Tag Archives: leadership

Management Myths and Time Span

In 2001, I stumbled over some startling research.  For two years, I privately shared this research with two of my executive peer groups, who encouraged me to take it on the road.  In 2003, I presented the first public workshop called Management Myths and Time Span to a group in Plymouth MN.  Ten years and 350 presentations later, this workshop makes it to my own hometown.

Here is the press going out.

Every CEO, executive and manager struggles with this hidden key to performance, find out why!  Do any of these apply to you?

[ ] A Project Manager Blows the Deadline?  Again?
And you have to call the customer to explain that the project will be late.  There is no reason for the delay, just an excuse.

[ ] Your Top Performer Got Promoted to Manager.  Now Failing.
She has been with the company for 12 years, promoted to a game-breaker role.  What happened?  She is loyal.  Everyone likes her.  She is floundering.

[ ] You Sent Him to Manager Training.  The Same Person Came Back.
Your high hopes for this young manager are dashed.  He showed such promise.  Or did he?

[ ] A manager got promoted to his level of incompetence, WHY?
Unlock and understand the Secret behind the Peter Principle.

November 20, 2013
Everglades University
Boca Raton, FL
Management Myths and Time Span
Reserve Now

On Wednesday, November 20, Tom Foster will present the 50 years of scientific findings of Elliott Jaques.  According to Foster, “This is the missing link to human capability. This missing link is based on a simple principle and touches every element of a manager’s work.”

Date – Wednesday, November 20, 2013
8:00 – Coffee
8:30 – Program begins
Noon – Adjourn

Reserve today $200 Only $99*
Seating is limited to 60 participants.
* Vistage/TEC Member guest discount

We select our top performer and promote them to the next level, introduce them to the team as their new leader, only to find them floundering and earning no respect.

In the hopes of filling a position in the corporate org chart, we diligently interview, do personality testing and check references. We hire the person with the best of intentions only to find them failing after a few short weeks.

You just promoted Sally — she is now in your office complaining that her new boss has his head in the clouds and is completely out of touch with the real problems facing the department. Ten minutes later, Sally’s boss, Joe, is in your office complaining about Sally, his new direct report, saying that she is totally incompetent and cannot see the big picture. What did we miss?

Tom Foster will present the research and statistically significant scientific findings of the late Elliott Jaques, the psychologist who discovered a correlation between workers across industries and their internal capability to handle different levels of work.

Particular areas that will be addressed are:

  • Most hiring managers underestimate the level of capability required for success in the role.
  • Personality conflicts in an organization are often smokescreens for a misalignment in structure.
  • Most CEOs mis-understand the true nature of executive work and often, are drawn into activity that pulls them away from higher-levels of work.
  • The flat organization is a misguided management fad — organizational hierarchy is essential and exists for very specific reasons.

Note: Participants may find it helpful to bring a current organization chart, starting with the CEO and driving down three levels.  And if they exist, a short paragraph description for the CEO role and each senior management position.

 Biography: Tom Foster works mostly with CEOs in executive peer groups.  He conducts classroom training for managers and supervisors in the areas of delegation, planning and communication skills. He spent 14 years in the television production industry and another 10 years with a large CPA firm. A Vistage Chair since 1995 and former trainer with Dale Carnegie Training, Tom holds a B.S. in radio-television-film and a master’s degree in communication, both from the University of Texas at Austin.

Reserve your space now.

Charles “Red” Scott – RIP

If you are lucky, you will meet someone in your life that changes your life. I was lucky.

In 1995, I found myself across a breakfast table from Charles “Red” Scott. We soon learned, like in the first five seconds, that we were both children of the great state of Texas, both born in the same part of east Texas, Paris, Texas and Tyler, Texas and both attended the University of Texas. Though Red graduated before I was born.

If you are lucky, you will meet someone in your life that changes your life.

Red interviewed me for a job. Not really a job, but a life-long venture, to be a teacher, to be a learner to a very special group of people that I had not met. Yet.

He asked me if I was lucky.

That was his favorite interview question. He told me how his life was changed on the turn of a dime. From a small town in east Texas, he was the president of his high school class. Leader of his class, that automatically earned him a ride at the University of Texas. I would follow a couple of decades later.

His birthday was the same as Texas Independence Day. And Red was independent. I think Red was lucky to be born that day.

And I was lucky to have known Red.

Charles “Red” Scott left us yesterday. He left behind many friends and a loving family. Yesterday, he left me, behind. And from behind, I can only look ahead. We will miss you, Red. I will miss you. You were a great teacher.

In December, the doctors told him not to buy any green bananas. He knew and we knew that life was moving on. As much as we braced for the day, told ourselves it was inevitable, when it came, it came. That brave face, our brave face, stopped and felt the rush of sadness.

Today, I will venture to find the greenest bunch of bananas, and I vow to outlive them, if I can.

Identifying Talent

“How do you identify emerging managers in your organization? As you look around your team, what do you observe, what catches your eye?” I asked.

Wendy spoke first, “I watch them in meetings. I look to see, when they speak, do other people listen? It’s funny; I am not listening for something brilliant to come out of their mouth. I observe others’ response to them. For a person to be a leader, someone has to follow.”

Marion was next, “I look for someone who asks questions. It’s easy for a person to just spout off, how much they know about this or that. But if someone is asking questions about purpose, why we do things, what is the impact of a process? Not dumb questions, good questions.”

Jeremy raised his hand, “I look for someone who is thinking ahead. We may be working on something right now, but this person is two or three steps ahead, laying out material, staging equipment for the next setup, even if the next setup is tomorrow.”

I am curious. How do you identify emerging managers in your organization? As you look around your team, what do you observe, what catches your eye?

Our online program, Hiring Talent 2013, kicks off January 25. Pre-registration is now open.

Let Them Deal With It

“I am ready to throw up my hands. I have come up with eight ways to Sunday for our route technicians to do a better job on their service calls. I am ready to do a Flutie drop kick and just let them deal with it.” Russell was commiserating, hoping I would be sympathetic.

“Well, I think it’s a good idea,” I said.

“What do you mean?” replied Russell, still looking for sympathy.

“I mean, I think you should call your technicians together and let them deal with it. Look, the problem isn’t that your ideas are bad; the problem is they are your ideas. If you want your technicians to do a better job on service calls, the ideas have to come from them.

“One of the biggest mistakes young managers make is thinking that you have to solve all the problems of the world. You don’t. Spread the burden. You will be surprised at how your technicians will step up to the plate.”

Our online program, Hiring Talent 2013, kicks off January 25. Pre-registration is now open.

The Value of a Question

“Bring value to the decision making and problem solving of my team. Easy to say, but how do you do that?” Jeanine protested.

“Look, I don’t even work here. You call me in as a consultant, because you are having difficulty with something. Do I come in here and tell you what to do, how to do your job?” I asked.

“No, you’re right, you don’t work here. You may be familiar with our systems, but you don’t know any of the real technical stuff. You couldn’t begin to tell me how to do my job,” Jeanine smiled.

“I agree. But you call me in, nevertheless. Would you say I bring value to your problem solving and decision making?”

“Yes, or I wouldn’t have called you,” she flatly stated.

“But, I don’t tell you what to do?” I repeated.

“No.” Jeanine’s eyes darted to the ceiling.

“So, how do I do that? I don’t tell you what to do, yet, somehow, I bring value to your decision making.”

“Well, you ask a lot of questions,” Jeanine blurted.

“So, to clarify, I don’t bring value by telling you what to do, but I bring value by asking questions?”

“You’re telling me,” Jeanine started slowly, “that I don’t bring value to my team by telling them what to do, but that, as a manager, I bring value by asking questions.”

Management is a Contact Sport

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

Question:
I have a manager who wants to work from home. Have you ever seen any statistics about productivity of people working from home? Does it work? Or is something lost?

Response:
The first two words from the mouth of any good consultant are, “It depends.”

Working from home works for some people, for some it doesn’t. The problem with most studies, designed or cited, is they are biased to provide a great article in a magazine about alternative methods of productivity.

One of the most powerful time management tools has to do with getting uninterrupted time for work that requires focus. Working from home can provide that time.

But what is the work of a manager? A manager is that person in the organization held accountable for the output of the team. The most important work of a manager is assembling the team, assigning the roles (and tasks in those roles), coaching behaviors, setting the context for the team and measuring output. Management is a contact sport.

Steve Jobs, designing his building, placed all the restrooms in the front part of the building, so that at least for some portion of the day, people were forced to intermingle. He knew that collaboration was paramount, people being in the same space, talking with each other, out of their cubicles. Building cooperation, team culture and team spirit is difficult to do from home. This is not a rah-rah concept. Team spirit is not the goal, but team spirit is required to gain collaboration, innovation, adaptation, awareness.

Individual output of anything truly great, is a myth. The real work of a manager is coordinating all that individual direct output into organizational throughput. Management is a contact sport. Tough to do from home.

How Does That Happen?

“So, what’s the solution?” Arnie was puzzled. “I pressed hard, we made our numbers. I lost seven good people in three months. Five technicians and two direct reports.”

“Let’s start with that,” I said.

“Start with what?” Arnie asked.

“Direct reports. Most managers think they are managers so people can report to them. That is not the purpose of a manager. Your role, as a manager, is to bring value to the problem solving and decision making of your team members.”

Arnie pushed his glasses up. “Okay. I’ll bite. I even believe you. But how?”

“Remember, we talked about a shift? A shift in management behavior to get a different result?”

Arnie nodded, “Yes, a shift.”

“Here’s the shift. Do you bring value to a person’s problem solving and decision making by telling them what to do?”

Arnie looked crossways at me.

“Look,” I said. “I come in here to talk with you, as a manager. I really don’t know that much about how things get done around here, so do I tell you what to do, as a manager?”

“Not really,” Arnie replied.

“But, would you say, I bring value to your problem solving and decision making?”

“Well, yes. I mean, sometimes, you piss me off, but, yes, you bring value.”

“So, how does that happen? I don’t tell you what to do, yet, I bring value. How does that happen?”

“Well, you ask me questions.” Arnie stopped. “You ask me questions.”

Grooved Behaviors

To be more effective managers, we cannot change our entire psychological makeup. We are who we are. But we can engage in more effective behaviors, shifts in our behaviors. Arnie was hell bent on accountability. Two managers and five production people lost to turnover, he was finally looking inward.

“As a manager, what can you shift to be more effective?” I asked. “I know you are under a lot of pressure and that you want to maintain a high level of accountability. What can you shift?”

“We are under pressure, and that’s why accountability is so important to me. When one of my team members makes a mistake, it’s a reflection on me,” Arnie explained.

“It’s more than a reflection,” I replied. “As the manager, I hold you accountable for the output of your team. They make a mistake, it’s on you.”

“That’s why I am so hard on them about their mistakes,” he defended.

“I understand, and how has that been working?”

Now, Arnie had to step back. His head was nodding. “You’re right. It seems the harder I press, the more mistakes get made, or the person ends up quitting.”

“Understand, Arnie, that you are under pressure,” I reminded. “And when we are under pressure, we fall into old behavior patterns, comfortable, grooved behaviors, even if they were not successful in the past.”

Leader or Manager? Argument Continues

From the Ask Tom mailbag – from a new subscriber in Brazil.

Question:
Your blog is fantastic! I´d like to know, what´s your opinion about the difference between managers and leaders?

Response:
I usually avoid this discussion. It’s an important question, but usually draws all kinds of fire that is counter-productive. Let’s see if I can make a go of it without getting my underwear wrapped around the axle.

A manager is a role, an organizational role, with specific authority and accountability. A manager is that person, in the organization, who is held accountable for the output of other people. It is a very specific role in an organization designed to accomplish work.

Leadership is a necessary trait of an effective manager.

We often, in casual conversation refer to leadership roles, but in that sense, it carries only vague (generic) accountability and authority. And leadership, as a trait, may be found in other roles outside the role of a manager. In addition to managerial leadership, there is also political leadership, parental leadership, spiritual leadership, scientific leadership, academic leadership. These are all roles in groups organized for purposes other than work.

So, a manager is a very specific role, with defined accountability and authority, in an organization whose purpose is work. Leadership is a necessary trait.

Referring to a leadership role, a leader has undefined accountability and authority and may exist in many types of groups, organized for different purposes.

Culture Fit as Part of a Role Description

Yesterday, I got a question from a participant in our Hiring Talent online program. In the Field Work assignment to create a Role Description (according to a specific template), the question came up.

Question:
I wasn’t sure about including the culture/values piece, as it is not something I typically see in role descriptions, however I felt strongly in doing so, as I think this is something that really lives in our organization, provides a compass for how decisions are made, how people interact, and is why we are able to attract and retain top talent.

Just curious – is the culture/value piece something you are seeing companies incorporate more and more into their role descriptions?

Response:
The culture/values piece is rare to find in a role description, but think about this.

What is culture? It is that unwritten set of rules, intentional or not, that governs the way we behave as a group. It governs the way we work together.

Here are the four criteria I interview for –
1. Capability for the level of work in the role (Time Span)
2. Skill (Technical knowledge and practiced performance)
3. Interest, passion (Value for the work)
4. Reasonable behavior (Habits, absence of an extreme negative temperament, -T)

The elements you describe in the Role Description, related to culture/values have a distinct place in the interview process. Where I can ask questions related to values, specifically value for the work we do, I am looking for interest or passion. Where I can ask questions related to habits, reasonable behavior, I am looking for fit with our culture.

These elements, interest, passion and culture fit are as critical to success as capability and skills. I look forward to seeing the questions generated by this Key Result Area in the Role Description.

If you would like more information about our online program Hiring Talent, let me know. I am gathering the next group to start on March 19, 2012.