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    Entries in management (33)

    Thursday
    May112017

    Probably not going to get a "Best Boss" mug from the staff any time soon

    Sometimes it can be really tough to be the boss.  Lots of calls, lots of emails, lots of meetings, and probably lots of people in the organization that want a little piece of your time.  They might need some direction, want to get your opinion on something, might need some clarification before taking an action, and sometimes the team just might want a little face time, you know, a little interaction with the boss. Sometimes people feel a little better after getting some 1-1 time with the big kahuna.

    So all that can get tiring for the boss. At least at times it can. The boss, too, has things to do.  The boss probably has his/her own agenda and priorities on any given day. The boss, sometimes, probably comes into work not in the best mood and maybe does not want to deal with any of this 'other' stuff that was not perfectly slated into their calendar for the day.

    So I can kind of get it when once in a while the boss does not really have time for small talk in the elevator or in the hall. Or when, even in a small company, you need about 3.5 weeks advance notice to maybe get 30 minutes on the boss' calendar to day your piece. I get it. I do.

    But time management is only one of the dozens of things a successful leader needs to be good at in order to succeed, and while I don't know for sure how to manage time effectively, (I am writing this at 11:30PM so I can attest), I do know that the wrong way for the boss to set expectations for the staff as to his/her availability and accessibility is to do what TV personality Steve Harvey dropped on his organization, (and as described in Mashable).

    Take a look at an image of Harvey's set of instructions to his staff that was reportedly sent at the start of the show's most recent season:

    Awesome stuff, right?

    Don't talk to me under any circumstances unless we have a meeting on the calendar in advance. Don't speak to me in the hall, don't linger outside the elevator, don't 'ambush' me in the makeup room - basically DO NOT APPROACH ME AT ALL.

    Love it.

    But at least Harvey dropped a 'please don't take offense' at the end of the 14 ways to not talk to Steve Harvey bomb.

    That will make it all better. 

    I actually kind of like some of Harvey's rules. I may try to enact a couple in my life too. And if I do, just please don't take offense.

    Monday
    May082017

    15 Years Later, Still Talkin' About Practice

    This week was the 15th Anniversary of NBA legend Allen Iverson's classic 'talkin' about practice' press conference, where the Philadelphia 76ers star, just a few days after seeing his Sixers team eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics addressed the media and was confronted with questions about his (allegedly poor) practice habits. Iverson had a tempestuous relationship with 76er coach Larry Brown, himself no stranger to controversy, and the 'practice' rant stemmed largely from Brown's comments to the media about Iverson's casual attitude towards practice and preparation.

    Some video exists from the 2002 press conference, (embedded below, email and RSS subscribers will need to click through), that shows Iverson in full on 'practice' rant, mentioning about 20 times in two and a half minutes that he saw it as being ridiculous as a the franchise player, and league MVP just one season prior, and a legendary fierce and fearless competitor, that he had to spend time well, talking about practice.

    Video below and some more comments from me after the jump...

    A few things about Iverson's comments and the 'practice' issue overall.

    One, the video, and most of what everyone remembers from the press conference was the two minutes of so of Iverson repeating, 'we're talking about practice, not a game' over and over, which makes it very easy to call into question Iverson's dedication and commitment. What is missing from the video, and can be found in the full transcript of the press conference here, is that before and after the 'practice' rant, Iverson talked openly about being hurt, confused, and disappointed in trade rumors that were floating around at that time. Iverson, rightly so, considered himself and was recognized by the league, as one of the very best players in the game. In 2002, he was in the middle of an 8 or 9 year run where he'd be named to the All-NBA 1st, 2nd, or 3rd team each year. In our workplace parlance, he was 'top talent' an 'A player' or a purple squirrel if you will. So naturally Iverson would have to be surprised and insulted that the team he had performed so well for, including dragging on his back to the NBA finals just one year prior, would even consider shopping him around the league.

    Two, the rant, and the 'practice' context raise really interesting and ongoing questions about talent and more specifically how hard it can be to 'manage' the best talent. Iverson was a former league MVP, the league's leading scorer, and had an unquestionably ferocious style of play, notable for a guy just 6 feet tall and thin-framed. No one who watched Iverson play consistently ever came away from recognizing his commitment and intensity to winning basketball games.  At the time of the 'practice' press conference, he was 26, had just completed his 6th year in the league, and won his third league scoring title. Was he a perfect player? No. But he was one of the very best in the game and it can be argued he knew how to best prepare himself and his body to stand up to the rigors of a long season and playoffs.

    Should Iverson have been more attentive and subservient to the wishes of the coach, and tried to be a more dedicated 'practice' player?

    Probably.

    Did Brown know the right way how to get the best out of Iverson, his star player?

    Probably not.

    I guess I am coming off as a bit of an Iverson apologist here, especially when most of the people that have seen or heard about the 'practice' rant come to the quick conclusion that Iverson was selfish, pampered, and in the wrong. I guess all I will say to that is as a manager or leader you eventually sink or swim largely by your ability to get the best performance out of your star performers.

    Iverson has some blame here for sure, but definitely not all of it.

    Probably too much of it.

    Friday
    Jan202017

    The Wisdom of Jeff Van Gundy - Part VIII

    Time to revive an old series on the blog, and one of my favorites - on the (continuing) Wisdom of Jeff Van Gundy.

    Since it has been a while, here's a little refresher on just who Jeff Van Gundy is, and why management, leadership, and organizational culture types should listen closely to what JVG has to say about performance, talent, and team dynamics.

    JVG is currently an NBA analyst and announcer for ESPN, previously he was the head coach of my beloved New York Knicks, as well as the Houston Rockets. He was successful as a coach, but may even be a better fit for broadcasting, as he over the years has shown consistent insights into the game, coupled with humor, irreverence, and fun that makes games in which he is broadcasting essential viewing for NBA fans.

    We've covered many of JVG's insights on the blog in the past, (good examples are here and here), and while listening to JVG recently being interviewed on ESPN's (Zach) Lowe Post Podcast, he had this nugget of enlightenment about the importance of conflict amongst team members, and how it is necessary (often), to drive performance improvement.

    Here's the JVG quote, and then a quick comment from me:

    (Some context, Lowe and JVG were discussing if players who are 'bad' or who have abrasive personalities should have that held against them when judging their performance) 

    JVG - To me, it is not about are you 'easy' in the locker room, it's are you right. If you are causing tension for the right reasons at the right times, to help spur your team to confront their issues, and their problems and you're willing to be confronted as well about your own issues and your own problems, then tension is a good thing. 

    This idea that everything should be happy go lucky in a locker room when you are a mediocre team, I disagree with. It's hard to get from mediocrity to average then from average to pretty good and from pretty good to good and then from good to great if there's no conflict. Conflict puts everybody's cards on the table. If you are causing tension for the right reasons at the right times and you are willing to be coached as well and confronted as well then I think tension is a good thing.

    A really interesting, and I think accurate, assessment of how conflict, how an occasional 'difficult' personality type on the team, and the tension and butting of heads that that kind of a person can cause should not be immediately looked at as a negative.

    In NBA basketball, and probably in your organization as well, there are plenty of folks who think their performance and their contribution is perfectly acceptable, and their position on the team is totally secure. They may even be your 'top' performers. But even they, probably, need to be challenged from time to time. Even they need to examine their own performance at least once in a while.

    And in basketball, and again, probably in your shop too, it often takes a gruff, difficult, hard to get along with personality type to force people into that kind of self-examination. And often in basketball, and for the final time, at 'normal' workplaces too, the tendency is to immediately point the finger at Mr. or Ms. 'Difficult' and ostracize them, (or simply get rid of them), for rocking the boat.

    As JVG reminds us, when a team of any kind aspires to do more, to do better, to achieve great things, some conflict along the way is not only inevitable, it is likely essential.

    Think about that the next time you are wondering what to do to make that hard to get along with person who likes to find the issues in what is going on around the office to simply pipe down and get along.

    Maybe they're not actually the problem after all.

    Have a great weekend! 

    Thursday
    Jul282016

    VACATION REWIND: The smart leader's approach to dress codes (and any other policy)

    NOTE: I am on vacation this week - please enjoy a replay of a piece from March of this year.

    ----------------------------------------------------------

     

    Happy Spring!

    It's Spring right, at least here in the USA, (and I suppose some other places as well, I was never all that great at geography). But with Spring comes the return (hopefully), of warmer weather and the shift to our 'summer' clothes - both for work and for not work.

    And the first time Gabe from accounting or Marcia in customer service turns up to work wearing some cargo shorts or worse, you or your organization's leaders might be tempted to send one of those beloved 'all employees' emails from HR that run down the ins and outs of the official dress code, as you know, we don't want to really treat folks like adults, at least not at work.

    But before you do send that email listing just what types of concert T-shirts are acceptable and which ones are not, I would encourage you to read this piece from ESPN.com, on how one organizational leader is wrestling with these same workplace policy issues as you are: Joe Maddon, (Chicago Cubs manager), on dress code: 'If you think you look hot, wear it.' 

    Get past the title for a second and read the whole piece. Here is a snippet to prod you along:

    Cubs manager Joe Maddon met with his “lead bulls” on Sunday to go over team rules as 11 players and their boss discussed everything from a dress code to kids in the clubhouse.

    “The biggest topic of discussion was shorts or not on the road,” Maddon said after the meeting.

    Maddon isn’t a stickler for a lot of written rules, instead preferring a common-sense approach. He believes players know the line not to cross. He used last year’s policies -- his first on the team -- as a guideline. They worked out pretty well.

    “You have like a force field, not an actual fence. Guys know if they go past a certain point you might get stung a little bit, but you don’t have to see the fence there,” Maddon explained. “I like that.”

    “Exercise common sense with all this stuff,” he said. “There are so much archaic stuff that baseball stands for. I’m here to manage the team, not make rules. I learned my lesson with that to not go nuts about it.

    Just about everything you need to know about dress codes or most other workplace rules right there. Treat folks like adults, let them know what is really important for the organization to be focusing on, (it isn't the dress code), and involve a larger group of leaders and influencers on the staff as you talk about expectations and whatever policies you have. Not only will they help you define the rules, they will likely help you self-enforce them as well.

    It is actually really simple. Simple enough for even the Cubs to figure out.

    Have a great day! 

    Wednesday
    Jul272016

    VACATION REWIND: There are only 5 possible reasons for every business problem - Bar Rescue Edition

    NOTE: I am on vacation this week - please enjoy a replay of a piece from February of this year.

    ----------------------------------------------------------

    There are only 5 possible reasons for any business problem - Bar Rescue edition

    Some folks who know me know that about a thousand years ago I spent a fair bit of time working in the Middle East - in Saudi Arabia to be precise. And these same folks also know that every one of my probably hundreds of stories I have told about my time in Saudi fall into only five major categories - it was really hot, we had to find gray market beer, I played rugby with a wild group of expats, we socialized with the (mostly Irish and Canadian) nurses from the local hospital, and sometimes you had to deal with some scary police/security people.

    Every story, no matter how it starts, ends up in one of those five classifications. In fact, over the years I got tired of telling, (and people got tired of listening to) the old tales, and now I just list the five categories. The details of any one event or experience don't really matter all that much anyway. But the categories are still valid.

    What made me think about this again was that over the long weekend I caught a few episodes of a marathon one of my favorite reality TV shows - Bar Rescue. If you are not familiar with the show, the basic premise is this: Veteran bar and hospitality consultant and expert Jon Taffer gets summoned to 'rescue' or help fix a bar or bar/restaurant that is failing, and possibly about to go out of business. 

    Taffer will bring in a team of experts like a master mixologist, a chef, and designers and construction crews that together help to renovate the bar, motivate and train the owners and staffs, and redesign products and processes in hopes of giving the bar a new start and (hopefully), keeping it in business.

    But what's the connection to 'Steve's boring Middle East stories?' you might be asking. 

    Well it is this: Just like my dopey stories, every major problem facing the failing business owners in Bar Rescue falls into five categories as well. Sure there may be some subtle differences in specific situations, and most of these disaster bars suffer from multiple problems, but at their canter, they are mostly, remarkably, the same.

    Every failing bar's problems fall into one of these five categories, (with some specific manifestations where I can think of some).

    1. Lack of leadership from the bar owners - shows up in a few ways on the show, my favorite are the owners that simply get trashed drunk at the bar every night and have no idea what is really happening. Other times the owners are part-time or 'hobby' owners and have other businesses or jobs that keep them from paying enough attention to the failing bar.

    2. Terrible hiring decisions - often this is the 'professional' bar manager that has no idea what he/she is doing. Also, lots of 'friends and family' hiring of people that are totally wrong for the jobs they are in or are taking advantage of their relationship with the owner to get away with doing substandard work.

    3. Lack of attention to maintenance and upkeep - these are the bars with dead fruit-flies in the bottles, accumulated grease covering everything in the kitchen, and tubs of expired and/or rotting food in the walk-in. It is actually kind of shocking what some of these failing bars have allowed to let happen - at times it even threatens the health and safety of workers and customers.

    4. Little or no understanding of the market/customers - time and time again Taffer and his team have to advise and educate the bar owners about the local neighborhood, the main drivers of potential traffic to the bar, and how the bar stacks up against the local competition. Typically in these situations, the bar owners have failed to recognize and adapt to changes - trends, preferences, and expectations of customers that are not the same as they once were back when the bar was more successful.

    5. Failure to understand the economics - this one is pretty common the show and manifests itself in a few ways. Sometimes the owners really don't know how much money they are really losing or owe. Sometimes they don't have a good grasp on the financial drivers of their business, like knowing what food or drink items are most profitable. Or they are getting fleeced by staff (or even themselves) by giving away too many free rounds of drinks and not realizing how much that is hurting the business.

    Just like my Saudi stories can be pretty easily classified, every failing bar's problems on Bar Rescue can fit into one of the above categories. And the the more interesting thing about Bar Rescue than my stories, is that these bar/business problems are pretty likely the same broad set of categories just about and business faces too.

    Issues with leadership at the top. Bad hires, poorly trained staff, people in the wrong roles. Failing to keep track of the basic elements needed for any kind of success. Not keeping up with market and business condition changes. And finally, not watching and understanding the finances. Every problem (pretty much anyway), fits into one of these buckets.

    Figure out in which one of these buckets that most of your business problems fit and you, like the Bar Rescue team, will know where to spend your time and energy making things right.