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by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Anyone see a problem here? Be aware of accidents waiting to happen.


A friend was CEO of a billion-dollar construction company.  We were talking about work-related accidents.  He said that loads falling off trucks cause a high percentage of construction accidents.

Imagine that – when people carelessly load their vehicles, accidents happen.

Some managers carelessly overload their people with too much management and too little leadership.

You need both management and leadership.  Problems don’t occur by accident.  Some problems are accidents waiting to happen.  Beware of:

Burn out.  Managers who keep reprioritizing, right-sizing, and realigning wonder why people eventually say, “Enough is enough” and leave.  Some managers are exhausting.  They confuse constant turmoil with change management.

No information.  Some managers expect people to perform their jobs with little or no feedback and information.  Their unstated message is that they don’t care, don’t trust, or disrespect their people.  Some provide performance feedback only during annual reviews.

High turnover.  Some companies give little training and provide ineffective supervision, then express surprise when people get frustrated and leave.  They often blame low pay scales rather than poor orientation sessions, training, and long-term development opportunities.

No accountability.  Some management teams talk and talk about recurring problems, make no effort to correct them, and tolerate mediocre performance.  When there is no accountability, there is finger pointing, CYA Memos, and “he said, she said” conflicts.

Poor communication.  Poor communicators speak and write using vague, foggy and inconsistent language.  Good communicators are open, honest and frank.  They listen, clarify and offer encouragement, articulate consistent vision, and walk-their-talk.

Meager leadership.  Some managers cannot and do not lead.  They forget who works for whom.  They don’t practice the Golden Rule, don’t insist on accountability, don’t communicate face to face, or don’t let people use common sense.

If your organization has a history of high turnover, lots of short-termers, and good people leaving for no apparent reason, read the tea leaves.  Ask questions.  Drill down to causes.  It may not be “them.”  It may be “you.”

If anyone is brave enough to tell you that your Team’s managerial skills need improvement, listen and thank them.  Then, take corrective action.

Take charge.  Lead.  Actively listen and communicate.  You may be the manager, but your people are stakeholders too.  They want to succeed, and they want their company to succeed.

When you ignore the issues, you risk them festering into bigger problems, and eventually serious problems.

Poor managerial habits left uncorrected are accidents waiting to happen.  Ignore them at your own risk.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value. 

 

Contact Terry at tmyers@bizedgeusa.com, or Tom at tschnurr@bizedgeusa.com.

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Designing products and services? Don’t overlook the last 5%.


We’re spoiled!  We have so many choices.

Whatever kind of business you’re managing, you’re in the “design business.”  You better be paying attention.  Whether you’re selling products, services or processes; it’s all about design.

After walking the floor of the National Hardware Show, Walter and I were riding back to our hotel and talking about what we observed during the day.

I saw a lot of interesting gadgets, Walter saw gadgets of varying designs, functionalities and forms.

Walter owned a design studio.  It serves a solid gold list of consumer manufacturers.

He employs 35 engineers and model makers and three artists with Master of Fine Arts degrees.  I asked why the 3 MFA’s.  He said that the last 5% of any design project is the most important.

Once engineers have met product specifications, it all about aesthetics.  That was my ah-ha moment – “Sell the steak and the sizzle.”

I began seeing everything in stores and online from the perspective of “the last 5%.”  Form, packaging, ease of use, look and feel, balance, etc.

Another friend and I were talking about software apps.  He said that if the app was not intuitive, he did not spend time reading instructions; his version of the “last 5% idea.”

When you’re designing a product, service, or process think about the entire customer experience: does your product exceed her needs, is it fit-for-use, is it easy to understand, are you easy to do business with?  The same applies to promo materials, websites, and brochures.

If you know and understand your customers, you can answer those questions.

When I buy something, my value proposition is less about cost and more about style, easy to understand and easy to use.  The last 5% significantly impacts my decision.

Do you feel the same way?  I will bet your customers do too.  Pay attention to designing everything to exceed your customer’s entire experience.

When your customers see, feel and appreciate the last 5%, margins and profits improve.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value. 

Contact Terry at tmyers@bizedgeusa.com, or Tom at tschnurr@bizedgeusa.com.

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

How will we get from A to B? Draw a picture.


Here’s a way to simultaneously save time and money and improve communication.

Spend $200.00 to buy a whiteboard or a flip chart and markers; then use them.

During discussions or while just thinking, create diagrams and outline action steps for consideration and follow-up.  Then, take a picture.  Now you have a plan and a record.

We all learn, process and connect differently.  Some are partial to auditory (listening), some visual (seeing), some tactile (doing).

If all we do is talk (auditory), we risk not connecting with potentially half the people in the room.  And, some auditory people might not be listening when someone makes a compelling argument or a great summary.  They may be thinking about tonight’s ball game or tomorrow’s concert.

When you see the benefits of using a marker board in your office, add visual tools in the conference room.

We installed a marker board and cork-boards in our formal conference room.  Office meetings, brainstorming sessions, sales meetings and client presentations improved dramatically.

There was clarity and understanding – more energy, participation, and buy-in.  Board sketches and handwritten outlines helped simplify problem-solving and planning.

Now and then there were “breakthrough moments” – the times when one person draws a picture or sketches a plan, and another person connects the dots differently and says, “Why not?” or “How about this alternative?”

Pictures and diagrams help us visualize and connect.  They help focus and eliminate misunderstandings as we talk about how to get from A to B.

In every company we visit, we hear that communication needs to improve.  There are plenty of talks, emails, newsletters, and payroll inserts; but few use whiteboards or flip charts.  Why not?

A picture is worth a thousand words.  A $200.00 experiment may improve communication and put thousands of dollars on your bottom line.  Try it.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value. 

Contact Terry at tmyers@bizedgeusa.com, or Tom at tschnurr@bizedgeusa.com

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Devoting time to curiosity is a choice.


If curiosity kills the cat, lack of curiosity kills the company.

Children are born curious.  They learn to walk, talk and eat.  They are natural risk takers – inexperienced, unskilled, naïve.  They learn from their errors and mistakes.

As we grow into our twenties, we become products of an educational system that requires structure.  Somewhere that structure crosses-over to the point that stifles curiosity.  We learn to do what the teacher says.

As we gain career experience, we either welcome curiosity or quash it.

When you ask a reasonable question among colleagues are you greeted with raised eyebrows and judgmental smirks?

Many executives talk about innovation, but few are genuinely curious about what goes on, or why?  How can we innovate, or encourage innovation, without curiosity?

When looking for something better – a better process, product or service – curiosity is the first step. Is your team comfortable asking and answering questions like Who, What, Where, Why, and How?

Innovation is rooted in curiosity – inquisitiveness, exploration, trial, and error.

I, for one, am happy that Salk, Edison, Jobs, and others were curious.  Their contributions are fundamental to our quality of life.

Consider that all products and services have their roots in curiosity and innovation.  Someone asked, “Why?”  Or, someone asked, “Why not?”

Curiosity leads to hard-work of gathering and interpreting data, problem-solving, testing and tweaking – sometimes false starts – and then, understanding.

Some claim that there’s no time for curiosity.  They’re too tired for anything other than family and friends.

I posit that we don’t have a choice.  In our businesses, during our work, or with our families, we must devote time for curiosity.

Time is all we have, and curiosity is at the core of our humanity.

Whether you call it naïve listening or questioning or learning; just do it.

Curiosity begets learning, innovation, and risk-taking.  Ideas can disrupt whole industries and change competitive balance.

Someone observed that millions of people saw apples fall from trees, but only Newton asked, Why?

Take the time to ask questions, to think, test and clarify.

Cultivate curiosity and learning among your peers, your department, your company; and your family.  It is the foundation for lifelong learning, personal esteem, and economic prosperity.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value. 

Contact Terry at tmyers@bizedgeusa.com, or Tom at tschnurr@bizedgeusa.com.

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Leading change? Ignore peoples’ emotions at your own risk!

It’s hard to know you are improving if you don’t measure improvement!  Is your favorite sports team doing better or worse than last year?  What’s their win-loss record?

Business leaders think they’re improving, but few can site measurements.  How can we know we’re improving if we can’t measure?  A business is more than revenues, profits and cash flows.

A business is a collection of core processes designed to serve customers.  Sales forecasting, business planning, product launches, order processing, on-time delivery, data accuracy, and cycle-time reduction are core processes that impact your ability to serve customers.

Who is accountable in your business for each core process’s design and performance?  Many talk about processes but few assign accountabilities for owning, designing, improving, managing, and measuring core processes across functional boundaries.

Executives say “Embrace change.  We must improve our business processes.  They cost us time and money.  Yes, there is going to be some pain, but we need to improve.  It’s competitive reality.”  However, they often ignore the questions of who? And how?

While executives say it, doers feel it.  Doers feel the burden of implementing change.  They feel frustration, trepidation, and aggravation; to name a few.

A leader must support and champion each change initiative, and the leadership team must demonstrate genuine support and encouragement as changes are designed, tested, and implemented.  The champion augments confidence by breaking down barriers, clarifying, etc.

Experience shows that doers’ reactions to change are predictable and usually follow the same grieving process learned in Psychology 101 – anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Denial – It’s hard for many to accept a new reality.  Some have managed the same processes for years.  Most take pride in their work.  Some may be overwhelmed to try something new.  Some pushback: “We’ve always done it that way!”  And ask “Why, why me, or why us?”

Anger – After denial, some get angry.  Suddenly, everything and everyone is open to question.  Some take planned changes personally.  Some brood, others become passive-aggressive.  Some threaten to quit.  Some redirect their anger at others.

Bargaining – Some beg to delay, postpone or avoid participation.  “What if… if only… can’t we just… or can we wait until (insert name) retires?” Some campaign to promote alternative priorities and elicit political support from others.

Depression – If senior leadership stays the course and processes and measurements change, some people may conclude that their performance is not as good as they thought.  Some might be slow to grasp new procedures and lose their confidence.  Fear might trigger loss of individual or organizational esteem.

And, yes, there might be casualties along the way.

Acceptance – Finally, when people have input and experience the value of “the new,” they connect and buy-in.  Teamwork improves, understanding grows, confidence builds.

Applying the five stages of grief is one useful tool for leading change.  Individuals and entire departments progress and express their emotions differently.  Each person has different goals, motivations, and concerns.

Changing management processes and measurements requires awareness and patience.

Organizational strengths develop by continuously improving processes and tightening measurements.  Customers demand it.

Throughout the change process, leaders recognize that individual and organizational emotions are real and messy.  But, their message is consistent “Today’s knowledge and capabilities will not guarantee our future prosperity.  If our business is to grow, we need to grow.”

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value.   

Contact Terry at tmyers@bizedgeusa.com, or Tom at tschnurr@bizedgeusa.com.

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Hal was a professional. He was my friend.

A couple of weeks ago, Hal’s wife called me with the news.  My friend Hal had died.

He was 84 years old.  He worked throughout his life as a CPA.  He worked almost every day and retired at age 80.  Until the end, he was reading books, magazines, and the WSJ.  He didn’t have an “off” switch.

We met about 1985.  Our CPA firms had joined a national marketing consortium.  He was in St. Louis, and I was in Kansas City.  During 1980’s, the CPA profession embraced advertising and marketing.  St. Louis and Kansas City were exclusive territories.

Hal and I became instant friends.  Hal’s demeanor embodied “professionalism.”   He was stoic, methodical and focused.  Over the years, I came to respect his comprehensive knowledge of taxation, auditing standards, accounting pronouncements, and practice management – the daily language of CPAs.

We visited from time-to-time and talked about our families, politics and business issues.  Over time we became good friends.

As a professional, he simply went about his work.  He was a devoted family man.  After he and his first wife divorced, he managed to provide for his daughters’ education and raise his teenage son.  It wasn’t easy, but he did it.  Quietly and privately.

I came to respect Hal as a servant leader.  His second wife Gerry, also an accomplished professional, told side-bar stories of his contributions of time and money to Catholic charities and attendance at daily Mass, and morning workouts.  He quietly served his congregation as an usher at Sunday services.  No fan-fare.  No grandstanding.

Hal had no outside activities – no golf, no fishing or hunting, no cards with the guys.

In fact, Gerry would often tell my wife that Hal and I were two peas in a pod.  Our business lives and our families were our lives.

A few years ago, I was talking with our Rabbi about “acquaintances” and “friends.”  Personally, I have always had many acquaintances and knew a lot of people; but had very few friends.

The Talmud teaches that we meet many people during our lives; however, those we genuinely call our friends are few.  If a man lives his whole life and has but one friend, he should think of himself as fortunate.

Hal was my friend.  He was a professional.  He was a gentleman.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value. 

Contact Terry at tmyers@bizedgeusa.com, or Tom at tschnurr@bizedgeusa.com.

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Is it Time for a Conversation About Ethics and Morality?

Look around.  Observe us.  We are inundated with conflicting facts, spin, half-truths, and innuendo.  In the middle are individuals, families, priorities, and decisions; influenced by media, business, government, technologies, and social environments.

What are those accumulated stresses doing to our fabric – our ethical and moral compass?

Some define freedom as a moral laissez-faire.  “If it feels good, do it” or “I look out for No. 1,” even if it includes harassment, bullying, smearing, cheating, thieving, etc.

At risk of appearing self-righteous, I ask a question.  Is it time for a rigorous and deep discussion about ethics and morality?

Not just a casual exchange, but a continuing dialog including people from all walks of life – families, kids, adolescents, adults, students, faculty, business, religious, and political leaders.

Forget sound bites.  Do we need a deep re-examination and clarification of the ideas expressed by those who navigated centuries before us?  Ideas like respect, truth, duty, honor, nobility, honesty, integrity, and virtue.

Were bullying and abuse “Ok” before social media?  Were theft and corruption “Ok” before technology?  What changed?

Perhaps it’s worth distinguishing how we talk about “ethics” and “morality.”

To many, “ethics” are one’s professional ethics – groups creating their code, monitoring themselves, and making amendments as necessary.  While some guidelines are substantive, others are window dressing.  Few suffer penalties when violating professional ethics.

On the other hand, morality is the code of personal conduct and responsibility.  Strong codes of individual conduct knit us together and nurture mutual civility.  High moral standards raise us above the mean.

We have spent the past fifty years talking about “leadership.”  Where’s the discussion about “morality”?  Every day, the media reports stories about people in leadership roles abusing, assaulting, smearing, and stealing.

Shouldn’t leaders subscribe to a higher moral standard?  They are role-models that include Moms and Dads, teachers, ministers, and company presidents.

Leaders must demonstrate integrity, honesty, fairness, and trustworthiness.  Our responsibility is to lead by example.  They must possess a deep understanding of what it means to be a “role model.”

Leaders are either respected or disrespected.  When they put aside principles for ego or popularity and behave poorly or dishonestly, they still influence us.

What place is there in any environment for harassment, bullying, and lying?  In business, those problems exist because management tolerates them.  In our institutions and broader society, they exist because we tolerate them.

Most agree that we cannot legislate morality.  One observed that when men are moral laws don’t matter, and when men are immoral all the laws don’t matter.

With knowledge and technology compounding every couple of years, do we as individuals, have the maturity and character to integrate the moral and technological challenges of our society’s future?

We are not at a point of no return, but we are approaching a tipping point.  It is time to initiate a deep discussion.

As leaders, we each have a significant role.  We are each role models.  We are each responsible.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value. 

Contact Terry at tmyers@bizedgeusa.com, or Tom at tschnurr@bizedgeusa.com.

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Embrace Performance Reviews – Get Real

 

 

 

 

 

For many of us, annual performance reviews are a pain – whether we are preparing them, giving them, or receiving them.  Anticipated emotions, conflicts, and surprises raise anxiety levels.  Ugh!

Salary discussions are often front and center.  Performance often takes a back seat.

Studies show that many think they are above average.  They want to be RATED and PAID as such.

Take a random sample of ten people – a couple are unusually strong, a couple are unusually weak, and the rest are somewhere in between.  Eight average performers “meet expectations.”  Therein lies the difficulty.  Many can’t admit being average.

People who expect their performance to “exceed expectations” come face-to-face with reality.  They only “meet expectations” while some are “below expectations.”  It is in black and white.

Some take it personally, and they offer reasons, excuses, and extenuating circumstances.

Then there are the action plans for follow-up and correcting weaknesses.

Some managers find it easier to praise strengths than to discuss weaknesses.  They take the easy route and avoid confronting any people problems.  They see everyone as an A or B player.

Get real.  Not everyone is an A or B.  There are many C’s, D’s, and a few F’s – in your organization.

Human Resource people tell us that personnel files are poorly documented.  Often when an employee needs terminating, his files are loaded with “meets expectations” and “exceeds expectations” ratings.  Meanwhile, everyone knows that he is not doing his job, and hasn’t been doing his job for a long time.

Suggestion: give performance reviews more frequently – quarterly.

Three results: (1) familiarity reduces tension, (2) personal goals and recent situations are top-of-mind, and (3) performance is detached from annual salary discussions.

Try it.

You say people are your most valuable asset, prove it.  Create opportunities for feedback.

How can you better use your time than motivating A Players to keep “exceeding expectations,” coaching B’s and C’s, and managing D’s to become C’s?

What to do with the F’s?  Terminate them.  They are not bad people.  They just don’t fit.  There’s no time for coddling and hand-holding.  Everyone knows it.  Long term, you are doing them a favor.

Performance reviews are not easy.  However, the more frequently you do them, the less stressful.  Effectively done they take time, critical thinking, and skill.  Don’t gloss over them.  Face reality and grow your people.  The payoff is enormous.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value. 

Contact Terry at tmyers@bizedgeusa.com, or Tom at tschnurr@bizedgeusa.com.

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

One-on-ones empower everyone’s performance

We often hear people complain about weak communication and guidance.  We hear it from all organizational levels – including supervisors, managers, and executives.

Early in my career, I spent an hour a week, one-on-one, with each direct report.  The sessions were valuable to both of us.

I listened and learned from each person.  We discussed each workflow, questions, and concerns.  Goals and priorities were clarified.  For each of us – manager and employee – our conversations and agreements were empowering.

Those meetings were an opportunity for us to communicate.  The conversations connected me to each person’s actions and processes inside and outside of the department.

As the company changed, one-on-ones became more important.  Accelerated growth required more listening and communicating as transactions increased and issues expanded.

The one-on-one process is simple.  It is scheduled and uninterrupted.  It’s not a micro-management opportunity.  It is an environment to discuss issues and concerns, identity pro’s and con’s, alternatives and next steps.  It empowers employee and manager.

I challenged each to take ownership of their one-on-one meeting with me.  Prepared agendas could include anything related to people, processes and projects; metrics and budgets; and near-term commitments.

My role was to listen, clarify, and ask questions.  The sessions were mutual learning opportunities.  They encouraged 360-feedback and built trust.  They improved coordination inside and outside of our departments.

When complex matters needed consideration by others, we deferred decision-making until the Weekly Staff Meeting (here) where colleagues could discuss the situation, ask questions, and offer suggestions.  We had our share of disagreements, but everyone’s input was encouraged and respected.

When matters outside of our departments needed coordination, we organized our thinking and determined how to best approach the right people from other functional areas.

One-on-ones are a valuable leadership tool.  People crave connection and communication at all organizational levels.  People need direction and feedback.

In a world of emails, detailed phone messages, and impersonal communication; nothing speaks louder about respect and empowerment than routine one-on-ones.

After you have adopted the practice of routine one-on-ones with your managers, insist that they conduct routine one-on-ones with each of their direct reports.  It won’t take long to see and feel the improvement in productivity and morale.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value. 

Contact Terry at tmyers@bizedgeusa.com, or Tom at tschnurr@bizedgeusa.com.

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

The longer you ignore an unhealthy business, the more dangerous the threat becomes.

There’s no denying it.  An unhealthy business can rapidly deteriorate.

Chances are your business is your most valuable asset.  It is the source of cash-flow for your home, your kids’ education, weddings, vacations, parents’ expenses, and your retirement.

Here are some indicators of a sick business:

• Poor financial performance • Denial • Overreach • Leadership issues
• Unclear goals and expectations • Cash flow problems • Out-of-control growth
• Lender fatigue • Frequent crises • Excessive diversification • Hubris
• Shaky customer base • Too much or too little Inventory • No succession plans
• Missed forecasts

If a few of these symptoms sound like your business, what’s your Plan to fix it?

The path from underperformance to failure can be measured in months.  The longer the deterioration, the higher the risk, the more difficult the fix.

Here are five key strategies for turning around a business.  Consider all of them.

  1. Leadership: Make an Assessment. Take control.    Cultivate support.  Admit errors.  Make changes.  Act on the top priorities.  Balance urgency and calm.
  2. Stop the bleeding: Manage cash and control expenditures.
  3. Increase: More selling efforts at reasonable margins and cash collections.
  4. Restructure: Organization, products and services, debt and supplier payments.
  5. Contribute more capital.

An unhealthy business does not recover on its own.  It takes Specialty experience to diagnose and prescribe strategies leading to recovery.

If your business is frail, get some help.  Now.

Business Edge is a Turnaround Specialist.  If you have an unhealthy business, talk with us.  We are Specialists, like ER doctors.  We are ready when you need us.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value. 

Contact Terry at tmyers@bizedgeusa.com, or Tom at tschnurr@bizedgeusa.com.

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