Management & Leadership lessons from my dog – Part III: Leading the pack

June 2, 2009

After having reviewed how to communicate effectively and after having identified whom the boss should be, my dog Slider will now present her third topic, about getting the pack moving in the right direction.

Hello again dear readers,

A pack well led!

All team members executing their mission

In order to have a group that moves and acts harmoniously, the first thing is to set the rules, then make sure that the rules are understood and accepted, and finally give the  team members correct feedback swiftly and appropriately.

Settings the rules
In our dog world, no rule means my rule. Therefore, if you want to avoid total anarchy and a pack that disintegrate, you must make sure that all team members understand what you want and which behaviors they are allowed and which ones they are not. As the leader, this is your duty. You must make them clear and enforce it, meaning that you must correct improper behavior immediately. Failure to do so will send a very confusing message to our simple dog brains and we will improvise our own set of rules among ourselves.
The way to do this is rather simple, as it comes down to communication. It is all about clarity, consistency, patience, and verbal as well as non-verbal communication. For more details, I will redirect you to my first article about that particular topic.

Show integrity
Mean what you say and act accordingly. This set the example and set the standards that we want to live up to. Do not start negotiating every time we try you, because at this game, we are just smarter and better than you are. Moreover, do not start bribing us! We love it and be assured that we will ask for more, but you will never be able to get anything valuable out of us. Once you do this, you will not be the boss anymore.

Reward good behavior
This seems obvious to us dogs, but unfortunately, it rarely seems to be a spontaneous thing. Let us know when we do something right! It is not difficult to do and it makes us feel really good. When we are rewarded for doing well, we just want more reward, and you can be sure that we will do all we can to please you! Nothing works as well as celebrating a success together!

Reprimand and correct bad behavior
For as much as we understand reward, we do understand reprimand, too. Even though we might not be as smart as our human bosses, we really get the message expressed by frown, a stern look and the word “bad!”. You do not need to shout and gesticulate for minutes, and you certainly do not need to use violence. We get the message! The question is do you get our message then? You should, as our body language will show you that we feel bad about it. The only difference that I see between dogs and people when dealing with reprimand is that we, dogs, will forget about the tension rather quickly and resume our duties, while humans seem to have this tendency to grow resentment and anger. Trust me this is not worth it. A great boss will reprimand you, but will not make it a personal matter. He had expectations and they were not met. He will tell you exactly that, and he will tell you what he expects from you from now on. This is clear. You made a mistake and now you know what to do next. With a great boss, there are no hard feelings or frustration, just feedback and new objectives.

Well dear readers this conclude this short presentation. So remember, if you wish to be the boss, you must act like one!

(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the dog only, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd, but we tend to subscribe to the dog’s views more and more.)

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Why do great employees leave?

May 21, 2009

That is a question that I have found on the LinkedIn group “Executive Suite”.
I love those questions, because there is an army of consultants and specialists and experts showing off all they know, and their comments are incredibly detailed.
But the reality is much simpler. Employees, especially the great ones, do not leave the company, they leave their boss.
High turnover, especially of great employees, is the best indicator of poor management!
Many companies use the “grandfather” principle, but in reality, when there is a problem between the “father” and the “grand child”, grandpa almost always backs daddy, while the departure of great employees should tell him that daddy is being naughty, and daddy should be reprimanded. But that rarely happens, and the grandfather principle is kind of a joke, really.
But one thing is sure: when great employees leave, the average quality of what is left decreases, and the company is heading towards the ground.
I have seen that just too many times, in color, 3D and Dolby stereo.
The good thing about it is that companies who appreciate talent always win in the end!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Management & Leadership lessons from my dog – Part II: Recruiting the Boss

May 14, 2009

This is the second article from my dog Slider. This time she shares her views on how to recruit a proper boss.

Dear readers,

At first, I thought that I would deal with recruiting the boss in a similar way as bosses recruit their employees: by asking for a resume.

Unfortunately, this appears rather useless very quickly, as all the candidates refer to the same great things about themselves. They have had experience with or owned dogs in the past and they can walk on two legs! For how impressive their skills and experience are, for a simple dog like me, this is not convincing, and that by a long shot. It does not tell me much about their qualities as bosses and from my experience, I am more stable on four legs than on two, so that particular skill might even be overrated; and I, too, can do some impressive tricks.

Leading is not a givenSo, let’s forget the resume, as it not giving me the right information and let’s try to see if a personality test would work better. In my doggy world, we establish who the leader of the pack is in a very simple and primal way: the more dominant one leads. Could it be any simpler than that? Although we need to take a slightly different approach with people, establishing a relationship dog-boss follow a rather similar process. We will accept you as the boss only if you are able to earn our respect. Look around and you will see all those dog owners who failed to get to that point: they simply do not have us under control. We run away, we pull in a different direction than the one they want us to go to, or we are aggressive. In short, we behave badly. Well, that is from the boss’s perspective. For us there is another truth: we behave that way because we have no boss. There is no one we respect enough to follow, so we set our own course. Does that sound familiar to you humans? Interesting, isn’t it? We do not have the ability to do politics; neither do we have any awareness of our pedigree. Therefore, respect is about all we have. Also, remember that you do not spell respect F-E-A-R. If you lead us by fear, we probably follow because we prefer to avoid the consequences, but we will not like you, we will not respect you, and when the time is right, we will turn against you; unless we just become dysfunctional and neurotic, as I have sometimes seen.

Of course, there are those who think that buying us is enough to make them our bosses. No, it just makes them our owners. We do not feel too much for hostile takeovers. The merger and acquisition process needs to happen in a firm and effective manner. Of course, some bosses deal with the problem by getting rid of the “difficult” ones among us, but they probably will experience a similar situation with our replacements anyway.

To conclude, I will sum up like this. In order to be our boss, you must demonstrate that you indeed have the ability to lead the pack, which you only will do effectively by earning our respect. Being a two-legged creature or repeating us that you are the boss is simply not enough. Once you have earned our loyalty, you will be amazed by how much you will get in return!

DSCN1492

Next time, I will return with Part III: Leading the Pack.

(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the dog only, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd, although they usually do.)

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Tip: Make their day, they will make yours!

May 11, 2009
Here is a simple way to make yourself happy. If you do it only once, you will be happy for a little while. If you do it on a regular basis, the feeling will get much more permanent.

All you need to do is to give positive feedback or a compliment to someone when they do something that you appreciate. Of course, this works only if there is a genuine reason and if the compliment is genuine as well.
Flattery or hypocritical compliments will not have the same effect. Although it probably makes the person who receives it happy, it will not provide you with as much fulfillment as it does when it is meant.
For instance, this week I wrote a recommendation on LinkedIn about a former colleague. His reaction was quite positive and a few good things have happened since then.
An other example was yesterday: I went to a drugstore to buy something that I had seen on ad in their flyer. I could not find it and I asked an employee for help. He went in the back to see if they had any in inventory, which they did not and he offered me to write a rain check. He did this with so much professionalism that I was quite impressed. When I left, I had to compliment him on how helpful he had been. The smile on his face just made me feel really good about myself, too.
I made their day, and their response made mine as well. Even if it was about rather mundane stuff, the return was above any expectation.

So, go ahead! Give good people around you the genuine positive feedback they deserve when they do something right! It does not matter if it is in your private life or at work. You will feel great about it, and I bet that you will repeat it in the future.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Management & Leadership lessons from my dog – Part I: Communication

May 11, 2009
Please allow me to introduce a very distinguished (as you can notice by the neck tie and the grey temples) guest blogger to present this topic: my dog Slider.

Studying Human Behavior

She has a proven track record of interaction with her peers and with her bosses and is highly qualified to talk about effective management and leadership.
In today’s article, the first of a series of 3, she will address the topic of communication between the boss and the followers. Here she comes:

Hello dear readers!

After years of interacting with other dogs and people, as well as by hearing the tone of my boss’s voice when he talks about managers and companies, I believe that our simple canine wisdom could be of great value for business leaders and leaders to be.

I now will review a few very important aspects of effective communication.

Call me by my name!
That is the most effective way for me to know that I am the one being talked to. Calling my name will get my attention, and then I am more inclined to listen to the order. People have this strange way of not calling each by their names that much, unless most of you are all called Hey? I do not know. I believe it makes communication a lot more effective. Moreover, it is super friendly to be called by your name. It gives you the feeling that someone cares about you.

Clarity
We, dogs, are not particularly sophisticated when it comes to read between the lines, so it is utmost critical that your message be very clear. If it is not, we will not understand it, and of course we will not do what you instruct us to do.
In order to be effective, just give us simple and short orders. In most cases just one word will do, like “Sit!”, “Stay!”, “Enough!” or “No bark!”.
The worst you can do is to start giving several orders at the same time, or gesticulate and shout, like unfortunately I have seen in many occasions. This just confuses us, and sometimes even freaks us out. We just wonder what on earth the boss’s problem is, and since we are not sure what s/he means, we just do nothing or do the wrong thing, which in turns seems to frustrate him/her. Poor communication. Not good.

Consistency
This is one of the most important aspect of effective communication. Remember we are simple beings and we need to be trained into patterns.
In order to be effective, your instructions must not leave any room for confusion. If one day, your order means one thing and the next day it means something else, do not expect us to figure out what it will mean. Then, we will act according to what we believe is requested from us. The sad thing is that we will be reprimanded, while you were the one who mixed up the message.
In the same area, your actions have to be consistent with your instructions. Just as an example, and you know we like to beg and try to get some treat from you once in a while and we can really cute at doing it. But, we also can understand “no!”. However, if you give us what we want once, we will expect you to repeat that. You create a pattern. Inconsistency will teach us bad behavior, begging is this case.

Patience
If you want to train us to do what you want, it might sometimes take some time. Sorry, but our brain is a bit small and before we get the message, we will need to learn from you.
Patience will be necessary for you, and if you want us to do what you instruct us to, you will need to repeat several times, and also send us the right feedback to let us know how we are doing.
Shouting at us will not really work, as we do not see this as the alpha way of communicating. In our world, this is more what the wounded weak dog does. All you will do with that is to scare and to confuse us. That will be your fault if we get stressed and neurotic. We will end up barking for all reasons and even become aggressive.
On the other hand, when you choose the right approach, your patience will be rewarded: we will become obedient and respectful, but neither stressed, nor scared.

Importance of body language
Sorry, but we are simple creatures, and we do not have much of a vocabulary. We just understand a few words. We are pack animals and most of our messages have to do with physical interaction.
In order to be effective in your communication, you will have to be short and to the point. Do not give us a long lecture, because we will lose focus after the third word.
To enhance your message, you will achieve a lot by combining short instructions with a clear and consistent body language. Do you know that you actually can lead us by only communicating with us in a non-verbal manner? This is true, and it is more powerful that all those long boring tirades we sometimes have to listen to, but we cannot runaway because we are stuck with that leash!
From our end, most of our communication is non-verbal. Therefore, you, as our boss, need to be able to read the signals that we send and deal accordingly and properly with them in order to lead the pack harmoniously!

Well, people, this is all for this time. I will return later with Part II: Recruiting the Boss.

(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the dog only, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.)

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Signs of a good company culture

May 11, 2009

You know what they say to job candidates: you have only one chance to make a good first impression! This is valid for a company, too.
Regardless of any PR work done or how well crafted their website might be, nothing compares with just the possibility of walking around and watching.

First, take a good look at the surroundings. Are they inviting? Is this a place where you would like to spend half the time that you are awake? If the place reminds you of a hospital or a prison, you probably do not want to work there, unless of course the place is a hospital or a prison.
Nothing spells sadness more than empty silent corridors with closed doors. A high-energy high performance place is alive. It is buzzing with people and communication, and generally most doors are open.
Another thing that catches my attention is the presence of those business posters on the wall. You know, the type that will celebrate the virtues of teamwork or of customer service. Unless they have been placed by the employees themselves, it might be a good indicator of the management style and communication style. Instead of leadership by walking around and frequent contacts, the company probably prefers totalitarian regime-like propaganda. Some of those posters are really pretty, though.

In Good CompanySecondly, just observe the people. In the great places to work for, people exude happiness. They will smile at you in the corridors and they will say hello. Beware of the workplaces where you will not even get eye contact, forget about a smile.
A good place to go for a quick assessment of the culture is the water cooler/kitchen/coffee machine. When you pop in, watch what happens! In a good company culture, you can be sure that the employees present will look at you and greet you with a smile. If, instead, your arrival causes the voices to turn down or simply stop, with straight faces and an awkward silence, then you can be pretty sure that the discussion topic is not about how to beat last month’s results.
A brief chat with the employees will show you the company culture. In a good company, people are genuine and enthusiastic; when they talk about their workplace, you can see their eyes and faces come alive and do not be surprise if you have the feeling that they try to convince you that you should work there, too.

In a good company culture, everyone makes sure that the workplace is friendly and inviting. The main signs of a good company culture are happiness and absence of fear! And this describe exactly the “happy” (using vicious would be inappropriate) circle. Fostering happiness and fulfillment increases the commitment of the employees and their performance. They will go the extra mile for the company without asking anything (well not much) in return. They will not watch the clock to decide when to go home. They will leave when they have that sense of completed work. The absence of fear allows the employees to be more entrepreneurial and to dare more. This increases the performance of the company, reinforces its competitiveness and, success breeding success, this creates more happiness and fulfillment in the workplace. Full circle.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Energizing frustrated employees

May 11, 2009

Here is one of my favorite ways to help the staff focused on work, and not get distracted for too long by the frustrations that their work sometimes causes them.

Tensed

We had two main rules:
1) There had to be a good reason, as I had no interest to be disturbed for insignificant problems. After all, my staff had to be able to deal with most issues themselves.
2) They would make sure that I would be available at that very moment and, if not then, we would agree on a time to review the matter. “Can I come in and vent?” would be the password.

This technique has delivered wonders, and the funny thing about it is that in most cases I hardly had to say much at all. I just would ask a few questions about what, who, how, when or why and they would tell me all about the issue.
In most cases, they would know how to solve the problem that had arisen, but they actually were looking more for support and confirmation that they had the right solution in mind.

Back to SerenityThis is just an example of how important presence and availability are in managing people. If you have done your hiring properly and brought in the right people in the right jobs, they will understand very quickly how to do what is expected from them and deliver the performance that meets, and in most cases exceeds the targets. The role of the manager in such a situation is a little comparable with a shepherd. You keep a good oversight of your troops, but if any one wanders in the wrong direction, you just bring him/her back on the right track.

Further, once people have vented, they can “breathe” normally again and they will get back to work, not only happier than before the session, but actually energized to go out there and deliver more results.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.