Control / Micro Managers

These guys do a lot of damage. They stifle future leaders, can undermine confidence, create poor work culture, foster non-learning, and can delay personal and professional development. They are killers of creativity, drain productivity, choke self-expression, stifle new opportunities and the advantages that come from innovation… huge negative affects on the business, its people, its customers!

It is just plain bad leadership and management. And it is not unusual for that “style” to be recognized in the broader organization. That style can be characterized by talent loss and employee turnover.

If you have a manager/supervisor working for you who is controlling, make a change. If you work for one… look for a way out, don’t stay too long… controlling managers won’t help you much in the short or long term and can be very poor career developers.

If you have no choice, if you like the company, the best thing you can do is build your reputation in the organization which just might open new opportunities, despite your current situation.

  • Look for teamwork projects.
  • Everyone’s work impacts other departments… get out there and do some customer service work; make yourself and your capabilities known!
  • Possibly sponsor some community project work.
  • Make sure you do a good job of managing and documenting your objectives and performance. If your boss does not, here is some related information:
  • Find a manager or leader you respect and cultivate a coach and mentor relationship. This is best done outside your department.
  • Above all, act.

In the end it is all learning and time eventually changes everything, and, good boss/bad boss, you can learn from both.

If you one of “those” managers, here is some advice:

“Join a company, quit a boss!”

***** S&E *****

Log Entry No. 8: “Zone 3”

Tom is visiting his son, sitting on the back porch deck, under roof, doing some beers. It is 90+ degrees.

wifi irrigationHis son has an irrigation system in his yard.  It is an older house and so is the system, so he is in the process of replacing some sprinkler heads in the front and back yard.  He also replaced the control box in the garage which controls each zone and the sprinkler heads.  The system has 6 zones.

The new control box installation is of course high-tech.  Both of Tom’s sons are good with tech since they are 40 years younger than Tom.  In this case the new control box is Wi-Fi driven.  Very cool, you can be anywhere in the yard, open the sprinkler system’s app on your smart phone, choose the zone you want to enable and that zone comes on.  The system is great for testing individual sprinkler heads in zones and / or scheduling certain zones or all zones to operate on a weekly schedule. If you enable a certain option in the system it will interact with the local weather station and control the sprinkler system so the yard and planting areas only receive the correct amount of water.  (I would not take that to the bank!)

There is also another application!

While they are sitting on the porch the dog (100 lb Golden-doodle) heads out into the yard, as it happens the mutt is standing in zone 3 of the WiFi controlled sprinkler system.  And Tom’s son demonstrates a feature of the system that is not illustrated in the manual, he calls it – “cooling off the dog”.  So it is, “the dog is in zone 3”, open up the app, enable zone three, and the mutt gets cooled off.  Hugely funny.  If the dog moves from one zone to another, well…

Occasionally is OK, but overdone the mutt probably would not go in the yard.

Before anyone calls the ASPCA – this is not done frequently, and, it’s only water, and on hot days it appears as if the mutt loves it.

As soon as Tom returned home from his son’s, he installed a WiFi control box for his irrigation system.

Tom has a dog!


Building a Benchmark Quality HR organization

It was a corporate wide process.  Operating units had to participate by submitting an application.  The content of an application was based on an internationally recognized process for becoming a benchmark quality organization.  That is, other businesses and industries would seek out your organization and use it as a model for continuous improvement.

benchmark 1Assessment teams of managers were trained in key assessment factors and traveled to assess applying operating units in the corporation.  There was an annual schedule which plotted the application process and assessment team scheduling.  Applications were limited to 75 pages.  The assessment team was given the application in advance of their assessment visit to the operating unit.  A visit was three days in length with 5 assessment team members.

Key assessment factors: systemic approach, deployment, process, continuous improvement, and results (metrics).

Benchmark 2The process looked at seven categories by which to assess the business … one being results. And, within each category, the key assessment factors were used to evaluate the operating units performance.  The visiting assessment team gave the operating unit management team a face to face report on their findings which included successes and opportunities for improvement.

In most cases there was a direct correlation between an operating units score and its actual business performance.

Benchmark 3Operating units that scored well were likely to be on the path to being benchmark organizations in their industry.

So, bringing this back to HR, like all functions, HR had its specifics to document in the application with related metrics.  And it all had to be real, in practice, in the unit’s multiple plants and countries.  Assessment teams visited multiple locations in the units.  HR assessment specifics included:

  • Planning – work design, flexibility, innovation, response.  Development & Training.  Compensation, Recognition and Benefits.  Recruiting and Demographic Sensitivity.
  • High Performance Work Systems — connection to customers and managing and moving talent.
  • Education Training and Development — specific plans & programs.
  • Employee Well-Being and Satisfaction — focused programs on safety, health and related environmental monitoring/testing.
  • Metrics included markers for all the above; some over multiple years as indications of improvement.

Benchmark 4Some operations groused about the process being arduous, painful, (and it was) and a significant distraction from running the business. However it is hard to argue with the value of having your business assessed against a standard that can result in a plan for continuous improvement, benchmark status in an industry, and business excellence.

One of the years our unit scored first place.  We split the corporate monetary award with all our locations.  Our location rented a stern-wheeler river boat, hired a band and had a dinner-dance celebration.  It was epic !

And we had a master road-map for improvement!

***** S&E *****

Killing Performance Reviews ???

I love these articles on scraping performance reviews… this one printed in Fast Company Magazine (link below).  I like the magazine for many reasons so my comments should not be construed as negatives against the magazine.

So I know I’m running the gauntlet of an old school leader, yet supporting performancemanager-leader reviews.  I can attest to the fact that I used reviews successfully over the course of nine different positions, in two corporations, and 13 countries. And all ages of participants liked the process.  My opinion is it is not the performance review process, or its relevance, that is at issue.  I believe it is the manager or leader who badly screws up the process that is the issue.  How? … not taking the time, bad time management skills, poor communications, not caring, unorganized, not focused on a team approach to getting the job done, and, the always classical, micro-manager.

In summary the Fast Company article notes that it is time to give up the annual performance review due to the needs of multi-generational organizations and replace the review process with the following.

  1. Give explicit instructions
  2. Conduct one-on-on check ins
  3. Have conversations about the employees future
  4. Use technology when it makes sense
  5. Practice the MBWA technique

I would suggest that the above list is part of traditional performance management, Career 1reviews, and sound leadership.  If managers can’t handle the traditional review process they will certainly screw up the above.  Again, to emphasize, it is not the process, it is the manager!

Here is my experience of what works:

Crystal clear communications are key:

  • Publish a schedule of for initial,  individual one-on-one’s with participants – ask them to submit a draft of their objectives for the year in advance — starts the process as a shared, two way partnership.
  • At the one-on-one, discuss and fine-tune the objectives for the year… follow the SMARTcareer 2 guidelines for meaningful objectives.  Stress that, the participant owns the objectives, your door is always open, and help is always available.  As well, help is available with dealing with barriers to getting it done.
  • Check in one-on-one’s — quick discussions unless the participant needs detailed help.
  • Encourage the participant to keep a running summary of related accomplishments so the year end review is easy.
  • Schedule, conduct the year end review with the participant submitting, in advance, objectives and accomplishments.
  • They’ll own it, like it, and the quality of the experience is solidly shouldered by the manager.
  • Hold career discussions separately… career path stuff is important to participants and it deserves focused attention.  It IS the managers/leaders job! About the greatest contribution you can make to those who work for you is to contribute to advancing their career!

When it goes bad, it is always the manager!  “Join a company, quit a boss”!

***** S&E *****


Log Entry no. 111 “Pine Boughs”

I always enjoyed seeing Thor at work.  Even, better, I enjoyed hearing of Thor’s’  boys at “work”.  More often than not one of his two male issues would have provided a great story for Thor to relate to his co-workers.  Some of the stories are humorous now but at the time created great stress for Thor!

StressThis one is one of Thor’s remembered experiences… if you see him just mention “pine boughs”

It is 8:30 Saturday morning and Thor heads out to one of his three cars, destined to the hardware store.  The last car in the drive is Thor’ 8 year old Honda Civic.  It featured broken mirrors inside and out, stains on the headliner (don’t ask), dash, and cloth seats.  Add to that a dent here and there and damaged paint.  Obviously the kids car and Thor knows his oldest son drove it last, getting home a hand full of hours ago, in the early morning.

Above all, Thor notes the several, very green, very noticeable pine boughs protruding from the front bumper and sides of the Civic.

Pine BoughsThor put his thoughts aside, drove to the hardware store, made his purchases and headed home, taking the other entrance into his housing development.  He entered and came to the first  intersection and stop sign in the development.  Before continuing down the street he glanced to his left.  Up the short cul-de-sac he observes a local police cruiser, with the cop standing in the homeowners front yard.  The cop and the homeowner are both looking at what remained of a couple of 5-6 foot pine trees and some minor lawn damage leading from the street through the yard.  And there sat Thor, a couple of houses away, in clear sight, with pine boughs jetting out of the bottom of the car.

Pine boughs!

Pine boughs 2Thor slammed the car in reverse, did a 360, exited the housing plan, and entered through the other entrance nearest his home.

Later,  Thor recalled his son being severely short-changed on monies due, by the very  same homeowner, after doing some lawn and shrubbery work at the very house where the two small pines formerly stood.

You never want to screw with the kids in your neighborhood.  They have endless ways of exacting revenge and pounds of flesh!

Thor’s first issue denied any knowledge of the pine boughs and suggested the boughs stuck in the undercarriage might be remnants of a recent hunting trip.

Sometimes if their lips are moving…..

***** S&E *****










***** S&E *****

Evaluating your HR leader (leader is used generically — not all managers are leaders)

Depending on the business, a lot can sit on the shoulders of an HR leader, not to mention the fact that the function touches and impacts the entire organization.  So much so that the incumbent needs to be a sophisticated manager and leader.

Elevator Speech ImageHere is a checklist you might use to check on the value of your Human Resources leader, or, use as a development list.  This can apply to other leaders as well.

  • Has partnered with other leaders, team player
  • Provides creative solutions while operating within company policy, standards and values
  • Full-time positive attitude and thinker
  • Displays managerial courage
  • Has benefited from relocations and promotions
  • Is widely respected, of infallible integrity
  • Skilled communicator
  • Is proactive
  • Has professional presence
  • Known as smart, adaptable, creative
  • Recognized as a career coach
  • Can be aggressive when needed
  • Has a seat at the leadership table
  • Uses metrics
  • Recruits, assesses, and develops talent
  • Seeks understanding of business drivers, finances, and customers
  • Is tech savvy, analytical
  • Performance driven
  • Has balance and judgment
  • Is sought out for advice and counsel
  • Respected by industry & business colleagues
  • Appreciates humor
  • Can move between strategic and tactical work
  • An implementer

Has built a knowledge base and business acumen commensurate with or exceeding what is required of the level of assignment or position.

***** S&E *****

Take an International Assignment

Why be interested, why do it? Accepting an international assignment (IA) can supercharge your career!  Here are a few reasons why…

  • Career advancement means competition… you will have a significant edgeIntl World
  • Know more about more — IA’s will round out your capabilities and value
  • Become familiar with other languages
  • Gain an appreciation and understanding of other cultures
  • Interact with the local citizens; make some international friends
  • Learn about another history
  • Become schooled in the complexity of international business
  • Give your “business acumen” a boost
  • Vastly expand your network
  • Become “worldly”

Intl flagsIf you have the slightest interest, make your desire known… the ol’ “squeaky wheel gets the grease”!  Also, make sure you have a balanced view, be honest with yourself, do a serious self-assessment … it is outrageously expensive to send a professional out as an expatriate… so there needs to be an overriding benefit to the company.  If you decide to pursue an overseas assignment it would be good if you are ready to explain your value-add as part of your request.

Behavioral Competencies are important to any successful international assignment (and domestic as well):  Integrity, Ethics, Adaptability, Flexibility, Analytical, Team Player, Judgment, Work Ethic, Humor, Smarts, Continuous Learning, Humility, Care about others, Professional Presence, to name a few.  Some others: Vision and Purpose, Intellectual Rigor, Leveraging Resources, Drive for Results, Managerial Courage, Strategic Thinking, Holding Self and Others Accountable, Developing and Motivating Others, Interpersonal Skills.  You don’t need them all.

Intl viewIf you would like another culture to accept you, plan on going with your “hat in your hand”  Notwithstanding your value add and contribution, always remember you are a visitor. You will be playing in some else’s sandbox. :>)

And, maybe even retire in a foreign country, I have friends that did.  I have an overriding influence in my life, or I would have done so as well, long ago.

Shanghai 1 nitghtThe following blog post speaks to the value of promotions that also feature relocation… it may not be for everyone but never underestimate the value to your career!

Valuing Relocation Opportunities

Go ahead, become worldly!

***** S&E *****