February 27, 2009

Responsibility: Who Takes Care of Me?

"Happiness depends upon ourselves."


This and yesterday's post are related with both about attitude; however this one speaks to our personal responsibility.

Be glad we live in a country with the wherewithal to help in difficult times but don't expect that to bring personal happiness.

Bail outs, tax cuts and "shovel ready" project funding are just tools that will (hopefully) help us put the economy back on track.

My personal happiness? That's up to me.

What about you?

February 26, 2009

Perspective: The Rose or Its Thorns?

"The optimist sees the rose and not its thorns; the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious of the rose."

Kahil Gibran
Lebanese American Poet, Writer, Philosopher, Theologian

The Dow hovers near a 10 year low, the news is filled with stories about layoffs and bankruptcies, so what "rose" is there to look at?

We are in an economic "system reset" with much about to be very different in comparison to the past.

Different but not dead.

There is great opportunity for those who see the possibilities, as much if not more than they do the problems.

What do you see?

February 25, 2009

Competence: Are There Limits?

"In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence ... in time every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties ... Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence."

Laurence J Peter
Educator/Author ("The Peter Principle")

This quote comes from "The Peter Principle", a 1968 book that I believe still resonates today.

Do we have upper bounds beyond which we cannot go no matter what we do to improve ourselves? Before you answer, understand that Dr. Peter did not say how the incompetence occurs; only that it happens.

In some cases, one's incompetence is self-induced.

February 24, 2009

Planning: In This Economy More Than Ever

"A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power."

Brian Tracy

The economy turns down and people start businesses; it's always been that way, it certainly is today and will likely be so in the future. And along with that comes the inevitable lists of what one needs to do to be successful in their new venture.

Like the one in today's
Wall Street Journal, which surprises me because there is no mention of the need for a plan, detailed or otherwise.

When you attempt to start a business you are spending money, in the checks you must write as well as in the form of income lost by not doing something else.

Does it really make sense to attempt that without first working through the detail that is the basis for a plan?

February 23, 2009

Relationships: The Importance of Mutual Respect

"Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again."

Og Mandino
Author "The Greatest Salesman in the World"

The February 14th edition of The Economist includes an article about a resurgence in positive business manners, the result of bad economic times.

Unfortunately but probably likely, the article concludes this will pass as good times return.

Nice when things are bad, rude when they are good.

How important is it that we employ respect and courtesy in our business relationships?

February 20, 2009

Management: Left Brain, Right Brain or Both?

"To open a shop is easy, to keep it open is an art."

Chinese Proverb

When you start a business you must first do all the things government demands so you will have infrastructure.

Things like registering your DBA so you can open a bank account, deciding on a business structure, getting required business licenses, etc.

(Click drawing to enlarge.)

When that's all done, the art part happens with emphasis on knowing when to make course corrections both subtle and extreme and doing this well demands as much creativity as it does managerial execution.

Left brain/right brain.

Are you enough of both?

February 19, 2009

Sales: Business Infantry

"The fact is everyone is in sales."

Jay Abraham

Sales people are a much maligned group; made fun of as being superficial sometimes arrogant, vilified when sales don't meet expectations, ignored when they do. But Jay says everyone is in sales and I couldn't agree more.

Let's say you work in the warehouse and you believe you need flow rack equipment. If you're going to get it you must "sell" your request to management.

If you are an engineer applying for a new job, you must "sell" you to your perspective employer.

What do you sell?

February 18, 2009

Honesty: Walking the Line

"So near is falsehood to truth that a wise man would do well not to trust himself on the narrow edge."

1st Century BC Roman Philosopher

Half truths; something so on the edge it could just as easily have been a lie as a truth.

It strikes me that so much in business is unknown and until events unfold we often have no way of knowing what is true and what is not.

I'll be honest, I've put forth things I hoped would turn out to be true but didn't know for certain at the time what was and wasn't real.


February 17, 2009

Compensation: All For Some or Some For All?

"My husband once worked for a company that had a merit pay system. After six months they told him he owned them money."

Phyllis Diller

Personally I like performance based compensation. The company makes money, everyone who works there should as well and when it doesn't, all oxes must be gored.

Of course for this to work all employees must plan for the inevitable ups and downs that affects every company. Not likely; even management doesn't always do a good job of that. And there is the little problem of senior managerial greed

Still, I like the concept of we all eat or starve together.

What about you?

February 16, 2009

Employees: More Than the Numbers?

"Organizational effectiveness does not lie in that narrow minded concept called rationality. It lies in the blend of clearheaded logic and powerful intuition."

Henry Mintzberg
Researcher, McGill University

Outstanding? Do you know why?

Because it came from an academic researcher; a profession that usually only accepts what it can measure.

When you hire, do you consider the unmeasurable along with the measurable?

Educational degrees, employment history, etc., are important but what about creativity, intuition and other "soft", usually unprovable qualities?

Is it this combination of things that makes one successful or is it only about the ruler?

February 13, 2009

Management: Proactive or Reactive?

"Sit quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself."


I can be as pastoral as the next guy and my years of yoga have helped me see the value of quiet, passive reflection. I also admire those who remain calm during turbulent times, particularly business managers who do so.

But being calm is not the same as sitting quietly and under certain circumstances, if we want the "grass to grow" we'd better do something to see that it does.

What about you?

Sitting quietly, doing nothing waiting for the "grass" to grow this "spring" or . . . ?

February 12, 2009

Management: Put It In Writing?

"A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on."

Samuel Goldwyn

What else do we need in writing besides critical elements of a contract?

Arguably a manager's instructions to a subordinate could (or should) easily include as much detail as would be found in any buy/sell agreement, but no one I know puts as much detail into their management directives as they would in a contract.

Is the fact that they don't the reason things often don't get done as the manager expects?

At what point should a manager's instructions be documented in writing? How much detail is needed?

Or is verbal direction between a manager and their subordinates always enough?

February 11, 2009

Communication: More Than Just Talk

"No mistake is so commonly made by clever people as that of assuming a cause to be bad because the arguments of its supporters are, to a great extent, nonsensical."

Thomas Henry Huxley
19th Century English Biologist

This is particularly important if you manage workers who are inarticulate and/or those for who English is a second language. Just because they can't put their thoughts into clear, concise terms does not mean their opinions are not valid.

The question is, how can you make sure you will hear what the person who cannot clearly express them self has to say?

February 10, 2009

Rumors: "Did you hear . . ."

"In the business world an executive knows something about everything, a technician knows everything about something and the switchboard operator knows it all."

Harold Coffin
Former Associate Press Columnist

Working virtually I am no longer plugged into any office grapevine other than my own (and I've not said anything recently I was at all interested in hearing.)

When I did work with others in a large office, I didn't appreciate the value of the informal communication network that flowed in all directions from all levels. But I do now.

Employees may not know what's really going on but they know what they think they know and that is often more important than reality.

Are you listening?

February 09, 2009

Multi-Tasking: Efficient Foolishness?

"To do two things at once is to do neither."

Publilius Syrus
1st Century BC Assyrian Writer

I think it's safe to assume that Mr. Syrus did not believe in multi-tasking; nonetheless I understand his point. Try to do too much at once and you will either get nothing done or much that is not done right.

This really becomes important during times like now where fewer workers are forced to do more. That works, to a point, but there are limits.

How do you determine when you've got too many balls in the air at once, or worse if you manage others, have unknowingly forced them to?

February 06, 2009

Government: More or Less

"Government regulations impose an enormous burden on large and small businesses in America, discourage productivity, and contribute substantially to our current economic woes."

We don't need a weakened government but a strong government that would take responsibility for the rights of the individual and care for the society as a whole."

The above does a good job summarizing the national debate that is at the core of every country's struggle to address the economic problems affecting us all.

Each could have been said by any number of people on both sides of the question. More government or less?

What do you think?

Who made these statements?

The first, Ronald Reagan, Vladimir Putin the second.

February 05, 2009

Change: The Inevitable Constant

"You can judge your age by the amount of pain you feel when you come in contact with a new idea."

Pearl S Buck

The older we get the less change we want to see, possibly because we don't like the change we see in ourselves??

One semester of college psychology so long ago I can't recall the year, not to mention what I "learned", means I probably shouldn't even ask that question. But it is established that for most, the older we get the less comfortable we are about change.

You would think that change would be ingrained in us because of the fact that we do get older all the way to seeing four seasons come and go year, after year, after year. However . . .

So in business, how do we know we are resisting new thinking for good reason and not just because we don't feel comfortable with something new?

February 04, 2009

Opinion: How Do You See Things?

"Self-doubt is the little voice in your head saying "You can do it!" and the big voice saying "I wish you would" . . . listen to the little voice."

Sean O'Donnell
NHL Hockey Player

Some of you have privately told me you don't feel qualified to comment on what you read here. Certainly the number of comments is a fraction of the number who subscribe to the feed.

If we were only getting a lot of input from business "experts" I would judge BW a failure and would have shut it down long ago.

The intent was and is to create a place where people in business, regardless of which business or their position, could go to exchange thoughts and ideas.

Ok, now what do you think?

February 03, 2009

Management: Proactive, Reactive?

"Sometimes the situation is only a problem because it is looked at in a certain way. Looked at in another way, the right course of action may be so obvious that the problem no longer exists."

Edward de Bono
Maltese Physician, Author, Inventor

Do you know the story of the blind men examining an elephant? Each touches a different part reaching different conclusions as to what it is based on what they touched.

We are all "blind" regarding the future and not just during these difficult times. Always. We all "see" different "parts" of what will likely be.

Seeing things differently is not the problem. Not looking at all or simply waiting, being reactive rather than proactive, that's the problem.

Which are you personally? What about your company?

February 02, 2009

Management: Who's In Charge?

"If you don't understand that you work for your mislabeled 'subordinates,' then you know nothing of leadership. You know only tyranny."

Dee Hock
Founder and CEO Emeritus Visa International

I really like this. In the first 17 words he tells us:
  1. Who reports to who says little of an individual's importance to the organization.
  2. Reporting relationships are intertwined, three dimensional.
  3. Real leaders understand points 1 and 2 while others don't.
However I don't believe he needed the last sentence. Tyranny implies an ongoing power and in a free society such as ours, individuals subjected to tyrannical leadership will elect to leave as soon as possible. There's no real power in that.

That being true, maybe a better statement would be "You know only tyranny, only for a short time."

Authoritarian structure school of management advocates may disagree.

What do you think?