Sometimes Micromanaging Is Good–And Necessary

7/29/2010 – Christine M. Riordan –

Micromanage. A dreaded word. The dictionary defines it as “to direct or control in a detailed, often meddlesome manner.” Most popular management books call it something to avoid at all costs and give decisive tips on how not to do it.

As a professor of management, I often talk about empowering employees and avoiding micromanaging them. Sometimes very bad things happen when you micromanage your employees with too much attention to detail. [Read more…]

Ten Signs of a Fear-Based Workplace

7/9/2010 – Liz Ryan –
Reigns of modest but palpable terror are making an unwelcome return at offices all over the country

The U.S. financial crisis has caused fear in the boardroom, and that unease trickles down to every worker. The principal signs of a fear-soaked senior leadership are a preoccupation with looking out for No. 1, a clampdown on consensus-building conversations, and the shunning or ousting of anyone so bold or naive as to tell the truth about what he or she believes. We’ve seen the fear epidemic hit dozens of major firms over the past few years, and it isn’t pretty. When a leadership team’s attention turns from “How can we do the right thing for our customers and employees?” to “How can we keep our stature, our jobs, and the status quo intact, at any cost?” then fear officially rules the roost. [Read more…]

The 20 Most Important Questions In Business

6/17/2010 – Christopher Steiner and Brett Nelson –
Entrepreneurs can’t completely inoculate their businesses from the vagaries of the market. What they can do is wrestle with the fundamental questions that govern the fate of any enterprise. We’ve done our best to compile the 20 most important ones.

Digging for those answers is a grueling exercise–one that takes serious intellectual and emotional honesty. With any hope, the process begins long before money’s been spent, products are built and customers are lost. [Read more…]

How Zappos Delivers Happiness

6/1/2010 – Gregory Ferenstein –

The funny thing about business books is that for many stories, there are countless counterexamples of management philosophies that are radically different, yet still successful. What is inspiring about, the world’s largest online shoe retailer, is that it is possible for a business to be founded on curiosity, built with friendship, and sustained with employee happiness. CEO Tony Hsieh’s (pronounced “shay”) retelling of the Zappos story in the upcoming Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose is a zippy, pleasant read about a business model that doesn’t compartmentalize labor and leisure.

Indeed, it appears that Zappos thrives in the most outrageous displays of its employees’ individuality. During tours of their head office, a potential client might see karaoke, a make-shift bowling alley, a petting zoo, or a napping worker. [Read more…]

The Power Of Personal Passion

5/26/2010 – Eileen Gittins –
How entrepreneurs can turn what they love doing into successful businesses.

Most people think about their jobs as the thing they do, instead of the thing they get to do. When you can build a culture where people feel privileged instead of entitled, that’s magic. And that’s what the best Silicon Valley companies do: They tap into the power of personal passion. [Read more…]

How to Succeed in Business by Really Listening

5/4/2010 – George J. Dennis –
TV Ears device
My company, TV Ears, specializes in sound. We manufacture TV listening products that have helped more than one million people hear the television more clearly. The idea came about after I tried to find something for my dad that would help him hear the TV. Nothing helped, so I created TV Ears in 1998. My father taught me that hearing is a privilege, and listening should never be taken for granted.

While developing the company, I learned a lot about listening along the way and it’s become the cornerstone of my management philosophy. When seeking inspiration, I look to the people around me – both our employees as well as folks that I run into at my local coffee shop or restaurant. They all have ideas and insights and are more than willing to share them to those who are willing to take note. I would submit that an executive’s greatest asset in growing their business is their ability to listen; the absence of doing so is akin to living in a bubble, where reality becomes a precious and elusive commodity. I would highly recommend other executives do the same. Here are some ways I’ve found to make this part of my leadership style. [Read more…]

Basic Steps Toward Work-Life Balance | by Helen Coster and Tara Weiss | 3/31/2010
For most people, juggling the demands of a career and a personal life is an ongoing challenge, especially at a time when many companies have slashed their ranks —and expect more from the survivors.

Achieving the elusive “work-life balance” can often feel like an impossible goal, especially for people who strive to give everything 100%. In today’s “do more with less” competitive reality, how can we manage careers and families, and feel satisfied with both? [Read more…]

A Little Less Conversation

A Little Less Conversation | by Joel Spolsky | 2/1/2010
Have you ever invited employees to a meeting just so they wouldn’t feel left out? If so, you may be an overcommunicator.

When was the last time you scheduled a meeting and invited eight people instead of the three people who really needed to be there simply because you didn’t want anyone to feel left out?

When was the last time you sent a companywide e-mail that said something like, “Hey, attention coffee drinkers: If you finish the pot, make another!” even though there is actually only one person who violates this rule (and she’s your co-founder)? [Read more…]

The Way I Work: Kathy Ireland | As told to Liz Welch | 12/1/2009

Former supermodel Kathy Ireland founded a little company to make products for “busy moms” like herself. Now, with revenue of $1.4 billion, she’s busier than ever.

When she was in her 20s and a model, Kathy Ireland says, her job description was “Shut up and pose.” So it irks her when anyone suggests that the 46-year-old CEO and chief designer of Kathy Ireland Worldwide is merely the face of her $1.4 billion business. Ireland, who launched the Los Angeles–based company in 1993 and is the majority shareholder, began by creating a line of socks and parlayed that into a large licensing deal with Kmart that lasted until 2003. Now she puts her stamp on more than 15,000 products — including scented candles, dining room sets, porcelain dishes, wood flooring, skin care products, and swimsuits. [Read more…]

Five Attributes Of Enduring Family Businesses

Five Attributes Of Enduring Family Businessesby C. Caspar, A. Dias, H. Elstrodt
The keys to long-term success are professional management and keeping the family committed to and capable of carrying on as the owner. Family businesses are an often overlooked form of ownership. Yet they are all around us–from neighborhood mom-and-pop stores and the millions of small and midsize companies that underpin many economies to household names such as BMW, Samsung and Wal-Mart Stores.

One-third of all companies in the S&P 500 index and 40% of the 250 largest companies in France and Germany are defined as family businesses, meaning that a family owns a significant share and can influence important decisions, particularly the election of the chairman and CEO. [Read more…]

Focus Is The New Key To Work-Life Balance

Focus required for success and self-improvementForbes | by Joan Gurvis | Nov. 25, 2009

If having a balanced life was elusive in the fast-paced good times, it can seem impossible in the fast-paced tough times.

The pressures on leaders are huge. Distractions are everywhere. As work demands grow, our inclination is to continue to try to do more things more quickly, to fit everything in. We push ourselves, our co-workers and our employees to keep up the intense pace, but in so doing, we leave ourselves without adequate time to stop, reflect and focus. [Read more…]

How to Liberate an Economy

Entrepreneurs understand the importance of freedom in the workplace.
City Journal | by Guy Sorman | October 21, 2009

Brian Carney and Isaac Getz’s Freedom, Inc. is a timely book. It’s also countercyclical and somewhat counterintuitive. After all, most of today’s writing about economics and business is haunted by the current crisis: nearly every author and commentator expects that either more or less government intervention will bring the economy out of its difficulties. But Carney and Getz remind us that without well-managed enterprises, there would be no economy at all.

Crisis or no crisis, the engine of economic growth has always been, and will always remain, entrepreneurs. Nations without entrepreneurs—whether they drive them out with excessive taxes and regulations, or in more extreme cases, suppress, exile, or kill them—never reach prosperity. One can often ascertain the condition of a nation’s economy by assessing the cultural, legal, fiscal, and social status of its entrepreneurial class. [Read more…]

John Mackey of Whole Foods on Hiring Leaders

John Mackey of Whole Foods on Hiring | John Mackey Interview | July 2009

Q: What traits should I look for when hiring for a leadership position?

A: My philosophy about this has definitely evolved over the years. I understand people a lot better today than I did 30 years ago. Back then, I was more impressed with people who were very articulate. In many companies, the person who talks the best usually gets the job. I got snowed by a few of those people over the years. I still think communication is important, but I don’t think there’s always a correlation between being a great communicator and other virtues that make for a great leader. [Read more…]

Warning Signs of Power Corruption in Organizations

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority. There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it. – Lord Acton

Lord Acton’s dictum, made in 1887, clearly warns us that the practice of wielding power and influence can corrode the character of leaders. History is replete with examples of individuals who wielded unchecked power and eroded not only their own integrity, but also the ethical and moral foundations of the organizations they led and brought them to catastrophe and ruin. This danger is true of all organizations including businesses, religious institutions, and governments.

Here is the risk inherent in leadership: The greater the leader’s power, wealth, authority, and influence, the more likely the leader could succumb to ethical lapses and moral failings. The risk increases if the organization has a culture that lacks financial or managerial transparency and accountability, has insufficient checks and balances on executive power, and discourages criticism from subordinates or members. When a leader with a poorly developed ethical or moral sense ends up leading an organization with a culture that prevents ethical self-examination, a slow but perfect storm starts to form that demands compromise from all levels of leadership and eventually leads to catastrophic consequences. [Read more…]

The New ROE: Return On Ethics

Forbes | by Sharon Allen | July 21, 2009

With everyone’s current focus on the economy, you might assume I’m talking about that traditional financial metric, return on equity. But the ROE I advocate is different. It’s return on ethics. This ROE is really more mindset than measure, an approach to encouraging the highest standard of business behavior. It’s based on the premise that ethical decision-making can lead to strong performance and competitive advantage, while unethical decision-making leads to very different outcomes. [Read more…]

The Three Most Important Rules in Business

Most Important Rules Business Success From my years of experience working for different companies and teaching various graduate business courses, I developed three rules that management must practice in order to achieve long-term profitability and success. Follow these rules and a business can remain healthy and prosper. Ignore them and failure is virtually guaranteed in the long term.

Rule #1 – Always Meet and Exceed Customer Expectations.
Meeting and exceeding customer expectations is the most important but often overlooked rule of business. The only way a company stays in business is if the customer is satisfied with its product or service. This generates profit, builds long-term stability, and meets the challenge of competitors. Meeting expectations should be considered the baseline for company performance. Exceeding expectations should be the ultimate goal. [Read more…]

How to Work More Like a Start-Up | by Darren Dahl | May 2009

The first thing you notice when you walk into the Chicago offices of Total Attorneys, which provides software and services to small law firms, is the number of people on their feet. Every morning, the company’s 180 employees gather around the office in groups of five to 10. Close your eyes, take in the often raucous banter and laughter, and it’s easy to mistake Total Attorneys’s headquarters for a college cafeteria. But these meetings, which last for about 15 minutes, are more than mere employee chitchat. They are intended to create what CEO Ed Scanlan calls controlled chaos.

The inspiration for the gatherings comes from a process for designing software called agile development, which aims to promote flexibility, speed, and teamwork. But rather than limit participation to software engineers, Scanlan has deployed agile development concepts companywide, in a drive to make the seven-year-old business act more like the start-up it once was. [Read more…]

Jack Welch Elaborates: Shareholder Value

BusinessWeek | Suzy & Jack Welch | Mar. 16, 2009

Welch told the Financial Times the emphasis on shareholder value is “misplaced.” In this Q&A, he puts his comments in context

On Mar. 12, the Financial Times ran a front-page story with the headline “Welch Denounces Corporate Obsessions.” The article, which generated widespread reaction in the media and on blogs, asserted that in an interview with the FT, Jack Welch, the former head of General Electric (GE), had described the business emphasis on shareholder value as “misplaced.”

“On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world,” Welch was quoted as saying. Below, in a question-and-answer session conducted by his wife, Suzy Welch, Jack Welch elaborates. [Read more…]

Street Smarts: Surviving the Recession | by Norm Brodsky | March 2009

It requires conquering your fears and making the right choices. Many business owners won’t do either

Fear can be a motivator, but it can also lead you into bad decisions, particularly in times like these. I have no doubt that a lot of business owners have spent the past couple of months implementing cost-saving plans and survival strategies that will weaken their companies and damage their long-term prospects. They’ve done it because they’ve been afraid, and fear makes us shortsighted. With the economy falling apart around us, we forget that recessions always end. Yes, some businesses will go under, but some companies will emerge stronger. If you want yours to be among the latter, you need to be careful about which costs you cut and which deals you offer your customers. [Read more…]

The Employee Whisperer

Fast Company | by Kate Rockwood | November 2008

How Kenexa is blending psychology and technology to create passionate workers.

At the suburban Philadelphia offices of Kenexa, people grin at one another all day long. Sometimes they hug. Bright posters of the company’s guiding principles dot the walls: YOU’RE ALLOWED TO LAUGH YOUR WAY THROUGH A PROBLEM AND MAKING FRIENDS REPLACES OUR ORGANIZATIONAL HIERARCHY. The CEO, Rudy Karsan, spouts odd koanlike talk: “The world is like a roomful of jars. Every time you open a jar, there’s untold treasure in there.” [Read more…]

Should Your People Come Before Your Customers?

InformationWeek | by Rob Preston | Sept. 29, 2008

One school of thought is that if you treat your people right, they’ll be far more motivated and equipped to engage with (and maximize returns from) your customers.

The customer comes first. It’s considered a business management truism. The way to boost profits and market caps is to focus on the people who buy your products. “Delight” them, as former GE chief Jack Welch would say. Create relationships that foster brand loyalty and return business. Management experts C.K. Prahalad and M.S. Krishnan go a step further, exhorting companies to “co-create value” with their customers, one customer at a time. [Read more…]

Fixing Washington D.C.’s School System

Fast Company | by Jeff Chu | September 2008

No one is attacking Washington, D.C.’s stagnant culture more boldly than Michelle Rhee, head of the city’s failing schools. Is there a lesson here for our nation’s leaders?

Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School in Washington, D.C., is one of the worst schools in one of the worst school districts in America. “The mentality of excellence? We wish we could have that,” said principal Harriett Kargbo, as we toured the school one morning in May. “But this,” she said, pointing at the metal detector guarding the entrance, “is the reality. [Read more…]

Managing for Long-Term Success and Profitability

Business Success and Profitability Long-TermGood management has nothing to do with short-term successes and the management elixirs that allegedly led to them. This seemingly banal insight results from a long-term, historical perspective like [Peter] Drucker’s. It cannot be achieved by judgments based on quarterly results, but rather emerges from a deeply rooted understanding of the durable, unclouded by short-term spectacular success stories. Not the momentary “how” is important, but rather the seminal “why.” (Herman Simon, Management Beyond the Day)

Despite well-established management principles that require a long-term perspective be used when evaluating all business decisions and the countless organizational failures and disasters that demonstrate the consequences of ignoring such strategic thinking, many corporations continue to repeat those same mistakes and seemingly fail to learn their lessons. This may be due to the pressures placed on companies to be “profitable” for the next quarter that motivate senior executives to quickly maximize share prices while ignoring the potential negative effects to the long-term profitability, value, and survivability of an organization. Another explanation for this dysfunctional approach may be the flawed compensation systems and executive contracts that reward management for short-sighted profitability decisions without demanding accountability for the long-term organizational profitability and taking into consideration the impact on the long-term value and competitive position of a company. [Read more…]

Beyond Flextime | by Scott Westcott | August 2008

For Linda Skoglund, getting a pedicure on a busy Tuesday afternoon was a career turning point. It ran against her Midwestern work ethic. And certainly, there was plenty of work piled up at J.A. Counter & Associates, the $2.5 million insurance and investment advisory firm she owns in New Richmond, Wisconsin. On the other hand, canceling her visit to the salon that day could have sent a bad message. It risked signaling to her 15 employees that they weren’t allowed to do whatever they wanted at any given time during work hours. And that would tank her plans to overhaul the work environment at J.A. Counter. [Read more…]

Key Characteristics of Great Leaders – Part II

Great Leaders Integrity, Honesty, Humility, CourageIn this article I’m continuing with my review of the key characteristics of great leaders. Here are some additional qualities that embody superior leadership.

Great leaders surround themselves with greatness. They actively seek out the best possible people and hire them to fill all key positions within their organizations. Great leaders know that surrounding themselves with excellence is a direct reflection on their own character, abilities, and effectiveness as leaders. They understand that their own success and the success of their organizations depend mostly on hiring and promoting the best qualified, ethical, skilled, responsible, mature, and productive people and giving them the proper resources, authority, and freedom to do what’s needed for the long-term benefit of their companies. Great leaders do not feel threatened by anyone lower in the chain of command who’s smarter, better educated, more productive, or more popular than they are. They respect the greatness and unique abilities of the individuals they lead and encourage them to continually flourish and grow. [Read more…]