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Glen Wakeman blog


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Tips to better your business as a leader.

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Glen Wakeman blog

  1. 1. Glen Wakeman | All Rights Reserved © 2017 GLEN WAKEMAN 01If You Want Excellence, Celebrate Successes. All achievers are hopeful and optimistic about their next great success. It is part of our DNA. But a dose of objective reality is a useful antidote to anything close to a delusional grasp on your progress. So here are a few tips to keep in mind: Use Scorecards to keep track of the key variables that drive your company. A scorecard is a management tool that synthesizes key data like growth, operations, talent and financials in one easy to read page and gives you a snapshot of your company’s performance. It can provide you a quick and easy to understand 360 degree view of your company. It is entirely data driven and can help you get into the habit of making key decisions with data as opposed to your gut feel, aka, opinions. You don’t need to know everything to navigate a start-up; but you do need to master the important things that are essential to your company’s performance. The best way to use it is to review it daily, share with your team in staff meetings and realign priorities as you develop your business. 1 Perform external research to keep you current with competitors, customers and trends. Don’t become so internally focused that you forget there is a big world out there with creatures that want to eat your lunch, want more from you or are just plain changing. Try to learn something every day about the environment you operate in and you stand a much better chance of adapting and flourishing. Looking at other’s websites, getting exit interviews of customers, and attending conferences are all practical ways to assess trends in your segment. Reposition your activities if necessary but using external data to inform your decision making will help you keep your value proposition sharp. 2 Review financial statements on a regular basis to make sure you have a handle on your profits. It’s all about the green at the end of the day. So make sure you know what’s going on with yours. Don’t guess. Use financial tools. Focus on the 3 key drivers of your success: revenues, expenses and cash flow. Get daily reports if you can but review your numbers monthly. Look for the unexpected changes in cash, revenues or expenses, both good and bad. There is plenty of help out there like this (link). 3
  2. 2. Glen Wakeman | All Rights Reserved © 2017 GLEN WAKEMAN 02If You Want Excellence, Celebrate Successes. To delegate doesn’t mean to abdicate. You are still on the hook for the results. Make sure that you can contain risks if need be and be wise about when and whom you empower. Establish authorities for key decisions and key people. Knowing who should decide what, and when is a key task of a leader. Be thoughtful about your delegations because they can be disruptive, empowering, risky, or energizing. A lot of it has to do with the framework you establish and the understanding of the person being delegated to. A responsible step would be to make sure the person is not only capable to decide but also understands clearly what you are asking them to decide. Always ask them to repeat back to you the problem, solution and expected outcome to avoid surprises. 1 Review reports on all facets of your company so that the surprises are as few and far in between as possible. An ex-President once said ‘trust but verify”. That’s a key component of the delegation formula. Make sure you are getting the results you want, from the risk you are taking by checking to see if the decisions are showing up in the numbers. If so, reward. If not, reassess. Waiting doesn’t make things better. 2 Perform audits on a routine basis to double-check whatever you are reading or being told. It’s great to kick the tires but it’s better to do it systematically and independently. Audits are great for that. They can go where you can’t and help you see things more clearly. They are invasive to be sure, but politeness goes a long way in making people comfortable. Be thoughtful about when you use them because they can convey a lack of trust. But hey, don’t you want to know what is really going on? Audits can also help with accountability and ownership of issues. But never forget that you are dealing with people and therefore you must listen and talk. Make sure to reinforce ownership by having feedback sessions with individuals and teams on a routine basis. They all need to hear from you. If you can get this right, you can raise your company’s IQ points by the hundreds, have more satisfied employees and a better run company. Don’t try to do everything by yourself because there is plenty of help out there like this (link). 3
  3. 3. Glen Wakeman | All Rights Reserved © 2017 GLEN WAKEMAN 03If You Want Excellence, Celebrate Successes. Define your 10 commandments Don’t forget to live by them. You are always on stage and always being watched. So be careful of the rules you make and the example you set. Everyone will copy your lead. Articulate expected behaviors. Always hold yourself to the highest standards but don’t be afraid to also be human and allow yourself to make mistakes. Just for fun, check your driver’s license and if it doesn’t say you are The All-mighty, you now have a license to make mistakes. In order to mitigate the impacts of those mistakes on your company’s culture, express what you expect from others. They need to do more than just try to be you. Challenging people can really bring out the best in most so don’t be afraid to ask others to comply with X, Y, Z, professional standards. When you explain your expectations to others you give them a real chance to comply. Staff meetings, one-on-ones and town halls are all good forums to utilize. Just be clear and to the point about what you think is good and bad and why. 1 Treat the values like the Constitution. They should be a source of strength and pride for your organization. They should provide for continuity and also adapt to the times, now and again. Revisit your values each year with your team and make sure they remain relevant. If so, carry on and if not, make adjustments. Dedicate a session to just this to ensure there is depth to the discussion and importance to the topic. Don’t underestimate the importance of creating a coherent company culture. You want people to be at their best, especially when you aren’t around. Fortunately there are tools like this (link) to help you learn more about this subject. 2
  4. 4. Glen Wakeman | All Rights Reserved © 2017 GLEN WAKEMAN 04If You Want Excellence, Celebrate Successes. Your vision, strategies and key tactics provide a basic framework for decision making and therefore enable you to delegate to your staff. Fully informed employees are easier to empower and are more effective. As you control information flow, you should use it to guide your teams to the outcomes you seek. Set a common definition of success. Success can take a number of forms and look different to each team member; this can cause confusion and confusion is not a good ingredient in the delegation recipe. So you need to be clear about how all of the pieces fit together. Most employees operate at a tactical level (tasks) so you want them to have a clear framework for their choices. The clearer the definitions the better the result. For example you may want to emphasize profit targets, customer satisfaction, customer acquisition, productivity, market share or employee satisfaction as key measures of success. Each requires a different focus and will produce different behaviors. Make sure you can articulate what it means to your company as it will provide a basic framework for decision making, delegation and empowerment. 1 Give direction. This may sound like the antithesis of delegation but in fact delegation and direction need to peacefully co-exist. Some situations, like a crisis, can call for an immediate action. If necessary, you can tell folks to just do it, provided that you explain why. You may have access to information they don’t and this will help them understand and get better. Good delegation skills allow for directives in the right circumstances. It’s about balance. 2 Engender participation whenever appropriate. Get all of your employees in the game early and often by seeking their input on key decisions. This will increase the capabilities of your teams, allow you take on more complex tasks than you could do by yourself and help promote growth and all of the benefit of a vigorously healthy organization. The balance is entirely based on situations and will require some agility from you. If you’ve created the correct framework for understanding, utilize direction sparingly, and promote engagement at all levels, you will optimize the IQ of your organization. 3
  5. 5. Glen Wakeman | All Rights Reserved © 2017 GLEN WAKEMAN 05If You Want Excellence, Celebrate Successes. Company advocates can promote growth and should be developed alongside your brand. A great place to develop advocacy is right in your backyard. Your community is a direct economic beneficiary of your company’s work and can become a strong asset for your business. Through social media and word of mouth, it can reach large and important audiences easily and quickly. Give it the same attention you give your ad campaigns. Seek testimonials from customers, employees and other stakeholders. Let your core constituents carry your message to their social networks and friends by creating programs that benefit them. Give them a forum to talk about the great things you are doing and put it on YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat or others. Corporate social responsibility can be a profitable endeavor if you design programs that address the intersection of interests between you staff, employees and community. Look at the needs of each group (mentoring, financial literacy, health awareness, etc.) and find common touch points that appeal to all. Then, ask your employees to build a program around it within a certain budget. Try it. If promoted correctly, the programs will attract media interest and offset the expense of building your brand. 1 Leverage media coverage in lieu of spending ad dollars. Invite the media to the party. Events like education, construction projects, school volunteerism, resource sustainability, healthcare activities (to name a few) can easily fill column inches in newspapers or minutes of programming time on TV that you would otherwise have to pay for. You may get a 10x return on your investment in addition to the satisfaction of doing the right thing. 2 Improve employee satisfaction by building pride in your company. Everyone wants to be proud of the company that they work for and CSR programs can be a good source of pride for your employees. This sense of pride can create a level of engagement that can carry through the office into the customer experience and the numbers. Your employees in turn will become your strongest of brand advocates and help create a virtuous cycle of growth. Harvest their ideas and commitments by providing forums for volunteerism and you will grow your reputation as well as your revenues. 3
  6. 6. Glen Wakeman | All Rights Reserved © 2017 GLEN WAKEMAN 06If You Want Excellence, Celebrate Successes. The design of your organizational structure can have a big impact on your company’s performance as it will enable or disable communication and action. You should contemplate your personal leadership style and key company challenges when deciding on your design in order to optimize the match of needs and outputs. Hierarchical designs work best for a directive style. If you want to control your company from the center, a hierarchical design wherein specific accountabilities and authorities can be clearly articulated is the way to go. It’s clear, easy to communicate and you can decide how much or how little you want to empower others to decide. The downside is that it’s harder to delegate, can be slower to implement changes and your better employees may not like it. But hey, you’re the boss so it’s up to you. 1 Go with a Flat design if Speed is your goal. Managerial review cycles take time and with a flat organization, you really don’t have a built in, 1 over 1 type of process. So you get the speed in decision making but without someone to double check, you may incur a higher risk. Empowerment is easier and employee engagement should also trend up. But coordination can be difficult and you will need to create forums for collaboration to make sure that everyone is pulling in the same direction. In other words, if you go flat, make sure everyone talks to each other. 2 Loosely defined organizations can enable innovation. It’s always smart to have your best people work on your biggest problems. If you don’t set clear organizational boundaries, then people will migrate easily and quickly to the problem areas, develop ideas and feel free to quickly implement them. Sounds perfect. There is a drawback to this design however; and the drawback is especially risky if you are surrounded with a bunch of type “A” players. They will all migrate to the problem and then fight about who’s in charge. There will be blood. If that’s the case, make sure that there is a designated apex predator in the group to keep order. 3
  7. 7. Glen Wakeman | All Rights Reserved © 2017 GLEN WAKEMAN 07If You Want Excellence, Celebrate Successes. People behave to metrics and you can use your production metrics to enhance your profitability. Metrics are best when they are representative, rational and achievable. But you can also use them to create a culture of continual improvement. Use the group average to set the minimum standards. Don’t let your lowest producers set the standard for your operations. Allow your best performers to set the standard for everyone. 1 Leverage the success of top performers. They are outperforming the rest for good reasons. Let them explain what they are doing to your other team members. Give them a forum to speak at a staff meeting or recognition meeting and allow them to share their expertise. Sharing best practices, experiences, ideas and tactics improves both engagement and productivity. Both will move the needle. 2 Periodically reset the new minimums. Capitalize on your teams’ improvements by upping the bar at scheduled intervals. Don’t be overly random or scientific. Just pick the prior period average as the new floor and you will build a ladder of successful productivity. If you use their actual performance averages, you will simultaneously capture the benefits of the leaders and also avoid a protracted discussion about fairness. Hey, it’s the average so that means most people are already making the goals. If someone isn’t, give them a forum (as above) to learn how to improve. But insist on improvement. 3
  8. 8. Glen Wakeman | All Rights Reserved © 2017 GLEN WAKEMAN 08If You Want Excellence, Celebrate Successes. Try your best to avoid employee collisions and conflicts by being clear about who does what and why. People like to know what they are responsible for and the overall leader is in the best position to establish everyone’s lanes. Match decision making to responsibilities. Are the roles you’ve put in place really designed to succeed? As an employee, do you have all of the tools you need to accomplish your goals? A lot of time can be spent on discussing fairness. A good way to avoid those conflicts is to take the time to match decision making authorities with the responsibilities you have set for the team members. If there is a mismatch, you will have conflict and underperformance by design. Avoid that by thinking through what you want out of the role. 1 Seek to increase collaboration while clarifying boundaries. You need to set boundaries so you don’t allow pushing and shoving over turf. Everyone likes to have a clear definition of their territory but day to day life isn’t so simple. Most business problems require a team effort to resolve. And, you probably can’t afford to give everyone on your team their own complete staff. So, make sure that collaboration is seen as a key aspect of your culture. Everyone must be able to work and play well with others in order to build a successful enterprise. Start setting that expectation from the beginning. 2 Provide a forum for disagreements. Collaboration isn’t always easy because people are, well, people. They will disagree and you absolutely want that. But you also want the matters to be resolved in a civil way so that there isn’t any long term aftershock that creates a drag on performance. Incorporate the positive aspects of disagreements into your environment but provide a means of resolving them through stand sessions like meetings. Weekly staff sessions or dedicated forums are equally effective. 3
  9. 9. Glen Wakeman | All Rights Reserved © 2017 GLEN WAKEMAN 09If You Want Excellence, Celebrate Successes. Keeping track of things is an essential component of performance management. You do need to know if you are on track and Dashboards can be a great tool to clarify direction, set standards and align your team. The simpler the better. Good Dashboards are easy to find, read and understand. Dashboards are like an abbreviated scorecard. Keep them simple so they can be easily understood. If it’s longer than 1 page, it isn’t a dashboard. It’s a report. Your goal on a dashboard is to quickly assimilate the status and then proceed to adjust. Clarity is paramount. Allow your staff to quickly spot the good, the maybe and bad by color coding the dashboards with Green, yellow and red ratings. Refresh them often. 1 Focus on key variables that drive real performance. Identify the things you are trying to accomplish and avoid the temptation to go number crazy. More isn’t necessarily better. Quite often, long lists of numbers make things more confusing and ineffective. So, you will need a filter to determine what is really important. Measure how you make money, and ensure that your Dashboards track the drivers of your progress. That’s the easiest way to align interests and is a powerful, no-surprises, communication tool. 2 Be consistent and disciplined about capturing, analyzing and communicating the results. Routine and repetition can ensure that the learnings are closely adhered to and acted upon. Accuracy is paramount to create a level playing field and the sense of fairness. Dashboards can be a great communication tool, provide a foundation for rewards and celebration and enhance the credibility of your views on performance. 3
  10. 10. Glen Wakeman | All Rights Reserved © 2017 GLEN WAKEMAN 01 0 If You Want Excellence, Celebrate Successes. Resources are always limited and in demand. Most employees believe in two universal truths; 1. They are underpaid and 2. They don’t have the resources they need to do the job. So resource allocation decisions can get tricky and cause heartburn. An alternative to never ending negotiations and conflict is to dig a bit deeper into the resource question by focusing on the unit drivers of work: phone call, customer visit, widget, report, etc. By concentrating on the driver you can use simple arithmetic to build your needed capacity and then allocate resources accordingly. Determine the root causes of work activities. Don’t just concentrate on the output. Determine the source of the work itself. What generates the work? The idea here is to focus on the why and not the what. Once you determine the root cause, you can link it directly to other activities that lead to improvements. 1 Ensure that drivers form the basis for improvement projects. Don’t waste time on money by working harder, but on the wrong things. If you can simplify your world into a handful of key items that really drive your business results and work activities, you can easily engage your employees to make things better. It is in their interest for thigs to go well so alignment is easy. More, you can improve your competitive advantage, productivity or customer retention rates (to name a few) by focusing your resources on the right things. 2 Make sure they are easy to explain. This will take some real work because a natural tendency, when you are really busy (as all entrepreneurs are), is to be superficial and move on to the next thing. Avoid that pitfall by ripping away as many layers as possible until you find the simplest idea. The simpler the better. Simple is easy to communicate and act on. And you will need buy-in from your team to set and achieve your goals. 3