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Things Your Boss WANTS to Hear

By:  Joel Friedman

Previously, I have discussed the “Things that Your Boss Doesn’t Want to Hear”.  So keeping in the spirit of this theme, I want to take an opportunity to review my list of Things Your Boss WANTS to Hear.  So here goes:

I Got This!

At any point in time, your boss is probably feeling like he/she is juggling more tasks that can possibly handled by a single person.  This statement delivered to your leader is not only a display of confidence in your ability, it also serves as a passive acknowledgement that you understand what your boss is going through and you are here to assist.

Let Me Do That!

This statement is music to your boss’s ears.  One of the most challenging activities that your boss has to do is distribute the work.   Your boss is looking to build a high performing team that is equipped with people that are willing and able to step up and volunteer to take tasks without having to be goaded into it.  You will be amazed at how powerful this statement is.

Thank You!

Believe it or not, your boss is a person and has similar emotional needs as you have.   Boss’s have a need to feel appreciated.  A significant portion of their job should be to clear the barriers for their team.  This entails engaging in conflict management, building consensus and many times making difficult decisions that will not make everybody happy.  So when your boss does something that makes your life easier, you should acknowledge it.

It’s Handled

This statement is an immediate stress reliever for your leader.  You probably add a couple of days to his life each time this statement is made.

I Have a Plan

Making this statement displays that you are taking charge of your issues and he/she has one less thing that they need to worry about.

Good News

Everybody loves good news.  And let’s be honest, if the only time you communicate with your boss is when you have bad news, you will soon become an energy drainer and the poster child for negativity.  So when you have good news, be sure to share it!

No Problem

This means that there is one less issue that your leader has to deal with.  It also displays your can do attitude and willingness to step up and eliminate barriers on your own.

I Have an Idea that I Want to Run by You

This statement serves 2 purposes.  Not only does the fact that you are enthused, engaged, and creative, it also displays that you value your boss’s opinion and appreciate his/her guidance.display your creativity and appreciate his/her guidance.

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10 Things Your Boss Does Not Want to Hear

By:  Joel Friedman

There have been many articles and books written regarding this topic. I thought that I would take a stab at this through utilizing my experience as a reader, a leader, and a subordinate to establish a list of 10 things that bosses don’t want to hear. I am not professing to be an expert in this area as people who have worked with me can attest, but here is my list.

That’s Not My Job!!!-                    

Come on! If your boss is asking you to do something (provided that it is legal and ethical), then it is your job. Job descriptions are great guides and almost every job description contains the statement “assist in other areas as assigned.”  But even if it doesn’t clearly state this in the job description, it should be implied.      

That’s Not Doable!                         

This is the one of the most dangerous statements to make to your boss.  Not only does it display your reluctance to roll up your sleeves and work resolve complex problems; it also plants a seed of doubt in your boss’s mind regarding whether you are the right person for the position.

I just want to get Paid!

Hey, we all want to get paid.  That is a given.  It is up to you to maximize your earning potential. In many organizations, your boss has some influence over your earning potential, but ultimately it comes down to factors outside of your boss’s direct control (i.e. your salary compared to others within the same grade, your performance, and company performance.)  This statement delivered to your boss indicates that you are dissatisfied, possibly at risk for leaving and your only motivation is money.

Exactly how do you want me to do this?

Your boss does not want to hold your hand through every activity.  At times this may be a totally appropriate question to ask your boss, but many times your boss does not know exactly how the task is to be performed and he/she is looking to you for the proper approach and the ultimate result of your effort.

We have always done it this way!

This is a cop-out response.  You are a compensated professional that should always question status quo and look for opportunities to improve the environment.

That’s Not My Problem

This is one of the worst statements that can be made to any leader.  Just because it is NOT your problem does not mean it is not up to you to resolve it.  Any problem in your organization should be treated as YOUR problem and you need to be part of the solution!

This was in the email that I copied you on 2 weeks ago

What a great passive aggressive way to tell your boss that he is asleep at the wheel and set him/her up for a fall.  This tactic of “burying the lead” in an email is utilized to hide or avoid directly delivering bad news to your boss.  You know that your boss probably receives 100+ emails a day and is likely not to read the entire content of every message.    Sure you are covering yourself by indicating that you tried to warn your leader, but you are also deflecting ALL blame and creating other problems.  A single email is not the best way to communicate significant issues that he/she should be aware are occurring.

Heads Up!

While this statement is an attention getter, it is usually followed by the delivery of news that your boss probably should have been aware of before it got to the point of requiring a “HEADS UP!”

I will try to meet that deadline!

This is a non-committal response that does not display the confidence in your ability to deliver the results that your leader requires.  If you can’t meet the deadline, say so!  Don’t use the “I will try” as a get out of jail free card.

Being YES Man, sucking up and not having an opinion!

This is more of a general behavior that your boss does not want you to display.  Being the YES Man is not only annoying, it also hinders progress, creativity, and displays a lack of confidence.  Not having an opinion is another safe way out of getting your hands dirty and avoiding conflict.  Worse yet, if you truly do not have an opinion, it could be an indicator that you don’t know what you are doing.  True professionals have the confidence, desire, and ability to make a difference.   Good bosses are looking to build their teams with people that have the chutzpah to have an opinion, effectively defend their position, build consensus, and march in the direction that is agreed upon.

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Cultivating the Talent in Your Organization

By:   Joel Friedman

In my 15+ years of experience managing large organizations, I believe that an employee can be grouped into 1 of 5 categories/status:

  1. Superstars
  2. Contributors
  3. The Pack
  4. Undeveloped Potential
  5. Disenfranchised or Under qualified

Your goal as a leader should be to move as many members of your team up to the first 2 levels (Contributors and Superstars) and cut your losses in a timely manner when you identify employees that cannot attain at least Pack status.

Let’s define each level and discuss the strategies for moving your team through these levels.  I will start in reverse order.

Disenfranchised or Under Qualified

Let’s face it, as a leader no matter how hard we try, we may not be able to make everyone happy and sometimes we make mistakes when it comes to choosing team members.  You need to recognize when you have a disenfranchised or under qualified employee and take action quickly.   If you demonstrate decisiveness and take the appropriate action you will make your team stronger.

Quite frankly, you are doing NOBODY any favors by allowing the disengaged employee to remain on the team.  It is not fair to the other employees who have to listen to the whining and complaining of the disenfranchised employee.  And it cannot be good for the unhappy employee to remain in an environment where he/she obviously does not want to be.  The only correct action to take once you determine that you have a disenfranchised employee is REMOVAL!!!

When it comes to the Under Qualified employee, it is a more unfortunate scenario than the disenfranchised employee but none the less must be treated in a similar manner.  Either get the employee qualified quickly or remove him/her from the team.  Under Qualified employees that remain on the team create Disenfranchised Employees that have to take up the slack.  You cannot afford to have an Under Qualified employee in your organization.

Undeveloped Potential

At times I have managed an employee that was more than qualified for his/her position, but lacked the confidence and experience of performing their job on his/her own.  This employee is more comfortable having you review and approve all of his/her work.  This is a very critical stage for you to get this employee through.  You need to nurture this employee, but at the same time you probably do not have the luxury of being able to spend a great deal of time overseeing his/her work, nor should you have to.  You know that the employee is capable of performing the job on their own- that is why you hired him/her.  This employee has untapped potential.  He/she is more than capable of performing at a higher level, they just need a little push, some opportunity, and some additional feedback to get them started.

One of the best methods of getting this type of employee through this level is to provide him/her with as many opportunities to succeed, and let him/her know when success is attained.  Build his/her confidence and when he/she falls, pick him/her up and let them try again.  Keep with this approach until you determine that the employee will rise to the next levels.  If at any point, you make the determination that the employees is going to remain at this level too long, you need to remove them from the team.

The Pack

This is the level where the majority of employees in any organization operate.  Employees at this level are more than capable of performing their jobs and are doing so at a satisfactory level.  The only problem is that “satisfactory” performance is all that you get from employees at this level- nothing more.  I refer to this employee as a “Pack” employee, because most of an organization’s employees fall into this category.  Your challenge as a Leader is to get your employees to separate from the pack and move into the next 2 levels.

This is without a doubt a much more difficult level to deal with.  Pack employees are engaged, qualified, and performing at satisfactory levels.  You want to retain them and you are receiving value from them.  You just want to maximize the value that they bring to the organization.

Pack employees approach their jobs with a “pack” mentality; meaning that they follow and perform at the same pace as others in the pack.  One of the best approaches that you can use in moving Pack employees to the next level is through public recognition and reward.  Encourage your employees to separate themselves from the pack through creating incentives that are attractive enough to entice the employee to take the risk and separate themselves from average performance.

Demonstrate to the Pack Employees that while you appreciate their satisfactory performance, the rewards for performing above satisfactory levels will be well worth the effort.

Contributors

We have now reached the level in which true value is achieved.  A Contributor is an employee that has separated themselves from the Pack by performing at above satisfactory levels.  Employees at this level need to be shown appreciation and rewarded.  Too many times leaders take employees at this level for granted.  Don’t fall into the trap of believing that an employee at this level does not need recognition to maintain their performance level.  They actually need continual reinforcement.  They need to know that there is reward for maintaining this level of performance.

Further, your Pack employees will be encouraged to attain this level through the continual recognition and reward of the Contributors in your organization.  So not only does the continual recognition of the Contributor encourage him/her to remain at this level, it also encourages the members of the Pack to attain this level as well.

Superstars

This is the highest level of performance on my hierarchy.  Employees that have progressed to this level are not only performing at above satisfactory levels, they are actually successfully encouraging and leading the other employees in the organization to perform at a higher level as well.  So unlike the Contributor that is mainly concerned with his/her personal performance, the Superstar is concerned with the team’s performance.  These are the employees that you see helping others, leading brainstorming sessions, and building relationships within the organization.  Employees at the Superstar level need to be seriously considered for leadership positions as they become available in the organization.  Demonstrating to your team that employees in this category have a very realistic chance at promotions and additional opportunities not only maintains the Superstar’s performance, it encourages the Contributors to move up to this level.  As some Contributors see the additional opportunity afforded to the Superstars, they may see value in taking the risk and placing themselves in leadership roles and focusing on team performance as well as their own.

Your success as a leader depends on how quickly you can move your team through these levels and maximize your Contributors and Superstars!!!

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Failure IS an Option

By:          Joel Friedman

Yes, I said it. Failure is indeed an option.  How many times in your career have you heard your leader or someone in your organization make the statement “Failure is not an option!”?  I strongly disagree with this statement and believe that we need to remove it from our arsenal of business speak unless we are dealing with life and death situations.  It needs to be replaced with “Complacency is not an option!”

Creating a business environment where failure is not tolerated leads to passive and stale organizations that lack vision and creativity.  These organizations are content with maintaining status quo rather than moving the needle in a positive direction.  If we create an organization where failure is not tolerated and the failures are treated with shame, ridicule, and humiliation, we will never truly reach our potential.

True innovation can only come from questioning status quo, searching for solutions to complex problems, shifting paradigms, creativity and yes, sometimes failing in our attempts. We must create an organization where people want to succeed, but at the same time are not afraid of failing.  People in our organization should be more afraid of not trying.

When you or someone in your organizations fails, you must view this as a teachable moment.  Analyze what the intentions were, what steps were taken to succeed, what could have been done to prevent the failure, reassess the environment and develop a go forward strategy for success.  You don’t stop trying! 

As Wayne Gretsky said “You Miss 100% of the Shots that You Don’t Take!”  So go call your shotl

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Organically Improving Employee Feedback Survey Results

By Joel Friedman

How does your company use the Annual Employee Feedback Survey?  Many companies use this survey to establish Manager Performance Goals that focus on hitting a specific target on the next survey. 

Many managers take an insincere and superficial approach to meeting their survey goal.  Rather than focusing on enacting meaningful positive change throughout the year, many managers focus on gaming the system.  They create forced activities just prior to the survey distribution that they believe will help their results.  Some examples of these “forced activities” may be providing free pizza, an offside event, recognition activity, or even a “Survey Kick Off” party.   And in some cases, a manager will meet with their team and tell them exactly how to respond to the upcoming survey.

While these activities just prior to the survey distribution may indeed alter the survey results, they do not move the needle in a meaningful manner.  In order to attain lasting positive change, managers must own the behaviors (every day) that drive these results.

Key Message:                      

Positive change does NOT result from Employee Surveys!  Surveys are a useful roadmap to help assist you in identifying areas of focus.  Positive change results from your daily interactions and demonstrating behaviors that create a positive work environment where people feel like their opinion matters.

Each and every time you meet with your team, your peers, or your leaders, you should plant a seed of positivity and display behaviors that lead to meaningful results.  Plant as many seeds of positivity as you can!   As those seeds take root and begin to grow, they will spread and you will soon be able REAP the rewards

The Power of R.E.A.P.

Respect 

Team members want to be respected, regardless of grade level.  Every day we need to display to our teams that we respect each and everyone’s position and the importance of their contribution.  We also need to publicly recognize team members not only for exceeding expectations, but also for displaying the “soft skills” that lead to creating a positive work environment.

Engagement

If team members don’t genuinely feel that they are included, the needle will not move in a positive direction.  Disengaged employees will not only affect your survey results, but more importantly it will also create a culture of negativity.  And negativity breeds negativity.

Appreciation

If team members don’t feel appreciated, at best they will leave; at worst they will stay and become an anchor for the entire team. We must create a culture where doing your job is expected, but at the same time it is appreciated!  This is where team building activities, spontaneous lunches and offsite events help create a culture of appreciation.

Positivity

People want to be surrounded by positive people.  And more importantly people need friends. You want to create a culture where people love coming to work and feel like they are working with their friends.  This can be accomplished ensuring that people are Respected, Engaged, and Appreciated and have the opportunity build meaningful friendships.  Further, negativity should not be ignored, it should be addressed head on.  Many times people do not recognize their own negativity, how the negativity serves as a derailer for not only him/her, but its influence on others

Key Take Aways

  • Positive Change results from seeking feedback, creating a culture of inclusion, appreciation and demonstrating EVERY DAY that you CARE!  By displaying these behaviors you will move the needle!
  • A positive change cannot be forced.  You must own and actively promote the positivity and truly believe in the intent of your message.
  • If you don’t genuinely care, you will at minimum fail, and even worse you can destroy what little positivity exists.

IT Cost Reduction- Fantasy versus Reality

Joel Friedman

Businesses today are reducing headcount and closing offices in an attempt to lower expenses.  The Business Leaders within many of these companies have an expectation that their IT Costs should be reduced at or above the same proportion as the rest of the business.  Meaning, that if the business is reduced by 30%, it only makes sense that I.T. cost should decrease 30%.   This logic is terribly flawed and it is the responsibility of Technology Leader to effectively explain why and guide the conversation to what can be realistically accomplished.

Allow me to take us back several years.  Companies were growing by leaps and bounds.  During this time, I.T .Organizations grew, but not at a proportional rate to the business.  In the case of the company I worked with, the business grew at rate of 30%, but I.T. only grew at 10%.  This was a good thing and demonstrates the efficiencies that were gained through I.T. initiatives.    However, keep in mind in this example that I.T. was able to accommodate a 30% growth in the business by adding only 10% cost .

This is where the problem today lies with the expectation of I.T .to reduce their cost at the same rate as the business reduction.  It is unrealistic to expect technology cost to decrease at the same rate as the business because it did not grow at the same rate.   In this scenario, the more realistic expectation should be that a 30% reduction in business cost should result in a 10% decrease in I.T. cost.

Committed Fixed Cost Barriers to Reducing IT Costs

Another problem that Technology Leaders face when attempting to lower cost during this economic downturn is lack of downward flexibility in existing infrastructure.  Let me take you back again several years when the business was rapidly expanding.  I.T. Organizations were successful in implementing upwardly scalable Infrastructure and Applications and were prepared to grow with minimal incremental cost.  As an example, the company that I worked with grew the messaging system to accommodate upwards of 15,000 users at minimal cost per user.

However, most of the costs incurred to grow the infrastructure and application environment was fixed cost and is not easily reduced during a downturn in business.  Hardware and software was purchased, data centers were expanded, etc.  As an example, the company that I worked with grew the messaging system capacity by nearly 30%.  We purchased/leased enough hardware/software licenses to accommodate 15,000 users (which at the time accommodated the expected growth).  What happens when you now only need a messaging system that accommodates 7,500 users?  Is it a realistic expectation that you can now reduce your messaging cost by 50%?  Not likely.

Let me illustrate this another way, a bus has the capacity to carry 150 passengers.   Whether it carries 1 passenger or all 150 passengers, the operating expense of the bus is relatively the same.   The bus driver and maintenance for miles driven are fixed costs and are not changed with reduced passengers.  Really the only opportunity for savings is that the bus may require less fuel to carry less of a load.

The fixed costs associated with building out the infrastructure and application environment during the growth period are not eliminated as quickly as the downturn in business.

Going forward to combat this issue and reduce fixed costs, more and more companies are moving to a “variable” costing model that incorporates managed services, pay for use, and subscription pricing.  This allows for more agility when dealing with upward and downward growth.  Like all alternatives, there are pro’s and con’s associated with moving to a variable approach to IT cost.  I plan to discuss variable cost alternatives in the near future.

To proactively prevent flawed logic and assumptions when it comes to IT Cost Reduction, Technology Leaders must frequently communicate IT financials to the business in an open, honest and transparent manner.  The business must be given the opportunity to understand the cost drivers of IT and ramifications of the choices that they are making when investing in technology.

Site Content Removed Due to Ridicule from Chris Byrne!!!

Last March, as I started my new position with Citi, I was immediately met with ridicule from my new boss, Chris Byrne, regarding the content that I displayed on my website.  Rather than encourage me to continue to produce and share meaningful content regarding my thoughts on I.T. Discipline and Management Practices, he proceeded to “bully” me and take pot shots on my theories and marketing of my agenda.

So instead of standing up to him and defending my position, I gave in to the pressure and reluctantly shut down the website.  Since then I have received many emails and calls begging to bring back the content.  So in an attempt to appease the masses, I am now bringing the website back.