Advice from the Best

Whether you’re already a CEO or you’re trying to get into an executive position, it’s always helpful to look at others who have succeeded. Here, we share quotes from highly successful executives and the best piece of advice they have learned.

Terry J. Lundgren, the CEO of Macy’s explained during an interview with The New York Times that Gene Ross at Bullocks gave him the best advice. Ross said to Lundgren, “You’re not going to do this forever. There’s a finite amount of time you’re going to be doing this. Do this really, really well. And if you do this really, really well, everybody will see that, and they’ll move you onto the next thing. And you do that well, and then you’ll move.”

Richard Branson, the founder and chairman of Virgin Group said, “My mother always taught me never to look back in regret but to move on to the next thing. The amount of time people waste dwelling on failures rather than putting that energy into another project, always amazes me. I have fun running ALL the Virgin businesses — so a setback is never a bad experience, just a learning curve.”

Teaching Through Example

If you run a large company and have many managers working under you, then you want them to act in a certain way towards the workers.
How do you get your managers to show leadership and expertise? How do you get them to act the way you want them to?
One way is certainly by acting in the way you expect them to act and showing them a mirror. Here are a few ways that you can achieve this goal.

1. Be on time: If you value time and you want your managers to show the workers that it’s important to be on time – then you have to be on time.
Make sure that you show your leaders and your workers that you value time and that you are always on time for meetings, with memos and with promised activities.

2. Expect excellence: If you expect your leaders and workers to work to the best of their abilities, then you have to as well.
Share your expectations with others and set the bar as high as you can.
You should expect great things from those around you but you have to make sure that your expectations fit with realistic and attainable goals.

3. Keep in open mind: You want your leaders to bring in new ideas and to feel free to share those ideas.
For this, you have to show that you have an open mind and that you’re open to change.
Be a great listener and encourage people with new ideas to bring them to you and to share them with others.
You don’t have to have the attitude that things can’t change in order to keep control of your leadership.

These ideas, and so many others, can help you to attain the goals that you set for the company.

Being an example is really the most important step to cultivating greatness in others.

Four Tips for Being a Good Leader

Being a true leader takes time and thought. It’s not enough to simply hire good people and assume that everything will go smoothly.
Rather, you need to really consider how you are going to lead those people and how you expect them to communicate, to respond to you and more.
Here are four important tips as a leader for ensuring that your workers follow your lead.

1. Delegate well: You’ve hired great people. Now it’s time to let them show you how much they know and can do. Often times, when a leader has gotten to the place of authority that he’s in, it’s very hard to give up the reigns and to trust that others will do things as well as you do them.
But you can’t do everything and you have to trust those around you. You need to learn to delegate the responsibility for completing work and the authority for others to get things accomplished.

2. Set very specific goals.It’s not enough to say that you hope this project will be finished by the end of the month.
You need to break down the tasks in more manageable ways so that you are clear about which pieces need to get done this week, which pieces you expect to see next week and so on. The more specific and goal oriented you can be, the more likely others will be to stick to the plan.

3. Communicate: Make sure that you really communicate with those whom you lead.
You need to keep your employees up-to-date on important news, changes in plans and changes to how you do business.
Make sure you get that information out to your employees and that they give it to those whom they manage as well.

4. Keep the long-term goals in mind: It’s very easy to get sidetracked with short term needs.
Most of us spend our day dealing with the immediate crises that are in front of us and the needs for this week or next week.
But as the leader, it’s important to remember the long term plans and the long term goals.
Don’t forget about these in the day to day activities that have to get done.

Getting the Best from Your Team

All managers want the same thing: getting the best from their workers. Although the goal sounds simple, it is anything but. Managers can be frustrated by less than 100% engagement from their team. Studies show that as many as 70% of employees are disengaged or emotionally disconnected from the companies that they work for. Luckily, it has also been shown that often the simplest and most basic tools to get improved performance work. Here are a few that are efficacious as well as cost-free.

Be a role model: If you want others to perform at their best, get your team to respect you. Be even handed and ethical, and your team will want to please you out of their respect for you. If your employees don’t respect you, they won’t want to give you their “all.” If they do respect you, they will be happy to follow you anywhere. It is bad form and bad for business for managers to be “above the law.” Setting an example is not only free, it leads to productivity.

Show a real interest in the careers of your team: Research has shown that successful companies motivate their workers by putting a real focus on career development. This strategy is nothing but common sense. All employees, on every level, are fiercely interested in their rise through the ranks. When a manager shows sincere interest in helping his employees acquire the skills to succeed, this brings loyalty and improved productivity, too.

Learn about your people and take an interest in their lives: You can’t really bring out the best in your employees without really knowing them. Try to find out what they are interested in, what they do and don’t like, what motivates them, and what are the issues they care about. Perhaps they are interested in money, respect praise, a bigger working space, or more time at home? The better you know your people and what makes them tick, the better your ability to push the correct managerial buttons.

Keeping Up the Company Morale

It’s not always easy being the boss and keeping your workers happy with their work. To get the most out of your workers, you don’t need them to just produce, but to feel that their production matters and that their place in the company matters. How do you keep workers motivated without taking away too much work time or spending too much on their comfort and entertainment?

First, everyone wants to have their accomplishments celebrated. Of course we always want to look forward to our goals and to future plans, but it’s very important to stop along the way to acknowledge past accomplishments. This can be done in many ways. Department heads can point out the best accomplishments in their department and one person from each department can be rewarded each quarter. Employees can be asked to write down their biggest accomplishments at the end of each month and one statement from each person can be compiled into a company email. These are a few ideas to keep people encouraged and to recognize their accomplishments.

Sometimes all that it takes is a chance to break away from the mold to make employees happy. This could be as simple as arranging for a group outing once a year or having a group lunch as a surprise in the office once in a while. You could pair up employees and give them a specific task you would like them to accomplish during the month, and offer them a few hours each week to work on it together. This allows people to get to know each other, to break up the routine and to accomplish something for the company.

These are just a few of the many ways that you can keep your eye on the prize while still rewarding your employees. Everyone wants to feel special and to have their accomplishments recognized. Make sure you are doing so to keep up company morale.

Whether you’re a businessperson or an entrepreneur, you want to have pointers for doing your job better. Here, you’ll find recommendations for ways to energize your staff, organize your business more efficiently and more. Glen Wakeman helps you to grow your business and yourself with these helpful ideas. You’ll find articles with titles such as “If you want excellence, celebrate successes” and “Designate doesn’t mean abdicate.” Build your business the smart way by following those who have succeeded in doing so and are happy to share their expertise.

Maintain Your Objectivity And Credibility Through A One-Over-One Approval Process

One-over-one means that the actions you want to take for/against your direct reports must be approved by your boss. You shouldn’t have unilateral authority to reward or punish those under you without first clearing it with someone over you. Don’t be the judge, jury and executioner of your staff. Separation of powers is a worthy and time tested concept that has direct application to the business world. With positional power, you can change lives with a stroke of a pen: pay raises, promotions, demotions, dismissals. That kind of power deserves a check and balance. Having to justify your actions to someone above you is not a perfect solution by any means. But at least it presumes the decision making is objective.

Increase transparency to all of your key constituents. Offering a window to your bosses into your most sensitive of decisions will increase the transparency and therefore trust related to your judgments. It fosters a stronger position of moral authority and not a weaker one. The strength of your image is an important part of the tone you set as a leader.

Support your decisions with objective information. Facts are your friends when it comes to important judgements. They provide for just outcomes but equally are key lubricants for the change process as they are the foundation for rational communications. People need to understand the reasons behind your demands in order to best comply. It is much easier to explain why when the rationale is fact based.

 Explain the differences to winners and losers. Your ability to say that the process drove the decision, it was scrutinized and therefore fair, is a powerful way to build credibility. The beneficiaries of the decisions (the winners) will feel like they’ve really earned it. The disadvantaged (losers) will at least feel it was fair. It’s essential for both to have a solid reason to say yes or no and the fact that the decision came under a higher level of scrutiny will increase the credibility of the explanation.

Empowerment should Be Extended Gradually And Based On Performance

Giving things away is a lot easier than taking things back. Delegating authority, or empowerment, is no different. It isn’t something that should be rushed or freely given. It is something that should be earned that requires a solid foundation to ensure it is strong and sustainable.

Trust takes time. Building a foundation of trust doesn’t happen in an instant. Think of it as bricklaying. Trust is assembled one brick, or event, at a time. It requires a series of events that can be assessed for their effectiveness. What was the expected outcome and what was the actual outcome? What choices (decisions) were made along the way. Were they knucklehead choices or were they sound decisions, ideally based on data. If there was no analysis or assessment, the decisions may be more like gambling than risk taking. Bake that learning into your empowerment plans for the next go around and adjust your delegation as necessary. Take the time to evolve your levels of empowerment.

Seek disconfirming evidence. Insist that your team try to make good choices by looking for data that disputes what they believe. In assessing choices, utilizing facts as a basis is always a good start. But it is not enough to find data that agrees with their conclusions. They must actively seek data that doesn’t agree. This is called disconfirming evidence and essentially it means, they might be wrong. Oh boy, that’s a problem! Why would you want your team to actively seek to disprove what they believe? Well, because they could be wrong. And wouldn’t you want them to know that before they make a knucklehead choice. If you actively look for and don’t find evidence that disproves your beliefs, then by all means carry on, with confidence.

Have them repeat it back. You may know what you want them to do and may have repeated it a few times. There is always a risk of misunderstanding. A simple but powerful way to reduce this risk is to ask them to describe to you what they are doing. Have them repeat the problem statement so you can assure you are aligned. They can get corrective guidance at the beginning and you can avoid rework, frustration and hard feelings along the way.

Operating Plans Should Contemplate Setbacks And Include Alternatives

Plans are intended to guide your execution and will never be as precise as a mathematical formula because of the many variables they do and don’t contemplate. And let’s not forget the human factor, which is an essential part of any plan, is the least predictable variable of all. So a good plan should incorporate some room for mistakes, delays in timing, revenue misses, and cost overruns. These are downsides that require mitigation. You should think through them before you execute. Outcomes can also be better than plan. Isolate those variables as well and include them in your upsides list.

Isolate key assumptions that drive your financial performance. These assumptions / variables are the critical factors that you need to manage. They can include launch dates, hiring levels, expenditures, new product introductions, price changes, advertising, response rates, etc. It is critical that you get a clear handle on the 3 – 5 things that will drive your financial results and thereby determine your success. Have clear monitoring plans in place and stay on top of them. Make course corrections as needed.

Look for weak points that require attention. Always assess your plan, actuals and gaps. If you have a miss or a win by 10% or more, it bears looking into. It isn’t luck (good or bad). Something more important is going on. If you address misses as they arise, you lower your risks and get control of your execution before it can get out of hand.

Build on strengths and don’t abandon them. Operating plan management is not just about downsides. If you did a good job planning and you are executing well, you will be delighted to find that some things are going better than expected. Don’t ignore them. Isolate the reasons why and make sure the wins are sustainable.

Delegate Doesn’t Mean Abdicate

Delegate Doesn’t Mean Abdicate. Delegate means to entrust. Abdicate means to renounce. These concepts are clearly not the same thing. Leaders don’t empower / delegate and then walk away from the responsibility. No way! Leaders are still on the hook. But practically speaking, leaders can’t do everything so delegating responsibility is a necessity. Done well, delegating is also a great way to improve execution, capacity and engagement.

Define the problem correctly for your team. Effective delegation requires a common starting point. All parties need to have a common definition of the challenge or problem. “Fix it” won’t work if you don’t agree on what “it” is. Investing time in an upfront discussion of the problem everyone is trying to solve gives the person and team a fair shot at succeeding.

Define the outcome expected to guide the result. You can enhance your chances of success by spending time on the expected outcome. Describe what success might look like for the people you are delegating to and make sure they have a good grasp of the targeted result. Then, get out of their way and let them use their energy, skills, creativity and judgments to get it done.

Test for evidence along the way that the progress is real, or not. Delegate; but don’t abandon ship and god forbid don’t micromanage. Strike a balance between the two by guiding the results with simple questions that require objective answers like yes or no. Test for evidence that your team is on the right track and if they aren’t, help them correct their course by restating the problem and desired outcome. Informal conversations or formal reviews can get you to the same place, completely dependent upon your style.