Burnout…

In general terms, and based on my own experience alone (so not quoting any HR or Professional Management source here), burnout is typically due to:

1. Career Treadmill: where your job or role has you on a perpetual treadmill feeling like you need to keep running forward to stay in the same place. You feel like you have plateaued, and your Management, Leadership or HR team does not seem to notice your predicament.

2. You are stressed out and cannot pinpoint exactly what the root cause is (it could be a personal issue, health issue, work environment,  Manager/Leader style issue, or other)

3. You are in a career bind where you feel your job is under siege so you are doing everything in your power to retain it – working overtime, taking on tasks and assignments that should really be addressed by others on the team and agreeing to deadlines and targets that are unreasonable.

What should you do?

Talk to someone – your manager, your HR focal , your mentor (if you have one )- these are typically your professional/work contacts who should be able to advise, assist and counsel you

See your physician and get his/her advice – you may be suffering from a health issue that needs appropriate medication and/or other expert treatment

Stop working – take a break for a few days, a week or whatever your physician and work associated recommend (or that you have available to you). Focus on your family, your hobby, your pet or that exotic, distant land you have always wanted to visit.

At the end of the day, this is your only life – you cannot go back to ‘Go’ and collect $500 – that happy rewind option only works on the Monopoly game board.

When your life is done, it is done – no comebacks – do you really think you are going to worry about what your Organization  is thinking about you when you are checking out for that great gig in the sky?

Na…you will be more concerned with how you lived your life – how you loved your family and friends…and what legacy you have left behind for them – how they will all remember you.

So go ahead and take that break…or else the burnout will kill you!

 

Leadership style…persuasion versus direction

I will try to add some more confusion to this very interesting thread…First of all regardless of whether you utilize Persuasion or Direction as your preferred style – Leadership must always respect the Law…and his/her people (or followership).

Too, there is sometimes a negative connotation for the word ‘Persuasion,’ I am intrigued to understand why?

Anything that is expressed/deployed as a function of style needs to be analyzed in the context of the following two questions:
Is it sincere?
Is the intent honest?

Let me present a context for considering  ‘Persuasion’ to carry a negative connotation:
You are attempting to ‘persuade’ an employee to follow a specific course of action, as opposed to what the employee was considering.
The Employee wants to explore another option within the Organization in terms of job role, but you feel (without letting the employee know) that the loss to your team would be significant and the skill, difficult to replace.
So you try to persuade the employee to stay with his/her current role because you anticipate potential growth in the short term (this is not based on fact but just a carrot you are dangling out).
Whereas if he/she considers moving into a brand new role, growth will take far longer to achieve.

The points to note are that your persuasive argument is insincere and not founded on fact.
In addition your intention is dishonest (Both ingredients that must be in place for a persuasive style to be perceived to be positive).

In most, if not all instances, we must lead with a persuasive style and only follow up with  directive style, if persuasion fails. My example above would clearly not work if you tried to direct your employee to follow your recommendation, and revert to a persuasive style, when that failed?

What will cause us to lose our jobs…

What will cause us to lose our jobs rather rapidly is an obsessive fascination with management themes and recommendations that we already know of or have gleaned through great work from subject matter experts and others who have written and spoken ad infinatum on said subjects. So we know all about low emotional intelligence, or playing up to your manager, or negativity or an inflated ego – and the risks to one’s job thereof.

We need to shift focus to the real threat to our jobs – the Technology Disruption that is unfolding before us as we speak. Big data, Cloud, Deep learning systems, Robotics to name just a few of the drivers. We will see millions of Low/Medium/High skill jobs (Blue and white collar) disappearing as a result of the technology disruption above.
We need to stay focused on where the technology shift is happening and stay as far ahead of the curve as we possibly can. Though even that may not suffice to help us retain our jobs.
But that would probably be a better investment of our time, rather than worrying about sucking up to your boss or not having the right sort of ‘poker face’ to go with a well defined and developed emotional intelligence.

No – we need to ride the technology disruption wave so we don’t get swamped. You don’t want to walk into the office to find that an advanced robot from Boston Dynamics polishing an apple…in your seat!

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!

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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!

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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 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.

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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.

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.

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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!

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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!

Quality Is A Way Of Life…

Quality is not a program…it is a lifestyle…a way of life!

I last visited Tokyo in 1994. We were part of a global delegation meeting to discuss and share our experiences with the Total Quality Programs we were implementing in our respective organizations. We rapidly realized that English as a spoken language was still not quite the acceptable lingua franca there. However I can share two anecdotes from personal experience, that will demonstrate that regardless of language constraints and limitations…the sheer strength of that country’s quality and customer satisfaction ethic laid to rest any residual ‘Tower of Babel’ concerns we may have had.

Tales from Tokyo – 1:

We were travelling by the famed Tokyo Metro system one night, after a meeting at Yokohama. We had used some mixed transport options that night, including shuttle bus, the overland train service, and the last leg by subway. My friend and I were probably too engrossed in conversation and missed our stop. We were obviously very lost, and our demeanor probably made that self-evident. There was a group of University students milling about the train exit and we approached them and asked (in English) how we should correct out error and get back on track. They clearly did not speak much English, however somehow they seemed to intuitively guess that we were lost…and needed help.

They became engaged in a very animated conversation with each other, grabbing a subway map, looking up at the train’s railway station guide map listed on the wall, peering outside, etc.

Then the student who had been most animated of them all, communicated to us with a thumbs up sign …that they would take care of us.

What happened next was surreal. These kids proceeded to escort us off at the next stop, and then got us to board another train that would take us to where we needed to get off. But they did not just put us on the train – they actually stayed with us all the way, got off at our stop, and then proceeded to point and gesticulate as to the proper exit we would need to take to get back on the road home from the station…they then (and only then) got back on the next train and waved and said good bye in the most astonishing show of friendship and Goodwill I have ever experienced.

Tales from Tokyo – 2

My friend and I were in the habit of taking our afternoon meals at a specific restaurant with a menu that was somewhat less intrinsically ‘Japanese Cuisine’ centric than most of the other eating places we had tested. While I had less of an issue finding something to eat, my friend was vegetarian, and therefore we did need to be somewhat picky with where we chose to dine.

At any rate, we had been out strolling about the Ginza district on a lazy, rainy Saturday afternoon, and the rather expensive Umbrella I had purchased in Tokyo a few days earlier, had been put to the test. Yes it had served us well and kept us both mostly dry and safe, regardless of the heavy downpour we had experienced for the better part of the day.

The restaurant owner greeted us with a familiar Kon’nichiwa and I dutifully shook off the rain droplets from my umbrella, rolled the folds shut, and place the umbrella in the umbrella stand adjacent to the entrance (this was the common practice in most business establishments in Tokyo – the need to leave one’s umbrella in the stand on entering, and collect it while leaving).

We proceeded to order our meals and soon enough, we were done and ready to go. We took care of the cheque, and headed out to the familiar sounds of “Arigatou gozaimasu” from the owner.

We reached the exit and I noticed that my Umbrella seemed to be missing – it was reasonably easy to spot, since I had purchased a natural, crooked handle, Cane Umbrella (old school style). In addition it was a simple black fabric, unlike the colourful and modern looking umbrellas that most locals carried there.

I went back to the Owner and proceeded to explain my problem to him. He clearly did not fully comprehend what I was trying to say, but my pointing to the umbrella stand, my palms raised up in a questioning ‘where is my umbrella’ supplication seemed to break through to him. I felt bad because he looked abjectly sorry and ashamed – at once. He simply kept on uttering the single word “Mistake” over and over again. One of the patrons who spoke some English, clarified that what the owner was trying to say was that another customer had probably taken my umbrella in error and that it was a mistake. That no one would steal my umbrella and that the owner was apologizing on behalf of the customer.

The owner then reached down behind his counter, and withdrew a beautiful, hand-made umbrella, much like an expensive English Brolly. Yes this would have doubtless cost him the equivalent of a few hundred dollars in Yen at the time. He proffered his umbrella to me, with a bow and another whispered “so sorry.”

I was completely and utterly touched by this gesture and obviously refused his largesse, much to his chagrin. There were several disposable, plastic umbrellas in the stand, intended for for anyone without an umbrella, and my friend and I grabbed one each, thanked the owner, and departed…to everyone’s profound satisfaction!

The thing that I will remember to this day is the fact that our student friends went over and above the call of duty to make sure we were able to get home safely…and the owner of the restaurant chose to defend his customer’s error stoutly (and I truly believe that no one would steal my umbrella purposely) – as well as offer to compensate with a replacement which was at least 10 to 15 times of greater value than what I had lost…both truly humbling experiences, that demonstrate that Quality and Customer Satisfaction need to truly become a way of life, and not just percolate as some program that we push as a flavor of the month!