Posts Tagged ‘growth’

Over the last three years, I’ve asked hundreds of business owners this question:

What’s Been Harder in Your Business Than You Expected?

More than 95% of the time, the answer was immediate and unequivocal:

The People!

Jason Colleen owns Colleen Concrete and when I interviewed him he employed about 50 people.  Jason’s response to the question captured the essence of what I heard over and over again.  He said,

“I didn’t expect so many headaches to come from the employees.  Every little problem they have somehow becomes my problem.  People are just so high maintenance.”

Dealing with employees seems to be a universal challenge.  The truth is, people have issues and the more employees you have, the more issues you have.  But there’s another truth as well, and that is:

Great Companies Grow One Person at a Time

Or more precisely, great companies grow one great person at a time.  One of the things I’ve discovered in my own business and in the experience of the owners I’ve interviewed is that you can’t stack enough good people up to make a great one.  Good simply isn’t good enough.  Great people are far more likely than good people to do three things on a consistent basis:

  1. Initiate: Fundamentally, initiative is thought or action that is not prompted by others.  It’s the ability to assess independently and the willingness to take charge before others do.  The soul of initiative is an intensely active engagement – engagement with the company, client, problem or opportunity.  Initiative requires thought, which as Henry Ford said, is probably the hardest work we do.
  2. Stretch: Stretch is about setting your sights higher, much higher, than what seems reasonably achievable. Unless there is a critical mass of people in your company that are willing to reach for incredible, you’ll never achieve incredible.  When you stretch, even if you fall a bit short of incredible, you will inevitably wind up doing better than you would have if you didn’t stretch.
  3. Grow: Employees usually have an expectation that you’ll pay them more next year than you paid them this year.  But why would you?  The only logical reason would be that they contribute more next year than they did this year.  Great employees get that.  They’re always looking for ways to make themselves more valuable.  They improve their skills; they learn how to use new tools; they take classes to expand their knowledge.

That’s what great people look like.  Now, I’m not saying these great people won’t also have some issues.  But if I have to deal with people issues, I’d prefer to be dealing with the issues of highly productive contributors as opposed to the issues of the mediocre, uninspired or disengaged.

In Sharing look for Caring

by Guy Ralfe on April 20, 2010

Whenever you try something new and share your idea with others, you get met with such diverse responses. How people respond affects how you see the world too.

Go through a day where you come across three people who spend all their time telling you why you will fail and you quickly start to question your judgment. On the other hand discuss the same idea with three optimists and you suddenly think you are setting your sights too low.

What we must always be aware of is that when you tell someone your idea or ambition their response is always from their point of view. Their point of view appears to be driven by two factors:

  1. Knowledge of the topic or business area
  2. Support – driven by the persons mood, personality, ambition combination

Having reflected on this over the last few weeks I have come up with Guy’s Magic People Quadrant.

Guy’s Magic People Quadrant

Neatly illustrated in the picture there are four quadrants; Partner, Decoy, Fairy, Onion determined by the intersection of the above two factors of Knowledge and Support.

Partner – These are the individuals you need to isolate and partner with for longer term success. These individuals have a keen understanding of the business or topic to be able to advise, mentor and facilitate your success not just provide you with support. These individuals are interested and inquiring into your plans and able to guide rather than just bestow good wishes. They care.
Decoy – These are the individuals you have to watch out for. While they share the same knowledge as the partner group, their moods, personality and ambitions prevent them for providing you support, unless it is for their gain. These individuals (or groups) appear as inquisitive as partners do but are extremely selfish and you are viewed as purely a pawn to achieve their ambitions. They can come across as supportive but will soon show up in conflict with their words through their actions. BEWARE!

Fairy – This group have little to no knowledge of the topic, however from what you tell them they formulate an image based on how they see what you are doing. Your ambition appears to them as grandiose and enviable. For them they cannot see themselves making a similar choice or action, for this they are in awe and wish you every success, and believe that you will have success. These people would help you if they could. In reality this is the fairy godmother talking to you – yes you do feel good but you are no better off when you wake up.

Onion – The next best way to describe this group is disinterested or self important. These people are so selfish that the notion of you having an ambition brings tears to their eyes. Having the conversation with these types is like talking to a black hole – it sucks the life out of you. Keep clear!

One thing to know is that there is a lot of gray between the obvious extremities that I describe above, but if you are going to discuss your ambitions with others be mindful of the individual behind the spoken words before you respond to them. Reputations are earned and past actions are a fairly good indication of future. There is no short cut to gaining Knowledge, but gaining it from people who care is about as good as it gets.

Seek out Partners in all that you strive for in your careers, and bump into the odd Fairy just to keep your spirits up. Good luck!

Quality #12: Middle Management and Quality Culture

by Tanmay Vora on November 24, 2009

Welcome to the final post in this 12-part series on QUALITY, titled #QUALITYtweet – 12 Ideas to Build a Quality Culture.

Here are the first eleven posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look:

  1. Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator
  2. Quality #2: Cure Precedes Prevention
  3. Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality
  4. Quality #4: Simplifying Processes
  5. Quality #5: Customers are your “Quality Partners”
  6. Quality #6: Knowing what needs improvement
  7. Quality #7: Productivity and Quality
  8. Quality #8: Best Practices are Contextual
  9. Quality #9: Quality of Relationship and Communication
  10. Quality #10: Inspection can be a waste if…
  11. Quality #11: Driving Change Through Leadership

#QUALITYtweet Middle management is the glue

joins long-term organizational goals with short-term

improvement actions.

Strategies for growth and improvement that take a shape in corporate boardrooms are implemented on the floor by people at all levels. Middle managers translate these larger goals and vision into actionable tasks that teams execute. Middle management of your organization plays a pivotal role in mobilizing people to execute tasks in line with larger goals and values.

Most “Quality Improvement” literature focuses on “commitment from the top”. That is the first step. I would also like to emphasize on “commitment from the middle management” because they are a very important link between the top and the bottom.

The primary focus of the top management should be on nurturing the middle layer of management, for they can make a huge difference in organization’s growth. They form the culture and set the tone and behavior for people who execute. A strong middle management means strong organization.

Typically, the role of middle managers in quality management is:

  • To ensure that all actions, tasks and behaviors are aligned to the broader vision and goals.
  • To build a strong customer oriented culture by setting right examples.
  • Not just to manage people, but truly lead them.
  • To have a strong business acumen to facilitate right decision-making
  • To be oriented to and driven by customer needs, hence building a customer-oriented culture.
  • To take accountability of culture-building and not always look at the top for directions.
  • To mobilize people to drive quality.
  • To involve people at all level in team in process improvement
  • To ensure right flow of information at all levels
  • To manage employee behaviors and focus on team effort to deliver quality

Top management should formally delegate responsibility of process improvement to a group or an individual. If quality improvement isn’t anybody’s job, it is not surprising that it doesn’t get done.

People look at their leaders as role models who are expected to be setting right examples. Middle management behavior and attitude ultimately ends up shaping the overall organization culture. If you want to get a pulse of an organization, just observe how middle managers communicate and the content of communication. With positive communication and motivation, employees can be truly engaged to the mission of the project and hence the organization. Quality of communication and leadership with internal customers (people) is as important as that with external customers.

Managers tell stories that people believe in and adopt. Challenge for people at the top is to ensure that middle managers tell right stories, which ultimately builds the right culture.

Keep your middle management focused, and rest of the culture building activity becomes much easier.