The dos and don’ts of delegating distasteful tasks

distasteful tasks

I like people to get things done. One of the most frustrating things that I’ve run across in the course of doing work with lots of different people on lots of different teams is the idea that a particular job or a particular part of a project is beneath somebody, even if that person could get it done with just a little bit of elbow grease and some proactive leanings. So whenever I see something like that I think about my mom. She has a college degree and spent a lot of time as a teacher but also spent a lot of time when we were growing up working at a health club cleaning toilets and folding towels. This job allowed us to have access to a health club that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to go to where we got to go swimming all the time, play basketball, and do a lot of other things. It was important to her that we had access to those things and so she did something that a lot of folks would have felt was beneath them.

I’m sure that as she was working her way through college her thought wasn’t, “Can’t wait to get done with this so I can be able to spend 15 years cleaning toilets.”  I’m pretty sure that wasn’t high on the list of things that she thought she was going to spend her career doing but it was stuff that had to get done in order to get something else that was important to her accomplished. I think about that every time that I sit down to something that I’m like, “Ugh, I wish I didn’t have to do that” or I get the urge to delegate something just because it’s unpleasant.

Things like making calls to folks that don’t necessarily want to hear what you have to say are easy to delegate but you have to think about why you are doing those things and the example it sets.  If you are constantly looking to delegate things down, that’s going to be something that catches on with other folks. Eventually you run out of people you can delegate to and the things that have to get done don’t get done.  Now I’m not saying there’s a line here where there are certain things that you probably shouldn’t spend your time doing because they’re a poor use of your time. I think it’s very appropriate to delegate in those circumstances but as a team leader or even just a member of a team you have to be careful about what you ask other people to do. Be honest with yourself about the reason that you’re asking them to do this task.  Are you asking them because:

  1. This is something you don’t want or do?
  2. Are they better suited to do this particular job?
  3. Is this something that you really shouldn’t be spending your time on?

If you have the right answers to those question great, delegate it. If you don’t or even if you have some extra time and it’s something that is distasteful but it sets a good example that you’re doing it, you should consider going ahead and doing it.  A lot of times if there’s something I’m about to ask somebody to do something that I know is going to be pretty terrible, I’ll try to sit down and at least do the beginning part of it with them. Hopefully this will:

  1. Share the misery
  2. Show that it can be done, it should be done and nobody’s above doing it

So with that said, enjoy your weekend and do something distasteful on Monday.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Looming government shutdown and the fear of uncertainty

Government shutdown

As we stand poised on the precipice of a government shutdown on the heels of sequestration, I think I’ve got a lot of company when I say that the last thing we need is another government shutdown. I don’t claim to fully understand every aspect of the politics behind this latest crisis. What I do know is that on a practical level for small businesses like mine and many others, the government shutdown is more pain than we can afford. Now I’ve been told that there are bigger issues afoot but I think that at a certain point, the little things (and people) are pretty important too.

Everything that’s been done already in the name of trying to get this country on the road back to recovery, a lot of it seems to have added very little with regard to value for regular people. It has mostly seemed to serve to fuel the political rhetoric of one party or the other. Personally I just want to see everybody continue working whether that means we cut here or there, I’d just like to know and have some stability. I think that’s one of the big things that’s caused so much pain and angst.

People really don’t know what the situation is going to be a month, or 3 months, or 6 months down the road. As a business it’s really hard to hire in such uncertain times and when it’s hard to hire, it’s hard to get hired as a person looking for a job and it just becomes a vicious cycle.  When you start talking about shutting down the government on the heels of everything that has gone on this past year, there’s just an enormous amount of pain to be borne by a lot of folks. There’s going to be lives that are changed forever and all for what? To make a political point?

I think at some point the folks that are in charge of this place need to act like grown-ups and figure out how to make it work. I don’t know that there’s going to be a solution out there that is going to make everyone happy and so you got to find a way to compromise. Find a way to make things work for all the people that don’t have high profile stakes in this and aren’t going to be in the news because of it, but they may be out of a job, maybe underemployed, and having to find a way to feed their family on a lot less than they would have if people would get their act together and at least allow people to plan.

Again I’m not advocating any particular political position in this I just want to know what to expect so as a business and as a person I can plan for it. I think I speak for a lot of the country when I say we just want to know where things are going to stand.  The uncertainty is almost worse than the certainty of any particular thing. I don’t think that I’m particularly unique in just wanting to know what is going to be the next reality. So this is me adding my voice to the many who are just out there going, “Hey we’ve had enough politics let’s fix something.” Let’s make some decisions, get to know what the rules are going to be for the next year or more, and let’s get to work and start healing for the long term, now.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

iOS 7: 5 small but useful highlights of the latest upgrade

ios 7 upgrade

It is once again time to grab your kid or grandkid and have them explain the new iPhone to you. For those of you have not upgraded to iOS 7, it is likely to be fairly confusing when you first get going but I think you’re going to rapidly grow to love it.  I know for myself, there were some areas where I was really confused especially with things like how do I close my applications? Luckily they resolved themselves quickly. Actually in my case I grabbed my little sister and had her explain it to me.  Here are some highlights of my favorite upgrades and hopefully this will help those out there embrace the latest change.

  1. Easier Search Capabilities: I was told that with a simple downward or upward swipe in the middle of the phone I could pull up the search menu. This is something that I use all the time and actually found to be helpful. This morning I gave it a quick swipe, typed in a v, and pulled up my voice memos which brings me to my next upgrade.
  2. Updated voice memo application: The voice memos have a very fancy new interface and is mostly cosmetically enhanced with the exception of one useful change. It seems that they now recognize that most people want to put a custom title on their voice memos rather than one of the 6 or 7 standard types of memo titles which were originally provided. With the last incarnation you couldn’t differentiate your memos as easily as I would have liked. I use my voice memos daily, one purpose being my daily blog which I like to put a unique title on so that I can go back if I ever need to and reference what I said. So the addition of the ability to title the memos is a small but helpful update.
  3. New camera interface: The camera update, like the voice memos, did not experience a huge change but I still value the small updates they implemented. The new interface includes some options for black and white, square, panoramic, and other things which are much more readily accessible. While some of these were always options they were previously harder to find and it just overall look refreshed.  I don’t know that it’s necessarily a better cleaner interface but it’s new, it’s different, and it looks kind of fancy.
  4. New mail features: One of the other features that I really like in the mail program is that they’ve given you the option to create a mailbox around things that have attachments. Since I am often in the business of trying to find things that have attachments either because I need to sign them or I did sign them, it makes it really convenient to be able to have a mailbox that is completely full of just items with attachments and search within them for the things that I want.
  5. Closing applications: I mentioned my confusion earlier in being able to close items I have opened. Now all you have to do is hold down your thumb to bring up the window that allows you to cycle through your applications. This window has been redone to be much more user friendly. It looks a lot like the way you browse through documents, applications and photos on the Mac. It pulls up your programs in that look and feel and you can simply swipe them up to close them.

So all in all despite a few headaches and my initial reaction of, “I hate this! Why would they ever change anything?!” I have decided that I really like it. I’m not sure how some of these updates are just now getting put in but I’ll take it. For those of you that are android or windows phone lovers, please ignore this post and for everyone else let me know if you found any useful features made available with this update.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

You can’t fix apathy

You can't Fix Apathy

One of the most frustrating things that you’ll ever find when you’re working with your team or with people from your organization is apathy or a lack of work ethic.  There’s nothing more frustrating then watching somebody perform at a subpar level. Actually it doesn’t even matter if they’re performing up to standard but if they’re operating beneath where you believe they can perform its incredibly frustrating; particularly when that apathy is sort of written all over their faces.  When someone is less than engaged when you’re sitting in a meeting, they’re checking their phone, or clearly have other things that are of greater interest to them; that to me is the quickest ticket out of the organization.

I feel that an apathetic attitude is the sort of thing that catches. It only takes a few of those types of folks to ruin the spirit and fight of the team. You can cure a lack of training. You can address that. There are many other failings on a team that you can have that you can address in a fairly straight forward fashion either through training, educational opportunities, or helping someone through an area where they’re having difficulty, but it’s hard to cure a lack of desire, broken work ethic, or just a lack of caring.

I’ve found turn for turn that you can address just about anything else on a team. If you care and you’re willing to put in a little bit of work, you can overcome just about anything and I think that is true in your work a day world and just about every aspect of your life.  There are very few things that can’t be cured through training, education, and effort.  When the problem is someone doesn’t care or they exhibit a lack of effort, that’s the type of thing that as an employer or a team leader you have to identify that and root it out immediately. Whether that means getting that person off of your team or out of your organization, I think it’s something that if you don’t address it; it catches.  People see that and they go, “Well why do I care, why am I trying so hard when this person is not.” It’s unfair when you’ve got people that are pushing as hard as they can possibly push to achieve something.

There’s nothing that drives me over the edge faster than a lack of effort. I think, as with many things, you have to address it with the person directly first. I think, as with many things in the office place, you owe it to the people that work for you and with you to address things head on and ask. Maybe there is something that is correctible that’s causing it or maybe you’re misinterpreting something. Either way I think that once you’ve addressed it on that level, if there’s not a change then you have to find a way to move that person out of your organization or off your team. Otherwise they will absolutely cripple your ability over time to achieve things. Eventually they’ll end up poisoning the rest of your team and the rest of your organization.

I’m not sure how other people feel about this but it’s something that I feel incredibly strongly about. When I see this happening, it’s almost painful to watch. I try to address it immediately and it’s something where I’ve don’t have a lot of tolerance. I’ll take a lot more time trying to help somebody through an issue on delivery then I will on apathy.  You can hand me things that have mistakes in them a lot more times if I feel like you’re really trying, you’re pushing, you’re just maybe not getting it, or maybe you’re struggling with how to put the pieces together. I’m ok with that if you’re working hard or if I can see that you’re working hard and you’re trying to take advantage of what you’ve got around you. I am willing to accept that and work with that, but you can’t fix not caring.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

3 Questions to ask before you make a big decision

Riddler_Wallpaper_by_Darthkoolguy

Oftentimes l will have somebody come into my office and sketch something out pretty quickly and then look for a decision on the spot. Now if you don’t make the decision quickly you’re holding up progress but there’s always the risk that by making the decisions without the right information, you leave yourself open to down the road having a whole bunch of problems. So I think there are three big questions I like to ask myself before making a big decision. Some of them may seem obvious but it’s worth taking the time to ask just in case the person that is asking for the decision either a) hasn’t thought of it or b) hasn’t thought to share it.

  1. What’s the risk? – I put that question broadly and vaguely in hopes that the person on the other side will take a second and think about what are all the things that could wrong with this before they just move forwards. It’s surprising how regularly they’ll say something that makes me change the answer that I was going to give.
  2. What’s the cost? – This should almost always be followed up by: did you think about how much it’s going to cost? Too often people don’t think about internal resources having a cost. When you’re trying to make these decisions you have to take into account that there’s almost always some level of effort involved in it and you have to weigh that against what we’re going to get out of it.  This is where I get to the next question.
  3. What do we get out of it in the near term and what do we get out of it in the long term? – So maybe that is two questions but I normally ask as what will we get out of it? From there I will break down it down further into those two parts. Again it doesn’t have to be all about near term benefit but it’s awfully nice to know that all the benefits aren’t all far out. The problem with benefits that are a ways out are that if it takes that long to get to where you’re going, sometimes the benefit is not enough to make that decision worthwhile.  The other part of it is weighing the value of the dollar and the resources of what you have now vs. the benefit that is so far out in the future.

You don’t want to become somebody who manages everything in the near term of this quarter, this quarter, and this quarter. Although one of the nice things with managing with an eye towards the near future is that oftentimes things that build value now are things that will build proven value. They result in long term value on the basis of accruing things at a faster rate than the things that are 6 months, 8 months, a year, 2 years, 5years down the road. Certainly it’s important to build towards a larger strategic value as well, but I will say be careful of the allure of things that are only going to benefit you months and years down the road.

So those are my big three questions.

  • What’s the risk?
  • What’s the cost?
  • What’s the benefit?

Those are pretty basic things that you should ask yourself before you ask for a management decision or make a big decision yourself.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Big Presentation, Little Prep Time: What to do?

Presentation Blog

One of the most difficult things to do well is to give presentations and speeches on short notice.   There’s an expectation that goes along with a presentation that there will be a certain amount of preparation that goes into it and the audience is going to be receiving a fairly well knit together show.  There’s a couple things that you can do if you’re put into a situation where you have very little prep time.  Maybe you are coming into to speak for somebody that is sick or maybe you were just presented with an opportunity to speak and have a very short time to get ready. Either way I think that a there are a couple things that you can do that will help put you at ease and help that presentation be well received despite inadequate prep time.

  1. I think a good way to start off is to, in some way, acknowledge the fact that you haven’t had an enormous amount of preparation time.  If it’s something where it’s public knowledge that the person you were subbing in for is sick, it’s really easy. You can use it as an opportunity to inject a little humor. Anything along the lines of, “So and so is ill so you get the b team,” or  something like that is a little bit funny but it also sets it in the audience’s mind that they should take in to account that you may stumble a little bit. You may get some slack out of it and a little bit of humor can work in your favor.

Oftentimes with very polished presentations the audience doesn’t feel as engaged as they sometimes do, particularly if it’s a smaller group, with a less polished presentation.  When you’re working your way through something you’ve given a lot of times, you lose some of the natural beaks and a lot of the conversational tone that really engages audiences when you’re speaking to them.  So I think sometimes the shorter the time between preparation and presentation can actually be a blessing in disguise. You end up with a better product from both sides because there is more of a willingness to experiment and take direction on the fly.

  1. The second thing is to try to eliminate highly specific sides and builds across slides.  One thing I do when I’m presented with a situation like this where I’m having to work from a deck or something like that is I will pull out any slides that have builds across two slides.  The tendency is to talk to what’s on the slides because that’s what’s providing you the guideposts to your talk, which is especially helpful when you are short on prep time. If you have something that builds across two slides, inevitably you’ll make one of two mistakes. Either you run across the second slide during the first slide or in anticipation of needing the material that is on the second slide and not remembering that it is there, you’ll use another example or you’ll have cover that material in some other way. It really just creates a kind of fumbling appearance to the presentation. I would much rather go in in advance and have more generic slides. That gives me a lot more free range than to have a polished slide deck and an unpolished presentation.  That will just serve to highlight the lack of preparation.  So make sure to remove complexity from your presentation materials and give yourself the broadest amount of free range possible.
  2. Finally the last thing I want to talk about is building that connection to the audience. I find it worthwhile to make sure I find something to link directly to my audience and their target interests. Say for instance that you are going to speak to a group interested in education, I’ll try to find some facts and figures that, while maybe not 100% directly relevant to my topic whether it’s strategic planning or investment portfolios, can be used as stage setting but also are just generally interesting that relate to their field. If you can find a few of these things to sprinkle into the beginning of the talk you’re giving that day, you can garner that little bit of engagement and trust you want from your audience. If you’re able to get people to buy into the fact that you’re going to be interesting, maybe not be topical, but at least interesting; the audience will give you a chance.

They’ll give you a chance to engage them throughout the rest of your presentation and I think that is really critical within the first few minutes. You need to be able to build that interest within your audience where they say, “Hey this is somebody that I want to listen to talk.”  You don’t always have to do that by being directly relevant to the speech that you’re gong to give the rest of your way through.  It could just be something that just builds a bond with the audience and generates enough interest so they listen to the rest of what you’re going to say.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Designing Dashboards: Important questions everyone should be asking

9-16-13

I was talking to a client the other day about the particular dashboard we were putting together for them. We had a few different people in the room and we were discussing:

  • What should go on it
  • What should be left off
  • What sort of decisions it will help support
  • How often would different people will be looking at it

Those are just a few of the things that were taken into consideration when we were putting together the executive dashboard. About halfway through the session one of the folks said, “I’m really glad I came to this; I never really thought about our business this way.” I think that’s one of the unintended benefits of developing these types of analytics and working on things like dashboards and reports. It makes you think about the types of decisions that you’re supporting in organizations. I think that’s one of the really important side benefits that you get from broad stakeholder engagement.

These reporting efforts oftentimes spawn a conversation about what types of information you need to support the business and it can be an incredibly valuable conversation. It really makes you examine how you run and operate your business. Too often you’ll have people take reports and the information that they have on hand as a given and they don’t question why they don’t have this other piece of information. Or maybe they think, “Wouldn’t it be great if I did have this other piece of information and look how much better I’d be able to do my job.”  So I think there’s a really powerful side benefit to having a conversation about how do we make decisions and what information do we need to make it happen.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.