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Work is the thing that you do when you’re not having a life.

Or at least that’s the mentality that most employees bring to their jobs.  Essentially, they’re renting their time and skills to the company while putting everything else on hold.

But you know the problem with this mindset:  You usually just get the minimum level of productivity and dedication to your customers.

This is a problem even in well-paying jobs, by the way.  Read the rest of this entry »

I was quite excited to see Gallup’s new update of the State of the American Workplace.  You can get it for free, and it has incredibly valuable insights for any company or organization that has employees.

I thought I’d dig into one area today that’s been an ongoing topic for discussion.  Let’s look at what employees are saying about what kinds of benefits and perks would cause them to change jobs.

perks_benefits

Read the rest of this entry »

work-harderYou have some top priorities for your business: To create a great company. To solve real problems for your customers. To do it sustainably.

And your employees are your most important, most impactful asset. The question is whether they really are pulling the same direction to achieve your company’s mission.

Before you protest that you’ve delivered great training and make sure managers are closely directing the work.

Read the rest of this entry »

makalouI ran across a really good article today about the three toughest conversations that a manager needs to have with an employee or leader:

  • Delayed terminations
  • Companies outgrowing their leaders
  • Rumors about compensation

So go check out Meg Makalou’s advice – well worth a few minutes of your time!

“You work for the customer. I don’t pay you. They do.”
—Jean-François Zobrist, CEO of FAVI

customersI came across this thought-provoking quote today, which referenced a 2012 article in Fast Company Magazine.

The article itself is how FAVI has created an extremely flat organization, and it’s well worth reading.  But what got me thinking was the concept of:  Management doesn’t pay you.  Customers do.

I find that to be a startlingly clear way of communicating why we’re in business.

Read the rest of this entry »

off the railsMeasuring progress in your business is one of the most important tools you have.

Sure, you actually have to deliver a great product and amazing customer service, and you have to be out there marketing so that the customers know about you.  But even when you do that well, it’s possible to run off the rails.

You need some feedback.

Imagine that you were trying to drive blind across the city.  Read the rest of this entry »

Source: James on Flickr

Source: James on Flickr

I hate to say this, but you might not be doing everything perfectly.  Sorry to break the news!

But this isn’t about making you feel guilty about all the stuff that you’re behind on.  You already have enough pressure there, and it’s probably stressing you out.

When we look at the big picture, the leader’s job is to define the direction and then to set the organization up for success.  Other people can do the details, but it’s the person in charge who is uniquely qualified to do these two things.

Read the rest of this entry »

Arrows“We’ll decide on a case-by-case basis.”

This phrase can sometimes be a real cop-out, so be cautious in using it.  Often it really means:

  • I don’t want to think about it now.
  • I hope that conditions at the time will make the decision easier.
  • I have no idea how we’ll make the decision.

Read the rest of this entry »

abstractWe’ve talked a lot about the mission of your business, and driving employee engagement from that.

It works the other way around, too!

Your employees have a broad range of interests:  family, sports, social groups, hobbies, and so on. What do they have to do with job performance? Don’t they actually take time away from work?

Read the rest of this entry »

power plugYou can have the best strategy on the planet, but nothing gets delivered without your people. They are the powerful core of a great business.

What happens when your workforce isn’t pushing your strategy forward? Well, two things are happening. Some people are headed off in random directions, so you end up with chaos. Others are too afraid to take any significant action at all, so you get nothing.

Neither of those achieves your goals.

We all understand that a team’s actions, individually and collectively, must be focused on the right objectives. That’s what management does.

But out here in the real world, it’s not just about breaking big goals into team objectives and individual actions. If you stick to that, your competition will swiftly overtake you. You’ve ended up with a bureaucracy, where following The Plan is more important than actually moving forward.

This is where leadership comes in. Management operates best with logic and procedure, while leadership calls upon inspiration and emotion. Together, the two elicit focus, dedication, teamwork and self-management.

I’m not saying that your company needs to be overtly emotional. For instance, look at President Kennedy’s moon-shot program during the 1960s. NASA was an amazing engineering organization, and engineers aren’t exactly known to be emotional. But they were absolutely inspired, dedicated and focused — even to the degree that momentum powerfully continued past JFK’s death in 1963.

That’s also a great example of how inspiration is infectious. Congress was absolutely dedicated to the program as well, ensuring generous funding. The Legislature could have done nothing without NASA, and NASA would have done nothing without Congress.

Likewise, your leaders and managers can do little without your workers and partners. They, in turn, will achieve nothing of value without management processes and leadership inspiration.

Together, you can be absolutely unstoppable.

That brings up a major issue, though, with powerful objects. Consider a supertanker, or a freight train, or a rocket engine. They struggle with making quick changes of direction.

Your business needs to operate in a competitive environment, with shifting customer demands and ever-changing technology. In some industries, include unstable government regulation.

Yet your people are good at doing things a certain way, and management structures reinforce sticking to what’s worked well in the past.

This is where true leadership makes the most impact. The best leaders I’ve seen are the ones who refuse to sacrifice the core values and mission of an organization. make timely decisions to alter goals and strategies to keep up with (and lead) change, and drive the management systems to quickly align the workforce around a new direction.

This sounds contradictory: How are we to change direction but not change our mission? We can do it because these are two distinct levels.

Perhaps your deepest personal values are to be healthy and have a long, happy life. Within that, there are many options. A new exercise device comes out that helps you stay healthy while having more fun. Or you get sick for awhile and switch to different exercises. Or you just want to change because you’re tiring of the old routine. All of these changes are perfectly fine for helping you achieve your deeper values.

This is exactly why it’s important to distinguish between the two levels in your business.

If your employees think the purpose of your business is to keep them employed, then they’re operating at a very basic level. You have much bigger goals than that, even ones you would never ever sacrifice.

One way to tell the depth of your goal is with this simple question: Would you rather shut down the business entirely rather than sacrifice the goal? The closer you get to answering “yes,” the more you’ve identified the unshakable foundation of your company.

Does each and every employee understand what that is, and work every day to deliver their part? Is each manager constantly looking for improvements?

Are they inspired?


This article was first published in BizWest.

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