Chapter One is below.
Read the Author’s Preface by clicking here.
I reminded myself that we were in a well-lit office, not a dark alley. No need to get aggressive yet. I relaxed my jaw and tried to keep the fear out of my voice as I replied, “If you pull my people off your project, there’s no way you’ll meet the delivery date.”
My client looked at me blandly, as if he had delivered a weather forecast. In fact, he had devastated my sales forecast. Five fewer of my consultants billing their time to this client meant there was no way I would meet quota to earn my bonus. I needed him to engage with me. I forced a response with a direct question that was also a threat. “Did Juan approve this staffing cut?”
“Why would I check with Juan?” asked the Director of Information Systems Development (ISD) for Billing Systems. He ran his finger down a page of the MCI internal directory as he spoke, “Nobody (more…)
Of all the management tools I recommend, one of the most effective is both very simple and very unlikely to be consistently employed—if it is used at all: the written progress report, completed on a consistent schedule.
The power of progress reports to promote results and reduce anxiety is demonstrated daily, on matters titanic and trivial. The U. S. Constitution requires that the President “from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union.” Public companies are required by law to present results to shareholders, at fixed intervals and in specific formats. Schools send regular reports to parents, our GPS tells where we are, and UPS sends a text when a package arrives.
Still, managers and employees resist implementing this simple process.
Who cares about why? Just grow up and start doing a progress report. Declare your goals. Confront your results. Adjust to living in reality. Enjoy the benefits of clarity while the less disciplined fail and fail in a fog of vague expectations and inchoate regrets.
Before I explain how to format and prepare a good progress report, let’s deal with some common excuses questions.
Q: I don’t have a boss.
A: If you have (more…)
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A veteran executive coach draws on his years inside Arthur Andersen, Wall Street, and MCI to share a moving story that explains why your 401k shrank, your house is underwater, and your job stinks. The comedy and conflict illustrate management methods and personal practices that can improve your career and deepen your personal relationships.
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I was very pleased to see an international expert on software development express the following clear insights into the types of workplaces my executive coaching seeks to foster.
Visionaries are designing organizations for collaboration. These firms remove the bottlenecks imposed by the strict hierarchies of the past. [In hierarchical firms] no one was being rewarded for taking the kind of risks that lead to innovation or other breakthroughs in performance which thrive in a climate of collaboration.
Knowledge workers spend a large proportion of their time seeking information, much of the rest making sense of what they’ve found, and relatively little time in applying what they now know.
Transitioning from a hierarchical way of working … requires letting go of habitual behaviors that may have worked well in the hierarchy, but no longer serve anyone when collaboration becomes a critical part of the work process.
[The result is] … humanized work with an emphasis on mastery of our craft, a focus on rapid learning and feedback, delivery of business value (sooner not faster), and close connection to customer needs (even ones the customers’ haven’t noticed yet).
— Diana Larsen on Agile Fluency,
Barriers to Agility &
the value of Open Space Technology
Everyone’s favorite radio station is WII-FM
Broadcast on their frequency and they’ll tune in.
No sooner did I post my article on the pitfalls of misusing jargon that I found myself in a conversation that was confused and distorted by the use of technical terms without a shared context.
A client mentioned his plan to delegate the task of staying in regular, informal contact with customers between transactions. We naturally agreed that these “keep warm” meetings were a valuable and often overlooked source of repeat business. Since the activity is so valuable for the business, I asked how he was going to track the sales representative’s performance on scheduling and conducting these visits. “I’m not worried about that. Her personality assessment is clearly very high ‘I,’ so I know she will happily do the meetings.”
I told him that puzzled me. The most popular assessment tool is (more…)
The principles of meeting facilitation, as delineated three centuries ago.
…a mutual deference is affected; contempt of others disguised; authority concealed; attention given to each in his turn; and an easy stream of conversation maintained, without vehemence, without interruption, without eagerness for victory, and without any airs of superiority. These attentions and regards are immediately agreeable to others, abstracted from any consideration of utility or beneficial tendencies: they conciliate affection, promote esteem, and extremely enhance the merit of the person who regulates his behaviour by them.
–David Hume 1711-1776
An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals
Section VIII Of Qualities Immediately Agreeable To Others.
The most valuable time management skill is recognizing the important tasks and ignoring the rest. I first observed it early in my consulting career, at Arthur Andersen & Co in New York, after a meeting with my manager and our client, the Vice President of a large energy company. After the client left, my manager and I reviewed the meeting and planned our tasks. I mentioned one of the client’s requests from my notes and asked, “How are we going to do this?” I was shocked by his reply, “Don’t worry about that.”
“What do you mean?” I replied, “He specifically asked us to do that.”
“I know, but trust me, It’ll go away.” He was right. That task was never mentioned again and the client was entirely pleased with our work.
Not taking on everything you could do or want to do is the only way to reserve resources for the key activities.
Participating effectively in trade shows and conferences requires significant investment of time and treasure. I always encourage my clients to do only as many as they can afford to do thoroughly. What does “thoroughly” mean?
Essentially, have a plan and a purpose. Start early, months before the conference. Have the right people at the conference with the time, attention, and resources necessary to work the plan. Be ready to follow up after the conference. Everyone returns from these with lots of ideas and good intentions that whither the first day back at the office. It’s up to you to pick up the thread and maintain the momentum.
Have a clear goal or purpose that is consistent with your marketing message and sales targets. One way to formulate the goal is to answer the question, “If I (more…)