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Street Smarts Vol. II: Your peers weigh in with real-world business solutions

by on
in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,People Management,Performance Reviews

Updating job descriptions

"Every year during reviews, I pull out the job description and ask the employee to write down what they started doing that is not on the job description. I then ask them what they stopped doing. This helps me update expectations and job descriptions as we grow and need employees’ jobs to adjust to the changing needs of the company. And, this sets the tone with employees that their job responsibilities may be altered.”

— Lu Cotta, Annapolis Accommodations, Annapolis, Md.

Voice mail résumé

"To qualify prospective candidates, we ask them to send a cover letter with their faxed résumé. We also ask applicants to leave a voice mail message with a sketch of their background. We want to be sure they can write as well as talk.”

— Kathy Esposito, All Industrial Electric, Schaumburg, Ill.

Ask them for ‘bad drafts’

"I’ve heard nothing good is ever written—it is only rewritten. When you need written material produced fast by your staff, simply ask them for a 'bad draft.' You know that you will edit and rewrite it, so this will lower their stress level and they won’t put off developing a first cut. I find that what they produce is fine and often needs little change. But I get it much faster, so the editing process takes place more quickly, and we have the final copy in a much shorter time."

— Phil Troy, ComplyNet Corp., Park Ridge, Ill.

Lead without a battle ax

"A few years ago while in Austria I had the opportunity to visit one of the world’s finest collections of arms and armor, including a display of halberds. The halberd is an ax on a long pole, usually with a spike or spear point at the tip. It was used as a military weapon from the Middle Ages to just before the 20th century. It was a halberd from the late 1880s that caught my eye at the museum. Labeled a 'Sergeant’s Halberd'—it dated more than 100 years after infantry troops were commonly outfitted with firearms. Why would someone lead troops into a gun battle with an ax? Because in those days the sergeant went into battle behind his troops. The halberd kept them moving forward.

"Battles in the 19th century were horrific affairs. Armies utilized 'Napoleonic tactics,' marching blindly into one another across flat fields in huge formal formations. Soldiers weren’t told what the objective was or why there were fighting. Today’s military depends on technology information, driven down to the lowest level of field combat. Each soldier knows the objective, the rules of engagement and is prepared to step up into his superior’s position if needed.

"Unfortunately, many business owners still use 19th century tactics to motivate 21st century employees. I hear 'I have to push these people harder,' or 'I need to be on them all the time.' Pushing them from behind is difficult, tiresome and requires a huge amount of energy. Management books today use terms like 'empowerment,' 'buy-in' and 'team' to describe the process of motivating employees.

"However, you have to lead today’s employees from the front. Each has to understand the objectives and be prepared to act independently if necessary. Halberd management revolves around discipline, write-ups, tough performance reviews, documentation and negative reinforcement. Leadership is based on teaching, mentoring, communication, support, guidance and celebrating when an objective is reached.

"The next time you feel you have to push your people harder, think of the Sergeant’s Halberd. It’s a management technique that belongs in a museum."

— John Dini, San Antonio

Control projects with a ‘navigator’

"We are creating a position called the 'navigator.' We have a number of projects with different deadlines and priorities. The navigator will be responsible for tracking deadlines, reporting status, meeting with the project managers and setting and adjusting priorities as conditions change. He or she will navigate through the changing currents and winds to keep us on course. The person will be senior management with authority to adjust priorities and require performance."

— Millard Cull, Avidity Inc., Denver

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