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ACT: Transcending Yourself and Others

The article “Changing Others Through Changing Ourselves” by Quinn, Spreitzer, and Brown initially had me feeling like this was going to be a very interesting article about helping business leaders get beyond typical human functioning and learn how make the office a better working environment.  However, as I delved further and further into the article it became less about the business of business leaders and more about how leaders such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and even Jesus are to be emulated in the spirit of transcending themselves to help others.  It was at this point the article began to lose me in how it relates to current business leaders and practices.

I am not saying that I do not believe that ACT’s 10 principles are not something that business professional can use to begin the process of office change but I do believe that their references to those power and influential leaders was a bit over the top.  Furthermore, for the article to expound all this information about how wonderful these principles are and how they were used by Gandhi, King, and Jesus only to later contradict itself and say that ACt actually leads to failure is misguiding. 

The theories behind ACT do have some validity in the workplace.  There are definitely some core principles in the ACT theory that i do believe can help business leaders transcend the typical business leader persona.  However, the article was unclear as to how to actually apply these skills and make the cross over to the corporate world.


Sounds of Silence

This article by Morrison and Milliken is an interesting article amount something that i think is the most difficult office relationship to overcome.  That is silence among the employees when dealing with the manager.  “Organizational Silence” can be extremely detrimental to the success of the team and the company that it operating with it.  Organizational silence can lead to serious problems with the workplace, such as: reduced employee motivation, withdrawal, high turnover, and cognitive dissonance. 

These actions and results all stem from a few major organization theories.  The first is that top manager fear hearing negative feedback from subordinates.  obviously if they were a good manager they would be encouraging their subordinates to give them feedback so that improvements can be made.  Also, be encouraging feedback they are building a trusting relationship between the manager and the employee.  Next is that managers believe that most employees are self-interested and untrustworthy.  This again goes with the idea that managers want to build a trusting relationship with the employee so that they feel that they have some ownership or stake in the company.  Also, this creates a tension between the employee because they feel put down and undervalued. 

In general, there is never a good silence in the workplace.  However, there are ways in which managers can begin to counteract and eliminate “organizational science”.  They can begin by continuously encouraging employees to give feedback.  They also need to positively reinforce people giving feedback so that is no longer has a negative connotation around it.  This is not an easy process or one that can be fixed quickly.  This takes time and a lot of effort to regain and that trust.

The Men’s Wearhouse

This was an interesting case this week.  This is the first time that I have read a case in which a sales team was on commission and the company was actually growing.  I think that it was do to the fact that the CEO Zimmer had created a culture from the beginning that fostered a teamwork mentality.  decease of this culture they were able to prosper in an industry that was seeing many short-comings.

I also think that there might be some bad with the good, as with any and most companies.  I do think that because of the commission system that it did lead to some “sharking”  among the sales team.  Which could lead to some animosity among the “team”.  However, with high sales numbers also came an inquisition into those sales to make sure that it was based on their skills and not because of “sharking”.  There were also consequence if they were found behaving in such a manner. 

In general, i think that their success was based on the fact that they treated their employees with respect and fairness.  They offered good benefits such as 401k’s, stock options, and much more.  They also did most of their hiring and promotions from within, further deepening the family culture that had been engrained in the beginning.

Treadway in the Trenches

Treadway Tire Company has been a long-standing leading brand of tires.  However, at what cost is being the leading name in tires costing them.  The goal is to make affordable and long-lasting products for their customers.  Yet, time is money and labor is not cheap.  Keeping the employees happy is what is ultimately going to help them succeed in the future.

However, after reading this case study, it is clearly apparent there is little value placed on their employees.  Through a labor union into the mix and you have one messy situation on your hands.  To further perpetuate the company’s fleet morale, those in middle management feel they have little to no control over their workers, not only on the lines but also in the hiring and firing process.  They are just there to make sure that the workers they are given are doing their jobs. 

I think that the key to helping Treadway Tires and Walls boost morale in the company is to give more responsibility to those managers.  By giving them the input about the kinds of people they are hiring they will put more effort into making them succeed because they have personal owner ship in them.  Furthermore, there needs to be more open communication between those who deal with the unions and those who work with the laborers.  By bringing them into the mix, they become more aware of the actions that are being taken within the company. 

In general, there needs to be more straight-talk among the workers at Treadway Tire Company.  With it, they will continue to be a company with low morale and productivity.

Chapter 11 Readings

This week i read a couple of articles about leadership.  Although each uniquely different in their own right, they all exhibit elements of a true leader. 

Friends til the end:  the first article I am going to discuss is about the connection made between a Lt. during WWII and a jewish concentration camp survivor.  This was a truly  touching piece about how a Lt. John Withers went against the regulations of the Army to help a young man who had recently been liberated from Dachau.  At first hearing of his Company housing two jewish men, Lt. Withers initial reaction was to make them leave.  This was not only because it was against Army regulation but because he wanted to make sure that his recorded was not tainted in the process.  After seeing these two men, he instantly changed his mind and let them stay at the camp.  Not only did he give them food and shelter, but he taught them to speak english, shoot a gun, and drive.  He made a decision to put his own needs aside and think of those that his decisions would affect.  He wanted to set the right example for the men that looked up to him, and to maintain his own moral values.  As an African-American living in the South he knew what it was like to be discriminated against.  He knew by making the boys leave, he would be no better than the people who made use a different entrance.  He displayed true leadership because he was true to himself and to his values.  he did not let his own personal needs cloud is judgement.

The Price of a Man:  the next article was about a Marine whose career was ended because he believed the value of a mans life was worth more than a couple of hours driving time.  Although going against orders from the general, Col. Joe Dowdy decided that he would not risk the lives of his men to save them a couple of hours of driving time.  Although, in my opinion he exercised good leadership but thinking of how his decision would affect other lives and taking full responsibility as to what happened on the battlefield, Col. Dowdy was released from his position after the completion of a mission without any formal reasons for dismissal.  Although to those who knew him, he was revered as a spectacular leader whose main goal was to keep him men alive and well.  My question is, how can a man who was so well-loved by all who knew, and who would not put the lives of United States Marines lose his title?  An un-answerable question but one that requires reflection on both ends. 

Put yourself last:  this article was about how good leaders put the interest of the company before their own personal interests.  This means that they are upholding not only the integrity of the company and their value but the values they hold for themself and the integrity that comes with holding that kind of position of authority.  Having that kind of power can cause most leaders to forget who they were when they first enter into a position of authority and become overwhelmed with the new found rights and privileges that come with being a manager.  In others words, to be a good leader you have to put the integrity of the company before your own personal interests. 

New wine, Old Bottles:  This article by Stephen Covey discuss a different kind of leadership style called a servant leader.  Basically the idea is to repackage old leadership with a new and fresh outlook.  One that does not require them to micromanage their subordinates, or scare them into submission.  It suggests that you build a new kind of relationship.  One of trust, understanding, and a confidence in your employees to let them do their work without interference.  It also suggests that once this kind of relationship is established that you now are only used as an addition source of information that they cannot find themselves or do not have access to.  In general, this is not really a new idea but one that most leaders do not consider because they lack the trust in their employees.   However, it is with building this trust that this leadership is built.

The Layoff Letdown

This week i read a case study on the difficulties of layoffs in the workplace.  From personal experience I can honestly say that this is not an easy decision to make or to hear.  Fortunately, I have not been on the receiving end of the dreaded “pink slip”, but I have been witness to it.  There is so easy way to make that kind of drastic decision.  It takes time and opinions from those who are working in the trenches and who know the numbers to make that kind of decision.

In this case, Robin Astrigo was not going to be the only one with suggestions about what to do with their recent earnings decrease.  He employed the help of those in upper management with not only the knowledge of the company but their own personal opinions and experiences to guide them.  The many suggestions given to Astrigo reflected these differences.  In regards to the first option, first in first out, I do not think that in the long run this will be beneficial and cost-effective for the company.  Paying severance package would be just as costly as keeping them on board as employees.  That is not to say that a ranking system, which was the counter suggestion, is any better.  Forcing people into forced rankings can be extremely dangerous for a company.  It can lead to heavy competition, resentment, and biased figures when it comes to expected rates of failures. 

Then there is the option of seniority.  Those who have been with the company the shortest  amount of time will be the first to go.  This, as stated in the article, can result in the loss of essential employees that have the potential to be great management.  This leads to the idea of then keep up the morale of the company.  With a company that is primarily focused on the customer service it provides, losing morale can be extremely dangerous.  When employees are constantly worrying that they may be next how can they focus on better serving the customer. 

In general, Astrigo is faced with a very difficult decision.  However, he is employing some very good leadership skills.  he is asking the opinions of those around him.  He is bringing in people who are not of upper management because they offer good suggestions and what them to have a learning experience.  He is also taking personal responsibility for what is currently happening to the company. No matter the decision that is made, the fact is that one had to be made and not all people are going to be happy with the results.

Gary Loveman and Harrah’s Entertainment

My previous post is a brief discussion of the accomplishment of one man and groups of employees at Harrah’s Entertainment.  This post will actually go a little more in-depth into how Harrah’s came to be the people’s casino.  Basically, it all started with the risky move by the CEO of Harrah’s Phil Satre to bring in a professor from Harvard Business School with little practical experience under his belt.  However, a change was obviously need and Satre felt that Loveman could deliver.

What Loveman brought to the table was not only his ability to be an effective leader, but also and IS system that effectively determined a marketing strategy to enhance the customers experience at their casinos.  This IS system drew on information about every thing from where they gambled to how much, how long, why they played certain games, and what kind of rewards they were looking to receive.  He was constantly testing and finding new marketing strategies and practices. 

It was also the fact that he was able to successfully rearrange and restructure the Harrah’s culture into one that promoted personal responsibility and individual efficiency.  He did not need to micro-manage the employees because he had created an environment that lended itself to self-motivation and task efficiency.  Overall, although initially a risky move, the outcome of the hiring of Loveman was a complete success.  So far, it has been maintainable; lets just hope that it can last.

Diamonds in the Data Mine

This week i read an article about how Harrah’s Entertainment has differentiated itself from the rest of the casino crowd.  Coming from a person that actually lives near 2 of the Harrah’s casinos, i thought that this was particularly interesting article.  Although, literally living only 15 minutes away from their casino my entire life, i have actually not spent that much time in the casino itself.  If only I had realized that they provided more than just the gambling atmosphere but a friendly, inviting, and comfortable place to be.

The question I think most people and competitors are asking themselves is “how are they able to be so successful when the economy is not?’  The answer is simple they actually do and use research to develope and promote themselves and the product they are selling.  The product is not only a unique gambling experience but also customer service that sets them apart from the others.  They value people’s long-term worth and not their single visit value.  They pride themselves on spectacular customer service.  They tap into the minds of their customer and analyze their needs, tracking not only their local actions but nation wide.  They create rewards programs that provide the desired incentives to keep the customer happy and coming back.  In generally, they have revolutionized the way people feel while at a casino and what they expect from their visits.

Chapter 10 Readings

I personally found this article on “Dean’s Disease” refreshing.  For years I have been complaining about the current deans at the college I attend and how they abuse their powers.  As the cliche goes, the use them for evil and not good.  This holds true to most people who hold a position of power in my opinion.  They get this power-hungry feeling and cannot let go.  That is not to say that they start out this way.  They usually begin with good intentions and high hopes of making changes for the better.  Yet, that idea slowly gets pushed outside along with most if not all personal values.

This kind of value neglect doesnt only take place with deans and those in education.  It happens with most people in positions of power and higher authority.  However, the true leaders are those who act with integrity, based on knowledge and information.  A good leader is one who is able to recognize their own weaknesses and strengths and also the strengths of those around them.  They use they powers for good and not evil.   They actually care about what they are doing and how it affects those around them.

Evidence- Based Management

In this article i saw some reminisce of the previous article Good to Great,in the fact they both agree that there needs to be hard evidence to support the decision management makes for the company.  In this article however, there is more of an emphasis on the actual research side of the decision-making process.  In other words being constantly aware of the things that may affect the business.

The fact is, is that most companies have become so comfortable and engrained with their current culture that it becomes difficult for them to actually venture out and find that information.  In my opinion, if the organization had created a system that actually had people researching to begin with, then the idea of evidence-based research would not be such a mind-blowing phenomena when introduced to a company.  However, there is a fine line between doing your own research and having a unique company and just being a good imitaiton of a successful company.  At no point will the imitation ever be as good as the original.   I definitely think that this idea is a not a revolutionary idea but it is definitely an idea that should be incorporated into the decision making process.

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