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Zen Manager – What Zen Can Teach You About Managing Your Business Better

January 18th, 2012 3 comments

zenmanager At first pass, the word Zen conjures up images of dark rooms, with incense burning in the corner.  There’s probably a person sitting in full lotus murmuring, “ohhhooooommm” over and over again.  Not exactly the person you may take business advice from.

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On the other hand, the word Zen conjures up images of inner peace and tranquility.  There are several principles and concepts often linked to the practices of Zen, such as: simplicity, focus, and awareness.

Perhaps as managers, we can take some concepts from the practice of Zen and apply them to our own management practice, achieving a greater level of inner peace and tranquility. (trivia fact – did you know Steve Jobs practiced Zen?)

Let’s take a look at these three principles in more detail.

Simplicity

As humans, we tend to over-complicate where we don’t need to (especially at work).  We have meetings for meetings sake (think Dilbert).  We create process where we don’t need process.  And we spend hours writing that email which could’ve been easily solved with a 10 minute phone call.  The list goes on and on.

Contrary to popular belief, acting simply does not mean doing as little as possible.  It means doing as little as possible to achieve a particular result.

To be simple, it means always asking, “Why is it this way?” and “How can it be better?” It means rethinking what you do until the clutter has fallen away to what is essential and useful.

Look to your own organization and see if it could use some process de-cluttering and simplifying.  While it may take a lot of work, it will be worth it in the end.

Focus

There’re volumes of stories about businesses and organizations operating inefficiently by taking too broad of focus.  They either sell too many different products, offer too many different services, or their departments struggle because they have a “hodge-podge” list of responsibilities.  They lack focus!

Focus (like simplicity) also takes the right mindset.  The more narrowly you can focus your organization the better.  As a manager, you need to balance organizational needs with your team’s ability to focus and keep their eye on reaching a clearly defined vision.

Sometimes that means sacrificing a new offering in order to maintain the right level of focus on your current offerings.

Awareness

Finally, awareness is a critical skill of any manager.  Measuring organizational performance, having a pulse on team morale, understanding potential risks and assessing your team’s level of focus are just a few of the areas a manager must have awareness to.

When you combine the practices of simplicity, focus and awareness, you have the ability to be amazingly successful.  And after all Steve Jobs used these same principles to build Apple.  And that seemed to turn out pretty good :)

Categories: Productivity, Thought Leadership Tags:

Five Ways to Stay informed of Industry Trends In Your Business

June 21st, 2011 3 comments

researching I’ve often found managers and leaders are very focused on the business which is right in front of them.  They are on top of their team’s productivity.  They are familiar with how their department (or team) is stacking up against the goals and measures they are expected to deliver.  However, this microscopic view of their world can prevent them from understanding the bigger picture!

This blind spot can not only have disastrous consequences for your business, you may miss out on opportunities to take advantage of new trends and ideas that can fuel your growth – not to mention make you look like “one smart cookie.”

This post highlights a five ideas on how you can efficiently stay in-tune to what’s happening in your industry, as well as your particular business line (e.g., professional services, marketing, finance, sales, etc.).

5 Ways to Stay Informed

1. Follow hash-tags (#) on Twitter for key industry terms – I’ve been a laggard when it comes to Twitter.  However, this is a great resource to uncover loads of information about nearly every topic.  If you are a twitter user, you’ll know people will often use hash-tags (#) to categorize what their “tweet” is related to.  Following hash-tags for key terms used in your industry will connect you with articles and a list of people who share, write or opine on that topic.  When I first started blogging on leadership and management, I found Twitter to be the single best source of connecting me with other bloggers on this topic.  I’ve done the same thing with my industry and have learned a lot about how other professional services managers are solving similar issues I’ve run across.  I’ve been connected to some great articles on other SaaS (Software as a Service) companies, as well as what customers think about the services being provided.  All of this gives me good ideas to leverage with my own teams.  Without twitter, I may have missed all of this great information.

2. Follow industry bloggers – Blogging has taken off as one of the largest mediums to share information.  What’s interesting about blogging is the sheer number of people discussing various topics at amazing depth.  It doesn’t take long to figure out who the key bloggers are in your space of interest.

3. Follow your competitors – Knowing what your competitors are doing, will not necessarily get you ahead of the curve.  However, it will prevent you from eating their dust.  Paying attention to their financial performance, press releases and any other notables will keep you apprised as to what they’re doing.

4. Attend Conferences – The most time consuming and/or expensive (depending on the conferences you go to) idea on the list.  This also requires the most work on your part to get the most our of a conference.  It requires discipline and a game-plan.  However a well chosen and attended conference, can be a great opportunity to learn more about business best practices, as well as identify industry influencers.

5. Networking – Getting to know people who work your industry or share a similar job as yours, are great ways learn what’s going on in your space. This is also a great way to share best practices and get ideas on how you can run your business better.  Obviously, networking with a direct competitor can lead to some obvious conflicts of interests.

 

Tools of the Trade – how to stay informed quickly!

The good thing about the internet is the amount of information available.  There’s loads of it!  The bad thing – there is loads of it!!  You can easily get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of information coming at you.  Here are a few tools to help you take the ideas above and consolidate them into a more useable format.

Google Reader – This is a Web-based content aggregator, which allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds, websites and atoms to bring together all of the information you want into a consolidated format.  You can take a quick tour here.

Tweetdeck – This application can help you centrally connect with your contacts across Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and more.  They have a great user interface for helping you track various hash-tags you follow. This is my primary tool for following everything related to Twitter.

Tabbloid – I’m still playing with this one.  It’s a lot like Google Reader, but reads more like a magazine.  You can also set-up automated email delivery in a frequency that works for you – very convenient!

And while these tools can help you attack your quest for industry knowledge, it’s ultimately up to you to carve out the time to keep up on your industry and line of business to be a more robust leader and manager!!!

 

QUESTION: How do you stay informed on the trends in your industry?

Categories: Self Management, Thought Leadership Tags:

The Questioning Manager: The Power of Questions

March 9th, 2011 Comments off

question_mark Each and every day, we are constantly bombarded with information and opinions.  Often, we are asked to treat them as unquestioning fact.  As managers and leaders, we can either accept the information we receive, or take the time to think critically and ask questions.  I choose the latter!

I’ve recently been inspired by the importance of questions.  In my inspiration, I spent some time thinking about all of the questions I should be asking myself, my team, my boss, etc.  After 15 minutes, I had a list of over 100 questions!!!

Not only did I realize I have a lot of thinking to do, but through this process of “question-storming,” I began to have a finer appreciation for asking questions.

In this post, I’d like to share some of my own thinking around the value of asking questions, and why I believe it’s important to to ask questions of yourself and others.

Read more…

Categories: Self Management, Thought Leadership Tags:

The Four Quadrants of Management Time – Where Do You Spend Yours?

March 7th, 2011 1 comment

businessworkflow Over the past week, I had the opportunity to connect with some amazing leadership talent and discuss a number of management topics.  One of the most impactful, was a discussion regarding where we (as managers) spend the bulk of our time (and if that is the right mix).

In this post, I identify four Quadrants of Management Time and ask some reflective questions.  I invite you to read along and reflect on your own.  This might even be a good topic to consider for your own leadership journal.

Quadrants of Management Time

There are four main areas (as managers) we spend our “working” time.  They can be defined as follows:

  1. Strategy: working and thinking about strategic direction, as well as promoting the strategic direction to others.
  2. Tactical Execution: the day-to-day stuff (e.g., email, working at desk, dealing with customers, administrative activities, etc.)
  3. Collaboration/Project Work: Connecting and working with other groups or teams to reach a shared goal.
  4. Employee & Self-Development: growing and developing your employees, team and self

Questions For Reflection

In considering these four Quadrants of Management Time, here are a few questions for you to reflect on:

  1. Where do you spend the bulk of your time (i.e., allocate the percentage of time you spend on each bucket)?
  2. Based on your answers, are you satisfied?  What would be the ideal percentage you would associate to each quadrant?
  3. How do you believe your boss would want you to spend your time?  What about your direct reports?

If the answers for all three questions result in the same percentage split – lucky you.  If not, you should ask yourself these two questions to get you back on track:

  1. What needs to happen in order to adjust how your time is spent?
  2. What do you need to do that is not being done?

I found the time spent doing this quick exercise, brought me to a higher level of awareness and provided me some direction to get to some new thinking on this topic.

Categories: Self Management, Thought Leadership Tags:

Back to the Fundamentals (Part 3) – How do I Get There?

January 7th, 2011 Comments off

Roadmap We are at the end of our three part series on the fundamentals of organizational planning.  So far we’ve:

  1. Defined our mission (aka – answered the question … “Who Are We?”)
  2. Created a vision.  (aka – answered the question … “Where Are We Going?”)

And today… we will answer the final question…. How do we get there?

To answer this question, we have to begin to move from the strategic to the tactical.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  We stop thinking about what we want to “be”, and we move to what we need to “do.”

Now that you know where you want to go, the answer to how you get there is simple, right?  You get a map :)

Well, that is exactly what I propose you do – create a Strategic Road Map (see sample template provided)! Read more…

Back to The Fundamentals (Part 2) – I Have a Dream!

January 6th, 2011 Comments off

TheFuture When I see the word “Vision” – I think BIG!  I thing GREAT!  I think Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial – LET FREEDOM RING!!!

OK… NOW I’M REVVED-UP AND EXCITED TO WRITE THIS POST!!!!

OK..OK.. I’LL STOP yelling now… Maybe I’m thinking too big or too great.  And if I do - I may just shy away from this important exercise.

Are you feeling the same way too? No?  Good!! Let me put this in a more palatable context, so you’ll join me on step #2 of our Organizational Fundamentals series. Read more…

Back to The Fundamentals (Part 1)- Defining The Mission

January 5th, 2011 1 comment

why are we here questionWith the beginning of the year at hand, it’s a great time to revisit the fundamentals of organizational planning.

There are three questions a manager should always know the answer to, and they should constantly revisit:

  1. Who are we/Why are we here? (aka – our Mission)
  2. Where are we going? (aka – our Vision)
  3. How do we get there? (aka – our Roadmap)
    Over the next few posts, we will cover each question in more detail. 

In this post, we will address the Mission Statement.  As a leader (and manager), there is no more basic organizational step, than to define one’s mission.

A Mission Statement:

  • outlines what your team, department or division does
  • communicates organizational purpose
  • establishes your organization’s overarching goal
  • puts a boundary around your team’s activities
  • provides a guide for day-to-day direction Read more…