Hot Management Info for 2004

December – Wanted: Management Skills

November – Managers MUST Manage

October – A Bias For Action

September – Customer Service Issues In The Permit Process

August – The Development And Permitting Process

July – Bad Bosses – You?

June – Storytelling

May – Leadership In A Time Of Stress

April – “You’re Fired”

March – 8 Ways Micro-Managers Can Cure Themselves

February – 10 Surefire Ways To Tick Off Your CoWorkers

January – 10 Things Your Manager Wants You To Know

December 2004 – Wanted: Management Skills

About 30% of managers and executives severely lack the necessary management
skills, according to a recent survey of 133 companies by Right Management
Consultants, a career transition and organizational consulting company
based in Philadelphia.

While 40% are considered good leaders, 30% are “management-challenged,”
and the other 30% are in the middle. Companies need to not only guide
the bottom 30% upward, but to watch out for the middle third of managers,
who may break either way.

Among the findings of the survey are:

    1. The most desired management skill is good communication, followed
      by a sense of vision, honesty, decisiveness, and ability to build
      good relationships with employees.
    2. Women say a higher percentage of managers and executives are
      “management-challenged” than do men. Women say 33% of managers lack
      necessary skills; men say only 25% do.

Source: Training Magazine November 2004

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November 2004 – Managers MUST Manage

My October article on “A Bias For Action” hit home with many of our
readers. However, one reader said, “Great information! Now what are
the solutions to the problems you described?”

Most planning directors or similar managers have both
operational tasks and management tasks. Only managers in very large
organizations spend much of their time on management.

How do most managers learn management? They were good
planners and were then appointed to a management position. Give any
one of these managers an operational task and a management task at the
same time and they will almost always do the operational task first.
Meanwhile, important management tasks are not getting done. Others in
the organization can do the operational task. Only the manager can do
the management tasks.

In my classes, I illustrate the problem using a real life
example from one of my contracts. The organization had a high-volume
front counter activity staffed by six planners. When the counter got
very busy, the manager of the counter activities came out to help out.
Was that good or bad? Most students say that is good.

I told the manager that next time I came to town and found
her at the front counter, I would padlock her to her desk. Why would
I say that?

Her staff were not trained, they were not clear on the
mission, and they did not have good systems and guidelines for the work.
She could spend all of her time at the counter and things would not
improve. She needed to invest in her people and carry out her management
tasks. Once this is done, then helping out at the counter is fine.

Time and time again in my management studies, I find managers
so bogged down in operational tasks that the management tasks are not
getting done and the organization is suffering. So, what to do — how
to do it?

The first step is to recognize that you must give priority
to the management tasks. Managers must manage. If you don’t want to
do it, get out of management. Go back and be that great planner you
may want to be anyway.

Set a block of time to only focus on management tasks.
Try every Friday or every Friday afternoon. In one organization, the
best I could get was two hours a week, but at least it was a start.

If you ever go into the office on a Saturday, refuse to
look at your in box. On these days, only work on management tasks.

Let’s hear from some of our readers and see how they get
out of this box.

For good management,

Paul Zucker, FAICP

The Management Doctor

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Reader Response

I agree with your observations. Too many managers become
managers due to past performance, not prospective performance. But then
if you have managers who are operationally oriented who are appointing
their managers, what do you expect? Our county used to have an excellent,
outsourced managers training program that was intended not only to teach
management techniques to current managers, but also to those persons
identified by managers as prospective managers. It was an excellent
way of keeping the eye on the management ball. Sadly, that program was
the victim of budget cuts — mostly at the insistence of our elected
officials who could not see the value of this system.

Michael A. Harper

Washoe County, NV

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October 2004 – A Bias For Action

Managers often confuse activity with accomplishments, and motivation
with true leadership.*

The authors suggest that 90% of managers waste their time
by procrastinating, becoming emotionally detached, and distracting themselves
with busywork. They point out that only 10% of managers truly act purposefully
to get the most important work accomplished. Managers tend to ignore
or postpone dealing with the organization’s most crucial issues. They
spend their time making the inevitable happen instead of putting their
energy into the exceptional things that create a company’s future. Required
is reflection, systematic planning, creative thinking, and time. Instead,
managers let operational activities requiring more immediate attention
squeeze important problems out.

Zucker Systems finds this same problem confronts most
of the planning directors we work with. When we ask them why they are
not getting important management tasks done, the answer is almost always
the same. They are bogged down with operational tasks. Meanwhile the
organization suffers from poor management.

The authors suggest the following four types of managers:

  1. The Frenzied 40% of managers are distracted by the many tasks
    they juggle every day. They are highly energertic but very unfocused
    and appear to others as frenzied, desperate and hasty.
  2. The Procrastinators 30% of managers procrastinate on doing
    the work that really matters to the organization because they lack
    both energy and focus. They often feel insecure and fear failure.
  3. The Detached 20% of managers are disengaged from their work
    altogether. They are focused but lack energy and seem aloof, tense
    and apathetic.
  4. The Purposeful Only 10% of managers get the job done. They
    are highly focused and energetic and come across as reflective and
    calm amid chaos.

*These are the words from a new book, A
Bias For Action by Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal, Harvard Business
School Publishing, 2004.

Reader ResponsesGreat information! Now what are the solutions to the problems you described?

Leon Hughes

Prince George, VA

Very interesting information. After reading it, I find that managers and
people in general, will function in any of the categories at a particular
time. For example, I am “frenzied” when we are getting a big Planning
Commission or City Council agenda out. I “procrastinate” when I have a
task that will take more time than I have available to do the job right.
And, most importantly, I always strive to be “purposeful” all of the time,
but just can’t always make the stars align. I think you will hear that
many folks do not fit into any one of the categories all of the time.

Thanks for the great insight, I look forward to your emails!

Laura C. Kuhn

Scotts Valley, CA

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September 2004 – Customer Service Issues In The Permit Process

Specific Permit Issues

Development and permitting activities can generally be divided into
three broad categories. One category requires a field inspection but
may not require a plan check. This category includes various electrical,
plumbing or mechanical building permits. These are often referred to
as ministerial permits. A second category of ministerial permits generally
do not require any public notice and are approved by staff subject to
review against a variety of ordinances or criteria. Building permits
are generally included in this category. The third category is often
referred to as discretionary permits. They often require some form of
public notice and a public hearing before a hearing officer, planning
commission or elected officials. My approach to each is described below.

  • Ministerial Permits Not Requiring Plan Check

    These permits lend themselves to be received over the Internet or
    by Fax. Examples include many plumbing, electrical or mechanical

  • Ministerial Permits Requiring Plan Check

    As many of these permits as possible should be approved over the
    counter. This can reduce the amount of paperwork that enters the
    filing system. Additionally, since the applicant may be present
    during the review, questions can be clarified and answered on the
    spot. Generally, anything that can be processed in 45 minutes or
    less is a good candidate for over the counter permits. Examples
    include small residential remodels, residential garages, decks,
    signs and small tenant improvements. For these permits, the applicant
    should also have the option of having the application received and
    not processed over the counter.

  • Discretionary Permits

    These permits require extensive plans, are received at a permit
    center and normally require review by a number of specialists, often
    in different divisions or even different departments. These plans
    often go through two or more review cycles. I see two key criteria
    that impacts the timelines for these projects. One is, how long
    does it take the staff of each function to review the plans? Often
    this requires visiting the site. Reasonable timelines for these
    staff activities generally vary from five to 20 working days. The
    second criteria is, how long does it take citizens to participate
    in the process? Ordinances often give notice 10 to 15 days before
    a public hearing. However, this is not long enough for most citizens
    to participate in the process. I recommend giving citizens early
    notice, i.e., shortly after an application is received.

  • Application Completeness

    It is difficult for staff to meet review timelines when applications
    are not complete. Statutes and ordinances often allow 30 days to
    determine if an application is complete, after which mandatory processing
    times may take place or applications may vest against current adopted

    There is considerable confusion surrounding the word “complete.”
    Generally there are specific applications requirements, i.e., a
    certain number of copies, elevation drawings, certain technical
    reports, etc. One form of completeness is simply checking to see
    if these items are present at submittal. When they are not present
    the application is not taken in. This type of review does not meet
    the normal statutory definition of completeness. The statutory definition
    requires a bit more detailed review, often by a specialist. Trying
    to do this review at the counter can result in long wait lines.
    In these cases, I suggest the application be taken in for review.

    In many communities, staff tend to hide behind the 30-day rule and
    wait until day 30 to make the determination. This then impacts the
    project timeline. Instead, I suggest the completeness review be
    completed during the early stages of staff review, i.e., within
    the first 10 to 15 working days. This allows the applicant more
    time to submit whatever is required for completeness.

  • Complete Reviews — Surprises

    A great frustration for many applicants is incomplete first staff
    reviews. The first review asks the applicant to make certain changes
    to their plans or proposal. The changes are made and plans are resubmitted.
    However, sometimes staff adds new comments that should have been
    made during the first review. Systems should be in place to monitor
    staff in relation to complete first reviews.

In Summary

  • Addressing these issues requires amongst other things:
    • Maximizing the use of Internet and Fax to provide public information
      and receive permits.
    • Provide customers ready access to telephone services including
      returning all phone calls the same day received.
    • Allowing appointments for service within a few days to a maximum
      of one week.
    • Targeting counter wait times to 15 to 20 minutes for 90% of the
      customers with no waits longer than 45 minutes.
    • Providing as many over-the-counter permits as possible for permits
      that can be processed within 45 minutes.
    • Reviewing discretionary permits within five to 20 days for first
    • Reviewing application completeness within 15 working days or
    • Providing comprehensive first time reviews.

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August 2004 – The Development And Permitting Process

Service — Philosophy and Theory

Why is Mission Important?

I often find considerable confusion amongst both policy makers and
government staff in regards to the development permitting process. Current
organizational theory suggests that for efficiency and effectiveness,
it is imperative that organizations agree on the mission of the organization.
If any changes are to be made in the permitting process it is imperative
that policy makers and staff agree on the mission.

What is the Goal?

The development permitting process should be a process, not a policy.
Some communities have used the following language to help clarify the
development process:

  • The development process should be clear and reasonably predictable;
    that is, both the developer or property owner and citizens should
    know what to expect from the process.
  • The process should be policy-neutral, that is, the process itself
    should not be used to slow down development depending upon attitudes
    about “growth,” “slow growth,” or “no growth.” Growth issues, if desired,
    should be dealt with by the policy makers and adopted as clear public

Us vs. Them

It is not unusual that staff and citizens see the applicants as “the
bad guys.” Applicants on the other hand see staff, citizens and the
process as simply standing in the way of their doing what they want
to do. I am not comfortable with either of these approaches. I see communities
being built or evolving through a partnership. This is a partnership
between the applicants, government and citizens (see the dance of development
as illustrated in the drawing below). Staff’s role is not merely that
of a regulator. Rather, the role is that of a problem solver. A problem
solver with the ultimate goal of building a better community. Solving
problems not only for the applicant but also for citizens and through
creative use of ordinances and regulations. Citizens in one of our clients
described it this way, “So, after the project is completed, the three
of us (applicant, government and citizens) surround the project hand
in hand, singing kumbya.”

The Dance of Development

Dance of Development

Impact of Poor Development Permitting Processes

It is not unusual that staff and citizens fail to see the true impact
of a poor development and permitting process. This will vary if the
applicant is a developer, a homeowner or a business.

  • Developer

    A key issue for the developer is time. Developers will either be
    paying for the project with cash out of their pocket and/or often
    with construction loans. Either way, there is a cost when there
    are delays in the process. These costs can be substantial. So much
    so that most developers will gladly pay increased fees if they can
    have their projects proceed on a timely basis. This includes not
    only plan approval, but the inspection process as well.

    It is not unusual that staff and citizens don’t see this as a problem.
    Delay simply means that the developer will see less profit. In some
    cases this may be true. However, the more likely scenario is that
    the increased cost is passed along to the consumer, either in the
    form of a more expensive product, or in the form of decreased quality.
    What policy maker would publicly say that they want to increase
    costs to the consumers or reduce the quality of the community?

  • Homeowner

    The homeowner is often also interested in a timely development permitting
    process. Often their projects directly impact their quality of life.
    They may want to upgrade the kitchen or bath, add a bedroom for
    a new family member or an elderly member of the family, etc. They
    may personally take time off from work to processes the permit or
    stay at home for inspections. All of this interrupts their life
    and is either a direct or indirect cost.

  • Businesses

    The development permitting process impacts both proposed new businesses
    and existing businesses. Like developers, there is a financial cost
    to pay for delay in the plan approval or inspection process. However,
    there are also other costs to pay, which can be deadly for the business.
    A new business may have targeted an opening date. Related to the
    opening date is the hiring of staff, an advertising program or targeting
    a window of opportunity.

    An existing business has similar concerns. They may need to expand
    or change to remain competitive or cost effective. In today’s fast
    moving times, this can be particularly critical for the manufacturing
    sector. As one of our clients told us, “by the time we get the permit
    for a tenant improvement, we have already lost the order that created
    the need for the tenant improvement.”

In summary, a poor development permitting process can
add cost to the process resulting in higher end-product costs, decreased
development quality, impact on citizens quality of life and lost business
for both new and existing businesses.

Economic Development and Redevelopment

Some communities are interested in economic development or redevelopment.
In these cases there is often debate as to how either of these activities
relate to the development permitting process. Some suggest that the
development permitting process is only one factor in economic development
and often a small one. There is some validity to this argument. There
are many decisions that go into economic development activities. Some
of the hottest economic development communities in the United States
also have notoriously complicated development processes. Examples include
Austin, Texas and San Diego, California.

However, it would also be an exaggeration to conclude
that the development permitting process has no relation to economic
development. Each circumstance may be different. If all else is equal,
why would a business decision select a community where the permit will
take six months vs. a community where it will take 60 days?

Redevelopment activity is another often confused category.
Staff for some of our clients felt that a redevelopment project is “just
another developer” and should not be granted any “special treatment.”
This impression fails to recognize that a redevelopment project is created
by the community as a means to resolve significant social/physical/economic
problems in the selected project area. Often, a redevelopment project
produces $4 to $7 of private investment for every $1 of public redevelopment
money. Further, when correctly applied, redevelopment can reduce public
costs and greatly enhance public revenues for the good of the entire

Thus, a community economic development strategy and redevelopment
strategy need to be recognized as direct public policy deserving special
attention and priority.

Specific Customer Service Issues

Good customer service has a number of common features, whether
it is the development permitting process or other aspects of the consumer’s
life. With the information age, time seems to be central to most transactions.
Closely related is clarity and accuracy of the transaction. There are
various ways to apply these features to the development permitting process.

  • Internet, Telephone/Voice Mail, Fax, Office Visits

    Driving to a government office for information or a transaction
    has a direct impact on the applicant’s time as well as transportation
    costs. Ways to reduce these include:

    • Internet

      Permits that do not require plans can readily be processed over
      the Internet. Even when plans are required, some communities
      allow the application to be completed on the Internet with plans
      dropped off. New technology will gradually allow plans to be
      submitted over the Internet electronically.

      The community website can also save customers’ time in other
      ways. Features can include access to all application forms,
      application guidelines and general public information. Access
      can also be made available to all relevant ordinances, regulations
      and interpretations. Other useful features can include lists
      of answers to most frequently asked questions; list telephone
      numbers, fax numbers and email addresses of all functions and
      staff; agendas for meetings and minutes of meetings; access
      to a database showing the status for a specific permit, and
      similar data. The website should also include easy access to
      a comprehensive geographic information system. Such a system
      can show the General Plan, zoning, and property assessor’s information
      for a specific property. It can also show other items of interest
      such as wetlands delineation, slopes, etc.

    • Telephone/Voice Mail

      The telephone can also be a major time saver for the applicant.
      Why should a customer need to drive to a government building
      in order to have a question answered when it could be done over
      the telephone? Yet, many organizations have such a backlog of
      telephone calls that customers will drive to the office out
      of frustration, often, only to find an equally long wait at
      the office. We believe the office should have adequate telephone
      lines so the customer does not get a busy signal and they should
      be adequately staffed. The best current technology tells the
      caller how long the wait will be for a person and then gives
      the option to leave a phone number to be called back in the
      same order as called.

      Contemporary phone systems also emphasize direct phone lines
      for all employees. While only a few numbers will be listed for
      general public information, once a customer is working with
      a staff person, direct phone calls should be used. This saves
      operator time and frustration for the customer. The direct phone
      numbers should be listed on the employees business card as well
      as on the website.

      Employees need to be encouraged to answer their phone during
      major parts of the day. Some non-access time is appropriate
      for concentrated work time but this should not be abused. When
      the phone is not answered, the call should go into voicemail.
      However, in all cases there needs to be a feature where the
      caller can proceed to a live operator or other staff member.
      If the employee is going to be out of the office or on vacation,
      the message on the voicemail message should indicate such.

      The biggest complaint I receive concerning phone systems is
      that phone calls are not returned or not returned on a timely
      basis. Many communities have adopted a 24-hour rule, asking
      all staff to return phone call within 24 hours. I have not found
      these systems effective. First of all, in today’s fast moving
      times, customers expect faster service. Secondly, these systems
      are hard to monitor and enforce. I favor a system that requires
      all phone calls and voice mails to be returned the day received.
      In other words, no staff goes home at night until they have
      returned all their phone calls.

    • FAX

      Although the fax is gradually being replaced by the Internet,
      it continues to be an important part of customer service for
      people without Internet access and to forward documents that
      are not in Internet format. The office should be willing to
      accept applications and other items by fax and also distribute
      various documents by fax.

    • Office Visits

      Some transactions will continue to require an office visit.
      In these cases the customer will expect and deserve, at a minimum,
      service that is similar to that expected in the market place.
      Two options here include having an appointment for service or
      simply coming in and waiting for service.

      I believe that in most cases appointments should be available
      within a few days or no later than a week. For people with appointments,
      they should expect to be serviced within five to ten minutes
      of showing up for the appointment.

      Waiting time for people without appointments can be a more difficult
      matter to handle. For small and low volume communities, customers
      expect and often receive almost instantaneous service. For larger
      and high volume communities the issue can become more complex.
      I like to target service 90% to 95% of the customers within
      15 to 20 minutes and certainly no longer than 45 minutes. Four-
      and five-hour waits are unheard of, even in notoriously long-wait
      functions like departments of motor vehicles or hospital emergency

In Summary:

  • The process should be a process, not a growth policy.
  • The process should be a partnership between the applicant, government
    and citizens.
  • The process should be customer-focused and easily understood by
    all customers, whether a homeowner, a builder, a community member
    or a policy maker.
  • While staff has certain regulatory roles, the emphasis should be
    on problem solving for both the applicant and citizens while always
    focusing on building a better community.
  • A poor development permitting process can result in higher end-product
    costs, decreased development quality, impact on citizens quality of
    life and lost business for both new and existing businesses.
  • The community’s economic development strategy and redevelopment
    strategy should be recognized as direct public policy deserving special
    attention and priority in the development permitting process.

This theme will be continued in the September Management
Information email which will cover specific permit issues.

Paul Zucker (AKA the Management Doctor).

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July 2004 – Bad Bosses – You?

In my organizational development consulting, I continually come across
“bad bosses.” These are not bad planners or bad people, but they do
need to learn how to be a boss. Recent studies indicate that the number-one
reason people leave a job is because of bad supervisors or bosses. High
on the list of why bosses are bad is poor communication skills. Check
yourself in relation to the following points.

  1. Being a Better Listener
    Are you really listening to employees? Most bosses say they have
    an open-door policy but don’t really listen when employees come through
    the door. Or they practice management by walking around but don’t
    listen then either.
  2. Make Time for Employees
    When an employee can’t get time with the boss, the organization
    is likely in trouble. If you have employees lined up outside your
    door, you have a problem. Show your employees they have your full
    attention. Talk about their career paths and how they will be growing
    in the organization.
  3. Get The Word Out
    Get the word out ASAP of any changes affecting any employee.
  4. Message on Values
    Don’t send mixed messages. Know your values and communicate them
    frequently and consistently.
  5. Regular Feedback
    Don’t wait for an annual employee evaluation. Confront any employee
    problem promptly. Also, don’t forget the positive feedback.
  6. Speaking in GroupsYou need to have good skills to speak to groups of employees. I particularly
    see this problem in how the director handles staff meetings. Typically
    they pontificate for 55 minutes and then wonder why no one contributes
    during those last five minutes.
  7. E-Mails
    Don’t hide behind your e-mails. E-Mails are an important tool
    but don’t use them for delicate matters that require personal and
    emotional attention.
  8. FeedbackWork hard to get employee feedback. Ask and listen. Use techniques
    like employee surveys, formal evaluation feedback forms and try a
    formal 360-degree evaluation. You can get better, but first you need
    a clear perspective of how you are currently doing.

Reader ResponsesThank you…great suggestions.

Terry Marpert

City of Redmond, WA

This is really great advice, and I have circulated the email to my
colleagues at APA. I have seen this bad behavior in so many people,
although I believe the city management and civil engineer professions
have a monopoly on it.

Stuart Meck, FAICP

Senior Research Fellow

American Planning Association

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June 2004 – Storytelling

Because I make so many presentations, I periodically read articles
on making good presentations. Many of these talk about the power of

The American Management Association’s Spring 2004 publication
had an article by Lori L. Silverman called, Business Communication Through
Storytelling. She provides some good ideas on how you can use storytelling
in the work place. Following are some excerpted thoughts.

Storytelling can enable you to present strategic and operating information
in an attention-grabbing manner, illustrate a key or complex point in
an effective way and otherwise build department support for your perspective.
To help you find good stories, she suggests these questions:

  • When did you learn a universal truth about life?
  • When did you experience a valuable life lesson?
  • What situation has had a profound impact on the person you are today?
  • How did you first overcome a significant fear?

Another way is to look outside yourself including:

  • Timeless tales about the organization and its culture.
  • Anecdotes shared by family, friends and colleagues.
  • Current or historical events outlined in newspapers, magazines or
    online sources.
  • Incidents from television or radio news programs.
  • Ancient fables and fairytales.

No matter where you obtain stories, you will need to
hone them for use. There are three main parts to crafting stories to
gain maximum impact. First, set the stage by introducing the cast of
characters and describing pertinent elements such as the location, time
of year, weather, geography and what is going on in the situation. Next,
outline the obstacle, the challenge or the conflict and build to a climax.
Finally, bring the story to closure by describing how the situation
is resolved and by moving listeners to its meaning. Bringing the meaning
of the story to listeners is accomplished by answering a question, “What’s
the point?” This is followed by a “call for action,” that action being
dependent on your organization’s needs.

Send us your favorite story and we will share it with
our readers.

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May 2004 – Leadership In A Time Of Stress

In today’s government budget crisis, many planning directors
or other directors are uncertain what to do. I was impressed by these
11 Keys to Leadership from the January 2004 Training Magazine.

“During such times, many senior leaders spend countless
hours on ways to cut costs or jump-start revenues,” says Joanne Sujansky,
CEO of KEY-Group, a Pittsburgh-based consulting and training services
company. “What they fail to realize is that if they don’t have the necessary
leadership skills to run their business and to implement the changes
correctly, those countless hours will have been wasted.”

Sujansky offers the following advice for today’s leaders:

  1. Stand by your team. People need to know you’re in their corner.
    Support equals motivation. If they know they have your support, they
    will feel more motivated to do their jobs well.
  2. Cultivate relationships. Take the time to get to know your
    team members. Meet with them one-on-one with no interruptions—you’ll
    be amazed at what you find out. When people know you care, they’ll
    be more inclined to work harder.
  3. Acknowledge a job well done. It’s important to let people
    know they make a difference. When people hear a compliment, they are
    more apt to repeat the behaviors that got them the compliment in the
    first place.
  4. Set specific, challenging, yet attainable outcomes for team members.
    When you set specific goals from the beginning, you can avoid unnecessary
    surprises in the end. It allows your team to more easily check their
    progress and ensures that they know what your expectations are.
  5. Practice what you preach. People want to know what you stand
    for, and they want to see that your values and beliefs guide you.
    Your team will learn more from what they see you do than from what
    you tell them.
  6. Kill the grapevine. Rumors can wreak havoc in an organization.
    The key is to squelch rumors before they begin to spread, and you
    can do this by simply keeping your team informed. If everyone knows
    exactly what is going on, the chances for rumors to arise will decrease
  7. Network. Attend community events and industry conferences.
    You may think it’s difficult to find good talent, but it is out there.
    It’s just a matter of looking in all kinds of places.
  8. If you see a problem, fix it. Whether it’s a process, a way
    of thinking or a machine, if it is not working properly, fix it as
    soon as possible.
  9. Do it now. Take a good, long look at your priorities. Many
    of the tasks and chores that dominate our time are urgent, but not
    necessarily important. Don’t let the urgent drive out the important.
  10. Schedule time for reading trade journals, business briefs, newspapers
    and books.
    As a leader, your team should see you as a resource.
    When you are informed, you can provide valuable information that will
    help them accomplish their goals. the more informed you are, the more
    informed your employees will be.
  11. Be more, not less, available in times of change. When your
    organization is going through a change, you should limit meetings
    and other commitments that may take you away from your team. People
    need you most during these times. When they have questions, you need
    to be there with an answer.

Reader ResponsesSounds like you’re the next Dr. Phil. Did you ever think of going on
Oprah’s show? Good advice.

Charles Bien

U.S. Dept of Housing, Washington, DC

Thank you…nice ideas.Gail O’Reilly

Borough of Red Bank, NJ

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April 2004 – “You’re Fired”

Donald Trump’s new program The Apprentice has led many to discuss again
the topic of employee termination — you’re fired. Rumor has it that
Trump is even trying to get a trademark on the phrase. The real question
is, when should someone be fired and is there a right way and wrong
way to do it?

Do It

The first thing a manager needs to realize is that you do no service
to a poor performing employee by not aggressively dealing with the situation.
There is no such thing as a bad employee. What you may have are employees
that simply don’t fit. They are on a Northbound Train but they have
South bound tickets. You need to help them find a South bound train.
Using the book Good To Great terminology, they are on the wrong bus
or in the wrong seats on the bus. Employees need to fit not only with
the job but with the others in the organization and the organization’s
environment. The sooner they find the right train or bus, the better
will be their career. You as the manager have a responsibility to help
them see this.

I hear many governmental managers saying, “I’d like to fire them but
I’m afraid I won’t be able to find a replacement.” However, this attitude
can be destructive to the entire organization. Aubrey Daniels in an
article on “Dumping Your Bad Employees,” said, “If you’d terminate these
employees under normal circumstances, you should terminate them under
abnormal circumstances.” There are many hidden costs of keeping problem
workers. “Whatever you do, address the problem quickly.”

How To Do It

You can’t do it the way Trump does it on The Apprentice. Managers today
need to be concerned about lawsuits, employees going postal, discrimination
and reverse-discrimination. Stephen Covey says, “Unless there’s a serious
blind-siding character and/or competence flaw, people will almost always
fire themselves when two things are present: first, an upfront, win-win
agreement regarding expectations; and second, frequent feedback to the
individual.” We covered the same point in a previous Management Doctor
question. Click
here to read Terminating Employees.

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March 2004 – 8 Ways Micro-Managers Can Cure Themselves

In our consulting practice we continually find many planning
and building managers who are micromanagers. This works against all
the motivation and employee empowerment programs we have been teaching.
Given this finding, I found the article below of particular interest.

Paul Zucker

Zucker Systems

Jeff Wuorio is an award-winning writer and columnist,
and is the author of “The
CNBC Guide to Money and Markets.”
For more information, click
to view his website.

You have a great team in place. From top to bottom, they’re
consistent, diligent and motivated. But there’s one catch: No matter
how well they perform time after time, you simply can’t leave them alone
to do what they already know how to do exceedingly well.

Call it micro-management, call it meddling, but a boss
who can’t or won’t allow his staffers to function on their own can be
a crippling handicap. Not only can that meddling strangle morale, it
may send those who find it especially intrusive scrambling for another

But it’s a new day, and that can mean a new you as well.
Here are eight strategies to break the micro-management habit.

  • Understand why you’re doing it. Take a few minutes of introspection
    and think about the reasons why you can’t leave your people alone.
    That itself may hint at a solution. It may be that, deep down, you
    don’t trust your staff or perhaps yourself (an insecure boss can’t
    stay out of the loop for long). “It’s not mistrust,” says Los Angeles-based
    consultant Paul Glen. “It’s a lack of belief that they, or you, can
    do what needs to be done.”
  • Redefine your role. One of the biggest causes of needless
    micro-management is a boss who really doesn’t recognize what she’s
    paid to do—particularly if she came up through the ranks of the company.
    “When you’re not a manager, what you produce is your value to the
    company,” says Glen. “When you move into management, you’re rewarded
    for making other people more productive rather than producing yourself.
    You need to redefine that measure of success so you don’t get involved
    in production anymore.”
  • Remember the micro-manager from Hades. Just about all of
    us in our working lives have endured a boss whose fingers were in
    every pie. Recall what that felt like, the lack of respect it conveyed,
    the oppressive weight of feeling, as though you were always being
    watched. That should pinch off many an urge by you to stick your nose
    where it’s not really needed.
  • Experience is everything. Another cause of harmful micro-management
    is a boss who’s never savored the opposite: putting your people on
    autopilot and watching them rock. Consider earmarking a specific project
    that you swear a blood oath to ignore for the time being. Then, see
    how things come out. If your staff performs as expected, that can
    inject needed confidence in you to cut back on involvement, so having
    tangible proof may not be necessary.
  • Spare the rod, spoil the boss. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes
    you may have to discipline an employee who keeps making the same mistake.
    That means you as well. Bette Price, co-author of the book “True Leaders,”
    says that doing so can solidify your visible commitment to break the
    habit of pointless meddling. “Once the manager has turned decisions
    over to the team, and if she gets back involved in the process, then
    a fine is assessed. The point being, the manager fesses up in a visible
    way for not following through with his own plan. This helps to convey
    to the team accountability and it helps to reinforce to the manager
    the habit that needs to be broken,” Price says.
  • Understand the distinction between helpful and meddlesome.
    Trying to get the micro-management monkey off your back doesn’t mean
    abrogating all contact. As the person in charge, it’s imperative that
    you know how things are progressing. But knowing what’s going on is
    not the same as riding shotgun on every picayune decision. Stay informed,
    but separate those bits of information that warrant some response
    on your part from those that are purely “FYI.”
  • Take it in steps. One of the major stumbling blocks to many
    who resolve to be less meddlesome is their scope—the “I’m going to
    change me completely” pronouncement. Same with micro-managing. The
    boss who says she’s simply going to stop, may be trying to take on
    more than can be reasonably addressed. Instead, resolve to make the
    change in steps. It may be one project, it may even be a particular
    day of the week, but tackling the problem of meddling can often be
    solved in small, progressive doses rather than a cold-turkey approach.
  • “Boss, get out of my face.” This last bit of advice depends
    in large part on you and the environment in which you work. If you
    genuinely want to stop needless micro-management, think seriously
    about giving your staff the freedom to let you know when a certain
    level of involvement may be too much. Again, this can be a matter
    of choice. Many employers would rather deal with the issue in a less
    visible manner. Others, in fact, may welcome the support that a public
    form of commitment can attract. “Tell them to tell you if they’re
    feeling as though they’re being micro-managed,” Glen says. “If you
    tell them you’re struggling, they’ll probably try to help. And they’ll
    appreciate what you’re trying to do.”

Reader ResponsesThe other side of the coin is the phantom boss—the boss who’s never
there. Any thoughts on how to deal with these?



  • Ask What You Can Do To Help. Do you remember your staff asking
    for help and how you responded? Some micro-managers have difficulty
    responding to actual requests for help. Maybe because they are too
    busy responding to perceived needs. Unneeded and unrequited help can
    be redundant, dis-empowering, and confusing. Not responding to requests
    is dangerous too. Consider asking staff what you can do to help. This
    will foster a conversation and could provide an opportunity to not
  • What Do You Gain? Micro-managing may allow you to say to
    your boss, “I had to tell her how to do it.” But that doesn’t reflect
    well on you since you should be able to coach staff to make appropriate
    choices. And forcing everything to be done your way discounts others’
    perspectives and styles, and prevents new ideas from coming into play.
  • Is Micro-Managing Your Excuse For Not Making Decisions? Micro-managers
    often avoid actual decisions, timely or otherwise. They never have
    enough information, or the work wasn’t done to their specifications.
  • How About Micro-Managing Teamwork and Meetings? Micro-managing
    meetings and teamwork is also a no-no. If you always need the last
    word, want to restate what has been said or feel you need to say something
    (just because you are the manager?), think again. Once more, try asking
    what you could do to help and see what the group proposes.
  • Think About Thank You. If you micro-manage, how do you ever
    say “thank you” to your staff? You might genuinely say thank you for
    typing but it is hard to sincerely say thank you for your work.


Anonymous and Cringing!

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February 2004 – 10 Surefire Ways To Tick Off Your CoWorkers

Let’s face it, not everyone gets along perfectly. To be
successful in your work, you at least need the respect and support of
others — your customers, suppliers, coworkers and management. But sometimes,
despite your best efforts to win their support, bad habits creep into
your daily work life and drive others crazy. Here are ten surefire ways
to make sure your efforts to win their support don’t backfire. If any
sound familiar, you could be leaving your coworkers fuming.

  1. Is it always all about you? Are you preoccupied with your
    own career path and looking good at the expense of others? Do you
    put others down while you pump yourself up? Instead, conduct yourself
    in such a way that other people will want to see you succeed — let
    their genuine support and admiration of who you are pull you to success.
  2. Answering cell phone calls during meetings. A surefire way
    to aggravate people is to consistently respond to calls, emails and
    pagers when in conversation with others. This sends a message that
    they are less important than the caller. Let the calls go and return
    them when your current conversation is over. If you are expecting
    an urgent call, alert those present. They will appreciate that you
    value their time and that you stay focused on matters at hand.
  3. Sending voicemails that go on and on and on. At the end of
    a voice message, replay it and hear how you sound. Difficulty in getting
    to the point? Just like giving a speech — state your objective or
    main message first and follow it with brief, supporting subpoints.
    Some people prefer voicemail, some email — each workplace has its
    own expectations.
  4. Acting like a bureaucrat. Do you drag out turnaround times
    and play control games? Do you create obstacles or barriers for others
    to do their work? Making mountains out of molehills is another surefire
    way to alienate people. Teach people how to navigate your organization
    efficiently, knowing when to stick with the rules and when to break
  5. Reading the newspaper or hammering on your laptop during training
    sessions or meetings.
    Yes, there are way too many meetings and
    you’ve got more important things to do. Yet doing non-relevant tasks
    when there is a set agenda sends a clear message that this event or
    these people are unimportant to you. Instead, be fully focused — chances
    are if you completely engage, you will make important contributions
    while you show you are a committed team player.
  6. “I’m like, ya know . . .” You are your words even more so
    in virtual relationships. You may be communicating with people worldwide
    who know you only by the sound of your voice or the tone of your emails.
    Become conscious of how you use language and stop communicating in
    ways that cause you to sound inexperienced or unprofessional. Ask
    those you trust and respect for feedback.
  7. Doing your bills at the office. Whether you are paying your
    bills, planning your wedding, or placing an online order for a special
    gift, avoid doing them on office time. People understand short personal
    calls and respect emergencies, but they don’t appreciate seeing you
    get paid to manage your life.
  8. Skirting around the dress code. Ask ten companies to define
    business casual and you have ten different definitions. Dressing for
    work has never been more complicated — especially if you work at multiple
    locations. Prioritize matching your customer’s dress code and if visiting
    more than one on a given day and the codes conflict, go for a classic,
    neutral look and be prepared to be flexible — adding or losing a jacket
    or tie between locations.
  9. Taking it too easy on telecommute days. Run a few errands
    and throw in a load of laundry? Hey, you’re a hard worker and deserve
    work-life balance. Telecommuting can be a tremendous win-win but if
    you stretch it to its limits, you may blow the policy for yourself
    and others. Meet your deadlines, be readily available during business
    hours, and do great work — skip the temptation to make it appear like
    you are working but you’re really not.
  10. Acting unethically. Make sure you are clear on your organization’s
    ethics policies and have the courage and conviction to uphold them.
    It’s easy to draw the line on major violations but watch for the subtle
    ways you may be pulling others in the wrong direction to achieve goals
    — massaging numbers or data, violating copyright, or providing misleading
    information. Raise the ethics bar high and hold yourself and others
    to it.

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January 2004 – 10 Things Your Manager Wants You To Know

Business books have a lot on leadership but little on
followership. A Google search for leadership turns up 19.8 million hits,
for followership 15,400. So, what makes a good follower? A duty to speak
up! One good follower said, “I’m the kind of person, if my boss is bad,
I’m still going to make him look good.” Entrepreneur and former executive
Liz Ryan offers ten pieces of advice to followers from the perspective
of a boss.

  1. Don’t take it personally when I’m abrupt. Bosses don’t necessarily
    handle stress any better than anyone else does.
  2. I can’t make a federal case out of every issue that’s important
    to you. When it comes to doing battle with my own boss or other departments,
    please let me pick my battles on your behalf.
  3. I am not King Solomon. When you and a co-worker both want the desk
    next to the window, play rock-paper-scissors.
  4. Don’t give me a reason to watch you like a hawk.
  5. You’re the expert on how to do your job, not me. Don’t be frustrated
    that I don’t know the details. I have a different job description
    than you do.
  6. When you’re angry with me, let me know.
  7. Don’t ask me to tell you what I can’t talk about. Are layoffs coming?
    I like you, but not enough to jeopardize my job.
  8. Bring me problems as far in advance as possible. I can help you
    out of a jam if I have lead-time.
  9. Give me feedback on my management style but be tactful and constructive.
  10. I can help you if you goof up, but don’t do anything really stupid.

Reader ResponsesSeeing the subject on your “10 Things Your Manager Wants You To Know”
caught my eye, and I was prepared to send it to the team, but after
reading, I think that only #1 and #9 applies to a good contemporary

I would reword it this way:

  1. It’s my problem Don’t take it personally when I’m abrupt.
    Bosses don’t necessarily handle stress any better than anyone else
    does. But you should let me know that it’s showing,
    because I should not take out my stress on you.
  2. I’m here to make sure you have the resources
    to do your job well. If you are unable to get cooperation or resources
    from other departments, see me and let me use my channels to get them
    for you.
    I can’t make a federal case out of every issue
    that’s important to you. When it comes to doing battle with my own
    boss or other departments, please let me pick my battles on your behalf.
  3. There are some issues that do not require
    management decisions. Figure out a way to make it work and let me
    I am not King Solomon. When you and a co-worker both
    want the desk next to the window, play rock-paper-scissors.
  4. I trust you, that’s why you’re on the team.
    I’m here to help you achieve success, and you are able to achieve
    it independent of close supervision. Neither you nor I have the time
    for that level of observation.
    Don’t give me a reason to
    watch you like a hawk.
  5. You’re the expert on how to do your job, not me. The
    work you do is part of the work for which I am responsible. I trust
    that you have the ability to work out the details and identify the
    needed resources. I’m here to be a sounding board and devil’s advocate
    when you need it. You’re better at doing those details than I am,
    so it’s your job to know the details.
    Don’t be frustrated
    that I don’t know the details. I have a different job description
    than you do.
  6. When you’re angry with me, let me know, because
    it probably means I failed in my job to ensure you understood the
    issue and I failed to understand your view. Let’s try it again.
  7. Don’t ask me to tell you what I can’t talk about. Are layoffs
    coming? I like you, but not enough to jeopardize my job.
    my position, some information is confidential. I will share everything
    I can, and ask that you understand that sometimes I cannot share all
    I know.
  8. Bring me your challenges, problems
    as far
    in advance as if possible.
    I can help you out of a jam if I have lead-time. We’ll
    do what can be done to get out of that jam.
  9. Give me feedback on my management style but be tactful and constructive.
  10. Take risks, learn from mistakes, understand
    what went wrong, and exercise the best judgment you can. I take responsibility
    for this department and stand between you and the mistake.

    I can help you if you goof up, but don’t do anything really stupid.

The attitude of Ms. Levy is not for the contemporary planning office
and successful manager.

From a Contemporary Manager

Hat’s off for the changes. These I can share with staff.

Another Contemporary Manager Some of these ideas are definitely improvements
on the original, but some are, to be blunt, modern PC crap. Number 6
for instance.

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