How Much Value Do You Get from One-on-One Meetings With Your Direct Reports?

July 17, 2015

A Harvard Business Review article from March contains an excellent discussion about the value of having regular one-on-one meetings with your subordinates.  Sometimes, when their calendar becomes over-filled, a manager could be tempted to temporarily or permanently stop having one-on-one meetings with their subordinates.  This has many consequences, however, and this article explains why this is not a good idea.  Cutting regular one-on-one meetings can create larger communication problems than one might expect, and send the message to subordinates that they are not important to you – a factor that can  have huge and difficult to quantify costs.  I won’t write more here as I feel the article is good enough to simply share with you. I will add analysis later, possibly in response to your comments.

Thanks for reading — Tim

The Importance of Trust in Business

July 6, 2015

Trust in business

Trust is essential to getting anything done.  How it is expressed makes a huge difference in how things go, however, and it’s one of those things you can ignore (though you may do this at your peril).  I always told my kids “trust, but verify”.  Trust is earned through consistently following through on your commitments, and trust grows stronger over time if it is not betrayed.  While it is often spoken of as if it was an absolute, it is actually a continuum stretching from complete and absolute trust to complete distrust.  Even the heinous criminal is trusted to an extent, though it may only be that we trust that they are untrustworthy.  High levels of trust are required for effective business relationships, however.

If you hire someone you often expect them to do work you cannot, and micromanaging them (a common response to a lack of trust) reduces your productivity as well as theirs.  For maximum effectiveness (theirs AND yours) you need to be able to trust them completely.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep tabs on how they’re doing, however.  After all, if you are their supervisor or manager you may need to clear bureaucratic obstacles for them, arrange for needed training, give strategic direction and reasons why the work needs to be done, help them better understand the customer and customer’s needs, or otherwise help them do their best, but getting “too deep in their shorts” is a counterproductive waste of time.  Over time and with good communications you will see how they work and better understand how trustworthy they are.  If there is a problem it will soon be evident, at which time it can be dealt with.  Given that, it is always best to hire people you can trust, and then trust and enable them so they can do their best work.

Trust is not complicated, but it is essential.  In a parallel to the old saying “if you’re not having fun, why are you doing that?” I say “If you can’t trust me, why did you hire me?”  Micromanagement implies the subordinate is untrustworthy, but mentoring suggests the employee is worth the time and energy invested, and this implication can easily improve their performance as much or more than the mentoring.  That suggests that the basic attitudes of the supervisor play a big part in how subordinates perform and improve, and trust by a superior can improve employee performance, while distrust can undermine it..  As the sign in the picture says, “I am passionate about doing the best job I can, but if you persistently ignore me, second guess my decisions, or make my decisions for me my only recourse will be to “plod” and “do what I’m told” (and be depressed).”  The latter scenario occurs all too often in business, and works against effective operations and profitability.

As always, I appreciate your comments. — Tim

New Thinking is Emerging About Recruiting and What Makes a Better Job Ad

April 24, 2015

All my life, through approximately five careers, I have had to read and respond to many poorly written recruiting ads, and also listen to the complaints of people working in everything from tiny start-up companies to major multinational corporations that they weren’t getting good candidates.  I have observed that sometimes a single ad overwhelmed the human resource department with so many responses that it was impossible for them to find the good candidates among the “piles” of applications, and yet that ad was held up as “extremely effective”.  Improvements in recruiting concepts have long been needed, but it appears they are finally coming about.  So what works better than just posting a job description in the media or on the company web page? Read the rest of this entry »

Trust in Business: If You Can’t Trust Me, Why Did You Hire Me?

March 5, 2014

This question is often asked by employees, mostly because good management practices are not prevalent in American society, and most are not taught in business schools either.  (That’s the reason I write these blog articles – Tim.)  Managers who were not properly trained or who simply haven’t the right personality, principles, and understandings for the job will not understand the importance of trust, or when it is most effective to give an employee the authority and autonomy needed to carry out necessary work.  Micromanagement – overly close supervision of employees – makes them think they are not trusted to do the work they were hired for, and results in diminished respect for the manager and reduced loyalty to the company.  It also wastes both the manager’s and employee’s time in needless communications often including unnecessarily effort-consuming details.  It’s is intuitively clear that lack of trust has a negative impact on company profits, but how does it happen and what can we do about it? Read the rest of this entry »

Smart Project Endings Add Serious Value

December 8, 2013

Failing to effectively end projects can have high but hidden costs.  Some companies are so buried in the latest and hottest project or in “fighting fires” that they fail to close projects constructively.  In doing so they not only miss opportunities to generate extra value for the company and everyone involved, but also to maintain the quality of management information (financial and other types) and prevent or limit cost overruns. When projects aren’t formally ended some workers may go on working on them unaware that it is time to move on to other work.  Other workers may find reason to continue to charge the project for their time, especially if they run into a slack period without enough work to keep them busy (which happens naturally in many product development organizations or in highly seasonal work).  This is especially likely where “charging overhead” has a negative stigma attached to it and project charge codes are not shut off.  There are many ways that project endings provide value, however, if they are timely, well planned, and properly executed .  Here are a bunch of them: Read the rest of this entry »

Which is Better? A Budget with “Challenge” or a Budget with “Reserve”?

November 26, 2013

In the defense contracting world budgeting is typically done under a rigorous “earned value management system” (EVMS) that usually includes keeping aside 10% of the budget for use as a “management reserve”.  This can then be doled out in bits and pieces as needed to fund changes in what needs to be done (“scope” in the project-organized world) and solutions for problems that arise during the course of business.  It also allows people within the organization to cope with unexpected changes without feeling like they are endangering the project or organization when they have to ask for more funding.  They all still have to do what they can to stay within budget, but it gives the appearance that upper management accepts that unexpected changes happen and are going to be reasonable in helping people dealing with them.  That’s not how budgets are typically presented in the rest of the business world, however. Read the rest of this entry »

Avoiding Hiring Psychopaths and Sociopaths

October 4, 2013

Back in a 2011 Forbes article , a book about psychopathology (“The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry”,  by Jon Ronson) revealed that around 4% of corporate CEO’s are sociopaths.  (Sociopath: One who is affected with a personality disorder marked by antisocial behavior –  In case you were wondering, the term sociopath is often used interchangeably with the term psychopath, but clinically is used to refer to an antisocial person who became that way from being brought up in an antisocial or criminal subculture, while a psychopath has somewhat different personality traits and a condition that is often inherited.   (Psychopath: A person with an antisocial personality disorder, manifested in aggressive, perverted, criminal, or amoral behavior without empathy or remorse –  The most severe among psychopaths sometimes become serial killers or other types of criminal, and many wind up in jail but, more importantly, the less severe cases are much harder to spot without extended interaction and observation.  Thinking on this made me wonder if the seemingly predatory behavior of some corporations isn’t indicative of psychopathology at the top.  Needless to say, people with this disorder can be very harmful to their employer and the people around them, and often behave in ways business managers, coworkers, and investors would not appreciate, so how can you avoid hiring them in the first place? Read the rest of this entry »


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