Posts Tagged ‘manager’

Doing what is Right Vs. Being the Best

by Brian Beedle on September 27, 2010

Defined by Webster’s Dictionary, the word “Best”:

of the highest quality, excellence, or standing: the best work; the best students”.

Every day in business, we are faced with challenges that require us to act quickly and to react even quicker.  As leaders we are expected to make pivotal decisions; we are exposed to different types of challenges, and are expected to accurately address problems each and every day. These challenges we are faced with often take us outside of our comfort zone, and require us to take on responsibilities and make decisions that we sometimes feel go beyond our areas of expertise.

As a manager, I always strive to do things right and deliver a high quality product to my customer, whether internal or external.  But is “doing things right” necessarily enough? Or should management go beyond “doing things right” and strive for ONLY being the best at what you do?

Coincidentally, I had a conversation with my son today who recently began his freshman year at college in August. We discussed the challenges that he is currently facing in college and how the effort that he is putting forth today, lays the groundwork for later success in college, and the successes that he will encounter as he lives the life he chooses as an adult. It was very obvious to me that he was frustrated with the conversation, but later in the evening, it was even clearer that he agreed with me and understood my point.  A BREAKTHROUGH!

The following are some points to keep in mind:

  • As a parent, it is important to instill values in your children during their formative years.  Teaching your children that “doing the right thing” is not only important but necessary. Being aware that one is doing the right thing will ultimately pave the path for a productive, ethical and value based lifestyle.
  • As a student, it is important to identify one’s successes and identify the challenges that exist. The level of competition today for graduates of Generation Y is far greater than those of Generation X.  Being able to assert yourself and have the ability to identify the fine line between doing the right thing and knowing what it takes to become the best at what you do, is critical. Developing this skill set early will yield significant advantages, and make the transition into the workforce, and ultimately becoming a successful manager far easier. Providing young people today with the tools to be able to understand what it is to exceed beyond “doing the right thing” is necessary.  Students must subscribe to the teachings of the leaders within our colleges and communities, and identify mentors to coach Gen Y in developing the skills to become the best at what they do.
  • As a manager, it is important to continue to learn and develop one’s skills. As technology and business changes, it is necessary to maintain the competitive advantage and remain current on today’s business needs. Many top companies enlist the practices of Six-Sigma and ITIL as part of the company’s culture. Enlisting a quality program will assist in removing the effects of errors and to minimize the inconsistency in business processes.  A Six-Sigma program is a huge commitment for a company and not only requires major changes to business processes; it requires a change in culture.  If a company is not prepared to set forth on the Six-Sigma adventure, it is possible for companies to employ certain aspects of Six-Sigma into their business to improve business processes.

In today’s economic environment, it may be more of a common place than not for companies to cut corners in order to save a nickel or dime, yielding a lack of quality.  Now is the time for businesses to focus on quality and set the standard for providing the best possible product or service possible.  Businesses must continue to redefine and work to establish themselves as the business segment leader, as well as the leader in quality and value, when a favorable economy returns.

Check your ego at the door!

by guest on August 12, 2009

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check my ego at the doorWhen I look back over all the important lessons that I have learned during and related to my career, some of the most important came before my career even started.

First, some background:

I had the distinct advantage of being an engineering intern at a large aerospace firm while I was a sophomore in college. It allowed me a unique viewpoint in that I was surrounded by exciting technology and incredibly accomplished people (and I knew I couldn’t be laid off, which was a plus). I viewed this time as an opportunity to learn about careers in advance of starting my own. The world was bright and full of possibilities. I soaked up as much as I could about the profession, about corporate America, and about careers in general.

It was during this time that I experienced one of the most important lessons that I have ever learned – to check one’s ego at the door.

One afternoon I was asked to join an engineering review meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to review the progress and share ideas for improvement of the 8 major components that comprised the device we were making. Each component was represented by the lead engineer. In addition, there was a project manager and myself. The 10 of us entered a conference room at 2:00PM for a 2 hour meeting.

What ensued was a lesson that I still reference today.

The engineer of component #1 stood up, gave his progress report, and stated some of the challenges he was experiencing and how he planned to solve them. The other 7 engineering leads then suggested alternative solutions and constructive criticism (and the suggestions were quite good). Upon each suggestion, however, the lead engineer of component #1 immediately shook his head and responded that his solution was superior and that there was no need to consider alternatives. The other 7 engineers became agitated that their views were not being fully considered. But the engineer of component #1 concluded his presentation and sat down. Following his presentation, the lead engineer of component #2 stood up, gave his progress report, and stated the challenges that he was experiencing. Again, the other 7 engineering leads gave suggestions and alternative solutions, but they were similarly dismissed by the lead engineer of component #2. Again, the other 7 engineering leads became agitated that their solutions were not being considered. The lead engineers of remaining 6 components, in turn, gave their presentations, listened to the suggestions and criticisms, and dismissed them. And in each case, the 7 other engineers were agitated that their views were not being considered.

In all, the “2 hour” meeting took 6 hours to complete, primarily due to the length of time that each engineer took to refute the proposed suggestions. In each case, the lead engineer expended immense effort to prove that his ideas were superior to all the others. And in each case, the other 7 engineers expended immense effort to prove that their alternative solutions were worth merit. But in each case, the engineers were willing to provide criticism but not receive it… or one could also assess that each engineer was capable of talking, but none was capable of listening!

As an intern, I found myself amused and chuckling quietly to myself. If this had been a graded exercise for one of my engineering laboratory classes, we all would have failed because while we would have succeeded in communicating ideas, we would have failed in sharing and accepting ideas for improvement. What I didn’t immediately understand was that if I, a sophomore in college, could perceive the problem, why couldn’t the lead engineers? What was the specific problem that was preventing them from learning from one another?

What was the source of the problem?

And then it struck me!

It was not about the problem or the best solution anymore… it had become all about the egos! Each engineer had committed the same mistake of allowing their ego to interfere with the exploration of a better solution. Their egos were preventing the learning process from occurring.

It became clear to me, at that point, that the key to a successful meeting (and career) is checking your ego at the door so that your mind is open to other possibilities. Leave your ego outside the conference room (or office building).

I am so glad that I learned that lesson during that day. At each stage of my career following that meeting, I have allowed for the possibility that – “for every solution I have conceived, there may be a better one.”

The biggest takeaway for me:

I have recalled this lesson time and again and it has helped me to NOT avoid criticism. In fact, I have learned to seek criticism and feedback, whether it be good or bad, at all times. For if I reach the point where I think my solutions are the best to the exclusion of all other possibilities, then I have reached the point where I can no longer learn. And if I cannot learn, then I cannot progress as a person.

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mike markey outside cropped Michael Markey has 16 years of engineering and software experience in various areas including aerospace, military, and commercial sectors. He currently leads a team of consultants that specialize in access control and commercialization of online content.