Sometimes Being a Leader Means Saying Goodbye

DrowningThere is a romantic notion that a leader is like a knight in shining armor.  They can save anyone and anything in any situation and everybody will cheer their efforts and laud them a hero.  As great as that sounds, that is not always the case. 

Sometimes, the best way for a leader to lead is to remove themselves from the situation.  The circumstances dictate that the right move is for new blood to tackle the issue.  Even the noblest of leaders cannot fix every issue.  Their skill set, belief system, or team constraints force them to step aside and let someone else try to resolve the situation.

In many instances, it is better for a leader to leave them wanting more instead of staying too long.  It is better to be seen as going out on top because when the failure to achieve occurs, the fall may be too great for the team to bear.

We see this a lot with celebrity CEOS, TV personalities, politicians, and athletes.  But it also happens every day in companies, non-profits, and schools.  The leader reaches a point where they are no longer effective.  Their message is tuned out, their results are not what anyone is accustomed to, and rather than accepting that they had a good run, they hang on too long.

Often times, the demise is self-imposed by doing things illegally or by cutting corners.  Other times, it is just the natural business cycle.  Someone was lucky enough to catch the wave and not smart enough to get off before the crash.

If you are a leader who does not feel they are being effective anymore, you need to evaluate whether you should still be leading that team.  Be proactive to figure out how to recharge your team and honestly access what they need to be successful.  If the answer is not you, you need to be the leader that you are and move on.

It may be scary to change positions or to be between positions, but your reputation and the team you leave behind will thank you.

Yo! Millennials are People too!

Happy co-workersThat was the comment from one of our Millennial employees after our office was doing our usual bashing of his generation.  And while it is easy to classify an entire group of people as lazy, self-absorbed, and coddled, it is very dangerous to do this as a leader.

From the beginning of time, the establishment has complained about the younger generation.  The Traditionalists complained about the Baby Boomers, Baby Boomers about Generation X and now everyone about the Millennials.  Whether it was blue shirts and long hair or a better work life balance, there has always been a biased against the younger generations.

The true leader is the one that knows how to tap into each of their team members and get the best results from them and the group collectively.  You need to understand what drives each team member in a few key areas:

1.       Values- Millennials tend to value their individualism above all else.  The one size fits all mentality really has become one size fits none.  You need to work to understand and know each team member as a person and what drives them.

2.       Business Worth- Millennials believe that their contribution to the company is the key to their work.  You need to spend time recognizing their good performance way more than you point out how to improve.  Being part of the team is fine for them.   

3.       Business Focus- Millennials have grown up with the “It’s a Small Word” mentality.  They care about the Global impact of their job and how networked their job is to the rest of the world.  You need to explain the big picture to them so that they understand and embrace that their task is making the world and their company better.

You need to adjust your style for Millennials and focus on team work, celebrating small victories, and adding variety to their tasks.  You need to understand that for them, effective work is greater than hours worked, that “paying their dues” is not a reason for a task to be done, and that there is no line between work and family time.  You need to help them grow up in life as well as in the workplace. 

Failure to incorporate this into your management style will cause you to be the “old person” in your office.  And no one wants to be seen as the dinosaur.  Every generation can agree on that.

When to Hire New Employees

InterviewNew Year, New Beginnings.  For almost 20% of the workforce, this is really true as January is one of the top months for new job starts.  With over 87% of the workforce changing jobs within 5 years, that is a lot of turnover.  While it seems to be easy to leave jobs, how do you know if the job is worth replacing or if you need to add staff?

The old adage that people find work to keep themselves busy sometimes clouds what is really necessary versus people filling the day.  Social media also hinders your ability as a manager to see how “hard” a person is actually working.  Group texts, posts, tweets, etc. sap countless hours out of your team’s work day.  Throw in meetings, conference calls, and forget about it!

When we look at increasing our staff, we look at three things:

1.       Is our current staff actually taxed?  As I mentioned above, putting in 40-45 hours a week but spending 15 hours goofing off may mean that we need to change the person doing the job, not splitting the job.  However, if an A Level performer is struggling to keep her work flow going, then you may need to look at getting her help.

2.       Will the hire either reduce costs or increase revenue?  At the end of the day, every employee needs to fall into one of those buckets.  If an AR manager brings a wealth of experience in reducing the amount of outstanding invoices, then that may be a great hire.  However, adding a person to AR because there is a backlog may not be.

3.       Can you outsource the needs and receive better service?  Before hiring an HR manager for a small office, look at the alternatives.  Can a third party company handle the issues that you are typically having?  The third party typically is more cost effective since you are only utilizing them when you need them.  Payroll, sales, creative services, accounting, and marketing are all departments that outsourced vendors tend to work well as they bring lots of experience from different industries to your company.

When I was cutting my teeth as a manager, I was once given some advice that stuck with me.  Top performers always get help.  Middlers need to be mentored to see if they can perform better and lower performers need to leave.  I guess that is why 20% of the workforce moves in January.

Are You a Meeting Animal?

We all know that person who tries to dominate a meeting- answering rhetorical questions, making counterpoints to their own points, pushing their agenda without any chance for input. Then they instantly become disengaged when they are finished with their rant. They read their phone, start sidebar conversations, and fidget in their chair until their time to pounce comes again.

Of all of the types of meeting goers, which also include the note taker, the contrarian, the face maker and the disinterested attendee, this person is the worst attendee. Their only agenda is to win the meeting, to prove that they are smarter, louder, and more aggressive than everyone else.

Ask yourself, “Am I that person?” If you are, please stop. Meetings are supposed to be for collaboration and team problem solving. If you need more attention, call your mom and ask if she is available to give you a hug. Your insecurities are hurting your team, your reputation and your career. Being passionate about the meeting subject is fine. Just be respectful that others may have different styles and perspectives and together you will solve the problems. It is really difficult to be an independent contributor in a group setting.

If you are running a meeting and you have a hijacker, you need to gain control of the situation. You need to exhibit strong leadership skills. Statements that redirect the meeting to your stated goals are important. “Thank you for the input, Tom. I think you covered that topic very well. Now we are going to discuss… Kate do you have any input.”

Put an end to cellphone use and sidebars immediately. Remind people that not only are those activities disrespectful, they increase the length of the meeting and reduce the effectiveness of the team. Be ready to handle snide comments with grace. Remember, you are in control of the meeting.

Plenty of books and articles have been written about the art of conducting/attending meetings. All of their main points center on respect- respecting the attendees, their time, their views and the moderator. Remember whether you are running the meeting or a willing participant, the way you respect your peers will go further than any idea that you have.