Tag Archives: management

Steps to Sustainability from Upper Management to the Bottom Line

By Steve RichersonSteve Richerson

Big companies like GE, IBM, Wal-Mart, and many smaller companies like Tenant, Centiva, and Stonyfield Yogurt have recently locked their GPS coordinates on to a really intriguing destinationmarket profitability through ecological sustainability.

These companies have set their company GPS on a target that’s not just a sustainable destination for the company’s longevity, but for reaching that destination while using our planets resources wisely.

Ecological sustainability refers to the way we choose to use the Earth’s natural resources.  If we use resources in a way that doesn’t harm future generations’ ability to use those resources, that use is considered sustainable for generations to come. If we harm future generations’ ability to use those resources, it’s not sustainable. There are really excellent business reasons why these innovative companies have chosen this destination.

Why Destination: Sustainability?

  • Allows companies to cut overhead costs for everything they take, make, and waste. These savings can go directly to the bottom line.

  • Allows companies to build a successful enterprise they can be proud of. This leads to increased employee productivity, retention and attraction, which goes straight to the bottom line.

  • Allows companies to build a reputation for being a good corporate citizen. This results in loyal consumers and possibly loyal fans that can determine questions of zoning, taxes and community support.

So, what are the steps we have to take to get our GPS pointing toward sustainability?

Step 1 – Get “Buy-in” from the top. You’re going to have to make a pitch, presentation or proposal to convince upper management that sustainability is good for the bottom line of your company. Simply making the “feel good” argument that going green is the “right thing to do” won’t cut it. You need to make the business argument for it.  Make the case in dollars and cents.

Step 2 – Engage everyone on the team. Now that you know the front office has your back, it’s time to engage the team. Build a group of mid and senior management from all departments (sales, HR, facilities, retail manufacturing) that will focus on efforts to save the company money through saving resources and preventing pollution.Even members of the team that are “environmentally agnostic” (global warming skeptics, recycling is a waste of time, etc.) can understand that waste equals inefficiency. Inefficiency costs your company money. Wasted money means raises and promotions are less likely for them. They’ll understand this argument. Saving the company money through saving resources is the goal. Try to align your goals with two these two principles of sustainability and you’ll be well on your way:

  • Is it renewable?

  • Does it create pollution?

Step 3 – Get it on the company map. Get an official sustainability statement from your team on the Corporate Strategy Map. This will allow your integrated sustainability to be an aligned priority at every level of your company. You’ll get “buy-in” from everyone because it’s on the map. Employees up and down the corporate ladder want to know that sustainability is important to the company and they’ll be rewarded for spending work time on it.

Step 4 – Take, Make and Waste. Have the team focus on areas of take, make and waste. Create a list of opportunities for each of these areas. Waste is inefficiency. If you can cut down on inefficiency, you grow your bottom line and you help reduce impact on the planet. Here are a few questions that should be asked:

  • Can transportation costs be reduced by getting smaller vehicles or can they be eliminated completely?

  • Can we cut our waste removal costs by recycling?

  • Can we choose an option for shipping that uses less packaging?

  • Is it possible to innovate a completely new product that is within our core competencies but has a lesser impact on resources?

  • Can we source raw materials closer to our factories to cut down of shipping costs?

When everyone gets focused on the TMW (Take, Make and Waste areas), the result is that good ideas for profits and the planet come flowing out.

Step 5 – Measure immediately. Once you’ve found the areas to focus on, begin to measure them. If possible, integrate automated measurements of all inputs and outputs.  Even very competent managers and front line employees can get it wrong. It’s easy to over or underestimate how much energy, how many raw materials used, how much water is wasted or how much trash is being hauled away if there’s no real data on it. Collect the data right away.

Step 6 – Set goals. Now that you have the data, set your goals for sustainability. Make these goals specific, measurable and make sure they are of strategic bottom line value to your company.

Step 7 – Execute. You’ve set your goals. Now go for it.  Remember to make small steps towards this goal every day. Continue to ask yourself, “How can I make this just a tiny bit better?”

Step 8 – Share progress. Be honest with shareholders and stakeholders about the results.  The public will appreciate your honest attempts to be more sustainable (even if you’re not totally successful). Be honest about results and you’ll be better off.  They want to know you’re on the right road and will support you for that.

Step 9 – Conduct an annual review. Have the team review the improvements that were made over the year. Ideas that worked in one area may spur improvements in other areas. Keep going; there’s always room to do a little better.

Many of the world’s smartest companies are locking their GPS destination on sustainability. It’s good for people, planet and most importantly, it’s good for profit.

Steve Richerson is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant. Steve utilizes his distinct presentation style to speak on the importance of sustainability and actionable guidelines to enact eco-friendly practices in business. As a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, National Recycling Coalition and the North American Environmental Education Association, Steve is spearheading the campaign to reduce wasteful corporate procedures and promote environmentally sound business methods. To learn more about Steve’s speaking, call 256-710-7216.

Micromanaging vs. Coaching: Micromanaging is a Tactic, Not a Style

By Nathan JamailNathan Jamail

One of the greatest misunderstandings in leadership and coaching is the term “micromanaging”. Most leaders never want to be thought of as a micro manager. In fact, it could be considered an insult or weakness of any manager. When micromanaging is used as a coaching or leadership style it will most likely deliver bad results, stifle creativity, limit employees’ self-worth and without a doubt limit productivity. On the other hand when a coach or leader must deal with a bad performer it is imperative to help the employee either become a better performer or help them find a job that is a better fit. Leaders should strive to be a coach who when necessary, uses micromanaging activities to improve specific areas, but uses coaching skills when getting the team ready to win.

Why micromanaging and coaching are often confused: Micromanaging and coaching are often confused because from the surface, the activities and the leader’s involvement look very similar. The key difference is the leader’s intent and desired goals of their action. Both require the involvement of the leader; setting clear expectations, well defined activity management, accountability and a huge time commitment from the leader as well as the employees. The difference lies in the purpose of these activities. For example: a leader is setting expectations to ensure there is complete understanding of what they  expect from each employee in order to maximize productivity and limit confusion:

  • A micromanager does this with the intent to set boundaries and rules. A coach shows his commitment to the team by holding everyone accountable.

  • A micromanager uses accountability to ensure the employee is earning their paycheck (oftentimes focusing on single employees versus the team). A coach manages activities to ensure the employees are on the right track and that they are in the best position to succeed.

  • A micromanager uses the activities to justify effort or discipline. The micromanaging method is proved wrong when a coach understands it is not the amount of time an employee contributes as much as it is the focus and effectiveness of the time they contribute. The intent of coaching is to develop and prepare the employees to succeed using the leader’s knowledge and experience to guide the employees, not to justify actions.

Action item: Don’t afraid of being a coach because you don’t want to micromanage. Get involved and share the intent of your actions with your team so they understand your goals for not only yourself, but for them- which ultimately is the goal for success.

Every great coach must use micromanaging tactics: As stated, the main issue with leaders and managers is they misunderstand what “micromanaging” is and is not. Micromanaging is a tactic of coaching (or should be); it is not a leadership style. Micromanaging should be used as a consequence of those employees that are not meeting expectations or are bad performers. A bad performer does not necessarily mean a bad employee (and definitely does not mean a bad person).  There are many employees that are not performing well because they are in the wrong job, not because they are bad people, or they are not doing what they are passionate about in general, thus have no desire to be successful.  By micromanaging the details of such an employee it allows the leader and the employee to make the best decision of what action should be taken next.

When to micromanage and how long: Let’s say there is an employee who appears to be unhappy and their activity and results are not meeting expectations. The leader should get involved early to determine if the shortcoming is a lack of desire or ability, or both. To help determine the issue, the leader should implement more disciplined expectations and activities and explain to the employee why this action is being taken as well as the desired outcome.   The desired outcome should be to either help the employee reach the expected activities, attitude and results or help them find a role that is a better fit. These micromanaging activities should be short-term activities.

The leader needs to make assessments quickly and take on the continued shortcomings, which results in moving the employee out of the position. In turn, the leaders should also take quick action to recognize great efforts and achievements as warranted. A leader should not have to implement a micromanaging activity for an employee for more than 90 days and can be stopped in as little as 30 days depending on the level of involvement, improvement and accountability, as well as overall attitude and commitment of the employee.

Action item: Micromanaging is a tactic, not a style. When you have a poor performing employee, implement a performance plan of daily and weekly activities and micromanage those activities to help them move up in performance or out of the position that does not fit them. You owe it to them as their leader and coach.

Why most leaders don’t like to coach: All leaders, or at the least the majority of leaders, prefer to avoid confrontation. This is unfortunate as only in constructive confrontations and discussions can progress be made. It is all in the intent of the confrontation. If the intent is to just belittle, or point out all the obvious issues with an employee, then yes that is a destructive and useless conversation and understandable as to why one would want to avoid it. However, in order to be an effective coach, a leader must approach confrontation with the intent of helping the employee.

It is absolutely impossible to coach without confrontation and discussion regarding areas of opportunity. When an employee is confronted by a leader who expresses the desire to help them achieve success, points out areas of opportunity for improvement and suggests a game plan to help them achieve such improvement, the confrontation just took the route of establishing a plan for success. It is a win-win for both parties. Of course at this point it is up to the employee to demonstrate their desire for success and jump on board, but it is also the leader’s job to micromanage through the issues until a satisfactory ending is in sight. Is this hard to do? It is, only if the intent is wrong. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

Final thought: Not every hire is the right hire and not every job is the right job, but accepting either one just because it is easier is wrong. Micromanage through the issues by helping your employees either become great at what they do, or helping them to find something they will be great at. Outside of issues with poor performing employees, your job as a leader is to coach your entire team to success.

Nathan Jamail, president of the Jamail Development Group and author of “The Sales Leaders Playbook,” is a motivational speaker, entrepreneur and corporate coach. As a former Executive Director for Sprint, and business owner of several small businesses, Nathan travels the country helping individuals and organizations achieve maximum success. His clients include Radio Shack, Nationwide Insurance, Metro PCS, and Century 21. To book Nathan, call 972-377-0030.

Ways to Manage High and Low Performers

By Dr. Marty MartinMarty Martin

People who invest their money wisely spend more time focusing on the investments with the greatest chance of turning out to be winners.  Do you do the same when managing the performance of your employees?  If you are like most managers, sadly the answer is that you get caught up spending too much time with low performers who have a fair chance of being acceptable, but not stars.  What would happen if you dedicated more time to your employees who are acceptable performers yet exhibit clear signs of being high performers? The answer is that many of these acceptable performers will move into the ranks of high performers.

So, as a manager, CEO or business owner, how do you identify the employees you should focus on, and how can you make the most of your lower performers?

Be Selective About Who to Focus Upon: The first lesson is to carefully select who will be important for you to invest time, energy, and other resources in to developing their performance.  This decision is incredibly important; if you choose a low performer, then your likely payoff will not be as great as if you had selected a high performer.  This may seem at odds with what you have learned in the past, or it may even seem to go against the grain of democracy or fighting for the underdogs.  But, if your goal is to maximize performance, then this approach is more likely to yield greater results quickly.

As humans, we can only really improve 2-3 things at a single time, no matter what multi-taskers tell you.  Deliberate practice on 2-3 things is what drives high impact gains in performance and productivity.  Deliberate practice can be enhanced with explicit, targeted feedback from managers.  It is far easier, more rewarding, and more effective to leverage strengths, rather than solely focusing upon weaknesses.  The key is to find strength in one area and get the performer to use that strength in an area that requires improvement.  Real, sustained improvement takes time. This requires patience on your part as a manager focusing upon the long term and not just the quick fix. The quicker the fix, the less sustainable the result.

Keep Hope Alive for All Performers: The second lesson is keep hope alive for all performers, even those who are chronically low.  What does this mean?  As a manager or CEO, you want to make investments, though not equal investments, in all performers.  But, do not potentially waste too much time, energy and other resources in your employees who, at their very best, will only be an average or acceptable performer.  This does not mean that they are not a good person, that they are not worthy of their salary or that they are a slacker.  It may simply mean that they are comfortable in their current position and have no desire to become the company superstar, or that they are a bad fit for your organization.  A manager that wants to improve performance should demonstrate what psychologists call “Unconditional Positive Regard.”  This means that you accept where your staff begins their performance improvement journey. For some, they may begin behind, for others at the right place, and some are even ahead. Assess the starting place but do not judge.  Then, you can identify the signature strengths of all of your staff, even chronic low performers; it is unlikely that they are not doing well in all aspects of their job.

Watch out for the “Pygmalion Effect.”  This means that your staff rises or falls to your expectations.  In other words, if you have low expectations, then they will move to meet your low expectations.  The opposite is also true; if you have high expectations, then your employees will move to meet your high expectations.

Focus on making progress toward a longer term goal, and reward that progress, even if it is only one baby step after another.  By rewarding small steps to the larger performance goal, you will also feel less frustration because you know your efforts with the low performers are paying off.

Reassign or Fire Chronic Low Performers: The third lesson is to cut your losses relatively early.  Our country’s goal is to increase employment, but as a manager or CEO you also have a responsibility to your boss or stockholders, to your company, and your customers.

There are two ways to address chronic low performers.  First, if after setting clear expectations, monitoring their performance, giving feedback about their performance, coaching them, and then letting them know about the consequences of underperforming, you see no improvement, you should let them go.

Second, if your company cannot afford to let any employees go in order to keep the operation running, you should reassign the chronic low performers.  When you reassign an employee, you protect the majority of those that are performing well from a smaller group that could persuade them to lower performance across the board or distract the higher performers.

Picture yourself three to six months from now after experimenting with these three recommendations.  Not only will you have a plan for all performers but you will have dedicated more time, energy and resources to those performers with the greatest payoff.  Your time is precious; you can only focus on so much.  You have to be selective about what you focus upon. You have to prioritize. Be sure to do this when you are managing performance in your company and feel confident that your investment will pay off for you, your company and your customers.

Dr. Marty Martin, known for his state-of-the art content presented in an engaging, dynamic fashion, has been speaking and training nationally and internationally for many years. His book, Taming Disruptive Behavior, will be published by The American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) in 2013. Dr. Martin is the Director of the Health Sector Management MBA Concentration and Associate Professor in the College of Commerce at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. For more information, please visit his website: www.drmartymartin.com.

Your Leadership DNA

By Joelle K. Jay, Ph.D.

Joelle K JayCan you think of a time you were really uncomfortable? Maybe it was a time you had to speak in front of a large group, or a time you had to confront someone who works with you on a difficult issue. Wouldn’t it be nice to make situations like that a little easier on you? Wouldn’t it be great if you could make them less painful?

You can, and if you want to be your best as a leader, you must. When we are in uncomfortable situations, it’s usually because we’re acting outside of our natural way of being. When we align our natural way of being to the situations in which we find ourselves, we are happier, less stressed, and more effective.

Your Distinct Natural Attributes (Your “DNA”): You are hardwired with certain characteristics that make you you – distinctly, irreplaceably, inimitably you. The way you live, the way you learn, the way you lead – all of these are guided by the gifts you were given at birth and the ones you have collected in the course of your life. Knowing these attributes gives you tremendous power.

To be able to tap into your brilliance, you must answer the question, “What makes you unique?” You need to discover your Distinct Natural Attributes – your DNA.

Your Distinct Natural Attributes include:

  • Your strengths: What do you do especially well? When are you at your best?

  • Your weaknesses: What’s harder for you, goes slower, or is more stressful?

  • Your personality: What do you know to be true about yourself?

  • Your preferences: How do you prefer to do things?

  • Your virtues: What can you claim as being your most virtuous qualities?

  • Your vulnerabilities: What makes you feel small and insecure?

  • Your style: What’s “your way?”

You can use your DNA to turn an ineffective situation into one in which you’ll naturally succeed.

Mapping Your DNA: The more strategies you use to find your Distinct Natural Attributes, the more complete your view will be. Asking yourself the questions above will get you started. You can reveal more of your DNA by asking open-ended questions. To find strengths, ask:

  • Where are you especially talented?

  • What do you love to do?

  • What do you do without even thinking?

  • What do people count on you for?

  • In your social life, what role do you play?

  • At work, what are you recognized for?

  • Given the freedom to do things your way, how do you do them?

To find weaknesses, ask:

  • What activities would you gladly never have to do again?

  • What do you wish you could pass on to someone else?

  • When do you feel dragged down?

  • What do you dread?

  • When do you procrastinate?

Continue the process of exploring your DNA from every angle, getting to know yourself as much as possible.

Putting Your DNA to Work: Once you have a sense of your DNA, you can use your new knowledge to capitalize on your strengths.

Let’s imagine three people, each with different DNA, in a similar situation. They each have to confront a colleague who is not pulling his weight on the team, and it’s starting to affect both the team dynamics and the results. Notice that each of these people will handle the situation differently, based on their DNA.

Person A is shy and reserved, but very caring. She might approach this situation in a quiet one-on-one conversation in which she expresses concern for the person’s feelings as she confronts the issue.

Person B is brash, direct, and focused on results. He might choose his words carefully to avoid insulting the person, and then approach the situation by showing the person the disconnect between their results and their behavior.

Person C is honest and insightful, but finds it hard to have face-to-face conversations without getting flustered. He might actually write the difficult message he has to deliver down on a piece of paper and either use it as a guide to have a phone conversation or turn his notes into a letter or email to address the situation.

You can use the same approach by thinking about your DNA and understanding how it would be most effective for you to conduct yourself in any situation. Knowing your attributes gives you the opportunity to choose from among a varied collection of inner resources, dipping into them as needed for the ones that will serve you best and lead you to your goals.

Exercise: Reflect on a time in your life when you felt most powerful. What might that experience have to teach you about your Distinct Natural Attributes?

Like your genetic DNA, your Distinct Natural Attributes define “what’s true about you.” What’s genuinely true about you – the good and the bad – is also what’s great about you.

Joelle K. Jay, Ph.D., is president of the leadership development practice, Pillar Consulting.  As an executive coach, author and speaker, Joelle helps leaders achieve top performance and business results. Her clients include presidents, vice presidents, and C-level executives in Fortune 500 companies. Joelle is the author of “The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership.”


Let It Be Easy: Making Business Decisions Can Be Simple

By Joelle K. Jay, Ph.D.

Joelle K JayWith the challenges in the economy in the last few years, many leaders are getting discouraged. It used to be so easy to succeed. Now it’s more challenging. Leaders everywhere have to do more with less working with fewer resources, lower budgets and smaller staffs.

It’s hard to get momentum when everything seems so hard. You can start to fall into the trap of just getting by. But as a leader, it’s your job not to accept the status quo. How can you break out of the difficulties and rise to a level of ease and prosperity?

One simple way – and it may surprise you – is letting it be easy.

“Letting it be easy” is a mindset that can break you out of the toil and struggle that so many leaders experience today. It’s an acknowledgement that even though we can’t seem to control it, sometimes things just work out. We have a breakthrough. We get a golden opportunity. The answers just appear.

It may seem that such good fortune is impossible to attract, as if we just have to wait for it to happen. To some extent, that may be true. On the other hand, you have to be willing to open up to the possibility that maybe, if you could become more trusting and relaxed, those breakthrough opportunities are all around you.

A friend and mentor of mine once taught me this:

If things are going your way, go that way.

If things aren’t going your way, don’t go that way.

To put this suggestion into effect, you just have to notice what’s working and do more of it. Notice what’s not working and do less of it. Easy. Let’s look at some examples of how letting it be easy can resolve some of the tough issues facing leaders today.

One organization was struggling with the decision of how to cut their staff, but the CEO had a strong commitment to avoiding layoffs. What was working? He had a loyal staff that was dedicated to the success of the business. What wasn’t working? He was overstaffed. He decided to start by simply asking people who would accept early retirement or willingly go part-time. The response was surprising, and the CEO was able to reduce the budget without feeling like it had cost people their jobs.

Another organization similarly wanted to cut costs, but leaders were stuck in the dilemma of hard choices about where to cut for the least negative impact. What was working? This was an energetic, creative organization with lots of innovative ideas. What wasn’t working? The organization simply didn’t have the volume in sales to operate the way it had in the past. Finally the leaders decided to do something easy: they asked their employees for innovative ideas about how to cut costs. The brainstorming meetings revealed very clear themes and the answer about where to cut became readily apparent.

In both cases, leaders were faced with impossible choices, and the decisions seemed very hard to make. Opening up their minds to new possibilities, they found the answers came to them. They let it be easy.

This strategy is especially helpful for making difficult decisions or finding your way through confusion. However, it’s important to remember that letting it be easy is not an excuse to be lazy, to accept failure or to give up. Persistence and courage are still important. Letting it be easy shouldn’t be confused with:

  • Rash decisions. Rash decisions may be easy, but they’re not effective. For instance, slashing budgets across the board without thinking about the effects can be devastating. Suddenly quitting your job or closing your business is not always the best choice just because it’s the easiest way out. You can let it be easy and still be thoughtful at the same time.

  • The status quo. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is not to change at all. Just keep going along the same path. Again, that is indeed easy, but it doesn’t help you achieve your vision and goals. The trick to letting it be easy is to remember what is for which your striving, and look for the easy ways to get there.

  • Giving up. There’s a fine line between something being challenging and something being hard. You can learn to recognize the difference. When you’re feeling challenged, the results may not be easy, but they are energizing, exciting, and moving in a forward or positive direction. When something is hard, the opposite is true. Nothing is working. You feel like you’re beating your head against the wall. Your intuition tells you you’re going the wrong way. Letting it be easy is not about giving up. It’s about recognizing the right path when you’ve found it.

Letting it be easy is an approach you can use to see new possibilities. You are able to work smart and let the current of your life carry you in the direction it wants to go. You can put down some of the weight of success by noticing which direction seems easy and right. Try these questions to help you get in the mindset of letting it be easy.

  • What’s going your way?

  • What’s not going your way?

  • What do your answers suggest about what to do next? How can you let it be easy?

Take a step back every once in awhile. Notice where you’re struggling and recognize where it’s easy. Even if just for a while, try going the easy way. It may be the path of success. The Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu put it simply: Easy is right.

Joelle K. Jay, Ph.D., is president of the leadership development practice, Pillar Consulting.  As an executive coach, author and speaker, Joelle helps leaders achieve top performance and business results. Her clients include presidents, vice presidents, and C-level executives in Fortune 500 companies. Joelle is the author of “The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership.”