Archive for July, 2012

Change – The Three-Step Process To Change Effectiveness!

SERIES: Part One of a Four-Part Article

The ability to positively influence change within oneself and among others – and have others embrace it enthusiastically – can be the simple difference between success and stress.

By far, one of the greatest contributors to reduced productivity and, subsequently, profitability in the business place and at home is the failure to understand the “change process” has a very defined structure. There are three distinct steps to change. How one addresses each and facilitates each has a direct correlation with the outcome or lack thereof!

Build the “Bridge to Why,”

and all will reach “Change” easily!

Convincing people to travel with you, from where they are to a powerful, positively changed future, involves getting them to cross the “Bridge To Why”. That is the single bridge most in management – and many parents – fail to build and aid others in crossing. Call it lack of understanding, lack of patience to build or just plain stubbornness. Whichever term you use, without the bridge you will be left attempting to push and pull others across the river of perceived insurmountable change!

The Three-Step Change Process involves minimal or significant work. It’s up to you to make that calculated judgment call.

  1. STEP ONE: AWARENESS equals both the “WHAT Factors” and the “WHY Factors”. What does one do to make oneself and others aware of the “Need”, “Problem”, “Pain” or “Gain” of a raised issue that needs to be addressed and, thus, changed?

This first step involves action items such as reflecting upon how best to raise an issue; determining what steps may be required to condition the vested player(s) to be receptive of the subject matter; recognizing the best environment in which to raise the matter; considering the amount of time and the best time to raise the matter; which power players or advocates may need to be pre-engaged and present to assist in influencing buy-in from others. If people are not on the same subject line as you, talking about the new thing will be a waste of time!

The most important step in the AWARENESS process, and the one most grossly ignored, forgotten, side-stepped and loosely addressed by most managers is the “WHY” or rationalization step.  While the case may be clearly communicated in terms of the “WHAT Factor” (what is being changed, what must start, what must stop, what must be avoided, what is now obligated, etc.), frequently what is not addressed as adequately is the rationalization, reasoning or logic of “WHY” that “WHAT” has been addressed.

  1. STEP TWO: Engagement addresses the “HOW Factors” of the action plan. With a clear understanding of the “WHAT/WHY Factors”, mental and physical energies can now be directed toward the development of viable action plans and selections.

In this second step of the change process, you will want to ensure you feel confident with the action plans you have designed to fulfill the needs identified from STEP ONE. If you are engaging others as a managerial-leader, STEP TWO is critical in ensuring that others really do feel that “HOW” the “WHAT Factor” is to be addressed is practical and necessary, thereby feeding their “WHY” compulsions.

  1. STEP THREE: Commit to implement the action plan from STEP TWO and specifically reveal “WHEN” action will occur. At this step, you will know the “WHEN Factor” of implementation, forward momentum and, thus, success. Organizations frequently implode at this stage, and management goes into melt- down due to lack of commitment and missed deadlines by the implementation team.

During the first two steps, if people feel they are being dictated to or, conversely, do not feel involved, breakdown in STEP THREE can be expected!

Facilitate effective change with yourself and others by independently focusing all energies on one step at a time:

  1. Awareness equals the “WHAT” and “WHY Factors”.

  2. Engagement equals the “HOW” components of dispensing the “WHAT Factor”.

  3. Commit to implement the “HOW” of a plan!

Change is embraced by successful people and organizations and avoided by most. Now that you have the three-step plan mapped out, the question is simple. Will you commit or wait for someone else to implement plans for success, thus garnering the spoils of victory before your very eyes?

-Dr Jeff Magee
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Meeting Effectiveness – Engaging the Derailer and Cultivating Solutions!

SERIES: Part Five of a Five-Part Article

The ability to tactically engage colleagues, whether they are supporters or detractors, in business meetings today is critical for increasing productivity and profitability outside the meeting and on the front line.

Business leaders who posses the tactical ability to engage others, sway energies away from combative posturing and constructively engage the otherwise content derailer toward forward momentum will find meetings as bastions of creativity and profitability!

Human nature, however, is prone to work against positive engagement in a meeting when someone challenges what another is presenting. Typically, at the precise moment someone challenges another’s position, each side digs in and either defends what was just attacked or challenges the other party. The energy then escalates in a negative direction, as emotions take over and logic goes out the window.

To cultivate positive engagement from all parties in a meeting the next time this occurs, consider:

  1. Get Out Of The Box – At the precise moment the other person challenges your position, calmly step back, out of the space you were standing at the moment of the interruption (if you are seated while presenting, you can accomplish this by simply adjusting your sitting position, leaning back calmly). By stepping out of the figurative “box” you were in while presenting, you will maintain control of the room even though the other party may be talking.

Instead of defending yourself, representing your position or engaging in a personality grudge match, you can gesture politely toward the space you were in and move into the second phase of this solution-cultivating engagement.

  1. Demand An Alternative Times Three – Once the other party has concluded his or her interruption or challenge, and you have backed out of the presentation space, you can hold yourself accountable to constructively engaging the other party. Your choice of words is critical to your meeting management success and the avoidance of temper flaring.

You may actually say something like, “If this idea is not an effective way to proceed, let’s explore other options.” At this point, you have converted any potential negative energy into either neutral or possibly supportive energy. You have, in essence, established empathy with the other person, elevated their comments to a professional level and set the stage to engage them constructively. Notice that you have not used any challenging language like “you”. Continue in the same breath, and before they perceive you as about to attack them, continue by saying, “What do you feel is an effective way to address this issue?”

The power behind marrying these two tactical engagement approaches together is that you are able to maintain control in the meeting and keep all energies moving in a forward direction.

As you “Get Out Of The Box” and “Demand An Alternative”, be prepared to ask the question politely in multiples of three. As you ask the above question the first time, it may catch the challenger off guard, and their response may be something profound like, “I don’t know.” If this happens, politely repeat the question as if you are a broken record. “If this idea is not an effective way to proceed, let’s explore other options. What do you feel is an effective way to address this issue?” And if necessary, do this two more times to either draw them constructively into the conversation with alternative solutions or cause them to realize you are not going to fight them.  Either way, engaging them will cause them to stop fighting you!

To enhance this tactical engagement approach, guard against role-reversal and challenge them. If they do respond to one of your alternative seeking questions, make it your standard response to, no matter what, say, “Tell me more. Why do you say that?”

This invites the other person to expand, and if they offered a senseless response, they will bury themselves. If they offered a valuable response that you didn’t understand, their elaboration will assist you in gaining a better understanding!

Converting human nature from defensiveness and posturing when engaging the meeting derailer will tactically allow you to cultivate solutions in an otherwise unproductive meeting. Remember, the purpose of the meeting is productivity, not counter productivity. And with productivity comes profitability.
-Dr Jeff Magee
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Meeting Effectiveness – Delegation Dynamics Ensure Productivity and Profitability!

Many implosions have occurred in business today, due to miss communication on the delegation process. And most of these happen within meetings that place functional players in conflict with leaders daily.

Management experts find that there are typically five opportunities for miss delegation or delegated tasks to implode. By turning these five into opportunities for growth and recognizing that most delegation is an outgrowth of a meeting, here are five considerations:

  1. Objective – It is paramount to clearly communicate “what” is needed or expected versus assuming that “what” you want is “what” they perceive as being asked for or requested.
  2. Deadline – The obvious of the delegation aspects is most often communicated in a vague manner. For example, indicating to someone that a project is due by the end of the day is dramatically different than saying, “I need this by 4:30 p.m. today!”
  3. Empowerment – Allowing a person the authority to execute a decision in any manner they desire is important. So too is placing perimeters upon a person as to “how” something must or can be executed.
  4. Access – Ensuring that the project will not be adversely affected because someone can’t get access to information, materials or supplies is critical. So, if it is necessary, send out a blanket email to the universe communicating when you have tasked someone with a specific task and that they have specific/limited access to the universe. This will ensure someone does not derail his or her success at your expense!
  5. Follow-Up – If it is apparent that during the execution of a project, because of the depth of the task or the personalities involved, that you may want to have some routine communication to ensure that everything is progressing, pre-call this act at the time of the initial delegation. Likewise, if after the delegated task is completed, if you would like to get with the delegates and see what lessons can be gleaned, pre-all this date at the time of delegation as well. While the intent of both of these acts is positive, if they are not pre-called, and you attempt to merely do them after-the-fact, others may perceive it as negative.

The beauty of these five tactical engagement steps is that they can be deployed whether one is the delegator or the delegate.

-Dr Jeff Magee
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Meeting Effectiveness – Basic Management Techniques & Alternatives For Maximum Productivity!

Think of the last time someone you know was upset because there was one less meeting on his or her business calendar. Or, for that matter, when was the last time you were upset because a meeting you did not want to attend was cancelled?

Conversely, think of the number of times we are called to a meeting and the associated feelings with that meeting, once we realize that the meeting was a waste of time.

The Wharton School of Business recently released a study, indicating that by the time one retires from business, if a title, such as manager, leader, supervisor, entrepreneur, etc., is associated to his or her name, they will have spent about 34 percent of their career in a meeting!

Here Are Ten Tactical Management Tools For Meeting Effectiveness:

1. Alternative – Before considering calling for a meeting or attending a meeting, always ask yourself if there is a better alternative for accomplishing that meeting’s agenda, such as a conference call, e-mail, memo or one-on-one intervention. If the agenda does not directly impact others, cancel the meeting, since it was about to be called to order out of simple meeting habit…

2. Hold A Huddle – A downside to actual meetings is that they convey sitting. This means people bring drink and food, and it can easily digress into a social setting on someone else’s budget. A huddle is a great means to gather key players for a quick duration and do so in a standing environment (hallway). Thus it becomes difficult for the drinks, snacks and socializing to occur when everyone is focused upon content, note taking, action solution development and execution.

3. Agenda – Any meeting without the use of a written agenda is an opportunity for people to come together and wonder aimlessly in dialogue for hours. Remember the last meeting you attended, where the subject matter (code for agenda) could have been addressed in a few minutes, yet 30-minutes later you were still sitting there? With the development of a simple agenda (it can even be scribbled out on a sheet of paper to be placed on a table between participants!), you can ensure that you have your notes, documentation and advocates in order before you implement the meeting and begin to work from the strategically developed agenda.

4. ID The Meeting Type – To greatly increase productivity, recognize, from the outset, what type of meeting this really is. There are only three basic types of meetings, each with its own associated management style for maximum productivity. ONE, “Information-Sharing,” is when attendees are brought together and given information. The management style here is very “Autocratic.” Any Q&A associated with that agenda is fair game; everything else is off limits. Therefore, if there is no Q&A, the meeting is over. TWO, “Information-Gathering,” is when attendees are brought together and information is developed and dialogued. Q&A occurs, and as long as attendees are within the perimeters of the agenda, anything goes. Thus a more “Democratic” management style is executed here. THREE, the “Information-Creation,” is otherwise known as a brain storming session. Here, the style has a more “Laissez-faire” approach, and anything goes.

5. Location – Always hold a meeting in the location most conducive for the agenda. “What resources do we need to execute the agenda? What distractions do I want to eliminate?” These are great questions to take into consideration when selecting a location – it may mean changing the complete geography of a meeting and moving it from where it would traditionally be held!

6. Time – It is critical to the success of any meeting to reflect upon the agenda and determine three time-sensitive factors: ONE, When would be a bad time for this meeting? Typically, holding a meeting at the beginning of the day or directly after lunch can be low a productivity time windows for the day; TWO, When would be a good time for this meeting? Holding your meeting directly on the front side of an even more pressing meeting may ensure greater attendance and attention; THREE, How much time does this agenda require?

7. Role Assignment – Spread the burden of meeting management among the participants in order to gain greater professionalism and participation. There are three critical roles to facilitating an effective meeting, and you should not have to do everything. So have them assigned, and rotate the roles with each meeting. Consider: ONE, Have a “Secretary” take notes, so there is a history of the discussion, which serves as a reference for both you and those who did not attend the meeting; TWO, Have someone serve as the “Time Keeper,” ensuring that everyone gets an opportunity to talk and the meeting remains on track and finishes in a timely manner; THREE, Have a “Hall Crier,” who assists in getting everyone to the meeting location on time. This starts the meeting on a positive note.

8. Cost – What a meeting costs, in both hard time and real financials, can be staggering if one actually computes the meeting. Consider some of these financials: ONE, Determine the per-minute salary of every attendee andwho you can afford to attend the meeting. You may want to design the agenda to excuse certain players, so as to not waste their time and your money; TWO, Cross reference the amount of time a meeting will last with the lost productivity of each meeting attendee and the add-on lost productivity associated with people not doing their work because they can’t reach someone in your meeting; THREE, There are all of the environmental costs like room, lighting, snacks, equipment, etc.; FOUR, Any outside personalities involved and all of their related expenses. The financial costs associated with a meeting alone may be enough to cause some meetings to be cancelled!

9. Have Advocates – Consider your agenda and who among the attendees has the most to gain from any specific item. Then consider ways to approach them before then meeting, so when you raise specific items on the agenda, you increase their reception by others because of the buy-in from some at the outset. This may mean you will have to be willing to negotiate items in their scope or execution as you pre-dialogue with perspective advocates!

10. End With Action Review – Always end a meeting (whether the meeting is telephonic, web cast or face-to-face) with a review of what items were resolved, what items are to be acted upon, what the specific next steps are (whether it be a deadline, follow-up meeting or huddle) and who owns each.

So the next time you attend a meeting, recognize what measures can be tactically administered to increase the overall effectiveness of all participants for maximum productivity!

-Dr Jeff Magee
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Decision Making – Balancing The Three Forces Of Decision Implementation!

SERIES: Part Four of a Four-Part Article
With every decision comes the balancing act of the three primary factors that impact the overall decision to be made and the corresponding politics associated with the stakeholders of each factor or faction.
If the output of any given decision is increased productivity and profitability, then think of the decision-making process in your business as a triangle. Each side is labeled with one of the three corresponding factors that influence the output of any decision.
On that triangle label:
1.      Financials/Costs
2.      Time/Deadlines
3.      Quality/Expectations
In an ideal decision-making process, productivity would allow an individual to weigh all three factors equally and draw upon the best of each. The best being:
1.      The obvious elements that comprise that factor
2.      The individuals who own that factor
3.      The committees, experts, vendors, personnel assets, equipment, technology, etc. associated with a factor
4.      The ideal output from a factor to be incorporated into the final product of a decision
In reality, one of these three sides most often will be in a state of jeopardy. With this model in mind, now you can make an educated judgment as to which side is least important if you must negotiate away or down any one factor. You can now work, as a safety measure, a side that may be overlooked in an otherwise hastily executed decision.
This model aids in controlled conversations with colleagues, employees, superiors, clients and vendors to ensure all sides are considered in the discussion of an impending decision and in the execution of productivity. For example, if someone has a tight deliverable window for a decision, you might need to discuss the quality decrease that may occur or the need for additional revenue or assets to ensure that the deadline is met and no quality declines are experienced.
To increase productivity tactically, ensure that when tasked with a decision, if any of these three critical factors is outside of your sphere of experience or knowledge, you access those assets and involve them at the earliest possible time.  Don’t put off the obvious in decision making, as the longer you wait the more pressure will be placed on the three forces.
-Dr Jeff Magee
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Decision Making – The Basic Functionality Of Decision Making With The STOP Formula©!

It is estimated that the top barriers to effective decision making in daily business run the gamut from procrastination and paralysis-of-analysis to fear and avoidance. Study any entrepreneur or perceived successful individual and what you will not observe is the presence of these barriers!
To increase your daily productivity, consider the basic functionality of how one’s brain processes data and how one can template that action for decision-making success.
In order to facilitate the basic process of decision making, your brain must:
1.      See the STIMULANT to be addressed.
2.      RATIONALIZE that stimulant as being worthy of one’s time.
3.      Establish realistic courses of RECOURSE in dispensing with that stimulant.
4.      COMMIT to that recourse which will then be made or implemented.
To facilitate the decision process in pursuit of increased productivity and, thus, profitability to an organization or business, one needs a decision-making formula that parallels the brain flow from a business perspective and ensures avoidance to the barriers to effective decision making. Consider the “STOP Formula©”:
1.      S:  Stop and See the stimulant at hand. If you can isolate and see the stimulant needing attention, you will avoid procrastination.  This means you are on your way toward increased productivity by avoiding the first barrier to success!
2.      T:  Target and Think through why that stimulant has been raised to your attention. While you make a case for or against the stimulant, you are working through the rationalization phase.  By moving smoothly forward and recognizing that there is another step, you will avoid paralysis-of-analysis, the second barrier to success!
3.      O:  Organizing Options for forward movement is the concentration of this third step in the decision process. Explore multiple viable recourse or option plans, recognizing that the word “options” in this step is plural.  Until there are plural forward pathways, one should not hastily move forward. By doing this, you can address fear-based reasons for not moving forward confidently and become more confident to move to the fourth, and final, step in the decision process for increased productivity.
4.      P:  Pick and Proceed with the option that is most viable. By committing to that action plan, you will also always have a backup plan.  If, in fact, you did step three effectively and not hastily, you will avoid the barrier of not moving forward.
The parallel applications of this formula are explosive. You can also use it in pursuit of presentations and decision making with others to facilitate a controlled, systematic dialogue, by presenting one item or step at a time.  You will progress smoothly and increase group productivity. This can also be used in crises, decision-making situations in business to ensure tactical control and emotional containment, by addressing each of the four functional decision steps at a time.
Increased productivity comes from the basic functionality of the decision-making process gained by using the STOP Formula© daily!
-Dr Jeff Magee
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Decision Making – Mission Statements Serve As Road Maps To Greater Productivity And Decreased Conflicts!

Every day good people in good businesses come into work and invest significant energies working against one another. Finally, someone stops and asks, “Why are the individual decisions made by people actually holding us back from significant productivity and profitability opportunities?”

This may not be as rare as one might think. Finding the answer to how to get more people to work from the same perspective is easier than one might expect. This is because each person has differing understandings of what decisions need to be made – there is no common map off which to benchmark independent decisions.

To address this, there are Five Distinct Mission Statements that every business needs to consider, define and post. Once these mission statements are posted, individuals will have a common map to guide their decisions and actions and increase productivity.

A Mission Statement is like a well-defined MAP. With it, each decision and action lets you know if you are on course, off course, ahead of schedule or behind it. With a well-defined map (mission statement), productivity explodes!

I liken a mission statement to that of a map. A commonality among adults needing to drive, for example, from where they are to an unknown destination, is to generate a map to guide their individual decisions. This should be the same drill followed daily in business!

There are Five Mission Statements of which one should be aware in order to make better decisions and tactically increase daily productivity.

  1. Mission Statement One, Organizational – The senior stakeholders should define the purpose of the business in this first and overlying statement referred to as the Organizational Mission Statement. This will give all subsequent leaders and functional areas a guidepost for crafting their contributing components.
  2. Mission Statement Two, Functional Work Area (department, line, shift, unit, team, etc.) – Each member of a work area should participate in crafting his or her purpose and, thus, contributing piece to the overall Organizational Mission Statement in their own Functional Work Area statement. After everyone has participated in crafting this mission statement, each person can now reference any decision or action against this statement to determine independently whether it should be pursued or dropped in pursuit of greater productivity!
  3. Mission Statement Three, Customer – The customer can be a moving target, as who you are engaging at any time may differ. Knowing what their needs, purposes and desires are is their Customer Mission Statement.  This will aid you in determining whether you can accommodate them.
  4. Mission Statement Four, Colleague – Likewise, knowing why your colleagues are associated with your team is the window through which you can see what their motivators and de-motivators are. Knowing this assists you in recognizing what items you may want to raise in their presence in order to influence the overall productivity of the team!
  5. Mission Statement Five, You – With the gained insight from knowing the first four mission statements, an individual can craft a personal mission statement that will serve to guide his or her own decisions for increased productivity!

With well-defined Mission Statements, good people in good businesses come into work every day and invest significant energies, working in concert with one another. Tactical decision-making is impossible without clear maps from which one is expected to work.  And with clear maps, productivity explodes!

Dr Jeff Magee
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