Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dealing With Ineffective Employees

Years ago, I worked with a Manager who was completely ineffective.  We can call her Joan.   Senior Management really liked Joan because they thought she was smart, attractive and a constant talker about how smart she was, so much so that they gave her various "special projects" to complete for about five years.   Of course, Joan never accomplished anything important.  In fact, no one really even knew what Joan did for the company.  

I had the misfortune to sit between Joan and a very narcissistic salesman, let's call him Kenny, who was eventually fired, during a six hour cross country flight.   It was as though I was not even there as Joan and Kenny talked with each other the entire flight.   What I noticed was that neither of them was really listening to the other during their disjointed conversation.   It was so bad that if I could, I would have opened the plane door and jumped out.  I then had to sit through another few hours with them after we landed, when I realized that both of them were clueless and dumb as wood.   It was one of the most unpleasant days of my life. 

A Recession came and finally Joan was laid off probably because she had no real job, or function within the company.   The reason that became obvious was because once Joan was gone, no work needed to be transferred to anyone else; nor did anyone ask about Joan's whereabouts.   It was as though Joan never existed at all because she was never mentioned again by anyone within the company.  

There may be a Joan in every company.   If so, let's hope it doesn't take five years for Senior Management to figure out that they are employing a completely ineffective employee.   It is very difficult to hide in our company for very long because I often tell the Joan story to my Senior Managers.   I am not interested in having any Joan's on our payroll.   We employ people who have real work assigned to them; otherwise it is Bye, Bye. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Never Give Up - Never Give In

Winston Churchill's motto was "Never Give Up - Never Give In".   Of course, he was leading his nation to defeat NAZI Germany so this thinking was very appropriate for the Prime Minister of Great Britain.   However, this CEO Blogger, as a former history teacher, has always been attracted to this idea, in both my business and personal life.  Throughout my life,  I have faced many obstacles that often seemed insurmountable, including people that were many times a road block to my career, or business ambitions. 

I am not sure where they are today; but I own a global company because I never allowed negative people, or uncontrollable events to prevent my success.   This often meant making many tough decisions.  Of course, there have been set backs over the years, managing through 3 Recessions, inflation, high interest and mortgage rates and lousy real estate markets.   Sometimes it was necessary to take one step backward to take two steps forward; but what is really important when all is said and done is to remain standing.  There was always a Plan B and survival instincts that caused me to see the train coming to avoid being run over by it.  

But always, always, I practice the Never Give Up - Never Give In motto to keep moving forward.   I tell you all of this not to sing my personal praises; but rather to assure you that no matter what challenges you may face in business, or your personal life, they can all be overcome.   And, never, never allow anyone to determine your success.   Only you hold your success in your hands.   If negative people get in your way, go around them.   If problems seem big, break them down to smaller challenges and tackle them methodically one at a time.  

And, always remember, when times seem bleak, allow yourself a short time to grieve and then immediately go to Plan B.   You are responsible for your life and your success.   Take control and most important, Never Give Up - Never Give In. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dealing With Conflicts of Interests

Occasionally in business, Senior Managers are confronted with employees that have a conflict of interest.   It is no problem if disclosed and can be properly prohibited.   It is a very big problem if an employee is somehow personally benefiting financially, outside normal compensation and benefits, from association with the company.   Years ago, while I was providing consulting services for a major company, I encountered a Director of Human Resources, who was hostile to the common sense recommendations I was making to benefit the company.  

At first, I did not understand this hostility until I found out that this particular Director of Human Resources, who was in charge of recruiting, was referring new hire employees to his wife, a local real estate agent, to assist new hires with purchase of a home in the area.   As a result, every time a sale took place, he and his family benefited from the commission income his wife was earning.   This amounted to a substantial amount of money.  This was not only a clear conflict of interest, it was a violation of their company policy.   Once discovered, as an outside Consultant, I was obligated to bring this matter to the attention of the Senior Management of the company.  

Once revealed, the Director was ordered to cease and desist; but perhaps should have been terminated for not revealing this clear conflict.   This situation was not just about the monies being earned under the table so to speak, but also the difficult position new hire employees faced if they decided not to work with the Director's wife.   After all, the Director of HR was the guy controlling the hire decision.   So naturally, a new hire employee felt pressured to work with the Director's wife, which included revelation of personal information necessary to complete a home purchase transaction.   It was just plain wrong and very unethical.  

Conflicts of interest can also occur related to supplier relationships, which always should be arms length.   Accepting gifts, perhaps other than consumable items like food during the holidays, or an occasional dinner, should never occur because it will compromise the relationship.   Sometimes, these gifts border on a bribe or kick back, which is actionable and if discovered in our company would result in termination.   All employees should be conscious of potential conflicts of interests.  

If there is any question about any personal business dealings, an employee must reveal such activity, rather than wait for it to come out some time later.   The Senior Management of a company will determine if a conflict exists and if so should order a cease and desist.  Once that order comes down, failure to observe the rules should result in termination. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Using Consultants To Achieve Success

There are times when a company should retain an outside Consultant to assist with project management, problem solving, or product development.   As someone who worked with major companies all over the United States and in Europe, providing various Consulting Services for 15 years, I saw first hand the benefits of using an outside Consultant.   Really good Consultants pay for themselves because they can quickly turn gray into black and white.  

A Consultant's primary role is to hold up a mirror and help an organization and or management better understand the best way to achieve a desired end result.   This often means cutting through the typical politics that exist in every company.   While there is no right or wrong way of getting a project done, there are better and more cost effective ways to achieve success that come from years of past experience.  

Consultants know what questions to ask to properly manage a project.   This is particularly important when establishing a project timeline and identifying tasks and persons responsible for completing those tasks.   Consultants are driven to achieve decision making that often alludes major companies when attempting to get big things done on their own. 

Successful Consultants have great communication skills that they often use to manage individual egos and different personality styles to get the job done.   There are times when the only way to get a job done is to retain an outside Consultant because of failed internal attempts to make it happen.   When this occurs a good Consultant will use a conduit to Senior Management, as needed, to complete a project.   Consultants have a role to play in managing a company.   In the long run using a Consultant can save time and money.  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Implementing Acquisitions

Over the years, this CEO Blogger has observed many acquisitions in business that have failed.   This is because deals have often been based on emotion, rather than cold hard facts.   There is sometimes pie in the sky analysis that presumes assumptions and cost savings that never seems to happen.   And, if the acquisition involves a merger of two failing companies, how can that ever amount to one strong company.  

The fundamentals have to be there to make an acquisition work, especially if the deal requires borrowed money.   Loading a company up with debt that is dependent on future financial results, may work well for the Senior Management, that sometimes benefit personally from the deal, but rarely seems to make the company stronger.   And, if the numbers don't happen, it can even lead to bankruptcy, or the break up of the company.  

Any acquisition must be viewed with skepticism, not rose colored glasses.   The hard, "what if" questions must be asked to determine real value, not the best case value that will always be the perspective of the seller.   And, the value paid must be predicated as much on future potential and trends, as on past performance, or multiples of pre tax profit.   Yes, there could be some efficiencies gained by combining two or more companies; but usually not as much as presumed as the basis for the deal.   Acquisitions must be done with extreme caution to avoid a huge mistake and loss.   Significant Due diligence can never be too much.   Take it slow to get it right. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Managing People For Success

Managing People is really about taking advantage of their God given talents to benefit the organization.   This CEO Blogger believes that most employees are capable of accomplishing far more than they may think possible.   That is because people often limit their own success by baggage that they take into the work place.   The key is getting around that baggage to unleash the talent that is there.   This means understanding the different personality styles to manage people accordingly. 

Some employees need lots of supervision and direction, while others are demotivated by it.   A great manager is a chameleon changing management styles to reflect the best style for the particular employee.   It is very clear that a one style fits all approach is not the way to get the most out of employees.   Sometimes, I hear managers say that a particular employee is not ready for increased responsibility.  If that was the case, I could say that this CEO Blogger was probably not ready for any job ever given me; but my work ethic, experience and education always allowed me to rise to the occasion and be successful.  

As such, I am usually ready to give most employees the benefit of the doubt related to their potential.   Yes, there could be some pain along the way and perhaps more management supervision is needed to insure success; but so what?   A manager's job is to grow direct report employees, not expect that every employee is already fully capable when taking a new job, or responsibility.   That's Ok. 

With the right training and learning environment, most employees will achieve the desired end result, as long as goals and objectives are clear and well communicated.   No one is perfect.   And, though a manager may be able to do it better and faster as a result of experience, a manager that cannot work through others, cannot be effective.   This means implementing a coaching model, where direction is provided on an as need basis, not as an "I told you so"; but rather as a good teacher instructing a student in better, more efficient ways to accomplish tasks.  

This instruction should never be punitive, unless an employee is acting in an illegal, or unethical way, or in a way that exposes the corporation to liability, which could require disciplinary action, or even termination.  Otherwise,  good teaching involves thoughtful explanation, not just, "Do It Because I Told You So".    That may work with children, though even there it is doubtful, it does not work with employees.    If change is required, employees need to understand why.   Yes, it takes more time, but ultimately it will result in a well trained,  successful employee.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Get Organized - Get Productive

Many employees in the work place and in life lack organizational skills to their detriment.   Ideally, it is best to do today what is often put off until tomorrow, or never gets done at all.   That means prioritizing work, if necessary by creating lists in writing, if it cannot be done methodically by memory alone.   There will be things that come up that throw a monkey wretch into any work plan, so some flexibility is required; but it is still better to have a daily work plan than none at all. 

This CEO Blogger is very put off by employees that always wait until the last minute to get things done.   It makes them appear scatter brained.  This is probably because I plan my calendar a year in advance in order to fit all the things in that I must get done, both in my business and personal life.   This allows me to plan ahead, which helps alleviate the stress of last minute tasks and decision making.  

While there is no right or wrong way to accomplish work, there are better, smarter ways to get the job done.   There is usually a preferred sequence of events that is more efficient and cost effective.   When things are done out of order, things tend to fall between the cracks, which can lead to service failure, or disruption.  

Organized people get big things done.   Disorganized people are usually left wondering what just hit them when they get run over by a train, or in this case events that they cannot control.   Bad things happen to disorganized people that don't think ahead.   While this is all preventable, it seems some people just never learn the lessons that come from pain.  How many times does someone need to get hit over the head before it becomes obvious that their lack of organizational skills is causing them pain.   For some people, the answer is that they never figure it out and a result it is career disabling. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Wider And Deeper Selling - Do It Now

Most companies spend big dollars attempting to secure new business when their best opportunities to grow the company often exist with current clients.   It is rare that an existing client is using all services, or products available from the current supplier.   There also may be other subsidiaries, or divisions using a different supplier.   Yet, companies very often fail to see the gold that is right in front of them.   Why is that?

The answer is simple.   So much time and effort goes into providing great service, on a day to day basis, that often very little time is spent developing more business, to the detriment of both the existing client and the supplier.   Clients benefit from global contracting and providing the supplier with more volume by getting lower pricing overall.   Generally, the more business a client does with a supplier, the more valuable that client is to the supplier warranting better pricing and even more attention.

As such, every so often, it is critical to do a big picture evaluation to get a better understanding of the real business potential of an existing client.   It drives this CEO Blogger crazy because I often discover that potential with just a few questions when meeting with a client.   When that it happens, it does not reflect well on our Account Management, or Sales Team.   Woe with them when that happens because it is at that point that I tend to reassign sales responsibility.  

Sales is a never ending process that should be like breathing; requiring no special, additional thinking process.  Signing a client is the beginning of the sales process, not the end.   Wider and deeper selling is in the mutual interest of both the client and the supplier.  Besides, it is really fun and mutually rewarding to offer additional solutions that meet a client's needs.