Articles from the August/September 2000 Issue of MANAGE Magazine

Building and Managing a Winning Project Team

Home Mortgages Can Be More than Just Debt  

Who Advises the CEO?  

Raising a Generation of Savers, Not Spenders

Ethical Considerations in Business

Van Richey (NMA's 2000 Executive of the Year) Interview

The Quickest Way to Someone Is through Their Values

The Power of Persuasion

Easy Ways to Get Organized and Increase Your Daily Productivity

Turn the Tables on Employee Turnover

How to Be Perceived as a Leader


Building and Managing a Winning Project Team  

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By Michael Thomas

Of the $250 billion spent in 1997 on Information Technology projects, according to the Standish Group, a project management research firm in Dennis, Massachusetts, 31 percent of the projects were cancelled prior to completion and, of the completed projects, 52 percent suffered significant cost overruns — all resulting in $140 billion wasted.

And project failure isn't limited to the IT field. It's pervasive among all industries, whether the project is a new product launch, new office rollout, employee loyalty program or whatever. One of the key reasons for the high failure rates is not necessarily the difficulty of the project itself, but the project manager's hasty selection of project team members and his or her inexperience in managing the team.

How do you buck the failure odds to advance your management career? Here's how to select and cultivate the best talent for each project you manage.

 SELECTING THE RIGHT PEOPLE

Whether you're looking for team members from within or outside your company, here are five points to consider:

1. Qualifications. Define what specific areas of technical expertise you need to complete the project, such as particular software programming knowledge or network engineering experience. Then determine where you're going to find that talent. Does your company have the staff to handle the project or do you need to bring on outside consultants?

Once you've put together a short list of potential team members, do your homework to see if they have worked on similar projects in the past. Get reports from the project managers and team members associated with the projects regarding that person's performance, attitude, attendance, participation, proactive behavior. The more you know about your team members (personality type. learning preferences, interpersonal skills) the easier it will be for you to communicate with them and match team members to provide synergy completing task assignments.

2. Availability. A potential team member's workload must be considered so that he or she will be available not only on paper but also in practice. Overworked team members can become negative and drag down the morale of the team, especially if their sub par performance puts the project behind schedule. And you can keep this from happening by reviewing that person's other project commitments before bringing him or her on board.

3. Interest level. Look for people who WANT to be a part of your project. Just because a potential team member has the technical qualifications you need, that does not necessarily mean that he or she has a strong interest in it. And this could be dangerous, if after a short time on the project, your team members become disinterested because they may begin performing below their capability, potentially sabotaging your project's success. Find people who are not only competent to get the job done, but also passionate, to ensure you have a team that will stick with the project for the long-haul.

4. Chemistry. Beware of team members that have a history of disagreements, opposing points of view and departmental conflicts. Just because potential team members might have the right competencies for the project, if they don't get along with each other, you're taking a risk by bringing them on board. Sit down in a meeting with the parties in question (first individually and then together if appropriate) and determine if the individuals can work together harmoniously. If so, great! Otherwise look for other people to fill those slots.

5. Balance. Teams need to be balanced in their approach to problem solving, technical innovations and other areas associated with the project. If all the members have similar ideas, there is less synergy and less improvement for the company. With the speed of change in technology, business and human dimensions, project teams can assist in the evolution within the company as a whole by introducing new concepts and process improvements.

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR TEAM

Once you've put your team together, how do you maximize the relationships to make your project a success? Here are a few tips:

1. Create "buy in" for the project objective, approach and goals. Solicit opinions regarding the project goals and approaches to achieve them from key project team members. This will help to verify their commitment to the project. Otherwise, you risk enlisting non-committed team members who may unwittingly or deliberately sabotage project performance. This is especially true if they perceive that the project threatens their department or business goals.

2. Conduct periodic team-building functions. When a project is in trouble, the tendency is for project team members and sponsors to engage in finger pointing, bickering, and other non–constructive activities. Don't allow yourself to get caught up in the negativism. Low team enthusiasm affects the level of the project efficiency and success. Team building can be as simple as a pizza party for lunch or as grand as a contracted team-building weekend or golf outing. Make sure the method fits the personality of the team and focuses on the issue or issues causing the morale problems.

3. Create an urgency factor for results. Without urgency the team can loose momentum and commitment to the project. The schedule needs to be realistic but like personal goals it must make one strive to meet performance objectives. An “if this then” statement such as “If we get these locations installed by August 1st, then we will have a celebration dinner,” can create urgency if the project itself is not creating enough on its own.

Michael Thomas is a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP) for Atlanta-based PMSI – Project Mentors (www.pmsi-pm.com), a professional implementation services firm, that increases clients’ profits by ensuring that projects are completed on time and on budget. Mr. Thomas has over twenty years experience in senior management including project management, operations, training and information technology.


Home Mortgages Can Be More than Just Debt  
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By Michael A. Johnston of Merrill Lynch

Mortgages often are viewed as a type of necessary debt that makes home ownership an attainable goal. With interest rates rising as they have been for the past few months, you may wonder whether it's a debt that you can — or should — assume.

Some new types of home financing loans, however, may actually help you increase your wealth. Looking at home financing in a new way can help you make a better choice when you're in the market for a mortgage. Let's take a look at some of the prevailing myths about mortgages and how making different choices can help you increase your net worth.

Myth #1: Paying off Principal is Always Best.

In the traditional mortgage arrangement, your monthly payment consists of both principal and interest repayment. You may believe that making extra principal payments in order to pay down the loan faster is the best financial plan.

Paying down mortgage principal, however, is often more of an emotional goal than a smart financial strategy. You need to consider the advantages of investing the funds you would be paying in extra principal.

Say that you want to buy a home, but are also interested in saving for retirement. Although you could choose a traditional 30 year fixed rate mortgage, you might be better served with a mortgage that allows you to make interest only payments for the first 10 years. By making interest only payments, you reduce your monthly payments and potentially increase your annual tax deductions during the interest only period. You can invest money you would have paid toward principal to help fund your retirement  — or to reach any of your other financial goals, such as saving for college costs.

If your financial goal is to pay down principal, you can still do it with an interest-only mortgage. At a later date, you can liquidate all or a portion of what you've invested over the years. You may be able to pay off considerably more of your mortgage than if you had been paying principal each month.

To decide whether this is a good strategy for you, compare the total amount of principal you would pay on your mortgage with the potential investment earnings from your redirected funds. The difference is the potential increase in your net worth. If the difference is significant, an interest only mortgage may be an effective choice for you.

Myth #2: You Have to Choose Between Fixed and Adjustable Loans.

Choosing between a fixed rate and an adjustable rate loan can be a difficult decision. Adjustable rate loans may offer lower initial payments, but the uncertainty of a potential rise in interest rates can be unsettling for some people.

For these people, a good alternative is to choose a fixed to adjustable rate mortgage, which offers an initial fixed rate period of five, seven or 10 years, then converts to an adjustable rate. If you plan to own your home for only five or seven years, locking into a 15 or 30 year fixed rate mortgage may not be the best option for you.

Myth #3: Making a Down Payment is Always Best.

The old rule stating that homeowners need to put down 20 percent of a home's purchase price may not be right for you. Your smartest financial choice may be no down payment at all.

Before you liquidate assets for a down payment, compare the expected return on your investments with the cost of financing your down payment during the time you plan to live in your home. If you expect your investment return to exceed your financing costs, 100 percent financing may be right for you.

With a 100 percent financing program, you pledge eligible securities as additional collateral. Normal trading activity can continue in the pledge account (subject to certain restrictions) so that interest, capital appreciation and dividends continue to grow, By preventing the liquidation of assets, 100 percent financing also can defer potential capital gains tax exposure. In addition, by pledging securities, you may not have to pay mortgage insurance, despite not having made a cash down payment.

 Myth #4: 1 Need a Separate Loan for Additional Expenses.

Buying a home often means paying for redecorating, furnishings, landscaping, moving expenses and more. You could take out a second loan to meet these expenses, but there might be a better way to finance these expenses.

You may be able to include a tax deductible home equity credit line with your first mortgage. By combining your mortgage with a home equity line of credit, you can finance up to 85 percent of your home's purchase price without having to pay mortgage insurance. Initially, the credit line is extended to purchase the home, but as you pay down the home equity credit line, funds become available to use for other expenses.

For example, you could combine a $240,000 fixed rate first mortgage with a $60,000 variable rate home equity credit line for a $300,000 mortgage, or a $200,000 first mortgage and a $100,000 home equity credit line for the same mortgage amount.

By keeping your first mortgage within conforming mortgage price ranges, you can usually keep your interest expense lower. And, with a fixed rate first mortgage, you can hedge against potential interest rate increases while benefiting from potential rate declines with a variable rate home equity credit line.

You may also want to consider cash out financing — consolidating other nondeductible debt (such as credit cards) as part of your home financing, By establishing a home equity credit line with a first mortgage, you may be able to consolidate your debt at a lower rate.

Build Your Net Worth

The appropriate integration of home financing strategies into your financial plan can help you reduce interest expense, maximize potential tax deductions and avoid disrupting a well planning investment strategy. Talk with your financial consultant about how financing your home can help you build your net worth.

Michael A. Johnston is First Vice President and Chairman of Merrill Lynch Credit Corp.


Who Advises the CEO?  
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By Jagdish Sheth and Andrew Sobel

Today’s corporate leaders face an unprecedented pace of change and a daily need to make difficult, complex choices. Sage, trusted advisors are needed more than ever. But whom do CEOs really turn to for advice and counsel? The answers will surprise you.

Behind every great leader you’ll probably find at least on great advisor. In the Middle Ages, clergy — for the simple reason that they could read and write — usually serve as advisors to kings and queens. During the Renaissance and into the industrial age, a mercantile class developed, and bankers, accountants and lawyers — individuals like Thomas More, the Rothschilds, and J. Pierpont Morgan — gained preeminence as counselors to political and business leaders.

Today, the leader’s job is more complex and lonely than ever, and a whole new cast of top management advisors, from consultants to executive coaches, has emerged. Many now presume to take on the mantle once worn by Catholics Priests and Florentine bankers hundreds of years ago, and a CEO is as likely to be found calling on the motivational guru Tony Robbins for advice as he is lunching with strategist C.K. Prahalad or Peter Drucker.

But who really advise the CEO today? Other sage executives who sit on the board of directors? Trusted subordinates? The senior partners from McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, or other blue-chip advisory firms? Or perhaps an anonymous executive coach?

During five years of research into the ingredients of great client relationships, we spoke with dozens of leading CEOs, and an equal number of top managers, about their closet, must trusted advisors. The results were surprising — many corporate leaders professed great difficulty and frustration in finding truly objective individuals to help them resolve their most important issues. Let’s look at who chief executives do and do not turn to for advice as they struggle with their most important decisions.

The Board of Directors

Beginning in the late nineteenth-century, John Pierpont Morgan pioneered the use of board directors as agents of advice and influence. Today, however, despite all the feel-good language about a trusted partnership between the CEO and his directors, many corporate leaders express grave reservations about using board members as trusted advisors. The head of one Fortune 500 company put it bluntly: “You have to be very careful about using directors as advisors. The role of the board has changed dramatically over the last ten years, from advisory body to shareholder watchdog. Part of their job today is to pressure management, and you cannot open yourself up to them.”

The bottom line: a trusted advisor is someone you can expose your innermost doubts and thoughts to, and most CEOs aren’t ready to undress for their boards.

Members of Management

Today’s CEOs are excepted to be “team leader” who set vision and goals for the corporation and then roll up their sleeves with the rest of the top management team. Implicitly, a modern CEO would regularly draw on the advice and counsel of his trusted senior managers. In reality, though, most CEOs concede that their advisors rarely come from the ranks of inside management.

Ultimately, CEOs must demonstrate deep confidence in their decisions, and if the leader has serious doubts, who is going to follow him? Jim Robbins, president and CEO of Cox Communications, summed it up when he told us, “The advisor has to come from outside your organization. It is not a good practice to let your shirt down to a guy who reports to you. You sacrifice an important element of your leadership. It’s not helpful to lay it all out for someone who is an insider.

Outside Professionals: Consultants, Investment Bankers, and Others

In 1926, University of Chicago accounting professor James O. McKinsey set up shop in Chicago as a management consultant, then a novel vocation. Today, consulting is a $100 billion global industry, and together with other advisory professions like investment banking, it employs some of our brightest graduates.

Many executives, however, cited an inherent tension between the needs of the client and a consultant’s or banker’s need to represent the economic interests of a professional service firm that may be larger than the client’s own organization. CEOs perceive that the consultants they hire are persistently selling on the job, and they don’t like it. Says George fisher, chairman of Kodak, “There is always a dilemma with consultants. Some are very good, but many are building the next agreement as they complete their current project.”

Investment bankers elicit similarly ambivalent reactions. “Many investment bankers are extremely deal-driven,” Charles Lillis, CEO of MediaOne told us, “and you can’t really use then as advisors. They are to focused on doing the deal and not sufficiently concerned with your interests and needs.”

Other professional figures — lawyers, publicists, advertising executives, and so on — also find themselves providing advice to top management. “What limits their value as broad-based advisors,” former GE chairman Reginald Jones suggest, is their inherent narrowness.”

Are paid professionals the new class of trusted advisors for corporate leaders? Some are, but many, unfortunately, are trapped in their specialist mindset or unable to set aside thoughts of that year-end bonus.

The CEO’s Trusted Advisor

What we discovered, during hundreds of hours of discussions with business leaders, is that CEOs reach out to individuals from a startlingly wide range of backgrounds and professions. The advisors they fond, however — whether they are a church minister, Lazard Freres’ partner, or Wall Street lawyer — all share the same special qualities. As Paul Baszucki, CEO of Norstan put it, “In the end it’s not the category but the qualities of the particular person.” Here are four of the most important characteristics to look for:

1.      Selfless Independence. The really great client advisors are completely focused on their client’s needs, yet they also exhibit complete intellectual, emotional and financial independence. Duane Ackerman, CEO of telecommunications leader BellSouth, put it this way: “The higher up you go in an organization, the more everyone is working an agenda with you. The people you can really trust and draw become fewer and fewer. They have to be devoted to your needs but willing to speak out as well.”

2.      Depth and Breadth. CEOs gravitate towards individual who understands the specifics of their business and have world-class expertise, but who can also bring to bear broad knowledge that helps integrate and frame the issues. Leadership authority Warren Bennis calls these individuals “deep generalists.”

3.   Big-picture thinking. Most CEOs used similar language to describe their most values advisors: “He gives me a global view”, or “She provides additional perspective and helps me to reconceptualize the problem.” In truth, good analysis is a commodity — something you can call on any number of experts to perform. Great synthesis, however — big picture thinking that prioritizes issues, identifies root problems, develops simplifying frameworks, and creates new ideas out of old data, is invaluable

 4.    Trust. As Cox’s Jim Robbins says, “Nobody can just call you up on the telephone and say, ‘Hey, I’m your advisor.’ No way! You have to build trust and establish that there are shared values.” What creates trust between a CEO and his advisor? Shared values and personal chemistry are good starting points. Then, CEOs look for repeated demonstrations of integrity, including impeccable discretion and reliability, as well as strong competence to do the job at hand.

 So where do CEOs find their most trusted advisors? The answer is: everywhere. But they look for a set of very special qualities: client devotion tempered by staunch independence; intellectual breadth as well as depth; the ability to listen and ask great questions rather than just provide answers; big-picture thinking that helps prioritize issues, frame problems, and draw new connections; unshakable integrity; and, ultimately, the kind of priceless good judgement that emerges from this combination of attributes.

 If you’re executive looking for counsel on important issues, be sure your advisor fits this bill. If you’re a consultant, banker, lawyer board director, or anyone else who wants to apply for the job, ensure that you can really offer these qualities — mere experts-for-hire need not apply.

 Jagdish Sheth, Ph.D. is the Charles H. Kellstadt Professor of Marketing at the Goizueta Business School, Emory University. A distinguished educator, author, speaker, and senior management advisor, Dr. Sheth is internationally known for his intellectual insights into the areas of market strategies, global competition, strategic thinking, and customer relationship management. He has published more than 200 articles and research papers and 12 books in different areas of marketing and business strategy. He is the founder of the Center for Telecommunications Management at the University of Southern California and the Center for Relationship Marketing at Emory University. His corporate clients have included AT&T, Ford, General Motors, Motorola, Nortel, Texas Instruments, Young & Rubicam, and dozens of other major organizations. Dr. Sheth serves as a corporate director of Norstan, PacWest, and Wipro.

Andrew Sobel has spent 20 years as an advisor to senior executives in over 30 countries around the world. He has helped both service firms and high-technology companies create winning strategies, renew their organizations, and develop client- and customer-focused cultures. His clients have included leading companies such as Adaptive Broadband, American Express, Cox Communications, Lanier Worldwide, Lloyds Bank, Schroders, Siemens, and Telecom Italia. He was a senior vice president, country managing director, and member of the European Management Committee for one of the world's largest management consulting firms, and co-founded its international practice, helping grow it from four to 800 professionals and $300 million in revenue. He is a graduate of Middlebury College and holds an MBA from the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. He lived and worked abroad for 13 years, and speaks four languages.


Raising a Generation of Savers, Not Spenders  

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By Euna Kwon of Merrill Lynch

The personal savings rate in the United States has been declining steadily over the past few decades — in fact, our saving rate has recently dipped into negative territory. It’s one of the lowest savings rates among industrialized nations, and it indicates that millions of Americans are headed toward a bleak future unless they change their financial habits.

Disturbing data from the U.S. Census Bureau confirms this savings crisis. It recently reported that half of American families have net financial assets of less than $1,000.* And personal bankruptcies continue to climb, despite low unemployment rates and the soaring stock market of the last few years.

With this as their heritage, our children are being raised in an era of profligate spending and little planning for the future. They are in danger of reaching adulthood with no regard for saving, the value of money and the need for personal financial responsibility. In short, we are creating a generation of spenders.

Encourage the Saving Habit

However, there is hope. Merrill Lynch research has shown that early financial education makes a difference when it comes to saving for future goals. For the past seven years Merrill Lynch has designated April as International Saving MonthSM in a continuing initiative to raise awareness of the need to save.

The best long-term solution to the nation's savings crisis is to teach our children good financial habits, The foundation of saving — delayed gratification — can be one of the most difficult, yet most valuable concepts you can teach your children. How do you get children interested in putting money away for tomorrow when they'd rather spend it today?

Pre-School to Elementary Age

Match savings concepts and programs to your child's age and abilities. Just as your children collect trading cards or dolls, they can learn to set aside coins or bills. For preschool children, who want to handle and count their money, provide an accessible, non-breakable bank for their savings. Even if youngsters can't save for more than a day or two, the habit of saving will begin to take root.

Have children who are a little older save toward larger goals. Tape a picture of the saving object on the bank to help your child visualize the saving goal. As a reward for saving, promise a trip to the child's favorite toy store, the grocery store or a "dollar store."

Liken the rewards of saving to time spent gaining proficiency in some skill. To play in the school orchestra concert or participate in a baseball game, your child needs to practice. Saving, like practicing, is simply the act of preparing for a future need or desire.

At age 9 or so, a child might be ready to handle a bank saving account. Choose a bank that welcomes small accounts and sets their fees accordingly. Track the child's progress toward his goal with a poster at home.

Older children can become excited by how the compounding of interest makes their money grow. For example, assuming a 5 percent annual interest rate, a child saving $5 a week would have $266 by the end of one year and $3,3 71 in 10 years. To illustrate this, use the so-called "Rule of 72." Take the number 72, divide it by the rate of return your money is earning to find the number of years it takes for your money to double.

The Teenage Years

Teens can be motivated by the offer of a small reward if they hit a certain saving goal in a certain amount of time. Challenge them to save $50 in six months and say you'll match that amount if they make it.

You might match all or a part of each dime or dollar a child saves, Or, raise a child's allowance for sticking to a budget for a specific time period. If your teens need help saving, provide guidelines. Put aside some part of their allowance or chore money before you pay them. Or, let them spend their allowance, but have them save some of their gift money or money they earn at jobs.

Don't worry if your teens spend their money on goals you don't think worthy — a video game or trendy clothing. It's the saving habit that's important, and it's better for a teen to learn on her own what's worth saving for without your intervention.

Saving at Any Age

Saving can be learned, no matter how old you are. Get your youngsters into the practice of saving early on. It's a habit they're likely to carry into their adult years, giving them a head start toward their own financial security and future success.

Perhaps most important is to provide the example your children need in order to learn the value of saving. Every family needs a plan for spending and a system of controls to ensure that the spending plan is followed. By putting those elements in place, you'll ensure that you'll have money in your budget for saving.

Talk with your financial consultant about ways you can set aside savings for your future. Get started with automatic investment plans, tax-favored savings and retirement accounts, and other convenient and rewarding ways that can make your net worth grow.  

And, remember, when it comes to saving, time is one of your biggest allies. Over time, your principal can increase through growth not only of your investments, but also of your interest, dividends and new deposits of savings. Because of this opportunity for growth, the earlier you start, the more likely it is that you'll reach your financial goals.

Euna Kwon is Manager of Education Services for Merrill Lynch's Private Client Group.

* An analysis of Survey of Income and Program Participation commissioned by Merrill Lynch (1999). Based on information collected from 18,000 respondents through 1995, the most recent set of U.S. government statistics available in this field.


ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS IN BUSINESS  

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By Frank Bucaro

Are you an ethical business person? I ask the question because most of us would answer affirmatively, yet I propose that too few of us really consciously consider the ethics of a business decision when we're weighing our options. I believe it is important that this issue of ethics take on a more conscious, deliberate role in our business decision making.

In a nutshell, the issue of ethics boils down to asking yourself, "What price am I willing to pay for this decision, and can I live with that price?" This process can be helped by defining each letter of the word, ETHICS.

E = EXPERIENCE. The values we carry with us into adulthood, and into business, are those which were modeled to us, usually by a parent, teacher, or some other significant adult. Some say these values were taught to us, but I say they were caught! You can't teach values, you live them! How people behave and the decisions they make, speak much louder and are more convincing that what they say. Remember, experience is not what happens to you, but what you do about what happens to you!

T = TRAINING. Training means training yourself to keep the question of ethics fresh in your mind deliberately. Too often, if our information doesn't match up with our experience, we toss the information aside. That may or may not be the appropriate action The information may be very valid and only apparent after careful consideration and analysis of the issue we face.

H = HINDSIGHT. What have we learned from the experiences of others? Ourselves? Success leaves clues that we need to tap into in order to help us make that tough decision. What if the problem you face, was the problem of the person you admire most in life? What would he/she do? This will give you a reflective direction by which to help in your decision-making.

 I =INTUITION. What does your "gut" tell you is the right thing to do'? Some call it conscience, or insight. Whatever you call it, there are times when a "gut" call is needed. How do you know when you've gone against your "gut"? You feel guilt, shame, remorse, have a restless, sleepless night, etc. These are a few signs that tell us we've gone against our own moral conscience. Now the decision is what to do about it?

C =COMPANY. How will your decision affect the company, the people who work with and/or for you, your customers and your family? Decision-making is like throwing a rock in a pond, no matter how big/small the rock is, when it hits the water, water is displaced. No matter how big or small your decision is, it affects other people in your life and that must be a consideration before making the decision.

S = SELF ESTEEM. How do you derive your self esteem? Is it based on material gain? Is it based on using one's gifts and talents for the benefit of all? One is not necessarily exclusive of each other rather it is a matter of priority. The greatest ethical decision is one that builds one's self esteem through the accomplishment of goals based on how these goals positively impact those around you.

ETHICS IS WHAT YOU DO WHEN NO ONE IS LOOKING. It starts in our minds, where we become what we think based on our experience, training, hindsight, intuition, affect on the company and self esteem. We must factor this issue of ethics into all of our decision making and carefully analyze what price we and others around us will have to pay for that decision.

Frank C. Bucaro, CSP,CPAE
722 Canyon Lane  
Elgin, IL 60123  
800 784 4476

fbucaro@aol.com  
www.frankbucaro.com


Van Richey MANAGE magazine interview  

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EXECUTIVE SOUNDINGS… a special feature of MANAGE magazine

NMA’s 2000 Executive of the Year is Van L. Richey, President & Chief Executive Officer of American Cast Iron Pipe Company in Birmingham, AL.  Under Richey’s leadership, ACIPCO has been named four times among the 100 Best Companies To Work For in America, a list currently published annually by Fortune magazine.  Founded in 1905, the company manufactures a diversified product line for the waterworks, capital goods, and energy industries. 

MANAGE magazine recently interviewed Mr. Richey… a strong supporter of the NMA chapters within ACIPCO… to solicit his business insights.

Question 1 - ACIPCO is an organization with very visible and public core values.  What is that impact in your workplace in the year 2000?

We have found that our long-standing company philosophy of treating others the way we would want to be treated has served us admirably for the past 95 years.  We see no reason to change it now.  Of course, the diversity in our workplace has certainly changed over the years and has allowed us to combine the talents of all our employees, resulting in a more successful workforce producing a better product.  It’s amazing that some things never go out of style.  Our founder believed in 1905, as we believe in 2000, that the principles of honesty and fairness help create a sense of enthusiasm, a sense of being a part of the best, and a sense of pride in producing something that is valued.

Question 2 - Key issues today are customer value and shareholder value.  Do those compete and/or conflict at ACIPCO?

As a private company that is beneficially owned by our employees, we are fortunate to enjoy a synergy of shareholder and customer values due to the foresight of our founder, John Eagan, a NMA Management Hall of Fame  recipient in 1998.  Mr. Eagan gave the company to the employees with the understanding that beneficiaries of this gift are both the employees and our customers.  He charged us with ensuring that the customers receive our products at fair and reasonable prices, while the employees benefit by sharing the resultant profits as extra compensation.

Question 3 - Many of the issues before you today may be different than they were ten years ago.  How has the workforce and/or the workplace changed over that period of time?

Both our workforce and workplace have changed over the past ten years as technology has leapfrogged in the workplace, and the workforce has been challenged to meet changes as a result of new technology.  Good managers use good communication skills to explain and sell these changes.  We know that effective managers use positive energy not to intimidate but as a magnetic force bringing people together to accomplish much more than we ever felt possible.

Question 4 - Do you see any issues facing ACIPCO that are different from those facing business & industry in general?

As a heavy industry manufacturer with a loyal workforce and generous benefits, three issues immediately jump to mind.

  1. Today’s successful heavy industry manufacturer is also heavy on computers and related technology.  The coupling of machines and computers has allowed us to produce more products with fewer people, but has also changed the job descriptions of many positions by valuing keyboarding and software skills. 

  2. The average service time at ACIPCO is exceeding 20 years, which means we have done extremely well in the loyalty department, but conversely could eventually suffer from lack of necessary succession planning.  We are especially proud that we not only have third generation, but now fourth generation employees.  I believe this legacy to be the best litmus test for "are you treating your employees correctly?”.  With an employee turnover of less than one-half of 1%, we have to struggle to get the right employee the proper training to ensure that we can ensure future generations.

  3. Our generous benefits include an on-site healthcare facility which is staffed with about 60 company employees, ranging from physicians to dentists, to pharmacists, to nurses and clerical staff.  Although this is a wonderful benefit for our almost 10,000 employees, retirees and dependents, we often have to stop to remember that these benefits are paid for by someone at ACIPCO  selling, producing, and shipping products in very competitive marketplaces.

Question 5 - We hear a great deal about “teams” and their effectiveness.  Some organizations have been more successful with its implementation than others.  What has been your experience? 

I am convinced that one of the keys to our success has been the formal implementation of continuous improvement teams.  The teams comprise employees representing a cross-section of divisions and have studied every facet of our organization.  We currently have 17 teams, engaged in activities from inventory goals to employee communications to employee development.  Due to the effectiveness of these teams, we have assigned a fulltime support staff and have formalized the reporting and direction of this new important management tool.

Question 6 - How does today's employee sustain 'career resiliency' in a fast-changing world?  Are there certain skills which you feel are lacking in the contemporary work environment?

The gap between skills for the job market and skills of new applicants is, unfortunately, growing.  We know there is a direct relationship between successful companies and those that emphasize training.  Therefore, ACIPCO has eight classrooms teaching a number of skills, including English, math, and computer labs.  If you were to review our list of subjects in our training program, Eagan College, I believe you would find that most of these have to do with both leadership and communication skills.

Question 7 - You've always been supportive of your NMA chapters.   What value do the chapters bring to the company?  Can they assist with the skill development portion of the previous question?

We have found the courses offered by NMA have been invaluable in our effort to emphasize effective leadership training for our current and aspiring managers.  ACIPCO has been a member of the National Management Association since 1947.  We have found that not only do the courses offered by NMA prepare our employees for the changing marketplace, but the exposure of our NMA officers to NMA members from other businesses and industries has been especially beneficial.  Often times, it is comforting to find that many of the challenges we feel unique to our company are, in fact, challenges experienced by other NMA companies.

Question 8 - Is ACIPCO facing generational or “gap” issues in terms of recruiting and/or retaining talented younger workers?                                  

We find that many of our young employees need special leadership at work, as 50% of them are products of divorce, where often a single parent didn’t have the time to spend developing proper success traits.  For many new employees, they never really had to be anywhere on time, and may see their jobs and promotions as entitlements, and not rewards for performance.  It is up to us as managers to mold this talent into a productive and satisfied workforce. 

Question 9 - And, speaking of younger workers, do you feel that higher education is meeting the goal of preparing students for today’s workplace?

If we could develop a time capsule, it is very possible that a CEO 30 years ago would feel the same way about our generation as many of us now perceive Generation Xer’s and now Y’s.  As an example, every generation that comes along is probably questioned as to their work ethics and value systems.  I am amazed at the abilities of today’s Information System and other technically degreed graduates in being able to hit the ground running.  We find that those trained in computer programming and engineering contribute almost immediately.  Although the other business related graduates often need to learn our systems, we do find them with sufficient background in their majors to quickly contribute to our business objectives.

Question 10 - Executive managers usually recall certain advice or lessons learned that have served them well during their career.  Would you like to share any of those with our MANAGE readers?

This is a very interesting question, and one that I would like to address by listing some of my most treasured advice or “hard-earned” lessons. 

  1. I will is more important than IQ.

  2. The only thing worse than using yesterday’s technology is knowing that your competition is using tomorrow’s. 

  3. We Americans always seem to do the right thing, but only after we have exhausted every other possibility.

  4. Praise loudly and blame softly.

  5. It is hard to detect good luck, it looks so much like something you have earned.

  6. Nobody ever cares about the won/loss record of the referee.

  7. Example is not the most important thing in influencing others, it is the only thing. 

  8. Figures lie, and liars figure. 

  9. If you want to truly understand something, then try to change it.

  10. Make rapid change your friend. 

  11. Bad change is when it affects you personally, and you don’t see it coming. 

  12. A closed mouth gathers no foot.


The Quickest Way to Someone is Through Their Values  

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(Discover What P eople Truly Care About and Why)

by Jim Cathcart

Those who have taken any leadership training at all know that people do things for their own reasons, not for yours. So if we want to motivate somebody, what we’ve got to do is not come to them with motivation but rather look inside them for their motives.

Primary motives develop very early in life, as do other individual characteristics. Have you ever noticed the differences in infants even when they come from the same parents?

There are two kinds of motivation extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation occurs when we try from the outside to provide a motive for some action or behavior. For instance, you might say to your child, “If you pick up the toys in your room, you can stay up thirty minutes later tonight.” Or maybe your sales manager decides to give a bonus to the person who brings in the most money in a month. That’s extrinsic motivation — the outside trying to get to the inside excited.

The second kind of motivation, intrinsic occurs when we are moved to action because of our internal motivation. For instance, maybe when you were a kid you really wanted a new bike but your parents said they wouldn’t pay for it. You decided that somehow you would earn the money to buy the bike. So you got a paper route, sold cookies door to door, did babysitting or started a lawn mowing business, anything to get that money because you really wanted that bike. You were internally motivated to find a way to get the money.

That’s intrinsic motivation — when we make a conscious effort to achieve a goal because we want it, not because someone else sold us on it. The secret to great leadership is to find out what the intrinsic motivations of your followers are, them gear the extrinsic motivators to appeal to those. And the key to intrinsic motivation is in a person’s value system, because values shape who you are and direct why you do what you do.

Each of us has a unique set of values. Value denotes the importance of something relative to other alternatives. Values are what you care about, the qualities you find desirable. Values are not attitudes or behaviors, though they form the basis of our attitudes and behaviors. Every decision we make is based on our own set of values.

Natural Values Model

In this research I have found seven values, which are common to everyone. These aren’t values we’ve learned, rather they’re part of who we are. These seven natural values are with you at birth and stay with you throughout your life. These values are in the acorn, part of your very nature. They are:

• Sensuality — the relative importance of one’s physical experience

• Empathy — the relative importance of feeling connected to other people

• Wealth— the relative importance of ownership and worth

• Power — the relative importance of control and recognition

• Aesthetics — the relative importance of beauty, balance, order and symmetry

• Commitment — the relative importance of being committed to something, having a cause or mission, doing the “right” thing

• Knowledge — the relative importance of learning and understanding

You and I share all seven of those values, but if we were to rank which ones were most important to each of us, your top values may be different from mine. If my top value is power and yours is knowledge, we will respond to a stimulus in different ways.

For example, say our employer offers us a chance to attend a seminar on value systems. Your main reason for attending might be simply to gain the knowledge because you love to learn — you have a high knowledge value. But if my highest value is power, my main reason might be to find ways to use this new knowledge to advance my position and better lead my team.

None of the values is better or nobler than the others in and of itself. It’s how they’re acted upon that determines that. Our values don’t determine whether something will appeal to us nearly as much as they determine how that thing will appeal to us.

Incidentally, there’s no importance to the sequence in which I’ve listed these values. The reason they’re listed this way is because they’re easy to remember if you use the acronym S E W P A C K: sensuality, empathy, wealth, power, aesthetics, commitment and knowledge.

Seeing and Hearing the Value

People show their values all the time through what they say and don’t say, what they do and don’t do. What they approach and what they avoid. Here are some indicators to watch for to identify people’s top value.

  1. Sensuality — A person with a high sensuality value shows an interest in and affinity for physical experience; taste, touch, smell, fit, comfort, temperature, texture, humidity, sound, volume, light, etc.

  2. Empathy — People with a high empathy value need to be around other people they care about. The helping impulse is very strong in these folks.

  3. Wealth — People with a high wealth value find that the worth of a thing or its fair price value matters a great deal. They may wear an expensive ring even though they don’t particularly care for how it looks. A person with a high wealth value really cares about accumulating things, because that’s how they evaluate how things are going. It’s not greed to them; it’s just putting value on acquiring or owning things of quality.

  4. Power — Someone with a high power value finds acknowledgment, praise, special privileges, honors, titles and prestigious things of prime consideration. Position and control matter a lot. High power value types love to be in charge.

  5. Aesthetics — Someone with a high aesthetic value would find beautiful sunsets, organized systems, certain color combinations, painting, landscapes and architecture of strong appeal. Someone with a high aesthetic value truly cares how things look and feel.

  6. Commitment — A person with a high commitment value has strong convictions. Beliefs and affiliations are at the center of their attention. Working to advance a cause, crusading and campaigning feel good to them. These people do things because it’s what they feel is the right thing to do.

  7. Knowledge — A person with a high knowledge value loves to learn. Books, seminars, discussions, problem solving are things they enjoy. They may tend to listen to learning tapes or public radio rather than music stations. They seem to have an endless curiosity, being constantly amazed at how little they know on each subject.

What About You

Now, what about your own top values? I’m sure you’ve been thinking about them throughout this article as I’ve listed them — it’s only a natural impulse.

Here is a quick values check you can do. Answer the following five questions in writing. Write them quickly; write down what first comes to your mind. Trust your gut reaction.

  1. What qualities do you most admire in a friend?

  2. What traits do you most want in a mate?

  3. What do you think kids should be taught in schools?

  4. If you could change the world in some way, what would it be?

  5. If you won the lottery and money was no longer a limitation to you, what would you do with the money?

Now look over your answers, then look back at the seven natural values and look for matches. What you’ll find is that the values tend to pop to the surface in your answers. Which values were expressed most strongly? Those questions all had the same basic inquiry — what do you care about? — but they asked it from five different points of view. Once you’ve evaluated your answers you’ll have a pretty quick sense of what your top few values are.

Here is what makes it special: Everyone enjoys good things, but the things that are aligned with our values we do not only enjoy, we cherish. The quickest way to someone’s heart is through their values. With an ear to noticing someone’s values, new ways to tailor your gifts, motivation, incentives and rewards will become obvious to you. You’ll see not only how to increase the appeal but also add impact to your leadership. People will be more likely to follow your lead because your lead follows their values. This applies to parents, managers, salespeople, everyone.

To understand somebody and know how to use this value equation to relate to them, all you really need to notice is their few values. If you know the top two or three you’ve got enough to understand how you can appeal to them with whatever idea you may be presenting.

What we care about most drives our interest and our criteria for decisions. So your highest values cause you to focus on certain aspects of a situation and overlook others until you’ve handled whatever it is you’re concerned about on your top values. Only then can you effectively focus on the other parts of it. The better we understand what’s important to others, the more we can attune our own preferences and information to their top values, and we’ll be working in alignment with them from the start.

This article is excerpted from Cathcart’s The Acorn Principle™ Know Yourself, Grow Yourself book. With 21 years experience, La Jolla, Ca-based Jim Cathcart, CSP, CPAE is recognized as one of the worlds’ best speakers. As a psychological researcher and business consultant he has helped organizations grow their sales and improve their performance in virtually every type of industry. He is the author of Relationship Selling (the key to getting and keeping customers), The Acorn Principle™ (discover, explore and grow the seeds of your greatest potential), and many other powerful learning tools. His works are published by the world’s top publishers, Putnam-Berkley, Prentice Hall, and Nightingale Conant. For a free trial subscription to the Acorn E-Letter contact the Cathcart Institute (800-222-4883, www.cathcart.com or e-mail Info@cathcart.com).


THE POWER OF PERSUASION:  

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EMOTION, LOGIC, AND CHARACTER

 By Dianna Booher

You have probably heard a similar comment, “Sarah is too emotional when discussing this issue. She's got to learn to calm down and be more objective." Or maybe this sounds familiar, “I wish John wouldn't hide behind all his facts and figures and just tell us what he thinks.” And what about this, "I listened to Sam's argument but I didn't buy it. You know how he exaggerates.”                       

So what's wrong with a little emotion? And why criticize someone for using well-documented and reasonable arguments when defending his or her claims? And why not consider a speaker's reputation when assessing credibility?

Emotion, logic, and character. According to Aristotle, the father of modern persuasive thought, not only are these the three cornerstones of successful persuasive thought, they are absolutely fundamental in interpreting the messages of others as well as winning them to your way of thinking.

Simply defined, emotion is “a strong surge of feeling marked by an impulse to outward expression." It's our passionate side. Logic is “the science concerned with the principles of valid reasoning and correct inference." This is our rational side. Character is the combination of qualities or traits that distinguishes an individual." This is the sum total of who we are.

Think about it. Who doesn't prefer listening to a compelling speaker who exudes passion and heart? And wouldn't you rather discuss an issue with someone who knows the ins and outs of a subject rather than the person who relies on guesswork and good intentions? And who wouldn't consider it wise, if not essential, to investigate a communicator’s character before believing his contentions?

Few would disagree with the importance of the three elements of persuasion. Problems occur, however, when one of the three is either overused, lacking, or overshadowed. It’s the overemotional lackadaisical, or non-emotional messengers who concern us. The overly concerned, ill-informed, or clueless communicators make us nervous. People who sound too good to be true or too bad to be false are the most worrisome.

As it's been wisely said, “Truth out of balance is error." So too, communication lacking the correct persuasive balance can be equally erroneous and ineffective. Like the expert juggler, effective communicators must keep the essentials of their craft in constant balance or everything will come tumbling down — especially their message.

Should anyone think Aristotle's observations have little relevance to the present day, they need only look at the goings-on in the political arena for evidence of persuasive tactics at work.

Appealing to emotions: "Let me tell you about a man I met in Dallas who's out of work and has no health-care insurance." Appealing to reason, a candidate might argue, "Here are the plain and simple facts, folks." Appealing to character: I voted my conscience. I believe it's the right thing for America."

Let's get a bit more personal. Do you have a cause to which you'd like your friends to donate time or money? Using the three persuasive elements, you’ll need to make your friends feel compassion for the group in need (appeal to emotion), show them exactly where and how their money and time will be used (appeal to logic), and demonstrate your own integrity, concern and commitment  in seeing the effort succeed (appeal to character).

Or you may want your boss to fund health-club memberships for employees at work. You'll first have to create a fear of heart attacks among employees and supervisors to make them feel the potential loss (appeal to emotions). Next, you’ll have to convince the executive who holds the purse strings that wellness reduces absenteeism and increases productivity (appeal to logic). Finally, you'll have to demonstrate that your interest is not for selfish reasons but for the well-being of the entire organization (appeal to character).

Emotion, logic. and character are the three legs of the persuasion table. If all legs are solidly planted, the table will stand properly. But it the legs are poorly set or imbalanced, all will come crashing down.

The next time you want to influence someone in your way of thinking, balance the three essentials of persuasion and make Aristotle proud.

Dianna Booher is CEO of Booher Consultants, a communications consulting firm in Dallas that offers training in effective writing, oral presentations, interpersonal skills, and customer service communications. She is a keynote speaker and has written 35 books, including Communicate with Confidence! [McGraw-Hill]. For more information, call (800) 342-6621.


Easy Ways to Get Organized and Increase Your Daily Productivity  

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by Kurt Shaver

Ask any business person what the most challenging part of the day is, and they're sure to tell you that staying continually organized and productive ranks as number one. And it's no surprise. No matter what business you're in, you accumulate paperwork everyday (invoices, work orders, research documents, correspondence, etc.); it's easy to quickly become sidetracked under a mound of disorganized files.

As much as people try to deny it, office organization has a distinct link with productivity. The quicker you can locate a necessary file or important legal document, the more productive you'll be. But that doesn't mean you have to be a neat freak to be productive. It simply means you need to learn more effective ways to handle your daily paper flow.

If organization and productivity issues challenge you as much as they do other people, here are three tips to help you overcome them and reach the productivity level you need to be successful.

1. Question every piece of paper that crosses your desk.

 These days, businesses produce more paperwork than ever. However, research shows that we use only 20 percent of the paperwork we keep. The challenge is deciding which 80 percent you can toss.

For each piece of paper that crosses your desk, ask yourself, "Does this piece of paper require action?" "Does it need to be filed away for future reference?" "Does it exist elsewhere?" “Is it recent enough to be useful?" "How difficult would it be to get again?" And finally, "What's the worst thing that could happen if I don't have this piece of paper?" If you can live with the results, toss it.

The key here is to eliminate as much paper as possible. When you're not digging through stacks of useless files just to find the one pertinent document, you're saving time and being more productive.

Dustin Waller, of the Investment Consulting Group in Atlanta, Georgia, knows first-hand how this simple act of questioning helps increase productivity. "I don't sit down and verbally ask these questions every time I pick up a piece of paper," he says. "It's more of a subconscious act. But these questions definitely work. My in-box stays less full throughout the day because I'm taking care of documents before they get out of hand." By keeping his paper stack under control and neatly organized, Waller is able to focus on his most important daily tasks and better help his clients in a timely manner. The result: more revenue for him and his firm.

2. Create a filing sys tem that works.

Once you decide which papers you definitely need to keep, you now need to implement a simple and effective filing system. File information according to how you will use it, not where you got it. To determine a title for a file, ask yourself, "If I need this again, what word will I think of?” Then develop a file index by listing the words alphabetically. Use it just as you would a "chart of accounts" to determine which accounts to charge an expense.

When you know where your documents are, you can offer your customers one key advantage: instant access to information — the same advantage the Internet offers. Being able to do this eliminates the threat the Internet poses and gives you a competitive edge.

Many businesses have great success with a software program that allows them to keep their information in paper form in a filing cabinet while using the incredible search power of the computer to find anything they want in five seconds or less. This software, Kiplinger's Taming the Paper Tiger published by Monticello Corporation (www.thepapertiger.com), utilizes one simple principle: clutter is postponed decisions. Too many people aren't deciding whether to keep something, where to keep it, how long to keep it, or how to find it. As a result, it sits and sits and sits until it either gets buried or gets in your way.

William Babb III of Sagemark Consulting in Raleigh, North Carolina implemented this new software program in his office to organize his files and keep the staff productive. "Utilizing this new filing method The Paper Tiger developed has revolutionized my business," he says. In the past, Babb and his staff spent more time than they care to admit looking for documents and keeping track of them. Their outdated, traditional filing method made it difficult to find paperwork, especially when the administrative assistants were out of the office. But by updating their filing method to one that makes the most of current technology and that the whole office can easily implement and share, they're now spending a fraction of the time to locate necessary papers.

Why is filing such an integral part of productivity? Face it, despite the fact that the business world has evolved tremendously in the last hundred years or so, too many professionals are still trying to keep organized and productive by using the same filing method Thomas Jefferson used! As we move into the 21st century, successful businesses need the newest, most cutting edge way to stay productive and to keep the competition at bay.

3.  Manage your paper on the road.

Most business people have little administrative support to help keep track of clients and files, especially when traveling for business. As a result, many entrepreneurs find their briefcases littered with scraps of paper and Post ItTm notes containing obscure or illegible information. While they may think they're saving time by not being detailed on the road, they're actually causing more time to be lost because of the amount of sorting and "catch up" work they must do when they return to the office.

 Whenever you leave your office — whether it's for a lunchtime business meeting or a week-long convention — keep three main files in your briefcase: "file,” “act,” and “call.” As you collect papers that need to be filed in your main filing system, place them in your "file" folder and mark the category name in the document's upper right-hand comer. This will make filing the item a breeze when you return to the office. In the "act" file place those items that require immediate action when you return, and place contact information for those people you need to call in your "call" folder. Combine this system with your now organized main filing system and you’ll never dread another business trip.

Now that you're ready to get organized and be more productive, where do you start? The truth is, it doesn't matter. One thing is for sure: the longer you wait to begin getting your office in order, the more time it will take and the more challenging it will be.

Organizing your office for increased productivity is just like any other skill. It takes practice to become perfect. Start today so that you too can reap the rewards of an organized and productive office.

Kurt Shaver is Vice President of Business Development at Monticello Enterprises, a leading supplier of information management tools for individuals and businesses, For more information about The Paper Tiger software, visit www.thepapertiger.com.


Turn the Tables on Employee Turnover

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Five keys to maximum employee retention

by Laura Michaud

Each time an employee permanently leaves your organization, he or she is adversely affecting your company's bottom line. Consider this: according to the U.S. Department of Labor, it costs a company one-third of a new hire's annual salary to replace an employee. Using a modest annual salary of $35,000, a company can easily spend $11,550 for each new employee hired.

This figure comprises both direct and indirect costs. Direct costs include advertising expenses, sign on bonuses, headhunter fees and overtime expenses. Indirect costs include management's time involved in recruitment, selection and training and decreased productivity while current employees pick up the slack until the new hire is up to speed.

To make matters worse, today's low unemployment rate makes finding qualified employees increasingly difficult. The most recent statistics dated March 2000 reveal the national unemployment rate to be a mere 4.1 %, which is the lowest it has been since 1970 when the unemployment rate dipped down to 3.9%. This low figure means longer than normal recruitment periods as well as increased advertising expenses to fill the position.

So what's a company to do? The most obvious solution is to retain each and every qualified employee who currently works for you. However, for many companies, retaining employees is easier said than done. Competing organizations may attempt to sway your employees away with offers of more money or more perks. Or your employees may willingly seek employment elsewhere when they no longer feel important to your organization.

No matter what the reason for your employee turnover, there are ways to strengthen your employee retention figures. Below are five employee retention tips that will keep your employees happy and eager to be a part of your team.

1. Build Strong Relationships with Every Employee

While your employees may be your subordinates, they're also an integral part of your company's success and deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. Unfortunately, even though an employee may do a stellar job, you may not particularly like him or her as a person. When that happens, you still need to develop a strong business relationship with the employee. This assures there will always be a smooth flow of information. If you don't build relationships and share information with your employees, they may feel unimportant and unappreciated, and may become disgruntled enough to leave your employ.

The best way to develop relationships with your employees is to find some common ground and build connections from there. The next time you're in an employee's office or cubicle, look around and find one item you can comment on that has relevance to your own life. For example, suppose your son is involved in Little League baseball, and your employee has a photo of his or her child in a baseball or some other team uniform. By commenting on the photo and stating your relevance, you've just established a common bond and made your employee feel a connection to you. Do whatever possible to find something you have in common with each employee.

2. Offer Praise Freely

As often as possible, you need to give your employees compliments about their work. Praise them whenever you can and preferably in public. This not only builds their morale, but it also shows that you care about their self-esteem and that you're on their side.

When you think about it, don't you want to be around people who praise you and tell you good things? Of course you do. You most likely seek people like that out and want to do things for them to show your appreciation. Your employees are no different. They need to feel appreciated for a job well done.

In addition to praise, always defend your employees when necessary. If they make a mistake, don't berate them or act harshly towards them, especially if in public. Let your employees know that while mistakes aren't desired, you anticipate them and treat them as training expenses.

When your employees aren't fearful of your wrath, they'll be more apt for creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, which can greatly increase your bottom line.

3. Truly Listen to Employee Feedback

Your employees will gladly tell you their needs and job-related issues. You simply need to listen to what they say and not dismiss their thoughts as wishful thinking or unimportant. Listening involves so much more than simply not talking. It's a matter of understanding your employees, giving them your full attention, and making them feel important. To know if your listening skills are up to par, ask yourself these questions, "Does my mind wander when I'm listening? If so, how do I bring it back?" "Do I make silent judgments about the other person?" "Am I thinking of what I am going to say next or am I truly listening?" "Is the other person talking more than I am?" Your honest answers will help determine where your listening skills can be improved.

When you listen and learn your employees' motivations and goals, you can better sell them on future concepts and projects by using their own motivations. For instance, should an employee want P&L responsibility, but you know the person is not ready for that task yet, give him a project that has a distinct budget around it and let him work with it. Be upfront that this is a learning step needed towards meeting the P&L goal. By doing this, you make the employee feel as if he's advancing professionally, while you delegate one of your tasks and create the time to focus on other projects.

4. Keep the Mood Light

One of the easiest ways to retain employees is to create a fun work environment. People naturally want to sense a feeling of belonging, and having fun in the workplace goes a long way toward making people feel a part of things. When you get people to laugh with you, you've formed an instant bond. The fact that you were able to let down your guard and laugh breaks down rank barriers and builds camaraderie.

Studies have shown that humor also helps alleviate stress. And when your employees are less stressed, they're more willing to put in extra hours and get the project done. To foster humor in your organization, post appropriate jokes and funny stories on the company bulletin board or via email. You could also initiate theme dress days to lighten the mood. Or if you're feeling more daring, don a clown wig and red nose for your next meeting. Your employees will appreciate the chance to laugh their stress away.

5. Continually Strengthen Your Team

Your company is only as strong as your weakest employee. Keep developing your team to make your unit as powerful as possible. If you initially hire second-rate candidates, you can expect high turnover. However, when you strive to hire those people whose strengths are your weaknesses, the entire company benefits.

Always remember that one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. If your employees sense that one person isn't pulling his or her fair share, they will feel resentful and be more apt to goof off. Whenever you hire additional help, do whatever possible to make sure the new hire meets your criteria for a long-term, productive employee.

Since the current unemployment rate suggest that it's an "employee's marketplace," employers need to do whatever they can to retain their current staff and attract the best possible candidates for future employment. When you transcend typical employer stereotypes and create a work environment that fosters creativity and success, your company will benefit. The end result will be a workforce that stays with you and a business that thrives.

About the Author Laura Michaud, MBA is the owner of The Michaud Group, located in Elmhurst, Illinois. As the former VP of Sales and Marketing for Beltone Electronics, Laura managed a staff of over 300 employees. She now helps corporations and associations learn the best ways to retain qualified staff members. In addition, Laura offers keynotes, seminars and consulting to help organizations increase efficiency and profitability through customer loyalty, balance management and family owned businesses issues. Laura can be reached at The Michaud Group by calling 630-927-5555 or by email at michaudgrp@aol.com.


How to Be Perceived As A Leader

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By Marjorie Brody

Lee laccocca. Golda Meier. Jack Welsh. Three effective leaders. All possessed or possess similar traits that made them effective leaders.

Contrary to popular beliefs, leaders aren't born — leadership skills can be learned.

Leadership Traits Effective leaders possess seven attributes. They ...

promote a vision
True leaders are visionaries. They can persuade and convince others that their cause is just and worth working for. An effective leader conveys a vision — whether it's to revolutionize a new way of printing, hitting a certain sales mark, or going global. A leader communicates his or her vision first by defining reality — a message that boils down to "where we've been" and "where we are." Then comes the challenge of vividly describing a new reality: "where we must go."

make others feel important
"Those you have followed passionately, gladly, zealously — have made you feel like somebody." — Irwin Federman, former president and CEO of Monolithic Memories

Self-centered people do not draw a crowd. No one wants to work with or for someone who is only interested in self-acclaim. Make sure that your colleagues and others you interact with receive the praise they deserve. Notice their accomplishments and emphasize their strengths and contributions — not just your own activities.

follow the "platinum rule"
It may be as old as time, but this axiom is definitely true for leaders. Treat your followers the way they want to be treated. Abusive leaders attract few supporters.

admit mistakes
There is nothing bad about admitting a mistake or error. True leaders have no problem recognizing they were to blame or wrong. If others believe you are hiding mistakes, they are likely to do the same.

criticize others only in private
It can only embarrass, demean and alienate workers to criticize in a public forum something they have done or said. Public praise is good, but if someone needs to receive feedback that will be negative, the effective leader makes sure this is done one-on-one —with no one else around.

stay close to the action
Leaders don't hide. They are active members of their society and business world. They belong to trade groups and associations. They have a vocal presence in their respective industries. Leaders never rest on their laurels. They are always trying to meet new people, learn new things and gain new insights.

celebrate success
There's no denying that competition exists — business is more competitive now than ever before. A leader turns this around into a game of sorts — setting team goals, and rewarding those who meet or beat them. Leaders examine shortcomings and celebrate accomplishments. Big visions and ambitious goals mean there is always more to be done, higher ground to be reached. However, focusing only on what is yet to be accomplished can ironically lessen the likelihood of success. An effective leader knows that progress must be celebrated if high morale and commitment is to be maintained.

make trust a priority
Downsizing and re-organizing have done much to make American businesses the most competitive in the world. Unfortunately, these practices have also weakened employee loyalty and, in many cases, generated a great deal of cynicism. Only a highly trusted leader is going to generate support for a new vision. This means being candid, truthful and consistent. It means being authentic and reachable when others are more concerned about maintaining an image.

An Effective Leader Also ...

  1. Remembers that details aren't as important as the bottom line results. 

The end result is more important than every bit of minutia that led up to it.

  1. Recognizes workers’ skills, strengths and weaknesses.

Know your employees and what they are capable of. Don't assign a task that you know someone can't accomplish.

  1. Sets firm but realistic deadlines.

If your staff doesn't have a deadline to shoot for, urgent matters will consistently postpone work with long-term importance. Use deadlines to manage priorities.

  1. Resists the temptation to solve all employee problems.

As much as you want to, don't try to be everyone's hero or heroine. If someone has a problem, don't jump to solve. Instead, help him or her work out what went wrong and how to fix it. To further build self-sufficiency, invest in training on subjects such as conflict resolution and time management. This will cost time and money, but in the end, the company will benefit from a more able workforce.

  1. Knows how to make staff questions become answers.

If someone asks you for your advice in resolving a problem, ask him or her for an opinion on how to address the situation. If there are questions, ask for possible answers.

  1. Sets clearly defined missions to accomplish.

All employees should be given well-defined tasks. This will allow more autonomy in the decision-making process. If they know what they're supposed to accomplish, it's much easier for them to make quick decisions if something arises.

  1. Stays in touch with people, and is committed to delegating and empowering them — but not prone to walk away.

Know How & When To Delegate

An effective leader delegates. Your team shouldn't be running around disorganized. Team members need to take responsibility for their activities and project completion. They shouldn't be running to their direct supervisors and bosses at the slightest problem or with a million questions.

Before you can start delegating, however, you need to have the right people on your team. Only people who can work independently and responsibly can accept delegation. The effective leader then needs to recognize each person's skills and interests, and be realistic about the time it will take to learn certain tasks. Don't step in to finish a task because the worker may be having a hard time with it.

Start delegating low priority projects first before dumping critical client-saving ventures on your staff. Make sure you fully explain the nature of the assignment in terms they can understand. When workers understand how their work fits into the overall flow of business, they are more likely to have an informed reaction if something happens or the leader is not around to oversee the project. The smart leader also arranges for any training necessary to keep his or her employees up to date and have the information to succeed.

Problems with delegation arise when too many people are given the same list of duties. Involving too many workers can create chaos. And perhaps the most important thing to remember — always praise your team members for a job well done when they've earned this right.

It's important to distinguish leadership from management. Someone can be a competent manager but not a good leader, as well as the other way around.

Learning how to become an effective leader doesn't have to be difficult. Just take a step back from thinking about your personal gain and remember the people around you. Once you look at the whole picture effective leadership and success will be just around the corner.

Reputation is everything and Marjorie Brody, CSP, CMC, stakes her reputation on enhancing yours. Marjorie is an internationally recognized expert and motivational speaker on image/career enhancement. and corporate etiquette. Her message ignites the passion and purpose of audience members to unleash their potential and polish their skills, motivating them to move from ordinary to extraordinary. She is author of 15 books, including Speaking is an Audience-Centered Sport, Complete Business Etiquette Handbook and the four-booklet series 21st Century Pocket Guides to Proper Business Protocol. Marjorie was selected one of Pennsylvania's 1999 Best 50 Women in Business. To get a free e-mailed copy of her newsletter, call 800-726-7936. Marjorie can be reached via e-mail at mbrody@brodycomm.com.