Joe and Wanda on Management

Joe Kerr and Wanda B. Goode, two characters from Nick McCormick’s book, “Lead Well and Prosper,” dispense their management wisdom

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Month: September, 2007

Missionary Work?

27 September, 2007 (23:51) | Leadership, Management | By: Administrator

The other day I checked out a video clip on Patrick Lencioni’s website. He tells how he hears managers say they want to do volunteer work or missionary work when they retire. He makes the point that managers should not lose sight of the fact that they are doing missionary work now. Managers touch people in ways they may never get to again. People treat their spouses, kids, neighbors and friends differently based on how managers lead them.

Joe Kerr: Are we talking about work or Sunday school? It’s a job. Do your job, and you won’t get my foot up your @ss. Put in your 8, go home and then repeat. Pickup your paycheck twice/month. If people are lame enough to treat their friends and family differently as a result of that, God bless them. They need more help than I can give them.

Wanda B. Goode: It’s perspectives like this one that keep me doing what I’m doing. It’s easy to act the victim. Sometimes I feel undervalued and underappreciated. I get grief from all sides. Knowing the positive impact that I can have on people’s lives really helps me press on and try my best to excel. Team members are watching me, learning from me, counting on me. I don’t want to let them down.

The Stall

25 September, 2007 (23:52) | Leadership, Management, Servant Leadersip | By: Administrator

Have you ever gone to your manager asking for help and instead been told to complete the task yourself knowing full well you did not have the authority to complete it?

Joe Kerr: Oh yes, It’s one of the few valuable tactics I’ve learned from my boss. As a manager one can’t always make snap decisions. Stall tactics are essential, especially when juggling so many responsibilities. Another good one is to simply ignore requests. And here’s a personal favorite, “I don’t have enough data, Bob. Why don’t you write that up in a 20 page document, vet it out with George’s group, and then set up a meeting with Mary and I next month so we can discuss it. Make sure you get it to us 2 weeks early so we have time to review it prior to the meeting.” Priceless!

Wanda B. Goode: Yes, this has happened to me. It’s a real demoralizer. The boss shoots it right back at you as if you should have done it yourself the first time. S/he then tells you it’s a growth opportunity. 

When the boss tries to pull this stunt on me, I just highlight the area of concern. For example, “Jane, you know that approval of a process change of this magnitude requires a signature at your level or higher. I’ve never known anyone to get past this barrier.” When the veil is pulled back, In most cases, the boss will take on the responsibility, and I’ll follow up appropriately. If the boss persists, I’ll ask him/her to grease the skids (i.e. grant me the authority). For example, “OK Jane. Can you send an email to Bill and cc me indicating that I’ll be forwarding the information to him and that you have granted the authority to approve.” Again, this usually does the trick. 

I obviously try to avoid doing this with team members. I don’t like to set them up for failure. I try, when possible, to give them the authority necessary to get the job done, and/or help obliterate nonsensical processes requiring my involvement unnecessarily. When I’m needed, I try my best to help out quickly so as not to be a roadblock. 

The Window and the Mirror

18 September, 2007 (22:35) | Leadership, Servant Leadersip | By: Administrator

In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins explains that “Level 5” leaders look through a window when it’s time to give credit for accomplishments, but hold up a mirror when it’s time to blame. Care to comment Joe and Wanda?

Joe Kerr: Did you say something about a mirror? Oh Yeah I know that one. I tell my people that all the time. I say, “I don’t look through the rear view mirror, I look through the windshield.” It’s one of my favorites. I can really pump ’em up with that one. 

Wanda B. Goode: Yes. This is critical to building credibility and trust as a leader. In his book, Winning, Jack Welch puts it this way, “don’t kiss up and kick down.” No one likes to hear a blowhard toot his/her own horn (even if deserved), and there are few things worse than a leader taking credit for something s/he didn’t do. A true leader also must be big enough to accept blame when things go wrong, rather than pointing to other people, places or things. To exhibit such traits, a leader must have confidence and must be more concerned for the good of the organization than his/her ego.

6 out of 10 Aussies Hate Their Boss

14 September, 2007 (00:23) | Leadership, Management | By: Administrator

SEEK 2003 employee satisfaction and motivation survey in Australia revealed that 6 out of 10 Australians hate their boss. Care to comment Joe and Wanda?

Joe Kerr: Hey, management is no bed of roses, and I’m not one of those touchy feely koombaya singing pushovers. I’m all about getting the job done. I can’t imagine anyone hating a mug like me, but if I do have staff members that hate me, you better damn well believe they respect the hell out of me, and that’s the most important thing. 

Wanda B. Goode: That’s kind of sad. If 60% of the people hate their boss, that’s got to mean that they also hate their jobs. It’s tough to enjoy a job when you hate your boss. Think of the productivity drain of all of those miserable people. What’s really interesting is that most managers know how to improve things, but they don’t take the required actions. People want to be treated with respect. That’s easy, right? Almost all of them want to do good work. They want to be able to have the freedom to use their abilities and make their own decisions. Let them.

Middle Managers – Sponges?

12 September, 2007 (00:04) | Communication, Leadership, Management | By: Administrator

In the book, In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, Jr. make reference to an Ed Carlson assessment of middle management. Ed was the former Chairman of United Airlines who spoke of what he called the hourglass theory. The gist of the theory is that middle management in most organizations really has little role beyond “make work” activities such as stopping ideas coming down and stopping ideas going up. Middle managers are sponges. Hands on management becomes a lot more workable when there are fewer people in the middle.  Comments?

Joe Kerr: Who’s this blow hard Ed Carlson? Easy for him to say sitting up in his ivory tower. Bet he didn’t feel that way when he was a middle manager. I’m the life blood of this organization. If I weren’t around, nothing would get done! Block ideas coming from upper management? Who’s he kidding? When was the last time upper management had a good idea? I’ve been knocking myself out at this job for decades and I can’t give you one example. 

Wanda B. Goode: Unfortunately, Ed is right on the mark. In many organizations, midlevel managers are sponges. Mid level managers can kill an initiative quicker than you can blink. They withhold information from their staff, sometimes unintentionally and at other times for job security purposes. Despite what many of them think, mid level managers have quite a bit of power. They can inspire greatness in team members, and they can also suck the life blood right out of them. Unfortunately the latter is much easier to do explaining the prevalence of zombie-like employees and dysfunctional organizations. The former requires work and a great deal of commitment, but the rewards are tremendous.

Time Tracking

7 September, 2007 (09:04) | Management, Productivity, Time Management | By: Administrator

Tracking people’s time is important for managing your portfolio of assets and resources. It shows where you are spending your money, which is critical for decision making. Joe, do you and your team track your time? To what level of granularity? What have you learned from doing so? 

Joe Kerr: Sure we track our time. It needs to go into our ERP system. My team supports a variety of internal customers, so we break out time accordingly. I don’t break out my time though. I’m a manager. It’s straight eights each day for me. I’ll tell you one thing I’ve learned. If I don’t approve the group’s time sheets by 10:00 am Monday, there is hell to pay. One more thing…I’ve also learned that threatening to hold back paychecks if time is not entered is a very effective motivator.  Wanda B. Goode: Like Joe’s group, we track time by internal customer. We also do it by project. I need to know where people are spending their time. In addition to internal billing, we use the data to validate estimates. We also use it to identify areas that may be sapping our time. I provide reports to my boss which help with budgeting. I track my own time for the same reasons mentioned. Plus, I don’t like to require team members to do any administrative task that I’m not prepared to do myself. It would send a bad message.  We’ve learned quite a bit from reviewing our time reports. Most recently we learned we were spending 40% of our time in an area that generated 5% of our revenue. We automated some tasks, eliminated some others, and rebalanced our time to align more closely with revenue. Personally, I’ve also learned to focus my time better.  

Most Important Words

4 September, 2007 (00:45) | Communication, Leadership, Management, Servant Leadersip | By: Administrator

Here’s another tidbit from Bill Russell’s book, Russell Rules. He got this from an unnamed CEO.

  • The 5 Most Important Words – I am proud of you.
  • The 4 Most Important Words – What is your opinion?
  • The 3 Most Important Words – I appreciate that.
  • The 2 Most Important Words – Thank You.
  • The Most Important Word – You

Comments Joe and Wanda?

Joe Kerr: Don’t make me gag!

Wanda B. Goode: Very powerful. Sometimes as managers we get so caught up that we forget we are dealing with people. The impact that a few sincerely delivered words can have is amazing. Give it a try.