Judy Dobles, General Management Consulting

YOUR TOUGHEST BUSINESS CHALLENGES SOLVED.

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  • One Webster’s definition of aspiration is: a strong desire for high achievement.  We each have hopes, dreams and aspirations for ourselves.  We have set our sights on a goal that can take many years to achieve and the path is not always clear.  There are, however, some actions that can increase the likelihood of achieving your aspirations by allowing you to make significant contributions and thereby standing out from the rest of the crowd.

    On my personal journey, I have followed each of these tips.  I still remember, to this day, where I was when I clearly formulated my aspiration.  It took 15 years to gain the experience which resulted in the achievement of my dreams.   The 9 tips listed below are constant and perennial in a business world that is noted for change and following the latest fad.

    1. Get to know as many people as possible.  Early in my career, I made it a point to go to lunch with people in other organizations and in my department at least once a week.  It was easy to get to know them personally over lunch.  In addition, I learned more about the work they did.  Through the years I invariably needed help from people with other skills and knowledge.  Nurturing these relationships made it easy to call upon them when their help was needed.

    2. Know peoples’ names.  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people say, “I am not good with names.”  That really means, “I do not want to take the time to learn the names.”   A key lesson from one of the 1st training classes I took, the Dale Carnegie Course – How to Win Friends and Influence People, was, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language”.

    3. Don’t talk; act.  Stop and consider for a moment how many people in meetings preface their comments with, “I think we should”, versus, “I will happily own that action item”.  By acting instead of talking you will stand out in the crowd.

    4. Do something unusual and lonely.  Getting out of your comfort zone teaches you that you have the personal fortitude to do difficult and daunting things by yourself. It is lonely at the top. You will get any number of opinions but you alone will have to make the decision.  Several years after starting my career in finance, I decided to run the Hamlin Beach Triathlon which consisted of a 13.1 mile run, 56 mile bike and 1.2 mile swim.  Although I enjoy sports, I had never endeavored to do such a thing at any time in my life.  The training was lonely and there was a lot of it; every day.  It was a test for me.  Did I have the tenacity to put in the sustained effort to reach my goal? On a Saturday in August, I started, finished and knew then that I could confidently face hard challenges head-on.

    5. Never criticize others.  Writing a nasty memo to someone saps everyone’s energy.  Focus on the positive.  The world is a small place and you never know when you will find yourself on a team or reporting to the person you criticized.  We are all human and have all made mistakes at one time or another.

    6. Know your customers.  No matter what position you hold you interact with customers.  In some cases, it will indeed be external paying customers.  However, if you work in HR, Finance or IT you have internal customers.  The same rules apply.  Get to know them.  Know what they want.  Know what problems they are facing.  Then work to ensure you solve their problems and provide your service on-time without errors.

    7. Put the dead fish on the table.  A friend, Lynn Dessert, writes a blog called, “Elephants at Work” and addresses similar topics. http://www.elephantsatwork.com/

    In any organization there are large smelly problems that everyone pretends do not exist.  Pretending does not help because eventually the problem becomes visible. These problems get in the way of finding real, meaningful solutions to operational issues.   You must have the personal strength to acknowledge the elephants and dead fish so that they can be diffused and resolved.

    8. No drama or panic allowed.

    Drama defined: A way of relating to the world in which a person consistently overreacts to or greatly exaggerates the importance of benign events. (Source: The Urban Dictionary)

    Panic defined: Sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior. (Source: Oxford Dictionaries)

    To solve problems in a crisis situation you must think clearly.  Drama and panic heightens emotions and makes it too easy to muddle your thinking.  The best action is to ban drama from the workplace.

    9. Execute flawlessly.  An average concept flawlessly executed will beat a perfect plan executed poorly every time.  Pay attention to the details, keep the plan on time and deliver as promised.

    In the final analysis, you and you alone own your career plan.  Know what you want and understand the technical and leadership skills required for success. Use the 9 tips above every day in your work to stand out from the crowd.  By doing so, you will achieve your dreams and aspirations.

    Call Judy for a complimentary consultation regarding the tough business challenges you are facing.  585.329.3754

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  • “Don’t aspire to make a living.  Aspire to make a difference.”  Denzel Washington

    In my very first job out of college, I vividly remember observing what was going on around me; how leaders treated their staff, how organizational goals were set, how performance appraisals were done and how budgets were put together.   I saw some good things, but mostly I saw opportunities for improvement.  Looking back, this set the stage for how I think about leadership and how I have personally led individuals and organizations.

    There are two prongs to my philosophy:  [1] always put your people and the organization first and [2] continuously look for improved ways to get the work done.

    Putting people first means that you work to help individuals grow and pursue their career aspirations in a way that is meaningful for them.  You should not assume that everyone shares your personal aspirations.  I have had staff report to me from both ends of the spectrum.  Some are extremely content with their current position and do not desire additional responsibility.  On the other hand, some wish to be CEO someday.  The coaching and mentoring you provide should be personalized for each individual.  The good news is that each individual is satisfied with achieving their personal goals.  The folks that wanted to hold the top jobs have gone on to become CEOs and CFOs.  Others have worked at knowing their specialties inside and out.  As a result they are highly valued team members and are sought out for their expertise.

    Putting the organization first means that you and the team objectively set goals for the year and throughout the year all your effort is focused on achieving the goals.  Do not allow yourself to get distracted by things that may be personally interesting but not relevant to the task at hand.

    Both of these things are harder to do than they may seem.   This is why I love the term servant leadership.  A servant is at the bottom of the pyramid supporting their team and organization, not the other way around.

    Critical to the long-term viability of any company is the ability to grow and adapt to the changing business environment. This is why continuous improvement is so vital to success.  As a leader, you have responsibility for some portion of the operations within your company.   Your unending focus on improving the customer experience [internally or externally] and eliminating defects and unnecessary work will create an organization that people are proud to be a part of and will significantly enhance overall performance.

    James Kouzes and Barry Posner say it eloquently in their book, “ A Leader’s Legacy”.   Here is a quote from page 18, “We’ll all be remembered for something.  The question is, for what?  What will others say about you when you’re no longer around?  Each of us live on in the memories we create, in the systems and practices we set in place (or don’t), and in the lives we touch.”

    What do you want your leadership legacy to be and how will you create it?

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  • I just finished reading, “Checklist Manifesto: How to get things right”, by Atul Gawande.  Atul is a MacArthur Fellow and a general surgeon at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The book captures medicine in all of its complex and chaotic glory and at the same time shows how simple checklists can greatly improve the outcome of complex processes and procedures.

    http://gawande.com/the-checklist-manifesto

    In today’s high tech world checklists can seem simplistic and mundane.  However, they can be a powerful tool in situations where a process is not codified in an IT system.

    To illustrate the benefit of a checklist in the business world I would like to share an example from my work in finance.  Most of my career has been in finance and one of the key responsibilities is to provide a CFRR (cash flow rate of return) or NPV (net present value) financial analysis for outlays of significant capital.  It was always interesting to me that these analyses had to be re-done multiple times due to forgotten critical elements.  To solve this problem, I created a business case checklist for the entire finance department (500 people), provided a short training seminar and received support from the controller who reviewed all business cases.  As a result, business cases never had to be re-done due to omission of a key element.

    The finance department supported a very large manufacturing plant.  The financial analysts used the checklist to ensure all elements were considered.  That did not mean that every analysis included all items on the checklist.  It meant that the financial analyst did their due diligence to know if it should be included or not.  The use of a checklist meant that there was now a standard approach to every analysis which would be followed by every analyst.

    Here are some of the elements on the checklist.

    • Capital outlay, including the timing of cash-flows
    • Tax impact
    • Direct Labor
    • Indirect Labor
    • Supplies
    • Maintenance
    • Health, Safety and Environment
    • Changes in working capital:  inventory levels, accounts payable and accounts receivable for example
    • Shipping and Transportation
    • Changes in support organizations such as finance, HR, supply chain and IT
    • Impact on machine utilization
    • Impact on product quality
    • Impact on other manufacturing plants around the world
    • Impact on customers
    • Import duties, export fees

    Looking at this list you can see that we ensured the impact, on all financial statements, was considered.   The checklist included an individual to contact for each area since no one can be an expert in everything.  Knowing who to contact in an organization of over 50,000 people is extremely helpful.

    Would a checklist help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your processes and procedures?

    For a complimentary discussion on how to improve your end-to-end business process or how to increase your profitability, please give me a call.  Judy:  585.329.3754

    Note: By the way, the book was excellent.  I recommend it if you are looking for your next book to read.

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  • Last week I had lunch with a wonderful work colleague that I had not seen in a while.  It is the type of relationship where you immediately start talking and it feels like only yesterday you were working together.  Sharon has always had a quick wit and as we were talking about an organizational situation she said, “They need more gas.”  Uncertain of what she meant, I asked.  Sharon said, “You know, goals, accountability and structure.  If organizations are not thriving and succeeding it means they need more G.A.S.”

    I loved the idea of G.A.S..  It is simple, easy to remember and gets right to the heart of leading an organization.  Goals are the starting point.  An organization needs to know where it is going and what it is aiming for.  The very best leaders set goals that are hard enough to be a challenge but not so hard that you feel defeated before you even start the journey.  Next the leader must make it very clear who is accountable for what.  Although teamwork is vital to the success of any organization, specific goals need to be assigned to specific individuals.  You cannot give individuals the opportunity to point at someone else and say, “It is their fault, not mine that the goal was not achieved.”  Lastly, but most importantly in my mind, you have to have structure to monitor progress and implement corrective action plans as needed.  The best structure is a periodic work session, at least monthly if not weekly, where the results are reviewed.  The work session must have a set agenda, an action item register and a dashboard that can be reviewed.   The meeting should be focused on areas that are failing to meet the goals.  Although people should be commended for meeting and exceeding goals – the real work must be focused on areas that are behind.

    If you have worked long enough, you will have experienced what it feels like to both exceed annual goals and fall short of annual goals.  The strength of a team is to rally together and help each other when needed.

    I had two key thoughts after my lunch with Sharon:

    1. When you find a team or organization not performing as expected, see if they need more G.A.S.
    2. Many times we look to the famous leadership gurus for the answers we are seeking; when in fact the people we work with daily have the wisdom and talent to solve the complex issues we face

    Note:  to learn more about Sharon Kruger visit her LinkedIn page;

    www.linkedin.com/pub/sharon-kruger/10/212/176

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