Does Counting Coins Make You More Money?

Technological advancements just keep on coming. And all the while we tout them as “more efficient” and “better.”

In many ways, though, the technologies seem to only take care of “keeping the lights on” tasks.

Wasting Our Time?

These are just mundane or routine undertakings that once “wasted” precious human time.

  • Are we really any more productive though?
  • What do these technologies do to our ability to collaborate and innovate?

Compare and Contrast

I recently took a trip to the grocery store with a year’s worth of change, and after about 30-seconds of dumping coins into a machine, I was given a total and a receipt for my 22 pounds worth of coinage. When I was younger, I would bring this same pile of change to the bank, and wait patiently while the teller spent 10 minutes counting it out. During this time, my parents would chat casually with one of the bank employees.

While this wasn’t a huge transaction, or even particularly important business for the bank, manually completing the task allowed time for relationships to be built between my parents (the customers) and various bank employees (the business).

Now the automatic coin-counting machine has replaced the teller for this task. Yes, that bit of technology frees up some time for the teller and allows him or her to “get more done,” but at the end of the day, is it really making any more money for the bank?

Getting More Done With Less

With all of these technological breakthroughs, most of us are able to be very self-sufficient in the workplace. We can accomplish dull tasks more quickly and more accurately than in years past.

With that tech-based efficiency, however, we’ve adopted this idea that the same amount of work can be done by fewer people – and therein lies the problem.

It’s true that technology allows us to be more “productive,” but what are the underlying costs to the organization?

No Bandwidth

A recent client of mine, an information technology group, reduced its team of database engineers from 55 to 45 employees. Because they are exceptional people with state-of-the-art technology, they were able to maintain the same level of customer and project support even with the reduction in staff. There was no noticeable drop off in performance or reliability. There were, however, some unintended consequences:

  • The team has little to no ability to take on new projects
  • Team member get over 400 emails every day, and that’s not including phone calls, instant messages, and texts
  • Career development is stagnant – not intentionally, but because there is no time to dedicate to it
  • Database interruptions, though rare, now take almost 30% longer to resolve

While the current workload wasn’t impacted, the reduced workforce left zero bandwidth available to take on anything outside of their narrowly defined roles. Customers were mildly disappointed in this lack of expandable service, and other IT teams found the group difficult to work with – because the level of stress (with no prospect of relief) has the team stretched tight like a drum.

Now What?

Instead of looking at how to get more done with fewer people, organizations need to start asking themselves, “what’s best for the company?”

In an emergency, sometimes layoffs can’t be avoided, but it’s worth considering that a team with adequate resources and enough members is far more capable of scaling to meet demand.

When every member of a workforce is operating at maximum capacity, there is no room for additional polish on a task, no room for an expanded market share, and perhaps most importantly, no time to devote to solving problems and innovating within the company itself.

Doing Things Better

Instead of looking for ways to do more with less, companies should simply be look at how to do things better. The push to “increase productivity” is a false measure of success, because efficiency is not necessarily akin to quality.

Productivity is not just accomplishing more with fewer resources, or in less time, but rather the collective result of taking on greater workloads, improving efficiency, and delivering a higher quality result at the end of the process.

There is an assumption that technology has made organizations more productive, but is this really the case? They may be able to get the same amount of work done with fewer people, but what about taking on more work? What about coming up with innovative solutions to customer issues? What about fostering relationships?

At what point does squeezing efficiency out of a company become strangulation? When does “trimming the fat” turn into cutting out muscle? How much staffing margin be in place to make sure your organization is primed for growth and opportunity? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

———————
Anil Saxena

Anil Saxena is a President & Senior Consultant Cube 214 Consulting
He helps organizations create environments that generate repeatable superior results
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | (847) 212-0701

Image Sources: kristeligt-dagblad.dk

On Leadership and Vulnerability

Vulnerability

For some reason, people in leadership roles have this idea that they have to be impervious – that showing emotion, vulnerability, or weakness of any kind somehow devalues their status.

It’s like business leaders view themselves as ruthless pirate captains or generals at war, as if the first sign of weakness will cause a mutiny.

This couldn’t be further from the truth!

True Leadership

True leadership is achieved when a team identifies with their leader as a real human being, and that includes faults, fears, shortcomings, and of course, vulnerability.

Accepting the fact that you will sometimes be vulnerable, that sometimes a plan will fail – that you aren’t perfect – will actually make you a stronger, more capable leader, both in your own mind and in the minds of your team members.

This is true for a couple of reasons.

  1. By recognizing that you are, in fact, not superhuman, you allow yourself to prepare for failure, and to think creatively when things don’t go as planned. Suddenly change doesn’t seem quite so daunting. Vulnerability isn’t a trait of weakness; it is a trait of humanity. Human beings sometimes falter.
  2. By allowing your team to see that you are susceptible to the same emotional pitfalls as they are, your perseverance and leadership skills truly shine as you work through the problems. By being honest about the adversity you face, you further inspire your team to overcome similar obstacles.

“Because most of us suck at it, if you can master the art of vulnerability, you have a distinct advantage. It may very well be the one leadership skill that endears you to others, creates unwavering loyalty, and sets you apart from the pack.” ~ Shelly Prevost

Authentic Leadership

Something about mutual vulnerability (read: openness, honesty, transparency) helps bring teams together. Showing your true self, including the parts you might not be terribly proud of, allows people to get to know one another in a real and meaningful way – this inspires compassion, collaboration, and a true sense of community within a team.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation and change.” Dr. Brene Brown ClickToTweet

Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability

Acting like there aren’t ever problems, or that nothing ever bothers you, only separates you from your team. Moreover, it won’t make you appear to be a fearless leader – it will just make it seem like you don’t care.

So, how are you doing with vulnerability in your leadership role? Are you, or not? How would being more vulnerable help you be more true and authentic to your followers? Do you wish that people who have led you in the past were more vulnerable? Would it have helped them be more influential? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

———————
Anil Saxena
Anil Saxena is a President & Senior Consultant Cube 214 Consulting
He helps organizations create environments that generate repeatable superior results
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | (847) 212-0701

Image Sources: thequotefactory.com

The Scourge of the Zombie Employee

`Zombies at Work

Zombies exist – and they just might be working for your company.

In the day and age of belt-tightening across industries, reduced budgets, and a focus on maximized productivity, employees are being asked to take on more and more responsibility, including increased workloads without an increase in pay.

Because many jobs are hard to come by these days, employees have no choice but to acquiesce to increased demand.

Creating the Dead

Unfortunately, the burden of an increased workload can lead to:

  • Employee health problems
  • Increased mistakes
  • Reduced effectiveness of communication
  • Decreased customer satisfaction

As employees push themselves harder, with no relief in sight, they tend to wear down over time, becoming less engaged in their work, and frankly, more apathetic about their role in the company.

Most of them just go through the motions.

So, in the age of cost cutting, what can an organization do about this potentially devastating problem?

4 Ways to Keep Zombies Away

Here are four ways to make sure your people stay engaged and don’t turn into zombies.

1. Focus on Customers

As ridiculous as it might sound, plenty of organizations are guilty of not putting their customers first. In an attempt to reduce overhead or fine tune internal processes, decisions are made that are not in the best interest of customers – like overworking employees or shortening business hours.

Companies should center every decision they make on what’s best for the customer, because a focus on providing the best products and the best service will keep customers coming back – and ultimately keep the doors open.

2. Consider “Line of Sight”

Line of sight” is the correlation between an employee’s actions and the impact they have on gaining and retaining customers.

Zombie Employees

There should be a direct link between the tasks your employees are completing and a benefit to your customers and prospects.

When employees understand this connection (and the importance is has to the organization), they are more likely to be engaged in their activities, and thinking about them in a larger context.

On the employer’s side, this means keeping employee assignments relevant, and if need be, explaining how a particular task is beneficial to the customer (and the company) in the long run.

Certain parts of every job are mundane, but if the employees understand the overall importance, they are less likely to be dejected about the less-than-interesting tasks.

Also, don’t assign “busy-work.” Everything your employees do should be important in some way.

3. Don’t Implement Layoffs at The Expense of Service

Budgets are hard to meet. Overhead is hard to keep down. Revenue isn’t always as high as you need it to be.

These are simple realities of running a businesses – but the answer to meeting these problems is NOT to simply reduce your workforce. In some scenarios, layoffs are inevitable (in emergencies or massive changes in service or scope), but it should never be a go-to method for saving money.

In fact, layoffs may even be more problematic than you realize.

Diminishing a workforce may save you some money each month, but at what cost? Trying to maintain the same level of service with fewer people will only bog down your employees.

And here’s what’s worse – when you start laying people off, it affects the people who keep their jobs as well. Suddenly, those people are feeling tense about their job security, feeling less emotionally and psychologically attached to the company, and maybe even a little resentful that some of their colleagues are no longer there. This means reduced productivity across the board.

4. Transparency

One of the key components of employee engagement is transparency, plain and simple. When an entry-level worker can see where they fit in the context of the whole company, they are more likely to embrace that role and put personal stock into the work they do.

Throughout an organization, the context of a particular task or role is important. Much like “line of sight” with customers, transparency between departments, or from management down through the ranks, helps everyone understand the important role they play in the overall success of the organization.

Stepping Up Your Game

When costs seem oppressive or sales are down, the solution is not to slash budgets or pare down services. In fact, the best solution is just the opposite – if the company is struggling, it’s time to step your game up and build the organization your customers are proud to do business with.

In doing so, you’ll create an organization that your employees are equally proud to work for.

Zombie employees are the byproduct of lack of engagement. Without anything to strive for, or a clue about why they’re performing a certain task, would you expect anything less?

**********

Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

———————
Anil Saxena
Anil Saxena is a Senior Consultant and Business Partner with Coffman Organization
He helps organizations create environments that generate repeatable superior results
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Blog | (888) 999-0940 x-730

Image Sources: timebusinessblog.files.wordpress.com, cpcache.com

Related articles

 

Leadership Follies – Doing is Not Developing

Learn More

Do you wonder why the folks that report to you rely on you to solve their problems?  Probably because you always do this for them. You solve their problems. You teach them to come to you.

This is great if you are a parent or the star of a reality TV show called “Problem Solver.”

But, as a leader having people rely on you to solve their problems creates a cycle of dependency.  That isn’t leadership that is enabling bad behavior.  Want to create leaders? Start with developing accountability

Developing Accountability

AccountabilityLeaders and their teams are inundated with stimuli. With all the tweets, IM’s, emails, phone calls and “drop-ins” it is hard to think straight let alone get anything done.

More often than not, we simply react to questions or issues that are brought to our attention.

It is easier to do that than reflect and ask questions.  But in order to develop leaders on our teams, we must stop doing for people and start expecting them to do.

The Accountability Muscle

Let’s look at how to encourage your team to develop this muscle.

John brings a problem to you. It is urgent and needs to be dealt with RIGHT NOW.

  • Thank John for coming to you.
  • Ask him “Why is this issue occurring?”  Follow that up with one or two other why questions to get to the real issue
  • Once the real issue is uncovered, ask him -

◦       “What is the outcome you want?” or

◦       “What would success look like” or

◦       “What would happen if you did nothing”

  • Finally, ask him

◦       “How would you make [the outcome he stated previously] happen? or

◦       What is the process you’d use to make that happen?

  • Help him tweak the process/solution he suggested but unless people’s lives are in danger or some other safety issue could occur, do not give him the answer EVEN IF YOU KNOW IT.

The last thing you need to do is to encourage him to go out and implement his solution, even if you’re not 100% it will work.

Encouraging Failure

It is better to try and fail than not to try at all.” ~ Henry Ford

Don’t shield the people on your team from failure.  That is not going to help them grow or learn.  Failure is one of the greatest tools for people to understand what to do and not to do.  Failure avoidance only causes us to limit ourselves.  It stifles our innovation and creativity.

Push the people on your team to implement their own solutions.  Of course they should do their due diligence, but it’s critical that they are coming up with and implementing their ideas.  Whether the solution is successful or not, they will learn.  It will foster growth.

Giving Away Responsibility

Once people start implementing their own solutions and coming to you less to solve their problems, start giving them more responsibility or authority.  This doesn’t mean that you should abdicate your role or stop overseeing things.  Instead, it is recognizing their growth and rewarding them.

As a leader, your primary roles are:

  • Develop other leaders
  • Ensure people understand the impact they have on gaining and retaining customers

The more you responsibility you can give to your team, the less they will rely on you to solve al their problems.  This will allow you to focus on leading, finding innovative ways to serve your customers, or develop yourself.

As leaders, the worst thing that we can do for our teams is to solve all their problems for them.  It makes them dependent on you and limits their growth.

How do you encourage accountability? I would love to hear your thoughts!

**********

Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

———————
Anil Saxena
Anil Saxena is a Senior Consultant and Business Partner with Coffman Organization
He helps organizations create environments that generate repeatable superior results
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Blog | (888) 999-0940 x-730

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Leaders: Treat Them Like Adults and Watch What Happens

Babies at Work

What is it about management that turns some good managers into nannies? Sometimes the role of a manager or team leader has morphed into something resembling a hall monitor.

The problem is this: The more the restriction, the greater the tendency to rebel.

A Chemical Reaction

Just like in history, any dictator is often undermined by a coordinated resistance. Therefore, tightly controlling your employees and putting restrictions on them may very well lead to employees that are looking to get around the system. Why?

Oftentimes human nature follows the laws of physics,

“To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction” – Sir Isaac Newton

Are there employees that will try to take advantage of the system were other people comply? Of course there will be. There are some people who simply want to get away with doing the least amount of work possible.

But this is not the norm, unless that’s the type of environment created. Yes, that type of distrustful environment doesn’t just happen, it’s created.

Rules Glorious Rules

Recently, I worked with a team that was challenged with its performance. The manager was certain that her employees needed to be to highly controlled because they could not be trusted. She told me about an employee that she monitored the start and end times of his day very closely.

Why do you do that?” I asked.

She said, “Because he sometimes comes in late and leaves early. So now, I have demanded that he comes in no later than nine and leaves no earlier than five.

Has that made him or the team more effective?” I asked.

I’m not sure,” she responded.

After interviewing the employee, I learned that he would often stay very late and sometimes come in very early to get projects done. He thought that it was really important to make sure that he met deadlines and milestones to make sure that projects were completed on time.

However, every time he left early his manager would question why he was not working a “full-day.”

No matter how many times he showed her that he had come in early or worked over the weekend or worked very late the day before, she would tell him that leaving early wasn’t fair to everyone else who was working on “full day” schedule.

She kept demanding that he was at his desk at nine and stay at least until five o’clock. He finally stopped coming in early or staying late, concluding, “If she wants me to work eight hours every day that I will, no more and no less.

Creating an Environment of Trust

Like any healthy relationship, leaders and teams have to work in an environment where trust is high. This only happens if the relationship is an adult one.  Adults look for a few key elements in relationships:

Consistency

This is not about treating everyone exactly the same. Instead, consistency is about reacting to situations in a similar way regardless of who’s involved. It is important to adults that they don’t have to guess how the person they’re talking to is going to react.

Without consistency people tend to act in a way that is the least likely to “get them in trouble”, which often has people be guarded and defensive. There is little trust without consistency.

Trust is built with consistency.” ~ Lincoln Chafee

Transparency

Nothing is worse than feeling like you don’t know what is going on in your workplace.  When employees are surprised about issues, problems or concerns there is little room for trust. It is imperative to make sure that employees know as much as possible.

The principles of radical transparency improve business performance in terms of focus, engagement, and growing and recruiting talent.” ~ Ryan Smith and Golnaz Tabibnia

Autonomy

Giving an employee the latitude, authority and responsibility to complete the responsibilities of a job is not only a great way to treat an adult, it is good for business.

Autonomous motivation has proven to generate higher productivity, less burnout, and greater levels of psychological well-being.” ~ Chad Renado

Everyone is Accountable

There is a caveat though with this approach.  There has to be accountability from top to bottom.  The team members, managers and leaders all have to be held accountable for their actions, successes and failures.  It has to be known and acceptable to

  • Reward well when goals are met and teams are successful.
  • Give nothing or take action when they are not.

It is not about firing people, but making sure that each person makes their very best effort to reach and exceed personal, team and organizational goals.

“Greater accountability eliminates the time and energy spent in unproductive behavior that produces wasted effort and confusing distractions.  Everyone is clear about what they are responsible to accomplish and take action to make that happen.” ~ The Oz Principle

Treating employees like adults frees them up to do great things and create results not thought possible.

“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results. ~ George S. Patton

Are you surprised by your team’s awesome results and accomplishments?  What kind of environment are you creating?

**********

Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

———————
Anil Saxena
Anil Saxena is a Senior Consultant and Business Partner with Coffman Organization
He helps organizations create environments that generate repeatable superior results
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Blog | (888) 999-0940 x-730

Image Sources: 3.bp.blogspot.com

3 Great Ways to Scare Off Potential Employees

I Quit

Here are three sure fire ways to not only lose the people you have but also scare off any great potential employees.

 3 Great Ways to Scare Off Potential Employees

1. Use Layoffs as a Way to “Meet the Quarterly Numbers”

Although proven time and time again, somehow organizations STILL use layoffs as a tool.  Layoffs are NOT a good tactic to remedy short term budget crises.

More than anything, layoffs — and the potential for layoffs — causes a sense of panic within the employee base. ~ Mr. Van Gorder, CEO Health Scripps

2. Don’t Allow for Flex-Time, Working from Home, Job-Sharing or Other Alternative Work Arrangements

Somehow during economic programs like flex-time, working at home or alternative work weeks seem to lose their luster.  But why?  Is it because they are less effective?  No.  Most organizations see these types of work arrangements as “perks.” But they are not perks.  They are the new way of work and actually work to INCREASE productivity.

Companies are finding that flextime boosts productivity, and more and more of them, including Kraft Foods, Texas Instruments and First Tennessee Bank are taking advantage of it. When employees manage their own schedules, their stress levels decline and they focus better on their tasks. ~ Emily Schmitt, Forbes

Recently, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announces that employees can no longer work from home and must report to a Yahoo office by June. The stated reason was to create more innovation. The company has been struggling and Mayer thinks that this will help them increase business through innovative creativity.

However, there is a large group of people think that this move will hurt more than help. They simply point to Google.

3. Don’t Focus on Results

There are still too many organizations that operate under the misconception that working longer hours (night, weekends, through holidays, etc.) shows how dedicated an employee is.  Often, employees that don’t put in that “face time” are seen as “not dedicated”.  Unfortunately, there is nothing further than the truth.

Simply put, punching a time clock makes no sense for professionals. Their contribution is not the time they spend on their work but the value they create through their knowledge. – Robert C. Pozen Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School

All three of these facts indicate that employers need to start thinking of how to KEEP their best employees. What are you doing to make sure your best are not thinking of leaving AND you can hire the best when you need them?

**********

Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

———————
Anil Saxena
Anil Saxena is a Senior Consultant and Business Partner with Coffman Organization
He helps organizations create environments that generate repeatable superior results
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Blog | (888) 999-0940 x-730

Image Sources: 1.bp.blogspot.com

How to Lead People You Don’t Agree With

Conflict at Work

Politics and religion…

These are two topics that many people suggestion should stay “non-topics” in a polite society.

Fightin’ Words

Following politics in any country shows the passion that people have for their points of view. In the recent election for US President, the voting populace was severely divided.

Families fought and friendships ended.

But, what about at work?  Can you lead someone that you disagree with politically, religiously or otherwise?

Religion and politics are the third rail of work.  No one is supposed to talk about them or be upset about differences.

But is this realistic?  No.

Diversity and the global nature of work have caused an integration of people that, left to their own devices, might not associate with each other otherwise.

Leading Through Opinions

So, if we have to work with and lead people we don’t agree with how do we do it? 

Why is it hard to do?

There are two main reasons it’s hard to work with those that you disagree.

1. You see parts of yourself and your beliefs that you don’t really like

“The reason you can’t stand that person in the first place, is that they remind you of what you can’t stand about yourself.- Peter Bregman

2. It causes you to question your beliefs

Any time someone has a worldview or set of beliefs that are different than yours, it calls your beliefs into question.  That is never easy or comfortable.  But, unless its something fundamental like “thou shall not kill”, it can give you different perspective and help you see the world through other’s eyes.

So what do you do about it?

Engage and Finding Common Ground

Work hard to find things to agree and work together on.  There are often more similarities than differences between people. Organizations and teams are ripe with a variety areas to have common ground:

  • Team goals
  • Project completion
  • Project outcomes
  • Company success
  • Professional growth

Regularly explore and expand on them.

Whenever I take on a new team, I always meet with each person and spend time exploring our commonalities.  This way we can begin to build on those right away.  Differences come easily. If they show up after you’ve already built a foundation of commonalities, they are less likely to impact how work together effectively.

Focus on What They Do Well

No matter what you think of someone’s views, they often are exceptional, or at least capable, in a few areas.  When leading someone that you don’t agree with it’s important to keep those skills at the forefront when working with them.

Otherwise, the people you don’t agree with will become stereotypes.

Conservatives will seem militant; liberals will seem noncommittal, etc.  This occurs because of a phenomenon called “self fulfilling prophecy.”

“A self-fulfilling prophecy is a thought or expectation that occurs because it has been thought. For example, when a teacher assumes that a certain student is not intelligent, the teacher might give that student less positive attention and more negative attention, resulting in poorer performance by the student….. Our behavior can affect others, particularly people over whom we have authority or with whom we spend significant amounts of time.” ~ GoodTherapy.com

The problem is that it can impact the folks we lead and work with. Working with people that are different than us can make us better if we let it.  Remember to focus on each person’s positives.

Don’t Dwell on What You Don’t Agree

When there is an area or topic that you don’t agree with someone about, don’t make it the focal point of your relationship.  It is not healthy and makes the team less productive.

  • Time spent trying to change an opinion that doesn’t impact the success or failure of the team is time wasted.
  • Move on and focus on activities THAT WILL PRODUCE RESULTS.
  • Surprisingly, people are much more tolerant of others when they are winning.
  • Focus on being a high performance team creates tolerance.

Seeking Out Their Opinion

Some of the very best advice given is from folks that you don’t agree with politically or philosophically.  Their opinion is unvarnished. Compliments are more sincere, criticism more pointed and solutions more clear.

People that think differently than you come at issues, problems, etc. from a perspective you don’t have.

It provides for rich ideas that you might not think of on your own or with someone who thinks like you. Actively seek out opinions of those you don’t agree with, you will develop better solutions and become a better person in the process.

Fightin’ Fair

In order to have a high performing team or organization, ideas and solutions must come from everywhere.  People must feel free to share their thoughts without worrying about self-censoring their own beliefs.  This stifles creativity and tamps down productivity.

  • Stick up for their right to have an opinion different than yours and of others.
  • Champion the voice of those that you don’t agree with.
  • Make sure they have the platform to speak and share ideas.

Real leaders and partners give voice to everyone on the team, not just the ones that are the same religion or political affiliation.

Being a leader means that you will work with all kinds of people, those that you agree with and those you don’t. You are creating a legacy with every interaction. What is it that you are creating?

**********

Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

———————
Anil Saxena
Anil Saxena is a Senior Consultant and Business Partner with Coffman Organization
He helps organizations create environments that generate repeatable superior results
Email | LinkedIn | TwitterWeb | Blog | (888) 999-0940 x-730

Image Sources: a57.foxnews.com

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