Sunday, December 12, 2010

Compete In Order To Win

If any team, even the reigning NFL champs New Orleans Saints, practiced seven days a week but played no real games against opponents, they would inevitably grow weak and slow.  Without regular games against tough opponents, they would have no way to improve and sharpen their individual and team skills.  They could not identify if their game plan was effective, which specific plays worked or which players were truly great.   Even constant practicing in the absence of regular competition would lead a great team to a failure. 
In business, we see the same thing happen.  Showing up every day and doing the same old thing day in / day out will not help us improve.  We must regularly put our company up against tough competition in order for us to learn where we are strong and where we need to improve.  The opponent we select cannot be “internal standards” either since we may likely set a goal that is too low.  (If the Saints played the staff at St. Mary’s Nursing Home, it might technically be called “competition” and the Saints would surely win, but setting themselves up for an easy win would in no way help them improve as a team.) We must look for other great companies to compete against or a set of outrageously high business standards to reach for the competition to show us where we are both strong and weak.   
Competition is vital for any team (or business) trying to get faster, leaner, more efficient, more agile and in this economy, we cannot afford to be anything less than the great in these areas.  Winning motivates people to stretch a little more each time and trophies are important reminders of this feeling.  Find ways for your people to compete and win.  Look especially for hard-to-get awards and trophies. Never underestimate the ability for ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results when challenged effectively.  What this competition will do for you is incredible!  It will show you and everyone on your staff the path to success and greatness.  You can afford to be no less!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Let Them Do Their Job

If you’re 25 year old son was taking his girlfriend out on a date this weekend, would there be anything odd about you driving the two of them around on their date?  Sure, your son has his driver’s license, but you have much more experience driving than he does.  Plus, you know the best route to take to avoid traffic.  On top of it all, you really are comfortable driving and don’t mind doing it.  Would this still seem odd to you?
Of course it would!  Your son will never learn how to drive on his own if he does not have the opportunity to do it.  He may make a mistake…but that’s how we all learn.  It’s scary to let go but we, as parents, must do it for our children to grow, mature and gain the experience they need to carry them through life.  What’s more, if a parent cannot let go, the child grows to resent it because it is very embarrassing to have your parents drive you around on a date in front of your friends.
The same is true of your workers and the jobs they hold at your company.  As young supervisors or managers, they do not have the level of experience you may have.  You may be able to avoid common pitfalls and steer their work to a more successful conclusion.  You may even like making decisions at all levels.  However, if you step in and make decisions and do their job for them, they will never learn to stand on their own.  They will never mature, grow and develop their skills if you never allow them to walk on their own.  They will grow to resent it because your interference into their job makes them look impotent in front of their peers and subordinates.   
Resist the natural urge to “help” too much. This is called micromanaging. Employees take ownership of a company when they are allowed to think through problems, make decisions, learn from their mistakes and grow from the process. Don’t rob them of their chance to grow.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Get Them What They Need to Succeed

In many organizations, workers may want to do a top quality job but simply don’t have what they needed to accomplish the task. 
If you job is to build a house, you must have a hammer and nails, a saw and most likely some training on how to build certain critical elements.  If your manager does not provide these needed items and just sends you out to “get the job done”, the reaction of most workers is frustration.  They cannot help but feel that they are being set up for ultimate failure (which will result at some point in their firing).  To avoid this as long as possible, they fall back on “looking like they are working hard” but not actually accomplishing much to bring success to the company as a whole. The one party that absolutely notices this is the Customer (who’s home is not being efficiently built which increases the cost of the work). 
This benefits no one…not the worker, not the manager, not the company and not the customer.  Seldom does depriving your workers of the tools they need to do their job right lead to satisfied customers or repeat business. Management simply must get employees what they need in order for them to have a fair chance at performing their job successfully.
I’m not suggesting that management should fund every worker’s wish list of “wants”, but rather that we will get you whatever you need for you to do you job properly and be a success at our company.  “What you need” doesn’t have to be a piece of equipment and it need not cost a cent.  What you “need” may be the proper tool or piece of equipment to do the job…or it may be adequate support from other departments, training and development, manpower help from other departments or from temps, or just support from upper management when standards need to be enforced.  The power of this statement is that it shows workers that you are not setting them up for failure, but instead outfitting them for success and are willing to invest time and money if necessary to bring their success to life.  This step alone does much to build powerful relationships between workers and management and will yield you great returns over the long haul.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Build a Winning Team

The greatest vision or business plan in the world will do you no good without an effective Team to carry it out.  Building an effective Team is a great responsibility and is a fundamental cornerstone of running an effective and successful company, division, department or even group.  The success of the company depends on how well the people you select for key positions do their job and work well with others so that no one fails.   Without a Team attitude, it’s “every man for himself” and this never leads to success for a company (or any sports team either!)  You can either win together or you’ll lose together… but, as a Leader, YOU get to decide which one!  Winners do not allow parts of their team to lose for any reason. They run to back each other up…both on and off the field.  They rise quickly to defend one another.  They encourage one another.  They never brag about their personal accomplishments at the expense of their teammates.
As a Leader (whether you are CEO, Director, VP, Manager, Supervisor, etc) you must assemble the best possible Team and constantly monitor the players to insure they are working well together.  Remember, the Customer always notices whether your people work well together and support one another.  Teams that do not work well together do not operate as efficiently as they could.  This leads to increased costs…and telling your Customer that your costs are higher than they need to be is NOT a way to demonstrate value!  Building a great Team is absolutely critical to business success in any economy!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Over-Communicate…Even When It’s Obvious

Once you have had your “zen moment” and formed in your head the vision of what you want your company (…or division…or department…or team) to become, it’s time to share this with others.  Practically speaking, it’s impossible to get anything done alone in an organization, regardless of what your title may be.  You need help to get you there.
Share your ideas, your vision, your dreams of what your organization could become with others around you.  Paint a picture for them.  Make it vivid and tangible.  (“Better” is not tangible.)   In salesman’s terms, you want to sell the sizzle. 
For instance, if you were trying to rally a team to win their championship, you don’t talk about “winning” in the abstract.  You describe for them how they will feel when the crowd is cheering and they are standing at centerfield holding the trophy high in the air.  How proud their spouse will be of them for this hard fought achievement.  How good it will feel when reporters are asking you how you did it.  How good it will feel to have other teams courting you to come to their organizations.  Paint a picture that they can see, touch and feel…both of you will benefit!
Don’t keep the Vision you have for your Company a secret. Your employees deserve to know where they’re going and what part they will play in it.  Tell them again and again to insure they hear you and don’t forget the goal ahead.  Repeat it at every meeting in the simplest terms you can find.  Over-communicate this basic building block and you will have taken a key step forward…but never put it down either.  Your team deserves to be reminded constantly what the goal of their hard work is all about… and only you can provide that to them.

Decide Where You Are Going

If you don’t know where you’re going, every road will take you further from success.  Decide what you are going to be.  Decide to change your company from what it is to what it can be. Close your eyes and picture the “perfect” company.  What would it look like? What would it be known for?  How would your people interact with each other?  This is your Vision. 
As the Leader, you need to understand where you are going to help map out the way for the rest of your people.  People will want to know where you are taking them and you need to be able to describe the destination in terms they can see, feels, touch and understand.  Remember that "better" is not really a destination. 
Also remember that most people can spot a phony a mile away.  If you can't convince yourself of the benefits of going on this journey, how can you expect people to follow you down that road?
Take the time to think this through, talk to associates about it and develop a clear picture of the both the journey and the destination before you set about rallying support for your cause.  It's not as complicated as it sounds but it is a crucial foundation that must be laid to have the rest of your house founded on a solid footing. 

Getting Started!

Getting us from where we were to where we are today involved a series of steps that are simple yet incredibly powerful.  They can work for you, too!  We've created this blog to help you understand a little more of the background of what makes these tools so effective.  The first few posts will lay the foundation of our philosophy of how to bring effective change to any company. 
Here is a quick overview of the process we’ve developed:
DECIDE WHERE YOU ARE GOING – Give birth to the Vision of what your ideal company would be.
OVER-COMMUNICATE… EVEN WHEN IT’S OBVIOUS - Don’t keep the Vision a secret.
BUILD A WINNING TEAM - Winners will not allow anyone on their team to lose.
GET THEM WHAT THEY NEED TO SUCCEED – How to outfit your employees for success…and it doesn’t have to break the bank!
LET THEM DO THEIR JOB –Don’t rob your employees of their chance to grow.
COMPETE IN ORDER TO WIN - Never underestimate the ability for ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results when challenged effectively.    
ELIMINATE THE COMPETITION – Don’t compete with the competition…eliminate them by being simply remarkable in all you do!
BUILD MOMENTUM - Constantly raise the bar.  As you achieve goals, set new, even higher goals.
As we go through each of these, we’ll give you more depth on how to implement them and why they are so effective.  Alone, any of these points is powerful.  Applied together, the synergy is truly remarkable.  You’re going to love the way your company looks when you have these tools working for you…and so will your customers!  Let’s get started!!

Welcome to my blog!

After much inquiry from people across the country to learn more about turning their companies around, I have decided to create this blog to help give you answers.  It will contain an overview of the process I have developed along with my colleague Danny Lyndall that has transformed the company I manage, Daphne Utilities, from a troubled utility verging on bankruptcy to a prosperous company noted by the Wall Street Journal and Inc. Magazine as one of the best places to work in America.  We have received numerous quality awards including the coveted EPA “Award of Excellence”, the highest award issued by the federal government to a public utility operation.  We have developed a great, winning team of employees that are doing extraordinary and innovative things every day that are bringing down our costs and increasing our efficiency.
The incredible product of this is a customer base that truly understands the value we provide to them.  Doesn’t this sound like something YOU want for your company?  Couldn’t YOU do amazing things if your customers believed in you and looked to you with community pride rather than frustration and disgust?  Wouldn’t YOU like to see significant improvement come to your company regardless of what business you are in or what state the economy is in?
I think I know the answer to that question…and helping you find the path from where you are to where you want to be is what this blog is going to be all about!