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: December, 2007

More on Effective Meetings

28 December, 2007 (14:10) | Communication, Management, Meetings | By: Administrator

Joe and Wanda are off until the New Year, but here’s some additional information to tide you over until their return. We’ve addressed meeting productivity in the past, but here is some additional valuable information from William B. Werther’s book, Dear Boss. I’ll paraphrase his solutions to the “Tyranny of Meetings” below.

  • Whenever possible, substitute a memo for a meeting.
  • Allow “no comment” as an acceptable response from meeting attendees. Too often people feel they need to comment on everything (usually gratuitously).
  • Make attendance optional. Have meeting minutes posted within 4 hours with action items highlighted.
  • Never have a meeting without posting an agenda.
  • To avoid distraction, don’t pass out documentation during the meeting. Hand it out prior or after.
  • Seriously consider the necessity of regular standing meetings.
  • Start meetings precisely on time.
  • Announce the meeting ending time and honor it.
  • Don’t pretend that the purpose of a meeting is to make a decision if the decision has already been made.
  • Call for a break at the first sign of any discomfort.
  • Finally, realize that meetings take up valuable time. Search for any opportunity to speed them up or reduce their frequency.

Not a bad list. Want more? Check out Ted Nichols’ 9 tips on conducting fabulous meetings and/or review prior posts by Joe and Wanda:
Meeting Productivity
Meetings are Cockroaches of American Business

Dream Manager?

23 December, 2007 (18:08) | Employee Retention, Management, Productivity, Training | By: Administrator

I just checked out a podcast that Wayne Turmel did with Matthew Kelley on his book, Dream Manager. Joe and Wanda, have you read the book? If not, click here. After listening to the podcast, you will want to buy the book.

Joe Kerr: Read it? I’ve lived it! I wasn’t aware that Matt did my biography. He owes me some royalties.

Wanda B. Goode: I’ve listened to it and enjoyed it quite a bit. Matt reminds me of Stephen Covey. His premise is that if people stop dreaming they start dying. Employees can’t be expected to be engaged on the job if they have no dreams. However, once they have dreams of their own, and are able to find a connection with them and their work, engagement occurs.

Matthew advises that companies hire “Dream Mangers,” whose jobs are to help employees start dreaming again in their personal lives and facilitate the achievement of those dreams by teaching them the necessary skills, creating action plans, and holding them accountable to those plans. Interesting stuff.

Coping with a Large Workload

21 December, 2007 (16:12) | Leadership, Management | By: Administrator

With downsizing, rightsizing, organization flattening, etc., managers that remain have it tough. How do you guys cope with the large workload?

Joe Kerr: I yell a lot. Hey, I’ve been at this gig for years and I’m constantly under stress. I’ve earned the right to blow off some steam. Sometimes I feel badly about those that get caught in the cross fire, but most of the time they deserve it.

Wanda B. Goode: I work on reducing my stress level by exercising and occasionally mixing in some meditation.

One thing I try not to do is complain. I know how it can kill morale. I like what Dr. William Werther has to say on whining in his book, Dear Boss, which I’ll paraphrase… Quit expecting your job to be easy. Understand that on occasion you’ll encounter problems that will cause discomfort, but accept it as part of the job. If your job weren’t difficult, it either wouldn’t need to be done, or it could be done by someone with lesser skills and at a lower salary.

It’s always better to focus your energy on fixing problems than complaining about them. If you’d like to read more on the negative impacts of whining, check out the post on, Movin’ on up.

Jeffrey Fox’s “Great Boss Simple Success Formula”

16 December, 2007 (21:34) | Leadership, Leadership Development, Management | By: Administrator

In his book, How to Become a Great Boss, Jeffrey Fox offers up the following “Great Boss Simple Success Formula.”

  • Only hire top-notch excellent people
  • Put the right people in the right job. Weed out the wrong people
  • Tell the people what needs to be done
  • Tell the people why it is needed
  • Leave the job to the people you’ve chosen to do it
  • Train the people
  • Listen to the people
  • Remove frustration and barriers that fetter people
  • Inspect progress
  • Say “thank you” publicly and privately

Thoughts Joe and Wanda?

Joe Kerr: Tell it to the hand, Jeffrey!

Wanda B. Goode: It’s a very good list. It reminds me a lot of our book, Lead Well and Prosper. It’s simple, but not easy. Stick to the fundamentals. Execute them consistently over time and good things will happen. Jonathan Farrington has a similar post on important leadership traits. To check it out, click here.

Do You Have a Backup?

13 December, 2007 (23:53) | Leadership, Leadership Development, Management, Training | By: Administrator

Joe and Wanda, Do you have a backup? If so, what have you done to prepare the person for that role?

Joe Kerr: Are you kidding me? There’s nobody qualified for my spot on any of my teams. No, they’re going to have to go to the outside to find someone to fill my shoes. Even then they’re going to have tremendous difficulty. Where else will they find a bull dog like me that will put in the time that I do? I’m on call virtually 24×7. I take the laptop on vacation, and make myself available any time. Plus, do you think I have time to train a backup?

Wanda B. Goode: Yes, I do have a backup. When I first identified her, we met once each week for about a half hour to go over various requirements of the backup role. Then we scaled it back a bit. She’s also been through a couple of our leadership training classes. She’s been doing a great job. She’s learned a lot, and I’ve learned from her as well. I’m very confident when she is in charge. In fact, she really runs the show now. She’s one of a few people on the short list for promotion and will make a great lead in the very near future.

It’s really important that we develop leaders and ensure that there are people available to fill in when the need arises. In his book, Winning, Jack Welsh advocates filling management positions within 24 hours, to ensure there is no leadership vacuum and to make it known that the organization will continue to function without interruption. That can’t be done if you don’t have a good leadership program and an ongoing list of qualified people identified for future leadership positions.

Wally Bock has a post where he mentions that all management positions should have 2 or more qualified replacements. He also pooh poohs the misplaced focus on C-Level succession planning in favor of career leadership development. To read more, click here.

Opportunity Knocks

9 December, 2007 (17:21) | Leadership, Management, Time Management | By: Administrator

Joe and Wanda, “Have I got an opportunity for you?” When was the last time your boss approached you with that line? How did you react? What did you do?

Joe Kerr: First I went on for a few minutes about how busy I was. Then I told him that I was willing to sacrifice to take on the extra task as I knew it was important to him and the company.

That’s some wonderful advice for you youngsters. Accept every piece of new work or responsibility with a smile, but don’t forget to constantly mention how busy you are. It’s actually a beautiful thing. If you use the “I’m busy” line, you don’t need to actually get anything done. You have a built in excuse. If the boss asks the status of a project, you say, I’ve been so busy working on project x that I just haven’t gotten to it yet. I’ll get to it though. The boss can’t possibly replace you, because you have so many responsibilities. It’s job security 101.

Wanda B. Goode: The most recent time I was offered an “opportunity,” I accepted the assignment. Of course, every time there is the possibility of taking on more work, I look at what’s on my plate. I see if I can defer anything, or maybe delegate some things to others. I try my best to accommodate, but I have turned down assignments in the past. Some think this is the kiss of death, but in my experience, if you are good at your role and you have a reputation of being honest and straightforward, the boss will actually accept and approve of your well thought out decision.

I try not to use “I’m busy” as an excuse. In his book, Dear Boss, Dr. William Werther mentions that if people have time to constantly lament about how busy they are, they obviously aren’t that busy! Scott Young has a post where he exposes the “I’m busy” excuse as a way to avoid stepping out of our comfort zone. Click here to read more. Take care to avoid doing that.

Boss vs. Buddy

5 December, 2007 (23:57) | Leadership, Management, Workplace Dynamics | By: Administrator

Joe and Wanda, are you buddy’s with people on your teams? Do you hang out with them? Play sports with them?

Joe Kerr: O yeah! The company basketball league is well underway and my team is dominating. I can’t wait to stuff that Pepperman clown. The young buck likes to try to rough up the old boss, but I give it right back and then some. I tell all the guys, “What happens on the court stays on the court, so let’s get it on!” Nothing like some friendly competition to strengthen morale.

Wanda B. Goode: I try not to get too chummy with the people that report to me. I agree with Jeffrey Fox. In his book How to Become a Great Boss. Problems can occur if you hang out with a certain team member or group of team members more than others. Issues of favoritism can arise.  Fox puts it this way, “be friendly, but don’t be a friend.” Also, if a boss plays competitive sports with team members, “the pressure of winning and losing can create tensions and poor judgment.”  I’m not saying it can’t be pulled off. I’m just saying it can be tricky, so I try to avoid it. I try to “Be a Boss not a Buddy.”

Of course if you’re already buddies, this can create a whole new set of problems. Frequently a team member gets promoted to lead her existing team. All of the sudden she is the boss of her former peers and friends. If this is the case it’s imperative to set some ground rules with the staff. I have found that backing away and/or working to transfer friends out of the group is usually most effective.

Ryan Healy offers a similar perspective in his 3rd sign of a cool boss – Be friends at work, but not outside of work.

How Much Time Should be Spent on Poor Performers vs. Stars?

4 December, 2007 (00:30) | Leadership, Management, Problem Performance | By: Administrator

Joe and Wanda, Do you find that you spend more time with your good performers or your mediocre performers?

Joe Kerr: I try not to spend too much time with any of them to tell you the truth. The less interaction the better as far as I’m concerned.

Wanda B. Goode: I know what the right answer to this question is. I should spend the majority of my time with the stars. In his book, How to Become a Great Boss, Jeffrey Fox says you should spend 90% of your time with your best people. “If you were investing in the stock market, and had the choice of putting money into a growing high-return company, or a sluggish low-return company, where would you put your money?”

I know that’s what I should do, but it is tough. Poor performers can easily suck up your time. It can be difficult to fire people because of all the process created to avoid litigation. It’s one of the reasons some managers let the poor performers stick around. I do find that even with a laborious process, taking the medicine and investing the time to deal with the poor performer head on prevents a whole lot of headaches down the road.

For an interesting perspective on poor performers, check out this post on Open Community.