The Unnatural State of Organizational Alignment
Entrepreneurs starting a business typically begin with a small, cohesive group of people, all of whom have a solid grasp of the company's customer value proposition. Because of small size many members of the entrepreneurial organization wear many hats, e.g. CEO/chief technician/head of HR, but since they understand the end-to-end process by which the company creates and enhances value for its cu...Read more
A Manager's Job
If you want a thing done well, do it yourself: An old proverb that has its place, but that place is most certainly not in management. Managers earn their way by helping others get things done well - leveraging their competence across a number of subordinates who can accomplish far more than any individual. All too often, though, managers - especially new managers - forget their role of working t...Read more
Question: Preparing for an expat assignment
First of all, congratulations on your assignment and the confidence your company has in your leadership potential. Your willingness to take the expat assignment is a major factor in your favor, and having had a prior international assignment you already have some idea of what to expect. The Japanese culture is likely quite different from your previous assignment, however. It's great that your comp...Read more
Question: Developing a "top talent" pipeline
It's not surprising to hear that "line managers are biased toward current performance in their recommendations about an employee". The same was very likely true in their case. Proficiency as an individual contributor is not uncommonly the primary basis for promotion into management... and the source of ongoing frustration for both that manager and the managed.
A new supervisor will likely, and co...Read more
Question: Linking non-financial KPIs to bottom-line results
Too many metrics, some metrics conflict, and some metrics of questionable value... it seems a wise choice to take a look at your company's approach to metrics. The fact that some of your managers are fond of their pet reporting metrics suggests that those metrics may be aligned with departmental or divisional performance rather than enterprise performance. Therefore, the place to begin is probably...Read more
Question: Are micro-cultures in one organization a bad thing?
Since your one organization is a diversified group with at least manufacturing, banking, and media components, it is unlikely that a single strategy could serve to define it. GE, on the other hand, with its consumer appliances, jet engines, medical imaging, and capital management is well known for its organizational capability in leadership. So it is certainly possible to define capabilities/value...Read more
Question: Reporting to an overconfident boss
One trouble with leaders who won't listen is getting them to hear your concerns about their not listening. A strategy might be careful consideration of this leader's frame of reference. What is he most interested in? What is his communication style? It would seem the best way to engage this leader is to talk about whatever is his top priority. I'd be willing to bet that no matter what is his top p...Read more
Question: Measuring effectiveness of a reorganization strategy
When business performance falls below expectations, it often seems the first reaction is for senior leadership to go off and rearrange the org chart. While there may appear to be potential for savings generated through 'rightsizing', those savings are often dwarfed by the costs of disrupting the business.
One reason restructuring fails is that organizations are much more than a structural syst...Read more
Question: Dispelling the myth that some functions do not do real work
One of the great advantages of cross-functional teams comes from the members of various functions getting to know/appreciate each other and come to a better understanding of those other functions' contributions to the business. It is usually much easier to disparage the work of other functions to members of your own area because you all probably share the belief that yours is the most difficult an...Read more
Question: Defining company culture of a newly divested company
Bully for you for being intentional about shaping your culture! You will have a culture whether you are strategic about it or not, so it's great to be aiming for the culture you want. This is a superb opportunity to determine the identity you want to have: what do you want to be known for by your best customers five years from now? With the high degree of transparency facilitated by social media, ...Read more
Question: Practical advice for busy managers to coach their staff
Your plan for retirement later this year raises the question of who will take over your current responsibilities once you are no longer there. It would seem reasonable to progressively delegate more of your current responsibilities to your successor while you are still available to mentor. If there is no successor identified, perhaps it would behoove your company to make that a priority.
The c...Read more
Question: Creating the company's value statement
It might help to do as Stephen R. Covey advised and "begin with the end in mind". Since your objective is to make your values statement "part of the DNA" of your team, you will want to engage your team as broadly as possible in its development. After all, would the team be likely to enthusiastically embrace a statement developed by the leadership group in isolation?
Your CEO and VP of HR should...Read more
Question: Having a difficult conversation with a subordinate
When two people are candidates for one promotion, it's hard to avoid a perception of winning and losing. That must be the objective of your difficult conversation with the candidate not promoted: framing the situation as an opportunity, rather than a loss. Since your DRs have complementary skills, it should not be a stretch at all to emphasize how much the company values both contributions. It wou...Read more
Question: Driving discipline in a team of creatives
It sounds as though you have the proverbial job of herding cats... congratulations! Interestingly, there is plenty of evidence that some degree of job autonomy contributes to job satisfaction for most, probably especially true for creative types. What makes autonomy work is a corresponding level of accountability: freedom to do the job your way in return for results that answer for quality, quanti...Read more
Question: Difficulties in finding suitable mentors for emerging women leaders
Perhaps it might help to separate the mentor function into the coaching role and the championing role. Your very experienced women professionals have you concerned about their organizational clout, so they may not be optimally effective in the championing role, but they could still contribute to leadership development via the coaching role. Assuming your new mentorship program had support from peo...Read more
Question: Addressing under-performance of a director
The rift you are describing has the potential to impair the company's performance, and as such it is incumbent upon you and your fellow board members to not simply observe from the sidelines. A number of potential actions might be appropriate:
• The Chairman of the Board or a respected member of the board could have an informal conversation with the problem director regarding how to adjust hi...Read more
Question: How to address New Hire Performance issue on appropriate role in Organization
Most people love the notion of having some autonomy in their work, and many organizations recognize the value of having people do what needs doing, rather than waiting to be told what to do. Autonomy must be coupled with accountability, however, in order to keep work efforts aligned with organizational mission, values, and strategy.
Your new hire has done some things that were out of line. Some...Read more
Question: Measuring effectiveness of the management team
There are two ways to measure: counting and judging. Most metrics fall into the counting category because they're easier to accomplish. Obviously, you were asking for an assessment based on your team's respective judgments. The results you received were more remarkable for the spread - from 3-8 out of 10 - than for the average of 5.6. This suggests that your assessment of an 8 is based on a very d...Read more
Question: Changing a "crisis centered" company culture
It has often seemed that people struggle mightily to secure budget approval for proactive endeavors like planning, process improvement, training and development, etc. However, there are never any budgetary constraints for a good old crisis. That goes for all the other scarce resources, too - time, talent, and management attention. So it's not hard to see how a crisis-centered culture develops: it ...Read more
Question: Implementing compensation policy to reduce wage disparities
There is a classic HBR article by Frederick Herzberg ( http://hbr.org/2003/01/one-more-time-how-do-you-motivate-employees/ar/1 ) in which he describes a distinction between things that motivate employees and things that cause dissatisfaction. Guess what... salary is one of the dissatisfiers. Although people certainly appreciate getting paid for their work, their salary does not cause them to jump...Read more
Question: Promoting managerial diversity in a global organization
The benefit from diversity tends to come through innovation. When there is input from people with different perspectives there is a greater chance of new ideas that can lead to valued innovations. Of course along with diverse perspectives there must also be constructive dialogue where those different ideas have a chance to be heard and "chewed on" rather than prematurely dismissed.
I am a big fan...Read more
Question: How do I overcome difficulty in managing older employees?
You certainly must be doing something right since the company obviously has the confidence to place you in leadership roles at a relatively young age - congratulations! The opportunity you describe, managing a really good team of engineers, is a challenge regardless of your age. In my experience, knowledge workers like engineers tend to respect most those with similar technical knowledge and skill...Read more
Question: Issues in reporting to an idealist manager
Your boss brings to mind the Harry Truman quote, "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit". Although humility is a wonderful attribute for a leader, most do not feel the need to be humble of behalf of their staff. In fact, there is a risk for your boss of extinguishing the productive behaviors of your team due to the lack of reinforcement. I very much doubt th...Read more
Question: Impactful meetings with busy team members
Meetings certainly can be a resource drain. It may happen that an individual's day is booked solid in meetings, and none of them were his/her idea. That leaves options of come in early, stay late, or take work home to get individual work done. And the meetings themselves may be awful marathons of updating/reports where the main challenge is to keep your yawns discrete and avoid dozing off.
It m...Read more
Question: Separating signal from noise in strategy discussions
The sequence you have described - having strategy discussions that lead into project approvals and budget discussions - is a great way to prepare for the new year. One way to help maintain focus during these discussions is to center them on your customers. There can be any number of competing functional agendas once you lose focus on the customer. As far as avoiding blind spots, perhaps the key is...Read more
Question: How do I make my annual job evaluation meaningful?
Performance management is a critical component for the success of any organization. If high-performing organizations were the natural outcome of laissez-faire management, most organizations would be high performing. Most are not. Annual performance reviews can be a component of effective performance management, but certainly not as the sole component.
The timing of various aspects of performanc...Read more
Question: High-performing manager with behavioral issues
Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood of The RBL Group defined leadership as the product of attributes X results. Most of what we read about leadership deals with desirable attributes, e.g. honesty, integrity, communication, etc., but people who have the whole portfolio of leadership characteristics yet never get the job done are not great leaders. Your situation is the reverse: a leader who gets results...Read more
Question: Dealing with a subordinate who does not respect lines of authority
One of the most common responses people give to a less-than-glowing performance review is "I didn't know I was supposed to do that." Therefore, it would be good to have a conversation with your subordinate about exactly what your expectations are. These conversations tend to go better if they are not happening in the heat of the moment, i.e. when you are annoyed at just having experienced one of t...Read more
Question: Performance review with high-performers, without managerial skills
Individual contributors with tremendous technical skills and accomplishments do often get promoted to management positions, and sometimes it's hard to tell who hates it more - those individuals or those they manage. Of course you will want to discuss those data points that reflect your people's high performance. Then you might want to discuss where they want to go with their careers and what it wi...Read more
Question: Implementing the organizational matrix
Matrix organizations have some fans and a lot of detractors; the detractors are there largely due to the challenges of working for two bosses. To help a matrix work it's important to have a culture of accountability, primarily accountability to the customer, not the boss. The customer is where your functions and sites have common ground: your end-to-end value creation process includes sales → in...Read more
Question: How can chief executives source unbiased information
You may have a hard time getting unbiased information, but as long as the bias is known, the information can always be useful. If you're looking for candor, you have to make it safe for people to be candid. They tend to be guarded because they fear being punished for saying something that is not well received. Bad news does not travel up the hierarchy unless the people at the top of the hierarchy ...Read more
Question: Public speaking to get the audience truly excited
Congratulations on this opportunity to represent your company on such an occasion! And good for you for thinking of your audience. You already know what not to do: read the bullet points from a series of slides. It sounds like you have a great story to tell, and I'd suggest a picture book. Like Rod Stewart says, "Every picture tells a story".
You may have access to a graphic artist, or you may...Read more
Question: Persuading a reluctant professional to get coached
A good friend, Jim Haudan of Root Inc, has said for years, "People will tolerate your conclusions, but they will act on their own". I've never seen anything that contradicts this. You and others believe he'd benefit from executive coaching; he doesn't agree - he's acting on his own conclusions.
So here we have an executive who has performed off the charts, but who has been overlooked for promo...Read more
Question: Transition from being a division head to being CEO
You are absolutely correct in saying all jobs are different. So, too, are all organizations different. Although your position and industry experience will be invaluable, your relationships with your leadership team and other key members of your new company will also be vitally important. I suspect they will think very highly of you if you begin by understanding the uniqueness of the company from t...Read more
Question: Kickstarting a mentorship program
Congratulations on making leadership development a priority in your company, and on recognizing mentoring as a valuable means of providing such development. Since you indicate having previously tried a mentorship program, perhaps the place to begin is to review lessons learned from your own experience - what worked that you can build on, what didn't work and why. It might be helpful to go outside ...Read more
Question: Resolving conflict in the interests of end-customers and channel partners
When confronting similar dilemmas in the past, I've found it helpful to substitute consumer for customer, because the consumer ultimately defines the relative perceived value of your offering. These days consumers are finding it easier and easier to research what they're getting for their money, so it is wise to address your value proposition very strategically, with the consumer in mind.
You hav...Read more
Question: Cultural considerations for choosing an outsourced service provider
It may be helpful to think of outsourcing options at two levels: those activities that are strategically important in support of your customer value proposition and those that are more routine requirements for your business. It seems you're talking more about strategically important work, and for that it's helpful to have a partnering type of relationship - the outsourced provider becomes a virtua...Read more
Question: Use of internal cultural ambassadors
As I become more undeniably 'vintaged' with each passing day, I applaud your efforts to honor those members of your company. Your observation that your cultural ambassadors and your change initiatives come into conflict is a caution, however, as Peter Drucker advised, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast."
Your lead cultural ambassadors really need to be your CEO and CHRO. The CEO cannot delega...Read more
Question: Countering the culture of workaholism
In my experience it has often seemed that workaholism is highly correlated with busyness, i.e. lots of work related activity that gets in the way of actually being productive. I believe you have identified two of the major drivers: the message sent by the CEO's behavior and the booking of meetings all day long.
There is not likely to be a successful change in your workplace culture without an e...Read more
Question: Value of creativity in organizational leadership
Many companies have wrestled with how to provide an attractive career path for valued individual contributors who really don't have much interest in managing people. So many of these individual contributors have knowledge and experience that would be hard to replace that companies make it a priority to offer them a desirable future with the firm.
Your situation sounds a bit different in that yo...Read more
Question: Looking for a way to have more strategic executive meetings
You are absolutely right about the need for your executive team to be strategic. Who else is going to do it? We see organizational structure at three levels: Operating produces the product/delivers the service, Coordinating supports Operating and coordinates across boundaries, and Strategic monitors the external environment and anticipates future requirements. So delegating operational responsibil...Read more
Question: Changing my team's perception of my behavior
Your CEO is investing in your development; that's a great thing. You appear to be receiving the coaching with a good attitude - also a great thing. It may be that your team is seeing progress, but you are sensitive to anything short of rave reviews. Or they may not be seeing the progress that you are seeing.
It is not at all uncommon for a considerable gap to exist between managers' assessments...Read more
Question: How can we have candid discussions in our meetings?
Candor is indeed a desirable attribute for a leadership team. The demise of most businesses seems to correlate with a failure to deal with the realities presented by their changing business environments. Leaders appreciate candor; dictators not so much. Lack of candor certainly is a red flag, if your goal is to be part of a high-performing organization.
Since you have a relationship with your C...Read more
Question: How can we better engage employees on our strategic initiatives?
The reason engaged employees have such an impact on business performance is that they care about their work and about their organization. Engaged employees see alignment between their personal mission and the mission of the organization - the answer to the question, "Why are we here?"
The reason the vast majority of workers are not engaged is that they see themselves as order takers. No matter ...Read more
Question: Need for dynamic project risk assessments
The beauty of project management is having a defined deliverable and timeline, in contrast to typical day-to-day work activities that seem to be able to continue ad infinitum without any apparent need for accomplishing anything. Managing a portfolio of projects is not easy, but it is a high-value organizational capability.
The assessment and management of project risk is largely a function of ...Read more
Question: Need help to end political games at workplace
First of all, congratulations on your growth! You may be right that the behaviors you've observed are a byproduct of your rapid growth - as you get larger, it's natural to see some sub-grouping. If I'm understanding correctly, the issue is not the formation of alliances, but how those alliances are formed. Assuming that is correct the issue becomes whether your organization is living its values.
Question: Resolving board conflict in a family business group
'Confront the brutal facts' was one of the attributes distinguishing great companies in Jim Collins's wonderful book, Good to Great. As with other attributes of great companies, 'confront the brutal facts' is remarkable because it so rarely happens. And whatever stops most companies from dealing with reality is probably compounded in family-owned businesses. Which is probably one big reason the v...Read more
Question: Making offsites more effective
Employee engagement is a hot topic these days, and with good reason. Companies that are highly rated in employee engagement tend to outperform their counterparts, often to an astonishing degree. While your offsite would indeed be a great development opportunity for the DRs of your executives, your executives will benefit as much or more by hearing their input regarding the key initiatives for 201...Read more
Question: How can we become a learning organization?
Learning as an organizational capability is part of information management. The process of creating optimal value from data needs to be owned by the entire organization. Data capture must lead to quality data, data processing must lead to useful information, informed decision-making leads to experience knowledge, and learning leads to business wisdom. It might be helpful to discuss these objective...Read more
Question: Should we welcome back a former executive who left on bad terms?
One of the most difficult tasks for a business leader is removing an employee from the organization. It is also one of the most critical aspects of a leader's role. Firing someone is hard enough when that someone is neither technically competent nor culturally suited to the organization. When that person is technically outstanding but a cultural misfit, many leaders are so afraid of letting go of ...Read more
Question: Is transition in leadership team right time to reorganize?
Change is always most palatable when it is seen happening at some time in the future. Deferring a needed change is often tempting: "We have got to do this, it's clear, but let's wait until XYZ is finished". Guess what! After XYX is finished, or likely some time before it's finished, ABC happens. "Well, we can't do it now. We have to wrap up ABC." Since you have done an analysis that clearly shows ...Read more