Manage Online

Volume 1, No. 3                                             January 2003

Contents      

        Message from NMA Chairman of the Board...Dan Robertson

        Termination Tips...Troy P. Foster, Lewis and Roca LLP

        THE FIRING LINE: Managing Problem Employees...Lain Ehmann

        Working Smarter, Not Harder...E. Kearney, PhD

        Money Sense...Stretching the Life of Your IRA...Doris Meister

        Training the Corporate Animal...Mindy Toran

        Beyond Juggling - Rebalancing Your Busy Life...Kurt Sandholtz

        Transforming the Functional Mindset...Andrew Spanyi

        A Look Back...A MANAGE article from 50 Years Ago


        Message from NMA Chairman of the Board

by Dan Robertson

By this time in the New Year, you have probably set personal goals and resolutions for everything you wish to accomplish in the next twelve months.  Speaking of goals and challenges, I am sincerely excited about 2003.  I am grateful to our Association for providing me with the opportunity to serve as Chairman.  I want to thank the NMA Board of Directors, my chapter (Lockheed Martin Leadership Association), my company (Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company), and my family for the support and confidence they have shown in me as I take on this leadership role. 

So we all readily acknowledge the benefits and value of NMA. Our challenge is to spread the word!  NMA provides its members terrific opportunities to grow through professional development and personal growth.  It has endless resources for leadership training through courses developed by NMA and through our Learning Resource Center. Our chapters recognize the value of NMA affiliation through opportunities for networking and sharing best practices at the National Conferences and at the chapter-level NMA Leadership Conferences, provided and supported by the national headquarters staff. Our companies and communities recognize NMA through what our members return to them… leadership training and preparation, as well as the ability to provide a way to jointly reach our company’s goals and objectives.

As I accepted this position at the National Conference, I invited all of the attendees to a Membership Party throughout 2003. Over the past few years we have experienced a significant decrease in membership. So for 2003, my emphasis as Chairman will be for us to turn that around!  During Don Hart’s administration, he set the foundation for your national leaders to work in project teams.  My goal is to take Don’s initiative a step further and to work as project managers concentrating on “Membership Growth.”  Soon, on February 1, 2003, the Trial Membership Program will kick-off and run through April 30, 2003. It is my expectation that as you “come to the party” you will bring new members through this Trial Membership Program. I encourage your chapter and council’s participation.

At the area-wide NMA Leadership Conferences in the spring of 2003, NMA will announce a new, yearlong membership campaign to continue our quest to increase the membership of our Association. It is my expectation that when you “come to the party”, you will be bringing new members as a result of the “Each One-Reach One” membership drive.  Be looking for details in a few months.  Once again, I encourage your chapter and council’s full participation.

I am also very excited about FaciliSkills™. I believe this is a breakthrough year for NMA in terms of this series of workshops. The NMA staff has worked long and hard to bring this innovative decision-making and teambuilding program to you and your sponsoring organization.  It is my expectation that as you “come to the party”, your chapter or council will have already scheduled one or more of the four FaciliSkills™ workshops.

Once again, I am extremely motivated to grow our Association.  Doing so will enable us to continue to provide the same quality service we have become accustomed to, as well as develop new and better initiatives in the realm of leadership, development, and training. In closing, I believe that with your help, we will be successful in continuing to bring NMA’s value to our members, our companies, our communities, and our nation.

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Termination Tips ~

by Troy P. Foster, Lewis and Roca LLP

When asked to identify their least favorite management duties, many businesspeople routinely cite employee terminations at the top of the list.  While the task of firing an employee is not palpable to most, there are several key considerations that can help one prepare for the dismissal.

BUILD YOUR CASE:

Before any termination, compile all documentation pertinent to the employee's performance record.  Draw from a variety of sources, including customer complaints, performance evaluations, misconduct records, violations of your policies, and recorded absences or tardiness.

RECIPE FOR TERMINATION:

Before terminating an employee, make sure you have the proper ingredients to ensure a smooth encounter.

  • Two calm managers.  It's important to involve another manager to both calm a heated employee and also act as a potential witness to their reaction.
  • One poorly performing employee
  • One ripe reason:  Be able to clearly and concisely explain to the employee why they are being terminated.  Not offering a solid explanation lowers morale of remaining employees who may now fear for their jobs.
  • Two - four forms:  Ask the employee to sign an acknowledgment form, as well as any other customary paperwork, including a full release of all possible claims.  Also, have their payroll and COBRA forms ready for their reference.

T-DAY:

  • Act quickly and precisely.
  • Ensure each termination is performed consistently and according to your company's policies and procedures.
  • Treat employees with respect.  It not only helps calm a terminated employee, it also lessens the chance the employee will file suit.
  • Ensure the termination takes place in a private area.

NEVER SAY I'M SORRY:

Don't apologize when terminating an employee.  It may lead the employee to believe that the company has done something wrong and that  you don't agree with the decision.  Try using positive phrases such as "I think this is for the best" or "you will be happier someplace else."

CREATIVE RESTRUCTURING:

The uncertain economy is forcing some organizations-hesitant to cut jobs-to implement creative alternatives such as pay cuts, shortened workweeks and changes to employee benefits.  Before making any major changes, organizations should:

  • Be honest; communicate to employees the necessary changes to ensure the health of the organization.
  • Be selective in how you communicate with employees.  Reliable and highly productive employees need to be praised and told of their value before explaining the company's dire situation and asking for sacrifices.  For underachievers, discuss their poor performance, explain your new organizational goals, and ask them to set their own measurements to help meet those goals.  Set a date to review these goals.
  • Be honest in communicating your company's progress, even if it's not stellar.  Employees want to know whether their actions are making a difference in ensuring success.

REFERENCE RESERVATIONS:

  • Providing a reference for a less than stellar previous employee can be a difficult balancing act.
  • Provide only the facts.
  • be consistent with each potential employer.  Document the reference in writing, making sure to provide a copy to the former employee.

               

Troy P. Foster is a Labor and Employment attorney with Lewis and Roca LLP, focusing his practice on the defense of employers in Title VII, ADEA, ADA, and similar claims.

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THE FIRING LINE: Managing Problem Employees

 

by Lain Ehmann

 

One of the toughest parts of management is dealing with substandard performance. Just ask Catlin Walker. After three weeks, her new employee – a technical writer with 20 years’ experience – stopped coming to work. At first the employee made excuses, then silence. Eventually, the writer quit – after collecting several weeks of paychecks. In retrospect, Walker said she wished she’d acted sooner. “I thought eventually he would fall into pace,” says Walker. “I severely misjudged the situation and it quickly got worse.”

 

When an issue arises with one of your workers, there’s a strong temptation to ignore it, hoping, like Walker, that by “waiting it out” the difficulty will disappear. But by taking control early, you can keep an employee problem from turning into a problem employee.

 

Hire Quality People. Don’t give in to the urge to fill an empty slot thinking that anyone is better than no one. More than one manager has been stymied when their “so-so” employee turned into a boss’ nightmare.

 

“We look for people who have potential, so we put people into situations they’d be in at work,” says Shannon Peters, lead program manager for Microsoft Corp. Using “real-world” scenarios during the interviewing process helps the review team select the candidate who’ll match the company’s environment.

 

Set Clear Expectations. From the day your employee starts, make sure that you both  agree upon job responsibilities, objectives, priorities and measurements. Put these in

writing, and set a regular schedule to review progress and any issues.

 

And be specific:  Instead of saying, "I'd like you to finish your call report as soon as possible," say, "Please e-mail your detailed call report to me by the 29th.  There's a sample report on the network server.  Ask Sarah for help if you have questions.  Please let me know if there are any other problems or you can't meet that deadline.  I need to give the summary results to the vice president by the beginning of the month, and I'll need your input."

 

Review Employee Progress Frequently. Especially with a new employee, it’s important to provide frequent feedback. These review sessions, which can be as simple as a check-in over a cup of coffee in the break room, give you a chance to identify any issues in a casual, non-threatening manner. For all your employees, schedule regular performance evaluations even if your company doesn’t have an official review policy.

 

Address Problems Immediately. It can be easier in the short run to think things will work themselves out. And sometimes it's true – but often, it’s not. When you give in to procrastination you find that what could have been handled in a quick, five-minute conversation, has now turned into a rat’s nest of a management problem. “It’s really important to be honest even if it’s hard. If you’re not, you have to deal with it later, and that just makes it harder,” says Peters.

 

Document, Document, Document. There’s just something about human nature that makes us pay more attention to something that we see in written form, versus that which we hear only. We take praise, criticism and feedback more seriously if it is written down.  “<Documentation> also helps later if you have to terminate the employee. In a lot of states, you have to have it documented before you can fire an employee,” says Peters. Finally, written notes serve as an aid to you. Your brain has a way of assisting you in avoiding conflict. If it’s not in black and white, you can convince yourself that the employee problems never really happened, or weren’t as big a deal as you thought.

 

Look at the End Result. Make room for employees to have their own styles. Look at the bottom line: Is the job getting done to an acceptable standard of quality? If so, maybe the issue is one of conflicting working styles. Be big enough to set aside your pride. A manager needs to have an open mind and have the ability to view situations from different perspectives.

 

Follow Company Procedure. Because each company does things differently, it’s essential that you work with your personnel department to follow proper legal and corporate procedures. Not only can you benefit from their experience in handling similar situations, you’ll also protect yourself from liability.

 

Set Personality Aside. Separate your business role and your friendships, and be prepared to put your duties as a manager first. It can be tough sometimes, but if both sides are upfront and honest, set rules about keeping work and play separate, it can work.

 

Be Willing to See It Through. Letting someone go is one of the most difficult things any manager has to do, but it’s part and parcel of the job. “If you don’t stay consistent with your message and don’t follow through, it wasn’t worth starting it in the first place,” says Microsoft’s Peters.

 

Review What Went Wrong. Whenever you have a personnel issue, go back over the situation and determine how it arose, if it was avoidable, and what you could have done differently.  “My boss helped me realize that everyone at heart really wants to do a good job. When someone isn’t doing a good job, you have to analyze why they’re not. Usually there’s a reason,” says Peters. Analyze the reason, and you can help eradicate the root problem – and make yourself a better manager.

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Working Smarter, Not Harder

 

 

by E. Kearney, PhD

 

Good organization results in both efficiency and timely, correct task completion, and those who are effective are able to prioritize, determine need and urgency, and apply the appropriate process to a given problem or situation.  Simply put, those who are efficient are task-oriented, and those who are effective are goal-oriented.  In order to work smarter, not harder, it is necessary to be both.

 

Successful people must be able to plan their own work flow, and this requires that goals be established and plans and procedures be put into place to accomplish those goals.  So, let’s start with goals and how to build achievable ones.  Most people “set” wishes, but those who are in control of their time know that goals must be set and a  plan that includes: what is to be done, when it is to begin and when it is to be completed must be designed. Then steps that need to be taken to accomplish the goal, resources – people and things – must be identified, and the process that will be used to evaluate the goal’s successful completion must be created.  They also know that there are only three ways to evaluate success: time, quality, and quantity.  A friend once told me that rather than miss a step and fail to achieve her goals, she had designed a process that kept her on track.  She underlines the “what,” circles the “when,” numbers the “steps,” puts quotation marks around the needed resources, and a box around the evaluation process that will be used.   If she can’t mark all of those, then she knows she has left something out and goes back to put it in.  Then, she takes the most critical step – she reads her goal daily thereby creating her own advertising/indoctrination campaign.

 

It isn’t unusual to see desktops covered with papers and stacks of mail. Effective planners design a process for staying ahead of the paper blitz.  Open that mail, decide what must be kept, and toss the rest.  If there is a need for immediate action, put things that must be completed today in a folder (you may want to color code folders for easy spotting), put things that need to be dealt with tomorrow in another folder, and file or note on your desktop’s calendar the dates other items must be handled.  Then follow-through. The hardest part of following-through is the original organization, so make the process simple.

 

And, while we’re talking simple, let’s take a look at those out-of-office events – events that involve tickets, parking permits, agendas, contact names, speeches, etc. – set up a place for side-closed folders, label them with the name and date of the event, and drop (or have an assistant do it) in all related items.  Then, all you have to do is grab that folder as you head out the door – saving both time, concern,  and energy.

 

Another way to work smarter is to use uninterrupted blocks of time – studies have shown that if you can get away from the phone and other interruptions for one hour, you can increase the usable time by some 28%.  There is also another excellent way to maximize productivity – do what you don’t like when your energy is high and what you do like when your energy is low.  You will find work less tedious, and you will make fewer errors thereby saving correction time.

Are these the only ways to work smarter not harder?  Of course not.   If you would like a copy of the guidelines (The ABC’s of Time Management) that we developed for our clients, just let us know.

 

Elizabeth Kearney, Ph.D.,  the author of some 16 books and over 200 magazine articles is the founder of Kearney & Associates: The Experts’ Alliance.  Three of her books were Fortune Book-of-the-Month selections and another was selected by the American Library Association as the outstanding reference book for the year of its publication. Writing and running the company she founded in 1983 to provide custom and custom-tailored training and consulting services to clients – many of whom are Fortune 500 companies – keeps her quite busy, but she finds time to work with her clients to ensure that they receive outstanding services at significantly reduced costs.  At their prompting, she established Leadership University to provide Just-in-Time Training programs to augment or substitute for classroom offerings by utilizing streaming video; interactive, self-scoring testing tools; phone coaching; and voice-over CD slide shows.  Her primary goal is to provide world-class training, consulting, and informational articles that will help her clients and readers reach their own goals for success.  She can be reached at P.O. Box 1090, San Leandro, CA 94577, Phone: 510 614 8682; email: eik1@earthllink.net, and you are invited to visit her web site: www.ekearneyalliance.com.

  

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“Stretching” the Life of Your IRA

By Doris Meister of Merrill Lynch

One of the most tax-efficient ways to accumulate wealth is through individual retirement accounts (IRAs). However, for wealthy individuals who don't need all the money in their IRA to pay for retirement expenses, passing along those assets can extend the life of their IRA while also benefiting other family members who may not have planned for their own retirement. Keep in mind that a “stretch” IRA is not a type of IRA, but rather a distribution planning strategy.

 

How the Strategy Works

Your traditional IRA offers the distinctive feature of tax-deferred asset growth until you reach age 70½. Then, a minimum amount of money must be withdrawn each year (based on your life expectancy and account balance) and, if applicable, taxes are paid on the distribution.  The stretch IRA strategy allows individuals to pass their IRA holdings on to their heirs, allowing them to take distributions throughout their lifetimes and extending the period of tax-deferred earnings beyond the account holder’s lifetime. This is done through the structuring of beneficiary designations and distribution options.

One way to effectively stretch your IRA is to choose younger beneficiaries. If the beneficiaries inherit the IRA after the account owner attains age 70½, they must continue to receive distributions but are now able to stretch the distributions over their own single life expectancy.   If the beneficiaries inherit the IRA before the account owner reaches 70½, they must begin distributions from the IRA no later than December 31 of the year following the account owner's death. However, they can also stretch the minimum required death distribution over their own single life expectancy. The younger the beneficiaries are, the longer the IRA will last and the longer its assets may grow tax-deferred. For example, if you name your 10-year-old grandchild as a beneficiary of your account, the IRA can continue to grow tax-deferred for many years.

Under the final IRS regulations issued in April 2002, IRA beneficiaries are determined by September 30 of the year following the account owner's death for purposes of calculating life-expectancy payout periods. If there are multiple primary beneficiaries, as long as those beneficiaries split out their portion of the assets to a separate “inherited IRA,” they can generally choose to take distributions from the inherited IRA over their single life expectancy. Being able to take distributions over their respective single life expectancies rather than being tied to the oldest primary beneficiary's single life expectancy can result in a significantly longer payout period for some younger beneficiaries. Also, each beneficiary of the original distribution can subsequently name their own beneficiaries to whom they may pass the assets, effectively stretching the IRA even further. Each of these changes under the final regulations generally results in a longer life for the IRA and a longer period of tax-deferral.

 

Special Spousal Beneficiary Options

Spouses can take their share by assuming ownership of the IRA or rolling over the assets to an IRA in their name. Then, to implement the stretch strategy, they name their children or grandchildren as beneficiaries of the account. While living, the surviving spouse is subject to the required minimum distribution (RMD) rules if they are 70½ or older. Following the surviving spouse's death, the IRA assets, which have been growing tax-deferred, will pass on to the beneficiaries, who would be subject to the required death-distribution guidelines. Effectively, the IRA has been stretched out over multiple generations.

A spouse could also choose to refuse their share (referred to as a "disclaimer"), allowing the account to pass to the remaining primary beneficiary(ies) or, if there are no primary beneficiaries, the payment would be made to the contingent beneficiaries.

 

Other Strategies

There are other ways to extend the life of your IRA.  For instance, you can refrain from making withdrawals before you reach age 70½, and then take only the minimum amount that is required. What is the required minimum distribution? In 2002, the IRS issued final regulations that IRA owners must use in calculating their RMD, which is based on the year-end balance of the IRA and the life expectancy of the owner. (As the regulations can be complex, you should consult with your tax advisor to see how the regulations apply to your specific situation.) To account for longer life expectancies, the IRS introduced new life-expectancy tables.  In many cases, RMD amounts will be reduced, requiring less to be withdrawn from the IRA.  

Also, last year, Congress raised the contribution limits for IRAs. For 2002-2004, the annual contribution limit is $3,000 for individuals under age 50. Individuals age 50 and over are permitted to make “catch-up” contributions, bringing their annual contribution limit to $3,500. These limits will gradually increase through 2008. Taken together, these moves can allow for more assets to grow on a tax-deferred basis for a longer period.

Whether you choose to extend the life of your IRA, or your spouse or beneficiaries do, will depend on individual financial circumstances. A Merrill Lynch Financial Advisor can help you evaluate your IRA options and how a stretch IRA strategy can affect your portfolio. You should also consult your legal or tax advisors to determine if this strategy is appropriate for you.  

 

Doris Meister is the head of Private Wealth Management and Chairman of Merrill Lynch Trust Company

               

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"Training the Corporate Animal"

by Mindy W. Toran

Management training is going to the dogs -- literally and figuratively thanks to an educational program designed to help managers become "leaders of the pack" in the workplace. Known as "Best of Breed" training, the program focuses on concepts and principles of animal behavioral training that work just as well in corporate life.

 

The program is the brainchild of Diane C. Hanson, president of Creative Resource Development Inc., a West Chester, Pa.-based management consulting firm. Inspired by her training experiences with two older dogs her family had adopted over the years, Hanson created Best of Breed training to highlight the analogies between effective dog training and the management of people.

 

"There are basic instincts that drive each of us, whether we¹re canines or Homosapiens," says Hanson. "These include the need to be rewarded for good behavior, as well as the importance of having our leashes yanked when we get out of line. We¹re not trying to equate employees with dogs. However, psychological research has shown that, when it comes to behavior, dogs and humans react to similar situations in much the same way. While we naturally think of training a dog with the use of praise or treats when they perform a trick correctly, we often expect top performance from employees without any praise or rewards, other than annual performance review."

 

After attending an obedience class with her dog Dewey, a 7-year-old, uncooperative cockapoo, Hanson had a "light-bulb moment" about how to deal with a particularly difficult employee. Whenever this particular employee was asked to complete an assignment, he would come up with numerous reasons why it wouldn¹t work, arguing back and forth about the project until, reluctantly, getting it done.

 

During this particular training session, Hanson was asked to lead Dewey around the room. When the dog refused to follow, the trainer told her to "be very clear as to what direction you want your dog to go, and don¹t take no for an answer. The instructor then yanked the dog¹s leash and led him in the desired direction. Dewey followed willingly.

 

Hanson soon realized she had been playing the same "tug-of-war" game with her employee. The next time she gave him an assignment, she only let him hem and haw for 30 seconds before intervening and telling him, "I need it done and expect it on my desk by Monday." After about 15 seconds of silence, the employee responded, "As long as you put it that way, do you have any suggestions on how I should do it?" She had effectively "yanked his chain," and he was now willingly following her lead.

 

Hanson has since come up with 10 Best of Breed principles that highlight performance improvement and training strategies in terms that managers can understand and relate to. These include:  

 

Communication. It¹s important to communicate your expectations clearly and guide employees in the right direction. "When a dog is unsure of what you want, he becomes confused and frustrated," says Hanson. "The same goes for employees. Unclear expectations lead to misunderstandings, conflict, and wasted time and resources." It¹s management¹s responsibility to make sure employees have a clear understanding of what¹s expected of them on the job, establish their priorities and the rules they must follow. 

 

Trust. You need to build a personal relationship before you can start to train a dog or manage people effectively. "Dogs are far more responsive after they¹ve developed a sense of trust with their owners," notes Hanson.  "A personal relationship is the single most important factor in motivating both employees and your pet. Employees will take more initiative and are more productive when their manager gives them the necessary attention, direction and support."

 

Leadership. By providing clear direction and consistent follow-up, addressing problem behavior promptly and leading by example, a leader gains the respect of his or her followers. "When training a dog, you need to establish yourself as the leader of the pack you must earn respect and credibility in order to influence others even your dog," says Hanson.

 

Feedback. Praise is a powerful motivator for both people and dogs. "If you don¹t communicate your displeasure, problem dogs will assume everything is fine and continue with their present behavior," she explains. "When you give feedback that matches the expectations you¹ve communicated, it reinforces the behavior. When a dog successfully obeys a command, praise and a simple pat on the head will reinforce the desired behavior and it will likely be repeated."  Feedback must be timely, otherwise it won¹t be connected with the appropriate behavior. "Managers frequently overlook this important aspect of managing employees often waiting until the annual performance review to give feedback about behavior that occurred six months ago."

 

Rewards & Consequences. Rewards are particularly important for behavior modification. "Dogs need to know that their actions hold consequences and that those consequences can either be positive or negative.  Food, praise and tone of voice are ample rewards for dogs. These and many other potential rewards or forms of recognition also apply to employees.  Managers who likewise use appropriate consequences to mold productive behavior will end up with well-behaved employees," stresses Hanson.  In addition, rewards must be timely to reinforce behavior. For example, a dog may be given a treat upon coming when called. With employees, recognition of a bonus should be awarded soon after the accomplishment occurs.

 

Discipline. "When your dog or an employee does something seriously wrong, strong consequences are required to communicate your displeasure,"  says Hanson. "You may need to yank their chain when dealing with problem behavior, but reserve it for special situations. Always follow-up; both employees and dogs should be held responsible for their actions."  

 

Consistency. "Consistency in enforcing the rules is extremely important in dog training," she stresses. "Dogs learn much faster when they know what to expect and the rules remain the same. If a manager is inconsistent in his dealings with an employee, it can lead to behavior problems. In addition, inconsistency can lead to feelings of favoritism or unfairness and create serious morale problems."

 

Empowerment. It¹s important to treat employees as individuals. "Managers must treat each worker as an individual with his or her own unique personality and communicate what is allowed and what the boundaries are. For example, a collar and leash allow a dog to know its boundaries. Some dogs require a longer leash and some need shorter leashes. This is similar to the concept of empowering employees. You may give free reign to responsible and dependable employees, and provide more supervision and direction (shorter leashes) to newer or difficult employees."

 

Grooming. Both employees and dogs must be groomed to be at their best. "If employees are not provided with opportunities to develop their skills, they will quickly fall behind and will not be able to keep pace in today¹s hectic business world. By providing appropriate challenges and development opportunities, managers can increase motivation and retention of valued employees."

 

Accountability. Both dogs and employees must be held accountable for their actions. When teaching a dog to fetch, the dog should not receive praise until the ball or stick is back in your hand. In the workplace, a manager who talks to an employee about a problem that needs to be resolved, but never follows through with consequences for failure to comply will ultimately lose control of the situation. "Unresolved issues can decrease your potential credibility and lead to morale problems and poor performance," says Hanson.

 

But with proper training, direction and consistency, you can teach even an old dog or stubborn employees -- new tricks.

 

Mindy Toran is a full-time freelance writer based outside of Philadelphia.  She writes for a number of regional and national publications concentrating on human resources, insurance, healthcare, and technology issues.

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Beyond Juggling - Rebalancing Your Busy Life

by Kurt Sandholtz

"It was the year after my divorce, and I was working full time and getting my MBA in the evenings," begins Stephanie, a researcher at a global electronics company.  "My three kids were involved in Cub Scouts or Girl Scouts - all on different nights - and hockey or ice skating, also on different nights, not to mention the games every weekend.  I think I went through that whole year without sleeping."

Stephanie recounts her story during a work-life balance seminar.  The exercise is a 21st century version of "Can You Top This?"  with the prize going to the contestant with the most out-of-control experience.  The tales are startling, outrageous, and, at the same time, almost universally familiar.  As Stephanie finishes, the 60 other people in the room not knowingly, a silent expressions of "Been there, done that."

Such out-of-kilter lives have become the rule, not the exception.  Little wonder work-life balance has emerged as the Holy Grail of the workplace.  Survey after survey shows that when people rank what they most want from their jobs, balance tops the list.

Now, the good news:  Work-life balance is not an impossible dream.  In our research, we talked to plenty of people who found workable solutions to that balance dilemma.  In nearly all cases, they realized that they won't achieve balance by running faster, working harder, and cramming more into their lives.  They let go of the idea of juggling everything.

This doesn't mean they dropped out of society and are surviving on organic vegetables and goat's milk.  Most of the successful " balancers" we studied aren't interested in an extreme version of the simple life.  They accept, as a given, that the three components of balance -  meaningful work, satisfying relationships, and personal rejuvenation or self-care -- rarely come together in a tidy, stress free package.  So they use a variety of methods to "rebalance" their lives into a more satisfying--and sustainable--pattern.

Why Juggling Doesn't Work

Forty-five minutes, two seconds.  It's the longest time Anthony Gatto, professional juggler and the world record holder since, 1989, has kept five clubs in the air.  Add one or two clubs, and he can't juggle much more than a minute.

Anthony is a juggler extraordinaire.  Most of us are not.  But we're trying to the same thing with six, seven, eight, or more simultaneous commitments.  Patti Manuel, the president and chief operating officer of Sprint Long Distance, consciously identifies the roles in her life as her juggling props.  "I'm a boss, an employee, a friend, a mother, a daughter, and a member of my church and community."  (That's seven.)  "Balance is about understanding what these roles are and not letting any one of them become dominant.  Most of the time, I'm good at it.  Other times, I'm trying to manage my way back from chaos."

Juggling is a knee-jerk coping mechanism--the "default" setting when times get tight and seemingly nothing can be put on the back burner.  As long as our reflexes are sharp, it works.  We can "have it all."  For that 45 minutes and 2 seconds, we have a meaningful work life, a satisfying relationship with a partner, quality time with our kids and friends, and sufficient snatches of personal rejuvenations or self-care.  Then something happens and it all comes crashing down.

Comedian Steve Wright has observed, with his inimitable deadpan delivery.  "You can't have everything.  Where would you put it?"  In our hearts, we know he's right.  But that doesn't keep us from trying to pack everything in anyway.  And when it doesn't quite fit, we juggle as best we can.

Beyond Juggling

If you're an exhausted juggler looking for a better way, consider the following five alternatives, gleaned from interviews with hundreds of busy professionals.

 Alternating.  Alternators want it all, but not all at once.  Their work-life balance comes in separate, concentrated doses.  They throw themselves into their careers with abandon, then cut way back or quit work altogether and focus intensely on their non-professional interests.

Murray Low is currently an organization effectiveness manager for Eli Lilly.  Over the past 15 years, he has been CPA, has worked for a strategy consulting firm, and has run the HR department for a steel plant, with three - to six month stints of unemployment in between.  He's made the most of his time off, skiing fresh powder and mountain biking with his wife and kids.

Others alternate on a daily or weekly basis.  These "micro-alternators" focus while at work, but turn off their cell phones the minute they get home.  They refuse to check e-mail at night or on weekends.  And they take all of their allotted vacation days, every year.  They consider their off-work time to be crucial for deepening relationships and rejuvenating their spirit and energy.

Outsourcing.  "We have a family of four and a staff of eight," quips Jon Younger, a New Jersey-based executive.  He and his wife have precious little free time to allocate to a seemingly endless list of demands.  Their solution:  Prioritize those activities in which they want to be personally involved, then hire out the rest.  On the "personal" list are spending one-on-one time with their two sons, coaching children's sports, attending church services and events, sharing quality time with extended family, and walking the dog.  Just about everything else-yard care, food prep, academic tutoring, vacation planning, and car maintenance, among them-gets outsourced.

Outsourcers achieve work-life balance by off-loading responsibilities-usually in their personal lives-to free up time and energy for those areas they care most about.  Their motto might be, "I want to have it all, not do it all."  Those with limited disposable income rely on a robust, reciprocal network of family, friends, neighbors, and other supporters who band together to help each other gain a bit of balance in their lives.

Bundling.  Bundlers involve themselves in fewer activities, but they get more mileage out of those activities.  They examine their busy lives and look for areas in which they can "double dip."  For example, a group of women gets together three mornings a week to work out.  This accomplishes an important goal for physical exercise, and at the same time provides regular social contact and deepens their friendship.

Everyone bundles to some degree, but we also found a lot of "faux" bundling- a version of juggling in which people fool themselves into thinking they're multitasking.  The most egregious example is people who talk on their cell phones from the "privacy" of a public restroom stall.  Sure, they're doing two things at once.  But is it really helping them feel more balanced?

The essence of bundling isn't so much multitasking as "multipurposing."  Its genius is in giving separate tasks greater meaning by putting them together.

Techflexing.  Techflexers dream about leveraging technology to the point where they can conduct their work from almost anywhere, anytime.  The key to their strategy isn't just technology, but flexibility.  Techflexers figure out how to maximize the control they have over their schedules.

In contrast to jugglers, Techflexers don't use technology to increase the work hours in a day.  Rather, they use it to liberate those work hours from the more rigid 9-to-5 structure, as well as to enrich their personal lives.

Simplifying.  Simplifiers have decided they don't want it all.  They've made a lasting commitment to reduce the time and energy devoted to "non-essential" activities, whether at work or at home.  They payoff, they hope, is greater freedom-from stress, from minutia, from the rat race.

In the physics of work-life balance, simplifying strikes us as an equal and opposite reaction to the craziness of juggling.  Some people pursue it from the beginning of their career.  Others come to it after they've tried juggling for awhile.  In either case, a common characteristic is the willingness to make some sacrifices-small ones, like "I've decided to buy one only color of socks," or larger ones, like "I took a voluntary pay cut to work only four days a week."

Rebalancing Your Life

These five strategies-alone or in combination-have helped many people as they strive to juggle less and enjoy life more.  Not one is a panacea.  Each requires tradeoffs.  Balance, like happiness, appears to be a journey, not a destination.

But if you focus on rebalancing your life-making conscious choices and course corrections as you go-the small changes can have a big impact.  Work-life balance isn't an all-or-nothing phenomenon.  Spending an hour or two per week on the things that matter most to you can spell the difference between feeling out of control versus feeling tired yet satisfied.  And in a world brimming over with meaningful opportunities and fascinating distractions, "tired yet satisfied" isn't a bad way to go.

Kurt Sandholtz is a consultant, speaker, writer, and youth soccer coach.  With road-warrior work, deep commitments to family and church, and interests from skiing to Shakespeare, juggling has long been a way of life for Kurt.  He's too much of a tightwad to outsource much, so he's learning to simplify and alternate.

 

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Transforming the Functional Mindset

By Andrew R. Spanyi

When it comes to improving organizational performance in difficult economic times, the popular Pogo quotation “We have met the enemy and they is us” has never rung more true.

 

In many organizations, senior management’s functional mindset represents one of the most significant barriers to change. In fact, the traditional functional paradigm has done more to impede customer focused performance improvement over the past two decades than almost any other factor.

 

But, there’s a groundswell building. An increasing number of middle managers – and even some senior executives – are finally waking up to the reality that the key to achieving superior, sustainable business results is managing the flow of cross functional activities which creates value for customers.

 

If you are interested in assessing the extent to which your business may be affected by a predominantly functional mindset, ask yourself the following questions. Do your leaders focus more on reporting relationships and protecting their domain than on the flow of activities in delivering products and services to customers? Do you find that improvement projects such as TQM, Six Sigma, and reengineering are often defined in terms of functional boundaries, leading to duplication of effort and implementation challenges? Is there a greater focus on plan versus budget as opposed to measures of the quality, timeliness and cost of services provided to customers? Are information systems projects defined in terms of functional boundaries, and do you find that various IT systems don’t communicate well with one another?

 

If you answered with a resounding YES to three or more of the above questions, then you have a serious challenge. Chances are – your organization is leaving a pile of money on the table – and it’s directly due to the traditional functional mindset practiced and reinforced by senior executives.

 

So what to do? How can you transform the traditional functional mindset such that your organization is designed to make it easy for customers to do business with the company and easier for employees to better serve the company’s customers?

 

First, let’s be clear. Changing the culture and mental model of the executive team is the task of the leader.

 

This is not something that you can have ‘bubble up’. Your leader must be front and center in communicating that the executive team’s mental model is a key enabler in the creation of sustainable competitive advantage.

 

While there’s no cookie cutter solution, the journey from traditional thinking to customer focused, cross functional thinking generally involves the components of business process thinking, a balanced view of measures, aligned executive rewards, and relentless communication.

 

One of the early critical steps on this journey involves expressing strategic direction and initiatives in terms of the required cooperation and interdependence of the traditional functional departments. This can best be done by drafting a mid-level cross-functional process map of the core business processes needed to create value for customers and discussing the needed cooperation across traditional functional boundaries to achieve desired results. The mid level business process map facilitates this conversation and allows one to overlay metrics for current and desired performance.

 

Then, the use of a ‘scorecard’ can create balance between traditional financial measures and the more qualitative, customer focused measures which express the timeliness, quality and cost of delivering what customers demand.

 

Another, and related, typical milestone on the journey from traditional thinking to customer focused, cross functional thinking is to align executive rewards with shared responsibility for key business process performance. As the old adage says ‘what’s measured – gets done, what’s rewarded – get done consistently and repeatedly.’

 

Once there is clarity on the above three areas, it’s essential to document the way ahead and set up a monthly review session to monitor progress and maintain focus on business results and cross functional cooperation.

 

Finally, you will need to communicate persistently. Ensure that the entire organization understands the key points of interdependence across functional areas in serving customers and the shared responsibility for key strategic initiatives.

 

As you might imagine, the leadership team’s journey from traditional functiona l thinking to customer focused, activity based thinking is neither quick nor easy. However, it will appeal to those thoughtful leaders who recognize that the old solutions don’t work as well as they once did.

 

 

Andrew Spanyi is the Managing Director of Spanyi International, Inc., a consulting and training company, which operates in the field of organization and process design.  He was previously affiliated with the Rummler-Brache Group (RBG).

Andrew has been advising executive teams at world-class organizations for nearly two decades.  His area of focus is to assist executives in transforming the traditional way they tend to think about their business.  He can be reached at aspanyi@attbi.com or 905-302-4061 

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 A Look Back…A Manage article from 50 Years Ago…

 Good Advice never gets old…

  

DEAR LORD, HELP ME TO KEEP MY BIG MOUTH SHUT

 By William Levy

 

Early in the evening, I’m just about to doze off on the living room couch when my wife says, “If you’re tired why don’t you take off your clothes and go to bed instead of lying on the couch?”  My better half is a wonderful woman but she’ll never understand that there is a difference between taking a nap listening to the television and going to bed.  One is a luxury; the other is a normal function.  I’m sure any of you who have been married 20 years will realize the futility of trying to explain this to the feminine gender.  They just don’t understand and it continues to be one of our pet disagreements.  She finally gives up and I’m ready to doze off again when I hear a voice on television singing, “Papa, don’t preach to me, don’t preach to me.  Papa, don’t preach to me.”  It got me thinking.  Everyone seems to be preaching to the foreman about good human relations, his responsibility as a member of management and so many different things.  Maybe more time should be spent in telling him how and having him analyze these things himself.  I suppose I’m as guilty as the rest but I see so many problems develop and I don’t feel right unless I’ve at least honestly told you how I feel about them.

The Art of Listening

 I’d like to extend the title of this article so that it reads, “Dear Lord, help me keep my mouth shut-so I can hear what the other fellow has to say.”  A few years ago, I attended a lecture by a very competent industrial psychologist.  He spoke on the subject of “Listening’ and what he said made sense.  I remember a term that he used that was a dilly.  He called it “emotional catharsis.”  Isn’t that a pistol?  And yet, what was he saying?   Catharsis-cathartic-castor oil.  Now it isn’t so tough.  Every man under your direction, piles up within himself those pretty gripes, aggravations, bitches, real or imaginary, until they are up to his neck.  And unless you periodically give him a chance to wash himself out by talking, you’re in for a peck of trouble.  I know you’re busy, but there is always one guy he can go to who will listen to him if you won’t.  That’s the guy with the big badge-the shop steward.  And then we wail and cuss because the loyalty of the worker seems to be shifting to someone else.  A lot of room we’ve got for complaint.  There’s still one more good reason why we should be willing to listen.  Did it ever dawn on you that you’ll never meet a man, woman, or child in your lifetime who isn’t your superior in at least one thing?  So it seems to me, from the point of view of being selfishly intelligent, it behooves us to go to school with every person we meet.  After all, education is the ability to successfully adapt yourself to every experience, which brings about a desirable change in your own behavior.

This thing called pride

You’ll never have indigestion from swallowing your pride.  And yet, many times we say or do things which hurts another person but a false sense of guilt prevents us from admitting we made a mistake.  Some people have the feeling that as an administrator, you can’t afford to admit you’re wrong.  Naturally, the wise thing to do is to weigh your statements carefully because if your foot slips you may recover your balance but if your tongue slips you cannot recall your words.  If you do say something wrong though, you should be big enough to try to make it right.

Speaking of pride, I wonder if many of us know the actual meaning of this word we flaunt like a banner when we feel we must maintain our rank.  Webster defines it as:  “Quality or state of being proud, specifically an inordinate self-esteem; conceit; a high esteem of oneself for some real or imagined merit or superiority.”  And in the dictionary of synonyms, pride is linked with arrogance, haughtiness, vanity, self-esteem, conceit, loftiness and vain-glory.  I can assure you that your status will be greater with your men if you admit your mistakes.  The mark of a truly great man is humility.  Speak well and loudly of yourself, but let your actions do the talking.

(William Levy was NMA’s Institute/Education Manager)

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