Archives for posts with tag: business

Hey folks I’m back!

After a short time of illness, I’m ready to pick up the metaphorical baton again and sprint toward the finishing line of improving your understanding of what really works and doesn’t in the world of strategic management.

This week I want to talk to you about corporate strategies. What are they?  Well, in my career I’ve been involved in several of these and generally speaking they’re a means through which a company tries to appear to itself and indeed to others that t knows what it’s doing. Often great efforts are made, a prolonged consultative process, based on large amounts of second rate analysis, and a hellish drafting process results in a document that is of so little value that it is placed on a website, shelved in the CEO’s office and those of the senior managers, but quickly forgotten by everyone who had the great misfortune to be involved.

God bless strategic planning!

Like all strategies or plans, it becomes irrelevant through the actual process of creating it – just setting it down on paper seems to have an almost supernatural ability to render it completely irrelevant and useless. Why is this? What’s going on here? What can we learn from this?

Well the first thing to learn is that some things in business are better left unspoken, especially if they’re already working quite well in an organic and unintended organization (most medium to small companies).  Suddenly trying to capture and codify all of that (vision, mission, objectives, indicators, projects and programme with outputs and deliverables and all that jazz) forces individuals to suddenly face up to these issues and choices, realizing in the process that they are so far removed from most of their peers, both in their thoughts and attitudes, that their confidence in the very company is shaken and they regard to strategy as a manifesto of the stupids.

And so the plan, the strategy, whatever it is, is rejected by its authors, forgotten, and everyone forgets or rejects it for a different reason. But that’s not important, the important things is that most people on the organization will want nothing to do with it.  There will be exceptions of course, many companies have an Ivy League poindexter who will wail and moan about your failure of manage the strategy, you may also have something even worse, the autodidact who got his MBA online and grasped all the details but say none of the big pictures – he/she’ll drive you crazy too.

So what’s to be done?

The secret is to go with the flow, remember what you value about your work, remember what you care about and get up in the morning for, and screw everyone else and their plans.  You don’t need plans to get results, you need winners.

Be a winner, not a planner.

That’s right, we’ve all been there, you look around at the people working under your management one day and realize that for the most part they’re losers who’ll never make anything of themselves.

Ok… I exaggerate a little but most managers will admit there is some truth in this and…. now I have your attention losers!

So what does this mean for talent management in your organization and how can you ever hope to fulfill a meaningful leadership role when these people clearly don’t even care about themselves very much and they’re apathy is infecting you and everyone around you?

Well, as those of you who’ve worked with me before will know, the WINCAN technology (managing the interface between talent and complexity, innovation and strategy) answers many of these problems, but a blog is not the place to get into those or for me to harp on about WINCAN.

Let’s just take a basic look at what it means if you’re a manager who feels his/her staff are unworthy of your leadership, what are the key questions?

1. Did you recruit them yourself?  Let’s be honest many times leaders and managers take over a team and decide that they’re all worthless nobodies because they’re replacing someone who had fundamentally different professional values and priorities and built a team in that image as a reflection of their own vision of how a team should and can work. You may be quite different and if this is the case I urge you to seek the help of a HR professional for some expert tips on turning things around.  The most important take-away though is that you should take the time to turn things around because if you do, the loyalty they will have for you will greatly exceed that which you can hope to get from a new recruit!  it’s also a great challenge and real leaders love challenges!!

2. Could I be projecting my own feelings of insecurity and phoniness onto them?  This is surprisingly common so take a look at yourself and see if there’s even a grain of truth in this. Many leaders reach middle age and experience something of a trough, I myself experienced one when I briefly worked in biotech in South East Asia in the late 90s.  Maybe, like me back then, you are really just in the throes of a midlife crisis and an existential/professional (is there a word for the place where these two things combine – future blog post perhaps) dilemma. Maybe your negative feelings about yourself, bubbling under your that thick crust of managerial machismo, are causing you to project your anxieties and fears about yourself onto your staff. It happened to me! It was only after a huge argument with one of my less-important domestic staff that I began to see sense but by then things had gone too far and no-one was receptive to my team bonding sessions.  Be a better guy than me and don’t let it get too far!!

3. Can I still lead them and if so how? Let’s say you’ve given this a lot of thought and even sought out a second opinion (an expert, not someone in a bar – I’m looking at you Bob!) and you’re as sure as can be that they’re a pretty useless bunch – totally unsuited to the tasks at hand, is there anything can be done?  Yes, of course you can fire them and in many cases this is the best thing to do, as a leader you main job is to lead irrespective of whether the people you’re supposed to be leading are inclined or capable of following.   Many of you may be reluctant to fire some or all of then in the current economic climate and in this situation you should consider innovative approaches to identifying the source of their idiocy and redirecting it at each other rather than at work tasks (I’ll have another blog post soon on how exactly to do this, there’s also a chapter in my forthcoming book).  It sounds fantastical but with a good HR strategy you can redirect their inefficiencies toward their personal and social lives within just a few months.

I hope that’s given some of you ideas, this is a common problem these days with so many mid-level leaders switching around in a few key sectors where personal style plays such a big role in shaping the culture and ethos of small (<25) teams.

I’d love to hear any thoughts/comments/experiences!

T

Firing a good friend is never easy and it doesn’t get that much easier no matter how many times you do it. The first time I had to fire a buddy was over twenty years ago and we’re still really close on Facebook so although you often lose friends that you have to let go, it doesn’t always happen (not least because they’ll hold out a faint hope of being re-hired). So while it doesn’t get much easier, over the years I’ve picked up a few things that can at least make the act of firing a pal go a lot smoother and empower you to go through with it.

1. No such thing as “best practice”: Well this one speaks for itself. Don’t be taken in by books or websites or HR gurus telling you that there’s a best way to fire your friend, there isn’t. Not only is every situation different but every friend is different, so take each case as it comes and concentrate on the idea of good practice, not “best” practice.

2. Remember it’s not your fault!: Sure, you may be the one who made the ultimate decision to fire your friend but if they know that you’re charged with monitoring their performance and they’re not doing the business, meeting targets and out-performing peers, then what does that say about their respect for you? This person clearly doesn’t value your friendship all that highly or they wouldn’t put you in the position of having to do this? Ask yourself the question, would they do this to their own child? No? Well then what makes them think they can do it to you!? You must refuse to take the burden of guilt that they’re trying to put on your loyal shoulders.

3. Fire friends on a Monday, never a Friday: This one I had to find out the hard way! Most companies will do their firing on Friday, preferably Friday afternoon to minimize the possibilities for disruption. This is especially important if the company is notifying the staff member of contract termination weeks or months ahead, and wants to give them a couple of days to calm down. So it makes sense, most of the time, but not when firing a friend. The last thing you need is to fire a pal on the Friday and end up running into them on the ninth hole on Saturday morning or at some kid’s birthday party in Chucky Cheese on the Sunday – all before he or she has had a chance to calm down and start blaming himself for everything instead of you. So you’ve got to do the friend-firing on a Monday, Tuesday at the latest, so they have the whole week in the office to calm down before you risk a combustible social situation at the weekend.

4. Be angry, not sympathetic, at least until they apologize: While I don’t like to force you hand, and as I’ve already said, there’s no such thing as best practice, you should strongly consider the benefit of appearing angry, or even better actually being angry, with your friend when you’re firing them. This will allow you to maintain control of a situation that you normally don’t need to worry about losing, but are now more vulnerable to because of your closeness to the person you’re firing. Normally when firing someone, it’s choreographed and scripted to make you sound logical, empathetic but just a little dispassionate. With a pal, this could blow up in your face as your friend will justifiably expect to see some emotional response from you and will probably hope to see you conflicted. The big danger is that either wittingly or unwittingly you display sadness at having to fire them, as this will make you look weak, thus empowering them in the meeting and (nightmare scenario) giving them hope that they can somehow ‘talk you round’.

5. Practice, practice, practice: That’s right, just like with people you don’t really care for, it’s vital that you spend adequate time in front of the mirror getting this right. Don’t trust your spouse, or any other friend, with this news, so don’t practice with them. Just lock yourself in a room with a mirror or video recording device and practice firing your friend over and over again until it’s the most natural thing in the world. The important thing here is to really take the chance to look at yourself and assess what your body language, tone and facial expression is saying. I once got my HR manager to do this (you’d think he’d know better!) and he only then realized how his voice would rise over an octave in tone when he was firing former military people (and we were manufacturing mini humidifiers – pre-Lehman Brothers btw. – so there were quite a few of them).

6. Never pass an opportunity for professional development: No matter what you do there’s always a chance that after firing a friend you’ll go home that night and feel bad, or conflicted, about the whole thing. You may even wonder what it was all about and whether there was any point. So bear in mind the affect that all of this is having on your personal development. Regardless of whether you are taking it in your stride or suffering in some way, you are professionally developing every single day, and this day was no different.  Focus on the personal positives, not the collateral negatives, that’s what marks out the winners!

7. Think strategic!: The one thing I haven’t mentioned so far is that I myself (yes, me!  Trent Meyerson) was once fired by a friend. But you know what? I didn’t mind at all. Why? Because that s.o.b. taught me one of the greatest lessons of my life. It turns out that he’d found out a while before that he was going to have to fire me, but rather than rush into it and, god help us all, “get it over with“, he took his time and weighed up his options. A week later he called me into his office and told me I was going to have to fire a friend of mine, that it was hard, but that we all had to do it sometime. Like a good lieutenant I did as I was directed and fired my buddy Dave. Afterwards my boss/friend asked me how I was doing and I told him just fine. A week later it was me getting a call to come into his office and the old dog gave me the bad news. Now that’s a strategic thinker and you could do worse than follow his example, although I’ve often wondered if Dave was just an innocent by-stander in the whole thing, a pawn sacrificed in a game he would never comprehend. Rest in peace old buddy!

Well, how about you? Anybody out there got something to add?