Reinforce Accountability to Reenergize Your Leadership Team

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This is a guest post by Jack McGuinness of Relationship Impact.

Reenergizing your leadership can have a massive impact on your entire organization. In his final post in the series, Jack McGuinness tackles the topic of accountability.

The business dictionary defines accountability as “the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and disclose the results in a transparent manner.” Inherent in this definition are three levels of accountability – power, individual and team accountability.

We believe that all three are important in building a great leadership team and a recent HBR article supports our assertion. The article breaks down team performance as follows – in the weakest teams, there is no accountability; in mediocre teams, bosses are the source of accountability; and in high performance teams, peers manage the vast majority of performance problems with one another.

For many leadership teams this last level of accountability where peers hold each other accountable presents a significant challenge. In his bestselling book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni had the following to say about accountability – “Once we achieve clarity and buy-in, it is then that we have to hold each other accountable for what we sign up to do, for high standards and behavior. And as simple as that sounds, most executives hate to do it, especially when it comes to a peer’s behavior.”

Not surprisingly, there is a strong relationship among the three tips we are presenting in this blog post series. Specifically, leadership teams require a purpose to be accountable to and the skill of engaging in productive dialogue (including giving and receiving feedback) is instrumental to a team’s ability to hold each other accountable. The following are a few steps for helping leadership teams move from poor or mediocre accountability to an environment where a healthy balance exists between individual, power and peer accountability:

  1. To start, the formal leader needs to clarify and reinforce the importance of the three levels of accountability. Most importantly, the leader must model the behaviors she expects for the team. This includes receiving feedback well and providing timely, direct and respectful feedback. She also needs to clarify that the leader’s role does not exist to settle problems or constantly monitor the team; rather it is focused on creating an environment where peers address concerns immediately, directly and respectfully with each other.
  2. Next, the leadership team needs to focus on its unique purpose and gain agreement on specific individual and collective accountabilities for decisions and actions required to achieve the purpose. Most importantly, the leadership team needs to take action and demonstrate its ability to effectively perform and adjust course as required.
  3. Periodically the leadership team should to step back and reflect on progress from two perspectives – what results is the team achieving and how is the team achieving the results. In our experience, reflecting on tangible business issues is the most effective mechanism for addressing a leadership team’s ability to engage in productive dialogue and hold each other accountable directly and respectfully.

Truly great leadership teams are resilient and have the capacity to reenergize and get back in sync after inevitable periods of dysfunction. Team members of great leadership teams recognize that they serve as stewards of their organizations supporting a unique enterprise-wide purpose. Great leadership teams also do the hard work necessary to engage in productive dialogue and hold each other to high performance and behavior.

This post originally appeared at ChiefExecutive.net at https://chiefexecutive.net/tips-reenergizing-leadership-team and was reprinted with permission.


Foster Productive Dialogue to Reenergize Your Leadership Team

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This is a guest post by Jack McGuinness of Relationship Impact.

As Jack McGuinness stressed in Part 1 of this series, great leadership teams never succeed by accident. In this post he explains how to get your team talking.

In her landmark study on the science of team self-awareness, Amy Edmonson coined the term ‘psychological safety’ to describe “the shared belief that it’s safe to ask one another for help, admit mistakes, and raise tough issues.” She goes on to suggest that “psychological safety is meant to suggest neither a careless sense of permissiveness, nor an unrelenting positive effect but rather a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish someone for speaking up.”

Most importantly, Edmonson’s research discovered that the highest-performing teams were “the ones with the highest reported errors – teammates were comfortable openly discussing mistakes. On these teams, they weren’t afraid to tell the leader that something had gone wrong.”

Unfortunately, as we see everyday in our work with leadership teams psychological safety is hard to come by. In Relationship Impact parlance we refer to psychological safety as ‘productive dialogue’ or the ability for teams to challenge, debate and discuss their most important issues in a manner that progresses the issues and leaves minimal relational scars. Over the past 9 years we have worked with close to 100 teams and the number one challenge we have seen and continue to see is the inability of leadership teams to engage in productive dialogue.

As an example, last summer we began to work with the leadership team of a trade association and the lack of productive dialogue was palpable. The CEO was serving as a referee and managing conflict among his VPs individually and behind closed doors; staff were visibly uncomfortable talking to colleagues in other departments without sanction from their VPs; and leadership team meetings lacked substance and were often cancelled.

Fostering an environment where productive dialogue can thrive is challenging and requires hard work and commitment on the part of each leadership team member. Below are a few steps that will get the work started:

  1. Start by taking some time to help the team get to know each other at a deeper level. We regularly use Patrick Lencioni’s Personal Histories Exercise, which asks team members to describe struggles they faced earlier on in life. This never fails to provide teams with interesting insights into why colleagues might behave as they do. After the exercise we often hear comments such as ‘wow that explains a lot’ or ‘now I understand why he approaches decisions like that.’
  2. Next, invest time to help team members become aware of how they are ‘showing up’ to each other. We use psychometric instruments such as MBTI, DISC, or SDI to enable individuals to step back and reflect on what they value most and how this influences how they behave. We use these instruments as non-threatening discussion starters where teammates are asked to provide feedback to each other – ‘I appreciate that you are a results oriented person but sometimes I feel like you steamroll your ideas.’
  3. Perhaps most importantly, use the dialogue from steps one and two to help team members make behavioral commitments that will strengthen the effectiveness of the leadership team at the current point in the team’s journey. Team members should make commitments based on the input from their teammates and proactively ask for feedback when they struggle to live up to their commitments.
  4. Finally, team members must promise to ask for and provide feedback. As Tasha Eurich suggests in her book Insight, giving and receiving feedback is not easy – “In a misguided attempt to cling to the comfortable mental image we have of ourselves, it’s tempting to react by getting angry and defensive or trying to run away (either literally or by not listening, shrugging it off, pretending it never happened).” However, without feedback there can be no improvement so we encourage teams to use the newfound insights they discover from steps one and two above and take the leap. We have witnessed the power of feedback transform individuals and teams – recently one senior executive client commented ‘I’ve been doing these things for over 15 years and no one ever told me how damaging they were.’

In the final post in this series, Jack McGuinness will explain the importance of peers holding each other accountable.

This post originally appeared at ChiefExecutive.net at https://chiefexecutive.net/tips-reenergizing-leadership-team and was reprinted with permission.


To Reenergize Your Leadership Team, First Confirm Your Purpose

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This is a guest post by Jack McGuinness of Relationship Impact.

All leadership teams have the opportunity to serve as force multipliers for their organizations where the team’s impact goes far beyond the contributions of individual team members. Leadership teams work hard to shape long-term visions and missions that rally employees, shepherd the execution of strategies that set their organizations apart from competitors, and define values that form strong cultural foundations.

Unfortunately, many times these efforts fall short. A recent survey of senior executives conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership indicated that only 18% of executives rated their teams as “very effective.” In the same survey 97% of executives agreed that increased leadership team effectiveness would have a positive impact on organizational results.

Great leadership teams never succeed by accident. Without nurturing, leadership teams can actually become organizational impediments as characterized by duplication of effort, finger pointing, “real” meetings happening after “official” meetings, unhealthy interdepartmental competition, delayed decision making and churning over and over on the same issues. Here’s how to reenergize your leadership team for maximum organizational impact.

Confirm Purpose

A leadership team’s purpose should serve as a guidepost for focusing the team and the organization on what is strategically most important at any given point in time based on the environment in which the organization operates. Absent of a specific purpose that goes beyond ‘leading the organization’ and ‘carrying out the organization’s strategy’, leadership teams will struggle to have a force multiplier impact.

Unfortunately, it is quite common for leadership teams to come together and immediately begin to do business or at least attempt to do what each member believes the group’s business should be.

Earlier last year we were asked to work with the global leadership team of a professional services firm to strengthen its effectiveness. It quickly became clear that each business unit VP was diligently executing strategies designed to maximize business unit growth but were missing opportunities to enhance the long-term potential of the organization.

This seemingly unintentional lack of coordination had a reverberating effect including increasing tension among VPs, customer confusion due to multiple touch points, and emerging competition among business units for limited resources. In short, this leadership team had failed to establish (or at a minimum had lost sight of) its unique enterprise-wide purpose.

As articulated in the book Senior Leadership Teams, a leadership team’s purpose should encapsulate what the formal leader (CEO/president) needs “this group of enterprise leaders to do that cannot be accomplished by any other set of people.” Below are four steps that leadership teams can use to shape or redefine their purpose:

  1. Start with the organization’s strategy and identify the most critical areas that must be tackled for the strategy to be successful. In the case of the professional services firm the critical need was to focus on diversification beyond a customer that represented over 70% of revenue.
  2. Next, identify the interdependencies among leadership team members that will drive the strategy. The leadership team of the professional services firm identified that every VP from the leaders of resource management, sales, finance and each service line was needed to develop a coordinated diversified growth strategy.
  3. Once the interdependencies are defined the leadership team needs to narrow them down to the critical few that the leadership team is uniquely positioned to address and drive. The leadership team of our professional services client identified a few critical priorities including shaping and executing an integrated sales approach for the three services they offer, developing new products and services that leverage their current offerings, and building a support infrastructure that enables them to scale effectively.
  4. Finally, the formal leader needs to take this input and shape a compelling leadership team purpose. The president of our professional services client developed the following purpose statement: ‘the long-term viability of our firm depends on our efforts to capture new customers and expand into new markets.’

In the next two posts in this series, Jack McGuinness will introduce two other essential tips for reenergizing your leadership tips, starting with fostering productive dialogue.

This post originally appeared at ChiefExecutive.net at https://chiefexecutive.net/tips-reenergizing-leadership-team and was reprinted with permission.


A Servant Leader

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This is a guest post from Tonya Buckner of BucknerMT Management & Technology, Inc.

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” – Max De Pree

Servant leaders not only have to focus on what’s happening today, but what is happening in the future. Yes, today’s problems must be solved, profits must be made and bills must be paid, but a great leader must focus on the future and transforming the culture. It is more than checking items off a checklist. A great leader has a vision and a roadmap to successfully get there. This requires being inspired to achieve it, communicating it, and guiding the company from where it is to where it needs to be!

The top spot is not the only leader. Every level has leaders, whether positive or negative. Doomsayers can be leaders, too. They challenge the vision with their need to combat. Eighty percent of a company’s problems comes from twenty percent of its people. People will rise or fall to the level you set for them. It is important to foster a culture of optimism and the desire to succeed. If not challenged or motivated people will fall.

The key to leadership is to be fair, firm and consistent. Discipline starts with the leader; people will follow the lead you set. To master leadership you need to know what you are doing, find your inner voice, be creative, enjoy the process, and share that joy with others. Successful leaders are selfless, put others first, and look for other people’s 15 minutes of fame – not their own.

A servant leader supports others. This requires praising them in public and critiquing in confidence, driving out fear, and learning from mistakes. Most importantly, as a great leader you make those you lead successful, and as a result you become successful.

Leadership is directly related to character. Character is determined by your behavior, which is reflective of the value system that is in place. When people perceive you as a strong leader, they will believe in you, even if they don’t agree with you.

Despite the myth, leaders are not born nor is leadership innate for everyone. The good news is there are various programs to assist in developing leadership skills. The key is finding the program that best suits your needs. For instance, there is the Women President Educational Organization (WPEO), which develops and mentors presidents of women-owned businesses, the Montgomery County’s Veterans Institute of Procurement (VIP), which assists veteran leaders to foster success as businesses and employers, and the Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business Program, which is aimed at business growth and job creation, just to name a few.

Servant leaders also understand the importance of mentorship. Mentors assist in navigating through the obstacles that are not taught in leadership programs. By sharing best practices and lessons learned, mentees are able to build on their experience and avoid pitfalls.

Lastly, the bottom line as a leader is to ask yourself, do my actions represent who I believe I am? Remember that it is not about the position, it is about your actions; thoughtful actions with leadership in mind, drive and sculpt companies to new heights.

BucknerMT Management & Technology, Inc. (BucknerMT, Inc.) is a verified service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) and woman-owned small business (WOSB). Since 2007, BucknerMT have supported the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) by providing services that include engineering, integrating, and sustaining critical military platforms and systems.


When An Employee Passes Away

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This is a guest post by TAPE CEO/President Louisa Jaffe.

This is a subject very much on my mind these days since we just lost a long-time employee who succumbed to bone cancer. Three years ago, we lost another long-time employee to another form of cancer. Such events are always devastating in our personal lives with family and friends, but as a business owner, there are other considerations.

To begin with, it is important to realize that there is a reason we offer HR benefits. Often among those are not only health care but also short-term and/or long-term disability, as well as life insurance. No one likes to think about the worst case scenarios in life but it is important for business owners to consider the impact of these benefits (or the lack of them) on the company and to the individual employee’s wellbeing should they need to use them.

Part of our responsibility as executives is to make sure that the pieces are in place to offer the best support possible within our planning constraints so that the professionals on the vendor side will be ready to step in and offer specific help to our employees and their families when the need arises. That way, as managers, we will not have to figure everything out at a time that likely we may be emotionally compromised ourselves.

Just as with the passing of a loved one in our private lives, the news that an employee has died, even if after a long illness, can feel shocking and unexpected. If we can be prepared as suggested above, then we can give in to the grieving process and deal with just that aspect of such a situation. And the “feelings” part of the whole thing is what this blog post is really all about. There are very important leadership actions that can greatly help your entire company if you set the example from the beginning.

My suggestion to executives is to prepare yourselves mentally in several ways. I am drawing on my military experience where the Service does things very well in terms of “taking care of their own.” If an employee becomes ill, we stay in touch with them personally to the extent we can. If possible, visit them and their families in the hospital or even at home, if the family welcomes it.

Going through an illness and death can be very lonely and alienating for an employee and their families. We go visit them, call them, and stay in touch with our personal support. It is both the least and the best that we can do. We can handwrite get well and sympathy cards with our own heartfelt and authentic sentiments.

Most importantly, when the person passes away, be sure to notify your entire company and subcontractors, where appropriate. Put out a message of farewell to the company, adding some interesting facts about the deceased for those who may be on a different project or live in a different place and do not know the employee. Announce the details of family plans, when known. We can attend memorial services and burials in person wherever feasible. It is the most powerful sign of respect for both the employee and the family to stand with them at the very difficult time of these “good-bye” ceremonies.

My own parents passed away many years ago. I well remember how much it helped my sorrow – how much it meant to me – that people came to both of their funerals and told me what my parents had meant to them. Before then, I might have been more inclined not to discuss with someone their loss of a loved one and to stay away from the process as much as possible, thinking I was respecting the mourners’ privacy. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.

I have learned to reach out to the suffering people left behind, let them cry, let them reminisce, let them connect in whatever way they need to get through the otherwise saddest experience of their lives. It is a way to reach outside of ourselves to think of the needs of others. It is a way to do service. There are few things more empowering than giving service to those who have served you, in their time of need. When we do these things, we can feel proud to know we have conducted ourselves as leaders.

This post originally appeared on the TAPE blog at http://tape-llc.com/2017/06/employee-passes-away/ and was reprinted with permission.


Innovation – Act Now

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This is a guest post by Louisa Jaffe, CEO/President of TAPE, LLC.

Benjamin Franklin invented bi-focal glasses – do you know why? Because he said he wanted to be able to see his food and his dinner companions without changing glasses. Today I am encouraging you to channel your own inner Benjamin Franklin. That is to say, let your own innovative ideas out of your brain and into your business.

For many years, I have had an idea percolating about a training product and learning methodology. Recently, I asked myself how I could bring it into manifestation and now I am doing just that. It is still in the research and development stage so I will let you know more about it in the future. I only mention it to say do not think as I did for all of those years, “Somebody ought to invent something better.” If you have a better idea about how to do something, act now to create a new process or a new product or at least a new product concept.

The world has never been more starving than it is now for new ways to do things. And with technology, the possibilities are infinitely greater than ever before. America is a great place to manifest innovative thinking. The United States Patent and Trademark Office is the only Federal agency created in the Constitution. It may be tempting to think that the young generations coming up understand technology (and therefore innovation) better than those who have been here longer. But technology is a tool and not inherently innovative by itself.

Innovation requires perspiration

So much information is available to us at the click of a keyboard that sometimes we forget to access our most valuable knowledge base of all, our own imagination. Thomas Edison, the most patented inventor in the history of the US Patent office famously said, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration.” Flipping that around, imagination and a good idea are the one percent of genius. We should not tell ourselves that if we have a good idea that probably someone else has it too just because it came to our minds very easily, perhaps effortlessly. No one may have ever thought of our good idea or ideas before.

But don’t forget that 99% of genius is perspiration. That means that we also have to go through the mundane and, at times, difficult part of bringing the good idea into manifestation. That part can seem to stop us – it can be very challenging and, at times, seemingly impossible.

Walt Disney was a pioneer and innovator in the cartoon/film/entertainment industry. The story is that he was virtually penniless and had sunk his family’s fortune into making the first full-length feature cartoon film, Snow White. When released, it became a financial success and launched Disney’s business and his own “fairy tale” of a career, with Snow White becoming the first fantasy character to get her own star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and the movie winning an Academy Award. If he had given up in despair, deciding success was too elusive, just too difficult and too expensive, then the world would not have the entertainment giant that has made us all smile.

Innovation is up to us

We all have creativity. We all have good ideas. We were willing to put in the perspiration to start and develop our businesses. Let’s not stop there. Let’s look around our world and ask what would make things better and create the way forward? What steps would we have to take, what funds would we have to raise to manifest that idea?

When I was growing up, there was a single frame cartoon in the newspaper called, There Oughta Be a Law! Well if any of us have ever thought, “They ought to do this process a different way,” or “someone should invent something that could do this or that,” we might want to stop and ask ourselves, what exactly it should be that “someone else” should invent. “There ought to be an invention!” could be our new rally cry. We may never become as famous as Thomas Edison but if we can use our creativity to invent even one small new way of doing things, it is a start that could lead to a whole new line of revenue. Nurture that idea. It might become worth a fortune someday.

This post was originally published on the TAPE blog at http://tape-llc.com/2017/05/innovation-act-now/and was reprinted with permission.


Serving the Same Client For Almost 30 Years

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In 2007, TAPE won an Army support contract that catapulted our growth. It came out of work that our founders had done as employees of a large business, and built on that customer relationship when the Army decided to try a small business solution. After much travail and many late, sleepless nights, we found ourselves the proud winner.

During the transition, many of the same folks that we’d known since the 1980s proved to still be working the job, much expanded. This core group of folks has supported this contract for nearly 30 years, many of them first in uniform as officers, and then as contractors for the various primes and subs. Joel Fleck is one of the key people, who’s been Task Leader, Deputy PM, and now PM/VP of the Training/Optempo Sector. This is a little bit of his story.

How do you keep the perspective and enthusiasm fresh?

First off, the work is important; it has the potential to affect soldiers and units everywhere in all three components – active Army, Reserves, and National Guard. So at the end of most days you go home feeling good about what you did. Second, the people both within the project team and within the Army are so dedicated and appreciative. It is hard not to want to give your best all of the time.

Third, you have to read professional publications to stay abreast of what is going on in the Army and what is the senior leadership trying to do. You need to keep your language up to date, and your empathy fully turned on.  

You cannot be a curmudgeon. You can not sound like you came from a different century. You can not become complacent. The longer you are providing them support the more careful you need to be that what you say and do is accurate. You cannot get lazy about fact checking. Credibility is your greatest asset but it is easily lost if you get complacent.

What have you found is the best way to adjust to changes?

Be part of it. Keep an open mind. Try to provide advice and assistance in implementing the change. Being part of it always allows you to lay out the potential challenges and mitigating solutions which helps maintain your relevancy and your credibility.

The focus has to be getting things done right for the Army and always making the client look good. Don’t worry about getting credit.

How do you maintain continuity in your work when new leaders come in at the client, with different leadership styles?

Adjust where you can. Continue providing the best support to those people under the new leader. Continue to build credibility and value. Most of the new leaders got to where they are because they are smart. Once they figure you are an asset, and that you can support and advance their goals, things get better.

Supporting the same client for almost 30 years – inside and outside of uniform – requires several different things: patience, flexibility, honesty, un-abrasiveness, high degrees of accuracy, great co-workers, responsiveness (sometimes 24/7), and assistance to not only the client but those around him.


12 Ways to Instill Authority and Responsibility at Your Company

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This is a guest post by Keith Stadler of KSA, LLC.

Note from Bill: In last week’s guest post by June Jewell, we looked at project manager accountability. We’ll continue that theme with this look from Keith Stadler at the importance of accountability – authority and responsibility – across your company.

Straightforward organizational challenges can have well-defined solutions around which general agreements are easily made. But for serious matters, the challenges, let alone solutions, are rarely straightforward.

Problems like this are complex, difficult, mysterious, and sometimes require gut-wrenching choices, if properly addressed. This is where a clear understanding of the authority and responsibility to secure the right outcomes is essential.

Surprisingly enough, in many organizations, the matter of making clear in whom the responsibility and authority lays for tasks, projects, and processes is ambiguous; unstated and left to the imagination of the workforce, including the person who will ultimately be seen as the “responsible party.”

It’s not difficult to visualize the effects and results of this kind of arrangement. A consensus-based dynamic necessarily takes over:

  • Outputs are the “lowest common denominator” outcome on which all can agree.
  • Co-corkers minimize the impact of collaboration on their office rather than maximizing broader organizational benefits.
  • Innovation, creativity, adaptation, critical thinking, and advocacy are discouraged, even punished.
  • Outspoken personalities dominate collaboration.
  • Everyone has a veto, knows it, and feels empowered to exercise it.
  • Projects and processes can and do stop altogether when a single party refuses to act.
  • It can be difficult to determine if a decision or outcome was reached at all.
  • There are minimal or no sustainment of outcomes.
  • People simply refuse to show up for planning sessions and meetings.
  • Consensus accommodations are made to work around the personalities involved instead of doing what is best for the organization.
  • The status quo usually prevails.

So much harm comes of this kind of gap in an organization, but it’s so simple to avoid. Here are 12 things that leaders at every level can do:

  • Explicitly and clearly identify the person responsible and confer on her or him the authority need to complete the task, project, or govern the process.
  • Make it known to all the participants and their bosses.
  • Put it in writing.
  • Empower the collaboration effort with your own clear intent. Tell the leader, his team, and their bosses, what is the purpose, a little about the method of getting there, and what the final product will be in your mind.
  • Tell them what it is not.
  • Be available for follow-up discussions and interim guidance as work proceeds.
  • Ask how it is going.
  • Make it evident to all that the person in charge is answerable for the final outcome by engaging them as the group leader.
  • Ask how you can help the project leader, then do it.
  • Precisely capture any decisions that are needed along the way and act on them.
  • Follow up with the project leader to ensure that progress is being made. If not, find out why and help fix it.
  • Publicly praise and thank the team and especially its leader. Tell their bosses too.

These things easy to do and will be appreciated by everyone involved. Over time, employees will embrace the company’s approach to authority and responsibility and it will become second nature.


Keith Stadler is the founder of KSA, LLC, a company dedicated to advancing organizational visions and fundamentally transforming how businesses everywhere are run. He has over 40 years of leadership experience in organizations from the very large and established to small technology start ups, and everything in between. Visit www.ksaintergration.com for more information.


Project Manager Accountability – 5 Warning Signs

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This is a guest post by June R. Jewell, CPA.

While most project consulting firms expect their project managers (PMs) to deliver profitable projects, many have not put the appropriate measures in place to ensure that it happens. Accountability at the PM level is often vague and unstructured, which can lead to several different consequences – but not the ones we want!

Part of this issue has to do with the many responsibilities given to PMs, and a lack of true visibility into what they are really doing every day. This leads to PMs being given many tasks and little guidance as to how to be successful.

The other big challenge is measuring results. The majority of firms that we work with are not tracking individual performance, or worse, failing to implement consequences even if it is being measured. This has the unwanted effect of grouping good and poor performers together, and the less desired result of passive aggressive behavior on both the PM’s part and the firm’s leadership.

The following are practices that I often see in many project consulting firms that undermine their ability to achieve profitability goals. If you recognize any of the following issues in your firm, they could be costing you a great deal of money! Lost dollars can be found by ensuring that every project hits target profits. If you see any of these practices in your firm, they need to be addressed as soon as possible:

  1. PM performance is evaluated in an annual review – The annual review is a dreaded process in many firms. Even with top performers, many employees don’t feel adequately recognized, and feedback is often provided too late to make a difference to performance results. A more frequent process of project review can improve financial results and engage employees more in the process of improving their own performance.
  1. All PMs are given a raise and/or bonus regardless of performance – With the war for talent gaining intensity these days, many firms are afraid of “calling out” mediocre performance. This has the double negative outcome of dis-incentivizing both top performers who don’t see the benefit of going the extra mile, as well as not giving consequence to poor performers for failure to hit goals. Bonuses and raises need to be tied to financial results in order to impact behavior.
  1. All of our offices do things their own way – This is a common problem in firms that have remote offices, and especially when there has been an acquisition. Many offices take on their own culture, and create their own new processes – from proposals and estimating, to project budgeting and billing. This has the negative impact of making it difficult for leaders to compare one office to the other, determine what is working and not working, and share best practices between groups. It is critical to a profitable firm to get everyone following best practices and operating the same way.
  1. We never fire anyone – The combination of a family-oriented firm culture along with difficulty finding technical staff has created an environment where many firms tolerate poor performance. This leads to keeping PMs and staff that are actually hurting the profitability of the firm rather than contributing to it. The message that is being delivered to staff is that mediocre or poor performance is acceptable and the ultimate consequence – being terminated – is not a possibility. Without this consequence, it will be very difficult to change behavior or increase profitability.
  1. We do not have metrics to measure our PMs – How you report on performance is a big indicator of how employees will perform. Many firms choose to measure profit centers, business units, offices, etc. rather than focus on individual results. Without metrics and financial targets, it is much more difficult to evaluate PM performance, and hold them accountable for results. Looking at project profit margins is the most effective way to compare PM performance and the first step to holding them accountable.

All of these flawed business practices add up to lost dollars. So what is the cost of ignoring or even rewarding mediocre or poor performance? It may be much larger than you imagine. On top of the measurable costs of project overruns, rework and scope creep, consider the intangible costs of frustrated staff, unhappy clients and failure to retain your best PMs. This can add up to thousands and even millions of dollars per year in some cases.

Focusing on and improving your firm’s performance management practices can have a huge impact on all of the key metrics you use to measure the health and results of your firm. Special attention should be given to creating a regular rhythm of feedback, establishing clear measures for individual performance and implementing meaningful consequences for attaining financial targets.

This post was originally published on the AEC Business Solutions blog at http://aecbusiness.com/holding-project-managers-accountable-for-profitability-blog/ and was adapted and reprinted with permission.

June R. Jewell, CPA, is the president and CEO of AEC Business Solutions and the author of Find the Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to Increase Profits in Architecture, Engineering and Environmental Firms. Her popular blog covers innovative ideas on business leadership, project management processes, business development and improved operational efficiencies. Register for one of her upcoming webinars at http://aecbusiness.com/webinars/.


Career Transition from the Military to the Civilian Sector

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If you’ve had no interface with the military at all, you may not realize that it’s where you find the best and brightest that the nation has to offer. As a norm, most veterans are very dedicated to what they do, have a high level of integrity, and will always put in their best effort. They’re used to a good, identifiable chain of command or organizational structure, and like working in that type of environment.

Keep in mind that veterans may not know the nuances of business. There will be a learning curve. In the military, people are used to going after a task and breaking it down. Using a distinct decision making process, they find the best people for the job and direct them to execute.

Mission execution is what it’s all about; financial considerations don’t come into place.

On the civilian side, the veteran employee has to learn to consider costs, understand people’s set roles and responsibilities and who’s doing what; work around the logistics of moving someone from one role to another.

Making the transition as a veteran

As one of TAPE’s own employees tells us, veterans facing this transition need to make a plan, upfront and early. Put a lot of critical thought into it, and then execute your plan.

He suggests a self-assessment – where you are, and where you want to be. The bottom line. You have some choices you need to make. First, when you get out, are you going to follow the job (move), or do you want to stay where you are? That’s your first fork in the road.

From there you’ll have other choices depending on which route you take. Of course a lot of these choices will depend on your family, for example wanting to let your kids finish up high school in the same place before you would consider moving.

TAPE, like all government contractor firms, is very veteran-friendly. But over and above the obvious legal and HR issues, our experience is that veterans, even with the direct-from-service learning curve, are trained in a particular way, and respond to direction by just heading off and doing it.

By the way, a similar experience comes from direct-from-the-retirement-pool civilian employees of the Federal Government. Both of these pools are also likely to have that magic word, relationships. And that will be the key to success, to utilize the skill sets and maximize the relationships.


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