Hot Management Info for 2013

January – Staff Meetings – One More Time!
February – Will You Be My Friend?
March – What You Can Learn About Your Mission
April – Staying Positive
June – Fire The C Team
July – Short Takes
August – Leading From a Place of Fear
September – Satisfaction
October -The World is Getting Smaller
November – Managers – You Are Doing The Wrong Things!
December – Check In With Your Staff

December 2013 – Check In With Your Staff

Looking forward to the New Year would be a good time to check in with your staff. Have them complete this confidential survey, courtesy of Harvard Business Review, December 2013.  Have them score “10” for a high yes and “1” for a low no. Additional comments are welcome. (Click here for a printable pdf version.)

  1. My manager delivers difficult feedback constructively.
  2. My manager gives me actionable feedback that helps me improve my performance.
  3. My manager does not micromanage (get involved in details that should be handled at other levels).
  4. My manager regularly shares relevant information from his/her manager and senior leadership.
  5. My manager helps me understand how my work impacts the organization.
  6. My manager has the technical expertise required to effectively manage me.
  7. My manager talks about all aspects of career development – not just promotions.
  8. My manager has had a meaningful discussion with me about my career development in the past six months.
  9. My manager has a clear vision and strategy for the team.
  10. What would you recommend your manager keep doing?
  11. What would you have your manager change?

Best wishes for the Holiday Season and the New Year,

The Management Doctor

November 2013 – Managers – You Are Doing The Wrong Things!

Managers – if you don’t know how to delegate you had better learn how to do it fast or find something else to do. I am seeing this delegation issue over and over again as I work with planning and community development departments around the country. As suggested by Ray Attiyah in his new book, The Fearless Front Line:

“Leaders are committed to improving and growing their businesses, but all too often they find themselves mired in operational details and daily issues, leaving no time to pursue bold visions. While managers are stuck in the front line, they’re not leading or pursuing activities that propel growth and innovation.”

The way I would say it is, they have no time to manage. Here are some stories and concepts I show in my teachings. I hope these will help you look at yourself and get the message.


Delegation looks like a pie with one slice missing. That small piece is the manager’s piece. Which piece do you work on first? The manager’s piece or the operational piece? The answer I get from many managers is, “I am so bogged down in daily activities, the operational piece, that I have no time for the management piece.” But, you must do the manager’s piece first. Let me illustrate with this true story.


This was a high volume organization with six staff working the front counter. When things got real busy the manager came out to help. Was this good or bad? I told the manager that the next time I saw her at the counter I would take her back and chain her to her desk! Why would I do this? The front counter staff were not well trained, good procedures were not in place, some were not suited for counter service, and there was no clear mission or understanding of the mission – all management issues. She could spend all of her time at the front counter and things would not improve.

Of course, if the management issues were dealt with, then I welcome the manager helping out in a high volume situation.

 Keep in mind that in today’s organization most managers will also have operational assignments. But, they must not let the operational assignments take precedent over the manager assignments.


Harold Hook, the creator of a management course called Model-Netics characterized it this way. Think of a triangle with the wide part at the bottom and divide it into three horizontal parts. The larger lower part is called “check, do, and report”, the next layer is just “do and report”, the final small layer or piece is just “do”. The idea in delegation is to rotate the triangle so that the “do” becomes the large part and the manager has time to truly manage.



                             Ray Attiyah talked about a similar triangle calling the lower part “Run” or the daily activities. These are the ones that need maximum delegation. This then allows time for the next two layers which he calls “Improve” and “Grow”.



I once had a job with the Dean of MIT’s planning school running his Brookline consulting office. The first day on the job he drew me this diagram. It started with his having most of the authority and responsibility. But the goal was to rapidly move up the line to where I had most of the authority and responsibility.



Harold Hook also developed a concept called “answers in search of questions.” Many managers have lots of answers if they can just find a staff person to ask them the question so they can show how smart they are. Many of these questions should be answered by the staff without asking the manager. Next time that happens to you, take a deep breath and say, “Get the hell out of my office, you don’t need me for that kind of question.”


It is not unusual that an employee is an excellent operator and then is promoted to manager. However, they may have no interest in management and aren’t very good at it. A few years ago we worked with a planning division with a head chief planner who said he told the appointing authority he would only take the job if he didn’t have to manage. You can imagine the results. We need to learn to pay good operators good salary to remain good operators and choose managers who want to manage.

You can do it. Give it a try.

The Management Doctor

 to top


October 2013 – The World is Getting Smaller

In 1988 I had a lot of airplane time as part of my consulting practice and started thinking about crazy or funny stories from my somewhat spastic planning career. I put these stories together in a book, What Your Planning Professors Forgot To Tell You, and sent it off to APA who immediately wanted to publish it in 1999. They sold the book for 10 years and then decided it had run its course and gave me back the copyrights.

This is where it gets interesting. The same week I received the copyright back from APA, I received an email from South Korea wanting to buy the Korean rights to publish the book. My original thought was some kind of a scam but I responded anyway. Shortly thereafter I was offered a contract and an advance on publication. The rub was that they only wanted to send the advance by directed deposit to my bank account. Did I really want to give my banking information to someone In Korea that I didn’t know? My wife had a small checking account, so we took the money out of that account and gave them the number. The advance arrived and was cashed.

This was followed by a series or requests for graphics and illustrations used in the book. And, to my surprise, the Korean book has just hit the market. What a strange and wonderful world we live in. By the way, I think this was the best of the six books I have written so I bought 100 copies from APA when they closed it down. If you missed getting a copy, it is available at my web site,

Or, you can always buy it in Korean, Click here.

Think big,

The Management Doctor

Reader Responses

We have a copy of your book in our Planning office.  I really love it!

Tammy A. Lyerly

This has nothing to do with planning but I think you’ll find it interesting…a true story.

In a previous life I was Executive Director of the American Water Ski Association (now USA Water Ski).  After I left AWSA, I wrote and published a water ski instruction book.  Years later, after the book was out of print, I was taking a bath one night when the phone rang. My wife came into the bathroom, handed me the cordless handset and said:  “This guy from Korea wants the rights to print your book in Korean.”  There I was, sitting in my bathrub talking to someone half way around the world about a water skiing book.

The caller was a professor at a Korean university and an official with the South Korean Water Ski Association.  He spoke broken English but I was able to exchange email addresses with him which began our negotiation.  I settled for about half what the publisher thought it was worth but I wanted to help the guy out and I just wanted to see it published in another language. It’s strange to have a book with your name on it and you cannot understand a word of it.

Strange and wonderful world indeed.

Bruce Kistler

From the Management Doctor: What’s up with Korea? Maybe it’s time to learn a new language!

Great story, Paul, and congratulations on your global expansion!

Lisa Walsh

That’s a GREAT story! I clicked on the Korean link – loved the graphic!
Thanks for making me smile.

Connie Cooper

 to top

September 2013 – Satisfaction

Check how you are doing with your job compared to a Governing Magazine Survey of 107 state and local officials.

For a good organization, I think the Strongly Agree and Somewhat Agree should total at least 85%. As you can see, only one of the seven statements reached my 85% target.

After you answer these questions for yourself, why not give the test to your employees. To help you along, I reproduced the survey without the scores that you can copy for your use.

Let me know what you find.


Click here for a blank copy of the survey for your use.

to top

August 2013 – Leading From a Place of Fear*

You may be leading from a place of fear if the following apply to you:

  1. You frequently take the easy way out.Planners have a professional obligation to follow a clear code of ethics and provide professional recommendations. Don’t be so timid.
  2. You pretend you don’t know what you actually know.Make the tough decisions. Relates to number 1 above.
  3. You fall victim to “shiny ball” syndrome.A shiny ball rolls buy and you follow it rather than focus on your key priorities.
  4. You ignore what’s causing “weight and drag” in your organization.Could be a policy or person. In government it is often a person. Remove the obstacles.
  5. You refuse to balance your head and your gut.Planners love to analyze but don’t forget to also use your intuition. There are many recent management articles on this idea.
  6. You hide behind the “I’m not quite ready” excuse.Just go ahead and launch that new policy or ordinance. Two or three years to do a new plan is just too long. Do everything in 12 months or less.
  7. You forsake the present in favor of the future or the past.Your Comprehensive Plan is only as good as its implementation.
  8. You see only the information that agrees with your beliefs.You keep looking for problems that you have the answers to, “answers in search of questions.” Then you miss the main questions.
  9. You’re constantly blaming others.Your elected officials may be SOBs but they are your SOBs so learn to work with them.
  10. You’re too harsh.Motivate and encourage your employees. On the other hand don’t be an over recognizer which can lose its effectiveness.
  11. You reward effort rather than achievement.Don’t be too soft about expectations.
  12. You’re a helicopter leader.You hover over your employees. Learn to empower.
  13. You solve problems for people.You need to empower, see 12 above.*Abstracted and edited from American Management Association 2012-13 article by Mike Staver.

to top

July 2013 – Short Takes

I have been cleaning my files and found a number of quotes of interest. See If any of these fit your current situation.


A planning agency must get its own house in order – through good internal administrations and organization – if it is to be effective in the community.  (Dennis O’Harrow)


I should have done it sooner. (The Invisible Spotlight)


The best bosses succeed because they keep chipping away at a huge pile of dull, interesting, rewarding, trivial, frustrating, and often ridiculous chores. Devoting relentless attention to doing one good thing after another – however small – is the only path to becoming and remaining a great boss.  (Good Boss, Bad Boss)


Employees’ immediate bosses have far more impact on engagement and performance than does whether their companies are rated as great or lousy places to work. (Good Boss, Bad Boss)


Contrary to popular belief, people don’t change and improve when they’re comfortable. They change when they’re uncomfortable. (The Invisible Spotlight)


Customers find waiting more tolerable when they can see the work being done on their behalf – and they tend to value the service more. (Ryan W. Buell)


What do I want my epitaph to say? What do I want the summation of my career (or more loftily, my life) to be?  (One Piece of Paper)


First impressions.  Four factors to create a good one: your smile, your dress, your handshake and your vocabulary.  (Enchantment)


Focus on the wildly important goals, WIGS. Act on lead measures, keep a compelling scoreboard, create a cadence of accountability, and produce results.  (The 4 Disciplines of Execution)


Somebody in your organization – and it had better be you – needs to be thinking about the longer-term. How you are going to get things done and where you’re going to go, along with the day-to-day tactics of what you’re going to do.  (MWORLD)


People do not quit organizations, they quit bad bosses. (Good Boss, Bad Boss)


If the foundation of the management relationship is solid, it’s because you’re doing something right. If the foundation alters or fails, it’s because you’re doing something wrong. It’s that simple and that difficult.  (The Invisible Spotlight)


If one person is talking for more than half of the review (and face it, that’s unlikely to be the employee) it’s not a conversation; it’s a lecture.  (Sonar 6 Please Shut UP)


I was talking with a senior executive about the value of building share vision with his team and stakeholders. He held up his hand, “I’ve already been through the vision process with my team.” I was interested and asked him to share the vision with me. He turned away and shuffled through the files in his desk drawer. Then, he called his administrative assistant and asked, “Jessie, where do we keep those vision materials?”  (Dharmaconsulting)

The Management Doctor

to top

June 2013 – Fire The C Team*

*This idea is taken from a recent article in govloop

Virtually every city and county I work with across the U.S. and Canada is asking staff to “do more with less.” One way to do that is to fire the C team. However, virtually every city and county I work with tells me they can’t do it. While it is true that firing the C team is more difficult in government than in the private sector I see very few, almost none, that are actively trying it. Employee evaluations are not up to date and often not well done. Little work is taking place to move the C players to become at least B players or change assignments so they can operate above the C level. No one is helping, or encouraging employees that are in the wrong job or wrong organizations to find a better fit elsewhere.

I just finished reading for the second time the new Steve Jobs book where he was described as wanting only A Team employees. In the meantime I am enjoying my iPhone and iPad. Companies like General Electric have for years annually found other opportunities for its C Team.  Netflix has a Keeper Test. “Each quarter their managers look at all their employees and ask, ‘Which of my people if they told me they were leaving would I fight hard to keep at Netflix?’ They give raises to the folks they’d fight for and the other people get a generous severance to leave now so they can open a slot to try to find a start in that role.”

If you are not being asked to do more with less, this is not a problem. Or, if you are satisfied doing less with less, you can survive. However, I believe many of you want to do more with less.

I have previously written about how private companies are managing to perform your services at a lower cost. One of the big reasons is that they Fire the C Team.  The privatization movement is more than a Tea Party philosophy.

So, decide which is your choice.

  • I have not been asked to do more with less.
  • I am happy doing less with less.
  • I want to do more with less and will work to Fire my C Team.
  • I want to do more with less and will work to make my C Team  become an A or B Team.
  • Help, I don’t want to be a manager anymore.

Best wishes,

The Management Doctor

to top

April 2013 – Staying Positive

Pete Zucker

Many of you donated in the past to a fund raiser we sponsored in honor of our 47 year old son Pete who had ALS and we again thank you for that.

I want to bring you up to date and also show you how Pete looked at life.

Pete passed away from ALS on March 18, 2013. When he could still talk, he said this:

“Once I was diagnosed it became pretty clear to me that I had two choices. Mentally to succumb to the disease ALS, or again mentally, to really relish each day and appreciate life, and that’s what I try to do every day.”

Pete is survived by his wife of 18 years, Monica, two sons, Ryan 16 and Zachary 13, my wife Kathy and I, two brothers, Monica’s family and many many friends.

Before ALS he ran a successful construction business and was a Tri-Athlete competing in the 70.3 Florida Triathlon World Championships and an avid cyclist with the Wells Fargo Cycling Team. As the disease progressed he could no longer speak and lost use of all of his muscles. He said he noticed his progression daily or at least weekly, “it’s like growing old real fast. My body is like a space ship running out of fuel and I will die before I find fuel.” Yet he stayed with his choice to relish each day. Below is a picutre of him three months ago with my wife and I, still smiling and being true to the promise he made to himself.

What a lesson and inspiration to all of us.

You can continue the fight to find a cure for ALS by sending donations to the Pete Zucker Foundation at 3038 Udall St. San Diego, CA 92106.

The Management Doctor


to top

March 2013 – What You Can Learn About Your Mission

The City of San Diego’s Unified Public School System with 135,000 students just did something highly unusual. The Superintendent announced his retirement at a Board meeting. The very next day, rather than launch the usual nation-wide search with lots of community involvement, they did the unheard of, appointed Cindy Martin, the Principal of one of the District’s elementary schools as the new Superintendent.

When Ms. Martin was asked why she took the positions she said:

I am taking this job because I want to save public education in America.

She evidently did marvelous things at her school with a motto which can be heard from staff and seen on banners and marquees throughout the campus;

Work hard, be kind, dream big, no excuses.

Why can’t we planners be this clear?

The Management Doctor

to top

February 2013 – Will You Be My Friend?

These thoughts are from the book How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less of Small Talk by Nicholas Boothman and summarized in Bloomberg Business Week, January 7.

Although these points related to job interviews, I believe you can use the same ideas for many situations you find yourself in. Here they are:

  • Stalk Your Interviewer OnlineJob Interviews, like dates, suffer from awkward silences. So come armed with lighthearted filler conversation – but nothing creepily personal. “Find their LinkedIn profile, papers they’ve written, etc.,” says Fine. “If you find out they have three kids, don’t go there. But if you find out they ski or that they went to Northwestern, talk about that. Stay away from Facebook revelations, but anything you find on LinkedIn is kosher.”
  • Hold the High FivesStart with a firm, professional hand-shake. “Be absolutely certain to extend your hand,” Fine says. Boothman’s tip: “Don’t appear rude, bored, or hostile. Your attitude drives not only your behavior; it drives other people’s.”
  • Ace the Basic Question“If they say, ‘Tell me your story,’ you’d better be prepared to answer with an actual story,” says Fine. “It shouldn’t be, ‘Well, I got my bachelor’s in history, and ever since I’ve had success in my career.’ No, no, no. Come in with specific things to talk about. Don’t brag or overshare, but if you can work something into the conversation that’s real about you, do it.”
  • Be Mindful of Your Surroundings *Feel free to exploit the simple cues on display – a trophy, a framed photograph – to help foster a connection with your interviewer. “There may be a diploma hanging, so you can go, ‘Tell me about University of Michigan and your experience there,” says Fine. “But don’t say, ‘What beautiful artwork!’ You’ll sound like a kiss-up.”
  • Crack a SmileThe most important element in any employment relationship is trust in four ways: Look them in the eye, smile, open your body language, and synchronize,” he says, though warns, “it’s not a staring contest.”
  • Don’t Make It All About You“There are people who talk themselves right out of jobs because they can’t shut up,” says Boothman. “It’s the interviewer’s gig: they’re running it. Let them speak.” And while listening, he says, “Find ‘me too’ moments. Look for opportunities to say, ‘Me too.’ There’s nothing like it. It’s a date, man! It’s a date!”

Try it and let me know how it works.

The Management Doctor

*P.S. In my classes I teach a simple four part personality test which puts people into one of four categories of Director, Socializer, Thinker, or Integrator. These words are close to self-descriptive. With a little practice you can look around the room and determine the personality of the person you are meeting with. This will give you some additional clues on how to proceed.

to top

January 2013 – Staff Meetings – One More Time!

This will be my fifth article on those terrible staff meetings. Look under meetings in our website search engine for a comprehensive list of issues. Today, I want to focus on just one issue. I was stimulated by a recent article by Eric Klein of Dharma Consulting.

The question is how much time do you spend in a typical meeting talking about the mission, values, and purpose? Based on my observations with dozens of clients; not much, if any.

Typical meetings spend lots of time talking about tasks and some time talking about goals. But if these do not relate well to a larger purpose, they will miss the mark. Even worse, if you still have not clearly identified your mission and values, you are not really managing your organization.

This can be tough to do, and maybe even a bit scary. But, if not you, who will do it? Try it this week for just 5 to 10 minutes, and then introduce it as a standard item for those weekly or monthly meetings.  It could be the start of a great new year.

The Management Doctor