I wish I invented the internet

Get anything you want with the click of a mouse

I wish I had invented the internet. After all, it has completely changed our lives. I would love to get credit for this thing. I must admit that although it would be cool to get the credit for the internet I can still use it and benefit from its existence. I am fortunate that I can access all this information and utilize the experiences and ideas of so many people any time I need it. How did we ever get along without it?

There are too many managers in the world that do not realize the unbelievable power of this concept. They are always trying to come up with a better way. Typically they are attempting to create a method that will recognize their brilliance. Now please do not misunderstand what I am saying. We need innovation in our world. It is essential that we grow and evolve. What I am saying is that if your challenge is how to manage your staff or what direction you should move for your company to grow and thrive why attempt to blaze a new path? The how to of effective management exists in the world. Go find it and put it into play.

The effective manager knows that the real measure is how it all works out. Who cares who had the idea first? Have confidence in yourself and your team and focus on where you want to go. I do not care who invented GPS I just use it to get me where I need to go. I would suggest being thankful that you manage in a time where the resources to enhance your performance are literally beyond limits. You can get anything you need to improve yourself and your performance with the click of a mouse. It’s incredible.

The recipe for growth for a manager is to continue to develop your skills. You can do this by reading. If you are not a reader you’re in luck. I believe every car now has a cd player. The list of fantastic self improvement and management audio books available is miles long. Use your car as a personal self improvement center. Keep material at the ready. This stuff has an interesting effect when you consume it regularly. It actually sinks in. I do not say that to be sarcastic. You will find that a scenario will present itself while you are on the job and suddenly you will have a perspective you never experienced. The exposure to the finer points of self improvement and sound management will find some traction when you least expect it. When it happens boy do you get excited. Once you buy in to the process it is a wonderful thing. You will kick yourself for not getting on board sooner. Make a decision today to begin your journey of self improvement and commit to being open to a new approach. It is what the smart managers do.

They say one thing but do another

You know this YouTube thing is wonderful. You can find practically anything right there. It is an immense resource for business people and managers. I often go there if I do not know how to do something and there will be a video or two walking me right through the process. Brilliant! And it is free!

It is through my regular reference to this video how to center that I came across a video that really made me stop and think and reflect. This video caused me to ponder a subject that is out there but rarely gets addressed. As a person that offers up tips for managers to be more effective I feel compelled to bring light to this subject. There typically is not much you can do about it but being on the lookout for this behavior is your best defense.  The video I am referencing was done fairly recently by someone I used to work for. He talked about all the things that set his company apart from the competition. He gave examples of what he believed good management and leadership should be. It was impressive. Except for one thing: it was total nonsense!

Many of us have been around people that always say the right thing. It has been my contention that anybody can say things. What they do is what makes the difference. If people did the things they should do rather than what they say they will do the world would be an easier place to exist. Why do managers fail to live up to the hype? They are smart people and must know that the very thing they that just came out of their mouth as the right thing is something that they do not even doing themselves. Is it lack of personality, absence of training, or cosmic forces at work?  Let us examine one of the reasons for this disconnect.

I want to share something with you that will give you some insight into the say one thing and do another personality. I do not want to hurt your feelings but here it is: they really do think they are smarter than you. These types of folks mistakenly believe that they are the only ones that have access to the finer points of management and leadership and because of that they can bombard you with quotes and ideas that they believe are above your head and are beyond your comprehension. You may be the most educated person in the room but these clowns are a legend in their own mind. It is worse if they also have extensive formal education. They feel as though you are fortunate to be in the room with them.

I actually worked at a company once that had this guy come into to town to do some training with us. He was considered to be a man on the move. He came into the office and in the course of roughly a half hour or so lost credibility with several people in the room. Here is how he did it. He began by assuming control of the conversation as soon as he entered the room. Then he went on a rant about his beliefs regarding sales and management. He made sure to tell us what we needed to do to be effective with our teams. What sealed the deal for me was when he made several references to quotes from some well known authors and books. He did not however give appropriate credit to the source of these nuggets. He mistakenly assumed that he was the only person in the room who read books! What an idiot. I could not believe that this guy was passing off this stuff as his own. Whoever said arrogance knows no bounds was one smart cookie.

The best defense against this type of manager is to guard against being like him. If you read something that is interesting or useful share it with your people. Always give proper credit to the source. You have to make sure that if you put expectations out that you deliver in your own behavior. There is nothing that will make people refuse to follow you quicker than a manager that says one thing and then does another. You do not want to be the person who puts a quote on their email signature that people see and say ‘whatever’. If you put it out there back it up. I once heard a trainer say in a seminar that in management your reputation is all you have. The staff is watching what you do and say at all times.

You must be aware of those that want to impress you with words. Just think about resumes that people send in. Have you ever seen one where the applicant was not a high achiever in their previous position? Are all employees’ high rated performers? I think you know the answer. How is it that everyone seems to be a go getter on the resume and in the interview? Base your evaluation on the doing and behave with the expectation that others will hold you to that same standard.  In these times I need action. I am sure you do to. We all want instant gratification. Do not give in to this because this need is what allows and even encourages these people who will mislead you. Be sharp and do what you say you will do and you will have credibility with your staff and customers. It will take you down the path to becoming a smart manager.

Not so fast my friend!

  • Employees coming and going is a part of doing business
  • They will not stay around for long
  • The revolving door is a part of life if you have employees
  • Just accept that you will have to constantly  hire and train new people
  • You barely get what you pay for
  • Good help is hard to find

Have you ever heard any of these gems? Have you actually said them yourself? Do you believe them? If so, I have five words I would like to share with you:

Not so fast my friend!

There are things that we all accept as truth because we hear them so much. Everyone has heard all of the above mentioned old adages and many more like them. Although there are certainly times that these may ring true those times are few and far between. Typically they reflect a limiting, negative attitude.

Don’t you believe for a second that your attitude does not influence the outcome. If you focus on limiting ideas you will get limited results. The old saying ‘if you don’t believe you can do something you are right’ is on the money. The good news is the opposite is true. If you will develop the ability and discipline to focus on the positive and take that attitude into everything you do the sky is the limit.

Now let’s get back to the employee issue. The reality is if you decide not to buy into the negative and instead to promote the positive you have to ask yourself why people leave your business. What makes the bullet points at the beginning of this piece reflect the realities at your company? It has been said that people do not leave bad companies they leave bad managers.

I would submit to you that most managers don’t even stop to think about the cost of extreme employee turnover. From uniforms to wages paid during training (in addition to regular wages) there are costs incurred. This does not even take into account the costs to your business when poorly trained staff is unleashed on your customers (which they invariably are).

Once you get yourself in a constant train and replace mode the effectiveness of the training suffers. If your people perceive that they are wasting their time (because of turnover) when you assign them a new employee to train the training will be less effective and will negatively  impact  your business. Any time your people don’t see evidence of your commitment to training and development you tend to see a decline in their overall attitude.

How do you demonstrate that you value training and employee development in your company? The first step is to actually value it. You cannot fake this. If you don’t believe in it your staff will not believe in it. The effects of great training are unmistakable.

The second step is to evaluate your interview process. How do people get hired at your company? Who does the interviews? Do they know how to interview effectively? Do you utilize a two interview process? These are questions that need to be answered. Effective interviewing is essential to bringing on quality candidates.

The third piece of the puzzle is to assess your new hire training protocols. If you don’t have any then you don’t have a training program. Regardless of the position there must be specific action items that are designated as necessary for a person to learn to be proficient. I would recommend that you establish benchmarks to assess the new person’s progress. The result will be a new employee that performs the functions of the job effectively.

The above is simply an overview of the steps one can take to move from constantly replacing staff to identifying and developing great employees. The proverbial revolving door will only exist if you allow it to. If you can’t answer some of the questions above find someone who can evaluate your operation and work with them to establish an effective hiring and training environment that will provide a great foundation to grow your business upon. Decide today that your operation is worthy of world class hiring,  training and employee development and you will be well on your way to being known as a smart manager.

Always be looking for your James

The following is a true story about a great employee and the manager who took a chance.

The manager had worked in the restaurant industry for several years with one of the leading companies in the casual dining segment. The manager’s name is Jack. The employee in our story is James. Anyone who has worked in the restaurant business can attest to the fact that it is crazy, hectic, and not for the faint of heart. It has been suggested by some that everyone should be required to pull a tour in this business for a little instant perspective. Those who have not ventured into this arena really have no idea how tough it is.

Jack was a kitchen manager at a particular location and he put in many hours to insure that things were taken care of. He ordered supplies, oversaw staff, and was directly responsible for the total production of the back of the house. He moved a mile a minute but he loved it.When the lunch and/or dinner rush comes in a restaurant it is managed chaos at its best and a train wreck of epic proportions at its worst. Jack’s goal everyday was to be on the side of chaos as much as possible. He regularly landed somewhere in the middle. It is the nature of the beast.

In Jack’s kitchen the folks on the cook’s line held his sanity in their hands. Theirs was a tough job. They had to cook, set up, and coordinate dozens of orders simultaneously. The remaining position in the lineup was that of the dishwasher. In addition to handling the dish section this guy was expected to be available to assist the cooks with stocking, ect. It was nonstop and fairly thankless to boot. A person in this job that could keep up consistently was rare. Once again managed chaos at best.

One day Jack was moving through the kitchen as he did on most days – on autopilot. He was so good at his job that he seemed to have a sense of where he needed to be and who he needed to help. He noticed James helping the cook nearest the dish station. It was the height of the lunch rush. As soon as Jack saw James out of position he immediately looked to the dish area expecting a mess. It was organized and caught up! Jack did a double take. It never looked that good during a rush even with someone there the whole time. He was speechless.

Jack decided to keep his eye on James. He watched him work and noticed that he was able to do a great deal of the work of the cooks. Jack asked him how he learned all of these tasks. James said he just paid attention. Jack thought to himself that people who actually spent their whole shift in these positions didn’t pick it up like James.Jack made the obvious decision to put James into a cook’s position immediately. He continued to learn all of the positions and became quite proficient. In no time Jack knew it was time to train James in the production leader position. This was literally the straw that stirred the drink for in this position James would set the pace and would determine if the shift were a success. He was up for the challenge.

It seems like a simple formula. Take a motivated employee and let him grow and prove himself. If it were only that simple. The reality is that Jack had a time trying to convince the rest of the management staff that James was more than ready. The problem was that the other managers on staff could only see James as a dishwasher. They figured he was not hired as a cook because he did not have any experience. They certainly did not want an inexperienced dishwasher running the show on the shifts they were responsible for. The General Manager of the place didn’t have Jack’s back either. It was quite a battle over a couple of days.

Jack knew he was right. Sometimes people told him was a hard head and that he didn’t always want to work with the team. The reality was he didn’t want to give in to limited thinking and had no issues with telling them so when the opportunity presented itself. He found himself outside the circle at times but figured that no one could dispute results and he was certainly providing those on a regular basis. As a matter of fact he did his job so well it actually made their job easier. It was time to put an end to all the nonsense.

You may be wondering what happened to James. Did he ever get his shot? Did those managers ever give in? The answer to both of those questions is yes. Here is how James became the employee that made this story worth telling.Jack decided to make a schedule with the regular folks on it. James was on the dish station. Everything looked normal to the other managers. Jack was a little sly however. The night it happened was a Thursday. It was one of the busier nights for this particular location. Jack made arrangements to have people show up for the shift that were only trained in certain positions and would not be able to be moved into the leader spot. James was told to take the leader position. Jack had made sure that the other managers were gone for the day. The night manager had been very negative regarding James having an opportunity to assume this most important role. Typically Jack would have been staying around for a while until he felt they had gotten through the bulk of the rush and then he would have left. Before the night manager knew what hit him he was stuck with James in the leader position and Jack was nowhere to be found. Jack went home and did not answer the phone. He was pretty confident in James and his ability to pull this off. He would later admit to being a little uneasy for the rest of the night.

The next morning Jack was at work bright and early when the phone rang and he immediately thought it was not good. No one ever called that early in the morning. When Jack answered he heard the night manager on the other end. In an instant he realized that the manager had just left a few hours prior. He braced himself. What he heard next he has never forgotten and never will. The night manager said “I’m sorry you were right. James was great. It was the best shift I’ve had in a long time. I don’t know why I couldn’t see it. I’m glad you made it happen.”

Jack was shocked but happy. The success with James has informed every staffing decision he has made in the years since. If there is ever a question regarding what someone is capable of he reflects back to James and how he proved that people often will rise to the level of your expectations and support.

You might wonder why James and his success had such a lasting effect on Jack. Here is why. James went on to be a trainer with that company and eventually became a corporate trainer that was sent out into the field for new store openings because he quickly came to be recognized as the best and for having a winning, can do attitude. This all started from an entry level dishwasher position. Ask yourself if you have anyone like James on your team. If you do would you recognize them? Would you support them? Would you do whatever you had to do so they could be successful? If you would then you are well on your way to being a smart manager.

Win customers back with 3 simple steps

Win  customers back with 3 simple steps

  1. Assess why they are leaving
  2. Shop yourself
  3. Ask them to come back

Assess why they are leaving

The customers that leave you do so for a bunch of different reasons. How do you find out what is pushing them out the door? Depending on your industry you may have the opportunity to ask them why. If so, are you tracking this info? If you ask a manager how many customers they lose on average every month they will give you an answer. A majority think they know. They don’t!

If your industry does not afford you the opportunity to ask why they are leaving it is a bit more challenging. It is not impossible. You just have to work a little harder to find the answers. Whether or not you are able to get this feedback up front you must develop the ability to see your operation through your customers eyes.

There is not a manager alive that has not had a customer or supervisor point out a problem area in their operation and the manager wonder to themselves how they missed it. One of the biggest challenges for any manager is to see their operations as their customers do. Many managers spend an inordinate amount of time on the job. Over time they develop tunnel vision. This is not a weakness it is a reality. The sooner you recognize this fact the quicker you will be able to put mechanisms in place to compensate for it.

Shop yourself

Ask people you know and trust to be a mystery shopper. It can be as simple as asking them to call and give you feedback regarding the phone skills of your staff. You can ask them to come in if your business is retail in nature and get perspective on what happens to your customers and guest when they come into your establishment. Let them know you want the good, the bad, and the ugly. It can and will be an eye opening exercise. It is not for the faint of heart. Many managers are surprised at the reality of what goes on in their business. Your willingness to accept this feedback will put you head and shoulders above a great many managers.  Most of those in supervisory roles want to have a smooth operation but are unwilling to face the music.

If you have other managers in your company that are doing well check your ego at the door and ask them if you can come and observe their operation. I will practically guarantee you that if you call up one of your peers and say “Hey Billy Bob I know your department is hitting goal consistently and you guys seem to be really doing well across the board. Would you mind if I come and spend some time with you and your team to see what we can do to up our game?” The answer will be YES! You are paying that manager a tremendous compliment. After this visit you will come back and will be amazed at the opportunities you have that you did not see before.

Ask them to come back

Why don’t we ask for the opportunity to earn/keep someone’s business? It is so simple. If they give you that chance and you deliver you are on the way to creating a loyal customer. This is true of earning business from potential customers too. If you have assessed your situation and used shoppers and other tools to really rate your operation you can move to the third part of this equation.

If you have your house in order, ask for the business. People will assume if you’re asking that you will deliver. This expectation is where the problems tend to begin. The customer is assuming that everything will go the way it is supposed to. When we are not in a position to deliver they perceive that we did not meet our obligations. This is not the way to start a relationship. Customers are attracted to businesses that do what they say they are going to do. If you satisfy their needs they will tell people about their experience with your company. They will tell people either way. It is up to you which story they tell. Implement these 3 steps to win back customers and you will be known as a smart manager.

You really can motivate minimum wage employees

There are those that will tell you no. Typically these folks have never really made an attempt. They default to making assumptions regarding their employees. Most of us have heard things like you get what you pay for, part time people will only try so much, and other negative, limiting proclamations. Let me help you navigate past these land mines so you can be the manager that always gets the most out of your staff.

The reality of many businesses is that they employ a high percentage of minimum wage hourly employees. Retail, customer service, and hospitality companies often are completely dependent on this segment. The conventional wisdom is that these people will always come and go so the proverbial revolving door is just a part of doing business. What a bunch of nonsense. This is an easy out for managers that refuse to be held accountable for the environment and culture that exists in their company.

It comes down to one simple question that if asked forces managers to evaluate environment and culture. Here it is: will people always move on to the next opportunity for an additional .10, .15, or .25 an hour? Although there are those that will say .25 an hour is substantial enough to warrant a change, most employees will not initiate a move based on hourly rate alone. The following are some things that will cause a person to put out feelers:

  • being forced to work with people that do not pull their own weight
  • not having the resources to do the job effectively
  • inconsistent message regarding priorities
  • unnecessary stress and aggravation
  • blatant lack of respect
  • feeling underappreciated
  • sexual harrassment
  • uneven application of discipline by management
  • unprofessional behavior by management

This short list is just a sample. They all have one thing in common. All of them can be minimized or eliminated by good management. Remember that people fill these positions and people do respond to positive, encouraging work environments. A smart manager will put an emphasis on this area and will enjoy a positive, motivated staff as a result.

Are you a WITH or FOR manager?

Does your staff work with or for you? These days many managers feel the need to focus on how their staff works for them. The effective managers know the benefits of working with their staffs. Let’s examine a few of the differences in these management styles.

The for managers

  • often do not regularly communicate with front line staff
  • tend to overlook potential scheduling needs of their employees
  • many times do not have a working knowledge of the tasks they expect to be performed
  • can be heard bemoaning how tough their job is

The with managers

  • often acknowledge all staff on a daily basis to establish and maintain open lines of communication
  • realize that all staff have priorities and responsibilities outside of work and attempt to accommodate scheduling needs when possible
  • demonstrate an understanding of the tasks they require by performing them as a means to underscore their importance
  • know that ultimately staff are most concerned about their personal priorities and responsibilities not those of the manager

These are just a few of the differences in these management styles. In every scenario the manager that models a with approach will be most successful. The results will be positive and will assist in establishing a strong foundation for future growth. Adopting the with style makes you a smart manager.

Are you a smart manager?

The reality of hiring in the current economy is that there are more people than ever looking for work. This is especially true of those seeking positions that traditionally rely on hourly employees. Because of staff reductions at companies in all industries there are people that need ANY job they can find. Most organizations are seeing a dramatic increase in applications. This is especially true in service type jobs that are near the bottom of the wage scale.

There are two ways for managers to approach this scenario. The first is to commit to being selective and to interview several candidates for each position they have available. Hiring new staff is always a challenge and having multiple applicants provides options and hopefully assists in choosing the best possible person. Although this approach seems to be quite logical it is often not the path chosen by most managers.

The second approach that is most common is for managers to assume they are in a position of authority and that they have something people really want. These types of managers typically feel that they are in the driver’s seat. This is when they perceive that they have leverage. These folks tend to apply this distorted logic to the management of their current staff. They will even say really dumb things to their people as they attempt to strike fear in them by making them feel like there is a line of people waiting to take over their job.

These are the supervisors that have people wondering how in the world they were promoted to their current position every time they open their mouths. It does not take any particular skill to threaten people and let ones ego go unchecked. It may seem like the staff straightens up and stays on point just after one of these ridiculous people remind them about how fortunate they are to have a job.

The smart managers know this approach is flawed. The good ones realize that the only way to motivate their staff is by being positive and modeling professionalism. The key is to listen to the good folks on staff and to create an environment that encourages them to care and feel a part of the organization. This is rarely easy to accomplish and is a job that is never complete. Leading a staff is an ever changing proposition. If you are able to bring a great attitude and check your ego at the door you have a great chance of being successful.