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Marriott International announced today that it has partnered with A Woman’s Nation, a Maria Shriver venture, in implementing a housekeeper gratuity initiative, “The Envelope Please”, in more than 160,000 North American hotel rooms. The plan is that clearly marked gratuity envelopes will be left each day in guest rooms as a reminder that someone who doesn’t make much money cleaned the room. Hint, hint.
The first lesson learned by every new leader, one that should be permanently tattooed onto their gray matter, is that by virtue of occupation they have inherited a simple, high school physics problem – There are more of “them” than there are of you. Repeat, there are more of “them” than there are of you. Translation – You are outnumbered, perhaps vastly by the group of people whom you are expected to lead. You shouldn’t let that rattle you, but neither should you forget it.
Last week I had a short, informal coaching conversation with an experienced, level 2 retail manager. Soon to be involved with staffing a new store, he was concerned about the recruiting process, and the fact that many candidates today show up with their promotional blather fairly well rehearsed, and a modicum of experience with behaviorally-anchored interview techniques. “I’m concerned”, he said, “that some of them are so well rehearsed that my BS meter may not go off, and I’ll wind up hiring a couple of bozos.”
Confirming what many had been sensing for some time, Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President, Richard Fisher said recently that increasing numbers of workers are quitting their jobs voluntarily, and concomitantly, employers are finding that it’s taking longer to fill open positions. Those are two fairly strong indicators that the job market is heating up.
Business news has been rife of late with coverage of U.S.-based corporations (e.g., Medtronic, Walgreen, AbbVie, Pfizer, Aon, Eaton, Omnicon) either attempting or completing an effort to re-flag the business as a non-U.S. entity. By and large, companies are using such “inversion” strategies in an effort to reduce corporate income taxes (e.g., Ireland’s headline rate is only 12.5%) and giving them tax-favorable access to the gobs of cash they have stashed offshore.
One of the time honored, oft repeated (sometimes mindlessly) management mantras is, “What gets measured gets done.” It seems harmless enough on the surface, right? After all, if you visibly go to the trouble of measuring or inspecting a particular method or outcome, the very act of doing so suggests to onlookers that it’s important to you. And, if those onlookers happen to be junior to you in the organization’s food chain, it provides a not so subtle signal that they probably ought to pay attention. And generally, that’s exactly how things play out. Fair enough.
Recently I read a piece in the e-version of a major business publication which, by title and implication suggested that seventy percent of Americans hate their work. The piece used as its factual anchor the oft-quoted “State of the American Workplace Report” by Gallup, which suggests that only about 30% of American workers are truly “engaged” in their jobs, leaving 70% or so in one level or another of disengagement.
Before the World Cup soccer games even start, U.S. men’s head coach, Jurgen Klinsmann has apparently relegated his team to loser status, in what has been termed a “brutally honest and realistic assessment of their chances.” According to Coach Klinsmann, “We cannot win the World Cup because we are not at that level yet.”
Beginning in boot camp, the Army embeds a short, three word mantra in its soldiers: Shoot. Move. Communicate. Within the confines of both military (absolutely), and business settings (metaphorically), that precept makes impeccably good sense. Get some licks in on the enemy or competition, defend yourself while maintaining the element of surprise, and let your troops and supporters know what you’re doing, how it’s going, and what you need from them.
As an executive coach, part of my job is to help clients learn from and avoid getting their own version of some of the scars on my back. One of those scars came at an early age. As a young, 20-something leader I did my best to ensure that my team had its share of talent, a firm grasp of our mission and priorities, and as much preparation as we could arrange. We performed at a consistently good, but not great level.
Recently, in preparation for a long, 1200-mile road trip (nasty winter weather coupled with living in a high airfare market causes one to do things like that), I shopped for juice, fruit, and bottled water to take along as car snacks. While picking through the bin of Honeycrisp apples, I couldn’t help but notice that commingled with my objets du desir were some Red Delicious and McIntosh apples, together with bruised and indeed rotting Honeycrisps. Not wanting to spend time sorting the grocer’s fruit, I grabbed two Honeycrisps and moved on, rather than searching for more.
What’s more toxic than incompetence? Deadlier than old technology? More surely fatal than being slow to market? It’s the remarkable indifference to customers that we all still see from some service providers, those who were nodding off during the part where the rest of us learned that that just won’t cut it anymore. Remember Eastern Airlines, anybody? In a few years, we’ll be asking the same question about K-Mart. And AOL.
Don’t look now, but next year, Generation X turns 50.
You may need a moment to process that. But it’s true. Following immediately on the heels of the boomers (those of us born between 1946 and 1964), the eldest members of the first alphabetically labeled generation are already receiving mailbox stuffing solicitations from the AARP.
With the advent of cell phones, sophisticated voice messaging systems, scheduling software, and widespread word processing capability, the footprint of administrative assistants (AA’s) in the workplace has shrunk considerably over the last dozen or so years. This has been aided and abetted by the desire to cut every last dime of assailable cost from the corporate budget.
One of the traps that newly appointed managers at any level commonly fall into is in believing that, to be worthy of their job title and pay check, they must have at the ready the solution to every problem, and the answer to every question. I’m speaking from experience. I’ve been there. As a young, 20-something manager, I spent a couple of years choking on the self-imposed burden of instantly and unilaterally producing the correct response to every issue that arose. Fortunately for me, that was in an era when the pace of the game was about one-tenth what it is today.