I was attending a Global Leadership Summit this weekend, and learned a lot about how to lead people. I started thinking about the managers I have been working for over the last 25 years and I realized that I have been working for two main categories of Managers:
Leaders and Managers
When I thought about some of the “Leaders” I have worked for, I look back on the employment with joy. These people “showed the way” and lead me in the right direction – sometimes even without me knowing that I was being led.
But I have also worked under managers who tries to control everything. The Italian word for manager “maneggiare” explains the difference. To “maneggiare” means “to control,” and was especially used with reference to training horses. Probably the “managers/ maneggiare’s” should look for a job where they can train horses. I think that a lot of value creation is destructed by these type of managers.
Over the past twenty years, I’ve facilitated thousands of workshops during which my clients engage in the significant mental effort required to develop Balanced Scorecards that will lead to the execution of their strategy. It’s hard work – intellectually demanding and often tiring, but ultimately rewarding when the entire team lands on the same strategic page, understanding exactly what success looks like and how they’ll get there.
When the clock ticks close to noon during these events it’s not uncommon for participants to meet my calls for a lunch break with a few sneers and remarks that suggest the not so subtle subtext of: “We’re professionals, we don’t need a lunch break…we can power through this!” I certainly understand the desire to capitalize on the momentum that has accumulated during the morning session, and applaud the work ethic of those wanting to carry on without a break, but as a mounting body of research indicates, working through lunch is simply not a good idea for you, or your organization.
Chris Cunningham, University of Tennessee Professor of Industrial-Organizational and Occupational Health believes a mid-day break is essential in restoring the energy and focus necessary to tackle the pressing problems most of us encounter in our day-to-day work lives. “The attention it takes to focus at work drains (people) of psychological, social, and material reserves, leading to stress and lower productivity. Taking a lunch break away from the desk lets people separate themselves from the source of that drain.”
It’s not just productivity that suffers when you sit at your desk or in a conference room toil
ing through the lunch hour, but in fact you’re putting your health in jeopardy. University of Arizona researchers found that the typical office worker’s desk has about 400 times more germs per square inch than an office toilet seat. The nastiest germ minefields are your keyboard and phone, storing in excess of 20,000 germs per square inch. So if you think hiding out in your office is protecting you from that flu bug going around the office, think again. A cold is small potatoes, however, compared to the damage that excess sitting can cause in the long term. Research from the Mayo Clinic has linked sitting for extended periods of time with a number of significant health concerns including obesity and metabolic syndrome, a deleterious band of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels. As if that weren’t bad enough, the research also suggests that sitting too much can increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Fortunately, we can combat these issues with relative ease. Simply wiping your work surface with hand sanitizer can eliminate the vast majority of germs taking up residence around your desk. As to the bigger problems related to excess sitting, the best medicine is to simply get up and get away at lunch, preferably interacting with nature. You don’t need a vigorous hike lasting a full hour, everyone’s clock is different, and for some a ten-minute stroll around your parking lot may be all you need to re-energize and re-focus for the rest of the day. Whatever you choose, know that you’re doing both your mind and body a great service. Research documenting the brain’s ability to subconsciously problem solve is piling up rapidly, so an answer to that challenge you just couldn’t solve before lunch, no matter how hard you tried, may come flashing through while you’re out enjoying a short break. In addition to the mental breakthroughs you’ll enjoy, getting up and spending a few minutes outside is probably the best thing you can do to restore the reserves of energy and focus we all need to succeed in today’s workplace.
-Making the Most of Your Lunch Hour, Wall Street Journal, October 8, 2013.
-Germ statistics from: http://www.cnn.com/2004/HEALTH/12/13/cold.flu.desk/index.html
As a young financial controller I made an observation that I won’t ever forget. I had collected the various departments’ budgets for the next 5 years (bottom up process) and summarized the numbers. The 5 year period showed increased cost. When my manager saw the rising curves he stopped for some seconds and took the pen and drew a new line. “This is our future cost development” he said. At first I thought he was not serious, but after a while I understood he really meant it.
He told me that I should minimize the impact on the overall operations given the new target cost level. This was a healthy exercise that all businesses should undertake – even if they are not in crisis. My manager did not have to cut cost like this – he just did it – and I admire him much for this.
I worked in the Shared Services Division, and the cost cutting exercise did not impact our services much. Like you reshuffle your furniture at home every now and then – you should also do reshuffling and cut or do less of some activities, for a good cost impact.
One of the many benefits of performance measurement is its ability to help us understand and provide context to the past. Most modern organizations, which find themselves drowning in a sea of raw data while yearning for real insights, would undoubtedly agree this attribute of measurement provides a vital service. However, the very best performance measures also allow us to extend our gaze into, and therefore plan for, the future.
Of course this necessity of peering into the future in order to craft a proactive response applies to virtually any organization, in any discipline. One unique application of this facet of measurement is the prevention of gang violence in Los Angeles. With gang-related homicides numbering in the hundreds, it’s vital that police officers be equipped with the very best information in order to prevent future attacks on a population that is almost exclusively young and extremely vulnerable.
An anthropologist at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is using a novel measurement approach to combat the problem. His name is P. Jeffrey Brantingham and his method is something called the Lotka-Volterra equations. Back in the 1920s Lotka, an American statistician, and Volterra, an Italian mathematician discovered that similar-sized rival groups of a species will claim territories whose boundaries form a perpendicular line halfway between each group’s home base. Brantingham and his team at UCLA took the equations and, using police data on the location of thirteen approximately equal sized gangs in East Los Angeles, mapped their ‘anchor points’ or home base. With the anchor established, they were able to draw corresponding boundaries for each gang’s territory and predict where violent clashes were most likely to take place. According to their model 58.8% of violence would occur less than a fifth of a mile from the border, 87.5% within two-fifths of a mile, and 99.8% within a full mile. Their predictions turned out to be remarkably accurate. Of the actual 563 gang-related incidents over a three-year period, 58.2% were within a fifth of a mile, 83.1% within two-fifths, and 97.7% within a mile.
The breakthrough in this approach is the accuracy with which the researchers can determine a gang border. Police have sketched gang maps for years, but are bound by the conventions of a standard map. That is, they typically draw borders along streets, rivers, etc. The UCLA team’s measurements allow police to pinpoint specific hotspots, and therefore allocate resources with far greater efficiency and effectiveness.
This story should serve as a reminder to us that no problem is immune to the powerful impact of performance measurement and management. Right now there are undoubtedly perplexing issues facing you that may seem to defy measurement, but if you scratch below the surface, look to history as a guide, and apply some creativity to the situation you will find a measurement that yields astounding insights.
Joseph Stromberg, “Mapping Turf Wars,” Smithsonian, April 2013, page 24.
In my young days I worked for a big fortune 250 company. As the financial controller working in the shared services department, I had an experience which, I will never forget. All the managers (40 in total) were gathered for an extended management meeting and as a young controller I watched the Vice President speak to the managers.
He started his speech with good words. As we were in the corporate shared service center of a company of 20000 employees we were often regarded as “cost center” and “overhead”. We were not a part of the core business. But that day the Vice President “raised us up” and gave us value and new energy.
He started by saying “you are the oil in the machinery” and “without your services our company could never operate”. “You are valuable and the work you do is very valuable for the company”.
Then he started telling some challenging things to us like the overall cost in the company was too high, and that this was discussed in the last management meeting with the CEO and all the VP’s. The Group had to cut cost of about USD 100 million… and he continued with his magical words that transformed all of us:
“I am so proud of representing the shared services division, and I know what capacity is there in you. And I believe so much in you. So in the top management meeting I “jumped up” and said “I believe so much in my shared services division – we will take half of the cost cut”.
Normally this would have made people angry. I have never met people that are comfortable with cutting costs. But the VP’s speech changed it all. He gave us value and he believed in us. The result was outstanding. In less than one week we had a plan for the cost cut and we managed to keep our new budgets.
May be business schools should have more psychology in the subjects they teach. It is all about humans – Winning the hearts and minds of the people.