A Potpourri of Ideas

December 3, 2010

By Bill Harrison

Please permit me the luxury of "rambling" during this newsletter. I often have a consistent theme but this month I want to get several thoughts out there that can be helpful in these trying times.

1. Are you giving raises?
"Not in today's economic climate" you might reply. But did you ever "give" raises in the past? The honest answer is "yes"; and that is sad. Too many folks were giving raises to team members who were mediocre at best. How did that work for you?

Well STOP GIVING RAISES - FOREVER! Raises must be earned by getting the desired results; and that means achieving a net profit in what is accomplished. Get a pay for performance systems in place so your team members know how they can earn a raise. No raises should be given for attendance; just showing up isn't enough to get a raise. If you would like samples of pay for performance systems please e-mail me and I will send you a copy. Just let me know what trade you are involved with.

2. Is mediocrity the new norm?
Sadly, I believe this is true in so many aspects of our society. Do you expect to be "wowed" in your next retail/ fast food/service experience? I doubt it. Do you expect your team members to step up to the plate and complete the next job/assignment error free? Not!

Mediocrity has become the norm because leaders, managers, owners and the public have accepted it as the norm. Do we even complain any longer when served poorly or directly talk to team members who are not performing as "A" players? Probably not.

A very long time ago (pre-cell phones) I reported directly to an Air Force Wing Commander who was so straight he would only make personal calls on a pay phone in the hall. It was against the rules to use the government phone on his desk for such calls. He expected only the best from himself and demanded it from others. He was one of the rare Wing Commanders who were promoted from colonel to general officer. The results his team achieved were outstanding; and we were proud to be on his team. What is the norm on your team? Be honest.

3. Is training a joke at your company?
Are you training proactively for skills improvement every work day in your company? Do you have a serious training program to upgrade everyone's skills; even those in the office. Or are you hoping that team members will get better on their own if they stay around long enough; sort of learn on the job? How has that approach worked for you? Are your jobs/tasks being performed error free? Any questions, call me - the call is free!

4. Are you cutting expenses where it counts?
Now I'm going to tread on some very sensitive ground. It is like roaming the edge of a mine field. In this particular circumstance I have a background in "EOD". I have coached many folks through this tough neighborhood. Cutting a low level position or a minor expense is not what it takes. You need to get serious. Let's look at owner or senior manager expenses. How many new cars for owners/executives have been purchased in the last 12 months? We won't even ask about vehicles for others. Deleting or tearing up this newsletter will not change the circumstances.

Sometimes we need to hear what we need to hear; not what is comfortable. When it comes to cost cutting sit down with your CFO or accountant and look at the senior level expenses - credit cards, vehicle "stuff", travel "stuff", "personal" expenses, etc., etc. Painful as it is, now it is imperative to cut those expenses to the bone. If you are unwilling to start here; you aren't serious about expense control.

5. Senior management performance
The next area that is sensitive is senior managers who are not getting "A" player results; for whatever reasons. These folks must be dealt with directly and firmly. Senior managers must be putting in the time and the effort to achieve a net profit; no matter what. Senior managers must be at the top of their game if we are going to survive. This may mean more time at job sites, touring the office to see what is happening (or not) and helping whoever needs the help. And remember: Talking about it is not doing it! They must get "A" results or be replaced!

6. Do you understand it is about production?
Someone recently explained they needed more volume to sustain their overhead; or they would have to make some cuts. That is quite possible; but there is an alternative to consider. If your volume stays the same, and your productivity improves, that is also a positive impact on the bottom line. Production can refer to field operations, a pre-fab scenario, or even office operations. When our team members do things they may do them right; or they don't. To the degree they don't, it has a very negative impact on productivity and the bottom line.

Too many mangers/owners are accepting too many mistakes as "normal" for the construction process (see no 2). In every situation when I get involved, I ask: "What would have prevented this loss?" Almost every time team members explain what they could have done; and they knew that beforehand. But, they were too busy, too stressed, etc., etc. to get it right the first time. Thus, we needed two to five times the amount of time to get it done over. When we use time to do it over we bleed profit dollars.

You must figure out what it is that is causing these mistakes and get that fixed NOW! If it is a process that isn't being followed; then demand it be followed. You had better have an "or else" in mind when you go down this road or you are wasting your time. If it is a person who can't get it right; train them or find someone who can. These have been some tough issues this month. Do not be offended, but give them serious consideration.

Copyright 2010 by PLI, Inc.
The Phoenix Leadership Institute, Inc.
P. O. Box 1403, Centreville, VA 20122
Tel: 703-909-8230, Fax: 703-743-1644
e-mail: wiharrison@comcast.net

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