Work Yourself Out of A Job

images (51)What’s Your True Motivation for Being in Business?

We’re often inundated with endless media charter about becoming the ‘next Google’ or ‘next ‘Amazon’ business success. The perception that these reports paint can often cause aspiring and current business owners to lose their way and in some instances their personal financial viability by chasing fantasies. There are a lot of perceived reasons and technical explanations as to why this happens, but fundamentally it’s due to lack of purpose and vision for the business. Yes… it’s quite this simple. In working with and among startups and existing business owners, I’ve experienced more than enough businesses that exist for the purposes of just existing. A simple fix for vision / mission waywardness is to take time in the planning stages of the business and THINK!!! The following 2 questions will work wonders and get your creative juices flowing: What do I (we, if you have a team… which you should) want to accomplish with this business besides making a lot of money? AND Where do we want to be in 1 year? 3 years? 5 years?

Are You Sensitive and Receptive to the Unknown?

Now that you and your team have spent some time creatively brainstorming why the business exists and where the business is going, you’re ready to accept the fact that there’s still a lot about the marketplace you and your team don’t know about. Please accept this reality now and save yourself and your team the pending headache: you’ll learn more from doing than talking and planning. One of the unfortunate asides of the entrepreneurship boom of the mid 2010s is the emphasis on having a perfect business plan. Nothing could be further from the truth. I definitely recommend that you commit to writing the vision, mission, and other pertinent details of the business opportunity that you and your team are looking to exploit; however, don’t think for a minute that from all the research and number crunching you will accomplish can make up for the simple fact that business is about people and their irrational behaviors. No amount of research will ever compensate for the irrational realities of life and human behavior. The best solution for dealing with the irrational realities of the marketplace is to prepare and plan an action strategy founded on a vision of progressing towards an ideal destination and then prepare your mind for the worst. Not for a second am I advocating pessimism or doomsday prophecies for your business, but in order to prepare an effective action plan, you must constantly prepare your mind and business for the worst and have the attitude of learning and becoming a better business owner in spite of the downside risk or circumstances. is an online platform that specializes in providing expert level advice and guidance to the micro entrepreneur in the areas of accounting / finance, operations, management, sales and marketing, human resources, and lending in order to help grow your business and maximize your cash flow


Becoming an Effective Manager

images (49)Many successful people get promoted into management and quickly find the pressure to be higher than anything they felt in the past. As an individual contributor, it is much easier to control the outcomes of your work. It may not seem like that at times, but you have a lot more control than when you are a manager of people. I am not referring to people that receive a management title and have nobody to manage. A real manager has the authority and responsibility to manage: financial performance (includes holding others accountable), people activities (hire, keep and grow people), and positioning/strategizing the firm or department in a way that provides a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

One key issue a manager faces is that there are always detractors within the larger organization and the smaller team. These people may have been detractors all along, felt they should have gotten your position, or do not know you well enough to realize you are qualified for your position. In his book, “Managing Right for the First Time,” David C. Baker recommends that managers not overreact and to approach detractors as follows:

1. It is natural to have detractors, and you just need to be aware of who they are and acknowledge they are there.

2. It is important that a new manager avoid actions that give their detractors power.

3. One should not try to bully or overstep a detractor by using the power of one’s new position.

4. When dealing with issues, it is important to treat everyone with equal fairness and respect and focus on “right action.”

The key in any management position is to be a leader that staff wants to follow. This does not mean being weak or attempting to be everyone’s friend. Instead, Baker identifies the following characteristics as key to being someone people want to follow.

Approachability – Do you actively listen first before reacting?

Articulateness – When you communicate, do you do it directly enough so that people truly understand what you are thinking and feeling?

Authenticity – Are your actions and behaviors consistent with the how you really feel inside?

Honesty – Do you say what you mean and deliver difficult feedback effectively?

Consistency – How much consistency is there between vision communicated and reality? Do you do what you say or change when it suits you?

Competence – Are you competent enough to understand the issues and evaluate what is being said?

Confidence – Do you have the balance between being able to inspire others to follow you but not so much confidence that you fail to recognize you are heading down the wrong path?

Curiosity – Are you always observing and inquiring to test original beliefs against new information and showing a willingness to refine strategies and action plan accordingly?

Decisiveness– Are you willing to make choices that may not be popular?

Discipline – Do you get things done, do what you say, plan, and execute?

Fairness – Can people trust you will look out for others’ best interests when the others are not in the room?

Hopefulness – Most people would choose not to walk down the path to hell! Can you lead the way down a difficult path with a positive and winning attitude?

If you are entering management for the first time or experiencing less-than-optimal cooperation from your team, challenge yourself with the above questions and consider reading “Managing Right for the First Time,” by David C. Baker.

Missing any of the above characteristics can hinder your effectiveness. It takes a strong manager to keep all of them in perspective. It is natural to violate them when detractors enter the picture or when encountering challenges in a role.

3 Reasons Great Collaboration Won’t Happen

images (48)In most companies, collaboration is a valuable part of corporate culture. In fact, it’s expected that teams, departments and divisions work and share information together. In some of the best companies, collaboration is well executed with outside vendors, suppliers and consultants. Yet, for some reason, collaboration does not always happen. Many businesses tend to be divided by silos – groups of people who function like clicks.

Collaboration like corporate culture is the elusive quality that is characterized as a soft skill. While considered soft, it’s a skill that appears to be very hard to acquire.

Collaboration is the act of working together with one or more people in order to achieve a common goal. Sounds simple. Right? When you factor human nature, you start to see where complications begin.

What could possibly get in the way of such a desirable element for successful business? For one, people like to take credit for achievement. When two or more people work together, they combine their brains. By doing so, one thought can feed off of the others’. That makes it difficult to say who the originator of the thought was. When, in fact, the thought was not originated by anyone. It was an amalgamation of everyone involved. The likelihood of one person originating the innovative concept is low because it required the combination of conversations. However, the material gains and notoriety that can be realized from the accomplishment can cause selfish actions.

Secondly, collaboration becomes difficult when one person believes their idea is more right than others. Once a person believes they are right, that means the others are wrong. This can create an acrimonious relationship. Whether it’s groups coming together or individuals, each person has formulated an identity around the knowledge, information and experience they have acquired over time. Because most people believe they are smart – this gets worse for highly educated people – they trust their knowledge is better than others. They believe they have lived a successful life based on their knowledge and experience. Therefore, if someone comes up with an idea that invalidates what they know to be the facts of life, they will fight against them to validate their existence, knowledge and experience. This makes collaboration nearly impossible.

Third, collaboration can be difficult when it comes to resources. In an organization where departments and teams have to collaborate, there may be a concern for resource allocation. To ensure your team or department receives the resources you have requested, you may withhold information to weaken the other side. While you may win on the surface, it could kill the project or weaken the final outcome.

As you can see, collaboration comes with pitfalls. While it appears easy for people to come together for a common purpose, self-interest can derail all efforts.

Nevertheless, there have been people who orchestrated great collaborative efforts. Andrew Carnegie is one such person. He created the largest steel company of his time. He did this in the face of not knowing much about how to mine iron ore or how to mix the chemical compounds to make steel. He wasn’t even good at selling steel. He did, however, know how to choose brilliant people who knew how to do those things. He brought them together to work as a team. By serving as the thread that bound accomplished men together, Carnegie was able to foster a spirit of working together for a common goal.

What To Do When Your Boss Is Younger Than You Are

images (50)What have you always pictured your boss looking like? If you are anything like me, you’ve always pictured them as a grumpy old man. Or a grumpy old woman if you want to get all modern. However, there is one thing that I’ve never really pictured my boss as being – younger than I am! However, this is starting to happen. Firms are starting to put Gen-X folks into senior management positions. What should you do if this happens to when you are in the CIO position?

What’s Going On?

So just exactly how did you end up having the CIO job, but working for someone who is younger than you are? It turns out that one of those natural generational shifts is currently underway. The baby boomers who have been running things are now starting to reach retirement age. What this means for firms is that they are starting to replace their leaving senior management with members of the next generation: Gen-X. The Gen-X’ers were born between 1965 and 1980. This switch is happening at a lot of firms that you may recognize: McDonalds, Harley Davison, Cisco, and Microsoft.

One of the reasons that firms are moving to put a younger generation of managers in charge of (you and) the company is because they are highly aware of what is coming their way. The next-next generation of workers has already entered the workplace: the millennials. This new batch of workers are looking for different things from their employers. What matters the most to them is flexibility. In order for them to remain at a job for any length of time, they are going to have to feel engaged in their job – they need to feel as though their actions count.

Another reason that firms are moving younger workers into senior management positions is because they are losing market share and they feel as though they need new thinking in order to turn things around. Both Harley Davison and McDonalds are currently dealing with declining market shares as their traditional customers become older. The firms are going to have to start to create products and services that appeal to younger customers and the firms appear to believe that they need younger management in order to make this happen.

What Will These New Leaders Be Doing?

As a CIO who is in charge of an IT department, any time there is a change in your management, it may have an impact on your department’s ability to get work done. What this means for you is that you are going to have to understand what your new, younger, management is going to focusing on. If you can determine what they want to accomplish, then you can position your department to help them to be successful and hopefully you’ll get the support that you need.

One of the things that is going to distinguish this new crop of senior managers from the one that they are replacing is that they are willing to take more risks. They’ve all been raised around computers and so they are generally more tech savvy and they understand the importance of information technology. What all of this means is that they tend to make decisions faster than the managers that they are replacing. What this means for you is that your department’s requests for resources and funding should get an answer quicker; however, I’m not saying that you’ll always get the answer that you want!

Finally, in order to work closely with your new younger boss, you need to understand what is going to be on their minds. One of the most important things is going to be the hiring process. Expect them to spend a great deal more time working with HR trying to find out ways to attract the best talent to join the company. It won’t stop there. Also expect your boss to be very focused on trying to figure out what the company is going to have to do in order to retain the talent that it has. As a CIO, this is good news for you!

What All Of This Means For You

The times they are a changing. As CIOs we may soon find ourselves in a position in which the boss that we’re working for is younger than us. At a number of firms, Gen-X staff are starting to be moved into senior management positions. Is this going to be a problem?

As CIOs we need to understand what is going on here. The markets that many firms are competing in are rapidly changing. This means that they feel that they need to have leaders who can more quickly change with the markets. Gen-X staff are starting to be placed in senior leadership roles. What you are going to discover is that what they focus on is going to be different from the management that they are replacing. Specifically, what is important to them will be staffing and keeping the staffing that they have. You should also notice that they react to market changes quicker and make decisions faster.

No, it may not be easy working for someone who is younger that you are – “that should be my job!” However, you will need to adapt to this new generation of management. It can be a very good thing for you because things will happen faster and you should be given a freer hand to focus on the needs of your department and keeping them together.


5 Ways to Make Transparency Work With KPIs

images (47)There’s a glass wall between the waiting room and the workshop at the windscreen shop where I took my new car to have its – you guessed it – windscreen replaced last week. I could watch the whole process, if I wanted, while sipping as many espressos as I fancied.

Clearly, they aren’t afraid of their customers seeing how things happen “backstage”. They have nothing to hide. I wonder if that’s because:

    1. They clearly care about their customers. They gave plenty of time to help me understand what would happen to my precious new car, and to explain exactly what I should expect with an aftermarket windscreen compared to the factory one. No question was too silly for them to answer with care.


    1. They have defined processes. Staff moved through each step, from when I entered the reception to when I drove off, with proficiency and ease. It meant they had the bandwidth to be friendly and courteous in each interaction.


    1. They promised what they know they can deliver. The promise to me was completion in 2 hours, but the delivery was only 90 minutes. My expectations were virtually guaranteed to be met.


    1. They admit mistakes without hesitation or fuss. That seems to be because they already have the solution. They had quoted based on some additional parts for my car that they didn’t have in stock. But they didn’t end up needing those parts, so they explained the mistake and how my bill would now be $50 less.


  1. The technicians directly interact with customers. The people who did the windscreen replacement were the people who spoke with me about what would happen and gave me updates as it did happen.

Transparency means we can see through to what’s really happening. When we talk about transparency in organisational performance, it means seeing through to if and how well the organisation is doing what it’s supposed to do. It’s the KPIs or performance measures that replace the opaque walls with clear glass, so it’s possible to see what’s really happening.

That’s confronting and scary for many people. So much so, that KPIs are avoided, or only the good stuff is measured. But when results are buried in darkness, they will only get worse. To paraphrase authors of Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense, Pfeffer and Sutton, if we want to be a high performing organisation then we have to decide that we want to be told the truth and not be told only the good news.

We can draw parallels from the windscreen shop’s transparency, to bolster ourselves in the face of the transparency forced by our KPIs:

    1. When we care about our stakeholders honestly, they can tell, and they won’t be judgmental or untrusting.


    1. When our processes are deliberately designed, we know we have influence over the results we deliver, and can deliver confidently, continuing to care for our customer or stakeholder.


    1. When we know our capability, we know what we can promise. And then as we continually improve our capability, we can deliver beyond expectations. Stakeholders will only be surprised in a good way.


    1. When we own mistakes, we can own the solutions. Stakeholders want to hear solutions, not problems. When they hear solutions, they know they can trust that we are caring for them.


  1. When we involve our stakeholders in what’s happening, they feel part of the process and not like the process is being done to them.

Transparency is important – even essential – if we care about high performance, or even just better performance. But to work, it needs to be framed in clarity, curiosity and inclusiveness. While ever it’s framed in ‘checking up on’ and ‘catching out’, our fear of it will always get in the way of knowing the truth we really need to know before we can make any real improvements in performance.


Is your organisation battling with the need for and fear of transparency? How are you dealing with it? Is it working?