Working to Code – An Example of Defining the Basics

My partner and sweetie introduced me to the concept of knolling (a method of organizing objects). She is a university professor who teaches a creative design-heavy capstone marketing class. Turns out that knolling is only Bullet #7 in Tom Sachs “The Code”, the rules for being a successful employee at his design studio. It struck me how fundamental these rules were, The Basics if you will, and how important he must believe they are to the success of his company for him to codify them in this way.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every company or organization were this clear on their values and expected behaviours? That they understood what drives their success? Many organizations do, but most don’t. At least not in a living and authentic way.

What are you personal, team, or company bullets/basics/code? What disciplines, processes, and tools drive your success?

p.s. Tom also has a “How to Sweep” video. I would argue that if you or your company cannot thoughtfully and elegantly describe its work in a similar way, you might now know what you’re doing.

 

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Who Owns the Strategy of Your Company?

Omar Bradley studying the current situation

I believe that there are two responsibilities a CEO cannot give away or delegate: deciding who works for them, and the strategy / vision / direction of the company. Which is interesting, because I make my living helping companies build and execute strategic priorities.

Really, if I think about it, my role is to create the habit of strategic thinking and execution inside their companies. Not just an event that happens once a year. I consider myself successful when I’ve worked myself out of a job. My clients “graduate” when they exercise disciplined strategic review and energetic execution  for themselves.

How do I know when their ready? First, they have priorities. Second, the way they spend all their individual and company resources (time, money, materials, people) lines up with what they say their priorities are. Third, they are successful doing so (for whatever their definition of success is), and can vigorously confront or adjust for any obstacles to that execution.

If you need a little more strategic thinking in your organization / team / company / life, this article talks about the role of the strategist / strategy in a company:

Rethinking the Role of the Strategist

 

I’m Going to Provide an Overwhelming Rational Argument, and then Fail

Third in a series about communication and change management

An Aurora Police Department detective takes a witness statement following a shooting outside the 16 movie theatre in Aurora. Aurora Police responded to the Century 16 movie theatre where police confirm at least 14 people are dead and 50 others injured. AP Photo/Karl Gehring Shooting at Batman screening

“Fact, just the facts ma’am.”

Great if you’re investigating a murder. Insufficient if you’re inspiring action or driving change. It is a mistake to believe that any solely rational, logical, or well-constructed argument will persuade people to set aside their own perceived best interest in favour of doing what’s right or doing what’s correct.

Many people will listen to a rational arguement, analysis, or well-constructed thesis and wonder what you’re up to. What do you really want? What are you trying to hide? Even executives – especially executives – know that any one set of numbers and facts can be tortured to confess whatever is needed to support both sides of the same arguement  Most of us make decisions based on gut, and rationalize that decision with facts and analysis afterwards.

I’m not saying you don’t need to be skeptical, or that you don’t need to do that analysis. As Stephen Lynch once said, “You can run your business with discipline, or you can run it with regret.” But rational  arguement is not going to overcome behavioural inertia in others.

You are going to need more than just the facts.

Fix #3 Appeal to Their Hearts Too

Martin Luther King didn’t say “I have a plan.”

He said “I have a dream.”

Stories, vision, passion, vulnerability. These are what persuade. Concrete, tangible, visual goals are what drive action.

Yes, your plan has to be based in reality. Businesses have to make money to live. But the purpose of a business cannot and should not be just to make money. Your body needs to make red blood cells in order to live, but that’s not your life’s purpose. A doctor gets paid well, but doctors don’t exist to make money.

Businesses need a higher purpose too. Maybe you’re not going to solve world hunger, but you should have a vision beyond just X percentage growth, or Y dollars revenue. Have the guts to stand for something. Something that inspires people to leap out of bed in the morning and eagerly embrace their work.

Amazon’s goal is to provide “Every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.” Henry Ford wanted to “Democratize the automobile.” Google wants to “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Not every purpose is going to appeal to every person, but you want it to appeal to the people that are working for you.

Hopefully your change is tied to the higher purpose of the company. An emotional, human connection that impels the actions, and energy needed to overcome inertia and drive change deeply and quickly in your team or company.

Or you could write another policy change. Your choice.

Will You Be Successful?

There’s a little game I play with myself when I have a new client. I try to guess if a client is going to have a successful engagement with me or not. I can usually tell after the first week (I see my clients once a week, kind of like a leadership therapist.)

The first sign is if they do they things they say they’re going to do. Did they do the reading, complete the survey, do their homework despite the business of their day-to-day in the business challenges.

The second sign is how they deal with it when somebody doesn’t deliver. Do they confront the performance issue (no matter how trivial it might seem), or do they talk around it?

When leaders are willing to confront uncomfortable situations. False harmony suffocates execution. Healthy, passionate conflict brings clarity, fees engagement, drives momentum.

Do you avoid facing certain conversations because they’re personally uncomfortable, or do you face what needs to be faced even at the risk of being wrong. Is it safe to tell you bad news? Can you handle the truth? Are you willing to be wrong and know about it quickly?

Leaders Are Always Communicating

Even when you’re not writing or talking, you’re still communicating. You’re communicating even when you’re not on the job. I learned this early in my military career when I spent the evening celebrating a recent promotion. The privates at the unit knew all about it the next morning. I was celebrating a little enthusiastically, so to speak.

Everything we say or don’t say is a message. Everything we do or don’t is a message. Every situation you notice or don’t is noticed in turn. What’s your message been lately?

The First Question to Ask After You Delegate

Short posting today. This is such a simple idea that I wish I’d learned it years ago. I’ve started asking my clients this question, and it even seems to work with my teenage daughter.

After you’ve decided how to delegate, and you’ve asked the person you’re delegating to set their deadline, a great way to close the delegation is to ask:

How would you like me to hold you accountable if you can’t meet your deadline?

See how that works? Now go try it.

Question for the Comments

What happens when you ask people how they want to be held to their commitments?

Other Articles You May Be Interested In

The First Question to Ask Before You Delegate
Four Different Ways to Delegate
Why Delegating to Your Staff is Good For Them

Bernie works as a leadership and business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well, and that not doing anything about bad leadership once you know about it is abuse. Check out what he does with RESULTS.com

The First Question to Ask Before You Delegate

There are two important questions you should consider when you’re delegating a task. Especially if it’s beyond the level of “Take action, don’t report” type. Two questions that will improve the probability of success. But asking the questions isn’t enough. How we react to the answers, and how well we follow through have the greatest impact.

The first question is:

When Can You Get This Done By?

It’s a pretty straight-forward question, and you might think I’m kidding. There are times when it’s appropriate to arbitrarily set deadlines. In reality most work isn’t life or death. And one of the biggest motivators for even rudimentary cognitive work is autonomy. The ability to govern oneself.

Many times the most productive action bosses can take is to get out of the way. Let the people working for us do what they do well. Let them figure out how to do the work instead of being treated like a cog in the machine. Maybe they don’t do it exactly the way you could, and that’s OK. It will still get done.

So when you ask this question or any question please, actually ask a question, and then have enough intestinal fortitude to respect the answer.

Actually Ask A Question

“I need you to do this.” is not a question. It doesn’t even have a question mark at the end. Yet that’s often how tasks are assigned. How much autonomy are we granting the person assigned the task when we do this? None.

If you really ask a question, use a sentence with a question mark at the end. Can you do this? and When can you do this by? are both examples of actual questions. If you need the work done by a specific date, then ask “Can you do this by Tuesday?” (or whatever the date is).

Asking puts the responsibility for completion with the delegate, increases their commitment to the task, builds a relationship, and allows them to develop their priority management skills independently. All things good managers who are committed to developing their staff will want.

And don’t worry that it will diminish your status. It won’t. Treating people like cogs in the machine will.

Respect the Answer

A wise sergeant once told me to never give an order I knew wouldn’t be obeyed. I say never ask a question that you don’t want to hear the answer to. You may have to negotiate, re-balance workload, or ask questions about priorities. And you may not like some of the answers.

Yet your job as a manager is to deal with reality, not react to the pressures put on you and pass them down. If you’re not going to manage the priorities put on you and your staff, then you’re not really needed, are you?

One of my clients called this being “a window”, just trickling down the directives and orders from on high. He’s the regional manager for a recruiting and placement firm. Last week they had no new starts in all of Western Canada, which was a huge under-performance for him and for the region. His CEO asked him “How can a region your size have no new starts in a month?”, a question for which there is no good answer.

Yet he didn’t start banging the table and  demand that people start producing. I’ve seen leaders who know better, cave under the pressure and threaten their staff with the boogey-man of “heads are going to roll” and their boss being “not happy”. And really what does anybody at the front line of an organization care if the CEO is happy or not, even if she knew what to do about it?

He has a plan for measuring, coaching, and increasing performance across the entire region, and he’s sticking to it. He’s putting the right people in place, he’s showing confidence in his staff, and they’re working their tails off for them.  He’s leading, not letting himself be buffaloed into a knee-jerk reaction.

Question for the Comments

How have you handled push-back to your delegations in the past? What do you do when somebody tells you they can’t and won’t do the work you’d like them to do?

Other Articles You May Be Interested In

Four Different Ways to Delegate
Why Delegating to Your Staff is Good For Them
You Need to Get Good At This to be a Leader

Bernie works as a leadership and business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well, and that not doing anything about bad leadership once you know about it is abuse. Check out what he does with RESULTS.com

Four Different Ways to Delegate

El Campesino leading the troops into the battle in BruneteDelegation is important, delegation is underutilized, and delegation doesn’t need to be complicated. If you can learn to successfully delegate, you’ll have added an important tool to your leadership toolkit.

Not everything has to be delegated in the same way. Nor does it need to be complicated, but you probably should take some time, even just 30 seconds, to decide how to delegate.

Consider these four “levels” of delegation, and which is appropriate to the task and the ability of the delegate.

Level 1: Take Action, Don’t Report

Some tasks don’t need a lot of detail, explanation, or even tracking. You trust the person assigned the task, or they’ve done the task successfully in the past. She can to act independently. If that’s the case, just go ahead and delegate.

My daughters raises rabbits in our back yard. Reminding her to feed her bunnies is an example of “fire and forget” delegation.

Level 2: Take Action, Report When Done

Either you want to ensure the task is done, or the task requires coordination with others. Be prepared to follow-up if and when the deadline passes. If they’re not responsible, and can’t or won’t do what they said they were going to do, that’s on them. If you don’t hold them accountable for it, that’s on you.

Cleaning out the bunny cage on a regular basis – a dirty, unloved chore – requires follow-up and even inspection to ensure compliance.

Level 3: Recommend Action, Get Approval

We want the delegate to do the research, make a decision, and recommend an action. They may either then be tasked with that action or not.

At this level we really start to see some of the “development” benefits of delegating. As a rule of thumb, if you believe the person you have in mind for this task can do 70% of the work, then go ahead and use them. They’ll need mentoring, coaching, and support, but that will be part of your delegation plan (more on that later).

We had a late season litter of five kits show up a couple of weeks ago. Surprise! The next local bunny and chicken auction (where all this started all those years ago, and where we could sell them at a good margin) isn’t until spring. We had to come up with other options. Listing them on Kijiji, selling them to local pet stores, or getting a second hutch and holding out for a bigger profit at the spring auction were some of the choices she considered.

Level 4: Analyse Different Options

This is appropriate for an especially complicated, challenging, or risky task. It’s also a huge opportunity to get insight into and shape the thinking of the person delegated to. At this level you are explicitly reserving the right to decide which option, if any, to choose. You may also decide to focus on researching and analyzing more thoroughly the most promising options after the initial report.

Since Nichole (the daughter) might be moving out to go to college next fall, we have to start planning for what we’re going to do with the rabbits. You can imagine I have a vested interested in managing this transition, otherwise I’ll be stuck with shovelling bunny poop while she’s away.

Anybody interested in taking over a viable bunny raising business? Hutch included.

Question for the Comments: What is the next steps in your team or organization when somebody fails to deliver what they promised? How does your company hold people accountable?

Other Articles You May Be Interested In:
Learning By Doing
You Need to Get Good At This to be a Leader
Why Delegating to Your Staff is Good For Them

Bernie works as a leadership and business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well, and that not doing anything about bad leadership once you know about it is abuse. Check out what he does with RESULTS.com

Why You Should Hire a 23-Year-Old to Run Your Social Media

The Design4Change folks I’ve had the privilege of working with this summer got a bee up their nose last week, and rightly so. Being a bunch of hard-work, smart, passionate twenty-somethings they took umbrage at reading an article that argued new graduates were not to be trusted with your company’s band.

They disagreed, and eloquently make their case here: Why You Should Hire a 23-Year-Old to Run Your Social Media.

I can only repeat what they already said: It comes down to hiring the right people.

If you have the right strategy – you’ve put the time and effort into thinking about and planning where you want to take your company and how to get there, and you have the right leadership – you spend the time and effort making sure the right people are doing the right things to get you there – then the age of the person doing the job doesn’t matter.

If you don’t take the time and effort to set strategy and provide leadership you might be very busy doing the wrong things. Then it doesn’t matter who you hire for any position because they’ll be doing the wrong things. Hiring on the basis of age (or ethnicity, or religion, or political belief, or gender, or sexual orientation, etc.), for me, is stupid and another example of lazy thinking.

Question for the Comments:
Who’s the youngest, sharpest person you have working for you? What are you doing to make sure they have what they need to do their best everyday at work, and keep learning and growing?

Other Articles You May Be Interested In:
Who Are Your Best Employees?
How To Empower Your Employees

Bernie works as a leadership and business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well, and that not to do anything about bad leadership once you know about it is abuse. Check out what he does with RESULTS.com

Bad Profit

Still on vacation (tough, I know). Here’s another article I wrote for the Results.com blog a couple of months ago, about how Bad Profit Can Undermine Your Business Execution Success. See you next week!

Bernie works as a leadership and business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well, and that not to do anything about bad leadership once you know about it is abuse. Check out what he does with RESULTS.com