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: October, 2007

A Leader’s Most Important Job

31 October, 2007 (00:35) | Leadership, Management, Recognition, Servant Leadersip, Workplace Dynamics | By: Administrator

I was just reading one of Phillip Humbert’s newsletter. In it he states that the leader’s most important job is to get the employees to come back tomorrow. “As boss, your key task is to see that your people are well served, well maintained, well trained, and well respected. Without that, everything else is just a pause until they move on.” Thoughts?

Joe Kerr: What do people want from me? They get a pay check don’t they? They get a nice PC, and how about the free coffee? It’s like being a kid in a candy store around here. What more do they want? I’ve had enough of the excessive pandering. They just don’t know how good they have it. If they want to move on, screw ’em. In fact, that’s just what I do. When they give me two weeks notice I kick ’em the hell out the next day. Seeya!

Wanda B. Goode: It certainly is true that the people do the work. Time spent constantly backfilling positions and training new people could be much better spent elsewhere. That’s for sure.

Of course on the flip side, it’s the people that aren’t the best that seem willing to hang on forever, and that’s not a good thing. They need to be dealt with, and the right people need to be treated as Dr. Humbert indicates above.

Getting the Right People on the Bus

24 October, 2007 (00:35) | Hiring, Leadership, Management | By: Administrator

In his book Good to Great Jim Collins talks about the importance of getting the right people on the bus. He mentions how great leaders don’t hire people unless they know they are a good fit. They’d rather leave a position unfilled than fill it with the wrong person. 

Joe Kerr: I like that. I’m definitely going to use that one at the next leadership meeting. “We need to make sure we have the right people on the buss, guys. Quality is job one and there can be no compromising.” I like it?   

Wanda B. Goode: I agree with Jim, but I also acknowledge that leaving a position vacant for too long has its drawbacks. It can be devastating to morale. First, there is an extra strain on the team until it is filled. Second, there is a fear that if the team goes long enough without a replacement, there never will be a replacement. I think we’ve all seen that happen before. There can be outside pressures to fill positions too. For instance, consulting companies have client demands. Clients want people to start yesterday. Consulting companies seek to oblige, not only to satisfy the client, but to start billing as well.  With that said, patience is critical. Choosing the wrong person can be extremely costly. The price tag on hiring a new employee is huge. It also takes a lot of work to remove an employee that’s not a fit. Further, the damage that can be done to the team prior to removing the employee can be devastating. Having patience is not the same as being overly picky. The perfect person who has experience in every single job requirement and is also within your price range may not even exist. The most important thing is that you are comfortable that the person can do the job well. During the interview process, the person must have demonstrated certain key characteristics. In his book, Winning, Jack Welch talks about his “Acid Test.” The person must display integrity, intelligence, and maturity. What’s your acid test?  Nobody bats a thousand with new hires, but the closer you can come the better. Over time, you will build trust with team members and they will be more understanding of delays in filling positions. Customers will respect you more and your organization will be much more effective.   

Dress Code for Managers

19 October, 2007 (00:55) | Workplace Dynamics | By: Administrator

This may sound a bit superficial, but should there be an appearance standard for managers?

Joe Kerr: I’m a man of the people. I dress the way they dress and they respect me for that. Of course I look better in a pair of jeans than most of the chumps on my team do in a tux, but that’s a gift, and I can’t begrudge them that. 

Wanda B. Goode: So much time is wasted on dress codes. I’m even reluctant to discuss the topic. I’ll try to keep it brief. I think a manager should observe the dress code of the group or a bit above it. The key is, there should be no question that the manager is adhering to the code…no gray area… no “if Bob our manager can wear that, so can I.”

See, now you got me started. I can’t sign off until I give you some pet peeves. Men, please, please, please wear an undershirt. I don’t want to see your flesh. It’s not appealing. Also, men and women, try to observe some basics. Clothes should be clean and wrinkle free. Accessories should match – Brown belt, brown shoes, brown bag, etc. Finally, modesty is the best policy.

Four Questions After Thirty Days of Service

17 October, 2007 (00:55) | Leadership, Management | By: Administrator

Since most people who leave a company do so in the first couple of years, in their book, The Carrot Principle, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton recommend getting employee feedback early on by asking the following questions after just 3 months of service.

  1. Have we lived up to our promises to you?
  2. What do you think we do best here?
  3. At your other jobs you’ve probably seen some things done very well. Is there anything we can use here?
  4. Have we done anything in the last 90 days that might cause you to leave?


Wanda B. Goode: Sounds like good advice to me. I like the questions. I can see them really getting employees engaged. The fact that a manager even asks these questions has to build trust. Requesting advice on what can be done better has to make employees feel good too, especially after only 90 days on the job. The key, of course is to actually do something with the information that they offer. It would make sense to ask these questions at other service intervals as well.

Joe Kerr: Again with the books… advice from the geniuses that probably never managed a day in their lives. I’m not buying it. I don’t have time to baby-sit. These are grown men and women doing grown up jobs. They need to act that way.

Dealing with the Wise Guy

9 October, 2007 (00:39) | Communication, Leadership, Management, Workplace Dynamics | By: Administrator

Just like there’s always a class clown, there is always an office wise guy. I guess the clowns just graduate to the world of work and continue to hone their acts. Although the wise guy can lighten up a tense atmosphere adding some much needed comic relief, s/he doesn’t always exercise proper decorum, and occasionally blurts out some inappropriate syllables in order to get a laugh. How do you deal with the wise guy? Joe Kerr: “Be careful who you mess with funny man. Mess with the bull, you get the horns. Do not mess with this bull. Don’t try to show up this bull. You will get ripped open. And that’s no joke!” 

Wanda B. Goode: I think humor is a key ingredient in the workplace. I enjoy joking around with team members. Of course, it is critical that the humor is clean and appropriate. Sometimes people can cross the line. They can be disruptive in meetings or poke fun at leadership (to include you). When that’s the case, it must be addressed. For example, if someone is talking, or joking around in a meeting, I usually make a statement like, “OK everyone, only one person talks at a time. Listen up please.” I don’t want to belittle the offender, but rather state a fact and move on. If the person does not take the obvious hint, it may be appropriate to single him/her out, “Mary, this is really important. We have 8 other people in here giving up their time. We need to make the most of it.” This typically does the trick. In fact, I’ve never had it get beyond this point.  If the person is using inappropriate humor, I speak up right away and let the person know. “Mary that’s inappropriate. I don’t want to hear that again.” I figure if I don’t speak up, even if I don’t laugh hysterically, my inaction will be interpreted as approval.  

If the conduct repeats, it’s definitely time to pull the person aside and make it clear that the behavior is unacceptable. I ask some questions to try to determine if there is a reason for the behavior. Sometimes you’ll find that the person feels slighted for some reason, and is just lashing out a bit. It’s very important to hear the person out to see if you can help in any way. It’s also critical that you state that the behavior can’t continue. If it does there will be repercussions. Check with HR on what your options are prior to holding the conversation.

Managing More Experienced Team Members

7 October, 2007 (19:47) | Leadership, Management, Workplace Dynamics | By: Administrator

Managing team members that are older than you can be tough especially as a beginner. Joe and Wanda, How have you dealt with this issue?

Joe Kerr: There’s no question that if I ever came across a problem like this I’d just lay down the law, but I’ve really never experienced it. There’s something about me – the way I carry myself maybe. The older ladies fall in love with me and the guys just respect the hell out of me. Some people just have it I guess.

Wanda B. Goode: I just try to be honest with people. I have one-on-one meetings with all team members when I start on a new assignment. I don’t try to pretend that I’m manager of the year. I ask what their expectations are of me, and I ask them what my expectations should be of them. I tell them I’ll try to do my best to help them do their jobs better, and I’ll also look to them for help. If people genuinely believe that you are concerned for them (and you back it up with action), I don’t care how old they are, they will usually support you.

Moving from Doing for Yourself to Relying on Others

3 October, 2007 (01:15) | Leadership, Management | By: Administrator

For first time leaders, and even for some more seasoned ones, it’s tough to let go and allow team members to do their jobs. Frustration can build when team members can’t seem to do things the way you want them to. The temptation is to micromanage or even do things yourself. Joe and Wanda, how have you dealt with this situation?

Joe Kerr: Delegate. Delegate. Delegate. Hey listen, I can do each and every job better than anyone in my group. That’s why I’m the manager. I obviously don’t have time for that though. The trick is to get some A players on board the ship and whip them into shape. Play it right and you’ll have plenty of time to work on the golf game, and as an added bonus, you’ll have someone else to blame if things go wrong. You can swoop in and fix things to prove how valuable you are.

Wanda B. Goode: Sometimes I’m afraid I haven’t dealt with it very well at all. I have a bad habit of jumping in too quickly or being too critical. I’m torn between holding a high standard and giving the team members the leeway to stretch and grow. It’s a tough thing to do, especially when you are up against a deadline. 

I continue to work on letting go and allowing the team members to do their jobs. I remind myself that people don’t always do things the way that I do. As the saying goes, “there is more than one way to skin a cat.”

I do like to follow a few rules when delegating work to team members. I try to be crystal clear on what I’m asking them to do – the deliverables, due dates, etc. In fact, I usually have the associates provide a completion date. I don’t like to force dates on people. If they come up with the date, they have more of a sense of ownership. I then ask them to repeat what is required so I’m sure there is no disconnect. I let them know that I’m available to help if they need it, and I emphasize that I don’t want them coming to me the day before the project is due and tell me it won’t be done. They need to report on progress in their status report and make me aware of any issues with the delivery date so I can help re-prioritize for them if necessary.

When team members come up short, I try my best to treat it as a learning opportunity. I try not to nag, but rather work with them to see if they can come up with ways they could have done better. It’s a tough thing to do. Like most management tasks, it’s not taught in any school. I continue to learn by doing.


Don’t Just Flow with the Current

1 October, 2007 (01:07) | Management, Time Management | By: Administrator

I once had a manager that used to say, “I’m all caught up with my mail today. I don’t have anything more to do, so I’m going to head home early.” To this day it amazes me how many people use their inbox as their time management system. They have no idea what they will be doing day to day, hour to hour. It’s all based on the mail that they read, the phone calls they get, and of course the meetings that they are scheduled to attend. Is that any way to manage?

Joe Kerr: Don’t knock it until you try it bub! In my job I have to jump on my mail. If I don’t my boss is breathing down my throat and my customer is too. I’m a big time multitasker, though which enables me to make a significant dent in all the requests that I get. 

Wanda B. Goode: It used to be just the phone and an occasional office visitor that caused interruptions. Now there’s email, instant messaging, cell phones, etc. We get interrupted no matter where we are and no matter what time of day. Many feel compelled to jump on every ring and ding. It’s ironic that lots of the new “productivity” tools significantly hinder productivity if not managed properly.

I set aside time in my calendar to do certain tasks. During that time I can not be reached. I don’t answer my cell phone (The ringer is turned off). I’m not logged into instant messaging. I don’t have all the bells and whistles turned on to alert me upon the arrival of each and every email. Amazingly the world has not yet come to a screeching halt because I haven’t returned a phone call within an hour. The work gets done.

If a manager answers queries from all these tools within seconds of arrival, there is something dreadfully wrong. Are they managers, or are they Help Desk operators? My advice is to block out time for planning, teaching, learning, and various other major management priorities, and make the choice to limit the distractions during those times. You will be amazed at how much you accomplish when you are not pulled from a task every 5 minutes. Don’t just go where the current takes you. Set the course and have the discipline to stick to it.