What is culture? What defines culture in an organization? One thing we know for sure is that it's not strongly connected to the "vision," "mission," and "culture" signs hanging in the lobby. Heck, the most evil companies in history said all the right things, and they said them in engraved marble in the lobby! No, culture isn't what you say.
Culture is what you do. Period. Even bigger than that, culture is the sum total of all your actions. You know that very talented employee who is selfish and territorial? Keeping that employee around speaks to the real culture at your firm. It says that you value output pretty much regardless of what comes with it.Read More
What does it mean to build and then lead a staff? Few of us received any formal training for it, so we often model our own style on the examples we’ve had in other bosses (and parents). Too bad, really, because learning to do this ought to be a lot less accidental.Read More
What are the characteristics of a leader that others want to follow?As you’ll soon see, this list is a very personal one. In other words, we’d all come up with different elements when building the list. What I’ve tried to do, though, is to think of a complete leader. So I’ve asked myself this question: can I imagine a leader who isn’t fair, for instance. The answer is obviously no. Each one of these, then, describes a leader’s characteristics, any one of which might hinder their effectiveness if missing in any significant proportion. What I’d encourage you to do--maybe even before you read this list--is to first make up your own list and compare it with mine. (These are not presented in any particular order.)Read More
My Declaration for Your 2014: The Year of Your Own Oxygen Mask
This year I will jot down some clever ways to peg the amount of "care" my clients bring to the table, and I will willingly match that level, just because it's the right thing to do. But for my own sake, I will not exceed that level, just because it's also the right thing to do.
I will quit pretending to solve the potable water crisis in Africa and I will take a glass of cold, refreshing water to a randomnly chosen employee on occasion. I am tired of the hypocrisy of wanting to change that world while being a #@%!) shitty manager in this one.
Not inconsistent with this, I will finally boot that one employee out of the nest. Yes, they have done every job in the place and been with me as the organization has matured, but they no longer have the presence, objectivity, ability, or hunger that we need. If I hear them tell one more new employee that they've been here the longest, have done every job, and know how and when to present things to me, I may just make a decision on the spot.
I will be so, so grateful for whatever health and intelligence I've managed to retain through these years. [Pause and be grateful, please.] I won't view life as something that happens after I fix it, but something that happens while I fix it. The journey itself must be savored, along with the control and freedom and opportunities I have to NOT feed the machine.
If what I've just said still doesn't...Read More
These are the things I've learned about paying humans, most of which I didn't absorb until some time after I was managing them.
The two groups of employees who are typically overpaid are those who have been with you a long time and those who know what other people make.
There are five issues more important to good employees than money, and when they talk about money is when some of those five things have eroded over time.
No employees in the world are mature enough to know what other people make and not read "intrinsic value" into that equation.
Real power comes from shaping how and what someone is paid. Unless a "manager" is that same person, all they are really doing is making suggestions about projects.
Small, frequent adjustments are better than...Read More
Webinar: There has never been this amount of activity in the merger/acquisition space for marketing firms. The other good news is that there have been positive changes in the earnout structure, in the multiples for some firms, and in the term mix at closing. But there is bad news, too: lower multiples for some firms, higher standards for acquisition targets, and fewer reasons to close in the first place. 12:00pm–1:00pm Central. $160Read More
Six Definitive Aspects of Management
What is Management
What is management, anyway? I would define it as taking responsibility for the performance and output of another employee in a business setting. There is obviously some overlap between that and leadership, and in many cases we can use the terms interchangeably, but in the end it boils down to being responsible for those two things—performance and output—and it relates to doing so with people in a business setting.
Let me make six statements here to help define management further.
Aptitude for Management Comes from the Choices you’ve Made
I’ll start by noting that management is not natural, and there are no “natural born” managers. Good management comes primarily from who you are as a person, and if you’ve made the right choices as you’ve responded to the circumstances you’ve encountered, there is a higher likelihood that you’ll be a good manager. That’s the first point, and it’s a very important one.
Who you are as a person stems from the choices you have made in the circumstances you have faced. You have had precious little choice about some of those circumstances, but you have had all sorts of freedom in deciding how you would....Read More
As you grow, what transitions are useful and even expected? Let’s look at a few that you’ll almost certainly encounter and help you see what might be on the other side of the transition.
One: Hiring for Expertise vs. Money
The first good transition to make is to begin hiring people for their expertise rather than for what they cost you. In the early days, you have a budget and you hire accordingly. You aim for whatever you can get for that price, and that’s the best you can do. There simply isn’t any more money, and expertise takes a back seat to available funds.
Eventually, though, you determine that expertise is more important than money. So you outline what you’re looking for in great detail and you don’t settle for less. You have a budget in mind, but the budget takes a back seat to the requirements for expertise. That means you may bust the budget. But in this scenario, one very qualified person may actually be equally as effective as two less qualified individuals.
Two: From Judging to Shaping
The second good transition to make is to move from judging to shaping the work underneath....Read More
A great client recently asked me to outline my definition of success for their firm. I really enjoyed doing that, and below is a version that you can adapt to your own situation, putting your own stamp on it:
- Partner compensation equals or exceeds industry benchmarks.
- After that is achieved, you still 20% net profit.
- The more entrepreneurial employees are satisfied that their contribution to your gain is recognized and accounted for.
- Partners and employees in key roles will have already tasted competence in the area of your focus, or they will experience it within nine months of joining the firm.
- There will be few or no young employees who value variety over expertise.
- When employees talk about your firm, while still employed, their private comments will be complimentary.
- When partners and employees head out the door to work for the day, they look forward to the challenges, the companionship, and their participation in the overall culture.
- As a firm you will not require extraordinary people....
I was recently working with a firm under our new "Come to Nashville" program for a day and we were doing long-term planning, mainly, but with an eye on how that might impact the short term. I came up with some questions that turned out to be very helpful as they took a break from the continuous crazy days we all have, and then answered them honestly and seriously.
- How do you feel about the current positioning of your firm? If you could waive a magic wand and change it (without regard to current employees or clients), what would your positioning be?
- What are your biggest fears in just pursuing that positioning, even if it means doing so alongside your current firm and maybe even doing it all alone without employees?
- If I watched you on a typical day, would it look like you are taking care of clients or would it look like you were taking care of employees (who would then take care of clients if you did your job well)?
- Who are the two weakest employee links who probably should be dismissed in the near future?
- Who is the most talented person at your firm who is disruptive to the culture? Are they on the list, above, of people to dismiss?
- You likely started this firm to create an environment for yourself that allowed for more freedom, control, and money. Now that you have built it, to what degree are these three things true?...