How To Matter

Who Dropped the Ball?

When things don’t work out as expected, when people disappoint us, who dropped the ball? The answer is more complicated than it may seem at first glance.

Audio Tidbit Leadership

Fix or Replace

Let’s suppose that an organization is functioning in a way that is not leading to good or desired outcomes. Things are just not working out the way we want. What to do?

This kind of dilemma can develop in families, in groups from teams to social gatherings, from corner shops to international businesses. Any time people get together with a goal or outcome in mind, there is the potential for bad or at least less than optimal outcomes. So what is the cause and, more importantly, what is the fix?

The underlying cause is usually some variety of the same issue. To understand how it happens, there are a few points that need our attention.

• Things are always organized and functioning perfectly to get the outcomes we are getting. Were we to start from scratch, wanting the outcomes we are currently experiencing, we couldn’t do better than to encourage everyone to keep up the good work, using only the resources and opportunities available to them today.

Audio Tidbit Leadership

The Ideal Home for the Perfect Employee

In the last episode of the Audio Tidbits Podcast, focus was on the perfect employee, on those who aspire to be perfect employees and on employers who hope to hire the perfect employee. In this episode, the discussion is expanded to consider the ideal home for the perfect employee. Please consider an organization that aspires to be the ideal home for the perfect employee. You can then judge the quality of the fit for yourself.

As a potential home for the perfect employee, what are our prerequisites for employment?

To join our organization, a potential employee has to have substantial qualifications for the position of interest. Organizations typically set minimum qualifications for positions. This means the positions are open to people who are just barely qualified. Throughout the organization, then, someone who is just barely qualified – and most likely, sometimes by someone who is not qualified – may provide virtually any service. These services cover all aspects of the operation. We have to be able to assure the people who use our services, either internally or externally, that employees who are substantially qualified to provide them are delivering those services. The best way to make this assurance is to only have employees who are clearly qualified to do what they do – people who are substantially qualified for the position they hold.

Our employees are clearly qualified to provide the services they provide. They are, in turn, allowed to provide those services with a minimum of supervision and direction. They function relatively autonomously and independently, so long as they function within the expected, functional parameters. Within limits, they can do what they think is reasonable and appropriate. Given this level of discretion and flexibility, there are additional criteria the organization uses to select employees. They are included below. Each criterion is required. If the prospective employee does not meet the criterion, he (or she) quite simply is not likely to succeed within the organization’s eco system. This is not a judgment about the individual’s competence. Rather, it is merely a conclusion he or she would not make a good employee here.

Audio Tidbit Leadership

The Perfect Employee

Do you aspire to be the perfect employee? Perhaps you want to find and hire the perfect employee. Either way, this guide to recognizing the perfect employee is one you may find to be essential to your success. Please consider the guide carefully. As you will see, the perfect employee is rare. The best most of us can do is to come close. Even so, it’s well-worth the effort.

• The perfect employee avoids personal actions or involvements that may associate negatively with the organization.

If you are in the imperfect employee majority and plan to stay there, you likely believe that what you do on your own time is none of your employers’ business. The larger the organization is and the less important your job and you are within the organization, the more likely it is that your belief will work out okay for you. This is especially true if you stay out of trouble with the police and have no plan to get a higher position or more responsibility in the organization.

On the other hand, there are a few factors that can quickly make your personal life very relevant for your current and future employment. Two are central. First, the more sensitive to and dependent on public support or perception the organization is, the more your personal life matters and the more your behavior and personal choices become associated with the organization. Second, the higher or more important you and your position are in the organization or the higher your aspirations, the more your personal life matters.

The conclusion is easy. When employers are looking for the perfect employee or if you aspire to be the perfect employee, reputation, conduct and deportment do make a difference. Personal history, current and past reputation, the opinions of people who know you well and your current life circumstances matter a lot. They matter to perspective employers and equally matter to those who aspire to be the perfect employee.

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When Management Style Is Not Your Choice

How much do you think management style matters for the success of the company, the manager and the employee? If it doesn’t matter, then it doesn’t matter; but if it does matter, then it matters a lot. What’s more, it matters a lot just who decides what the management style is.

Who decides? All three – the company, the manager, the employee – can’t be the decision maker. The responsibility for deciding rests with only one of the three. If you are or represent the other two, management style is not your choice. In this episode of Audio Tidbits Podcast, I discuss two quite different ways of answering the primary question: who decides? Please listen and consider which answer best fits your perspective on the most effective management style.

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Hammers, Nails And Outcomes

If this is a hammer, then that has to be a nail. Sure, it’s just a twist on that old saying you already know quite well. Unfortunately, it’s generally truer than not. Although I discuss the notion in a management context, it applies most any time there is a job to do or a new situation to deal with in your family, community, or anywhere else you find yourself. Please listen for a tip about avoiding this little quirk of human nature.

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Fake Delegation

Do you know the difference between real and fake delegation? Have you ever been told that a job or other responsibility was being delegated to you only to learn that the person doing the delegating was looking over your shoulder, second guessing you and criticizing what you were doing and how you were doing it? Even worse, have you ever been the delegator who was doing the looking over the shoulder and second guessing? In either case, you know all there is to know about fake delegation.

In this episode of Audio Tidbits Podcast, I discuss fake delegation, real delegation, and what it takes to be real. It’s not nearly as easy as it might seem. Please listen and see what your conclusion is.

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When Experts Aren’t

How dependent are you on experts? If you are tempted to respond, “Not much,” you may want to reconsider. Do you have a doctor, an accountant, a vet for your pet, a lawyer, an expert who works on your car, a plumber, and on and on? The better question is just how many experts are you dependent on and how would you get along without them. Let’s think about that together. Our focus is on selecting experts.


What priorities govern agency Management?

Adhering to the guiding principles is essential for achieving agency excellence. The Management Team is responsible for agency Management, i.e., for assuring the successful functioning of the internal eco system. Members of the Team implement the policies, rules, and guidelines promulgated by Authorizers and Implementers as well as manage the day-to-day functioning of the agency. Their Management activities reflect a thorough understanding of and acceptance of each of the guiding principles. Team members also understand and accept the priorities discussed below in order to better assure the successful functioning of the internal eco system. Hannagan 1995 page 37-69 in his discussion of leadership styles, organizational culture, and associated patterns of accomplishing necessary work asserts, “In order for any group to operate effectively, both tasks and problem solving functions have to be performed, and at the same time, group maintenance for social functions. It can be argued that any group of people need to have leadership in both functions so that on the one hand, decisions are made and on the other hand, the ideas and feelings of the whole group are considered.” page 48 Keep this dual focus in mind when considering these priorities. …


Feedback Can Be Dangerous

Give people clear, frequent, and accurate feedback.

This unusually complex strategy starts with being as quick to tell people what they have done right as you are to tell them what they have done wrong. That does not sound difficult, does it?

What if the order is reversed though?

Be as quick to tell people what they have done wrong as you are to tell them what they have done right.

Now it sounds odd. It seems like I am suggesting that equal attention needs to be given to both what’s right and what’s wrong. There you go. That is exactly the point.

It is not necessary to go into a lot of detail about leaders who only relate to team members in terms of problems and things they have done wrong. They also point fingers and know every problem is someone else’s fault. Their major activity is finding someone, anyone to criticize or blame. You are also well-aware of leaders who appropriately point out problems but seldom point out good work. It is not unusual to see the compliment criticism balance favoring criticism. …


Ecological Human Services Management: Internal Transactions

The following Internal Transactions activity is adapted from Leadership In Child Protection; Schneider, Crow, & Burtnett, 2000, page 56-57 and is one you may want to add to your management tools when working with employees and especially when working with Leadership Team members. It is a quick way of assessing the quality of employees’ interactions at a specific point in time. More importantly, it is a strategy to improve their interactions with each other over time. This serves not only to improve their interactions with each other but serves to improve their interactions with other agency stakeholders. Additionally, it clearly lets employees know what you value and what you expect from them as they interact with each other and with agency stakeholders.

Interpersonal excellence starts inside your agency. The success of your Leadership Team depends, in part, on relationships, people interacting with people. Think about a single transaction, one person interacting with another. This elementary transaction is the smallest unit or building block from which connections with stakeholders develop.

Your agency’s Leadership Connections can be no stronger than the cumulative strength of the thousands and thousands of transactions in which your staff participate over time. What’s more, you should assume the quality of your staff’s external transactions, interactions with stakeholders, is the same as you see in their internal transactions, interactions with each other. Assume they relate to stakeholders as well or as badly as they relate to each other.

Below is a list of transaction elements you can use to assess your agency’s internal, interpersonal environment. You do this by rating your staff’s typical functioning on each of the ten elements. Rate your staff “5” on the element if it is most always present in your staff members’ transactions with each other. Use “4” for usually, “3” for much of the time, “2” for sometimes, and “1” for usually not. …


Delegate Often And Well

Delegation is, for a proactive leader, a critical key to his success. He knows leadership superstars have elevated effective delegation to an art form. In fact, success with delegation is the single most important factor separating leaders who achieve their mission-specific goals from those who do not.

Try this. Design a one legged stool. One end of the leg must be attached to the stool and the other end can touch the ground at one single point but cannot be in the ground or supported by anything else. The stool must be functional, serving the usual purpose of being a place for a person to rest those weary bones.

It is actually fairly easy. Get a board and attach the leg to it. Set the stool up and sit on it. So long as you are sitting on it, your stool works fine. The problem is that if you get up, your stool falls over. You have to do the work of the missing legs yourself, which works fine if you have nothing else to do and are willing to sit on the stool forever.

Now if you are not quite up to eternity on the stool, you will need to make other arrangements, you have to delegate. …


Leadership Without Management | Management Without Leadership

It is tempting to think we have to choose between the Management Perspective and the Leadership Perspective. An agency should have one or the other but not both. The easy conclusion is it should have the Leadership Perspective. Leadership certainly has more pizzazz than Management. Given the choice between being a leader and being a Manager, most people choose being a leader every time.

This is the problem with such a simplistic view. Although having the Leadership Perspective is important, so is having the Management Perspective. An agency cannot function adequately and certainly cannot excel without highly competent Management. As pointed out in Chapter One, some type of regulatory mechanism is required to transfer and account for the expenditure of the financial and other resources. This requires people who do the fiscal work of the agency. There is
a governing mechanism maintaining the agency’s connection with the authorizing entity. This requires people who manage this connection. There is a
management mechanism to develop and oversee local policies and implementing procedures for day-to-day operations. This requires people who develop, implement, and oversee those policies and procedures. There are qualified
staff and appropriate facilities to do the work of the agency and to deliver the supports and services for which the agency exists. This requires people to manage these personnel and operations functions. There are
mechanisms in place through which the agency reports to the authorizing entity, maintains accountability, and provides other required data and information. This requires people who assure the systems and processes are in place to accomplish these tasks. …


The Management Perspective

Traditionally, we understand management as a set of functions along the right side of the Helping Triangle. The agency Board functions as the bridge between the agency and the authorizing entity or more typically, the Board and its CEO share this function. In turn, the CEO is responsible for the agency’s internal structure and connects the agency with the Board and authorizing entity. Within the agency, the CEO is in charge of and accountable for all internal activities and functions. He or she may delegate most of those functions and activities to subordinate staff members; but the CEO is the internal governing authority.

Let me clarify three terms I use in this and later chapters. The terms are accountability, responsibility, and authority. All accountability, responsibility, and authority within a human services agency are vested in the agency Board. The Board is accountable to the Authorizers. This means the Board is answerable to the Authorizers for whatever the agency does or does not do. The Board is obligated to do that for which it has been authorized and to refrain from any actions or activities for which it has not been authorized or that violate law or other generally accepted conventions for human services agencies. Its accountability is explicit or at least implicit in its agreements with its Authorizers. It is accountable. “Accountability refers to the obligation that is created when a person accepts duties and responsibilities from higher management. The delegate is responsible to the next higher level to carry them out effectively. Accountability flows upward in an organization.” Mosley, Megginson, & Pietri, 2007, page 128

Responsibilities are that for which the Board is accountable. They are the tasks and associated outcomes reasonably expected of the agency. The job of the agency is to…. The tasks and activities completing the statement are the Board’s responsibilities. Authority is, then, the right or ability to access resources, organize and manage the agency eco system, and to take whatever additional, reasonable actions necessary to carry out the Board’s responsibilities. We discuss these concepts later in relation to delegation and policy development; but suffice it to say accountability, responsibility, and authority collectively represent the auspices delegated to the Board by the Authorizers. – Note human services agencies typically have multiple Authorizers to which they are accountable, including the primary authorizing entity as well as governmental, oversight, and regulatory entities. …

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Bonus: Management Excellence – Audio TidBits Podcast

All management is based on guiding principles; and the effectiveness of management derives from those principles. This is true whether the principles are appropriate or inappropriate, reasonable or unreasonable, consistent or inconsistent. Similarly, the derivative nature of management holds whether the guiding principles are vague or well-defined, followed faithfully or haphazardly, applied day-to-day by managers who are highly skilled or fundamentally incompetent. Effective management, then, is a product of:

  • Guiding principles that are appropriate, reasonable, and consistent;
  • Managers who clearly understand the guiding principles, faithfully adhere to them, and who are fundamentally competent.

It follows from this that the effectiveness of an organization’s management is a product of the Principle/People equation:

  • Principles + People = Outcomes. …