Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Al Walsh on Are YOU a True Leader?

Managing Hard Times

Thoughts for corporate executives on managing change.

If you’ve been properly managing your area of responsibility, whether it be Departmental or Corporate-wide, there shouldn’t be any major surprises for you, and you should be able to weather change effectively.

Regardless of your station in the corporate pecking-order, you should have been maintaining your own Strategic & Operational plans, and adjusting them to circumstances. People who exercise this discipline rigorously are seldom surprised, and usually have contingency plans developed for anticipated new developments. There are usually signs that change is in the wind, if you’re paying attention.

If you’re not doing this, or something fundamentally similar, I suggest that you START IMMEDIATELY; before it’s too late.

A key factor of quality management is a forward-looking posture; always anticipating what’s ahead and thinking about how you will adjust - just as you should be looking ahead regarding employee development - and to succession-planning in the event that you are promoted. People who exercise this discipline are better-prepared to deal with change; even on those rare occasions when it comes by surprise.

▪ Take stock of your talent and think about what you will do if a down-sizing occurs. Don’t wait for your boss to give you the bad news before you develop your plan. If you’ve got a marginal performer you’ve been tolerating, it’s time for them to go. Could you get by with fewer employees, or a leaner budget?

▪ If you see financial pressures building, think about what you can do NOW to cut expenses in your area of responsibility. Don’t wait for someone to pass an edict down.

▪ Go back to your last capital budget and review how you might implement less-costly alternatives, or temporarily shelve the parts that haven’t been implemented yet.

▪ If staff-cuts are possible, and cross-training needs to be done between targeted employees & those who would remain, start it NOW.

These are just a few of the ideas you can enact, but the operative words are THINK! and NOW!

When the down-sizing occurs, will you be perceived as a true leader or just another follower?

Your own job may hang in the balance. Get a leg up while you still can, and make it a permanent part of your leadership discipline. Operate lean, mean, and aware!

Good Luck!

Al Walsh is a Los Angeles area "Unrepentant Capitalist"
CAREER ROLES:~ CEO - V.P. - CFO - COO - Entrepreneur~ Executive Committee & Board Member~ Partner and Advisor to CEO's, COO's & Boards~ Multi-Disciplined Consultant & Contractor


Anonymous said...

If I've learned one thing, it's this: 'You don't get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action.

Whether it's building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That's the challenge I'm raising in my new book. WHERE HAVE ALL THE LEADERS GONE?

It's a "Call to Action" for people who, like me, believe in America'. It's not too late, but it's getting pretty close. So let's shake off the crap and go to work. Let's tell 'em all we've had 'enough.'
Make your own contribution by sending this to everyone you know and care about. It's our country, folks, and it's our future. Our future is at stake!!

Positive Leaders said...

I agree that there is tremendous hope for America. The next generation of leaders-- who are now teens in college and high school-- have exactly the strengths and gifts they need to lead the future world, but it's not the kids we usually hear about.

There is untapped greatness-- including two top leadership characteristics: risk-taking and honesty-- in the kids who are not top students and are not the current leaders in their schools. When we look at what's right in teens and stop teaching depression to both top and bottom students, we find great leaders everywhere.

Parents and business are starting to bring forth the best for our future -- and our children's children. What a wonderful start to 2009!
Christine Duvivier www.positiveleaders.com

Unknown said...

Leadership is an interesting topic for me. I just bought Mr. Iaccoca's book because I'm interested in hearing his views on the topic of leadership.

In my view it involves knowing what you know, knowing what you don't know, having a firm view of the goal and surrounding yourself with smart, motivated people who share the goal.

Too often I see 'managers' instead of leaders. They don't take action, they don't appreciate their staff and utilize them to their most effective level, and they don't provide the resources their team needs to succeed.

A big part of that is hiring and keeping motivated, smart, energetic people - people who aren't afraid to act. People who trust their gut, their knowledge, their ability. Appreciate those people and surround yourself with them. Work WITH them toward a common goal. And jettison those people who aren't contributing to the goal. It's addition by subtraction. Do them a favor and let them go out and find the place where they CAN contribute.

Like Mr. Iacocca, I believe completely in this country and it's people. I am probably the biggest fan my clients have. I'm inspired by them and truly enjoy helping them succeed.

On the flip side, I see a lot of organizations where the people are mediocre - or are treated as mediocre.

There's a saying - people rise to the level of expectation you have of them. Yes, that's right! So let's all have high expectations of ourselves and each other. Let's make things, and make things happen.

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree that we as, executives, managers and individual contributors in business, and as individuals in life, have the ability to make the changes necessary to take America to the next step. This is largely dependent on everyone having confidence in their own abilities (at all levels), a willingness to constantly remain open and adaptive, looking at what can be done better, more efficiently and most important, responsibly, to grow the business within the larger scope of what is best for the "people" - our combined customers/ourselves. That takes letting go of what is comfortable, being willing take chances, or just simply do things differently. It also requires patience, seeing that things take time, small steps - as long as we move forward we are making a difference. Change is a constant.

Managing your teams is the most important contribution to both the individual team member as well as your organization. We, the people, are what make any company, committee, or government agency what it is, what it produces. Across the board, the #1 goals is to help everyone have the opportunity to contribute and grow. This nation and all its wealth was not born of one person, but millions.

I agree with the points made on leadership and I would emphasize that communication of clear vision/goals are essential and must be understood at all levels on an ongoing basis. They need to be translated into how each member contributes daily to those goals/objectives - what are the key measurements that they need to focus on to ensure they stay the path and use to help them make daily decisions. And it can't be just top down - communication is circular - sideways, etc. Constructive, honest and collaborative feedback, open channels for thought sharing and ability to address warnings/issues without repercussion, empowerment, and celebration - key aspects of communication and hence, group success.

Unknown said...

Talk and optimisim is cheap and everyone can do/have it.

Actions, Actions, Actions!!!!

KV said...

I liked what Diane said about leadership qualities and organizations should be capable of recognizing those attributes. In practice this combination is very rare. Let me give a striking example.

I am a biochemist working for Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant. In the year 2000 the plant had enormous technical problems. This place is dominated by engineers and pet contractors who make lavish money by suggesting mechanical solutions to any chemical problems. It is agonizing that whatever amount they ask for is immediately sanctioned because everyone at top gets a cut.

I took the guts to solve the problems because I knew they were adding a wrong chemical to wastewater to oblige local steel industries. I worked my utmost to present them the data that this chemical needs to be changed if the plant really wants to improve. Upon repeated presentations of convincing data, the management totally agreed to my plan and since then they are saving between $6-$7 million dollars per year and they know it that it solely because of me.

I felt that there was no recognition, rather they started harassing me (because I was not one of them). I got so much angry I wrote a letter to the Director (Mr. Mercado) hoping he will understand and appreciate my contributions. To my amazement, rather than calling me for discussion they simply fired me. Of course, I won the case and got my job back. Point is who would have the guts when you are surrounded by mafia type management? Is there any action against such suckers who keep this great country down?

Anonymous said...

In reading the original post and comments, I'm struck by what I see as confusion between an individual taking action and someone taking action AND pointing the way for others.

A leader is out in front.

A leader knows that bullets come from two directions: in front and from the back.

A leader realizes it is not about him/her but about the ability and opportunity to get other to act in a coherent, cohesive action.

A leader sees chaos and finds paths to sanity.

A leader is in the middle of playing the game, and doesn't ask anyone to do what he/she wouldn't do.

A leader sees "a" future, commits to move towards that future, and works to enlist others to join him/her in reaching that future.

A leader knows that perfection is an illusion, and adjusts as the world changes.

A leader realizes that competition can do things better, and that beating the competition is to be even better.

A leader doesn't have to con people with platitudes and clever sayings.


Just some personal thoughts. I agree that we have to retake control of our country.

I also believe we have to retake control of our own lives. Do you really believe that other people know what's best for you? If you don't, why do you follow their advice blindly?


Anonymous said...

I've had the honor to meet Mr. Iacocca informally. I was on a date in the outskirts of Detroit.... a little Italian restaurant.... it was dark and he was standing in the parking space with two other gentleman. They were laughing and pointing at the hot, red Camaro that I was driving. My date (a Detroit attorney) and I looked at each other with confusion, as we didn't recognize him in person, therefore we didn't get his inside joke. I got out and smiled. Mr. Iacocca said "nice taste in cars", and once again there was agreement in the form of laughter from the other two, and confusion from my date and I. I walked around the car and held the door open for my date. She emerged. Mr. Iacocca's next comment was "nice taste in women". Again, agreement, laughter, and confusion from my date and I......but this time I said "The car's a rental, the lady's not!". The next fifteen seconds (seemed like a year) were silent. Looks were shot from gentleman to gentleman and then to Mr. Iacocca.

The LEADER was obvious here. Mr. Iacocca was calling all the shots. His associates were just reacting to his direction. As a matter of fact, so was I. With my arrogance, and audacity, I wised off to one of the greatest LEADERS of all times.....But, what was I to do? I didn't get the inside joke. I was reacting to being the joke.

Mr. Iacocca finally laughed the deepest belly chuckle that I have ever heard, smiled, and waved us over to chat for five minutes. His genuine smile and sincerity in wishing us a good dinner, put everyone at ease. It felt like we were buddies for twenty years. Then just as abruptly, dismissing us just as though the meeting were over and he had a plane to catch.

My point....LEADERS STAND OUT. They don't ever stand on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. They are the action, and all eyes are on them. And, sometime they get caught off guard, but their recovery is flawless.

I learned just one of my many career lessons that night. I went on to start my own $50M company a few years later, lost it all in the tech crash in 2001, and am back rebuilding now. Lots of stories, so little time. Thanks for the motivation Lee.

VJ said...

Actions do speak louder than words. I totally agree with Mr. Iacocca. Standing and watching from the sidelines will not cut it. Looking forward to reading Mr. Iacocca new book. I read his autobiography in the early nineties and was really inspired. He is my hero!


VJ Misra


Unknown said...

It's a pleasure to see all the responses. We've got some free-thinkers out there. Gives me hope for our society.