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Daily Dairy from Contented Cows

Friday, 03 March 2017 14:30

Good Leaders Look Beneath the Surface

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Good Leaders Look Beneath the Surface

Richard Hadden

One of the most remarkable people I ever worked with was a bank teller named Donna, at a bank branch I managed early in my career. Donna was a customer magnet. Brilliant. Hard working. Always went the extra mile. She was a single mother, and she’d been a teller for 12 years. I recommended to my boss, one of the bank’s Vice Presidents, that we promote Donna to the management training program. He dismissed the idea, ignoring her talent, and citing instead her rough appearance, lack of formal education, and even what part of town she came from.

Donna’s 12 year career with that bank ended when she was recruited into a very responsible position at a competing bank.

Thursday, 02 March 2017 17:51

The Hunt for a Better Boss

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The Hunt for a Better Boss

by Bill Catlette

03.02.17

 

As an executive coach and former HR leader, I’ve had hundreds of people ask my advice on how they might get another job, or in some cases, a particular job. Does my resume look okay? Will you coach me on interview skills? Can I use you as a reference? Do you know anybody at ABC Co.who might be helpful to my candidacy?  

I’m not special in that regard. Everyone who works in this space is credited with having expertise that might help give someone better focus or perhaps an inside track on their job search. I’m not sure that we always live up to that expectation, but here’s what I am sure of: Too often, people are asking the entirely wrong question. Instead of directing the majority of their attention on the title that would be on their new business card, or the corporate name on the paycheck, they would do well to pay particular attention to the human being that they would actually answer to, and the others on that team they would be joining.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017 11:05

Grace Under Pressure

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Grace Under Pressure

by Bill Catlette

 02.28.17

And the winner of the Oscar for Best Display of Grace and Class on Stage goes to... Jordan Horowitz, Producer, “La La Land.”  Standing Bravo!

Admittedly, I’m not much of a movie fan, evidenced by the fact that I had never even heard of any of the best films honored at this week’s Oscars.

But I know class and grace when I see it. Mr. Horowitz displayed both when he spontaneously re-gifted the Best Picture Award to its rightful owners, the producers and cast of “Moonlight” with the words, "I'm going to be very proud to hand this to my friends from 'Moonlight.”

If there was ever a guy with justification to get a little cranky over having been publicly teased with the top award in his profession, it’s Mr. Horowitz. But he never went there. Contrary to the steady diet of attention seeking and bogus victory laps we’ve seen from some government officials of late, Mr. Horowitz seemed quite happy to redirect the spotlight where it belonged. No whining, no finger pointing, no crass comments. He praised the man’s work, handed him his award, gave him a hug, and got off his stage. And that, fellow leaders, is the example we should be setting in our own organizations.

Make it a great day!


If you would like to take this topic to a different level in a one-on-one coaching session, keynote speech, or seminar, we would love to hear from you.

Monday, 27 February 2017 14:08

When it Comes to Training, Visibility Matters

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When it Comes to Training, Visibility Matters

Richard Hadden

I was conducting leadership training for a large public utility, in a rural training facility about 100 miles from the company’s headquarters. The Vice President who had brought me in was a full participant in the first class I conducted, and believe me, his presence and participation in the training wasn't lost on anyone.

A few months later, I returned to provide the same program for a different, more junior group. Although the VP had already completed the training, he wanted to put his stamp of support on the program for this group -- even though the event’s timeframe wasn't particularly convenient for him. Despite having an important meeting at headquarters, he thought it was important enough for him to kick off the training session that he took a company helicopter from the main office to the training facility early that morning. There, he delivered a 10-minute message, saying how valuable he felt this training was for everyone there. Afterward, he and a colleague got in a car and drove south to the budget meeting. His validation of the training did as much as anything I did to let people know, this is important. You’ll learn something here, and I want you to use it.

3 Steps to Being More Like the Leader You Always Wished For

by Bill Catlette

02.26.17 

 

Along the way, we’ve all observed and noted better (I hesitate to use the word, “best”) habits practiced by leaders we have come into contact with. I’m willing to bet that most of those habits are simple, straightforward, and have a high degree of commonality from one person to another. Here are three that stand out to me:

It Starts With Us, Not Them - We value being able to work in the company of someone who challenges us to be our best, someone who takes an interest in us, who listens to us, values our ideas, and tells us the truth. Someone who has high standards about work and conduct, but doesn’t burden others with their personal issues and neediness. They are eager to shine a bright light on the accomplishments of others, but don’t waste spotlight wattage by clapping for themselves. Selfies aren’t part of their game. You can do this. You just can’t do it if you’re going to be self-centered.

Sunday, 26 February 2017 00:27

How to Avoid Cow Tipping at Work

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How to Avoid Cow Tipping at Work

by Bill Catlette

02/25/17  Memphis

Urban mythology has it that teenagers, likely fueled by alcohol have, in the pursuit of fun, been known to enter a pasture, sneak up on a grazing cow and, through brute force upend the animal, pushing (aka “tipping”) it onto its side. Rural mythology, however, aided by people who have actually touched a cow with something besides a fork know that “tipping” a cow is a lot more difficult than the legend allows. In fact, tipping a Toyota Celica onto its side would be considerably easier. The Celica after all would at least hold still. 

And you’re wondering what on Earth cow tipping has to do with a management-oriented post. Fair question. For the last twenty years we’ve maintained that just as well cared for dairy cattle produce more milk (that’s not an AltFact), well led humans in the workspace produce more and better stuff (also a fact). We’ve done more than “maintain” that notion, we’ve proven it, and written three books about same.  If you’ll permit one more little extension of the metaphor, I will submit that there is a LOT more cow tipping that goes on in the workspace than in any pasture. Here are three ways that managers derail, frustrate, or prevent outright the best efforts of a contented (read, engaged) workforce:

Hanging Onto “Non-Producing and Misfit Cows, ‘er Workers” - Even after proving beyond reasonable doubt that they cannot or will not produce / behave as expected, many employees remain in position because their management chooses to avoid confrontation with the individual (or HR), doesn’t want to expend the energy to hire and train a replacement, or has fallen in love with them for other reasons. Managers then look to A and B players to pick up the slack. This thoroughly disrupts the “spirit of the hive” as others rightfully resent having to carry someone else’s load, and lose pride in what they view as a diminished team. Nobody gets up in the morning and says to themselves, “I want to go lose today”, or, “I want to hang out with losers.” By tolerating this behavior, management tacitly lowers its standards and disenfranchises its best performers.

Systemic Defects - Embedded in every (yes) work process are policies, procedures, methods, tools, equipment, etc. that are not working as expected, and as a result, they add friction to productive effort. Left untreated, this friction is demotivating to the entire workforce. By way of example, the next time you board a commercial aircraft, take note of all the extra effort that flight attendants must exert in order to shoe horn the over-limit and excess carry-on luggage into the overhead bins. Add to that the inevitable arguments with passengers, delays due to deboarding excess luggage, and the realization that this occurs on nearly every flight. If these ladies (mostly) wanted to work for a freight hauler, they would have signed on with FedEx. Your people are enduring comparable irritants. You would do well to spend thirty minutes a day discovering and dispatching these dispiriting productivity killers.

Bad Hiring - By hiring people who, by virtue of pace, preference, values and temperament are out of sync with the organization, managers are adding people who are easily “tipped over”. One misfit person in the right position amidst a hundred others can represent critical mass. Smart managers and smart recruiters take pains to put job fit requirements on an equal basis with talent, and to recognize and deal with hiring mistakes as soon as they become apparent.

If you would like to hear more about this topic in a one-on-one coaching session, keynote speech, or seminar, we would love to hear from you.  

Friday, 24 February 2017 21:43

Why Stars Sometimes Fail as Leaders

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Why Stars Sometimes Fail as Leaders

Richard Hadden


A bright and promising software engineer, we’ll call him Jay, had made a real mark on his company, developing and innovating some of the most important products and processes in the organization’s portfolio. One Friday, Jay’s boss called him into his office and told him,  "You’re so good at what you do that we’ve decided to make you a manager in this department! You start on Monday, and you've got all weekend to figure out how to do the job."

Jay soon found himself in a position for which he was ill-suited and even less well-trained. He knew how to do the work, but not how to lead others to do the same. He’d never had any training, or maybe he just wasn’t cut out for this. Whatever the reason, ultimately, he failed. His boss offered to quietly return him to his former position. Nobody needed to know why. But Jay couldn’t do it. He left. He got another job, as a software engineer. But it didn’t have to happen this way.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017 20:26

Discretionary Effort...When the Show Must Go On

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Discretionary Effort...When the Show Must Go On

Richard Hadden
Feb. 23, 2017

 

This past Sunday morning at 8:30, Ashley Yarham learned that a key member of her team had called in sick - totally legit -  quarantined with the flu, and would therefore not be at work that day for her 2:00 shift. Not good. 

OK, you say, people call in sick all the time. What's the big deal? 

The big deal is that Ashley, a speech pathologist offstage, is also the director of a musical comedy, "City of Angels", playing at Jacksonville Beach's Players-by-the-Sea Theatre, for a three-week run, with a highly Committed cast and crew of more than 30. The stricken team member is an actor, cast in the dual roles of Donna and Oolie (lead characters), and the 2:00 shift is, in fact, the curtain time for that day's matinee performance to a pretty well-sold house, with plenty of walkups expected, thanks to some rave reviews in the local press. 

This is community theatre. Volunteer work. Understudies are a luxury they don't really have. If you're familiar with this show (which won the Best Musical Tony in 1990), you know that the Donna/Oolie roles call for some challenging acting, dancing, and singing.  With little choice on such short notice, Director Ashley rolled up her sleeves and stepped in to perform the two roles. 

What happened next is a perfect example of what Bill Catlette and I have been talking about for better than a decade now - Discretionary Effort - doing that which we CHOOSE to do, not because we HAVE to, but because we WANT to. 

A Little Less Conversation (About Race), and A Little More Action Please

by Bill Catlette (title by Elvis)

 

First things first, I’m delighted that President Trump visited the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and afterwards made some solid statements about “bringing the country together” vis-a-vis race and anti-semitism. (Good job, @CraigMelvin) It’s a good step for him, one he’s been needing to take. Now it’s time to back up the talk. 

That said, I would submit that, generally speaking, we should have fewer rather than more “conversations about race.” Conversations about race in this country somehow seem to devolve to everyone doing their own little uncomfortable dance on the head of a pin. In reality, they aren’t conversations at all, but awkward sessions marked by lots of emoting and very little listening, resulting in bumps, bruises, and too little observable progress.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017 15:59

Don’t Overwork Your Horses

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Don’t Overwork Your Horses

by Bill Catlette

02.21.17 Memphis

 

New supervisors quickly learn that it’s to their advantage to know at all times who the most willing and productive people are on their team, who the ‘work horses’ are. These are the people with seemingly endless capacity to reach for and find another gear, and crunch their way thru whatever pile of work is in front of them. On too frequent a basis, we rely on and take too much advantage of that extra capacity.

And what’s the matter with that, you say? It’s what we do. It’s how we stay afloat. No disagreement there. We’re using a tool, an asset that is available to us to get the daily wash out. But here’s the danger: Not unlike the pain medicine, Oxycodone, there is nothing wrong with using that tool on a limited, specific basis to accomplish a purpose. Yet, it is a risky, potentially dangerous tool. It is extremely habit forming, for you and the people around you. It can mask other symptoms, like poor planning on your part and poor performance on the part of other team members. It creates an indebtedness that we’re not especially well equipped to repay. It’s the reason we often see managers looking the other way when a strong performer commits infractions that would get others penalized, or preferable treatment that isn’t available to others.

Some suggestions:

Monday, 20 February 2017 13:26

The Vision Thing... Passengers or Crew

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The "Vision Thing"...Passengers or Crew

Adapted from Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk

"It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that in an environment where there is a shared vision of excellence...where people can be the best they can be on a daily basis...where, when they know what is expected of them...understand that reward is linked to performance...and BELIEVE they can make a difference because they will be heard...they WILL make a difference. They will go BEYOND our expectations and great things will start to happen."

FedEx founder & CEO, Frederick W. Smith (Rhodes College 2/25/88)

Every major achievement in the history of mankind has been accompanied by one thing – significant, as in capital “C” Commitment on the part of one or more people. Think about it… Absent real Commitment, Christopher Columbus would have waited for better maps before sailing off the edge of the known universe… Martin Luther King, Jr. would not have marched in Selma, Alabama… and early NASA astronauts would have voted to send more monkeys up before strapping their butts to a relatively untested rocket. And on Presidents Day, let us remember President John F. Kennedy, without whose vision and Commitment there would have been no astronauts.

So where does Commitment start? It starts with an extremely well grasped destination or journey… a place, a concept, an over-arching purpose. What are we here for? What’s our raison d’etre? Where are we going?

Friday, 17 February 2017 19:39

Sometimes it's the Little Things

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Sometimes, it's the Little Things
 
Richard Hadden
 
When Alejandro Bustamante became president of Plantronics Mexico some years ago, he inherited, among other problems, a dispirited workforce with dysfunctionally high employee turnover. Nobody wanted to work there. Charged with turning around the plant, which makes telephone headsets and other communications gear, Alejandro knew he could do nothing to change the people working in the plant. But what he could do was show respect for each one of them. It was a tough environment. There was fierce competition for labor in the industrial region where they were located. Everybody was looking for qualified workers.
Tuesday, 14 February 2017 15:53

What Do You Mean - Contented Cows?

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What Do You Mean - Contented Cows?

Richard Hadden

If you've been following our work over the last 20 years or so, you could skip this post (but please don't). You know what the reference to Contented Cows is all about, and therefore our reason for titling this blog "Daily Dairy". But keep reading. A refresher never hurts.
 
However, if you're new to Contented Cows, and a lot of this blog's visitors are, here's the deal. Contented Cows Give Better Milk. It's established science. In the same way, satisfied, engaged employees give better performances at work. Now - let's hasten to point out that we are not, repeat not, suggesting that people, at work or elsewhere, should be compared to cows. So please, no hate mail bashing us for saying that people are like cows. We just said they're not. But I think you get the connection. And that connection always finds its way to your bottom line. We've written four books to support our thesis. If you want to know more, you can find our books on Amazon, among other places.

What to Do If Politics Are Taking a Toll on Your Workplace Productivity

This week, I contributed to a piece Noreen Seebacher @writeNoreen wrote for CMS Wire about steps managers should take to deal with the continuing decline in productivity owing to U.S. election-related politics and governmental affairs distractions in the workspace. Here's a link:  http://www.cmswire.com/digital-workplace/politics-are-taking-a-toll-on-workplace-productivity-heres-what-to-do/  If you find it worthy, I'm sure Noreen and CMS Wire won't mind if you give them a shout out.

The ONE Thing That Builds Employee Engagement More Than Anything Else
 
Richard Hadden
 
A young(ish) audience member came up to me at a conference I was set to speak at last year, and said, (I'm paraphrasing throughout, but not much) "Richard, I've read the conference program, and I see that you're going to be speaking on Employee Engagement later today. What's the one thing - the ONE thing," he emphasized, "that creates this engaged workforce that you talk about? I started a new company last year, and we're growing. I'm having a hard time finding good people, and that's slowing down our growth. I don't want to take forever to figure out how to get them, and how to keep them. And I'm the kind of guy who likes to get straight to the point. So - what's the one thing?"
 
Well, I'm a consultant. You don't think I gave him a direct answer, do you? 
 
"What do you think the one thing is?" I asked, in classic Socratic fashion.
 
"I don't know. That's why I'm asking you" was his reply. Fair enough.
 
After learning that he'd earned a boatload working for one of those fancy-schmancy hi tech companies in Silicon Valley, before getting a patent on a cool new process that I didn't begin to understand, and launching his own startup, I asked him, "So how engaged were you? How "into it" were you at your old company?"