Category Archives: supervising

12 Questions to Inspire your Business

Think of the best place you’ve ever worked in your career, or the most highly reputable business with whom you have been involved — what was the magic formula that made the workplace so special?

One of my favorite business books,  First Break All the Rules, offers the closest formula of 12 business attributes that have been distilled from thousands of interviews with the world’s most successful managers and organizations.  The book frames business wisdom in the form of 12 questions that are easily asked by any manager in any organization.  If your business answers these 12 questions with a strong positive correlation, you likely run a top notch group or organization that is inspired, motivated and achieving consistent business results.

Without giving away all of the secrets of this book, the 12 questions provide common sense clues to building an inspired team or organization.

For example, rank your department between 1 and 5 (1=never, 5=always):

“I have clear expectations of my job”

“I have all the resources I need to do my job”

“I have been given feedback (positive or constructive) within the last 7 days by my supervisor”  …..and so on

Those questions where your team answers in the lower quartile?   you probably need some work in that area.  I have used this 12 question template several times to create a baseline of morale and capability when joining a new department.  It’s a great tool to define opportunities for business change, inspire new business capability and build improved results within a team.

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SIPOC – An Amazing Way to Reduce Waste and Streamline Workload

DO you ever struggle to find tools that help employees streamline their workload?  Are your employees unclear on exactly what they should be doing, or WHY timely, accurate, complete and quality results are desired from them?  This tool, the SIPOC chart, is simple and easy to use for employees at any level.  It promotes better job understanding, then provides a means to streamline workload, increase efficiencies and reduce waste:

Every employee can think of his/her job as a “Process”.  Every “Process” is linked to Suppliers / Inputs and to Customers / Outputs.  The SIPOC chart breaks down each of these elements into a separate buckets, so employees can better clarify their role and linkages to others:

SUPPLIERS:  These are the people, departments, companies who request your services or provide you with materials, labor, documents or resources to do your job.  Think of all the people who call you, email you, provide you with information that you use in your daily job, those who provide you data, send you bills to pay, or who drop documents into your in-basket.

INPUTS:  The materials, documents, information, labor, services or items that land in your inbasket or in your work area that are needed to perform your job.  This could be delivered on paperwork, electronically, or even verbally.

PROCESSES:  The actual work or procedures you perform in your job.  Think of this as a series of steps that you perform during your average day.  Now break down these processes into those that “add value” to your business, and those that are time wasters (for example, cleaning up errors and mistakes)

OUTPUTS:  The results that you create in your job – reports, products, services.  Think about the timing, accuracy, quality and completeness of the outputs from your job.

CUSTOMERS:  All of the people, departments, companies or groups who may rely directly or indirectly on outputs from your job.

See the following example of an accounts payable clerk:

Once your SIPOC chart is complete, have your employee analyze his/her Processes to determine which are “value added” and which are “waste”.  In the above example, there may be significant time locating backup documents to verify invoices for payment.  There may also be some processes like “Error Correction” which much be performed when data is incomplete or invalid.  I have seen jobs where more than 50% of employee time is spent on correction and chasing down information – think how efficient an office could run without waste buildup in each position!

The Goal?

a) Eliminate “Waste Processes” within each job;

b) Train Suppliers to give you better, more timely or more accurate inputs;

c) Understand Customers and what Outputs they REALLY want.

Try this SIPOC analysis, see if you can streamline parts of your own job and department!

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32 Dumbest statements by a Manager


This is a guest post by  | September 9, 2011
Here’s a list of real-life remarks that real-life bosses said in real-life business situations.  If I recall correctly, most of these came from the personal experience of my good friend Larry Jacobs, although some may have come from other lists on the web. In any case, the list contains some true classics:

  1. “Am I the only one around here with half a brain?!”
  2. “I know my plan won’t work, but don’t disagree with me in front of others.”
  3. “I only say those things to look tough. I’m reshaping my image for advancement.”
  4. “I tried to e-mail you to tell you that my e-mail wasn’t working, but my e-mail wasn’t working.”
  5. “If you are on schedule, then your plan was not aggressive enough. If you are behind schedule, you must be goofing off.”
  6. You don’t want a union! I know I don’t pay you much per hour, but I give you lots of hours. If you want more money, just work more hours! A union will take that flexibility from you.”
  7. “I’m sorry if I ever gave you the impression your input would have any effect on my final decision.”
  8. “We’ve experienced dramatic increases in our long distance bills. In the future, please exercise restraint concerning long distance phone calls, faxes and emails.”
  9. “I’ve noticed that our ‘cost of goods sold’ rise whenever we experience greater sales. What can we do to reverse this trend?”
  10. “What this department lacks is leadership.”
  11. “Don’t worry, give it a try. You have nothing to fear but failure, demotion and termination.”
  12. “I’m getting a new company car new week. Please call the dealer and ask him to delay the delivery until after Wednesday’s layoffs. I want to appear sensitive.”
  13. “Your report shows that 65% of our customers live outside the Unites States. Well, where are the rest of our customers? Pay attention to these details in the future.”
  14. “This marketing campaign will have a worldwide focus.”
  15. “Bonuses in my department are rewarded to team players who have demonstrated an appreciation for my leadership.”
  16. “I don’t want to force this decision on you. It would be much easier if you just agree.”
  17. “I’ve already made up my mind, but I am eager to hear everything you have to say on the matter.”
  18. “Next time, if you leave me an important voice mail message, do the right thing, call me and let me know it’s there.”
  19. “Fairness is applied evenly, according to my rules.”
  20. “I know there is a communication problem in my department. I just don’t want to talk about it.”
  21. “We have too many unproductive meetings. Please put aside next Wednesday to attend an all-employee staff meeting to discuss this issue.”
  22. “I know what the research reports says, but I have to go with my gut on this one.”
  23. “I don’t like to micro-manage, but I need to know everything that’s going on.”
  24. “Okay you bunch of cry babies, what’s this I hear about bad employer-employee relations?”
  25. “I know that I am great leader. This department, however, needs help learning to follow.”
  26. “Just because you’re right more often than me, doesn’t mean you’ll be a better manager.”
  27. “We do things democratically in my department…and I’m the ruler.”
  28. “Whenever you have an idea, discuss it with me first, and if I feel it is a good idea, I’ll tell the others. You must learn to let me get credit for your good ideas. That’s what team work is all about.”
  29. “If it wasn’t for you, I’d be the shining star in this department.”
  30. “I think you prefer your idea JUST because it’s better than mine.”
  31. “It has come to may attention that your salary is well below the industry average. Therefore I am changing your title.”
  32. “I threw your suggestion away. Only managers can make suggestions.”

9 Ways Leadership in Business Parallels Life!

Leadership in business often uses the same principles we apply in everyday life.   Consider the following life situations:

Puppy training:    Our family has just acquired a puppy, and our training program has interesting parallels to my past days of supervising in the office.

  • Maintain Consistent Rules – Remain firm and apply the same rules to all members, all the time.  This ensures expectations remain clear
  • Accomplish Big Goals in Smaller Steps – just as teaching a puppy tricks is done in tiny steps, developing your employee’s skills or completing a large project can also be broken down into smaller steps
  • Spend Time Monitoring Progress – potty or crate training for a puppy is just like the office and new employees; it takes time, patience and constant monitoring of progress to ensure good long-term results

Teenagers:    Parenting comes with its own unique set of challenges; I believe that parents are often the best equipped to take on new supervision duties in an office environment

  • Apply the Same Rules to Everyone – Fairness to competing siblings is just the same as fairness to employees working in the same environment
  • Use Meaningful Rewards and Natural Consequences – celebrate successes, and explain impact of mistakes or failures.  Where possible, learning happens best when children (or employees) can experience the consequences of their actions.
  • Stick to Facts, Eliminate Emotions – particularly in sensitive or disciplinary situations, children or employees can take criticism or negative situations personally.  Shifting the focus to a “behavior”, not a personal judgement can reduce the hurt and speed closure of a problem

Neighbours:   Living peacefully in a neighbourhood takes the same skills as working in groups and teams.

  • Consider the Impact of Your Actions on Others – Every behavior has a perceived impression on others.  Using your yard for a junk repository or holding loud, noisy parties can annoy your residential neighbours just as a messy desk area or playing music during office hours/holding loud personal conversations in a business area can annoy your workmates.
  • Use MRI (Most Respectful Interpretation) – When disputes or differences arise, communication can become difficult.  Take the high road and use the most respectful interpretation of whatever is being said, this can save battles, whether with family members or work colleagues.
  • Plan Ahead and Manage Expectations – if you are planning a party or renovating your home, let your neighbours know what will be happening ahead of time as a courtesy.  This same principle applies dealing with business groups or departments; set up expectations of what will be happening and when.  This will alleviate anxiety and reduce gossip or resistance to your plans from other group members.

In summary, use courtesy and common sense in all situations – these are appreciated by family, friends, neighbours and coworkers.  They are the underpinnings of basic leadership, at work and in life.

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Leadership Lessons from Colin Powell

Colin Powell offers some great advice on leadership that transcends typical military and business models:  he explains the essence of leadership in a very humanistic way:

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