The Coach's Corner

Archive for April, 2012

Leader versus manager

April 30th, 2012 // Tom Doescher //
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I may lose some readers over this one, but here goes anyway. Many leaders — including Frank Moran, former managing partner of Plante & Moran — have said you manage tasks, but you lead people. I believe this is especially true today, because there are very few purely manual jobs. I have spent the last 20 years in manufacturing, and I love to go on plant tours. Do you realize everything machine operators have to know to perform their jobs today? Running a machine can be very complex work; some of the work cells I have seen remind me of Houston’s Mission Control Center. So what’s my point? There probably are times when an activity is purely a task, and your role may be that of a manager — but I would suggest that, in most environments I have observed, what most associates need is leadership. A leader provides a clear plan/goal, offers relevant training, gives developmental feedback when something does not go right (I did not say screaming!), is accessible to answer questions, and remembers to say “thank you” for a job well done. If you have subordinates, I challenge you to think of yourself as a leader, rather than a manager or a boss.

Create your own path

April 23rd, 2012 // Tom Doescher //
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Barbara and I got back into cross-country skiing this year. One day, as we were skiing along a groomed track in beautiful northern Michigan, I thought to myself, “It would be more fun to make my own track through the snow, but it would definitely be more difficult.” I think the same is true in business. Too often, I hear discussions where people are analyzing what their competitors are doing versus exploring what their customers and clients want. Is it easier to copy the competition rather than possibly reinventing your product to meet your customers’ needs? Of course it is! Just as in skiing, it is definitely simpler and less risky to follow the track that has already been laid out instead of breaking new ground and trying something different. A few years ago, I read a really thought-provoking book, Blue Ocean Strategy. The authors talked about how most of us operate in the “red” ocean, studying and emulating our competitors. They went on and gave great examples of companies that operate in the “blue” ocean, and have successfully created their own track. Is your team satisfied to glide along in the groomed track, or do you have a mechanism — or, better yet, culture — that encourages breaking out of the mold and trying new things?

Haven’t We Learned Anything

April 17th, 2012 // Tom Doescher //
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Recently, I met the son of one of the Detroit 3 executives. Just to give you a little background, his father is at a senior level with the same company, and the son is an up and coming manager level engineer. Jim Collins talks about hubris being the first stage of how mighty companies fall. Back to my encounter, the son, like his dad displayed a fair amount of hubris. He was quick to criticize the engineers in country X. This same country is home to the fastest growing OEM in the U.S. In business, there are a lot of emotions. Do you base your decisions and views on facts and data or emotions (I don’t like XXXXX)?

Hire Owners, continued

April 10th, 2012 // Tom Doescher // 1 Comment
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The crazy thing is that I actually looked forward to seeing Howard Klein at Nordstrom’s again; meeting him made me want to return to the store, even though I hate to shop. The experience caused me to think about a possible strategy for hiring key associates. As I reflected on the subject, a manufacturing company with which I have worked came to mind. One day I met the sales manager, who used to own his own business. He was obviously excited about his new company and was glad to be there, and he told me, “I would do anything for Duane (the owner/CEO).” In a nutshell: If you want to have associates who really care about the business and act like owners, hire them. However, when you do it, you need to be sure to treat them like owners. Are you aware of a small competitor or a vendor whose owner would be a natural fit with your team? Think about it.

Hire Owners

April 3rd, 2012 // Tom Doescher //
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I hate to shop. In fact, I really hate to shop. But I needed to upgrade my wardrobe, so I ventured into Nordstrom’s — and, to my surprise, I was delighted to meet Howard Klein. Klein probably deals with lots of guys like me, but he was amazing. He was direct, but not pushy. He offered a few choices, but not too many. He suggested items, but I did not feel like he was upselling me. He obviously really knew his business and was passionate about it. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I started interviewing him. I discovered that his grandfather had owned a men’s clothing store, his father had owned a men’s clothing store and, for 25 years, he had owned a men’s clothing store. You would have thought he owned Nordstrom’s, the way he behaved. So, should you try to hire “owners”? More on this subject next week.

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Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.

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