Tag Archives: peer feedback

Do Drucker’s leadership practices stand the test of time?

In 2004, Peter Drucker, an Austrian-born American management consultant, educator, and author, published What Makes an Effective Executive in the Harvard Business Review.

Drucker outlined eight practices and one rule that he had identified from the most effective executives with whom he had worked and/or studied. Let’s look at each of them and see if they are still useful.

Gary Ryan1. Ask, “What needs to be done?“.

This question provides focus. Nothing is more relevant. Focus implies prioritising. What do you prioritise? The activities that are going to give you the biggest returns/outputs for your efforts in the context of achieving the long-term success you are striving to achieve.

This question is also specific for the leader. “What tasks are aligned to my talents?” These are the tasks the leader ought to focus on, and delegate the rest of the tasks to others for whom the tasks match their exceptional talents.

Is this practice still useful?

Yes. This practice is certainly useful. Anything that provides focus in this age is useful. Distractions cost time and time costs money. Whether you are a for profit, not for profit, government or military organisation, time cannot be wasted with the limited resources that are available.

2. Ask, “What is right for the enterprise?

This question has a long-term focus and causes the leader to consider their responsibilities as a steward for the organisation. “Will the organisation be better off, or at least not worse off, as a result of the actions we are about to take?”. While no leader is infallible and there are no guarantees in business, not asking this question is likely to lead to failure.

Is this practice still useful?

Yes. Today’s actions must always be taken in the context of the longer term and the greater good of the organisation.

3. Develop action plans

Drucker explains that plans are a statement of intention. They ought to be living documents that change as forces require them to change. They should not become ‘straightjackets’ that stifle opportunities. Regularly checking progress data, learning from mistakes and successes should all provide information that is used to update the plan.

Is this practice useful?

Yes. Plans provide the detail for our focussed actions.

4. Take responsibility for decisions

Drucker says, “A decision has not been made until people know:

  • the name of the person accountable for carrying it out;
  • the deadline;
  • the names of the people who will be affected by the decision and therefore have to know about, understand, and approve it—or at least not be strongly opposed to it—and
  • the names of the people who have to be informed of the decision, even if they are not directly affected by it.”

Critically, Drucker advises that a ‘decision review system‘ must exist where decisions are evaluated against results. How many of your decisions would pass this test? Not many, I dare guess.

Is this practice useful?

Yes. Even though few people can claim to follow this rule, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t useful. The recent events with CommInsure highlight that leaders need to continually communicate their decisions, their reasons for them, who they will affect and be open to opposing voices from within the organisation who challenge the thinking behind the decisions. Groupthink is dangerous for organisations. Just ask Enron, BP, Arthur Anderson, the Hastie Group, and more recently Dick Smith (although we are yet to know the full underlying reason behind the collapse of this company) etc. about the quality of their decision-making processes.

5. Take responsibility for communicating

Effective communication is one of the greatest leadership challenges of the 21st century. Do your staff know what they need to know, when they need to know it? As a leader, do you know what you need to know, when you need to know it.

Michael Marquardt, author of Leading With Questions believes that effective leaders regularly ask the following three questions of as many staff as possible:

  • What are we doing well?
  • What aren’t we doing well?
  • What would you do if you had the power and authority to create positive change in this organisation?

Is this practice useful?

Yes. It always will be. A tip to help you to increase the likelihood that your team members will know what they need to know when they need to know it, is to make sure that important information from you to them is conveyed by at least three channels of communication e.g. verbally in a meeting, written via an email, published as an article on your company’s intranet.

6. Focus on opportunities, not problems

Jack Welch, while CEO of GE, was famous for teaching his leaders that they must become adept at seeing reality for what is really was, not what they might have wanted it to be. And then, to seek out the opportunities.

As Drucker highlighted, problems need to be solved, but they don’t produce results. Acting on opportunities does.

Is this practice useful?

Yes. Particularly the ability to assess reality for what it is. This leadership skill cannot be underestimated because it allows opportunities to be identified and seized with perfect timing.

7. Run effective meetings

Aah meetings. How many of you think most of the ones you attend are a waste of time? The problem is that too many meetings really are a waste of time.

Drucker advised that you should consider what type of meeting you are going to conduct, well in advance of the meeting. His reasoning was that different types of meetings require different forms of meetings which are driven by the different results they are seeking. His logic makes sense.

Is this practice useful?

Absolutely. At least half of a leader’s time is spent with other people. If this time with other people is not a meeting, then what is it? In this context, making use of this time is critical if a leader is to be effective. Drucker’s suggestions for the different types of meetings to achieve different results is well worth the read – and his suggestions are as relevant today as they have ever been.

8. Think and say, “We”

Leadership is not about you. It is about your organisation and those whom you are serving. They come first.

Is this practice useful?

Yes. As a practitioner of Servant Leadership it is possibly the most important of all Drucker’s practices.

Drucker’s rule – Listen first, speak last

In order to practice this rule a leader must be genuinely curious. Refer to practice 5 above for the three questions that a leader can regularly ask their staff.

Is this rule useful?

Yes. 100%. Use it. Follow it. Practice it. Your leadership needs this rule.

16 years may have passed since Drucker published his article. Each one of his eight practices and his single rule are as important today as they have ever been. They are interdependent and feed off each other. One thing is certain, they won’t harm your leadership effectiveness if you show them. In fact, the opposite will be true.

Gary Ryan helps talented professionals, their teams and organisations to move Beyond Being Good®.

The misuse of percentages

 Very recently, a manager of a client of mine presented his goals and objectives for 2016. One of them included a customer satisfaction rating to reach 80%. The current figure is around 74%, which is well above the industry average of 60%.On the surface, this target looks appropriate. But, if you dig a little, and look at what the percentage actually means, maybe it isn’t such a good target after all.

Gary RyanWhen you have 80% of people saying they are satisfied, that means that 20% aren’t satisfied. And this is where the use of percentages can be misleading. Twenty percent of five is one. If one person isn’t happy, while not perfect, it might not be a big deal. But 1,200 dissatisfied people is a big deal.

The manager above leads an area of the business that has just over 6,000 members, plus another 4,000 plus people who use the facilities. If we just focus on the membership figure, 20% of 6,000 is 1,200 people. That’s a lot of people who will be dis-satisfied with the organisation’s level of service! It is fair to say that when I asked the manager, “Are you saying that it is okay for you to plan to have up to twelve hundred of your members dis-satisfied with your service?”, that both he and everyone else in the room responded with a resounding, “No!”.

By focussing on the improvement from 74% to 80%, what the real impact of what those figures represent had been lost. The improvement sounded good, but the reality of it was that the organisation was effectively planning to have upwards of 1,200 members walking around who were dis-satisfied with their current level of service. And 1,200 people is a lot of people to be unhappy.

Approximately one third of all dis-satisfied customers are dis-satisfied because of something they (the customer) didn’t understand correctly. When I share this figure with people, most of you nod in agreement that the number sounds accurate. The challenge for organisations is that you can’t put your finger into the breast-bone of your customer and say, “You silly fool, you misunderstood something and are blaming us for it!”. Clearly, you can’t do that if you want to keep your customers.

You have to find ways that enable your customers to recognise their errors in a manner that allows them to save ‘face’. No-one likes feeling like an idiot.

Let’s do some more sums. One third of 1,200 is 300. If we apply this figure to the above scenario, 300 is 5% of 6,000. Providing you have easy to use and open communication channels with your customers, these 300 hundred dis-satisfied customers can quickly be turned into satisfied customers by helping them to understand what they have mis-understood in a manner that allows them to save ‘face’. This would leave you with 15% of genuinely dis-satisfied customers and clearly you would need to use your open and easy-to-use communication channels to identify what was upsetting them so that you could work on closing the related gaps.

What percentage should the manager have presented? Aah, good question!

My suggestion is this, “We are striving for 100% satisfaction. We understand that this is a destination that we may never reach. However, we continue to genuinely strive for it none-the-less. Last year our satisfaction rating was 74%, and 70% the year before that. Our current figures mean that 4,440 of our members were satisfied with our service and in a moment I’ll share the reasons they have told why they are happy with us. However, our results also mean that 1,560 members were not happy with our service. Clearly, both figures need to improve and we are trending in the right direction, but the sky must be the limit for our projected improvements for next year.”

I would then suggest that the manager would detail how the organisation is going to bring those improvements to life.

While the organisation may not achieve 100% satisfaction the following year, maybe they could reach 88%. I can assure you that if your target is 80%, you’ll most likely reach it, maybe even a little bit more, but not a lot more.

I encourage you to look at what your percentages really mean. Have the courage to challenge each other and not to passively accept the way that percentages are used to represent data. The real meaning of the data is too often hidden by impressive looking percentages and these can mask the real situation. Shoot for the stars – you never know, you just might reach them.

Gary Ryan helps talented professionals, their teams and organisations to move Beyond Being Good®.

When policies & practices don’t align…

A 15 year old boy (let’s call him ‘John’) recently commenced work for a multi-national fast food chain in Australia. He is a delightful young man, having been recognised this year by his secondary school as the most outstanding student for his year level, as well as being awarded the most outstanding player for his Australian Rules Football Club in 2014. His peers have elected him Captain of his football and cricket teams for the past two seasons. He really is a terrific young man.

Given his qualities he was assigned to front counter duties. Two months in to his new job he received a text message from his shift manager from the previous Saturday shift requesting he meet with her at 5pm to discuss an error with his till. He received the text message at 4:30pm. It was a Tuesday. He replied and said that he would be on site as soon as possible.

He arrived at 6:30pm. He was informed that his till had been down “about forty dollars”, that the CCTV video footage had been assessed and that it was clear he had not stolen the money, but because of the amount that his till had been down he “had” to be given a written warning, which he was compelled to sign.

The three major sections of the written warning are provided below:

Blank Warning

Note the section, ‘Record employee’s response.’

What does the word, “No” mean?

Given I know this young man, I did some investigating. He told me that despite the policy that only one till be handled by a single staff member, and that each till be opened and closed according to each person’s shift, this was not what he had experienced in his two months working for the organisation. In every shift he had worked, including the shift in question, his till had been used by other staff, including the shift manager. In fact, during the shift in question, the shift manager and at least one other staff member had used ‘his’ till during the shift. In addition, a staff member had slipped and suffered a suspected broken ankle during the busy lunch period and an ambulance had been called to attend to the staff member.

Having worked as a young man myself on the front counter for a fast food chain I found it easy to imagine a fairly hectic scene. The sort of scene where, if a mistake was going to be made, this is when it would be made.

I asked him about his recorded response to the second question above. He said that when he told the shift manager, who was leading the investigation (the very same shift manager with whom he had worked during his shift – it seems that for this organisation closed loop investigations for missing cash are the order of the day) that other staff had used his till, the shift manager said, “No. I have checked the CCTV footage an no one else used the till.”

He said that because he had seen his shift manager use his till, and she had denied it, what could he do? He was then asked if he had anything to add and he said, “No.”, which is why that was recorded as his response.

When I spoke with him he was completely unaware of the serious nature of a written warning and because of his desire to ‘do the right thing‘, had thought that he should simply sign the document and move on. His shift manager had told him that she had received a written warning when she had started working for the organisation but it hadn’t stopped her from becoming a shift manager, so it wasn’t a very big issue. But, it is a big deal. A written warning is about as serious an issue that an employee can experience.

His father immediately understood the serious nature of the written warning and visited the site to speak with the shift manager. He was calm and wanted to understand the process that had been followed. He was informed that the missing amount was “$44.65”, that his son had definitely not stolen anything and that the CCTV footage of his shift had been observed and no one else had used his till. The following day, John’s mother also attended the site and observed a busy lunch shift and noted multiple staff using multiple tills. The one till per staff member was just a policy; it was not reality.

From the start of the issue, John was open to the possibility that he had been the one whom had caused the error. However, he couldn’t remember making a mistake and given that other people had, from his perspective, used the till, he believed that there was enough doubt about who had made the error that it felt “pretty bad” that he had received a warning. He also said, “It is pretty clear that I am just a number. They really didn’t want to hear what I had to say and I was guilty and had to prove my innocence; not the other way around.”

There are times in life when you just have to go straight to the top. Encouraged by his father, John contacted one of the owners and asked to speak with her in confidence. John was concerned that if he spoke up about his experience and if it wasn’t confidential, then he risked being ‘victimised’. Fortunately, the owner was happy to speak with him in confidence and was willing to accept his version of the story, partly because she told him that the missing amount was actually $41.25, not $40 or $44.65. How the actual number was not properly communicated is anybody’s guess. His written warning was changed to a file note that was to include the fact that other people had used his till. Personally, this still doesn’t seem a fair outcome.

The owner asked John if he believed the shift manager had viewed the full three hours of his shift. He told her that he didn’t think that the shift manager had, simply because he didn’t think she would have had the time to do so based on his experience of seeing how busy they are every shift.

Despite her decision, the owner informed John that the one till per person was the corporation’s policy that the franchisees were expected to follow it.

It seems to me that at no stage, other than when the owner of the business spoke with John, that his welfare had been considered. And this is what happens when policies, generated by head office, don’t work in practice.

Boxes might get ticked. Reports may get filed. Written warnings may be issued. And it is all an illusion that people use to report on how well everything is going. Even when, in reality, it isn’t.

John said that serving the customer was paramount which is why multiple staff would use the tills during a shift. He also said that the shift managers didn’t appear to have the time to ensure that a till was opened and then closed at the book-ends of a shift. While he had been taught these policies during his induction, he had quickly learned that in reality they don’t work.

However, those very policies were used to initiate a formal, written warning.

I share this story with you so that you can think about your policies. Which ones are being ‘worked around‘ by your staff because they simply don’t work. Or, if you are really serious about your policies, are you prepared to receive the customer backlash that will be caused by the reduction in service that your policies will generate? Your challenge is to create policies that are both customer and employer friendly.

It’s a pity that John has had his experience. He shared with me that he didn’t feel as excited about working for this organisation anymore. Surprise, surprise!

It only took a global corporation two months of casual shifts to teach a fine young man that he doesn’t really matter to them. And isn’t that a pity.

Gary Ryan helps talented professionals, their teams and organisations to move Beyond Being Good®.

What energy do you bring to a room?

Imagine if you could be a fly on a wall and observe yourself.

When you attend meetings or staff training, or when you are at your desk performing your role, what energy would you see yourself bringing to work?

Gary RyanWe don’t live in a perfect world and things could always be better. Most people get that.

Yet some people bring a downright energy-sapping vibe with them, which follows them everywhere they go. Other people find them exhausting to be around because they are constantly drawing energy from others so that they can continue to generate their negative energy.

From my experience these people seem horribly unhappy, and it is as if they want others to share their unhappiness. I feel sad for them that they seem so unhappy. Yet it also appears as if they believe that their unhappiness is everybody else’s fault and that they are stuck with no other option but to keep turning up to this job with their negative energy.

As the fly on the wall, do you think that these people have the right to draw on the energy of others so that they can feed their negative mindset? Life is hard enough for us all without having to constantly manage some else’s negativity. Life is also an amazing gift, something that I constantly remind myself about, especially given that I was born the ninth of 11 children. I appreciate that in most families, number nine was never born, so I recognise that I am lucky to be here and as such I should fully embrace the good, the bad and the ugly that life has to offer.

Maybe you don’t have to be the ninth born in your family to share that view of the world.

So, have a think. What energy do you bring to work? What energy would you like to bring?

You do have a choice.

Gary Ryan helps talented professionals, their teams and organisations to move Beyond Being Good®.

Three kinds of peer to peer feedback

Here’s a perspective on feedback. It is a gift.

As such, when you receive feedback from a peer, what is the first thing you might say?

“Thank you.”

Gary RyanThis perspective can help those of you whom struggle with what you are going to say when a peer provides you with feedback, including whether or not you invited their feedback. No matter what they say, you’re going to say, “Thank you.”

Let’s continue with the ‘feedback as a gift‘ metaphor.

Have you ever received a real gift that was, well, not very good?

When you first received that gift, what did you say?

“Thank you.”

When you receive feedback from your peers, sometimes it will not be for you, nor about you. Below are the three kinds of feedback that you can expect to receive from your peers.

1. The feedback is for you, about you and immediately useful

The socks I receive from my children for Father’s Day are for me, about me and immediately useful. Sometimes your peers will provide you with feedback that fits into this category. You recognise that what you have been told is for you, about you and is immediately useful. You can apply the feedback and make improvements. For example, you may have given a presentation and a peer suggests that you change the italic font that you have been using because it is difficult for some people to read. You take the feedback on board and make the change.

2. The feedback is for you, about you, but not immediately useful

If you have ever received a thick book for your birthday, but your birthday falls during an exceptionally busy time of the year, then you’ll understand what this category is all about. You literally place the book on a shelf until you have an opportunity (usually during your holidays) to read the book.

Sometimes you will recognise the feedback that your peer is giving you is for you and about you, but it might not be immediately useful because you need some time to process it. At a point down the track, after you have made sense of it, you can then do something about it. For example, a peer informs you that you constantly cut people off when they are speaking. Maybe you’ve been doing this for a long time and no one has ever told you.

You believe that you are a good listener. You recognise that your peer was genuine when they told you this information. So you literally press ‘Pause’ and raise your awareness of this potential issue so that you can gather more data. After a couple of weeks of being more conscious of this issue you recognise that it is accurate. You have collected data that supports that you do, in fact, cut people off when they are speaking. Now you can do something with that feedback to improve your listening skills.

3. The feedback is for you, but not about you, nor is it useful

When my wife turned 30 I bought her a PlayStation. I had seen her playing solitaire on her computer and figured that she needed a proper gaming machine. I may have also wanted to play Shane Warne’s Cricket on her PlayStation too!

Was my gift really for my wife, or was it really for me? Hmmm…

Fortunately I had also bought her some jewellery that she did want!

Some feedback that you receive from your peers fits into this third category. It is  for you but it’s not about you. It’s about them.

Your peer is simply trying to tell you how you can be more like them.

For example, you may be told, “You should get to meetings five minutes early because it helps you to properly prepare for the meeting.”

Feedback like this is really your peer imposing their perspective on the world on to you.

What to do

When you receive feedback from a peer, say “Thank you” and then categorise the feedback into one of the above three types. If it fits in to one of the first two categories then you will take it on board. If it fits into the third category then you have the right to ignore it.

Of course the reverse is true. When you are providing a peer with feedback, first ask yourself, “Am I just trying to tell them how they can be more like me?

If your answer is, “Yes”, then keep your feedback to yourself!

Gary Ryan enables talented professionals, their teams and organisations to move Beyond Being Good®

Enabling organisations to be worthy of the commitment of employees