Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Manager's Duty

A manager's primary duty is to help his/her employees succeed. Positioning them for success. Providing them with appropriate resources to complete assignments and tasks. Prioritizing work to promote quality completion and to help avoid burn-out. Asking questions to ensure clarity. Pushing them to build skills and expand their thinking. And, sometimes, counseling them out of their position to something that is a better fit.

Some managers become focused on their ascention and they lose sight of the need to help their people succeed as part of that process. Some forget what it takes to actually do the tasks involved and forget that their role is to prioritize not add-on. Some just keep doing what they were doing before they became a manager and are unable to realize the human relationships for which they are now responsible.

And, some excel. Find those people in your organization and appreciate them. Find them in others and learn from them. All in all, observe and learn ... they may be doing the same of you.
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Strategic Planning or Plain Planning?

Strategic planning is something special. It engages people. It introduces different ways of thinking. It relies upon the exchange of ideas and information. Planning, on the other hand, is routine. It works within confines and focuses on the process. It is just plain planning.

For your next planning pursuit, be clear on whether the intention is for it to be strategic and introduce new thinking or plainly practical to move something forward. Both deliver value, they are just designed for different purposes. So know your purpose and label accordingly.

Generally speaking, consider the following distinctions ...

If it's strategic, the expectation is for new information, the space allows for creative thinking and the method fosters dialogue and communication among people.

If it's plain, the expectation is for sequencing, the space shapes defined progress from here to there and the method drives to charts and timelines.
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Executive Priority is Priorities

Executives in an organization have a responsibility to set and maintain priorities. They determine direction based on their position and ability to see across functional silos. They collect inputs, knowledge and feedback to discern strategies and establish goals for tangible progress. And, to advance those basic responsibilities they must determine priorities for the people who will implement and execute.

And, by setting and maintaining priorities they don't keep piling one thing upon the other. Once you've piled two things atop each other, let alone five to ten, you diminish productivity. Those of you who follow me know that against what I might at time profess, I believe people are fundamentally good. That means I believe that fundamentally people want to do a good job -- perhaps not the same good job as you want them to do, but that's the subject for another post.

I've seen it inside and I've seen it from the outside consulting in, when people feel overwhelmed or overloaded, you lose them (and not because they want to get lost). You reduce their abilities to stay focused and to find their way to fulfilling the corporate need. So, here's something to consider. The higher up the organizational chart you are, the more restraint you have to show in creating "fast track projects" or proclaiming that you need the analysis and recommendation on a major organizational undertaking "by the end of the month." Do it and remove something. Consider that your people are doing the day-to-day work that has to get done, and if you have those urgent needs then someone else needs to take on doing the routine assignments.

Executives must prioritize people, which means prioritizing priorities.
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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Stop the Text-Based Themes!

Seriously, please stop using "texting language" to derive themes. The language of texting is like secret code -- secret code for, well, juveniles. Sure, those of us who text have used the conveniences of texting abbreviations. But think about ... is that really the message you want to send to your audience? That you don't have the time to give them a complete thought.

I've seen it often because the adult decision-makers want to connect with the "younger generation" or they want to believe they are "hip," so whether it is the ad agency or the internal committee, everyone goes along for the ride. They think about the theme and then figure out how to convert it into some sort of "text language."

(imagine a fore-lorn up-talk tone with a slight tilt of the head) Real-ly ...

Stop it.

Texting is meant to be seen. Themes are meant to be seen -- and heard. Most of the attempts I've seen don't make that bridge. I'm not saying it can't work, I'm just offering that it usually doesn't. Next time you're tempted, stop and think about whether or not that is truly the best way to inspire your audience and provide a platform from which you can build multi-media and multi-sensory messages that engage your stakeholders.
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Up-Front Clarity Helps Overcome Challenges in Strategic Planning

No matter which sector you are in, your people care about strategic planning --- equally. Different organizations in different sub-sectors have difficult cultures that influence the processes differently, yet one doesn't feel it necessarily more than another. When I hear organizational leaders who hit a challenge in the process start talking about how perhaps their group cares more or lives it more or some other aspect about how they are so much more complex or involved than what another group/sector must be, it speaks more to an inability to work through challenging points in the process or challenging dynamics within the organization. It also prompts delay and erodes commitment. One way to promote the process through those challenges is to garner greater clarity up front among those involved and those affected about the strategic planning process, including what strategic planning is, how they fit into the process and what they can expect to come out of it. A primer from the leaders, supported by the contracted consultant, before activities begin can go a long way to providing touch points that move everyone toward the commonly accepted outcome.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

An Easier Route for Nonprofit Advocacy

There is a great deal of teeth gnashing among the nonprofit community in Wisconsin about the need for advocacy. The subject returned to the surface this week at the Wisconsin Nonprofits Association 2010 Summit. Discussion ensued about finding nonprofit groups of influence who could bring the message to the legislative table with the clout that would get decision-makers to listen. Ideas floated about how nonprofit organizations might band together in raising a common voice. Proclamations were made that a march on the capital would engage nonprofit leaders and advance the cause. All great things. Yet, all things requiring time, strategic focus and resources --- three of things I continue to hear from executive directors are lost in the pressing demands of delivering programs and keeping day-to-day operations moving forward.

So, my suggestion is to make it a bit easier. Consider if each nonprofit identified a policy-related change that would advance their mission and enhance their impact. This selection could take its direction from others (e.g., the Wisconsin Nonprofits Association is ratifying policy positions at the close of the 2010 Summit). Then, they create the storyline of why that change is needed, how it might advance the nonprofit's intended impact, when it affects the theory of change and who is needed to make it happen. That story becomes central to its communication with stakeholders -- staff, Board members, volunteers, individuals served, donors, etc. There becomes a call to action that aligns with the nonprofit's activities and the decision-makers timeline.

A nonprofit builds longevity through the people connected to its cause. Rather than focusing energy on a large-scale collaborative endeavor toward change. Start in the backyard with the people you know to care about your cause, then go see the neighbors and find out what it might take to play well together.
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Friday, January 29, 2010

It's Official: the blog is on hiatus

Sometimes the best thing we can do to make progress is to acknowledge that we aren't making it -- or at least in all of the areas we had expected. With that thought in mind, I make it official that I'm on a bit of a hiatus from the blog. You may have noticed the posts are a bit more infrequent these past few months. I have my reasons. None of them have to do with a lack of energy, insight or dedication. So, now, I simply must acknowledge publicly that I'm taking a few more weeks. Next week in the mountains. The weeks thereafter to come back to sea level. And while I might not be making as much progress as I would like here, you can follow more frequent progress in my sharing of resources and tips by becoming a fan of Timpano on Facebook.
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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Clarity in Mission Aids Effectiveness

Particularly in ages of uncertainly, people crave clarity and connection. Mission statements can provide it, when they are grounded in practicality and at the core a larger ideology that speaks to desired accomplishments, behaviors and impressions.

Stefan Stern questions the need for mission statements in his blog for The Financial Times. He does so in the context of the current issues with Google in China. The question of Google's "mission statement" is fascinating. Stern suggests "don't be evil" is cliche and over-reaching, that it is trouble for the company. Perhaps, yet others might suggest it is brilliant and a true indicator that Google sees no boundaries in the potential for its products or service offerings of the future. For me, it smacks of an operating principle that got packaged into a mission statement.

A powerful mission statement helps people within the organization understand its purpose. It is specific to the organization's culture and a cornerstone for decision-making at all levels. Mission statements driven by dreams and lacking context may inspire yet they rarely provide clarity to someone searching for purpose.
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