Stay in Touch! Sign up for:
Daily Dairy from Contented Cows
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.
Life is short, the game is often fast, and each of us makes choices daily about the things we should devote time and attention to. I try to live by a simple, six word motto that tends to keep me focused on higher yielding activities… Feed the Opportunities, Starve the Problems.
When I was fourteen, I took over a friend’s paper route for the summer. I don’t quite remember how that came to pass (I doubt that I was jumping for joy at the notion of getting up every morning at 4AM), but here’s something I do remember from that experience.
Few issues in the domain of business are thornier, more complex, and emotion-packed than that of how much money to pay someone for the work they do. Employee compensation thrusts its tendrils into considerations no less substantial than motivation, employment law, labor unions, production, and the very profitability of the enterprise. Oh, yeah. That.
Since commencing research on what ultimately became our first book, I have taken a rather steely-eyed approach to the subject of employee relations. A data-driven sort, I suspect that, had that research not produced clear linkage between worker attitudes and corporate performance, I would have found something very different to do for a living. But it did, and thus work at the intersection of people and profit has been the main event around here for better than fifteen years.
Guest Post by Robert Cordray
There’s an old expression, “He who expects little is seldom disappointed.” That’s not a great catchphrase for the customer service department, but it does bring up the topic of managing the expectations of customers and others by “under promising and over delivering”. The premise is simple. Don’t make overblown claims that get a person’s hopes up, only to disappoint them when you can’t deliver.
Growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, virtually every one of my friends’ fathers worked for either “the phone comp’ny” (as we pronounced it), or “the railroad”. That “railroad” was what is today known as CSX, whose riverfront headquarters building occupies a prominent place in the Jacksonville skyline, and which occupies perhaps an even more prominent place in the life and economy of the city. And now, the company’s Information Technology function occupies the number 19 slot on Computerworld magazine’s List of 100 Best Places to Work in I.T. (See the full article here).
A good friend of mine took the picture you see here, with his smartphone, from his backyard on the banks of the St. Johns River, directly across from downtown Jacksonville. The photograph’s elements include a construction crane, the Isaiah D. Hart Bridge, Everbank Stadium (home of the Jaguars), and a particularly brilliant star that they tell us sits suspended in the atmosphere, 93 million miles away, unaided by any earthbound mechanical apparatus.
A few days ago I received a short note containing the following question from one of our readers: “I am just a simple, low-level manager, so I do not always have the chance to put all of your techniques into place. I have read your first book and I actually believe and try to internalize what you put forth. How do I use your tools to make the jump to the next level of management?”
In his book, Leapfrogging, Soren Kaplan reminds us that, “the human brain is wired to appreciate positive surprise.” He goes on to say that, when we experience such a surprise, three things happen:
Over the course of her life, my mother taught me more about leadership than any class I ever took on the subject, or any one boss I’ve worked for. The lessons were usually prompted by life experiences that she seized on as teachable moments. Her last lesson for me, now permanently seared into my being, took place in the nursing home where she resided, about six months before her death.
Earlier this week, in the first game of their NBA Eastern Conference playoff series, the Chicago Bulls, absent three of their star players, traveled to Miami and beat the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat in their own building. I think it’s fair to say that a lot of basketball fans were stunned by the outcome. They may wind up being stunned by the series outcome, too. Who knows?