Thursday, July 28, 2011

Handling Changes to Command with Grace, Part 1: Promoting within

In a recent article about Proctor & Gamble’s “Build from Within” program, it describes that succession planning is built into the company’s culture by methodically tracking and measuring the development of its leaders. Not a small feat for a company of more than 125,000 employees.

No matter how large or small the organization, succession planning is a key element in the success of a  future CEO. While your company’s executive board plans for its next leader, you should prepare yourself for the top at the same time. Below are a few tips to help an inside leader take the wheel with grace.

Prepare for the Role
As an inside hire, you already have access as to what works at your company and how to best fit into the CEO role. Be proactive in gaining the experience necessary to prove you’re the best fit. Utilize the support of your mentors and seek opportunities, such as projects that broaden your scope of duties, so that when the time comes to fill a vacancy, your skill set will come to mind. Putting a transition plan down on paper ahead of time will help you check off new responsibilities you want to add to your resume. 

Define the Boundaries
When you accept a promotion to CEO, some of your old team members may continue to come to you with old duties.  Be sure to set clear boundaries between where your old responsibilities end and your new ones begin.  Use guided direction (or just hit the “forward” button) to re-route any communications that are misappropriated to your desk. Be mindful now that your words carry more authority and take extra precautions in your communications immediately after your promotion. Remember, your responsibilities have changed but your relationships are still valuable.

Set Limits
With any new position of leadership, there may be things you would like to tweak to improve a process or idea. Take it slow and think strategically about the best way to make improvements over the long term. Similarly, with a new set of expectations being placed upon you, it may be hard as a CEO to feel as if you can ever truly leave your work at the office.  Even though this is often the reality, there are daily things you can do, like structure your calendar to incorporate downtime, to ease into your new position.

What challenges have you faced entering a new position of leadership? What is your advice to future leaders preparing to continue your company’s success?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Human Resourses: Hero for hire

By Harry Dennis for BizTimes Milwaukee

This month I’d like to take on a significant subject: the advantage of hiring veterans.

I don’t have the actual number of vets employed within the salaried and hourly ranks in Wisconsin. But including Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, I think it’s reasonable to assume the number is well into the thousands.

I’m a Vietnam vet, having served as an Air Force combat pilot there for 18 consecutive months. My life was forever changed by the experience, and I’m sure this is true for any vet who has served our country, regardless of which conflict they were participating in.

Here’s what you can expect if you hire a vet or someone who is serving in the National Guard or military reserves.

Team orientation
Your vet employees are highly trained to be team players, especially team players who, while on duty, lived under constant stress and periodic distress. As such, they rely on strong and decisive leadership, especially leadership that demands results and consistent performance from employees, without a hint of favoritism.

Many vets will tell you that they respected their military leadership, but didn’t necessarily like them. To them, the definition of respect translates to perceived trust and competence in the leader.

The issue of liking has been studied by the leadership experts for 50 years. They generally conclude that being liked isn’t the same as being an effective leader.

The typical vet is accustomed to an indisputable bond with fellow team members. In a conflict, their life is dependent upon the success of this bond. Each team player is expected to perform flawlessly. “I’ve got your backside” or “I’ve got you covered” more or less says it all.

In business, we know that team play is the best play, but we also know that our players are not all capable of playing equally. Hence, they need constant training, coaching and personal development to reach this goal.

The vets I have talked to, especially those in the management ranks, find this to be one of their greatest frustrations and a huge source of personal impatience. Their frustration and impatience turns to dislike and distrust, and they avoid employees who they think aren’t pulling their share of the load. This is where a strong leader can intervene to right the ship.

Personal characteristics
Vets, as a whole, are very proud – proud of their contributions, proud of the branch of the military in which they served, and proud of their country. They support our Constitution and never hesitate to say, “one nation under God.”

They’re taught to be physically and mentally strong, and to follow the rules. There are few mavericks among the vets I’ve known over the years. As an employee, they’re loyal and tenacious, and incredibly consistent.

They’re accustomed to doing much with so little. They are survival-oriented, and prize the tools they are given to accomplish objectives.

While in the military, vets are heavily involved in training and personal improvement programs, even in combat environments. Maintaining proficiency and personal skill levels is a primary requirement of anyone serving in our military.

So you can expect the vets you employ to be positively responsive to the training and development opportunities you provide them. And they will use it to the benefit of your company. TEC members who are vets make it clear to us that if they can’t get usable take-home value from TEC, they won’t stick around.

Accountability for results
In the military service, we have it ingrained in us that we’re accountable for the results that we or our team achieves. Each branch has its own way of doing it, and that is commonly known as “efficiency ratings.”

In business, we call it a performance evaluation or job review. To your vet, this is nothing new. It’s considered part of the job. It’s the measure of accountability for them. So you can expect them to be responsive and appreciate the feedback.

Most significantly, vets respond positively to recognition for their accomplishments. Not surprisingly, personal recognition is just as important as team recognition.

A final thought
If you haven’t yet hired a vet, I sincerely hope you’ll consider it when a job opening occurs. You won’t be sorry. I promise.

Until next month, thanks to our vets – for all they have given us, and for all we can expect from them in the future.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Friending your co-workers and employees on Facebook

We all know that social networking on Facebook can bring new business to your door, but how can it positively impact what happens behind company doors? While it depends on the rules and regulations at your company, many employers encourage social networking as a means of building team morale and sharing ideas.

To friend or not to friend?

The decision to invite a coworker to be your Facebook friend depends in large part on your existing work relationship.  Most advise against having members of management initiate the online connections, primarily to avoid any implied pressure coming from above. Also, since the information shared on Facebook is often highly personal, an employee could feel that their religious or political views are up for scrutiny if a member of the management requests access. This may even lead to feelings that they are being discriminated against down the road, if health issues or other personal challenges are made known. It might be best to make mention that you are a Facebook user but then let your employees choose to do the inviting.

Set the tone.
As when addressing any large group, employers need to be very conscious of their written voice when posting to Facebook.  Expect that anyone from your grandmother, to your college buddies, to a potential client could be reading your posts, and sometimes joking or sarcasm can be lost in translation (we've all heard the horror stories).  Keep your message crystal clear to avoid any miscommunication. If you hesitate even for a moment about posting something, you have your answer.

Fine tune your settings.

Since your personal and business worlds can collide on Facebook, make sure you and your employees are familiar with privacy settings.  Now that nearly everyone is armed with a camera and a comment, the opportunity for a social gaffe reaches far beyond an awkward joke at the holiday party. While some blurring of the lines can be a good thing, by customizing your share settings, you can maintain a better separation between your business and personal life.

Share well with others.

When in doubt, it may be best to stick to the old stand-by "friendly but not familiar" when it comes to online information you share with employees. Also, employers should be mindful of posting anything that may come off as extravagant or self-absorbed.  Even though your golf trip was hard earned, posting photos from the green while others are on a tight deadline or budget is ill advised.

With all of these considerations, is it really a good thing to foster an online relationship with your employees?  Many say "absolutely!”  If your company has a social media policy, Facebook is a good window into how well your employees adhere to company standards. It's also a great way to find commonalities between you and your staff.   Use Facebook as an opportunity to solidify your position as a leader, with posts that enlighten your employees and inspire your clients.  The more generous you are with truly useful information the more others will continue to rely on your authority.

Are you Facebook friends with your coworkers and employees?  Tell us what kind of impact it has had on your work relationships.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bringing your company to the cloud
The word "cloud" originated from the Old English word "clud," because of the way a cloud can sometimes resemble a pile of rocks.  Perhaps this is how some feel about the term cloud computing. But does moving your business computing to the cloud involve more than merely stockpiling your data in one spot on the internet?

Utilizing the cloud is less about weighing you down and more about having data such as files, presentations, calendars and contacts float along with you, from your laptop to your smartphone to your iPad.

Some compare the evolution of cloud computing to other public utilities.  In the same way we no longer need to store our own water or fuel for the winter, we no longer need to use our computers as an electronic storage device.  Instead, we can save our data online in a centralized place, ready to use when and how we need it.

While you may not be using the cloud at your organization yet, chances are that you use it in your personal life. If you use an online service to pay your bills, store your contacts, or share your photos, you are already a cloud dweller. It's the same concept, only as it applies to the often complex aggregation of your business data.

So, what aspects of the cloud may be most valuable to the corporate world?

Anyone from potential clients to key members of your team can view up to the minute reports on the cloud.  With custom settings and permissions, they can edit reports and share critical data as changes occur.   No cross platform worries; as long as they have an internet ready device, your user can access what you need them to.  With your whole team in the loop, resourcing, sales and management tasks are streamlined.

Cloud computing can cut down on overhead, most obviously IT spending - eliminating the need for many hardware and software purchases, as well as other operational expenses.  But the true value may show itself primarily in the efficiency and agility it can bring your teams.

Even if your computer meets an untimely death, your data still lives on.  In essence, it is like having one enormous super-computer at your beck and call.   You do want to be sure, however, that you have a compliance structure in place so your business data is protected from any outside eyes.

When migrating data to the cloud, it is best to start slowly and in phases, before fully rolling out to your company. There are quite a few cloud computing systems to choose from that can impact your business in a variety of ways.  It may not be a matter of which one is the best overall but which one is best for your specific needs.  What cloud computing system options are most important to your company? Storage capacity?  Or is the ability to sync more critical?

If you are already using the cloud at your organization, which systems have been working for you?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The elevator pitch, not always your best foot forward

Business leaders preach that the perfect elevator pitch is one of the most effective ways to build new relationships and reach new clients. A lot of time and training is spent crafting, molding and evolving an elevator pitch in order to deliver a concise description of your company in a way that relates to and interests others. However, many leaders focus on the wrong aspects, which only delays the connection and comes across as a sales pitch.

Start a conversation. Instead of just jumping into your pitch when asked the question, “So what do you do?” begin asking questions to give context and generate interest. A great introduction would include questions like “Have you read the latest New York Times article on green technologies? This is something we’re really passionate about.” After you place context around your industry and share a little about your organization, ask similar questions to form a naturally flowing conversation instead of a sales pitch.

Don’t recite your resume. It is very common to begin listing bullet points of what you do throughout a typical day, what accounts you’re responsible for, how many people you manage, your past experience, etc. Many people think that this is the way to get others who share the same responsibilities and experiences to quickly form a connection with you. While this might lead you into flowing conversations about work life, it only delays the discovery time to determine if you would collaborate well together.  

Focus on company values. Business owners tend to first describe what their company does, what products it makes, how it differs from its competitors, etc. However, we learned from Simon Sinek at Inspirational Leadership 2011 that many leaders fail to articulate why they do what they do. Sinek states that great, inspiring leaders communicate from the inside out in order to connect with others at the foundational level of what they believe and why their organization exists.

What information do you share when first meeting other business leaders? How has your strategy for making meaningful connections evolved?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

TEC hosts Member Guest Day featuring keynote Patti Wood

We are excited for our TEC group 35 in Madison, Wisconsin to host a Member Guest Day at their next meeting on July 14, 2011. The event will feature renowned body language expert and author Patti Wood.

Wood is the author of seven books including Success Signals – Understanding Body Language, Easy Speaking – Dynamic Delivery, and The Conflict Cure. She also appears regularly on PBS, BBC, CNN, Us Weekly, and USA Today, to name a few.

Wood will present Body Language: Secrets for Establishing Credibility and Detecting Deception to guide TEC members and guests how to get the best read and increase trust in your key business relationships. Attendees will also practice voice and movement tools to improve their own individual credibility and deception detection ability.

For more information about this event, please contact Michele at