrandizing. The bottom line is that there is no excuse for not generating a monthly report.
They don’t take a lot of time. If they do, you’re probably doing them wrong. Some monthly reports may be stronger than others. That is the nature of business. The fact is that a brief 1-2 page monthly report is your opportunity to capture the value that you and your team brought to the company. Businesses are focused on generated value. If you are not showing and documenting your value, how can they know what value you are to them?
We have all been in meetings where it seemed there a lot of decisions being made and things were getting done. We all felt good about the progress that was being made. It was uncommon for everyone to feel this way, especially in a meeting. The meeting then adjourned and we all went our separate ways. We all waited to see the fruits of our labor – to see the things we decided get done. We waited and watched…..and waited….and waited.
But we seemed to see very little get done. It always seemed that the other guys did not get their jobs done. The funny thing was that the other guys were saying the exact same thing about you. Meetings are fine, but unless an individual has a specific responsibility it won’t get done.
The answer is to take Action Items at each meeting. Make sure each individual at the meeting knows what their going forward responsibility is before they leave the meeting. You also confirm it afterwards as well, when you publish the Action Items. By creating a reviewable public record of what was to be done you create a sense of ownership for individuals that may not exist for the group at a meeting.