Archive for the ‘Practical Professional Development’ Category

Inside Scoop – Being Wrong the Right Way

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

And now…I will shed some light on a not so little secret of organizational life. There are some over-eager beavers who deftly scramble up the political and positional ladder seemingly salivating at the prospect of power. Their mastery of corporate gamesman/woman-ship does not guarantee that they are the “sharpest knives in the drawer.” All too often, my experience has shown that if you were to strip away their job title, many lack the influence or substance for making critical decisions.

Ironically, at times it is the awkward foot-draggers who are more capable of making good decisions, but are unwilling to be pressured into making them and don’t want to be held accountable. This leads me to an important point: Lots of smart and entirely good people have discovered they don’t have what it takes to manage things or lead others.

Leadagers who possess good business judgment, a strong sense of direction, and a willingness to accept the conditions of urgency and accountability without a seedy, overcoat-flashing of their fundamental character flaws are the ideal package. Companies spend a lot of money trying to nurture or “home grow” these traits. Unfortunately, this can be an elusive combination of qualities. Conversely, a lack of motivation, butt-headedness, and proven idiocy lead to professional euthanasia every time. (Trust me on this; the latter traits are pretty darn common.)

So let’s face it. You will have to make many decisions without the experience or the information you may desperately think you need, and inevitably, you will decide incorrectly. You will be wrong, and hopefully, someone will allow you to learn from your mistakes. It might be timing, support from the powers that be, or just luck that saves your job.

Early in your career, one of the most important things to learn is how to be wrong in the right way.

Being wrong the right way looks like this:

  • You made what you thought were sound decisions, striving not to be irresponsible, ignorant, or prejudicial.
  • You can explain your thought process with respect to how you came to the decision in a logical manner.
  • Your values were aligned with the organization’s values.
  • You have shown good judgment on previous occasions.
  • You display a willingness to learn from your mistakes.

If you did all the above, you should come out okay (assuming you didn’t burn the place to the ground).

All new leadagers should be allowed some time to practice alternating the gas, clutch, and brake pedals of managementship (i.e., multitasking and managing/weighing multiple—and sometimes conflicting—priorities [chewing gum and running with scissors for all of you non-driving types]). The fact is most managers are playing the standard game of “catch up” in a starkly maniacal fashion.

I strongly urge you to grow away from being the hapless prey-of-the-day—as events pounce on you—and strive to get ahead of events by becoming a predator of pro-activity, turning activities into accomplishments and churning problems into opportunities.


Code of the West

Monday, November 14th, 2011

I have lived up, down, in the middle and on both sides of the USA, but I was raised in the West. I’m not a farmer or rancher, but as I was growing up I had a chance to spend some time “learning the ropes” from my relatives who were both. You had to be hardy, smart and tough to make it in either place. Savvy skill-craft was prized, and so was an even disposition. You had to hold up your end of the bargain or you were sent packin’.

There was also a code, an unwritten agreement that bracketed your conduct. Lying, cheating or stealing were absolute no-fly zones, and you had to offer the other guy a “fair chance” in just about everything you did. I know some people will pass off my code recollections as myth, but I was not hanging out in Hollywood with A. Ladd, G. Cooper or J. Wayne – just with real people living real lives. In fact, responsible conduct was a major contributing factor to their sense of community and stewardship of the land. And, there was a word woven into their daily lives that is so old fashioned — I feel compelled to dust it off just to use it in this sentence — RECIPROCITY — the “soul-coal” that stoked many barn raisings, harvests and roundups.

In light of the recent news of a MAJOR FAILURE of institutional leadership @ Football U (or u name it) that dominated last week’s headlines and Sunday’s news programs, I thought it might be timely to share a few relevant “rules of the trail” that I know have been valuable to myself and others who aspire to become respectable, responsible citizens and leaders in their own right.

Be kind to kids and your horse

Don’t take any wooden nickels

Own a sharp knife and a sharper set of eyes

If you have some… share some with them that ain’t got none

If your best dog bites you more’n once… he ain’t your best dog

Doing the right thing ain’t courage… it’s just doing the right thing

Don’t make friends with rattlers… them that ain’t got feet…or them that do

A “howdy” and a smile cost you nuthin’… don’t make nobody pay to git one

If you Rodeo… 8 seconds can change your life and if you don’t… they still can

An honest day’s work for an honest day’s dollar means a lot, but your honest word means more

On The Fast Track – Practical Professional Development for Hospitality Managers

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Over the years, I have been hounded by tribemates looking for a raise in pay (not unwarranted, but alas, still pervasive). If you want a pay increase to materialize at a faster pace, you must do some homework in addition to your work duties. What follows is the hospitality- manager response I have given to those on the money hunt: Whenever you are being evaluated for hiring, a promotion, or a raise, start with the most significant accomplishments you can cite from your recent professional history. It is both the wide and the narrow definitions of success that will define your evaluation.

What was your specific involvement in achieving strong results, forwarding programs, changing the business climate, and so forth? What were the scope and the scale of your responsibilities? What was your total staff size, including direct reports? Did you have P&L responsibility? What was the size of your budget? Be prepared to quickly and crisply articulate your business results, not just your activities.

Itemizing a track record of your successes is the easiest way for the powers that be to evaluate and elevate you to greater responsibility, and hello, “mad stacks, jack!” Regardless of how well you have performed, seeking more money in the same role might provide incremental increases, but eventually you will slam into a hard salary ceiling. Most organizations usually calculate compensation packages based on titles or responsibility levels and pay grades. Rarely can you break beyond the pre-set ranges.

You must work, plan, dream, and scheme your way to bigger jobs (of course, only through honest and ethical schemes). This is the most direct route to pay raises significant enough to really upgrade your lifestyle. The simple fact is that all persons of the same “leadager” level or title are in a competition for the next opportunity, whether they buy into it, act above it, care about it or not. (Everybody sing: “It’s a dog-eat-dog world…”)

Assuming your performance earns you the right to get your hat thrown into the ring for a promotion, the next assessment hurdles you face are those of pace and progression. Never underestimate the positive effect on your wallet the aggressive pursuit of advancement brings. The death-knell for anyone seeking advancement is having the same level of experience without a promotion for five-plus years. You will then be deemed as not promotable, a poor career manager, and/or lacking drive or talent. Hiring/promoting managers will be wary of you. (“If you can’t do it for yourself, how will you do it for us?”)

If you were to ask a group of assistant managers to cite the major hurdles standing between them and more money, you would quite likely hear the following typical excuses (always someone else’s fault):

  • “The company says there aren’t any opportunities right now.”
  • “They say I don’t have the enough experience.”
  • “My supervisor hassles me all the time.”
  • “I’ve got a bad team; they’re holding me back.”
  • “I didn’t go far enough in skool.”
  • They like Joe/Jill better than me

If you were to ask a collection of team leaders what major issues they consistently assess when deciding to promote someone, you might hear the following:

  • Poor transition from an hourly to salary mentality
  • Questionable integrity
  • Inconsistent follow-up/follow-through on projects
  • Denial of accountability
  • Lacking initiative
  • Poor judgment
  • Weak interpersonal skills
  • Poor financial acumen/performance.

Ah, here’s a light-bulb moment for you: All of it is deemed to be within your control.

The perspective gap between these two groups is real, and it exists in some form or another in every workplace. The common complaint of my peers who provide the advancement opportunity is not, “Why is this C player acting like a C player?” but rather, “Why is this potential A player content to settle for B or C level performance? What is wrong with him/her?”

In short, if you would like to go fast and far, start off by packing the right bags with the right stuff!