Archive for the ‘People Management’ Category

One of my all-time favorite management gurus is W. Edwards Deming. In my opinion, Deming along with Peter Drucker were the most important management minds of the 20th century. Here, on a cold, rain sunday night is a wonderful taste of his wisdom:

The prevailing system of management has destroyed our people. People are born with intrinsic motivation, self-esteem, dignity, curiosity to learn, joy in learning. The forces of destruction begin with toddlers–a prize for the best Halloween costume, grades in school, gold stars–and on up through the university. On the job, people, teams, divisions are ranked–reward for the one at the top, punishment for the one at the bottom.

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apologize1I recently discovered the audio book, The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch. A long-standing academic tradition, the “last lecture” is premised on what a professor might say to a class as a final “words of wisdom.” Dr. Pausch, terminally ill from pancreatic cancer, actually delivered a last lecture at Carnegie Mellon on September 18, 2007 where has was a professor of computer science. The audio book was terrific and I am enjoying a second listen. The YouTube link to the video can be found here.

With wonderful candor, and humility, Dr. Pausch shares great wisdom and practical advice on living a life worthy of itself. Framed as a future gift to his three children, The Last Lecture, is a gift to all of us. Let me share a scintilla of his wisdom on how to make an apology.

The art of apologizing and meaning it has all but been lost in a time of spin, market messaging, and legal language. The ability to apologize — to deescalate and step away from the Sirens’ call of “being right” — is so very important. Yet, what often results are half-hearted and thinly veiled attempts to manipulate and wallow in the luxury of being right.

But what if apologizing is acknowledging that life is just complicated and two people, or two litigants, or two warring nations just see the circumstance from very different vantage points?

It seems like we have a choice — we can be right (always attractive to us humans), or we can be effective. Maybe, just maybe, apologizing is a commitment to ourselves to become complete, to let go, to move on. Could it be that apologizing is an act of self-creation and healing for ourselves?

Dr. Pausch talks of the two ways that we so often “apologize.”

  1. “I’m sorry you feel hurt by what I’ve done.” Get real, that isn’t apologizing; it’s a toxic spin to make ourselves right.
  2. I apologize for what I did, but you also need to apologize for what you’ve done to me.” No cigar here either. This is asking for an apology, not giving one.

Both of the above are life sucks, and will just piss people off. Then damn, we get to be right again.

Randy recommends a much more effective, three-step process to effective apologizing:

  1. What I did was wrong”
  2. “I feel badly that I hurt you.”
  3. “How do I make this better?”

Talk about words creating healing. And yes, some people might attempt to take advantage of you when you ask how you can make it better. But Randy found that people will generally appreciate that you made a good effort. He found that they may tell you how to make improve the situation in some overall, easy way. And often, they’ll work hard to make thing better themselves.

Randy’s parting words are to “be patient for others to come around, because they just might.” But either way, we are complete; we can move on. I know for myself I am reminded of the old saw, “too long dumb, too short smart.”

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There’s being committed to the job, and then there’s being a workaholic. It might sound like a polite euphemism for someone who puts maybe a little too much time into work or seems a little too dedicated.

But according to Bryan Robinson, a retired psychology professor, workaholism is an addiction, a serious one that harms not only the addict but also everyone around the person. In fact, it also does a disservice to the group, company or organization to which the workaholic belongs.

Being a workaholic has been linked to sleep disorders, heart attacks and strokes.  In his book, Chained to the Desk, Robinson identifies 12 symptoms that are signs of being workaholic.  While none of these alone point to pathology, taken together they indicate a serious problem.    

The 12 signs are:

  1. Rarely delegating or asking for help;
  2. Showing impatience with others’ work;
  3. Often doing two, three or more tasks at one time;
  4. Committing to work; biting off more than one can chew;
  5. Feeling guilty and/or lost when not at work;
  6. Focusing on results, not the task;
  7. Focusing on planning, ignoring the here and now;
  8. Continuing to work after others quit;
  9. Imposing pressure-filled deadlines;
  10. Seldom relaxing;
  11. Attending more to work than to relationships; and,
  12. Lacking hobbies and social interests.

Source: The Nonprofit Times

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Staff turnover for any organization has a tremendous cost. According to Leigh Branham in The 7 hidden reasons employees leave: How to recognize the subtle signs and act before it’s too late, the top seven reasons why people leave jobs are:

  • Reason #1: The job or workplace was not as expected.
  • Reason #2: The mismatch between job and person.
  • Reason #3: Too little coaching and feedback.
  • Reason #4: Too few growth and advancement opportunities.
  • Reason #5: Feeling devalued and unrecognized.
  • Reason #6: Stress from overwork and work-life imbalance.
  • Reason #7: Loss of trust and confidence in senior leaders.

Notice that none of these reasons have anything to do with salary.

The implication for leadership is clear. New order leaders must:

  • Build cohesion
  • Inclusion must become the norm
  • Attend to the needs of multiple stakeholders
  • Change the organization’s perspective from one of deficit-thinking to one of abundance and compassion

Take away: What is one small thing that you can do today that will put your organization on the path to building an environment where people are honored for their personhood, valued for their contributions, and coached to succeed?

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As the nonprofit sector grows, it faces perhaps its greatest challenge in its long history of service to America – an acute leadership shortage. According to a study by the Bridgespan Group, nonprofit organizations will need 640,000 new senior leaders over the next 10 years. That’s 2.4 times today’s number. And the study says that the demand for new leaders could be as high as 1.2 million.

Given the significant management challenges faced by nonprofits, “any kind of leader” will not due. According to Tom Tierney, chairman of the Bridgespan Group:

It’s harder to run a nonprofit than a private company, you have the extra layer of a board of directors – and you’re wearing a lot of different hats. Successful leadership will call for individuals who are value-driven, highly-skilled managers capable to lead, inspire and transform.

It’s apparent that the Ford Foundation understand this new reality. In the August 14th issue of The New York Times, Ford announced that it selected Luis A. Ubiñas, who has worked for the international consulting firm McKinsey & Company for 18 years, as its next leader. Mr. Ubiñas’s appointment has stunned the nonprofit world, which has been speculating about who in the field would succeed Susan V. Berresford, Ford’s influential leader who retires in January. Ford is the nation’s second-largest foundation, with $11 billion in assets.

Increasingly high-profile nonprofit jobs are going to people who have done well in the business world or politics, a reflection of the pressure on charities and foundations to become more accountable.

What is your organization doing to increase the skills of your leaders? Do you have a board committee specifically dedicated to leadership development? What percent of your operating budget are you setting aside for training?

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customer-serviceWhy is it that we never speak of customer service in our nonprofit work? Be honest, when was the last time you heard someone refer to increasing customer service, or customer satisfaction? I can’t remember one time.

What does this say about how we view our clients, particularly for organizations that don’t sell a service like hospitals, arts and cultural nonprofits.

The Ritz-Carlton has made a brand out of exceptional customer service. Matter-of-fact, they won the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award twice (I am a Baldrige examiner). They have something to teach every organization about customer service.

Diana Oreck, vice-president of The Leadership Center for the Ritz-Carlton shared some of the company policies in employment and customer. Listen to what she said, how can you apply it to your organization? If you charged for your client services, would you have any buyers?

  • Good customer service is like poetry in motion, Oreck said.
  • And customer service starts with proper training for all employees.
  • The service philosophy is so simple, but many companies are giving it lip service, she said.
  • It all starts with hiring the right people. The Ritz has an elaborate interview-testing method that was developed specifically to identify personalities that are “customer-focused.”
  • Communication with customers is a necessity, she said.
  • Happy people spend more money, Oreck said. Verbiage is important. We use customers’ names. It’s important. And we want them back. How many companies blow it in the last second when dealing with customers?
  • Perhaps listening to customers is the most useful tool.
  • If you receive a complaint, own it, she said. Then resolve it to the guest’s satisfaction. While service is declining in other industries, we have continued to increase business and offer guests unparalleled customer service. This can only be done through highly trained and motivated employees.

Let you organization’s ego “hold it’s breath.” What can you learn from her comments?

Source: Shottenkik, J. (2005, April 6). VP of Ritz-Carlton speaks at Oklahoma City leadership program, says success hinges on good customer service. Journal Record, 1.

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I ran across the following comment on diversity by Dr. Leonard Berry from Texas A&M University, and wanted to share it with you:

Strong values-driven leadership enables organizations to achieve what John Gardner calls wholeness incorporating diversity.

Speaking to a Stanford University graduating class, Gardner told them their goal was “not to achieve wholeness by suppressing diversity, nor to make wholeness impossible by enthroning diversity, but to preserve both.”

Source: Berry, L. (1999). Discovering the soul of service: The nine drivers of sustainable business success. New York: The Free Press.

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angry1Anger is a force that can move an organization forward to improve, or, it can be a force that destroys the organization’s ability to fulfill its purpose on an everyday level. Managers play a critical role in determining which of these results will come about.

The way the manager deals with conflict and anger will set the climate for employees. Here are some helpful tips provided by Robert Bacal on dealing with the angry employee.

  • When an employee expresses anger, deal with it as soon as possible. That doesn’t mean in two weeks! By showing a desire to make time to discuss the situation, you are showing that you are concerned, and value the employee and his or her perceptions and feelings. Many performance problems reach crisis proportions as a result of delay in dealing with anger.
  • Certain situations require privacy for discussion since some people will be unwilling to air their feelings at a public staff meeting. However, if anger is expressed in a staff meeting, you can develop a positive climate in the organization by dealing effectively with it in public. One technique is to ask the angry employee whether they would like to discuss it now, or prefer to talk about it privately. Let them call the shot.
  • Always allow the employee to talk. Don’t interrupt. If they are hesitant to talk, encourage them by using a concerned, non-defensive tone and manner, and gently use questions. For example:

    You seem a bit upset. I would like to help even if you are angry with me. What’s up?

    If an employee refuses to talk about what’s bothering them, consider adjourning by saying:

    I can understand that you are hesitant to talk about this, but we would probably both be better off if we got it out in the open. Let’s leave it for a few days and come back to it

  • Then follow up on the conversation.

  • Respond to the employee’s feelings first, not the issue underlying the feelings. Use empathy first by saying something like:

    It sounds like you are pretty annoyed with me. I would like to hear your opinion.

  • Before stating “your side” or your perception of the situation, make sure you have heard what the person said. Use active listening.

    George, if I understand you correctly, you are angry because you feel that I have not given you very challenging assignments, and you feel that I don’t have any confidence in your abilities. Is that right?

  • If the employee’s perceptions do not match your perceptions express your perceptions in a way that tries to put you and the employee on the same side. Your job is not to prove the employee wrong (even if they are).
  • Trying to prove the employee is incorrect is likely to increase the anger level even if you are right.

    George, I am sorry you feel that way. Let me explain what I think has happened so you can understand my thinking. Then we can work this out together.

  • A technique used by expert negotiators is to establish agreement about something. Before getting into the issues themselves, lay the groundwork by finding something the two of you agree on. Again, the point here is to convey the message that you are on the same side.

    For example:

    George, I think we agree that we don’t want this issue to continue to interfere with our enjoyment of our work. Is that accurate?

  • At the end of a discussion of this short check in, check with the employee to see how they are feeling. The general pattern is:

    • Deal with feelings first
    • Move to issues and problem-solving
    • Go back to feelings (check it out)
    • Ask the employee if they are satisfied with the situation, or simply ask, “Do you feel a bit better?” You may not always get a completely honest response, so be alert to tone of voice and non-verbal cues.
  • If it appears that the employee is still upset or angry, you may want to let it pass for the moment. Allow the person to think about the situation away from you, THEN follow-up in a day or two. This is important because someone who is angry initially may “lose face” by letting the anger go immediately. Or, the employee might just need time to think about your discussion.

Good luck!

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Separating an employee from your organization can be extraordinarily stressful. If you are preparing to let an employee go, remember these four things:

  • Documentation: Be sure that you have a record of the worker’s performance, including any communication about missed benchmarks.
  • A Plan: Map out when and where it will happen, who will be there, and what will be said. Have a strategy for continuing the person’s unfinished projects.
  • Checklist: Make a list of items to collect, such as keys, laptop, and passwords.
  • HR Backup: Enlist a staffer from human resources to brief the worker on continued health insurance, accrued vacation, and final pay.

Keep the conversation civil, but to the point.

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A new survey in the March 22nd issue of The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that long hours and low pay are key reasons why young nonprofit professionals do not expect to stay in charity work. Based on a survey released at the national conference of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, other findings were just as sobering.

  • Forty-five percent of nonprofit workers predict that their next job will not be at a charity, but in government or business.
  • Additional concerns included pressures form board members, grantmakers, and heavy work burdens faced by executive directors.
  • Organizational structure was also a disincentive with most chariies considered very hierarchical.
  • Others cite that racism and sexism are alive and well in the very organizations that rally against these ills.

What are you doing to encourage younger workers to make career investments in your organization? How is the “give-get” balance? What are you giving, so employees will stay, and stay engaged?

The complete study will soon be available on the Network’s Website at http://www.ynpn.org.

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