Friday, 18 February 2011 11:51

Getting help

Tired of answering business phone calls, checking e-mails or responding to text messages all hours of the day and night, on weekends and even when you’re on vacation? You might be surprised to learn that the person you see in the mirror could be to blame for those constant interruptions. And you don’t have to shut off your phone and unplug your computer to regain control of your life.

I’ve often been asked how I was able to balance my personal life and my work life while carrying the responsibilities that come with being a CEO in an industry as dynamic as automotive.

My answer: I made sure that I could comfortably delegate many of my responsibilities to my direct reports.

You can’t just go to work tomorrow and start delegating. The hard part is getting to the point where you really are comfortable delegating decisions to others while your superiors hold you accountable for the results.

I’ll explain what it took to get me to that point.

Let me start with something I learned after having been exposed to many different organizational structures, work teams, individual jobs and workplace situations. I consider this as gospel: All company employees, regardless of job level, have at least one thing in common. They want to feel valued for the skills and capabilities they bring to the company and want to be recognized for the contributions they make to the company’s success.

When this is the case, they will come to work every day engaged and motivated to help the company achieve its goals.

In my experience, nothing destroys that motivation faster than a supervisor who micromanages every situation, insisting on getting the work done his or her way and being involved in all decisions. The consequences of this — however well intentioned — can reach beyond simply slowing down the decision process, particularly if those exposed to this behavior have already achieved a level of success in the company.

In your role as coach, you need to begin by challenging staff members to think more deeply about how they should handle a certain situation, gradually allowing them more latitude to decide on a course of action. It will be difficult at times to resist telling them what you would do, but you must. You must also expect (and tolerate) the inevitable small mistakes they will make as their capabilities grow. Recognize, too, that some individuals will require more of your time than others, but in the end, this will prove to be time well spent.

I must caution you that taking on the role of coach does not mean that you must abdicate your position as the leader of the department or company. You must be very clear about the personal and organizational behaviors you expect, such as honesty, integrity, fairness and risk tolerance, and you need to model those behaviors in your daily work.

As you grow more comfortable and release the reins on your staff, they will assuredly do likewise with theirs, and the benefits to the company will become more and more apparent. Fewer and fewer unresolved problems will reach your level, decisions will be made more quickly making customers happier, and business results will improve at a faster rate because employees will feel more ownership in driving the results.

And, of course, you will be able to enjoy your life outside of work without being constantly interrupted by business phone calls, e-mails or text messages.

Try delegating. It may take some preparation, but I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.

George Perry has more than 40 years of experience in engineering, operations and executive management. He retired as president and CEO of Yazaki North America Inc. in December 2009.

Published in Detroit
Friday, 18 February 2011 11:45

Take responsibility

One of the most destructive characteristics of our current culture is the belief of so many people that no matter what happens, it isn’t their fault; they are not responsible. Smoke three packs of cigarettes a day and get cancer. It’s the tobacco companies’ fault for making cigarettes. Eat Big Macs and french fries while sitting around watching Oprah, and then blame McDonald’s for obesity. Let a child play with a lighter and gasoline, and then blame the pajama company because he lit himself on fire.

We make our own decisions in life and we are responsible for our own actions and our own inaction.

I am responsible. Responsible is defined as: involving personal accountability, able to be trusted or depended upon, characterized by good judgment or sound thinking.

Anybody can lay blame for problems or failure at the feet of others. It takes strength, character and courage to stand up and say, “I am responsible,” and then deal with the consequences. When confronted with a challenge beyond our control, it is easy to say, “It’s not my problem,” and give up. It takes determination and effort to grapple with an issue and see it through to successful resolution.

Our job is to perform for our customers. Customers are not always reasonable, customers are not always fair, customers are not always rational, and sometimes customers don’t even know what they really want. Despite those challenges, we must find and satisfy our customers’ needs because, ultimately, our customers will judge us based upon how well we meet or frustrate those needs — real and perceived. If we fail to meet their delivery needs, if we provide defective product, if we don’t respond to questions or concerns in a timely manner, if we promise to take an action and then fail to take it, customers don’t really care why. Our fault, the customer’s fault, our supplier’s fault, nobody’s fault — it doesn’t matter. All that matters is: Did we execute or did we not? Laying the blame for failure elsewhere doesn’t change anything.

One of the first customer calls I ever went on was to address a quality problem that we were having. I was a fresh-faced 22-year-old representing our company alone for the first time. As soon as I walked into the conference room, I knew I was dead meat. Production staff, engineers, buyers and the general manager were all there to greet me, and they weren’t happy. Rather than submit to the beating I knew was coming, I landed the first punch myself by accepting that we were responsible for the problem. I told them what happened, what we were doing to fix it and what they could expect from us. I could see the anger and hostility fade as they were replaced by a mixture of relief that we were fixing the problem and disappointment that the beating wasn’t going to be any fun.

I learned a valuable lesson. Our customers need us to stand up and accept responsibility and accountability for achieving agreed-upon objectives. They need us to communicate how we are going to get the job done, and then they need us to keep them apprised of our actions and our progress. Customers need to know that we will seek help, advice and support when needed. They need to know that we will call on critical resources with the required skill and expertise. Customers need to know that once we take on a job, we own the job, we own the results, and they can count on us to get the job done. When things go wrong, as they will from time to time, our customers need to know that we will stand up, be responsible and take the action we need to take to fix the problem.

Over the course of this next month, your challenge, should you decide to accept it, is to demonstrate to your customers that you are responsible. Demonstrate that you are accountable and that they can trust you to stick with it until the job is done.

Scott Morey is president of Morey Corp. In this role, he provides overall strategic direction and leadership for the company. He specifically oversees manufacturing, operations, finance and accounting, sales, engineering, product development, and technology strategy. During his 36-year tenure, the company has experienced marked growth and an expansion of service and product offerings. Morey has also played a key role in developing and implementing the company’s best-in-class program management and quality systems. He serves on the board of directors for Morey Corp. and 10G (a joint venture with Caterpillar). He is also a member The Young Presidents’ Organization.

Published in Chicago
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