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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Getting People to Do Stuff

          It’s easy to get people to do what they want to do – if they can.
          That really simplifies the definition of the leadership role. You’ve narrowed it down to two objectives:
          First, get people to want to do whatever it is.
          Second, make it possible for them to do it.
          Simplifying the definition does not, of course, make the process easy. But it does make the way somewhat clearer.

          The fundamental challenge here is often expressed in the question: “How do I motivate people?”
          The quick answer is: “You don’t.”

That’s right. You can’t motivate people. You motivate yourself. I motivate myself. Each person moves himself/herself to act.
The leader, including the manager-as-leader, can make it attractive to do something, can clear the way to do that something, can assist those who are to do the something. You’re the catalyst, not the doer.
You manage the process and you sell it to the people. So many managers fail to articulate that role to themselves, don’t understand what it means. They work so hard, with so little to show for it. Well, don’t work like a dog, when you should be sly as a fox.

Back to the oversimplification, starting with the first objective. How do you arouse people’s desire to engage in the task at hand?
One way to do that actually  comes from how you solve the second: clearing away the obstacles to their participation.
Think back for a moment over your own experience in managing group efforts. When you had reluctance, resistance, avoidance on the part of your “team” members, what were their reasons for not getting on board?
          Too much to do already?
Well, help the person arrange a reduction in regular workload.
There’s no one else to do it? The manager is resisting?
Answer: Your manager has a problem. I’ll talk to your manager.
Oh, the manager won’t budge? OK, I’ll talk to the manager’s manager. I’ve already gotten full backing from the very top, so I will get you free to jump right in.
          If, indeed, the designated person cannot be properly cleared to participate in my project, then the organization will get me someone who can. Remember, I have the backing.
          Getting that backing – full, open delegation of real authority (or known access to authority) – is the absolutely essential first thing the project manager must obtain when he/she is appointed to carry out this organizational imperative. If you don’t have that power, hang it up. You’re done. Nothing is going to work.

          With that in place, your top priority is to arrange the environment for success across the entire range of project activity. Establishing a good process is a powerful incentive for good people to want to be part of this project.
          You seize the initiative. You don’t allow problems to invade your project, or grow in it. People of quality are energized when they see that kind of leadership.
          A second strength of the project manager is to build the individual and team spirit of success, the eagerness to engage and resolve difficult challenges in the company of true professionals. It is hard to overestimate how attractive it is for good people to be offered that opportunity.
          The project manager makes sure the right people are on the job, that they receive the right training, tools and processes to get the job done, that the right relationships are set up and nurtured, that the right things happen in meetings, in problem-solving and in celebration.
          Anyone who is not ignited with enthusiasm in such a circumstance doesn’t deserve to be part of it. And the wider organization will be bursting with eager candidates for the job.
Talk about motivation!

How to Save Your Organization

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Most Obvious Secret

          If you’ve got a job, someone is paying you. A purse-strings decision-maker thinks you provide value that is worth money.
          Duh. So what other thunderclap of wisdom is new?
          Well, there’s nothing new with thinking about the economics of personal employment. But it’s time to introduce some better thinking about it, in this tough and uncertain era. In fact, some of the oldest truths about the meaning of employment are among the least examined, and definitely the least accounted for.
          Here’s a recent illustration of what this is about:
          Supply Chain Management Review published a new study last month on which skills and competencies hiring managers are currently emphasizing in their job openings. The study focused on university preparation and was limited to the inventory management industry, but its results are thought-provoking in a much more general way.
          The survey asked hiring managers to evaluate applicants’ preparation in a number of appropriate skills. Are the candidates sufficiently prepared, or do they need to be better prepared?
          Glaringly high on the negative side are management skills and customer relationships. For management, the ratio was 44 percent in need of better preparation, 16 percent adequately prepared. For customer relationships, the numbers are 40 percent and 15 percent.
          So, by 3 to 1, the young people looking for employment in that sector are deficient in leadership and people skills.
          A lifetime of direct involvement in those areas tells me that picture is accurate across the entire working world.
          This is not to devalue subject-matter knowledge and technical skill. Those attributes must be present and productively engaged in any workforce. But this is not an either-or game. It’s a “both of ‘em” proposition.
          We all have experienced the frustration of working with, under or over people who had superb hard skills, but couldn’t listen, organize, decide, explain, etc. The job skills are present, but not productively engaged.
Shortfalls are just as damaging in the soft skills areas, but evaluating them is quite a bit more difficult. So is overcoming them. That’s why, in very many organizations, their absence is basically taken for granted.
You’ll notice, though, that people who make it their business to acquire and display excellence in management and people skills head the pack in getting hired and promoted. Organizations may not be good at equipping people with the full set of competencies, but most will pay for them when they’re available.
So it’s encouraging that the hiring managers in the Supply Chain Management report were even asked about management and relationships.
It’s discouraging to see how the results turned out, but there’s a real bright side. This is a major heads-up for career builders who are looking for that key advantage over the employment competition, either in the hiring line or on the job.
          Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean everybody will jump on it. They sure haven’t so far.