ACT don’t react!

Are all the things going as expected? Is your strategy under control? Are you able to apply the plan-B that you carefully designed? If the answer to all these questions is “no”, then probably you have a very bad period. The result is that you feel frustrated and that you have not anymore the control of what’s happening! Moreover you feel that you are not in control of your life and the direction that is taking.

frustrationSo what to do? Well the answer is not easy, or better, there is not an answer or a solution. But there are some suggestions on the process. And the best way to manage the process is very simple like the title of this post: “ACT don’t react”. When the things don’t go as expected we start thinking on a counter move, on a way to oppose to the problem, basically we are reacting. We are just trying to counter balance someone else behavior or someone else decisions. Our space for options is limited and is basically reduced to a “reaction” to what is happening. Moreover there are serious and deep implications on the timing. We are not more deciding and keeping the pace of what we are doing but the pace is dictated by the external events. Frustration is natural, energy goes down, the number of possibilities and available options is reduced and the feeling sooner or later became of impotence and ineffectiveness.

The way forward is to change perspective. It is time to ACT. Action has a different approach. The next move is not dictated by an external event but is your decision. So don’t wait for something to happen. Just do it, make your next step. Keep going, adapt your strategy to the coming events, but don’t let the events to block the actions. Should be the opposite – your actions are the one influencing events. You, your knowledge, your willingness is the asset that allows you to plan your future, to plan the events. Use your positive energy and your positive approach to make the things happen. You are the protagonist of your future and your are the only one who should take control of it. Be focused, be committed, be persistent and will see that you will enjoy the process of creating your own future and sooner or later things will happen exactly as you have planned them to be, because you ACT not because you react!

Doctor_TakeAction

The challenges of growing companies

I have started working for a brief period of time in a medium-big company. Then I moved to a micro organization (actually I was the first employee).

When in you work in a very small company there are a lot of difficult things but there are also a lot of opportunities. You have to be flexible and be able to do everything, but at the same time you can take decisions very quickly. You cannot rely on specialized teamwork, but you could easily have an overview of everything that is happening around the company. You have to deal with a lot of day by day problems, but at the same time you have the opportunity to explore all the subjects and problems that a normal business faces.

It is clear that because there is a leakage of specialization, the general efficiency of the company is very low especially from the structural point of view, but at the same time, if you are competitive (and you have to be in order to survive) you can create big opportunities leveraging on the flexibility and your ability to respond to niche market needs.

And then the company grows. And everything changes. And everything has to change. Moreover, a lot of people working in the company feels the need for a change.

The change from a small company to a medium one is really difficult. From one side there is the need of more structure, the need of clear directions, the need to be better organized. On the other side there is the risk to lose flexibility, to feel the pressure of strict rules or to be less involved and informed about what’s going on.

Unfortunately during this transition the growth of the company generally absorbs a lot of cash and resources in general, so the situation is even more challenging.

The growth of the company is a difficult moment at all levels of the company, for the workers, for the employees, for the managers and for the top executives too. The workers are less and less involved in the interaction with managers and employees but in general their work tends to be more organized and structured (at least in the long run). The employees are required to be more specialized and to focus more in some skills and at the same time to interact with more people and more departments within the company. Managers have less freedom but at the same time they are less involved in the work itself and more responsible for the organization of the work environment and for creating the right synergies between the different departments.

For the top managers and for the executive there should be a transition too. This last one is very important because is the main driver for the change of the company. Without it, the company will be in trouble. The company needs more structure and the flow of information have to be more clear, more easy to be understood at all levels.

A company could decide to remain small, and in some industries this could be a good strategy. But in most cases the growth of a company is the only way to be very competitive in today challenging world. The transition from a small to a medium and then to a big company is not easy at all and involves all the levels of the organization. But at the same time it could be a good opportunity. Managing it in the best way could create solid basis for a leading company of the future competitive globalized world.

What is the main motivation driver

I have this feeling from a long time but I have never been able to make up my mind and to really understand it clearly. Then I read this HBR article on how to “Increase your team motivation” and everything seems so clear now.

When we manage a team of people we always think about what is the main driver to improve team performances, to increase reliability, to make people feel more satisfied about their own work,  how to reach objectives in the most effective way (effective for the people and for the objective). And we always think about the balance of the two “classical methods” the stick and the carrot. At the end of the day they are just two metaphors for two different approaches to the management of people – Push or Pull.

Push is much more “pushing” people when they need to be guided trough a new project, when they need assistance. An example of this is the fixing of milestones, scheduled meetings, planning of step by step targets, checking progress day by day and so on.

A pull strategy is much more leaving the people reach the target without interfering too much, giving them the picture of the objective and trusting on their own experience and skills in order to reach the target, checking only the final result.

Of course both approaches are useful and they have to be used very carefully and in the appropriate moment (Situational Leadership II model).

To these two basic approaches I would like to add a third one, maybe is just an extension of the Pull strategy, but I prefer to think of it as a separate approach. And this sounds like “let the people decide for themselves”. As the HBR article says when we choose for ourselves we are more committed to the outcome by a factor of 5 to 1.

This is a very important factor that a lot of managers forget. If the people is involved in the decisions or better is making their decisions according to the picture given, then the result is five times more efficient than without this self choice. Of course this approach is not easy at all because it means to share more information, to discuss more the projects before starting them and also to receive a lot of feedback on what’s going on (and feedback sometimes is not easy to be managed, especially for “Push” manager). But nevertheless this is the most effective approach and it is clearly demonstrated by results.

In nowadays competitive society, being able to leverage on people skills and let them be part of the decision process, to let them find the time to be part of decision itself is not an easy task at all but if managed in a good way could be the thing which makes the difference between an average organization and an outstanding one.

Are you trustable?

The title of this post is not new, is something that is bouncing in my head from some weeks ago. I remember that I read an article about that (“Do your people trust you?“) and what I clearly remember is the most important question that every manager should ask themselves: “Are you trustable?” The answer could seem easy or maybe silly, but probably could be not so easy if made like this: “Do your employees define you as a trustable person?” The answer probably in this case is not so easy and could sound like “I don’t know” or even worst “I don’t care”.

But let’s start from the beginning. What do I mean when I say trust? Well, trust for me is a very deep and important form of relationship. Trust means that you “believe” in someone else’s words, in its motivations and that despite a possible disagreement his words have a great value and impact on your behavior (in the positive sense). When you trust someone you are going to do things that you normally don’t do by yourself. That you are going to consider way of thinkings, aspect of your life and so on in a different way, only because you trust him! When you trust someone is because you believe that he owns your respect. Been trustable for me it means that I put something of myself, thoughts, expectations, williness, energy, professionalism, in your hands because I think that this is an investment. And this investment is paying back for the “trust” that I have invested on you. So “trust” is kind of investment, probably the most important and risky investment that we have at our disposal.

Coming back to the first question “Do your employees define you as a trustable person?” Because if the answer is not, then how could you pretend they believe in you and that they do what has been told them to do? And if the answer is “I don’t know” then I think you have to hurry up and start to “know”. It is not something that you could analyze later. It is absolutely fundamental for yourself, for your career and for the relationship with the others. Sometimes we are too much focused in our own improvement that we do not realize that the key point of our improvement is the relationships that we have with our colleagues, with our employees, with our customers.

If you want to have the maximum from the people working for you, you have to give them the maximum of yourself. And that maximum is to be trustable! Is something that you have to be, despite the difficulties, despite the changed situations, despite any kind of challenge that you are facing or obstacles to overcome. Been trustable is the most important investment that you could make in your life.

Why everything that you studied is so important

A friend of mine some days ago asked me: “Why logaritms are important?” My answer was that they are the basics for describing all the exponential relations like in the RF communications and in the sound pressure that are generally expressed in dB (decibell), but this was just the first thing that comes to my mind. So then my friend asked me something about literature and so on. Eventually the real question came in: “why is it so important to study?” and I add something more that a lot of people says often to me: “Don’t tell me that this subject that we have studied have been useful for you in your professional carrer or in your life…”

My answer, always, is that not only has been useful but I would have needed even more knowledge on that subject. The truth is that in my professional life I have used all the things that I have studied; starting from the most important and most used things till the last insignificant things that first or later you realize has an importance too.

The thing that makes some people excel in life is the real ability to connect things together. And in order to do it you need to pick up things from different subjects, from different competences, from different points of view and so on.

When I thing about myself I realize that also the most silly things, which at the time I believed they weren’t so important, if you make the right connections could help you to add a small piece of knowledge to the analysis of the problem. And the more small pieces you put together the more you could make the difference.

Working as an engineer also the Italian literature of the enlighment period has been useful. Sometimes just to share some common thoughts with customers or colleagues.

Of course it is clear that some things are fundamental and some others are (I do not say less important) less correlated with what is your professional life, but you will never know what will be your future carrer or where your passions could drive you for the rest of your life.

So the message is, don’t underevaluate what you studied but cultivate all your passions and be proud of all the time you spent improving yourself because this is what makes you unique and valuable for the others.

A book that changed my life part 2

Why some managers are so effective. And what are the best managers? The ones reaching the best results? And what is the best strategy to reach that results?
These were some of the questions that were running in my mind when I decided to accept the new job as an engineering manager. To my eyes, and by the examples that I had so far, the only important thing was the final result! And to achieve that “the others” are just an instrument to reach that goal and sometimes also a threat to that. Basically what the people around me was doing was only to squeeze people like lemons creating a lot of expectations but basically not caring at all about me and my colleagues. ‘If I believe you are useful for me then I show (just show…) some interest on you, if not then I’ll try to get rid of you!’
Do I want to be like this? Of course not! It’s not me, I can’t be like that! But the new job position was very challenging and also was something that I was looking for…
I accepted the job, but still I didn’t felt well, I was plenty of doubts…
So I started to read “If Harry Potter ran General Electric”. This book has opened for me a new world. It showed me trough a simple model (Harry Potter books) that the best leaders, the best people, the most successful people in the world have solid values, strong believes and an absolutely and incredible respect for the others.
I remember that I was in Paris airport and I read the following sentence (a quotation of Sirius Black): “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”
Is it so simple? YES IT IS. It opened my mind. I started thinking about how many people I know that acts like this. I realized immediately what was really making the difference between what I consider the outstanding people and the others. And it is just that simple. If you care about the others before than yourself, if you believe that everybody is important, that there is so much in everybody around yourself that you must respect every single human being.
So I decided to start my new adventure with this thing clearly painted in my mind!
Sometimes it is not easy, sometimes you have to be tough and sometimes people don’t understands you. But if you really care about others, then you will understand which is the best approach.
One thing that I do that really helps me in practice is the following: “never ask someone to do something that I don’t want to do”. Then there are roles and responsibilities. “If I was you and someone is going to ask me to do that, then I will do it, and so you have to do it too!”

A colleague of mine told me: “it is easier to run an entire plant by yourself than managing a single person.” And it is absolutely true. But when I go back home and I look in to my son’s eyes I feel in peace with myself. And this is what really matters!

A book that changed my Life

When I decided to accept my new job position I was really scared about what the future was going to be. I was supposed to be an Engineering manager and to start to develop a new team of people able to run the technical department of my company. The most difficult challenge for me was the model to whom I wanted to be inspired. So far I have got a very effective Boss but so selfish, so unreliable that was used really to screw people in order to achieve his goals (and quite often its personal interests).

Then I received as a gift the book “If Harry Potter ran General Electric”. I should say that this book really changed my life. I’m a fan of Harry Potter but I never thought about him in this way…

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-morris/if-harry-potter-ran-gener_b_792283.html

I will come back later telling why I liked so much this book.