Stop It!

Management is indeed a difficult job. As a manager you are responsible for a number of things. Making sure the projects your department is responsible for are on track. Meeting HR deadlines for performance appraisals. Seeing to that your direct reports are receiving the right amount training and coaching when and where necessary. It’s a wonder that you get anything done.

As a consultant and coach I often hear about all the work that managers have to do with little or no resources and an ever shortening of time to complete projects before receiving a new set of number one priorities from their boss. The complaints of being overworked are never-ending. But, when pushed on why they don’t take action to correct the problem I get blank stares. Let me explain.

When I inquire into what is getting in the way of their ability to complete work, I hear they often have to redo work that they delegated. For some reason it doesn’t met their expectations of quality. When asked why I get some ambiguous response. So we take some time to break it down to review the process of delegation. Eventually we find a fixable problem and the manager is thankful for the assistance and has her plan for making the adjustments with high hopes. I would like to say that’s the end of it and we can proceed to other issues that require addressing, but, the problem comes back, because I hear the same complaints. Naturally I wonder is it something I’m not conveying am I not be clear enough.

After going through this process a number of times I realize it’s not me. I don’t say that to brag but as a fact. What it turns out to be is the manager doesn’t want to change. They really don’t want to remove the obstacle because it’s become their bragging point with other managers. Sounds strange I know, but, managers – especially middle managers – feel they need to have something to always complain about, call it a cause celeb. It provides them their set of war stories they convey to fellow managers at other companies. It’s reminiscent of the old joke about the man who goes to the doctor and tells him hurts every time he flaps his arms, he asks what he should do. The doctor tells him to stop doing what is causing him pain which is flapping his arms. Simple, but for far too many extremely hard to do.

I’m convinced that managers don’t really want to learn how to successfully delegate, if they did, they wouldn’t always be signing up for the newest how to delegate course thinking they’re going to learn some new technique. When all they have to is apply what they already know and stop taking work back that isn’t meeting standards. They don’t want to stop.

We all have things we can stop doing we just have to identify them. In case of managers redoing work they delegated it starts with setting clear expectations around the finish product and holding the people accountable for meeting them and to stop accepting incomplete work product.

In the individual sense it requires one to identify things they don’t need to do and just stop doing them. It could start with stop listening to people who are always complaining about their lot in life. People like this suck the life out of you, and they don’t really want help they just want to take up your time and like to hear themselves talk. Cutting them lose will free you in ways you can’t image.

Managers are always looking for time saving techniques and far too many have bought into various programs and processes that claim to help them be better at time management. But, if as a manager, you don’t stop doing things that suck up your time, it won’t matter what sophisticated system you implement because it will ultimately fail because you just refuse to stop doing what you do.

For those of you who remember the old Bob Newhart show he played a psychologist People would come to him for help with their problems and he had some simple and straight forward advice, just stop it. When people would push back and ask what he meant he would look at them and say you need to just stop it.

In the wise words of Bob Newhart STOP IT.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved

Real Teamwork in Action

I’m still in morning over the fact that my boys from Syracuse lost to Dayton. But, all you die hard UNC fans no doubt are looking for new timing rules considering how that game ended. My friend out in San Francisco who grew up in Kansas and went to Kansas University and is a lifelong Jayhawk fan is still screaming at his TV. The redeeming feature for both of us is neither one of us has to have our picture taken in the winner’s jersey as proof whose team is better, both of our teams lost and won’t be in the sweet sixteen where we thought they face each other.

This event known as March Madness is indeed a period of madness. Sixty-four college basketball teams come together to determine which college get bragging rights to claim they’re the best of the best in college basketball. It’s indeed a spectacle to watch. There is lot of talent flying up and down a basketball court. The wizardry and athleticism of these young men is something to behold. Their ability to handle a basketball and leap hang in the air and make a 30 foot jump shot seem so natural is magical. When you watch a team of well-honed athletes operate in unison you realize they aren’t playing as talented individuals but as a talented team. As one commentator said, “it’s not the talent of the individual, but the ability to work together to bring out the talent of the team.” The success of a team is the combined efforts of everyone working as a unit.

What makes March Madness so much fun to watch is you get to see real team work in action. Only if managers and leaders would learn from this things might go better in the workplace.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved

A Sign of The Times

I’m at Panera’s attempting to write the first chapter of my book, when I take a break and look up and see seated at a table a family signing. Normally, I wouldn’t give this a second thought but for some strange reason I’m fascinated at what is taking place a few feet away from me. Here is a family carrying on an animated conversation that only they can understand by using their hands to communicate with each other and not uttering a sound. I’m old enough to remember the time when we used a different term for individuals who couldn’t speak which I won’t repeat here.

You might ask, Tim why is this important. I don’t know if it’s important, but, for me it causes me to wonder why so many people are insistent on making English the official language of the United States. For that matter, why, there was such an outcry about the first Cheerios commercial that featured an interracial couple, or the recent Coke™ commercial that had different groups of people signing America The Beautiful in their native tongue. Then there is what Ted Nugent calling the President, a “subhuman mongrel.” I can only image what he would call the family I’m watching.

As a society we have many problems, and we have major tendency to get upset when people don’t agree with us. But recently I’ve witnessed a major uptick in the vitriol and quickness to become offended and the slightest perceived provocation. It’s as if people are like coiled rattlesnake ready to strike at anyone who stumbles across their path.

This unbridled rush to prove oneself right and denounce anyone who disagrees with them causes them to resort to vicious name calling and accusation. No longer are people willing to reasonable discuss and debate. It’s either you agree with me or you’re against me. I ask, when did this happen?

But let me circle back to the rhetorical question raised earlier, why is this important? As an expert in leadership and innovation this is a challenge that leaders and managers have to deal with in the workplace. People bring their feelings and beliefs with them when they show up for work. Despite the old adage of leave personal problems at home when at work, the reality is that just doesn’t happen.

For managers and leaders, they face a constant challenge of dealing with the entire gamut of human emotions. With the demands to perform at breakneck speeds, its little wonder people become argumentative and intolerant of differences. But, that doesn’t mitigate the requirement to embrace the diversity that people bring to workplace. If anything by truly embracing the differences people bring to our lives we will be better for it as it open us up to seeing the expansiveness that differences offers us. The manager who can truly utilize all the assets they have is a manager who will be the most productive.

The family I was observing has left and I can only say that I feel a bit richer for having the opportunity to witness their conversation. It’s provided with a memory that I can call up reference regularly when talking about the need to value and embrace diversity.

The challenge to you, is, can you bring forth such a memory? I hope you can.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved

People It’s Just Snow

It’s snowing outside. Why is that important? It isn’t, but you wouldn’t know it from all the fuss most local TV stations are making over this current storm. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the fact they come on to discuss local travel conditions and point out that if we don’t have to travel it’s best to stay home and allow those plowing to do the jobs unencumbered. But, to repeatedly be talking about this storm, for that matter any storm, the way they do is a bit much.

Perhaps it’s the fact that the roots for many here in Massachusetts is that of farming that so many are obsessive with the weather. Or as told by friends, the reason so many meteorologists love working here is our constant changing weather patterns. Whatever the reasons are, I only have this to say, it’s just snow people. It’s winter and during winter you have snow. Sometimes a lot of it, sometimes not so much. Since we live in part of the region that snow is common, unlike Atlanta, we should be used to the fact that during the month of February it’s going to snow.

At this point I have to be honest. I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to snow, I grew up in Syracuse. We have a saying there, ‘you put your garbage cans out in October and might find them in April.’ Growing up in Syracuse during the fifties, we would get regular blizzard 78 snow falls. This amount of snow currently talked about would be considered a dusting and would only get a brief mention from the weather forecaster. As far as, closing schools, it would never happen. The belief was if the snowplow could get through kids could go to school. I prayed for school to be closed during a snow storm, but my prayers always went unanswered. I remember a storm so bad I was sure the powers to be would call a city-wide school closing I didn’t study for a test. Let’s just say I failed the test.

Ok, I’ll admit to little bit of embellishment, Ok, a lot, but, I still don’t get all the paranoia by all the local TV stations with the their constant coverage of the snow storms, regardless of how much of the white stuff is left behind. This is New England, not Atlanta, we should be used to it by now, and after all it’s just snow.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved

You Get What You Demostrate

While watching the Sunday talking heads, I heard former New York Mayor Giuliani say the leader sets the culture of his organization. This was in response to the current situation that Gov. Christie is dealing with accusations of closing the GW Bridge as a form of political payback for not getting endorsements from the mayor of Fort Lee. He’s wrong in that area. This was bad behavior.

Leaders, set the tone and tenor of how they want their inner circle to behave they are the exemplars. Their subordinates take their cues from their leaders. If the leader is hard-driving and demanding on his direct reports, then they believe that’s how they should behave when dealing with their subordinates. If they have to anticipate what the leaders wants from them, then they want the same from others who work for them. Again keep in mind the leader is the exemplar and they in turn are exemplars and will pass on their behavioral traits, until they permeate the entire organization.

What happened in New Jersey was the direct result of what the governor wanted whether he gave a direct order to his staff or not. Gov. Christie was known for extracting retribution for the smallest of slights. This type of behavior is not uncommon among leaders who believe they are destined for bigger and better things. In their quest to exact payment for perceived slights they don’t think about the aftermath of what they do to exact retribution.

In the case of the four-day lane closing on the George Washington Bridge, millions of dollars lost in commerce because of the traffic delays, young school children late for their first day of school, emergency vehicles delayed, people late for work why, because the governor’s team believed he want to send a message to a mayor.

This wasn’t as mayor Giuliani said culture, this was behavior. Behavior that the leader – in this case the governor – encouraged and allowed because that’s reflective of his style. Fortunately, it’s correctable, but the question is as always, does he want to?

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved

The Thomas Becket Affair – Chris Christie Style

“What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?”

The words above are supposedly what Henry II uttered that lead to the murder of Thomas Becket. Most of us are more familiar with the words, “who will rid me of this troublesome man?” Actually both accounts are in question, but, the point is the leader (Henry II) made what he felt was an innocuous statement and members on his staff took it upon themselves to execute someone they thought the king wanted out-of-the-way.

What recently seemed as an unexplainable week-long traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge has turned into a full-blown scandal for Chris Christie governor of New Jersey. The fact that members of his staff took it upon themselves to orchestrate one of the worst traffic problems on the busiest bridges in the country isn’t extraordinary. This type of behavior happens all the time when you have a leader like Christie sets the tone for such behavior.

Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben told him, “with great power comes great responsibility.” People laugh at that line as being a bit hokey, but, there is truth in what Parker’s uncle said. Those who have the privilege of being leaders are invested with the mantle of power. With it comes the responsibility of managing it in a just and fair way. It also comes with followers who will do whatever is necessary to be in the good graces of the leader.

A newly appoint CEO is visiting different divisions of the company. She sits in on a presentation by one of her senior vice-presidents and comments on certain aspects of a project he and his staff are working on and offers some helpful suggestions. The next thing she knows she is receiving angry emails from that SVP asking why members of her staff are interfering with the project’s implementation with their never-ending requests for status and reports that take his staff hours to prepare and costing them valuable implementation time. All of this a complete surprise to her because, she never asked for any of it.

A CEO and a respected division manager disagree on the way to proceed with a new manufacturing process. In a meeting both the CEO and divisional manager are engaged in a heated discussion over the process he relents after realizing the divisional manager is correct. The CEO express his anger a senior staff who was present at the meeting regarding the manager stating, that while he might be right he is getting tired of him always trying to prove it. He is surprised when presented a month later with a list of candidates to replace the divisional manager who resigned because he wanted to spend more time with his family.

The scenarios cited above are not at all farfetched, leaders who have a tightly controlled inner circles have their own “inner circle speak.” Because members of senior management inner circles guard their conversations closely you need a secret decoder ring to have any clue as to what they are saying most of the time. I have first had experience with just such a situation. It was a staff meeting with my manager, when my manager started talking about having distant memories of similar projects. We took our customary coffee break, where I used the time to dismiss a contractor that was being overly aggressive on his insistence in wanting to discuss matters with my manager that weren’t in his assigned duties. When I returned I handed my manager a two worded note that said “distant memory” and returned to my seat. He read the note looked over at me and nodded.

Being in my manager’s inner circle and understanding how he communicated allowed me to notice the “hidden” meaning in what seemed as slightly off topic discussion for most people in the room. This is how a number of managers operate in the corporate arena. Their staffs consist of people who will try to anticipate the needs of their boss. There are occasions where this good, but, at times it causes them to overreach as in the case with Gov. Christie’s staff.

Known as a hands on manager, Gov. Christie’s set the tone and demeanor for his direct reports. Those who know him and work for him take their clues and model their own styles on his example. When a manager with a management style such as Gov. Christie wants something done without having his fingerprints on it all it takes is a certain look to a trusted staff member, change in tone and demeanor, or an agreed on code phrase between leader and staff.

It’s possible Gov. Christie wasn’t aware of his subordinate’s action. They could have kept him out of the loop thus giving him the plausible deniability card. It wouldn’t be the first time something like this was done. After all that’s what a few folks tried to do when they broke into the Democratic headquarters at Watergate.

However, I recall that not ending well for the burglars and the individual for whom they were trying provide plausible deniability. President Richard M. Nixon. He ended up resigning. I guess plausible deniability doesn’t always work.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved

Happy New Year – Make the Commitment

2013 has ended, and ushered in 2014. The question that faces us all is regardless of what did or didn’t happen in 2013 what do you plan to do with the New Year you now have?

Common practice is to make those mindless resolutions that seem to get broken as soon as we state them. Others will sit down and participate in some thoughtful deliberation and set some specific goals they wish to achieve. They even go through the process of making them specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

Heck, there are worksheets that you can downloaded and document your goals. On the surface it seems like a good idea. In the spirit of full disclosure every year I would write an article on doing SMART goals instead of resolutions. However, I’ve come to realize that without commitment it doesn’t matter if you have SMART goals or resolutions. If you’re not committed to making things happen, then a resolution is just as good as a having hundred SMART goals neither will be done.

Commitment means doing what is necessary on a regular and consistent basis to achieve your objective. We could have a goal to lose twenty pounds in three months. This is certainly specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. But, what about the work that we need to put in to make this happen. The exercise necessary, the change in one’s diet, the willingness to weigh in regularly? The commitment to changing one’s lifestyle to achieve the weight loss goal? Is the exercise on your schedule and you keep that appointment and not let anything interfere with it?

Let me share an example. I have a friend who is a fellow consultant. We meet twice a month ostensibly to discuss our business and share ideas and strategies. However, we talk about a number of different things, it’s a nice break in the routine. I’ve spoken to him about writing a book on numerous occasions. He’s written two to my zero. I set my SMART goals around writing, but, failed to make the commitment necessary to make it happen. My friend made a commitment to spend two hours a day writing. He did this by scheduling an appointment with himself on his calendar and kept it, as if he was meeting with a client. He made the commitment of scheduling the time and not letting anything get in the way of his doing his writing. He had the discipline to stick with his commitment that I didn’t. That’s why he has two publish books and I have a well-documented set of SMART goals that resemble many New Year’s resolutions.

So, as you start the New Year, make your resolutions or develop your SMART goals, but remember, commitment is essential if you truly desire to make them happen. Auguste Rodin said; “nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.” Personally I may have wasted time in developing my SMART goals, but, this time I intend to “use the experience wisely.” Will you? Hopefully you will and by the way, Happy New Year.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays It Really Doesn’t Matter

Christmas will be on us in two days, and soon, New Years. You have to wonder how the year has pass so quickly. I hope that 2013 has been kind to you and that you have great 2014.

Despite all the hyperactivity by some whether we should wish someone Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays seems to contradict the meaning of this holiday. I don’t think Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John worried about how people we would say to each other during this timeframe.

But, at some point this has become overshadowed about who has the correct greeting or gives the biggest present. Maybe that’s why the Puritans banned the celebration of Christmas from 1620 – 1850 because they found no scriptural justification for its celebration. I really don’t care if they did or didn’t, what fascinates me is, why during this time of year people seem more generous both in spirit and compassion?

Why does the spirit of Christmas only manifest itself during the last week of December? Surely, the compassion that Jesus demonstrated while on earth was year round and not set to a specific time set to recognize his birth. It seems to me the only people who are adamant about a specific manner of greeting during this time of year are extremely narrow minded and see the world in a single dimension.

Allow me to suggest the following; forget about all the fake controversy over greetings during this time of year. Greet people the way you want to be greeted, and if they don’t respond in kind, move on it doesn’t matter, it’s just a greeting not a declaration of loyalty.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved


Happy Thanksgiving

This is a great holiday when family and friends get together to partake in great food and watch a lot of football. I love kidding my daughter about the Detroit Lions who started the Thanksgiving game and have yet to win one. They always loose. Last year they gave her a smidgen of hope that they might win and all I said is, “just wait.” Sure enough they lost. But, we had a good laugh and went back to enjoying her Aunt’s Mac & Cheese.

Happy Thanksgiving. Also, Hanukah is early this year so to all my friends who are Jewish, Happy Hanukah.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved

I Remember November 22, 1963

I walked into the classroom and one of my fellow students said the president has been shot, I laughed and said yeah, Lincoln was shot, thinking he was trying play a joke on me because it was my 5th period history class. He then said, no, President Kennedy has been shot, I was stunned, still not believing it, until our teacher came in and turned on the radio where we all listen in stunned silence.

I couldn’t believe what was happening, how in our day and age was it possible to have committed such a heinous act, the assassination of a sitting president. In my view it was something you only read about in history books, or came to accept as the fate for South American dictators killed as soon as they came to power. But this was impossible here in the United States.

My whole world changed that day. This was a man who was truly on his way to becoming a great president was taken away from us, too soon and far too young.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved

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