Thursday, February 25, 2010

Managing Requires Measuring

Last week we talked about the importance of clearly communicating your expectations to those you are leading. We noted that one of the biggest challenges with this is that many leaders haven't gone through the rigor of defining the measurable results they want.

That provides a nice segue to talking about the next challenge - measuring. I have interacted with a lot of supervisors and managers over the years and measuring results is a consistent challenge. The obstacles are numerous:
  1. They aren't very disciplined people, so they are not very interested in measuring
  2. The systems available to them make measuring what's important a difficult task
  3. The results they are trying to measure are primarily subjective rather than objective things
  4. The process they are trying to measure is extremely complex
  5. They simply haven't put in the thinking time to identify what matters most (i.e. what deserves measuring).
Regardless of the obstacles, I continue to stress that old management adage - "You cannot manage what you do not measure." If you are not measuring then you are merely hoping for the right outcome not managing for it.

Here are just a few pointers:
  • Don't overdo it. Don't try to start measuring everything. Go through the rigor of deciding what matters most. Pick 2 or 3 to start. What has the biggest impact on your ability to generate the profit you want? Or, if you are a non-profit, what most impacts your ability to deliver on your mission?
  • Take a balanced approach, i.e. don't focus solely on financial measures. Measure things related to your customers/clients, your processes and the development of your people.
  • Use my modified KISS principle - Keep It Seriously Simple; don't make it complicated and if you don't already have technology in place, start manually.
What are the critical success factors for your organization? Whose input do you need in making that decision? What means of measurement are readily available? When will you start? More later.

Seize the day!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Do They Know What I Expect?

Are the people you are leading confused? Do they know what you expect? Really?

This is one of the most important questions you can ask yourself as a leader/manager/supervisor of people. Unfortunately, based on the work I have done with leaders, we don't typically take enough time to answer the question thoroughly.

Unclear expectations are one of the primary reasons for "poor performance" in the workplace. If you want to be successful and achieve your desired outcomes, then you need to make very sure that the people who are going to get you there know where "there" is.

We could go into a discussion of the negative consequences of followers not being clear about what their leaders want, but I think there is a bigger problem that needs to be addressed. And, the problem in most cases is not a lack of communication. The real problem is that most leaders don't really know what they want. They haven't clearly defined the measurable results they are after.

Leaders usually have big picture goals defined (e.g. a top-line revenue number in a business venture, or the big picture mission in a non-profit organization). And, normally they have a pretty good idea of what activities they want people busy doing. But, the end results they want from those activities hasn't been figured out or well articulated.

Why aren't expectations clearly defined? Because in many cases this exercise is a lot harder than it first appears. Activities are pretty easy to figure out. But the measurable results we want gets a little more tricky - usually because we aren't measuring, or because we don't think far enough.

Here's a quick example. The other day I was working with a company on this. I asked one of the managers to define what results she wanted from one of her administrators. She said she wanted the person to complete all of her A/R collection calls by a certain day each week. So, I asked her if completing the work by a given date was really the result she was after. After some discussion we agreed that the result she wanted was cash collected faster. The problem with her measure (task completed by a certain time) is that it didn't ensure the result she wanted.

In our example, the better approach is to say that we want outstanding invoices paid in a certain number of days (on average). Do you see the difference? In the first case the focus would be on helping the person figure out how to complete the calls by a certain deadline. In the second case, the focus is on designing the process (and related skills required) to get cash in the door. That's what the business really needs to meet its goals, not activities being completed.

What is it that you want? Do you know? Are you defining it in terms of measurable results? More next time.

Seize the day!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Something Different

Today's post will be a little different. Normally I focus on providing you original content, but today I wanted to pass along a couple of other blog posts that I have come across in the last week that I think could be helpful to you.

  • Have you ever made any mistakes as a leader? How did you handle the aftermath. Check out this article for some interesting thoughts.
  • Here is a very interesting blog post regarding "What Is Important When You Refer People?" Don't be fooled by the title. The real value in this piece has to do with what's important for other people to be comfortable referring others to you. Read the post.
Lastly, I would encourage you to become a fan on my Facebook fan page by clicking on the link in the sidebar. Very soon I will be making some special offers on my fan page. I don't want you to miss the opportunity.

Seize the day!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Who Should I Hire? Part 2

This post is a continuation from a thought I began discussing last week. Read that first to get the context...

I learned to focus my interviewing on attitude and behavioral characteristics I wanted. The necessary skills became a secondary, albeit important, objective. Don't get me wrong. There are definitely times where a certain level of technical competence is required. I am not going to hire someone who has been in sales their whole career to be my accounting manager just because they have a great attitude. What I do mean is that attitude is the primary bar they MUST clear before I even worry about exploring their technical skills in-depth.

The next time you have an open position to fill, start by defining the attitude and behavioral characteristics that are crucial to success within your organizational culture and within the specific department or team. Get a clear handle on this first and foremost. If you've never thought like this before, get ready for some hard work. It is harder than you might think to begin thinking about people and positions in a completely new way.

Craft your interview questions to illicit responses that will make it clear as to whether or not they fit what you are looking for in attitude and behavior. If they pass that "test" then you can move on to the things you'd normally do to test the mettle of their technical skills.

There is an additional reason why I like to hire for attitude and train for skills. That way I don't have to break them of a lot of bad habits. As long as they have the fundamental technical training or knowledge, I'd much rather take someone a little green and teach them the way WE want them to do it.

How many times have you heard a person say, "Oh, that's not the way we did over at XYZ Company." I don't care how they do it. They can keep doing it that way. That's why we're killing them on market share and customer loyalty, etc.

So, what kind of person are you looking for? What attitudes and behavioral characteristics matter most within your organization? What kinds of questions can you ask to discern whether or not this person is a fit?

Seize the day!