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I was binge-watching The Offer this week and I can't imagine that when they're making The Godfather film in the 70s, the executives have a way different vision for it. It was proposed that it will be set in the 70s not a period film, shot in Kansas or St. Louis, or with a young and cheap director (which they did), actors that can work for cheap or for free, and more. The Godfather as we now know is one of the best American films ever produced and highest grossing film of all time.
There was the Mafia disturbance and interference, sabotage inside the production units, difficult actors and crew members, logistical issues, budget pressures, and other millions of minutiae problems but the logical business mindset clash against the creatives is a major highlight for me. It wouldn't be the Godfather that we know or at least the shadow of that success if it not for the creatives standing up for the authenticity and integrity of the film. It will not be a success if the executives had their way about the logo, the budget, their preferred actors, the locations, and even how it will be marketed and distributed. The dalliance with the Mafia is a film of its own and the way it was handled was, unfortunately the best possible course of action, albeit Machiavellian. The business context set the stage for how these films were supposed to make money that will save Paramount from being sold off to a bargain and leave more for the future viability of its corporate owner.
There are many management lessons here for which this page won't be enough. How ironic it is that film businesses are creative businesses; they are meant to marry the business logic of efficiency and financial performance using the creative breakthrough ideas of their time as a distinct competitive advantage. While these sounds easy to do, the Offer allows to understand that it boils down to how they see themselves as partners of the venture that either had to sink or swim together or get out of the way for the other's success. While in the film the business guys weren't one-dimensional and turned the other leaf, in reality, so many of the films of the past and the present are produced on ruthless business criteria as a hedge for failure. As the audience, we just don't know the costs of these wars inside these organizations. But we know that we have yet to see another Godfather or another film with both smashing commercial success and unparalleled artistry in decades.
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Today's managers must contend with some tough calls to make: when a staff is not performing satisfactorily and will never be able to meet up the work expectations no matter what. Firing the employee before it moves to a new role in the organization is the wisest thing to do. This is an opportunity to not just maintain the present work standards of the organization but to improve and innovate how these new recruits can enlarge the impact of the roles.
The reason why bad employees continue to exist is because their managers turn a blind eye to the situation until it presents more trouble. The costs of addressing a growing issue which would involve more absenteeism, team mates suddenly resigning, failure or incomplete work, customer service issues and concerns would be staggering to any organization large or small. Preventing that person to move around as if, he or she is a stellar employee and could be 'rehabilitated' could be a wishful thinking.
I saw first hand in my previous work employment that once a bad hire is allowed to continue performing in a substandard way, more trouble ensues. That employee caused a major havoc in the organization by refusing to follow ethical standards with financial disbursement of funds and abuse her authority by side-stepping the counsel of the Board and advisers of the organization. She caused the organization to be bankrupt and because there was no money to finance the daily operations, the organization had to decide to move the operations to another location and start anew with a very limited financial base. She was terminated but it caused major reputational damage and rift between the stakeholders that it took a while to get those back by the successor leadership.
Lesson of the story. When a person shows you who he/she really is, believe it. If the employee is not in the place where he/she could be ethical and meets work expectations, start the dialogue now and not later. Keep your documentation updated and address current issues that you observe in more than one instances. Don't wait for the legendary annual reviews or quarterly assessment. Always check in for improvement and growth purpose.
Lastly, keep your eye on the larger scheme of things. As a manager, you want all of your employees to excel in their jobs. It is also your responsibility to provide support, enabling environment, and encouragement. If all things fail, and you don't see the employee putting it the right commitment and effort, it's time to make some tough calls.
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THE HELICOPTER VIEW
Problem-solving with a helicopter view is better for critical thinking and analysis. As you go higher and higher, you see the problem at much-bigger picture. You see more areas adjacent to the problem, requiring you to think big-picture, lose sight of specificities for a while, and get down to building a synergy and integrative frame of mind while constructing solutions. Your horizon becomes wide and your frame of reference expands. Your curiosity is released.
Specifically, the helicopter view helps you:
1. Separate the wheat from the chaff
Take all the noise out of the problem and focused on top two things that needed solution. Keep your values and priorities behind any solution. Sometimes, it is just staring at your face because you're unable to see the big picture.
2. Connect the dots to opportunities and long-term issues
Big picture thinking doesn't just solve the obvious problem. It also presents opportunities to be cultivated and grown in-house. That means that you're looking at a larger scope beyond the upsides and downsides of your actions. Aside from opportunities, learn to look at what's coming out in the corner as you analyze relationships and dynamic forces that are impacting your work in your industry. Find patterns from connections and interplay of moves and countermoves of the actors.
3. Generate solutions you're team can own and be proud of
Big picture thinking helps everyone in the team have a holistic, integrative, and interconnected frame of mind when discussing options, alternatives, and possibilities. Your team is not siloed from other teams in the organization, weaving new discoveries into what's existing in terms of processes and systems. People can navigate solutions without overhauling what works or reinventing the wheel.
Take a helicopter view when things are starting to look too messy and unclear. The best frame of mind is to take a step out of the nitty gritty and concentrate on what this problem presents in the larger scheme of things and what possibilities await the solver.
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In the purpose-driven space, sustainability is a catch-all phrase for planetary, social, environmental, and economic well-being in communities, nations, and in the world. But how many in this space are actually financially and organizationally sustainable?
Doing good, being good is a good mission. But being good but not being smart is deadly and bordering on hypocrisy. To become a truly sustainable force in the world, your organization must walk the talk and talk the walk.
One organization is a one-funder business model. Another one has one staff and hundreds of volunteers trying to get to another impact goal. Another organization is penny-pinching on much-needed reorganization costs just because the Board didn't think they need it. Another one is simply mired with employee issues that do not reflect well on their values statements.
In this circuit, the holier-than-thou attitude is almost always invoked. Yet, this complacent, self-congratulation is partly the reason for why the same sector proclaiming sustainability isn't sustainable either.
Best practices are out there. When corporates and profit-seeking ventures are hit hard on sustainability, the sector must face the same music and should be held accountable for it.
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HAVING TOO MUCH FUN?
I heard this comment a few years ago, from a supervisor commenting on an employee having "too much fun" outside work, vacations in Mexico and booking up more in the next few months. The supervisor saw a rejuvenated, well-tanned staff beaming with optimism and joie de vivre. What's wrong with that picture?
What this means I conjure is that too much fun outside work means there is misery in the workplace for the supervisor, the staff, and probably within the department. God knows who else is not having fun there.
On the other hand, this statement should be read backwards. Nobody now wants drudgery in work. If you are miserable in your job and continue to stay on for the paycheck, your wasting your life, which has a limit. Statistically speaking, Canadians live up to only a certain age and then life goes downhill. And if you're a slaving as a supervisor, that's not supervision and not management, either.
For those who are refugees from working in organizations like me, I do not miss this arrangement. I'd rather be doing something that feeds my soul, puts money in my wallet, and lets me sleep good at night.
The future of work is all about fun, flexibility, and autonomy in the workplace. There is a high degree of challenge and complexity but also independence and the ability to use one's judgement in the interests of the organization. The reason people quit their job is because of their boss not because of the job itself.
The staff resigned after a few months. No surprise there.
If you're having too much fun at work, that is a good sign. How much is too much is up to you!
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THE 10% GROUP
In the on-purpose world, we still have organizations stuck in the twentieth-century thinking that the public donors do not want to pay for administration. Websites of many of these organizations are proud of declaring that they only get 10% for administration, the rest to core programming. Many think that it's larceny to allocate more than 10% or to some extent bad practice to ask for more.
What we can glean from this based on leadership and management perspective, these organizations have no
- capability of building up and strengthening their core processes
- capability of securing and retaining great talent- a must to survive and thrive!
- capability to build strategically for the future
- see themselves as sacrificial conduits with their begging bowls every year
- always uncertain, tentative and highly disrupted by the larger forces around them
- cannot stand up for their principles, values, and commitments
They maybe good with their programs but they're not sustainable and even effective in the long run. If you're not taking care of your own house, how can you be the most charitable for all?
Don't compromise your organizational sufficiency in the altar of public legitimacy.
At the next blog, I will share some of the strategies to get away from the 10% group.
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I was in the physical therapist' office a few weeks ago. I was feeling something in the wrist. He said that it might be connected with the neck. Aha! I never thought about that connection. Same happens while in the doctor's office, some tingling in my toe, had a connection in other parts of the body.
The body is one big connected organ. I never thought that it could be as latent as that. But your organization, whether it's a two-person or a large enterprise with subdivisions operating beyond borders, is also interconnected and must work synergistically.
A corporate strategy has to trickle down to individual departments, staff, and even to the janitor. How and why things are moving in a 'certain' direction should be and can be answered by any staff you meet in the corridor. Failure to communicate this very important piece leaves room for ambiguity and frustration.
I was in a phone call a few years ago, talking to a Program Administrator. I inquired about the program advertised in their website. She told me that the program has been rescinded. The new strategy provides the opportunity for them to review what their offering versus what exactly they should doing. A case of 'good to have' versus 'our musts/our unique value.' If I were her boss, I will be very proud of such employee. She cares so much to know and to communicate her knowledge to all the stakeholders concerned. She owns her role.
Are you taking the time to really communicate your grand vision and overall direction to all the people in your organization? Are your employees being a part of your communication strategy?
When everything is well-coordinated, your toes and fingers can do their best job too!
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SCARED THINKING IS ALWAYS SMALL THINKING
If leaders are scared, they make stupid decisions.
I'm talking about cost-cutting measures in time of pandemic. If you cut everything that costs money, then you don't know what your financial (and organizational too!) values are.
Stewardship is not about being stingy and operating on costs, it's about operating on value.
Anything that involves increasing resilience and building lasting effects on your customers and constituencies should be nurtured and developed, even in climate of distress and uncertainty. Values-based organization do not operate on fear-based calculations, much less allow values creep.
The best leaders in organizations retain and protect their strongest assets, which are inimitable and very hard to reconstruct. In times of stress, these assets work like magic. They provide the rest and bounce factors for staff and customers to thrive and not just survive.
Cut everything that moves and you're cutting your oxygen source.
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CRAWLING INTO CHANGE
I heard from an executive recently that they are crawling into the changes. This is reference to the transformation they're undergoing in the whole organization.
To justify being slow and sure, that word seems like a good description. But because they have been into the process for more than 5 years, I beg to disagree.
May I submit to you all that if you're crawling into the changes, you might as well shoot yourself in the foot. Being too slow is inimical to the progress you're trying to create, let alone, complete. There are forces that will resist and blocks these changes. Before you know it, you missed lots of opportunities to showcase the results of those changes.
The pace of change is as important as the vision for the change. Maybe your process needs a revisit. Maybe you don't have the resources or insist that what you have is enough. Maybe your stakeholders do not have a buy-in to the specifics-how their jobs and current positions will be affected. Maybe the readiness for change isn't there yet or not cultivated at all. Or maybe executives believe that to be slow guarantees success!
Crawling sounds like a defeat to me. If you feel like the changes are way too slow, you have missed an important element-the people! The people will make and break your transition. If you can, work backwards, put more time and process to getting them onboard so you can speed through and not crawl into the enemy's lair!
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OVERACHIEVING IS A DISEASE
I hear from a lot of managers how their organizations want to achieve too much with a fraction of its real costs and get staff to do more than they can possibly accomplish.
The disease-to-overachieve that permeates in many organizational cultures is strong where the need is irrational leading to unhealthy decision options. Manager complain of longer work hours, additional responsibilities without supports, resources, and systems alignment, and expectations to be easy on the budget.
Overachievement comes from fear.
Fear of not measuring up;
Fear of failure;
Fear of being not being seen as a strong and viable entity;
Fear of not being on par with your constituencies and networks;
This fear is overcompensated by absorbing too much, too soon, and with too little. Scope creep becomes an accepted norm. Resisting this in a culture where more is great is near suicidal and would cost a career loss.
I heard some time ago from a local town person that their local township is trying to be what it's not. People in the inside can't see this clearly.
If you're caught up in the whirlwind of overachievement, ask your leaders, the following questions:
1. What exactly they want to remove off your plate so you can get things done on more important things?
2. What supports and resources are available right now to achieve these goals?
3. What goals are good-to-have and what are the musts?
4. What activities generate the best outcomes?
These questions can lead to more realization and quite frankly, a light in the tunnel.