"Frank's skill in asking the right questions is un-mistakable, and is at the core of his leadership philosophy.

The power of these questions cannot be underestimated, especially if you want to lead and not manage."
—John Cave
Westhaven Worldwide Logistics

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Stop Telling... Start Leading!

Open the Lines of Communication

It’s been said thousands of time before, but it can’t be stressed enough: good communication is absolutely vital to the success of any organization. And don’t think I’m talking about sending memos or talking on the phone. Communication needs to be active, personal, and ongoing. Communication within the team must be crystal clear; likewise communication between different teams.

Does everyone understand you?

Do the team members know exactly what’s expected of them or have you assumed they know?

Do they communicate well with each other?

Or with you?

    Managing by focusing on solving problems, and only on solving problems, is really nothing more than chaos management; don’t be that short-sighted. You do want to minimize the effects of chaos, but you also have to consider the day-to-day operations that continue on even during the most chaotic conditions. Look around: even when everything seems to be going wrong, there are still things that are getting done, and getting done right. Don’t let temporary chaos blind you to this.

Does chaos scare you?

What—in your opinion—counts as chaos?

Do you have goals?

And a plan and/or a vision?

How often are those reviewed?

Are they shared with the team?

Is team feedback included?


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Overlook Setting Goals Together With the Employees

“This one step - choosing a goal and sticking to it—changes everything.”
Scott Reed

One goal of managing is inspiring your team to be the best it can be. The team members need to know the company’s objectives, and those objectives have to fit with their personal and professional goals. Managers have to set clear directions to avoid confusion and to keep from becoming arbitrary in their demands. Company, professional, and personal goals should be part of the hiring process.

    How often do you see management step into a problem situation, find out what’s going on, and set things in motion to make the team members happy and productive? Certainly not often enough! One CEO decided that firing every employee with a bad attitude would fix the malaise in his company. In fact, he fixed nothing. Instead of taking care of the problem by trying to motivate the employees, he only battled a symptom. If the bad attitude was caused by something within the corporate culture, it’s only a matter of time before other employees develop a bad attitude, too. How long will it take before the problem is back?

How often do you sit together with your team?

Is your team familiar with the company goals?

Does every team member have a plan?

Do you know where your team members want to be in a year, two years from now?

Do they know where management wants them to be?


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Step 7

Bring the Fun to Work

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Unfortunately, too many seem to think that fun at work is a must-do, an obligation. This of course defeats the whole purpose of fun. In fact, when fun is seen as a requirement, any motivational value is lost—because employees can actually come to dislike fun.

    Teams need to understand that having fun should never be a requirement but rather a desired side effect. Often, employers simply add “having fun” to the list of things employees need to do during the day. It becomes nothing more than just another thing to get done. Result: there’s less genuine fun, but plenty more frustration.

    Let’s not forget that historically, fun and work haven’t exactly been best buddies. We should always try to make employees feel more fulfilled in doing and enjoying their work. If you’re going to implement “fun,” it needs to be done with the same care as any other strategic management tool.

    Remember also that for many people, “fun” isn’t clowning around and telling jokes. Sometimes just the work itself can be fun. There’s a story about a young Japanese man who opened an auto repair shop. He really got enjoyment out of working on cars—to him, it was fun. The business grew and he hired mechanics, but he drew the line at opening more shops. “Think of all the extra money you’ll make,” his friends and family said. But he modestly declined, explaining, “Once I do that, I won’t be having any fun anymore.”

    A study of IT workers (yes, IT workers) revealed that 70 percent of them see fun at work as the number one priority. And 98 percent of 700 interviewed CEOs said they prefer to hire an employee with a sense of humor. In some workplaces it seems as though the opposite is true. Someone ought to tell all those grouches that it takes fewer muscles to smile.

    Many studies have shown that as many as one third of all employees consider fun to be an important part of the corporate culture. Humor is important to help people to loosen up; to become more creative. It has nothing to do with avoiding work or even working less efficiently. Can you imagine a ball game without the winning players celebrating and joking around? And there’s a reason so many movie DVDs include outtakes that include all the bloopers that had to be cut from the film. Fun is—well, fun!

Think the actors had fun while working?

“Humor is when you laugh anyway.”
German proverb

    Basically there are two teaching strategies that get people to retain what they learn:
    When was the last time you sat through a training session and got either of those? Doesn’t happen too often, now does it?

When was the last time the team had fun?

Laughed together?

Created something outstanding while having fun?

Worked out a stuck situation with a smile?

Continued to be mad with someone who smiled at them?

    How can we add fun?
  1. Start with yourself
  2. Never force it
  3. Inspire others
  4. Allow fun
  5. Make fun part of the job
  6. Find the positive in every situation
  7. Smile, smile, smile

    Some years ago I hold a session for a team of engineers on the rather dry topic of assembly. My session was one in many over the course of three days. I guarantee you that every one of those engineers remembers my session. Why? Because I managed to make it funny. You can teach anyone anything—as long as you can generate interest. People who have fun at work actually work more productively. Which store do you prefer to go shopping at—the one with the grumpy employees or the one where people genuinely smile at you and make you feel good?

    Think about hobbies. Did one of your hobbies ever burn you out? Did you ever consider getting out of your hobby? Many dot-com bombs succeeded early on because they were able to motivate employees by creating a fun work environment. Now, to be fair, some of those companies might have taken fun a bit too far (or profits not far enough!)—but you rarely hear former dot-com employees complain that they didn’t enjoy their jobs.

    So why aren’t there more companies requiring the work environment to be more of a joy? Look around you—are those managers just too inflexible or are they not willing to go the extra mile to try something new and fail at times?


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Burned out employees tend to be depressed—and they’re usually make those around them depressed, too. They can easily change the mood of everyone around them. A dangerous chain-reaction starts that can destroy even the best team.

    The typical burn-out runs through six different phases:
  1. increased engagement in work, tendency to make themselves irreplaceable
  2. decreased engagement in work, negative attitude toward work and co-workers
  3. playing the blame game, depression, aggression
  4. loss of creativity, motivation, and efficiency
  5. becoming mentally, socially, and emotionally withdrawn
  6. insomnia, deep depression, stomach problems

Do you live to work or work to live?


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