Category Archives: management

Choose your critics

And maybe still ignore their input 

Somewhere in the process you are going to hear from the critics. You may even ask for it. For product development, customer satisfaction, or market testing, you’ll be asking, how do you like me so far?

The first step in getting constructive feedback is to choose your critics wisely. Are they relevant to your target audience? Are they knowledgeable, perceptive and willing to contribute?

You still may not like all the answers. But you should not be asking people who are too complementary, kind and generous. You want to be surprised, or disappointed. To learn something you didn’t already know. Maybe you’re worrying about the wrong things. You can try to think like a customer, but it’s better to ask what they’re thinking.

To get valuable feedback from willing critics and retain the right to choose what you use, remember to make two requests at the start:

1) Please be honest, and

2) Please don’t be offended, if I choose to ignore your input.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Qualifying Questions

Is it Strategic or Operational?

train wreckedBefore leaping into action, it is important to ask yourself some qualifying questions and make better decisions about both the immediate and the long-term action required.

Entrepreneurs are inclined to act instinctively and “just do it” when they are presented with a new challenge, opportunity or problem. No time wasted. Let’s not make it complicated. Generally, that’s an important trait for making progress quickly. But often, a quick assessment of the strategic and operational issues will lead you to better long-term results.

Think about it. Your wagon was rolling smoothly down the track, but on the last curve it suddenly flew off the rails. It happens, right? Well, before you yank it out of the ditch, set it back on the rails and push it down the track, ask yourself some qualifying questions. First operational, then strategic.

Is there a flaw in the track or something broken on the wagon? Does it need to be fixed now? How can we prevent it happening again?

Then, are we on the right track? With the right wagon? Do we need to change direction? And most importantly, what have we learned that we can apply to the future.

Keep learning, to be better and do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

My first business novel, No Easy Money, is coming soon. Learn more at my Writing Blog.

Deadlines can be deadly

Don’t overdo it

mistakesMost of us agree that deadlines are necessary. They help us to scope the work and make a plan.  Awareness of the deadline helps us to focus and get the work done on time.

But, the stated deadline may be entirely arbitrary or self-imposed and it may actually not be very important. Seldom is it absolutely necessary to be on time or don’t show up at all. (Except maybe to catch a flight, make a tee-time or deliver a keynote presentation.)

Deadlines can be helpful until they become an obsession. Then they become a distraction from focusing on the work quality and content. Time is running out and you’re not yet finished? You’re not yet proud of the work you’ve done? Re-negotiate the deadline.

Don’t obsess over deadlines. Make sure they’re real, not arbitrary or imaginary.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson 

 

 

Juggling too many balls?

Maybe more than one is the first mistake

JUGGLING

 

It’s not the number.

It’s the amount of time you spend on each one before throwing it back into the air.

Try it.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

 

Disaster insurance

Reducing risks

business-disasterStrange concept, insurance. You hope the disaster never happens, but you bet that it will and buy insurance to recover when it does. The insurance company takes your money and bets against you, also hoping it never happens. If it happens, you win (at least on the insurance), they lose.

Flood, fire or theft, commercial liability, death or disability. You can insure against any of those disasters, but should you?

It is probably a losing bet. The insurance company has the advantage of pooling a large number of clients with the same risk and being able to more precisely calculate the odds. Your choice is to take the bet or decide not to buy insurance and accept both the risk of the disaster and the potential consequences. Maybe you can recover with the money you saved on insurance premiums.

You can, of course, reduce the risk and the costs by making good preventive choices. Quitting smoking and avoiding sky diving will reduce both the life insurance premiums and the risk of premature death.

What about business risks? Same concept.

Reduce the risk of disaster and the potential consequences by maintaining security systems, signing long-term contracts and confidentiality agreements, having back-up plans and appropriate insurance coverage, meeting regulatory and environmental requirements, hedging on foreign exchange and receivables and preparing contingency plans. Review the risk management checklist in your original Business Plan and update the status and plans annually.

Don’t wait until the fires are close enough that you can smell the smoke.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com or contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

Join our mailing list at LearningEntrepreneurship.com for ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Read more articles at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

 

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

It takes a conversation

Not a lecture

communicate“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate,” followed by the evil warden delivering a severe blow to drive the message into the dumb prisoner’s thick skull. Maybe it works in the movies.

But the approach is probably as useless as raising the volume or relentlessly repeating the same message. If you do not have engagement with your audience, the message will not resonate. They may seem receptive, even enthusiastic, but nothing changes unless you get commitment to the objectives, the plan and the expected action for each participant.

Don’t lecture to a passive listener. You’re wasting everybody’s time. Nodding and taking notes may be a positive sign, but it is not enough. You need personal commitment. Yes, I understand. Yes, I will do that.

Start a conversation. Ask questions and listen attentively yourself. Adapt your pitch, presentation, or plan and check if they really understand. What are they going to do differently? What are you going to do differently, now that you have their input? When and how?

Two-way communication is always better than a lecture, if you really want to change behavior and improve performance.

Even if you only want to inform, advise or inspire, like this article. Feedback and comments start the conversation and make us both better.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com or contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

Join our mailing list at LearningEntrepreneurship.com for ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Read more articles at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

 

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

Participative management

You cannot fake it

meetingIs your business run democratically? Probably not. Employees do not get to vote, managers are supposed to be responsible and make consistently good decisions. Let’s not confuse them with too many contrary, ill-informed opinions. We have seen too many unhappy conclusions from democratic decision-making lately.

It is easier to accept your role as lonely leader and try to be the gentle and wise, all-knowing autocratic decision-maker. “I am the owner, so I get to decide.” That’s true, but you will make better decisions with relevant input from the troops.

It’s called participative management. It means soliciting input before decisions are made and plans are set. It means seeking feedback on current operations and on the results from new initiatives. It cannot be a token effort with input that is subsequently ignored. It needs to be sincere and must include setting realistic expectations and responding promptly to suggestions, questions and complaints.

You will find that early participation in new initiatives will help develop better implementation plans and gain the support and commitment of the people required to deliver results.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson 

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com or contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

Join our mailing list at LearningEntrepreneurship.com for ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Read more articles at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

Make work fun

A simple principle for good management

Make work fun. It really is that simple. Don’t make it more complicated.

I know, it is more complicated, but let’s try to simplify good management down to one guiding principle.

Your job as a manager is to ensure that your employees are working effectively to meet the department’s and the company’s objectives. It requires that individual objectives be in line with the objectives of the business.

happy winnerHaving fun is one objective that we can all agree on. Especially if we accept that making money is fun! For both the employee and the business.

Don’t make it more complicated. Take a look at what you have to change or fix, so that work is more fun. Provide leadership, remove obstacles, give recognition. Everything else will take care of itself. They will get the job done and meet their objectives. And you will meet yours.

All the while, everybody is having fun. See, it really is that simple.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com or contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

Join our mailing list at LearningEntrepreneurship.com for ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Read more articles at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

Alternative Facts

Or alternative conclusions?

FactsWe seem to be learning from the current political debate that not only is it OK to invent alternative facts, (what we used to call lying), but that they are useful to explain and justify bad ideas. It may have proven to be effective in political campaigns, but it is definitely not recommended for subsequently making good management decisions.

In government and business, we will eventually have to deal with the real facts. Both those that help us define the problem and those that help us understand the consequences of our decisions and actions.

But even if we agree on the facts, the answers are not obvious. Alternative conclusions are still possible. And some people will be determined to ignore the facts and continue to rely on their pre-conceived notions.

There is a lot of research and commentary explaining our universal human tendency toward confirmation bias. That is, our consistent unquestioning acceptance of evidence that confirms our established beliefs and our equally stubborn denial of those that contradict our beliefs. Or as my mother wisely observed during my own brief venture into political campaigning over fifteen years ago, “There is no use in confusing them with the facts, they’ve already made up their minds.”

Important to remember though that the phenomenon applies to us all, not just those on the other side of the argument.

Arriving at agreed conclusions even from an accepted set of facts will always remain a challenge for leaders and managers. I had a memorable lesson in that principle early in my consulting career. I was responsible for an engineering work study to analyze a production bonus system that was unsatisfactory to both the union and management at a Canadian mining operation in Ireland. After thorough analysis, we made our objective fact-based presentation to each side and were astonished to hear them both conclude what they already thought before we started, “I knew those bastards were stealing from us!”

So for good management decisions and effective leadership, it is important to start with an agreed set of facts, then apply both rational argument and appeals to emotion, if necessary. Even then, some will not be persuaded until they see the results after the fact.

So how do we develop better solutions based on rational decision making? First, check that the facts are legitimate, verified and proven. Then accept that the selection and presentation of the facts is always biased by the source and their intent to support a particular argument or point of view. Consider your own biases and how they are affecting your assessment of the facts and the source. What are the alternative explanations and potential conclusions based on the same set of facts?

Then make the choices and develop your rationale before trying to persuade anyone else of your decisions and plans. It’s never as simple as “Just the facts, sir, just the facts.”

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

Join our mailing list for more ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

Let’s be reasonable

arguingYou cannot win an argument by raising the volume.

It’s not because they cannot hear you that they are not buying it. You need to be more persuasive. They need to be more reasonable, or rational, or intelligent. Right?

Because they are clearly too emotional, ignorant or biased. Maybe. But thinking it and saying it out loud are both a mistake.

Stay calm. Listen and try not to react to the accusations that you are the one who is too emotional, ignorant or biased. Attacking the opponent’s character or explaining away objections are a sign of weak arguments. Dig a little deeper.

Where are the objections really coming from? Consider the point of view of your opponent (customer, prospect, boss or employee). Maybe they have valid input or questions that you had not considered. Maybe you are wrong and need to re-work your pitch.

If both sides are reasonable and ready to listen, you may actually both make progress.

Keep working on it.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more at: Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs

Join our mailing list for more ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available