TAKE A DEEP BREATH

Well, we made it. The election is over and it’s time to get back to our lives. Predictively, 40% of Americans are thrilled, another 40% are throwing tantrums in the streets and, as always, 20% just don’t seen to care.

Whether you are thrilled or saddened, one thing we can all celebrate is the peaceful transition of power in Washington, D.C. We are one of the few countries in the world that accomplish this regularly and for that, we should all be thankful.

Because of the extended length of the campaign, the vitriol on both sides, combined with the 24 X 7 news cycle, perhaps we should all just take a deed breath and reflect a bit. With the holidays all but upon us, we have the opportunity to take stock, count our blessings, stay a bit closer to friends and family and chart a new course for our collective future.

I am critically aware of the push for year end business results, planning for next year, doing performance appraisals and all the rest but we’ve all been stressed beyond reason and I believe turning the wick down for the next couple of months will pay great dividends.

2017 will be here before we know it so why not plan to have a great year?  Why not plan to spend a bit more time with family and friends, why not learn to enjoy our limitless bounty more and why not plan to let a little bit more love into our lives.

I know I am planning to do just that.

DOES INTEGRITY STILL MATTER?

Not all that long ago, integrity was important to most people. The hallmark of a good leader was his or her integrity. Whether as head of a family, a leader in the community, a religious leader or the leader of a business, integrity was important. We judged and evaluated people according to their integrity. Their word was their bond.

Integrity as defined by The Merriam Webster Dictionary is “Adherence to a code of values”. “Incorruptibility, Soundness or Completeness”.

In my experience, this has changed significantly in recent years and is no longer considered an absolute. Integrity is seen as situational, flexible or even “old fashioned” by many. Even a candidate for the highest office in our country was quoted as having said that you need both a public and a private position on issues of policy. To me, this seems to be the antithesis of integrity.

When so many things that used to guide our behavior seem to be changing or disappearing altogether it can be very unsettling.

So why am I writing about integrity? I recently attended a retreat where one of the speakers had a different definition of integrity and it reinforced the need (my need) to not buy into the shifting of values and the definition of integrity. He defined integrity as “All – The – Way – Throughness”. Imagine inserting a rod all the way through you, your values, your spirit, your integrity. There would be no change. You would be the same on the inside as you are on the outside and therefore your integrity would be in tact, immovable and unshakeable.

I, for one, intend to keep my integrity in tact. Others can change their definition, blur the lines or discard their integrity all together but if they do, what are we left with? We will continue to live in a world where values, morals and acceptable behavior are a “moveable feast” and an ever-changing menu of options. If we choose this path, I fear for our society and our nation.

How’s your integrity?

HOW’S YOUR ALL THE WAY THROUGHNESS?

BUILDING TRUST

Recently I came across a very interesting post titled “What’s Your Trust Rating’” based on research by social psychologist Robert Haley. When it comes to leadership, trust is absolutely critical, in fact, I would go as far as to say that without trust you cannot lead.

The research identified 10 primary factors that can determine why people trust or fail to trust:

1. Risk tolerance: Some people are naturally risk takers, while others are just as naturally cautious.

2. Level of adjustment: Some people require a lot of time to develop trust, while others can embrace trust more quickly. Poorly adjusted people tend to perceive numerous threats in life.

3. Relative power: People in positions of authority are more likely to trust than those who are not because those in roles of power can punish those who betray them. If people have little authority, they’re more vulnerable and
less likely to trust.

4. Security: The higher the stakes, the harder it is for people to trust. It’s easier to trust if not much bad is apt to happen.

5. Number of similarities: We tend to trust people who are more like us, expressing similar values and common personality traits, than those who are not like us. The more different we are, the less apt we are to trust.

6. Alignment of interests: People want to know, “How apt is another person to look after my interests?” Leaders can’t assume that people in the organization have the same interests.

7. Concern for others: The problem among people is not so much evil as it is self-centeredness. People are more apt to trust you if they see that you’re willing to put others before yourself.

8. Capability: Competence is important. People are less apt to trust you, even if they like and are like you, if they sense you don’t have the capability it takes to lead.

9. Predictability and integrity: A person who’s consistent is more apt to be trusted than someone who’s unpredictable. Saying one thing and doing another creates distrust. Be careful not to over-promise.

10. Level of communication: Because trust is relational, open and honest communication is key. When there’s miscommunication, cover-up, secrets, and guardedness, people are less apt to trust.

When looking to build trust in your organization, be mindful of these 10 factors in trust building and ensure you and your team members are abiding by them.

UNCERTAINTY – – A SIGN OF THE TIMES?

In my adult life, I cannot remember a longer period of uncertainty. Since 2008, it seems that just about the time we think that things are beginning to “normalize” something happens to introduce more doubt into the world.

First, it was the recession. It was deeper and longer than anyone predicted and many believe that we’re still in it. I know the economy is not performing at the level of a technical recession but when I talk to family, friends and business associates, I get a very different impression.

The stock market took a beating and then recovered but the volatility remains reinforcing the uncertainty. Additionally, many believe that the market recovery is not based on sound economic principles further adding to the angst.

ISIS came on the scene and worldwide terrorism became a daily event.

Now, many are waiting for the Presidential election just ahead before making any serious moves.

So what’s this all about? I, for one, believe that where we are today IS the new normal and that waiting for things to get “better” will only prolong the agony.

That’s not to say that everything is all bad but waiting to make major decisions, personally or in business, does not seem wise. In the new environment waiting for just the right time or for the outcome of this or that just means your are waiting forever.

My personal opinion is that it’s time to get on with it. “IT”” being life and to stop delaying major decisions.

Many businesses are hoarding cash and not expanding. People are postponing major expenditures all due to uncertainty.

What if uncertainty and constant change is the new normal? How do we adapt? What does our decision making process need to look like? How can we sleep at night with all of this swirling around us?

I believe we all need to take a collective deep breath, stop waiting and begin living life again. Yesterday is history and tomorrow is not guaranteed so that leaves us to live today, each and every day.

Believe in yourself, your family, your business sense and do your best to not get distracted by all of the “stuff” in the world that you cannot control.

Here’s to good things happening today and every day in the future.

ARE WE LOOKING FOR THE WRONG SKILLS?

Ninety two percent of senior executives in the U.S. acknowledge there is a serious gap in workforce skills, according to a recent “State of the Economy and Employment” survey.

What is surprising in the data is that forty four percent of respondents cited soft skills — such as communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration — as the area with the biggest gap. Twenty two percent cited a lack of technical skills as the reason for the U.S. skills gap.

Interestingly, when commenting on the gap in computer skills, Generation X executives, more than any other generation surveyed, believe this is the skill that most seriously affects the U.S. workforce.

Sixty four percent of senior executives surveyed who believe that the skills gap is the greatest threat to U.S. businesses said investing in companies abroad instead of staying in U.S. is damaging U.S. businesses. Thirty four percent believe the U.S. gap in skills poses a threat to businesses research and development capabilities.

The survey found that the U.S education system needs to do a much better job preparing future generation of workers. More than half (59 percent) of executives surveyed do not believe colleges and universities in the U.S. offer education that adequately prepares their students for today’s workforce.

Eighty nine percent believe corporate apprenticeships or training programs could help alleviate the problem but forty two percent of those said the greatest barrier to creating in-house training programs is the cost.

Manufacturing is the hardest hit by the skills gap in the U.S. at thirty percent followed by technology at twenty one percent and professional and business services at nineteen percent.

Surprisingly, as disturbing as the need is for skilled workers in the U.S., senior executives did not feel the skills gap poses a direct threat to the U.S. economy. Only thirteen percent found it to be a major problem for the country. Instead, federal spending at twenty four percent, global competition at twenty two percent and high unemployment at twenty percent were listed as the greatest threats to the U.S. economy.

Is your organization doing enough to strengthen our education system?

Adapted from an article by Adecco Staffing US.

SOME THOUGHTS ON MANAGEMENT

Recently I was called upon to prepare a presentation for a group of university business students from Brazil. The presentation was to include Leadership and Strategic Management. In thinking about what would be valuable to convey, I didn’t have to think much about Leadership as that is one of the things we’re know for in our industry  but I wanted to find our more about so-called Strategic Management so I did a little research into the subject.

Here is one definition for Strategic Management.

“Strategic Management is all about identification and description of the strategies that managers can carry so as to achieve better performance and a competitive advantage for their organization. An organization is said to have competitive advantage if its profitability is higher than the average profitability for all companies in its industry.”

Now, having been in Business and Management Consulting for about 30 years, I have come to understand that many in my profession have a habit of taking something common, even old, and renaming it as if it were new.

For some reason, not only consultants but Executives and Managers in business seem to delight in creating complexity where it does not need to exist. When operating businesses, there’s really not that much under the sun that is truly new. Now clearly, things like virtual employees, the global nature of business today and technology are new but “business basics” are really not.

So, in looking at one of the latest “new” things to come down the pike, I found Strategic Management not to be new at all. Back around 1960, a gentleman named Eric Gillberg introduced a practice to management known as “Goals and Controls”. This system was based on the Pareto Principle (the 80/20 rule) and was paraphrased to mean “concentrate on the “vital few” and ignore the “trivial many”.

In practice, each supervisor, manager and executives breaks down what they do into a short list of categories that can be easily measured. Each month, results oriented performance goals are set and managed to for these  “vital few” areas in the context of the overall business plan. Three months of successful goal accomplishment role up into a successful quarter and four quarters role up into a successful year.

Now without getting too granular here, one quick example. During the course of any month a sales organization will do thousands of things but to measure all that activity would be foolish. What needs to be measured is gross sales and gross margin. Regardless of how “busy” everyone is, if these two categories of goals are missed, the business hurts.

When done throughout all areas of the business, this becomes a precision management system. Now, there are meetings to report progress and formulate corrective actions if someone is off target and a lot of other things that take place but the fundamentals remain the same. There’s nothing wrong with Strategic Management, it’s just nothing new.

So, take some time to analyze the various complexities in your business and determine if they are really necessary. If they exist for legacy reasons, take a hard look at eliminating or changing them.

Sometimes, going back to basics is the most innovative thing you can do.

How’s the complexity in your business?