Archive for the ‘business management’ Category

Need New Year’s Revolutions? Try an executive coach.

December 14, 2015 Leave a comment

No, I didn’t misspell the word. Maybe instead of thinking about resolutions at the end of the year, it is time to make a plan for a personal or business revolution. What’s the difference, and why would one work and the other not?

Resolutions are about a desire and commitment to change. They usually involve will power or renewed effort. Problem is that if you weren’t already doing the good and right thing, you are not likely to do it just by invoking your will. You may have known what you should do, but something seems to get in the way. And whatever that thing is that gets in the way, it is probably invisible to you. Most likely, you will continue with the same personal behavior or business model you have been implementing all along.

So, what can you do? Well, one option is to get out of your own head by bringing in an outside head, a different executive function. Oddly enough, bringing in another head makes things less crowded in there. Here’s the deal. Our brains are a bit like an 8 Track Cassette (this dates me, doesn’t it): we get in a neural pathway and it plays as a loop. It happens in our personal relationships and in our business plans. In our love life we tend to have the same emotional and cognitive reactions over and over. Hence the same repeated fight in our marriages. In the business world we have developed our marketing and operating plans carefully and thoroughly, reviewing and implementing. It gets very hard to see the plan any other way, to see the data objectively, to see it outside the box.

Executive coaches are not hired to tell you what to do. They are there to help you out of your loop, to think outside the box. There are steps you should look for in a quality coaching experience:

1. Goal definition. First, the coach should work with you to do a thorough review of what your goals are for the engagement. Is it personal growth, a performance improvement, or a shift of strategy?

2. Thorough effort assessment. Second, you and the coach should review what you have been doing to achieve your goals. What processes have you been using, personal or in business? Given your goals, which of the processes are working and which need modification?

3. Make the change plan. Third, build a plan for change. What needs to happen and how? Sometimes this is the obvious part. Like “build leadership skills” or “create a new marketing plan.”

4. Change assessment. Fourth, complete a change assessment. With the changes in mind, what has blocked them from implementation? What resources are available for achieving the goals? What are your abilities or skills needed to achieve those changes?

5. Change management. Fifth, and critically, what is the plan to implement, monitor, train, regulate, manage those newly desired efforts? This is a critical role of the coach: hold you or your system’s feet to the fire. The coach is not there to criticize or push, but to hold others accountable to the new process desired. And when it inevitably goes off the track, the coach is there to help guide you back on track through continuous program modification. All plans change in the heat of battle.

6. Accountability and outcome measurement. Sixth, the coach should help you measure the outcome and prove that the process worked.

Want a real revolution in your personal or business success? Get someone to work with you. Doing it alone leaves you at risk of succumbing to your weaknesses (and strengths). The outcome will be more than worth the investment.

Tom DeMaio, PhD


Bringing out the Best in Your People; Accepting Strengths and Weaknesses

October 27, 2015 2 comments

Have you noticed how your employees or colleagues have some remarkable strengths and some, well, unfortunate weaknesses? For instance, you notice that Alan is bright and productive, but doesn’t speak up or share his talents. Or you see Sally is seemingly a great team player, but always careful not to challenge the group even when she knows better?

All of us, especially those in higher levels of organizations, possess talents that others see as great strengths. The problem is that our strengths are our weaknesses. Seems so unfair, but it is a truth we cannot ignore. So Allen focuses his efforts, reaches deep within to solve a problem or accomplish his task. But he is also a loner, too focused on the tasks at the expense of helping others. And Sally likes to make the team harmonious and get along. She is the glue that keeps everyone together. But she is also afraid of the team coming unglued; she is unsure enough of herself or her place in the group that she cannot challenge, clarify, or correct. Darn.

Colleagues and employees are very uncomfortable about criticism. They experience it as harsh, corrective, and rejecting. But another way to bring out the best in your people is to recognize that there is a flip side to their strengths. When this becomes accepted – by you and by them – it is easier for people in the workplace to see and accept their downside. Only then can people hear the feedback, acknowledge the problem, and feel safe enough to mitigate their weakness.

This process of acknowledging strengths, and then finding the concomitant weak spot, can be done by managers and by colleagues. It is a common practice in my executive coaching. Acceptance of the self and others, especially that we all have strengths and weaknesses, makes it all possible.

Tom DeMaio, PhD

The People Side of Business and Worker Retention

According to a survey conducted this past month by the American Psychological Association, “Despite uncertainty in the job market, the top reasons working Americans say they stay with their current employers are work-life fit and enjoying what they do…” The report also notes that, “Fewer employees cited concrete reasons for remaining on the job, such as benefits, pay and a lack of other job opportunities.”

What does this mean? David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, the head of APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program who conducted the study, suggested that, “To engage the workforce and remain competitive, it’s no longer sufficient to focus solely on benefits. Today, top employers create an environment where employees feel connected to the organization and have a positive work experience that’s part of a rich, fulfilling life.”

Keeping employees, and getting their best performance, is consequently a function of understanding and approaching workers in concert with their psychological functioning. It requires an acceptance of what people need and derive from work. This framework of what people need and how they function is the six principles for the people side of business.

When employers pay attention to the needs of their employees, help them find the right fit in the company, and care about work/life balance they create an atmosphere where people not only feel connected, they take ownership of their work and the company mission. When employees want to stay, they are more likely to creatively solve problems, build the company, and participate in teams. They need less supervision and operate more autonomously. And, satisfied workers who stay save the incredible cost of new hires and their associated training needs and learning curve.

Attending to the people side of business is not just a nice thing to do for your employees; it is what creates the dynamism and performance of a successful company. The survey confirms it.

Tom DeMaio, PhD

The Third Domain of Organizational Excellence: The People Side of Business

A number of years ago Lee Hersch and I began working to coalesce the consulting ideas we regularly share with business people. We found that as psychologist consultants there were “fundamental” notions we kept repeating through each consultation process.

We also realized that we were talking about the third domain of organizational excellence. Almost everyone we worked with was a specialist in business and in their unique product or trade. Few of those same business people had trained in how to effectively manage and lead the key component of their business – their people.

So, we have constructed a kind of psychological primer for business people. It contains what we believe to be the six essential psychological principles needed to manage and lead. The principles are based on the notion of accepting the way humans are designed and building systems that work with that design. People need to be nurtured, tend to work from a family-like perspective, and should be encouraged to develop and grow. They also need limits, guiding rules, and rewards – structure – to produce at peak performance. Utilizing these principles requires that one manage with a balance of support and structure. Finally, managers and leaders must appreciate that there are differences among people in how they respond to support and structure.

To convey the principles in context, and to provide a case vignette, we constructed an engaging story about a new CEO. He realizes that there are personnel problems in his organization and must learn the six principles to solve them. The book is filled with work characters you see every day in your workplace.

The book is now available through Amazon and other fine retailers.

Tom DeMaio, PhD

Appreciating Individual Differences

Sounds odd, but not all employers appreciate individual differences among their workers. What do we mean by that? Well, too often employers want their workers to fit the mold, to do their jobs in a particular manner, and, well, to be interchangeable. On many levels this makes sense, especially if you want to deliver a product with consistency.

It is just that people at work are unique, quirky, and like to be thought of as special. It is the way people are. Consequently it only makes sense to accept this fact, embrace it, and honor individuality. Luckily, appreciating individual differences in your employees brings a host of rather positive consequences.

The People Side of Business, our book about understanding people in the workplace, proposes six psychological principles. The sixth of which is that Individuals are Different from One Another. Appreciating individual differences makes the implementation of all the other principles possible. One cannot truly accept and nurture people, build family and support growth, unless you like people the way as they were designed in their own unique way.

Nurturing employees depends on accepting individuality. You can’t just walk around saying you care for everyone interchangeably. People feel cared about because you recognize something in or about them. You have to see their uniqueness in some way. Then you can acknowledge “Betty”, the most special assistant in accounting, or “Sally”, who tries harder than everyone. People hate feeling like worker #283, who should produce reports that look the same as others.

People like to be recognized for something special about themselves. “Bob always has a spring in his step. We need that around here.” Otherwise they experience their work world as a place where they are not needed and where they don’t make a contribution.

When people feel appreciated for who they are, they are proud, more confident, and think more creatively. It takes nerve to express oneself through problem-solving on a team or through suggesting organizational changes. You want people to feel safe so they can fully contribute. Appreciating them in some special individual manner helps make that more possible.

Tom DeMaio, PhD

Individual Differences-A Workplace Opportunity in Oz

As a psychologist/business consultant I get to see how most of us are more comfortable finding and working with people who are similar to ourselves. “Hey, he thinks like me!” It makes it all so easy. But it is the differences between us that can be a tremendous source of work pleasure and problem-solving dynamism.

Our social networks are populated with similar, like us, friends. You know: similar values, politics, hobbies, or work endeavors. But in the workplace it is a learned skill to appreciate and utilize the differentness in others.

A few years ago I was asked to consult with a service delivery team. They all had essentially the same job: they needed to supervise a group of employees providing probation services to teenagers. Problem was that they were very different people expected to perform alike. One supervisor was stricter about the rules for his workers and the kids they managed. One had a unique gift for understanding others and counseling them about problems. And the third of the group was considered slightly obsessive; he focused on the reports and procedures expected of his staff. These collective differences were driving the Director batty (and tending to have her favor the “counselor”).

Personally I thought I’d been placed on the set of the Wizard of Oz. Could these guys be the cowardly lion, the tin man, and the scarecrow? Well, real or not, I knew it took all three of those guys to get Dorothy to Oz.

I set out to build a true team of all four in the leadership group. With prompting, each committed to appreciating the perspective of the others, and each agreed to learn skills from the others. One supervisor shared his long history of what techniques worked with kids, including the need for strong structure (probation rules). The second supervisor focused on developing the supportive (counseling) skills needed by everyone in the organization. And the third supervisor kept everyone reminded of the technical requirements of the system for reports, planning, and organization.

Individual differences are essential in the workplace. They bring the variety of perspectives and skills needed to accomplish a complex work task. Learn to utilize these differences and you won’t find yourself in Oz anymore.

Tom DeMaio, PhD

Measurement: A Critical Aspect of Structure in the Workplace

February 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Creating a strong and vibrant organization requires a willingness and diligence to measure the work product. Every person’s effort needs to relate to the goals and success of the organization. Measure, measure, measure.

Obvious, right? Every business book talks about accountability to the outcomes of the organization. Oddly enough, my consulting experience indicates that it is a common weakness in many organizations. There are often measures of aspects of the work (like the cost), but not always the kinds of measurements that answer the real questions about whether the team is doing the right thing in the right way.

One reason for a failure to measure is avoidance related to fears underlying measurement. Workers are often worried that measurement will show a failure at performing their job. You know, kind of like getting a grade at school. Unfortunately grading systems in school tend to be used to rank kids rather than help them improve areas of study. Measurement doesn’t have to be about ranking or failure. It can be the greatest feedback for improving one’s work.

Another common reason for failing to measure is the misperception that it is a pain in the hind quarters. It can be seen as getting in the way of production. Measuring does take some energy to devise the systems and then to maintain them. The payoff is enormous.

Profit-making companies do measurement best. In the end they know if they are making a profit or not. This “end” measure spurs them on to look at efficiencies and at customer satisfaction. Non-profits, governmental offices, and educational institutions all need metrics. How well are we serving the public? Are we using public dollars efficiently? Are our faculty members productive in terms of research and teaching? These are hard questions to answer, but they require creative effort to quantify and determine success at goals. And, just about anything can be measured.

Now, measurement in itself is not accountability. Measurement is the necessary condition for accountability. It need not turn into grading employees. It is an essential way to know that people are succeeding at what they are trying to accomplish, and, in turn, having those accomplishments produce a successful organization. Like other aspects of structure, it also matters how you implement your measurement systems.

Tom DeMaio, PhD