Category Archives: Expectations

Strategery

I think the time has come to coin a new business term. It needs to sound vaguely familiar and reasonably important, otherwise it won’t be very useful. It has to resonate with an ongoing application in business. It must identify a function that almost everyone is aware of on some level of consciousness. It needs to be a term that we can all get behind and utilize to its fullest potential. Based on these requirements, I hereby submit the new business word: Strategery.

The last person to attempt to coin a new word with any amount of success, was Stephen Colbert during his first edition of The Colbert Report on television in 2005. While I do not claim to have even a small percentage of his ability to identify trends and needs in the lexicon, I will soldier on even in the face of these personal shortcomings. He was so successful that his new word has even made it to Wikipedia. If that isn’t a measure of success, then I don’t know what is.

Colbert coined the word “Truthiness”. And the Wikipedia definition of Truthiness (as supplied by Colbert) is:

“truthiness refers to the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true. I don’t trust books.”

Of course the public seized on truthiness as truth.

The definition was then further refined and was officially in the mainstream media when in 2006 Dick Meyers of CBS news stated:

“Truthiness is a quality characterizing a “truth” that a person making an argument or assertion claims to know intuitively “from the gut” or because it “feels right” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.”

From inception to mainstream media acceptance in one year. Think about just how far ahead of the curve Mr. Colbert was with truthiness. Today I believe the support for an individual’s concept of truthiness comes in the form of what are now called “alternative facts”. From truth to truthiness and from facts to alternative facts. He was correct. It just feels right.

Now back to my turn at the plate.

The word “Strategery” was initially was coined for a Saturday Night Live sketch, written by James Downey, airing October 7, 2000, which satirized the then presidential candidate George W. Bush. It actually became a term that was used during the Bush presidential years, but as those years have receded from memory, unfortunately, so has its usage.

But not anymore.

I think in every business discipline, and in every economic realm, there are those shaman like individuals and groups that every organization has, that purport to be able to divine the next industry fundamental shift that is currently residing just beyond the visibility of the event horizon and is destined to be the next game changing event. They claim to be the Visioneers who sound as though they are able to see beyond the future, and who seem to have no discernable role other than that of forming opinions, and possibly writing industry papers about what is out past the most distant of 3 and 5 year business plans and lies in the darkness beyond. These are the people who practice the art of “Strategery”.

The art of Strategery is to purport to look so far out into the future as to be almost useless, but to be able to make it sound as if it is most important.

In this case the word “Visioneers” comes from the 2008 movie of the same name. The movie is set in a dystopian near-future where a Corporation is driving out a culture of independent thought and intimacy. The corporation claims success is achieved by its strict philosophy of mindless productivity and teaches that productivity equals happiness, and the business logo (a middle finger) is the standard greeting in society. Credits again to Wikipedia.

The true art of Strategery is that the Visioneers that practice it can never be wrong. By continually keeping their focus on items that are out beyond the event horizon, and the next industry shift, they can never be directly tied to the current industry events and business performance as they actually occur.

A very good example of this “can’t be wrong” sort of Strategery can be seen in any of the various stock market prognosticators. During any sort of an extended stock market run, either up or down, there will be those that are espousing a “contrarian” point of view. They are the ones that say during a Bull market that a Bear market is coming, and vice-versa.

And they are usually correct. The markets do move in cycles. That’s why they have the names Bull and Bear Markets, and they usually do follow each other. They would only be of value if they could truly predict the point where the market will turn. Most of the time they can’t and will only be able to claim success once the event is long in the rear-view mirror, and they are on to the next pre-event horizon prediction.

Probably one of the first and most famous Visioneers to practice Strategery was Nostradamus. He cataloged all of his divinations and future predictions in a book, purporting to span across hundreds of years, and did it in such a way that no one could tell which event he was foretelling until long after the event in question had actually occurred. In short no one knew what he was talking about, and still don’t until well after the fact. To this date, almost 500 years later, he has not been wrong, but the usefulness of his predictions is generally thought to be non-existent as they have not been recognizable until well after the predicted event has occurred.

A good example of this is that Nostradamus is usually credited with accurately predicting World War II, but the accuracy of his prediction was not generally recognized until several decades after World War II occurred, at which time its usefulness does become questionable.

Technology based organizations are not immune to Strategery either, and in fact they can be a hot bed of such a questionably valued activity. It is easy to spot the Visioneers within these organizations as they will be the ones utilizing the phases such as cloudification, virtualization and Internet of Things amongst others when describing whatever they feel is the next big thing that they will be at the forefront of the charge on.

If you hear:
“The Internet of Things will utilize Big Data to push Virtualization to the Edge.”
There is a very good chance that you are in the presence of a Visioneer practicing the art of Strategery.

How could you prove that statement wrong? How could you prove that statement right? When could you prove anything of value even remotely associated with that statement? Who would actually say something like that?

It appears that value is truly in the eye of the beholder.

However, a true practitioner of the art of Strategery would have probably uttered that statement years ago when those phrases were first coined, not now when there is the potential for some substance and measurability behind them. Today’s master of Strategery would more like be talking about the future next big things, which will include phrases such as robots and machine learning, not so much a virtualized system but virtual reality, and the objectification of experience. (As provided by Pocket-lint: http://www.pocket-lint.com/news/132555-what-comes-next-after-we-re-done-with-the-internet-of-things-intel-gives-us-some-clues)

I understand some of the value that Visioneers and Strategery bring to businesses. I am a little concerned that as the speed with which change is occurring in business increases, so seems to increase the number of people who purport to see Nostradamus like into the future to tell us what will come after whatever is next. And while it may be interesting to speculate on whatever comes after whatever is next, it seems that the commitment of ever larger amounts of precious resources to visioning it creates an increasing risk to the business environment.

The problem for me seems to be that when we have so many people who claim to be so focused on what is so far out in the future, we run the risk of falling into the “Chasing the next shiny thing” syndrome. We tend to devalue whatever we are doing today, or what we plan to do tomorrow because it doesn’t sound as cool as what we think we will be doing in a couple of weeks.

I understand the risk of not having Strategery and that is not what I am advocating. In the past all societies and organizations that had shamans, seers and Visioneers had a very limited number of them. That was part of the mystique associated with them and what made them interesting. Today we seem to be generating entire organizations and processes around them.

Now it seems that we are well on our way to the justification of another overhead group which by its very nature does not lend itself well to any utility or value measurements. If we are going to do it, we might as well have a new name for it: Strategery.

Preparation

Okay friends and neighbors. It is time to look up. Cast your eyes skyward for I will be climbing way up on my soap box, my high horse, and anything else that I can orate from. It is time for me to emulate Don Quixote and joust one of my windmill like pet peeves: Preparation.

This is a topic that has been rattling around in my head for a while. I just didn’t quite know how to go about approaching it. I liken it to the general malaise that I feel has been permeating the business environment for several years. It is the feeling that not quite good enough is now good enough.

Let me provide an example.

There once was a time where it was unacceptable to have any issue whatsoever with your phone. This was a time before cellular service and mobile phones. The phone company was held to the absolute highest standards of reliability and quality of service. If you had a dropped call or a quality problem, it was addressed. You were paying for the best network and by golly you were supposed to get the best network.

Fast forward to the current mobile communications networked world. We have all experienced and have even come to expect dropped calls and garbled communications. It comes with the wireless territory. If you wanted the old network desk set reliability you would have called from a desk phone, or your home phone, or a pay phone. (As an aside, when was the last time anyone has seen a pay phone? They are gone.) Now as these wireless type technologies and capabilities are applied to our business and home communications networks in the name of cost reduction, we are now experiencing the same types of dropped calls, garbled communications and generally lower quality of phone service.

Business communications service and performance levels that would have gotten IT executives fired in the past are now the accepted norm. Money has obviously been saved, but not quite good enough is now good enough. In fact it is the norm.

So what has all this rant about networks and such have to do with preparation? Good question.

The idea of preparation was brought home to me the other day. Some of you may know that I am something of a would-be musician. I have told many people that the only thing keeping me from being a good musician is talent, or actually the lack of it.

Ron White, a very funny Texas comedian said “You can’t fix stupid.” I have definitely found this to be the case. Hard workers are great. Smart people are at a premium. The Steve Gobeli corollary to this statement is “You can’t learn talent.” I can learn all sorts of musical theory, styles and songs, but I will not be as good as those that were born with the musical gift.

But here I have truly digressed.

I was called the other day and asked if I would substitute for a regular band member who would be unable to play the gig. I was flattered and of course said yes. This was about six days before the gig.

I then started my preparations.

I got a copy of the set list so I would know what songs to play. I added about twenty minutes to my practice time to better familiarize myself with them. Things were going well.

On the day of the gig I left ninety minutes early because I knew that it would take me at least thirty minutes to get to the venue. I also knew that it would take another thirty to forty five minutes to load my equipment in and get it set up and ready to play. (In my world “roadies” are mythical beings. I have to haul my own amps and instruments.) I could then spend ten to fifteen minutes loosening up, relaxing and getting ready to play. At the appointed time I would be prepared, relaxed and ready to go.

It was interesting that the other guys in the band showed up about the same time I did. They did the same things. When it came time to start they were also ready.

We played for two hours. It was a blast. Even my wife said we sounded good. Strong praise indeed.

In business, for the most part, we know when our meetings are scheduled, what our roles in them will be and what the agenda is. When you think about it, it is a little bit like a musicians gig. The only difference is that in the new world where not quite good enough is now good enough if musicians performed their gigs like many business people are performing in their meetings, they would never be called back to play again.

Since meetings have evolved to where they are no longer really meetings, but more than likely conference calls, I can’t seem to remember when one actually started on time. People are late dialing in, switching phones because the one they are on is not working, hushing barking dogs, quieting crying children amongst other distractions, to the point where just getting the meeting started becomes a significant obstacle to overcome.

I am not saying that everyone needs to “practice” their parts in the meeting. What I am saying is that everyone should know what the meeting is about, have read the agenda and prepared for the role in it. If they are going to present charts, they should have located them on their computer, opened the presentation and been prepared to present them, instead of making everyone else wait while they perform these tasks.

In short, everyone needs to be prepared.

I have talked to other people in the office who have told me of the detailed preparations that they go through when they are getting ready for a game of golf or a ride on their motorcycle, or what they must go through in order to properly clean and wax their black corvette in the Texas heat.

I couldn’t make that last one up. He actually has a black plastic car in a place where the temperature regularly exceeds one hundred degrees Fahrenheit. According to him it requires all sorts of special cleaners and waxes because of the abundant (and hot) Texas sun.

These are just examples of how we prepare for events and activities (my substitute gig included) outside the office that we assign appropriate importance to. We know what it takes to play well in front of an audience, or get the paste wax shine on our car. We also know what it takes to be prepared for, and contribute to a meeting. We know when they start and what we are supposed to do.

Just like the audience lets the band know if they prepared for and performed appropriately, we need to start holding ourselves (and each other for that matter) to the same levels of preparation and performance in business. Not quite good enough in music is definitely not good enough. It sounds terrible.

But we seem to be willing to say that not quite good enough is good enough in business. We let it slide that the meeting started late, or that the slides weren’t ready or the attendees couldn’t respond to or answer the questions.

In most instances it’s not a question of talent. As I said, you can’t teach talent. For the most part I find most people in the professional environment to be very talented. I think it’s more of a question of preparation and the pride of performance in the public realm, or meeting as the case may be. In the new world of not quite good enough being good enough, it seems that it is okay to not be quite prepared enough for a meeting.

I find it to be frustrating, but then I guess I’m the kind of person that goes through the eight hours of preparation to play music and get paid only slightly more than minimum wage per hour for the “two hours of work”. I also invariably show up for meetings on time.

Walls

Believe it or not walls can be an interesting topic. I think I have probably written about them before. They are often taken for granted, but where would your roof be without them? On the floor, that’s where. Walls are always being metaphorically built up or broken down. Sometimes it’s not even metaphorical. Mr. Reagan told Mr. Gorbachev to “tear down” his wall. One of our current presidential candidates promises to build a new wall as his solution to illegal immigration. Pink Floyd told us that “all in all you’re just another brick in the wall.” Even this country’s national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner mentions walls.

In case you are wondering, “ramparts” is a fancy word for the walls of a fortress, which in this case was Fort McHenry, the bombardment of which by the British was Francis Scott Key’s inspiration for his poem which eventually became the lyrics for the national anthem.

Needless to say walls are an important aspect of our everyday lives. It is possible that nowhere else are they more important than in the office environment. Many of us have become dependent on the walls in the business world for any number of multiple reasons, some of which many of us are not even consciously aware of. With all of this focus and dependency on walls for the maintenance of the very fabric of the business world, I for one would like to know why it is now all the vogue for businesses to try and do away with them in our office environments.

In the past you could walk into almost any office environment and get an idea of the relative rank and importance of just about anyone in it. You would just look at the height of the walls surrounding each individual’s work area. Low walls meant low status, higher walls meant higher status and walls all the way to the ceiling meant an office instead of a cube. Everybody wanted an office. With a real door.

But not anymore.

In these days of cost cutting and the desire for hyper efficient utilization of every precious corporate resource, some smart guy (or girl) must have stood at the edge of one of the corporate cube farms and had an epiphany:

What do we need all these walls for? They really don’t serve any purpose other than to delineate the supposed working areas for the cube farm denizens. Since they only provide the illusion of privacy due to the fact that they don’t reach all the way to the ceiling and everyone can hear everything each other is saying anyway, why don’t we just remove the illusion of privacy all together and get rid of the walls.

Think about how much additional space will be freed up that was just being taken up by these essentially non-functional walls. Where there were once walls, there will now be more people. And since there will no longer be any walls to delineate a work area, we can give everyone even less space to work in and they probably won’t even notice. Our efficiency and space utilization numbers will go through the roof. We can call it the “open office” concept, and claim that it is the latest and best thing. We will save money by cramming more people into the same space.

Senior management will be pleased.

Gone will be the days of speakerphone utilization as no one will want everyone within a twenty foot radius to be included in on their call.

Gone will be the ability to utilize the computer or surf the web for any purpose other than company business as everyone will be able to see what is on the screen.

Gone will be the messy and expensive to maintain desk phones since no one will be able to guarantee that they will be sitting in the same spot each day that they are in the office so each phone can no longer have a consistent phone number. People will need to become versed in the usage of soft-phones and especially headsets if they want at least half of their phone conversations to remain relatively private.

The incremental indirect benefits just go on and on. The brave new world is here, and it is even more efficient in the utilization of office space.

Wow. Well, maybe not.

While the open office concept will allow companies to pack their employees ever more tightly into a given space (think traveling in economy coach instead of regular coach or coach plus on your favorite airline – except without the complimentary peanuts or soft drinks) at least some of your business communications (especially with customers) will require some privacy. Hence there will be an increased demand and a respondent increased supply of conference rooms.

These new open office conference rooms will now also be new and improved as well as designed for people to take and make private calls in. They will not be designed to meet in for any length of time as they too will be smaller. They will no longer be designated as conference rooms but will now become “huddle rooms” or “call rooms”. They will be great. Just don’t try to have a meeting of more than two people in them as it might be a little close.

Also don’t mind the queue outside of them as people wait for their turn to make a call.

There have been rumors that companies may in fact try to double the number of conference rooms associated with the open environment concept. This means that instead of the obligatory two standard sized conference rooms per floor, capable of allowing as many as ten or twelve people to hold a meeting, there could now be as many as four huddle rooms possibly capable of allowing as many as two people to meet.

This will now create a competition to see who can get into the office the earliest. Those that get there first will obviously claim ownership of a huddle room for that day. It will become their de-facto office for the day. However, those that pursue this course of action would be advised to bring their lunches and not make any trips to the bathroom as any perceived vacancy would probably result in the removal of their belongings from the room and someone else staking a claim to it.

Ownership of a huddle room will be viewed as the proverbial nine tenths of the law, especially when it comes to any amount of privacy in an open office environment.

I’m not really sure what the question is that the open office environment is the answer to. I suspect that it is what I have already postulated, namely if a company can remove all of the office and cube walls that are just taking up space in their expensive office environments, they can get more people in the same space and achieve a higher efficiency, at least on paper. I have not had the opportunity to work in one yet so I couldn’t truly say that it will be better or worse.

I have however had the opportunity to visit other offices and customer environments where it has been implemented. It is definitely different. I can see its allure for business. To be honest I can also see that by putting people in such close proximity to each other that it could almost force people to work together and collaborate.

I have long been a proponent of having people work together in the workplace as opposed to the virtual office idea. I don’t know what the reaction will be when people are pushed so closely together in the coming open office concept environments. I guess that as this change proliferates in business we will probably all eventually get the opportunity to see.

Patience

I think we need to get one thing straight up front: I am a patient person. I just have an internal clock that seems to run at a faster rate than other people’s clocks. Okay, maybe it runs faster than most people’s clocks. Everybody’s clock? Whatever, I don’t have the time to try and explain it.

I think it is also pretty well known that I am not the world’s greatest proponent of meetings and reviews. Staff reviews, team reviews, whatever, I can lose some interest in them rather quickly if there is not something in them specifically for me. I tend to drive toward very short and succinct reviews, when I have them. I prefer to have people doing things as opposed to reporting on the things they have been doing. It’s funny how you seem to get much more done that way.

Why then, you may ask would someone lacking such an apparent abundance of patience, who does not ascribe to a significant amount of value in reviews say that sometimes they are in fact called for? It all depends on what needs to get done, who is needed to get to do it and when it needs to be complete.

Violet Fane is attributed as having said “All things come to those who wait” as a phrase extolling the virtues of patience. I think it has been modified many times and has entered the language lexicon in many forms since then. I guess in Violet’s world I would not be the most virtuous person available.

Abraham Lincoln is one of those that have been attributed as having slightly modified this phrase and said “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” (Somehow I have a little bit of a problem believing the man who had such a command of the English language and penned something as memorable as the Gettysburg Address used the word “hustle”, but it seems to have been corroborated on multiple web sites. I guess I will have to go with it for now.)

What I am getting to here is the seemingly diametrically opposed forces associated with wanting to make something happen within our own predetermined time frames and waiting for something to happen in its own appropriate time frame. Sometimes you can push to get things done, and sometimes you can’t. But which is which as these differences can be crucial to both success and sanity.

We have all seen and have been steeped in the idea that leaders “make things happen”. They are movers and shakers. They act. They don’t react. They shoot, move, communicate and repeat as necessary. They never sit in economy coach when flying. We have all come to believe that the way to be a leader and the way to move ahead is to be first on the scene, the first to recognize and respond to a problem, the first with the answer.

In many instances this is indeed the appropriate course of action. In most cases a leader is the one called upon to recognize an issue, either before or after it has happened and to chart an appropriate course of action to either respond to or avoid the problem. They are required to act, solve and move on to the next problem.

When a leader has the ability to directly address a problem or issue, then they have the ability to be the active participant in the solution that we all aspire to be. However there are many instances where the solution or the implementation of the solution may be outside of the leader’s direct sphere of control or influence. In effect many times a leader must rely on someone else to implement the desired solution or take the desired action.

This is a point where mismatch in expectations regarding the desired solution can occur. If the person who has responsibility for the resolution does not have the same priority for resolving the issue as the person who needs the resolution then there will be incremental stress added to the situation. It is always good to remember that just because you have a problem does not mean that other people see the same problem, have the same problem, or even have a problem at all, for that matter.

So not only does a leader need to be able ascertain if a solution needs to be “driven” versus allowed to occur, they must also know how to modulate the priorities of those that must be relied on to implement the solution.

In many instances this may not be a difficult thing to do. If those that are responsible for the solution are on the leader’s direct reporting team then it is just a simple matter to reassign priorities (understanding what is elevated and what is reduced) and moving on.

However if the person responsible for the solution is not on the leader’s team, then the leader must find a way to make sure that the two group’s priorities are aligned. In many instances this can be done by appealing to or aligning with a higher order organizational priority. Priorities such as revenue increases, cost reductions, margin improvements are universally recognized across an organization. Aligning desired activities and solutions with these priorities are an excellent way to make sure that people align with the desired goals.

No one wants their inaction to be pointed out as the reason a margin improvement, or an incremental sale was not recognized. This is probably one of the best ways to get an action from an external entity or individual.

But what happens when a leader needs something done and there is not a higher order priority that can be aligned with in order to get another party to act on the issue? This is the situation where no matter how immediate the leader’s perceived need is, there is no leverage that can be applied to motivate the party that may be responsible for the activity.

A good example of this type of situation is the hiring process. No matter how much the candidate may want the decision maker to make their hiring decision, there really is not much that they can do to expedite the process. The candidate may be in a position where they would like the selection decision made as soon as possible, but the hiring entity may actually be incited to slow down the process in the hopes of attracting more and better candidates for the role to choose from.

So how does a leader get an activity prioritized outside of their own group? The simple answer is patience. A simple clear and concise explanation of what needs to be done and more importantly “why” it needs to be done will be required. An explanation of the time frames and their relevance will also be helpful. The final key will be the agreement not so much on when things will be done, but when the milestone reviews will be held.

No one likes to go time after time to a review that they agree to hold or attend without their deliverable being complete. Knowing that a review is coming and that there is an agreed agenda item that they must provide an update on is normally enough to get people to move on their commitments, even when there is no apparent downside to their non-delivery.

The idea here is that no one likes to be reminded or re-asked to provide a deliverable regardless of whether or not it may be germane to their own functional requirements. This goes for leaders (and the rest of us impatient types) as well. However the patient leader usually needs to only ask once for a deliverable, if they accompany that request with an agreeable schedule of reviews where progress against that deliverable can be reviewed.

Once the desired deliverable has been supplied, there will no longer be a need for the review and it be cancelled, and then everyone can get back to the real work at hand. Most people dislike reviews, so the added incentive of not having the review once the deliverable is supplied can work wonders.

Reviews rarely serve a useful purpose within an organization. If there is good leadership in the organization, there will normally be good communication, thereby rendering a review somewhat redundant. However across organizational boundaries they can be useful as a methodology for inspiring those outside an organization to provide deliverables that are required within the organization. The inspiration being that the responsible party has the dual drive of first avoiding having to report any potential lack of progress on their deliverable, and second knowing that there will be no additional reviews once they have provided their deliverable.

Just as we have heard management say “The beatings will continue until morale improves”, we can now say “The reviews will stop once the deliverable is provided”. Patience and perseverance will usually prevail.

A Soundtrack for Change

I got to thinking about change recently. I was concerned that it might be a little bit of a trite topic to discuss. There has already been an incredible amount written about change and I was concerned about what I might be able to add. Be that as it may, I still kept coming back around to it. I guess if there is already so much written about change then it won’t hurt if I decide to write a little more about it.

I did a quick search (gosh, things like this have become so simple thanks to Google) and found that there have been no less than one hundred and four songs written that have “change” in their title. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I did a quick scan and did not see “The Times They are a Changin’” by Bob Dylan. How could they leave that one out? I did however see “Things Have Changed” by Dylan. I have never actually heard that one. Guess I will have to head to YouTube after this to check that one out.

There were some interesting song titles in this list, as well as some rather unexpected artists, at least to my way of thinking. There were no less than eleven songs with just the word “Change” as a title, and another eight with just the word “Changes” as the title. The late David Bowie’s “Changes” was the only one out of these groups that I really recognized.

I thought about looking up all the songs that had change as part of their lyrics, but I decided that I really didn’t need to go to that level. There are a lot of songs written where change plays a major role. I haven’t even tried to approach all that has been written in the business world with respect to change. When I thought about it I decided it would be better to use music as the allegory instead of referring to all the business management change books. That way we can all have a song run through our collective heads whenever I try to make a point.

Besides, song writers are so much more “lyrical” in how they write.

What I got from looking back at all the changes that I have been through was that change in and of itself was usually neither good nor bad. It was whatever I expected it to be. Think about that. Change is usually what we make of it, not something inherently good or bad. It is probably impossible not to look at a change without some sort of concern. After all by its very definition change means that we will be doing something different than we have been doing.

Change: verb (used with object), changed, changing.
To make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone

I think we have all been in roles where doing something different might have been preferable to continuing to do what we had been doing. There would be two ways to affect this type of change: Change what we had been doing in the role we have, or change the role we have.

About this time I have Sheryl Crow’s “A Change Would Do You Good” running through my head.

The idea here is that when we want to make a change we expect that change to improve things. We see what may be wrong with the current role or process we are in and we act to try and improve it. We expect it to get better and it invariably does, at least to our way of thinking. We either change the role we are in to improve it, or we change roles we have been in to a hopefully improved role.

My idea of expectations of outcomes is very similar to what the economist in me knows as “Expectancy Theory”. Expectancy Theory states that an individual will behave or act in a certain way because they are motivated to select a specific behavior over other behaviors due to what they expect the result of that selected behavior will be. Basically stated this theory explains peoples behaviors based on the rewards they expect to receive.

This is why sales people who are only commissioned on orders (volume) really won’t care much about the margin (profitability) on those orders. If you want to modify that behavior then you will need to add a profitability / margin factor to the sales compensation plan.

What I am saying about expectations of outcomes is that if you expect the outcome of change to be good, your behavior will be such that usually the desired good outcome can and will be realized. My point here is that how we approach things, including change, is a significant determining factor in the outcome of that change.

Brandon Flowers, the lead singer for the band “The Killers” has a solo project song out called “I Can Change” that has suddenly popped into my head.

On the other hand, many times we must go through a change that was not the result of our own action or decision. Someone else has made a decision or taken an action that has caused a change in our environment. Sometimes we don’t get to choose to change. Sometimes we just have to deal with it.

It may not be relevant how well we think we have been doing or the goals that we have achieved. We may or may not have been consulted regarding the change. Regardless of any contributing factors we will occasionally find ourselves reacting to a change stimulus instead of acting on one.

I am going back a little ways here, but I now find myself humming “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke. I started hearing “Victim of Change” by Judas Priest, but I never really was a metal head and again that one doesn’t go along with my premise regarding expectations for success in change.

In many instances our normal reaction to an imposed change is to fight it. We want to see a justification or reason for it. It may not have been decided with any input from us. At that point in time it doesn’t matter.

It is at that point in time where I again believe in the expectation of outcomes having a significant contribution to how successfully an imposed change will be dealt with. Resistance and unhappiness will lead to a difficult and unpleasant change. Acceptance and alignment will almost always lead to a much more palatable transition.

That doesn’t mean give up. Sun Tzu in “The Art of War” wrote many times of when it was proper to engage in battle, and when it was not. Many times his objective was that it was just as important to “not lose” as it was to “win”. If he recognized that he could not win, he would not engage in battle, and therefore would not lose. When it comes to battling change, it is almost impossible not to lose.

Now I can’t seem to get REO Speedwagon’s “Roll With the Changes” out of my head. There is a really great keyboard solo in that one. I actually saw them perform it live in concert once, back when I was in college. By the way, this one was not on the “change” song list that I looked up either.

By accepting that sometimes we will have to change, whether we want to or not, we can identify a key to making a successful change. The positive approach that we can choose to take when making that change is one of the determining factors in how successful we will be in making the required change. Leaders need to infuse their teams with the ability to react and adapt to change, instead of resisting it.

Sometimes we get to choose to make a change. Sometimes we are told we have to make a change. Either way, how we decide to make that change is up to us and that will be a significant contributing factor to our success in changing.

Forecasting

No discussion of forecasting would be complete without some back handed comparisons to those people who actually make their living by forecasting, namely weather forecasters. There are others that also can be said to make their livings this way. People who are in the stock or commodity markets are in effect forecasting the upward or downward movements of prices in the markets based on whether they buy or sell at any specific time. But when it comes to forecasters, it is the weatherman that everyone immediately thinks of. Believe it or not this idea fits into my general business and sales approach to topics. I think it is pretty apparent that if you forecast in business as accurately as weather-people (need to be politically correct here) forecast the weather, you won’t be in business very long.

I heard a great weather-person related joke the other day. It goes:

When I die I want the television weather-person to be the one that lowers my casket into the grave. That way they can let me down one last time.

To be honest it has been a challenging period for weather forecasters here in Texas. Probably not so much in the other parts of the country. Elsewhere in the country it seems that any forecast that contains the words “cold” and “snow” has at least a reasonable chance of being correct. Here in the last week we have had sunny warm spring like days, rain, sleet, ice (yes ice, they immediately shut the entire state down when anyone anywhere in the state gets ice) and snow. Sometimes we have had multiple selections on the same day. We have had almost fifty degree temperature swings between the sunny warm highs and the snowy cold lows in just two days. Still, you would think that based on either the officially certified coin flipping or dart throwing weather predicting process that appears to be used, that the laws of probability and statistics would have to take over at some point and they would get at least one forecast right.

It is against this publicly recognized futility in forecast accuracy that we need to look at forecasting within the business environment.

Successful business is predicated on properly setting expectations. If you set your customer’s expectations properly, and then meet them, they will be satisfied. We all know that a satisfied customer is a good thing. If you set the stock analysts’ and business press’ expectations about how the business will perform, and then meet them, the price of your stock will probably go up. We all know that an increasing stock price is also a good thing. If you set the expectation with management regarding the performance of your business, and then you meet it, you will probably get to keep your job and may even be asked to take on more responsibility. Keeping your job is also a pretty good thing.

Setting expectations is also known as forecasting. It leads to a thing called “predictability”. Predictability is usually a desirable thing in business.

Good business forecasting is all about breaking down the complex (in this instance, “the business”) into its component pieces (such as “revenue”, and “costs” and things like that) and working the individual forecast for each one. You can then combine these individual forecasts into the overall business forecasts.

It also provides you an excellent insight into which specific components may need to be looked at for potential adjustments should the total forecast not meet what may be considered acceptable levels of expectation by management.

Expectations are funny things. They can cut both ways. Businesses usually want to set expectations that are difficult but achievable with senior management. Senior management usually wants to set the expectation that it requires more from the business than the obviously easily obtainable expectations that they are currently being provided. Senior management will then in turn try to set expectations for the overall business performance with the analysts and market that are believable, and the analysts and market will decided whether or not they will believe them.

This all takes us back to forecasting. Expectations are set with management through the use of forecasts. There are forecasts for revenue. There are forecasts for costs. And then there are the resulting forecasts for margin or earnings. Hopefully there is a relationship between the revenue and the cost forecasts so that margin and earnings can in fact be realized.

As an example of forecasting, in Texas you know that in May it is going to start getting hot. By June it will be hot. It will probably stay hot until September and that by October it might start to not be so hot. This is known as “Climate”. In general you can expect this. You can look at historical averages and trends and see what the various highs, lows and precipitation were for specific days, but you don’t know what they will be this year. That specificity is known as the weather.

The closer you get to any specific date, the more accurate your forecast can and should be for that dates weather.

The same should apply for businesses. At the beginning of the year there is a general expectation of what the “climate” should be for any specific business. This is based on past performance and the desires for growth (or contraction) in the component markets and businesses. As data comes in and performance evolves the forecast for any specific piece of the business will begin to come more and more into better focus. Unexpected events and unforeseen issues can always occur and cause the accuracy of the forecast to change, but in general, the closer you get to a specific date, or target, the more accurate you should expect the forecast to be.

The key here is that the forecasts should always be based on the factual data. If it has been cold and snowy in the northeast for the last few weeks, and there are still several feet of snow on the ground, then no matter how badly senior management would like to see sunny, spring like temperatures it is probably best to stay with reality. Understanding the business equivalent of “in the summer it’s hot and in the winter its cold”, regardless of the specific day to day variations, is an important aspect of accurate forecasting.

Forecasts are designed to inform people of what they need to know and hear, not what they want to know and hear. They are keys to setting expectations of the business’ performance and targeting areas for attention when expected performance does not meet the business needs. When a forecast is missed it will have a ripple effect throughout the business.
When a weather forecaster misses a forecast there is a possibility that someone may get wet when they thought they would be dry, or they may be cold when they dressed for warmer weather. When a business misses a forecast the financial performance of the entire organization can be brought into doubt. This usually results in actions that must be taken to bring the financial performance back in line with expectations. These actions can usually be distilled down to one of two things: increasing revenue or decreasing costs.

The need for decreasing costs is never a fun forecast for the people in a business.

Put it on Paper

Here I go again, demonstrating to the world just exactly what sort of a business dinosaur I am. That’s ok. I don’t really mind. For those of you not exactly following what I am saying here, I would refer you to the title. I refer to paper. You know, that old technology, tactile foldable thing; paper. Most people don’t use paper anymore. If they want to take a note they usually type it into their omnipresent laptop or tablet, or if really pressed they will use their thumbs and try to tap it into their smart phone.

I remember attending a sales conference some time ago. For those of you who may not be familiar with sales conferences, these are events where the sales team goes to celebrate their previous year performance while also receiving their next year targets and objectives. I also understand that each day of the sales conference has a two drink minimum.

I am not going to discuss paper and its relationship to a sales team’s past performance. The paper that is normally associated with that is green, has pictures of past presidents (and others – Ben Franklin wasn’t a president, at least I don’t think he was) and is recognized as legal tender. In this case I am going to talk about paper and how it was used in relationship to the future targets.

Success in sales is a double edged sword. Do well and you are rewarded handsomely with commissions and recognition. On the other hand, do well and your next year’s targets will be raised so as to reflect your past success. They will usually be significantly increased. It is one of the basics of target setting. Beat them one year, expect them to be significantly increased the next. Such is the life and continuous challenge of being a top flight sales person.

At the sales meeting I was at, the Senior Vice President of sales had just finished congratulating the team on their past performance, when he turned everyone’s attention to the future. It was if he simultaneously and collectively hashed everyone’s “mellow”. He told them what their targets were for the next year.

The air left the room. There was an audible whooshing sound as the blood drained from the various sales leaders’ heads. What had been a celebration now sat precariously on the precipice of becoming an insurrection. The demanded growth was that large. It was impossible to achieve. It looked like it was going to get ugly.

This was when the wily sale vice president stood up and said.

“I don’t know how we are going to get to the number either, but the first thing we need to do is to put it on paper so that we can start working on it.”

He understood that while the goal sounded outrageous and unattainable, that the first step in generating success was to make the target real. Putting it on paper demystified it. It made the number real. And making the goal real, regardless of the perceived difficulty in attaining it is the first step in attaining it.

By putting it on paper you take something that may seem out of reach and reduce it to a number, or words on a piece of paper. Think about that for a minute. When it is on paper it is both bound and defined. It is no longer unbounded and undefined. It is real.

I thought this was a pretty spectacular way to regain control of the room. Sales people are not renowned for being the most forward thinking of strategists. Some of the really good ones that I have known are, but for the most part, maybe not so much. In any event, by telling the team members to write it down, and then taking a moment to pause in his presentation, which had the effect of adding more impetus to the request, he slowed the runaway new quota riot train before it could fully leave the last year’s performance station.

It took me a while to come up with that allegory. I am not sure that I fully like it, but I think I will leave it for now.

The simple fact of writing something down starts the planning and strategy process. Putting pen to paper. Once something is written invariably something else will be written next to it, or below it. Once the thought process starts other ideas will begin to evolve. Eventually plans and strategies will emerge. It won’t happen all at once. It will take time. But it all starts with just writing down the goal on a piece of paper.

6 Business Lessons from My Son Mowing the Lawn

I have a fourteen year old son. I am very proud of him and I love him dearly. But that does not change the fact that he is a teenager and as such is prone to many of the activities and attitudes that come with that age. Like most teenagers he has almost unlimited wants and desires and has almost no money with which to pursue them. On the other hand I have a significant number of activities that need to be done around our house that I am willing to pay him to do. These majority of these activities are called yard work. You would think that with my cash and a need for labor, and his labor and a need for cash we would be able to work out an equitable solution. You would think. The following are a few business lessons I relearned from my son in this situation.

1. Set a deadline for all work to be complete. Make sure there is clarity of when your staff’s deliverables are due. 
    It’s always nice to start the new week with a clean yard, mowed lawn and trimmed bushes. I don’t know why that is the case. Perhaps it is what I learned as a kid. Needless to say though, as I am the nominal boss around my house (with the possible exception of my wife who I refer to as “The Most Powerful Woman in The Universe”) I set the objective for my staff (in this case my son). I thought I was pretty clear on this.

I learned the lesson of setting a hard deadline the hard way. I initially I just told my son that I would pay him at the end of the week to mow the yard once a week. I didn’t think I would need to specify when the week ended and when it began. He came in on Sunday to ask for his wages, and informed me that he would then mow the yard in “the next couple of days”. I informed him that Saturday and Sunday did in fact constitute the “Weekend” and that he would have to have the job complete by then before he was to get paid. He seemed surprised by this stipulation and development.

2. If it needs to get done, do it early. The job will just get more unpleasant the longer you wait to do it. 
    We live in Texas. In case you have not heard, it does in fact get hot here in Texas in the summer. It gets very hot. When my son agreed to mow the yard in return for money I suggested to him that he might want to mow early in the morning when it was only warm, instead of later in the day when it would be hot, or later in the afternoon when it would be approaching blast furnace status.

Mowing the yard early in the morning on a weekend would mean that he would have to get up early in the morning on a weekend. For those of you who do not have teenage children, you would not understand the absurdity of that last statement. Teenagers do not get up early in the morning of their own volition, ever. Weekends especially. This left the hotter part of the day and the blast furnace of the afternoon. To make a long story short, he procrastinated till the later afternoon, when the day was at its hottest (close to or above triple digit temperatures) and was miserable as a result.

3. Make sure your staff knows how to use the tools needed to get the job done. Just because you know how to do it doesn’t mean they know how to do it. 
    I showed my son where the tools were that he would need to do the yard. I was also pretty sure he already knew where the yard was. What more would he need? His objective was to take the tools, apply them to the yard, and then to let me know when his objective was complete. I would then applaud his ingenuity.

By my third trip out to the garage to show him how to start and operate the trimmer, the edger and the lawn mower, I suspected that I might not have set him up for success in his initial attempt at the yard. I had assumed that he had seen me performing the task often enough before that he would know how to do it. Perhaps if he had not been so engrossed in his video games he would have been better prepared, but I digress. It was my responsibility to make sure he knew how use all the tools. I also should have shown him when it was cooler in the garage.

4. We are paid for the job. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to do it. It is the completion of the job that counts. 
    Mowing the yard is not a difficult task. I have done it for years myself before I hit upon the idea of paying my son to do it. It doesn’t take an overly long time to do it. We live in an area where the lots are standard size for a suburban subdivision. It doesn’t take a lot of physical effort. Over time I have acquired all the automated and motorized tools (including a self propelled lawn mower) needed to accomplish the task. In short, I had a reasonable idea of how long it would take and how much effort would be required to get the yard done.

I had not however expected an underly-enthusiastic approach by a fourteen year old teenager (my staff in this instance) who would have much preferred to be inside out of the heat doing something else and just be given the money. By the time all the struggles and complaints were accounted for he took roughly twice as long to do the yard as either of us anticipated. As such he immediately asked for a raise. I reminded him that I was paying him to mow the yard, not paying him by the hour to mow the yard. If he worked at applying himself a little better to where it did not take so much time to mow the yard he would be much happier and realize a better return on his time investment.

5. Set the expectation of the quality of work to be delivered. Standards of performance differ and what may be acceptable to one may not be acceptable to another. 
    When I mow the yard I try to do the best job mowing the yard that I can. I try to take that approach with just about every job I take on, either at the office or in the yard. I like to know that I have not shortchanged myself or anyone else with my effort. Again I thought that since he had seen how the yard looked after I had done the work; my son would understand how I expected the yard to look when he was done.

He finished, came in, asked for his pay and then went upstairs to cool off and play more video games. All was good, or so I thought. Later my wife came in and asked me if there was anything wrong with me. I said no and wondered why she would ask. She said that the yard did not look the way it normally did after I mowed it and wondered if there was something wrong with me when I had been mowing it. It seemed it was time to actually go out and look at my son’s work product.

6. Hold a brief review at the completion of the project. When the project is done understand what went wrong and what went right. There may be differences of opinion. 
    Whenever a project is presented to you as complete, review it, then review it with the person that presented it to you. I had just assumed he would do the yard the way I did the yard. I had not gone outside to look at the yard because it was hot. If I had wanted to get hot I would have mowed the yard myself. When I did go outside I could see that my son’s objective was not to do the yard the way I would do it or to my standards, but rather to get it done to a level where he could in fact claim that it was indeed (mostly) mowed and that he should be paid.

I had neither properly set the expectations for the job, nor immediately reviewed the final project upon completion. I assumed that since he lived in the same house as me he would have the same pride of ownership and in his work product that I had. Needless to say we did go back outside (in the heat) and note the areas that needed to be edged and trimmed, and in some instances actually mowed since the objective was to mow the entire yard, not just the parts that are only visible from the street.

My son will get the opportunity to mow the yard again next week since I expect the grass to continue to grow. I hope he has learned what is expected of him and is aware of the ef
fort that the expectation will entail if he hopes to delight his management. I have relearned that just because I have done it and know what it takes to deliver a high quality work product, that not everyone else will know how to do it just because they have seen me do it. Management always needs to be clear about their expectation, guidelines, training and reviews.

Now if only these ideas would work with my daughter and her driving habits.

Automatic Default Setting


I have a friend Leif, who lives up in Wisconsin. He used to live in Texas and moved BACK to Wisconsin of his own volition. This fact in itself should provide some insight into the type of individual that Leif is. Be that as it may, I still consider him a friend. We stay in touch via electronic means. I keep track of him in some small way because Leif loves to post on Facebook. He posts a lot more than I do. Sometimes he posts things that I wish I had posted. I don’t post much on Facebook. Many times he posts things that I am proud to say that I had no input into, no contact with and would not have posted even if I did. It could be said that Leif swings at just about every electronic pitch. When you do that there are going to be a lot of whiffs and foul balls, but on occasion you will make good contact and knock one a long ways. Leif recently posted a Facebook link to a Youtube video about a speech given by David Foster Wallace at the 2005 commencement at Kenyon College called “This is Water”.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmpYnxlEh0c&feature=player_embedded.




This was one of Leif’s home run posts.




I have a tendency to look at the interconnected nature of things and how information that may be applicable in one realm is actually also applicable in another. This may provide some insight into what type of an individual I am. The realm that I usually end up trying to apply this interconnected information to is the business environment. Sometimes I see the hyperbole and Monty Python-esque absurdity of what is going on. I know I am dating myself here, but sometimes there just is no other theater of the absurd that can fit the reality of business like the Pythons with their “Minister of Funny Walks” and “Lumberjack Song”. Sometimes I get what I hope is a real flash of insight into something that may be useful in actually continuing to navigate the difficult business waters. I am hoping that David Foster Wallace, via Leif might have provided me a flash, along with a little absurdity, that I will try to apply to our business world and pass along here.



Mr. Waters in his speech discussed the fact many times in life we will find ourselves on what he called our Automatic Default Setting. He described the automatic default setting as the way we deal with things when we are not consciously thinking. This idea struck a chord with me. The idea that we have an automatic setting in how we deal with the world around us seemed to me to be pretty applicable to how we deal with the business environment as well.




The idea of automatic default setting was used primarily in addressing the mundane such as driving in traffic or standing in line. The net of this approach was that it leads to viewing people in these instances as obstacles slowing you down and being in the way. Is this beginning to sound familiar to anyone’s work environment?




I am going to pause here a moment and note that in business I have found that occasionally…okay, more than occasionally, in fact pretty often this automatic default setting is so accurate that it is painful. What I found particularly interesting and applicable is that Mr. Wallace did not dispute this in life either. What he looked at and brought forward was that people have the ability to be aware of their default settings and instead of perceiving the world through them; they can choose to instead to be aware of them. This will affect how you think. This is always a good thing.



Now this sort of discussion of self awareness is usually reserved for some sort of existential high-brow literary artifice. That is not going to happen here, mainly because I don’t think I know how to act high-brow. People who know me can probably corroborate this statement. One of the points that Mr. Wallace did make was that being aware of your automatic default setting and choosing not to operate at that setting takes effort. It takes a will and a willingness to not to just go along without thinking. You have to be able to consider possibilities that are outside the standard way that you think. However, if someone asks or tells you to think outside the box, you can probably be reasonably assured that they are operating on their standard default setting.




It is my experience that there may be some people who may not be able to operate on any setting other than automatic default even if they wanted to. I am not trying to invalidate Mr. Wallace’s supposition here. I’m just saying.




With this rejection of the automatic default setting, we may need to revisit our beliefs that the Sales teams are a bunch of over promising, money driven, lying swine. We need to realize that they may not in fact be lying all the time but probably only when they are talking. We need to reject the setting that all finance and accounting team members are slow moving, detail oriented, conservative, money driven sloths. We need to understand that we only see them in the business environment and that at outside of the office they may not be entirely conservative, particularly when it comes to decisions regarding their footwear and whether or not they get the oil in their cars changed before, after or exactly on the recommended mileage.




All joking aside, I found David Foster Wallace’s approach to being more aware of the everyday items and thoughts that we take for granted, that we utilize our automatic default settings on, to be scarily accurate. It takes effort and will to think of each event, person and process as a potentially new experience that should not be treated to the same default setting response. If we ever wonder why we, our business or our company seem to continually be asked to solve the same problem multiple times, it could be because everyone has their default settings on and we provide the same responses to what we perceive as the same stimuli.




Changing gears just a little here, we come to Albert Einstein who said something along these same lines. Einstein said:




Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.



Is it possible that we seem to do the same things over and over again because we have our default settings on and don’t bother to take the effort to consider the possibilities associated with something new? We have already seen it, or something like it and it is just easier to revert to our default setting, respond and move on. I don’t know if Mr. Einstein and Mr. Wallace would appreciate me correlating their works, but like I said, I do have a tendency to look at things inter-connectedly.




I have already taken the opportunity to put Mr. Wallace’s ideas into practice. We have all had business issues that seemed to have a circular nature to them. Group A was dependent on Group B for an answer. Group B was waiting on Group C for input. Group C could not get the information it needed from Group A. I am sure we have all been in more than our share of these types of solution merry-go-rounds. They seem to becoming more the norm than the exception. They can go on for weeks. By taking the step back and not accepting that these issues were the norm and by relooking at the “standard responses” we were able to break the cycle and start making progress toward a solution. We took the process off of autopilot, required something other than the default setting response, and started to make progress.




I don’t know if Leif will ever be able to provide another post that will resonate with me the way “This is Water” did. After all, the previous several hundred did not. Just since I started work on this topic he has already posted two more items regarding opportunities and drinking. It is interesting in that both of these later posts seem to have several “Likes” whereas “This is Water” did not get that sort of appreciation. Maybe some of these people need to change their automatic default settings too.

Thanks Leif. I thought “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace was excellent.

Low Maintenance Employees


I once heard a very senior executive asked what type of employee he appreciated most. I thought his response was most telling. He said: “A low maintenance one.” I didn’t quite understand at the time what he meant, but as I have gone though the various management ranks, I think I might have picked up on it some. I think what the executive meant was that it is not the management of the issues, problems and crises that are the greatest challenge to managers; it is the management of the people that takes the most time and effort.



Business is conducted between people. Whether it is providing services to the customer or responding to an executive request, it is individual people that do it. And when individual people interact there can and will be issues. It is my position that in general all employees want to do a good job. They want to succeed in their assignments. They want to advance in their careers. The want to be recognized for their contributions to the progress of the business. The issues start to arise when different employees start to utilize differing approaches to working on and attaining these objectives.




Any time you start discussing people, the behavior of people and the management of people you can be treading on very thin ice. I am sure there are claxons, sirens and all manner of warning lights flashing in all sorts of Human Resource departments across the web based on the fact someone outside of HR would have the nerve to address this type of topic. Fortunately I am speaking only for myself and from my own experiences so there really isn’t anyone for them to call. If there are truly any issues, I will look forward to the comments.




I have come to interpret the executive’s low maintenance employee response to mean that he prized an employee that did not require, or seek an inordinate amount of his time to manage. It is a key point to understand the two aspects of this issue.




There are employees that due to any number of issues require extra management intervention in order for them to be able to do their jobs. They may be new and untrained and hence need the incremental leadership. They may be “personality challenged” when it comes to working with others and may require incremental intervention and direction. The point is that there are inevitably employees that require more time and attention from leaders than others in order for them to achieve their goals.




On the other side of the management attention coin, there are those employees that actively seek incremental management attention during the normal course of conducting their job functions. They are the employees that always ask questions during any open forum information session. They will continually come in and seek intermediate approval for each incremental step in the solution process to each of their assignments. In short, they like to spend a lot of time in their manager’s office. It may be due to a true sense of insecurity regarding what they have been asked to do, or it may be from a desire to be perceived as more visible in the execution of their duties. Either way it takes up management time.



There may be some business managers that like and or seek this kind of business activity. Managing the people or managing the process can sometimes be confused with managing the business just as in many instances it can be made to appear that activity can be confused with actually making progress. Most business leaders do not like or seek this type of management situation.




Business leaders are looking for employees whom they can trust to perform their assignments to the same high level that they themselves would perform it. They are looking for employees that are self motivated and understand that there is a distinct value in their being able to perform their roles without incremental management attention, either required or desired on their part, and without other interpersonal difficulties.




That doesn’t mean that good employees must be prepared to work in isolation of their management. I was once in an assignment where I literally had not had any significant time or interface with my reporting executive in several weeks. We had been extremely busy and successful in the market and had several different projects in various stages of development and completion. Still I had not had any time with him. I scheduled a half hour with him through his administrative assistant for the following week.




The meeting came around and I went into his office. He thanked me for setting up an appointment, as he said most people seemed to just barge in on him when they wanted to talk with him, and he then asked me what my issue was.




I told him that I really didn’t have any issue that I needed to escalate to him, but that it had been several weeks since we had had any communications and that I was just closing the loop. I asked him if there was anything else I needed to be doing on his behalf or for the business. He just looked at me for a few moments.



He then said that he had not realized that it had indeed been so long since we had communicated, but he had in fact been focusing on the people and issues that required his attention and since I nor the business I was responsible for needed his attention he had not been in contact with me. He went on to say that this was a good thing in that it freed up valuable time for him to focus on other issues that did require his attention.




I then understood. I thanked him for his time and told him I would not take up any more of it. I learned that I didn’t need to have, nor should I seek a lot of feedback or attention and that even if employees don’t need a great deal of supervision or attention it is still a good idea to periodically touch base with them and provide feedback. I think I only used about fifteen minutes of the half hour allotment.




Leaders recognize those employees that go quietly about doing their jobs, and who do the job to the same high standards that the leaders would do them. They appreciate those who do the work and don’t allow any people management issues to reach a point where they require management intervention or time.  Leaders know what their team members are doing. They don’t need to be reminded by each team member what that specific team member is doing. They also don’t want to have to solve specific issues for specific team members either.




In business a leader wants an employee that they can trust to execute their responsibilities so that they are where they should be in their job and on their assignments at each appropriate time. They don’t need to be doing things to garner individual incremental attention. They should not be doing things that require individual incremental intervention. If they can perform their roles and duties in a manner that requires only a modicum of management supervision or attention and achieve the assigned goals, they will be sought after, recognized and reward by business leaders.