Feeling fragile, insecure about your job?

Remember…this is all the life we have…we will ever have. Do we really want to live in fear and trembling with every passing hour, immersed in a  life-consuming affair with our job. Employers today make for fickle lovers, who will use infidelity like a terrifying Sword of Damocles, imminently poised to drop and separate you from your job.
The only long-term solution is to develop the unique skills and knowledge that make you less dispensable. Continue to re-skill yourself.

Ask yourself constantly: “what am I doing today that makes it difficult for the Organization to replace me?”
If there is nothing that makes your contribution somewhat unique, identify the skills your Organization clearly values, and develop expertise in them.

Bullet-proof yourself.

Focus on doing the things that contribute to your role, and that are within your control – execute flawlessly. Eschew those concerns that are outside  your sphere of control. They can only become a distraction if you allow them to.
Best of luck!

*************************************************************************

I find that from a career and professional sense, we end up getting the manager we deserve. If we allow ourselves to become the victim of micromanagement, it means we have either fallen short of our manager’s expectations, or that we have allowed the manager to bully/micromanage us into our current situation and role.

We need to decide – is this a leadership/management style that we can live with or is it something we would rather confront and accept the risk of whatever negative result that may entail.

At the end of it all, we want to preserve our sanity…and that may mean the trauma of sacrificing our job…or the less troublesome outcome, of changing jobs within the same organization.
But the choice is always ours to make!

*****************************************************************************

There is no such thing as lifetime employment any longer. The sooner we embrace this rather sad, but chilling thought, the better it is. The terrifying reality of today is that Outsourcing is here to stay. Our markets are drying up and most of the commerce is relegated to the new, emerging powerhouse economies like India and China with populations exceeding a billion humans each.  Their combined middle class population alone is likely in the 700 Million ballpark – that is twice the size of the entire population of the U.S. With that burgeoning middle class comes incredibly attractive markets with phenomenal disposable income. So yes, micro-manager driven or otherwise – we will continue to see our jobs erode and head eastward…at least for as long as this current trend to seek out  geographies with the kind of Education, English Language and Technical skills like India and China, remains in vogue.

The Balanced Scorecard…does it have a place in today’s business model

A key point that is underscored in the Japanese TQM or Kaizen model of Change Management is the need to ensure that the Scorecard also measures Business and Financial results based on a Competitive Benchmarking approach.

Here is a rather simplified summary:
1. What is the Q: The quality of the competitor – what is their error rate and the percent of rework required before acceptable Quality is achieved.
2. What is the C: The Cost the competitor incurs to perform the same process
3. What is the D: Delivery time taken for ‘On Time and In Full’ delivery (OTIF index)

I have learned since, that any Balanced Scorecard that does not factor in the Benchmarking QCD factors above – is not worth the paper it is printed on.

******************************************************************

As I have always stated – most of the management ‘discoveries’ (Like the Balanced Scorecard) have already happened…we keep re-bottling them in new bottles. The Japanese TQM movements initiated after WW2 have several practices that foreshadowed the Balanced Scorecard. Consider the Hoshin Kanri or full policy deployment programs that basically looked at a process that would percolate the Organizations Vision, Mission and Strategy down to the middle management planning, and right down to the worker level implementation…with measurements and metrics as part of a PDCA loop. America had more than 70% of the world’s export market – but simply because the rest of Europe and the East were struggling to rebuild after the war. read up on  W Edwards Deming, Joseph M. Juran and many great Japanese TQM luminaries like Shigeo Shingo, Taiichi Ohno, Masaaki Imai, Kauro Ishikawa et al who led the charge for TQM. The rest is history.

********************************************************************

Regarding the Balanced scorecard, it is not new nor can it be simply dismissed as not applicable to our business environment. Drs. Kaplan and Norton were onto something way back in the early 90’s and their initial hypothesis stands today. The BSC is still widely deployed across top fortune 500 companies and finds a place in the management system of organizations in the NA, Europe, East and Far East to date.  It focuses on driving the 4 elements of Organizational learning and growth, Process, Customer and Financial performance – and developing Organization Objectives, Strategy, Measurements and  Initiatives thereof.

With the advent of Big Data and Analytics, it has the potential to become a much more powerful business management system that can render otherwise vast, complex tracts of indecipherable Information into business decision data.

When you really think about it, in business, any business…what gets measured gets done!

Groupthink…

Groupthink is an irrational desire for members in a group to seek conformity and cohesiveness with each other, to the degree of suppressing any dissenting views or opinions from other members. This desire for group cohesiveness  causes decisions to be ratified without any critical analysis/debate, so key to ensure decisions are critiqued and debated before they are approved.
I disagree with some who would suggest that Groupthink is caused by bad leadership? Groupthink is the result of a group of people who yearn to conform with the larger group’s thinking, even if it is detrimental to the group at large.

Read Irving Janis’s ‘Victims of Group Think.’

Here is a pithy quote from Janis that I rather like: “The more amiability and esprit de corps there is among the members of a policy-making in-group, the greater the danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by Groupthink, which is likely to result in irrational and dehumanizing actions directed against out-groups.”

******************************************************************

In discussing Groupthink, some like to point towards a leader who is happy with all around agreement to his/her decisions, and generally accepting of silence as consensus. In actuality Groupthink is not about an individual exercising his/her will over the team, but more a team so cohesive and conformity driven that they view any form of dissent as dangerous to the team’s general ‘joie de vi·vre.’ A danger that is rapidly snuffed out – which means the team acts against the individual dissenters and closes ranks to effectively shut them out. The opposite of group think is more difficult to obtain – the willingness on the part of individuals to hold their ground and uphold their values, beliefs and critical opinions, regardless of the rest of the groups thinking. But such a stand is taken not just against the leader – but indeed against all of the team, to defend one’s opinion. Like the individual Juror’s dissent that can often cause a ‘Hung Jury.’

***********************************************************************

The most damaging outcome of groupthink is often the waste of time and resources that go into a team going into a retreat/closed-door meeting to thrash out some jugular corporate issues, only to come away with a sub-standard quality output as a result of groupthink.
If the team is so fortunate, they can rally their forces and rework the outcome, with a better result, if they recognize that their initial outcomes came out of groupthink’ing. The damage could be vastly more far-reaching if they remain ignorant of the groupthink driven outcomes and go ahead with their actions and decisions based on it.

The Innovation Domino Effect…

Does sheer growth in computational capability change the game – it surely does! No longer is it okay to stay out of the I/T sandbox…you blink and you are done. It’s that quick. So rather than depend solely on management systems like a Balanced Scorecard or Japanese style Hoshin Kanri (Full Policy Deployment), we need to become familiar with the concepts of Big Data & Analytics, Cognitive Computing, Deep Learning and Data Mining to add a fillip to our existing management systems. Moreover, we need to utilize these current I/T breakthrus in the building of Organization Strategy that will not only respond to what our customers need and want – but indeed to develop the Paradigm Shifting Innovation Domino effect (Copyright) – The Internet, as an example, triggered a massive chain reaction of innovations to service our growing needs, wants and expectations…some of which we could have never known if the Internet hadn’t happened.

*************************************************************************

What triggers innovation? Is it the early adopter who crave that which is not yet on a drawing board, let alone in a Product Development  & Testing stage? Is it the failure of existing products/services to meet our demands and expectations? Is it the arrival of a new technology or discovery that triggers a seismic shift in our needs and wants?

The Internet as an example triggered a massive chain reaction of innovations to service our growing needs, wants and expectations…some of which we could have never known if the Internet hadn’t happened.

I call this the ‘Innovation Domino Effect.’
Great organizations don’t wait for something external to provide the Innovation Domino Effect – they create it in house. Take Sony as an example – they went out and created the Discman before we’d even gotten used to the Walkman? The Walkman being the trigger for the Innovation Domino Effect in this example.

Then Apple came along and created the IPod and that little innovation triggered the seismic Innovation Domino Effect that was the smartphone wave…an effect we are still experiencing even today.

So it is becoming more numerous in our daily lives – this rapid transition from one innovation to the next and the attendant Domino Effects that follow almost as a de rigueur precondition.

Airbnb, Uber, Twitter, Facebook, Snap chat, YouTube and so on. All by-products from the Internet and the Domino Effect of Innovation that it triggered.

Organizations that are savvy and are reading the signs right should be thinking about restructuring so that Employees are trained to be:                                                                 Creative and Innovative, Push the envelope, Take risks  and recognize that there is no embarrassment in calling out an idea that may not work, and that the real embarrassment should lie in suppressing the idea and keeping it to oneself.

Public Speaking & Presentation Tips

Nothing strikes one with a greater sense of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD), quite like being called upon to address an audience in a public setting. It is irrelevant whether you are required to address a social or a business audience. The FUD factor hits you all the same, and before you know it you are breaking out in a sweat, fumbling for last minute ideas and jokes, and generally anticipating how much of an ‘Ass’ you are going to look like up there on stage, under the harsh white lights, alone and unprepared.In many ways we are already in the process of creating a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ for failure, even before we have uttered the first word in our speech or presentation.

Well let’s talk a little about this very rational sense of foreboding that almost always accompanies any suggestion of ‘Public Speaking’ or ‘Presentation.’ (I will use the term ‘Presentation’ to include Public Speaking and Presentations going forward).

I am going to break it down into 5 parts and for ease of memorizing this approach, I will use the Alphabet ‘P’ (yes inspired from the word Presentation) to categorize each step in the process of getting you to a better state of mind, the next time you are called upon to perform any Presentation honours.

The Five steps are:

  1. Plan
  2. Prepare
  3. Practice
  4. Perform
  5. Process (for Improvement Actions)
  1. Plan:
  • Who is your audience (Demographic, Psychographic) – who are the key ‘Decision makers’ present?
  • What is the occasion?
  • What is the subject you will be Presenting?
  • What is your single point objective (what is the single, most critical point you would like your speech/presentation to deliver?)
  • Do you have sufficient time to prepare – or have you been called to speak or present without prior notification? (See ‘Skating backwards at the speed of light.’)
  • How much time do you have – is there any expectation that you will take questions at the end of your speech/presentation?

Any information and answers you are able to gather for the above questions can only help you to better prepare your Presentation

  1. Prepare:

Consider dress code and the venue – do you need to dress formal, informal or Business casual (dress appropriately and remember; it is better to err on the side of caution and dress formal). You don’t want to show up in Bermudas and Flip Flops and find everyone else in Business Suits?

Prepare for your Presentation.

  • Will you be using a computer with projector, Overhead projector, Flip charts, TV monitor or cue cards/Notes?
  • Include an Introduction, Agenda, Objectives, Main content (Body of your presentation) and Conclusions/ Recommendations.
  • Clarify if you are prepared to take questions after your Presentation.
  • Factor in the questions/answers from Step 1 (Plan) above.
  • Consider an interesting way to kick off your presentation so that you capture the Audience attention and interest right from the start (remember AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire, Action).
    • What is it about your presentation topic that will motivate your audience to stay tuned and listen?

Here are some common ‘Introduction’ ideas you may consider:

  • Humorous comment or joke (keep it relevant to the theme of your Presentation)
  • Dramatic announcement (something unusual, factual and relevant)
  • Shocking Statement of fact (Historical, Empirical data/fact)
  • Relevant Analogy
  • Personal anecdote that allows you to segue into your Presentation content (Beware personal ‘war stories’)
  • Relevant quotation

 Three ‘T’s’ of Presenting/Public Speaking:

  • Tell them what you are going to tell them
  • Tell them
  • Tell them what you just told them

It is a proven fact that using the above technique makes it easier for the presenter to underscore critical parts of the presentation or speech, while also ensuring that the audience has sufficient opportunity to memorize key points.

Skating backwards at the speed of Light

For the times that you are called upon to speak or present ‘ad lib’ or without any opportunity for preparation, get used to skating backwards at the speed of light. What do we mean?

We mean the ability to internalize the process of Public Speaking or Presentation to a degree that we can perform it at a level of ‘Unconscious Competence.’

In other words, regardless of the Subject matter, Audience, Time available or Venue, we are always totally in control of the Speaking and/ or the Presentation process.

So how does one go about performing on the spur of the moment without any time to prepare?

The answer is to think in terms of ‘Three.’

Almost any subject is better articulated when broken down into smaller, manageable components and three just seems to be a great balance of economy and completeness.

Here is an example of a potential random topic (Sales Trends) to illustrate the point of thinking in terms of ‘Three.’ This will give you some ideas on how you may consider breaking this subject down into three parts in order to speak or present it   ‘off the cuff’ so to speak:

Sales Trends: Break it down into three parts by product configuration: Mainframe, Midrange, Desktop.

Sales Trends: Break it down into three parts by Geography: North, South, East (you could add West – doesn’t have to be Three?)

Sales Trends: Break it down into three parts by Chronological factors: Q1, Q2, Q3 (you could add Q4, or breakdown by year – 2011, 2012 and 2013 for a different option).

Sales Trends: Break it down into three parts by Strategic intent: By existing markets, Growth markets and ‘White space’ (untapped markets)

The above examples should give you an idea of how you can address those tricky situations when you are expected to speak/present on the fly…or in other words to skate backwards at the speed of light!

Feel free to make your own ‘Three’ breakdown categories. The opportunities are limitless.

  1. Practice

Practice your Presentation in the same position you will be delivering it. If standing, then practice standing up.

If using a microphone, try to practice with a microphone so you become familiar with your tone, volume, and distance to be maintained away from the microphone.

If you will be using a collar mike, get used to using it just the same as a podium microphone. If you will be walking abut while Presenting, by all means practice in the same setting. Remember the more familiar you become with your subject matter, your physical self and your presentation Venue or environment, the less stressful the Presenting task becomes.

Where possible, perform a ‘dry run’ with an audience of peers to get their feedback and guidance so you can iron out any last minute wrinkles from your speech/presentation content.

Enlist a colleague to help you with your delivery so you can become familiar with areas of your Presentation that may require additional elaboration or explanation.

Get to know the venue, Equipment and layout of the environment in advance if possible. Visit the venue prior to your presentation if that is possible.

There is no such thing as too much practice so make use of every opportunity you can to practice, practice, practice.

  1. Perform

You have completed all the Plan, Prepare and Practice steps.

You have practiced your Presentation several times now, and you have also had a ‘dry run’ with your peer team members and refined your Presentation accordingly.

You have become familiar with the Venue and the Equipment you will be using (If you have been fortunate, you would have also had an opportunity to visit the Venue and become familiar with the layout plan)

So you are now ready to ‘Perform.’

Dress appropriately, make sure you have your Presentation material, with any back-up material you may need to consider (What-If the Laptop or projector does not work?)

Eat light and stay hydrated. Use the Wash- room faccilities if you can prior to your Presentation cue.

Arrive at the venue at least an hour ahead of your Presentation. Make sure everything is working as per plan.

When you are ready to present do remember to thank the Sponsors for inviting you to present at the event. Thank anyone else who may require to be acknowledged in the Audience, or who may have helped with your Presentation.

Remember the Three ‘T’s’ of Presenting/Public Speaking:

  • Tell them what you are going to say
  • Tell them
  • Tell them what you just said

Go ahead – knock them out!!!

Notice that all the ‘Perform’ steps outlined above assumes that you are presenting to a pre-prepared agenda.

So what do we do for those ‘Skating backwards at the speed of Light’ situations?

We don’t need to do anything at all because we are confident that we have completely internalized the Process of Presenting and are now Masters of the concept of thinking in terms of ‘Three.’

We are now able to think on our feet and rapidly navigate and select the most appropriate ‘Three’ breakdown for almost any random subject we may be called upon to Speak/Present to.

So we are now armed for both – the Speaking/presentation eventualities where we have adequate preparation time, as well as for those ‘Elevator Pitch’ opportunities that may come our way.

  1. Process (for Improvement Actions)

Every Good process needs to have what the Japanese Quality Management experts refer to as a ‘PDCA’ cycle built into it.

(PDCA: ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act – or take corrective action)’

Step 5 (Process for Improvement Actions) focuses on the ‘Act’ step in the PDCA cycle.

Having executed the Presentation we had Planned, Prepared and Practiced for, we are now at the stage where we can review:

How we performed, what were the areas that went well and what are the potential areas for future improvements.

How did we do in terms of getting through the presentation, answering queries and questions and closing on time (Time Management?)

Do we believe that our Audience was satisfied with our Presentation?

This is the ultimate measure of Presentation success and not an easy indicator to fathom, unless a post-presentation survey is administered

Did all the Equipment function as planned, did we have adequate back-up and redundancy available – did the back-up plan perform seamlessly if such a contingency did arise during the Presentation?

Make sure that you learn from each presentation and take the corrective actions required to Improve the process so that your next presentation is always better than the last one.

Author: Richard Francis, March 18, 2014

Change

One must understand the current context in which our Resistance to Change dialogue is occurring. The Kübler Ross model assumes a glide path to transition through the 5 stages of Denial Anger, Negotiation, Depression and Acceptance. Today’s Disruptive Change occurs at a speed that is both terrifying as it is efficient. And there is little or no glide path for anyone. We’ve all experienced the innocuous beginnings of the Uber service and how that has decimated the lives of the ‘Traditional’ taxi drivers. We’ve witnessed the virtually overnight wipe out of such services like ‘One Hour Photo,’ ‘Blockbuster,’ and revenue losses for the Music industry through  Streaming audio and video services.
We are poised to see similar inroads into traditional education Industry (consider the massive open on line courses or ‘MOOCS’ offered today). We will need to consider an entire new set of tools to deal with today’s Disruptive Change environment.

******************************************************************

We need to differentiate between what is  ongoing Organization Evolution, triggered by changes in the market environment, buyer needs and behaviours, changes in Technology and Organization growth.  The Organization structure and management system needs to be capable of addressing such evolutionary change (No Change Management or Transformation Initiative required here). It is when we are seeking to make a quantum leap in order to overcome a sudden, discontinuous reality (or technology disruption as an example) that a strategic disruptive change Initiative, Organization-wide, becomes the need of the hour – and perhaps, the optimum vehicle for success.

**************************************************************

Change is truly the breakfast of champions!
If you work out at a gym daily, and never change your regimen or routine, chances are your body will plateau as will your fitness level, muscular development, flexibility and stamina. This is due to a phenomenon known as homeostasis, first researched by a Canadian endocrinologist by the name of Hans Selye. The theory known as the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) came from his Selye’s research.
Basically the body adapts to a work-out routine and triggers the law of diminishing returns, unless the exercise routine is changed frequently.
So the moral of the story is…embrace change…even if it is painful at first.

************************************************************************

The meta decision before the decision to implement any change is to first of all decide whether or not the Organization is faced with a significant enough business eventuality that will not be addressed by anything other than an organization wide change effort. Change cannot be seen as a ‘flavour of the month’ activity that has a start and stop switch somewhere close to where management and leadership are located…a switch that is somehow never within reach of the people in the trenches, who are always the most  severely impacted by change.

Change must be perceived as a ‘life or death’ imperative…even if this is a ‘staged’ message. We folks in the trenches are a loyal, courageous and committed lot.
And as the great bard said…”Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”

**************************************************************************

For a contextual understanding of the subject of Resistance to Change, myth or otherwise, one needs to understand that change is typically:
1. Continuous change (imagine the routine path of a child growing in stages to a mature adult). This sort of change is easy to deal with because we have all gone through it and understand the nuances and ups and down of life, and have the skills to deal with them.
2. Discontinuous change: Imagine that the parents decide to divorce and the child is put into foster care because neither parent cares to take on the responsibility.
This sort of ‘Discontinuous’ change is what we struggle to deal with because we do not yet have the skills to cope with the change.
Hence our confusion and resistance when faced with changes that are discontinuous.

Are Leadership behaviours and actions contagous to Employees?

Leadership has been around ever since the first Neanderthal looked at his mates and grunted ‘follow me’ as he stalked a wooly pachyderm down a gully.
The thing is that my illustrious leader would be as willing to kill the pachyderm as he would be to slaughter the first of his brethren, should the pachyderm prove too difficult to put down.
Hunger does not differentiate when the choices are to eat what is on hand or starve until the next chance happening upon a prey that can be taken.

My Point is we cannot guarantee that great leadership will always come with the requisite morality quotient. Consider Hitler, or King Leopold, or General Reginald Dyer…all great leaders with little care for doing what was morally correct.
Ergo…the argument cuts both ways. As employees, can we afford to stay silent and do what the leader does – even if we know it is a potentially criminal action?

The answer is no. Which leaves me to believe that sometimes employees need to behave in a manner that becomes contagious to Leadership.

Micromanagement…

A Micromanagement style, as stated in my earlier comments, is sometimes a necessary evil predicated upon the maturity level of the team. However it is the Leadership who is ultimately accountable/responsible to set the tone for  the management style that is acceptable, and that which is not. You cannot root out ‘micromanagers’ like some sort of witch hunt within the organization. Such a style needs to be ‘designed’ out of the organization’s systems and processes. In fact a ‘delegating/stewardship’ style of management should be recognized and rewarded and micromanagement styles should be challenged and discouraged.

***********************************************************************

Micromanagement is a fact. It is sometimes the only style a manager or leader has in his/her tool box. Sure you can tell your manager/leader that you dislike being micromanaged. That you find the environment too toxic because of micromanagement. That you cannot perform at your best when you are being micromanaged.
Let me know how that turns out for you….

Or you can focus on doing what is within your control, and do those things to the highest degree of perfection and quality that you possibly can. Focus on this inner zone of driving and addressing tasks and activities that are within your control and not being impacted or influenced by your manager/leader’s micromanagement – as difficult as that may seem. You will be amazed at how much better you are able to deal with a ‘Micromanagement’ leadership style as a result.

Best of luck!

***********************************************************************

Leadership style is a function of the situation,  as very aptly explained in Hersey and Blanchard’s famous model on Situational Leadership. One’s leadership style fluctuates between highly directive and highly supportive when:
A.  dealing with teams who are low on competency and low on commitment) and less directive and less supportive when:
B. dealing with teams who are high on competence and high on commitment.

Leaders tend to micromanagement when dealing with teams like ‘A’ above.
Ideally, as teams mature and become more competent and committed, leaders tend to use less of directive and supportive behaviours (less micromanagement). If teams have matured and are fully reliable and capable, yet the leader continues to micromanage, you have a problem.

On taking the plunge to join a new organization…

On taking the plunge to join a new organization…
I believe there is a meta-decision before any leap of faith into a new Organization. Are you moving from an Organization that has constantly kept you stretched intellectually, spiritually, physically and mentally…or are you jumping on board to be the big fish in a small pond. That is the meta-decision you have to wrangle with. Always choose in favour of joining an Organization where you are likely to be the ‘worst’ or ‘weakest’ player – that is the only way to ensure that you are in a constant growth and self – value building trajectory.
Don’t allow any ‘Holy cows’ cause you to spend too much time agonizing over the current culture. Be willing to slaughter them.
Don’t be afraid to come with the answer. If you come in without a clearly defined vision that you are willing to evangelize, you may be perceived as a prophet promising to lead them to the Promised Land…sans a map!

Five Things Clients look for during the Sales Dialogue:

  1. Did you do your research about the (Client’s) Organization. Did you understand what their market environment is and how they fit into it. Did you know who their competitors are and how they stack up against them. Were you able to demonstrate an awareness of what keeps them awake at night?
  2. Were you able to clearly articulate your solution proposition such that it not only answered the questions the client raised during the dialogue, but in fact anticipated and clarified those that were never articulated, but that were on the Client’s mind?
  3. Were you able to demonstrate and articulate deep awareness of what the client stands for – The Values the Organization embraces, The Professional, Social and Global considerations that resonate within the Organization.
  4. Were you honest when responding to questions about your Solution, any limitations that may not totally cover the Client’s expectations, and most importantly did you encourage the client to articulate any references to competitive Solutions…and did you respond with Honesty, Clarity and Conviction.
  5. Throughout the Sales Dialogue process, did you ensure (and indeed encourage) the client to share the Organization issues, concerns and aspirations without interruption. Did you listen more than you spoke throughout the Dialogue…I mean true listening from the heart to understand and appreciate what the Client’s real issues and concerns were.

You see…in the final analysis, the Role of the Sales Professional is not so much about selling…. as it is about empowering the Client to buy!