October 29, 2009

The Dean’s Disease

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:31 pm by ctennert

The Dean’s Disease is a way of labeling certain educational leaders who become wrapped up in their own self-importance, which in turn changes their view about themselves and other employees at the institution.  This syndrome could happen to any professional in some sort of power position, when they start to become pompous and act entitled. 

One reason why this occurs is because Dean’s have control over resources, and in turn, faculty.  They demonstrate their power, and because of the trickle-down effect, are sometimes detached from day-to-day happenings.  They can create a groupthink atmosphere, which is particularly dangerous.  Another reason for this behavior is, the Dean’s start to actually believe that they are the most special attribution to an institution.  They start to buy into their own b.s., creating an inflated sense of self-worth.  The last reason this disease occurs, is the Dean now developes a taste for power, putting this before anything else.  This could include placing emphasis on their power over rules, morals or procedures.

True leaders act quite differently than people suffering from the Dean’s Disease.  They portray a model of modesty and honesty.  They invite people into their circle who may disagree with them, never creating a groupthink moral.  They are constantly learning, and do not see other bright individuals as threats.  I read a great blog by Art Petty this week that really touches on the value of being modest as a leader.  I believe that the best leaders are the ones who are not riding their high horse, and are down to earth and relatable to their employees. 

Preventative measures can be taken to avoid the Dean’s Disease such as establishing values and encouraging independent thought.  And to stay on course, one must make a conscience decision to be self-directed and motivated to be a part of everyday interactions with colleagues.  Also, it is important to maintain a culture that will attract other talented faculty to support others’ weaknesses, including the Dean’s.


October 22, 2009

Evidence-Based Management

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:10 pm by ctennert

I think I am woefully naive, then.  What else besides evidence would guide decision, whether it be in the medical industry, or a corporation or small business?  There is so much research, and so many studies have been done on practices and products, it is unfortunate people in positions of power do not take advantage of them, and base their practices off this information.

It is interesting that doctors and managers will base their decisions, and run their practices off of knowledge they gained in school that very well could be obsolete, (schooling is necessary though, don’t get me wrong), long-standing but never proven traditions, patterns gleaned from experience, the methods believed are most skilled in applying, and info from vendors with products and services to sell.  I believe these procedures are utilized out of pure laziness or fear of the unknown, and what they may find out about that they are possibly doing wrong.  Bad people in power are usually proud, and probably don’t want to be told they are not making the best decisions.

I agree that medicine, like management, is a craft that is learned over time.  Practice makes perfect, as long as you are getting the right kind of practice.  Basing your decisions off of the attitude “because that is just the way we have always done it,” is dangerous, and promotes single-loop learning.  Businesses who have this state of mind, usually make decisions to capitalize on their own strengths.  The article also talks a lot about benchmarking.  If you copy what another alleged successful executive or company is doing, you will simply be a copier.  Not to mention, what works for one company or individual, may not work for another because they may be dramatically different in size, sell two different things, use different distribution methods, or target totally different markets, to name a few.

I believe a successful company, and a great one to work for, will place emphasis on teams, training and job rotation, and not place emphasis on status differences among employees.  Nordstrom is a perfect example of how not to follow these suggestions, and SWA is an example of how a great company operates.  And as always, good practices have to come from the top on down, and managers should demand evidence before integrating a new procedure or product, for example.  A good manager is one who is a double-loop learner:  “Evidence-based management is conducted best not by know-it-alls but by managers who profoundly appreciate how much they do not know.”

Introverted and Extroverted Leaders: Gifts and Cautions by Mary Jo Asmus

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:01 am by ctennert

Gifts of the introverted leader:

  • Provides well thought out strategies and decisions
  • Exhibits calm in the midst of calamity
  • Focuses on what matters to them with great determination
  • Enjoys listening to others

You can see that these strengths can be of great value in our organizations and communities. However, the introverts themselves often feel as if they don’t fit in; with some justification, since our organizations and communities tend to be largely extraverted by nature.

There may be some traits in introverted leaders that bear caution. If you identify with being an introverted leader, you might want to take notice of some of the cautions below, as they are the traits that can possibly cause trouble for you. I’ve included ways to mitigate the behaviors as well.

Introverted leaders:

Can be underestimated when they don’t allow their voice to be heard: Your opinions and thoughts are important to the conversation. If you are unable to give them the proper thought in the moment, request permission to offer your opinions later, after you’ve had time to deliberate and think them through.

May not recognize the importance of connections and relationships in the workplace: Recognize that leadership is fundamentally relational,  and if you aren’t out being seen and heard, your followers will make up their own theories and stories about you and what you are thinking. Schedule the time to get out and be seen, and build the relationships you need to grow a network of support.

Might not provide the detail behind their decisions: Because introverts do so much of their thinking by reflecting rather than speaking, there can be a perception that the decisions they make aren’t as well thought out as they really are. Your followers need to know what goes into your thought process. You might consider journaling the detail of your thoughts and practice saying them so that the people who need to hear them can understand the entire picture.

Can become stressed when they don’t pay attention to their need for time alone: Pay attention to the physical symptoms that indicate that you are draining your energy and not recharging your batteries.  Finding strategies that help you to maintain this balance are important to avoid stress-induced illness. For many introverts, actually scheduling solitary activities or hobbies into their calendar may be helpful.

Introverted leaders, I wish you the joy of knowing the strengths you bring to your organization and community as well as the full understanding of the cautions that may be barriers to fully using them.

Gifts of the extraverted leader:

  • Quick in decisions and movement to action
  • Comfortable in interactions with people
  • Easily expresses thoughts, feelings
  • Enjoys initiating and participating

You might notice that the characteristics described can be great strengths for an extraverted leader. Eager participation, quick action, and comfort in interactions are a natural for an extraverted leader. I’ve always thought that many organizations are extraverted by nature, making an easy fit for leaders with this preference.

However, I’ve noticed some traits in extraverted leaders that bear caution. If the characteristics of an extraverted leader ring true for you, you might want to take notice (and ask for feedback) on whether you are exhibiting some of the following behaviors. Ways to mitigate these behaviors are included below.

Extraverted leaders:

May not consider all sides of an issue before taking action on it. The solution may be to stop, reflect, and ask others what they think. Involve others in your decisions and consider all sides. People love to be included, and your decisions will often be better with diverse input.

May not listen well. Listening better has great advantages. Your employees will think you are brilliant, and you will learn a lot. So simply: just shut up and listen. It’s a huge boost to your relationships.

Might think out loud. Sometimes people don’t understand that you are not making a decision or directing something to be done when your thoughts come directly out of your mouth. Yet an extravert often thinks through things by talking about them. Find a way to “think out loud” with a mentor, coach or peer whom you trust. Alternatively, remember to let people know when you are simply thinking by talking.

May overwhelm, dominate, and sometimes intimidate others. Others may feel overwhelmed by an extraverted leader’s pace and large presence. Slow down when you can, listen to others and allow them the time they need for doing their best thinking; it will pay off for you and your organization.

Best wishes, extraverted leader, in using your gifts; they are plentiful. Become aware of the things that might get in your way of fully using them; and best wishes in developing new behaviors that will make you an even more “gifted” leader.



Indepth: Iraq

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:55 am by ctennert

This article was really difficult to read.  I already do not possess the utmost of faith for our government policies, so to read about our methods for intelligence-gathering before the War in Iraq was really disheartening. 

The intelligence community suffered from what they call group think, in that they pretty much had an idea or theory from the get-go, and were dead-set on skewing the research to prove that theory.  In this case, it was concerning whether or not Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, which they ended up not having, but the US went to war with their country anyway because of group think syndrome. 

However, the article states that the decision to declare on Iraq pre-dated the intelligence.  This administration was ass-backwards, and did not even operate as a whole.  This is due solely to poor management, on a grand scale.  If the analysts would have been adequately supervised and if management fully considered alternatives to the arguments, perhaps the Bush Administration would have made different choices.

Good to Great, or Just Good?

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:39 am by ctennert

The writers of this article should come out with their own best-seller, because they sure did have a lot to say about Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great.  They critique his research methods, and his findings, but they are not countering the book with their own, which I think they should.  They did not agree with the 11 companies Collins chose to examine, and claimed went from good to great companies based on five different management principles. 

This article argues that Collins had no legitimate data to back up his choices for the top 11 businesses who went good to great.  The article writers do not agree with his use, or misuse, of data mining.  They believe Collins began this project with a theory to prove, instead of just conducting unbiased research and analyzing the results. 

I wonder why this book was so popular, if his research is not legitimate?  I suppose it is a little too convenient that these companies just happened to have characteristics between them that are alike in all 5 catagories Collins points out.  Collins does not mention anything about other Fortune 500 companies, so what about them?  They may possess the 5 characteristics, but we wouldn’t know that from the findings in his book.  Again, the writers of this article should come out with their own best seller, written for the common American, and possibly supercede Collins’ findings.

October 21, 2009

Diamonds in the Data Mine

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:22 am by ctennert

The empire that is Harrah’s did not become what it is, one of the leading casinos in the industry, on accident.  The commitment to their customers is superb, and many casinos could learn a thing or two from Harrah’s attitude toward their loyal visitors.  The article reminded me of SWA, in that the employees bend over backwards, supposedly, for their customers.  Exactly WHAT the employees at Harrah’s are doing to go above and beyond for their customers is not touched on in the article, except for one manager who claims his customers have his personal cell phone which is on 24/7 in case they need to wait in line, etc.  How did they get his number?  From him obviously, but do they actually call?  I am sure this priviledge is only available to “high rollers,” but what about the non-high rollers?

The article states that 26% of gamblers who visit Harrah’s bring in 82% of their revenues.  This company seriously caters to these people, and most they say are not your typical stereotype of a blinged-out high roller.  Middle-class people who come in to play the slots and take advantage of the restaurant, room and play comps are their main customers.  The article mostly talks about Harrah’s tier system, and assumes that gamblers who spend less and less frequently are jealous of the platinum players and the perks that come with it.  (And strive to become platinum players themselves).  When I worked in a casino, I sort of felt bad for the high rollers.  The same people would come in and play tons of money, and would be there late hours.  Perhaps they have gambling problems, perhaps not, but I personally could think of thousands of ways to better spend my money on entertainment.

I do think the less-than-high-rollers should be treated exceptionally as well, because of the potential worth over time.  Plus, it’s just good business.  It is extremely smart for Harrah’s to reward their employees monetarily for outstanding customer service.  The better the experience the guest has, the more money the employee servicing them would make.  Also, if the property’s overall rating rose 3% or more, each employee could earn more money.  Is this the way Harrah’s does their performance reviews?  Or lack thereof?  If so, I like it!  Harrah’s recognizes that human capital is the most important asset a company can possess- and it is therefor reflected in their profits.

October 16, 2009

Article on Teams

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:10 am by ctennert

This is a great article that emphasizes the importance of teamwork, specifically in product development, and specifically targets good and bad behaviors displayed by the leaders of these teams.  Some very obvious points were made, such as having good communication with in the group, sharing the same outcomes or goals, and obtaining support from the leader of the group. 

As far as researching why some leaders employ effective tactics and seem to be more motivated than others, is a hard thing to gauge.  Any number of factors could weigh in and contribute to enthusiasm or lack thereof.  The article does point out some habits good leaders exhibit, however.  Leaders should look at themselves as  the protectors, tie breakers, or “insulation” as one leader puts it in the article.  A good leader encourages double-loop learning within the group, and promotes team ownership in the product or project at hand.  Bad leaders will just “soak up the limelight,” taking credit for the group’s work, and will restrict information flow to the members.  (I can’t image this).  One idea I loved was the encouragement of bonding between team members outside the work environment.  Retreats can be very effective motivating and bonding experiences for co-workers.

Also, the ideal leader will know how to handle conflict.  Conflicts are opportunities to learn, in my opinion.  A disagreement between two team members should be seen as an opportunity to see an issue from diverse angles, and the team leader should always embrace all ways to look at a problem, all while keeping the peace.  I agree with the article’s position on so-called failure as well.  It states that this is also a way for the team to learn, and better themselves for the next go-around.  Good team leaders encourage acting on professional decisions, and should always back their team up no matter what.

October 15, 2009

What HR Wants From an Executive Coach by Dan McCarthy & Mary Jo Asmus

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:04 pm by ctennert

1. Results… and sooner than later!
Executive coaches are a big investment, and especially during these tough economic times when budgets are tight, we need to make tough trade-off decisions as to where we spend our limited professional services dollars. Our Board of Directors are holding our executives accountable for making the numbers every quarter, and they in turn are holding HR accountable for helping them get those results. If we’re going to spend $10,000-$30,000 on an executive coach, we need to see a substantial ROI ASAP. That means measurable objectives need to be established right at the beginning, and a process for evaluating progress and results.

2. Competence.
The ideal executive coach has a combination of executive experience and professional coaching credentials. Our executives need practical advice from someone who has walked in their shoes and understands executive politics. While we prefer professional coaching certification or training, from International Coach Federation (ICF) or some other credible organization, experience and track record is looked at as well.

3. Value.
We realize the best coaches can command top fees. There is a reason for this – it’s a scarce skill set and the good ones can consistently produce results for their clients.
However, budget dollars are tight. In fact, when it comes to corporate spending, things may never return to where they were. So while we understand the concept of “you get what you pay for”, we also reserve the right to shop for the best fees and negotiate. It’s like buying a car – we’d prefer not to pay sticker, we want quality over brand name, and don’t want a lot of un-needed options.
We’d also like the option of paying an hourly fee, vs. a fixed 6-12 month price. That way, unlike a cell phone plan, either side can walk away at any time, with no long-term commitment or penalties.

4. Help us make an informed buying decision.
Provide us with a nice 2 page package that describes your background, coaching model, references, process, and pricing. That will help us easily narrow down our options and pass along our recommendations to our executive clients. Be willing and available for a 30-60 minute initial screening and chemistry phone call or meeting.

5. Involvement.
When we connect you to a client, we want to be involved as a part of a three-way partnership. HR can provide valuable upfront background and context, be involved in development goal setting, help answer questions and possibly remove obstacles, and be an ongoing resource for the executive. Keep in mind that unless the executive is paying for the coach with their own Visa card, the company is paying the coach, and HR often represents the company’s interest. The degree of involvement should not depend on whose budget the coaching fees are being paid from.

6. Focus on leadership behaviors and business results, unless otherwise agreed to upfront.
A disturbing number of executive coaches are contracted initially to address workplace behavioral issues and end up crossing the line into personal therapy. We realize it’s often important to “peel back the layers” to get at the underlying issues, but the best coaches know where to draw the line and make a referral – even if they have the expertise.

7. Chemistry with the executive client.
We want our clients to make their own choice when it comes to a coach. We’ll give them at least 3 choices, as opposed to over-relying on the same executive coach. We’ll do our best to minimize the political pressure of feeling the need to work with the coach that the CEO favors.

8. Client and company confidentiality.
We’ll want a signed NDA (non-disclosure agreement) and expect it to be honored. When working with our company and executives, we expect and respect the highest degree of confidentiality and discretion. While this may seem like a given, unfortunately, it’s not always the case. In fact, it’s often issues of internal confidentiality that cause the most problems – which we often need to step in and clean up.

9. Access and convenience.
While phone coaching is getting more popular and can be very effective, many of our executives still prefer face-to-face coaching. Being located in the same area as the executive, while not something a coach can control, is something we look for. Being willing and able to travel to the client helps as well.
I really like how Dan and Mary Jo outlined the list very clearly. No fluff here, straight and to the point of what they expect from HR coaches. I agree that it really should be a partnership, rather than the HR dept. at hand expecting the exec. coach to come in and work miracles alone. Consultants are tough to gauge sometimes, though, because they have no real vested interest in the company. They get paid to get in, do a great job, and get out. I could see how #6 may get a little fuzzy as to lines being crossed.

Compensation and Performance

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:22 am by ctennert

Get rid of the performance review!  At Arrow, Kaufman is on a mission to have the performance review work for his company, but he will only accept the process if he is satisfied with the results.  I cannot believe he even went as far as send initial results from performance reviews back to his managers because his employees were scoring too high.  Maybe he just has good employees, did he ever think of that?  No, he was hell-bent on scoring people lower than maybe they deserved, just so he could inspire them to work harder.  In my eyes, this would inspire me to find a job where I was more appreciated.  Even if a certain employee was doing a great job, he or she may score low on their evaluation from their manager by Kaufman’s instructions.

This system causes turmoil with both employees and managers alike.  The one good idea Kaufman had was his college-recruitment plan.  I have heard of companies being inclined to hire employees straight out of college so they can mold them into employees they want them to be.  They can also pay them a lot less than seasoned pros.  I do agree with his decision to not try and match competitor’s offers when trying to lure the college grads away from Arrow.  However, he later says that this was a mistake because the employees that stayed with the company long-term ended up being very loyal, obviously, and became managers, etc.

I agree that the biggest problem with performance reviews is usually the wording.  It is so general, and subjective.  Kaufman is trying to put a performance system in place that will tell managers how to rate their employees by setting performance review goals, yes, REVIEW goals, for the managers to follow.  They had to follow a certain percentage allowed to give employees good or bad scores.  He wanted to see more 1’s and 2’s in reviews that went to 5.  I would feel pretty worthless if I got a 1 on that system.  I think Kaufman is putting entirely too much time and effort into a system that will eventually backfire on him.

October 14, 2009

Sins of Commission: Be Careful What You Pay For, You May Get It

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:56 am by ctennert

Many companies believe that if they compensate their employees through monetary incentives, then all their problems will dissolve.  Yes, people are motivated by money, but that is not their sole motivator at the end of the day.  People who love what they do will provide great service to their company on a consistent basis.  How do they love what they do?  They are probably treated right by their employers with more than just money as an incentive to perform well. 

If employees are driven to do well by their companies through financial rewards only, this will definitely shape their behavior, and not in positive ways all the time.  Employees will do anything they can to earn that extra dollar, even if it means being unreasonable and selfish.  Again, they should want to do well because they are proud of the company they work for, ideally.  Employees who are consistently meeting expectations with the same monetary rewards at the end can plateau, or get lazy, losing interest in their job, and eventually moving on to something bigger and better.

Goal setting is another problem companies face, in that how do we set them?  What is fair, challenging yet reachable?  How do we measure success?  What are the benefits or consequences for not reaching these goals?  I suppose if one company did not offer incentives to their employees, a competitor would, hence a double-edged sword.  My advice would be, strive to be a great company, incentives aside.  Companies should give incentives to their employees because they want to, not because they have to.

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