The Management Paradox: A Lesson In Leadership

Most managers live in a world that is akin to a war-zone. There is a seemingly endless barrage of situations, problems, imperatives, and deliverables that confront them daily. Often in automatic mode, they execute solutions on the run, working extensively just to keep up with their challenging workloads. They are exhausted and, yet, exhilarated.Trapped in this mode, it is impossible for managers to ever get ahead. They are pursuing “the now” or, even worse, “the past” where some issues remain unresolved. There just isn’t any time for reflecting on things, let alone anticipating and planning for the future. The manager’s default position is dedicated to reaction. Given this unhappy picture of a manager’s world, how can one extricate her/himself from this conundrum?The Other SideIn order to begin to formulate a solution, it is critical to appreciate what’s on the other side of the management equation: what it is and what’s happening there. The other side is the manager’s employees. These are the resources which the organization has made available to support the manager in achieving performance.There often is a dramatic variance in perceptions between what the manager believes the employees want and what, in fact, those employees desire. Most employees want more than just a paycheque – they really want to be educated, engaged and respected.Employee surveys consistently verify that the majority of employees:• Want to have access to more business-related information
• Want to be involved more seriously in solving problems
• Want to be engaged more fully in decisions affecting their work
• Want to assume increased responsibility, authority and accountability
• Want to make more significant contributions to the organizationBecause, your employees represent a vast reservoir of under-utilized knowledge, talent and ideas, the solution is to accommodate these aspirational goals of your employees, while concurrently satisfying the needs of the organization. The manager’s imperative, therefore, is to achieve this delicate balance and alignment.The Management ParadoxSo, the Management Paradox is shown to be simply that while the manager is inundated and overloaded, the employees are available and desirous to assume higher value assignments. Managers must stretch beyond their bias that affirms that only they are capable of certain activities and create new ways of arranging and distributing work, through engaging their employees in broader functions.Some business owners and managers will discount this notion out-of-hand. They will contend that their employees lack the motivation and basic skills to assume more responsibility. They will cite examples of sub-par performance and ineffectiveness. They will echo the low esteem that they manifest toward their workforce.I challenge such thinking with the suggestion that those instances primarily are the outcome of a colossal failure of management – that it is actually the manager who is de-motivating their employees. Setting a higher standard and supporting your employees to excel is what effective managers do.Another VoiceLet me say this in a different way. In one corner is the manager who is struggling with an overwhelming workload. Achievement, it is thought, will be the result of just expending more time and effort. The manager assumes total ownership, not only of the outcome, but also of doing the actual activity. This is painful and it is self-inflicted.In the other corner are the manager’s employees who really desire more. So while the manager is run ragged, the employees are left spinning their wheels. If you don’t trust my views, just ask them. They’ll tell you the right answer. Isn’t it worth trying another approach?Required ActionsI have heard managers say: “They don’t need to know that.” The manager, in this instance, is presuming not only to understand what employees want, but also to have considered thoroughly what information is appropriate for them. Only through ongoing conversations and the sharing of relevant information can this gap be narrowed.Employees are significantly more intimate with their jobs than is their manager. As such, they are better able to identify bottlenecks, process inefficiencies and other problem areas. Invariably, they also will have many sensible and achievable ideas for making improvements.The manager needs to cultivate and support the conditions for team problem solving, while developing this expertise in their employees. And when decisions are made to endorse solutions that were suggested by employees, the resulting implementation always becomes highly energized, effective and sustainable.As a manager shares more information with employees and engages them substantially in the problem solving process, both the competence and confidence of the employees become enhanced. This creates a fertile opportunity for the manager to delegate more responsibility and authority to those employees, thereby sharing the workload in a different and new manner. The result is that the employees are more satisfied and the manager finally has some time to anticipate and plan for the future.Employees, who are better informed, more engaged, and have increased responsibility with corresponding authority, will embrace a regime of personal accountability. This will translate into a positive work environment where everyone is committed to making the maximum contribution to the organization’s success.Implementing ChangeImplementing this kind of change is a deliberate act of management. It requires a vision for a different type of workplace and a new set of relationships.It will challenge the inherent beliefs that a manager may hold and, for many, this can be an uncomfortable and threatening experience. The manager needs to become comfortable with the concept of a new coaching role that is more employee-centric.Employees also will need to develop supplementary skills in order to master their expanded responsibilities and gain confidence in their newly-enhanced roles. In addition, the overall process requires high-level planning and co-ordination.

Writing Your Business Plan (Traditional or Online Business)

How To Write A Business Plan In my previous article, I talked about how you can plan your business startup. I defined a business plan as a written description of the future of your business. This is a document that indicates what you intend to do and how you intend to do it. I further explained that if all you have is a paragraph on the back of an envelope describing your business strategy, you have written a plan, or at least the beginning of a plan. I also said that a business plan consists of a narrative and several financial worksheets.I mentioned that the ‘writing of a business plan’ as one of the pivotal steps involved in setting up a successful business. By now you should understand the need for writing a business plan. Writing a business plan, for a traditional brick and mortar business, will probably take a lot of time. It may take up to 100 hours or even more. For obvious reasons, a new business needs to carry out a lot of research before a business plan can even be developed.For an online business, a detailed and in depth business plan is usually not necessary unless you are trying to combine your online business with a traditional business. For most online business startups, the detail involved with planning a traditional business is not required. However, it would still be beneficial to you if most of the topics were still covered, even if only briefly. Having a written plan in front of you will help you to focus on important aspects of the business.You may not have thought much about your competition or outsourcing some of your work, but things like that will impact your ability to make a profit. And you will find this especially so in the beginning phases of your business. Even you are just opening a lemonade stand in the front yard, you will still need to know what Susie is selling her lemonade for on the next street over!So, although a detailed business plan may not be required for an online business, I am going to include it here so you can at least look at and consider each section and determine yourself if it applies to your business.Here I shall be discussing the basic steps involved in writing a business plan:1. Executive Summary: The first step involved in writing a business plan is the executive summary. Here, include everything that you would cover in a five minute interview.Explain the fundamentals of the proposed business: What will your product be? Who will your customers be? Who are the owners? What do you think the future holds for your business and your industry?Make it enthusiastic, professional, complete, and concise.If you are applying for a loan, state clearly how much you need and be precise in how you are going to use it. Also include detail about how the money will make your business more profitable, thereby ensuring repayment of the loan.2. Business Description: After the executive summary, you need to write a short description of the business you are going into. You need to give a general description of the industry your business belongs to. You will write about your company’s mission statement, goals and objectives, business philosophy, as well as its legal form of ownership (sole proprietor, corporation, LLC, etc.).Describe your most important company strengths and core competencies. What factors will make the company succeed? What do you think your major competitive strengths will be? What background, experience, skills, and strengths do you personally bring to this new venture?3. Marketing Analysis/Strategy: The next thing to write (after the general description) should be your marketing strategy. For new or existing businesses, market analysis is an important basis for the marketing plan and will help justify the sales forecast. Existing businesses will rely heavily on past performance as an indicator of the future. New businesses have a greater challenge – they will rely more on market research using libraries, trade associations, government statistics, surveys, competitor observations, etc. In all cases, make sure your market analysis is relevant to establishing the viability of your new business and the reasonableness of the sales forecast.4. Location: Writing down the location of your business is very important. Locations with greater customer traffic usually cost more to buy or rent, but they require less spending for advertising to attract customers. This is especially true of retail businesses where traffic count and accessibility are critical.If an online business, you need to go into detail how you will attract customers to your website. General statements like “I will use Face Book ads and email marketing” will contribute almost nothing to helping your cause unless you have detailed statistical analysis of tests you have conducted or of another similar business you have been associated with. If you do not have any data upon which you reference your estimates, it could show lack of proper thought to the remainder of your business plan.5. Competitive Analysis: Business by nature is competitive, and few businesses are completely new. If there are no competitors, be careful; there may be no market for your products. Expand your concept of competition. If you plan to open the first roller skating rink in town, your competition will include movie theaters, malls, bowling alleys, etc.6. Management and Operations: Because management problems are the leading cause of business failures, it is important to discuss management qualifications and structure. Resumes of the Principals should be included in supporting data. If your business will have few employees and rely heavily on outside professionals, list these key people and their qualifications. If you are seeking financing, include personal financial statements for all of the principals in the supporting data section.7. Personnel: The success of any company depends on their ability to recruit, train and retain quality employees. The amount of emphasis in your plan for this section will depend on the number and type of employees required.8. Projected Financial Statements: These statements are usually helpful, but not necessary. You will develop and describe your strategies for the business throughout your Business Plan. In the financial section, you will need to estimate the financial impact of those strategies by developing projected Income Statements, Balance Sheets, and Cash Flow Statements.It is usually recommended that these projected statements be on a monthly basis for at least the first twelve months or until the business is projected to be profitable and stable. Activity displayed beyond the monthly detail may be in summary form (such as quarterly or annually). The forecast period for most business plans is two to four years.9. Summary Section: This section is where you will be able to attach or explain any detail not applicable to the previous sections. This section should be used to provide the financial statements of the Principle’s involved in the business and any other data you think an investor would be interested in seeing.The main thing to remember in this section is not to provide new data, but to explain in detail data that has already been provided and to provide the support for that data.When you sit down to compile all of the elements of your business plan, make sure you have each section able to stand on its own merits. This means you should not reference other sections sending the reader (your potential investor) back and forth between sections.Do not try to write your business plan in one sitting. As I mentioned in the beginning, for a traditional brick and mortar business, it could take in excess of 100 hours to compile all of the information needed into a comprehensive but yet understandable document. For online businesses, probably not that long. But your final product should be well thought out, well documented and easily understandable.