Second Best

Comparing “best to worst” doesn’t help much—not with a sales force, or call center personnel, or even athletes. Your worst isn’t going to become equal to your best, no matter what you try. It’s better to compare “best to second best.” The next-best people are potentially able to equal your best if they learn their practices, secrets, and regimens. This is how to seriously increase your top performers. In so doing, you may learn things to help poorer performers. But on …


Modern Times

Comedian Louis C.K. asks why we complain about airline service when we’re able to sit in a chair and ride in the sky. I’ve heard people complain that their cell phone call to London, while walking down a street in New York in the rain, has poor reception. I’m at the Jersey Shore, and there’s always traffic on the Garden State Parkway. Yet today we have air conditioning, zillions of music choices, iPads to occupy the kids, and GPS if …


Preventive vs Contingent

After a month, hundreds of law enforcement people finally killed and captured the two escaped convicts from the Clinton Correctional Facility at a cost of tens of millions. I don’t think anyone could fault the diligence and organization of the pursuit. However, the pursuit was necessary because preventive actions failed. The inmates received tools, developed relationships with prison civilian workers, used dummies to avoid an apparently not-too-rigid bed check. Contingent actions can be highly effective, yet no matter how well …


Is It an Event or A Process?

People tend to see hiring as a series of events: find talent, interview, make a decision, make an offer, and so forth. But hiring is a process that really looks like this: Identify need and results required Search for talent Interview against criteria Make offer and hire Provide acculturation and orientation Provide emotional and logistical support Provide with a mentor or coach Integrate rapidly into the business Evaluate, monitor, support, develop Study successes, longevity Change the process as needed as …


Commitment

If commitment is desired from employees, then they need commensurate power. They need to have the prerogative to make decisions which influence the outcome of their work. They need the authority to resolve customer requests, complaints, and suggestions. They need the accountability to be responsible for results. If you don’t provide that kind of autonomy, authority, and accountability, you might have compliant employees, but not committed ones. The latter consider the company resources their own, to be conserved, and the …


Problem Solved

You can’t remove a problem unless you remove the cause. You can choose to live with the  effects and try to ameliorate them (adaptive action—a bucket under the leak) but you can’t correct it without eliminating the cause (fix hole in the roof—corrective action). If you know the cause of your discomfort or problem, then you no longer have a problem. You have a decision to make as to how to deal with it—remove it or live with it. (Every …


Decision Indecision

Don’t try to help a client with an alternative unless you know the client’s objective. That is, don’t help to chart a course without knowing the destination. Should a management retreat be on site or off site, one day or two days? Who knows? What’s the objective of the retreat? (Maybe it’s the wrong solution altogether.) Don’t launch an alternative even if you do know the objective without considering risk. There is always some amount of risk, albeit it minor …


Let’s All Jump To Cause

Problem solving is a key skill in a consultant’s tool kit, especially because so many people “jump to cause.” This means they assume a cause, given their biases or ignorance, instead of analytically determining cause and validating it. You can’t remove or prevent a problem without knowing its cause. This “jump to cause” could be a bias made evident: “Well, what do you expect from a woman?” It could be a political agenda: “That’s a typical screwup from R&D.” It …


The “Why” Is Often Obvious But Missed

Bentley loves to run up and down the yard at full speed every morning. He does it maybe a dozen times. I tried to figure out if he were trying to beat squirrels out of hiding places, or get a quick view of everything, or playing alpha dog. Then I finally go it. He just likes to run. I was being too “deep” about a simple, surface phenomenon. In my high school days, as an exchange student, I toured Cold …


Why People Don’t Move

1. They listen to the wrong people (like the nutcase on Facebook claiming that milk kills). There are more people giving advice to coaches today than there are good coaches. 2. Complexifying. Our job is to simplify, but we think that making things tediously complex adds to our gravitas. It creates gravity, not gravitas. 3. Seeking perfection. This murders excellence (even more than milk), and it saps initiative and speed. 4. Fear of critique. I have news for you, the …