Tag Archives: Manager

How Does a Small Company Build an HR Function? Four Thoughts

Situation: A small company has no formal human resources, pay scale or performance review systems. The CEO wants to create a structure to address these gaps, as well as to encourage employee feedback. How do you build an HR function for a company with under 20 employees?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Many small companies outsource HR services. There are a number of firms who provide outsourced HR services, and through them much of the HR activity can be conducted online. Examples include ADP, Administaff, Express Employment Professionals and PayChex.
    • These systems cover all of the mechanics of HR, and help to assure that the company is in step with changing regulatory requirements.
  • There are also a host of individual consultants who put together HR systems for smaller companies. These are most easily found using locally-focused Internet searches.
  • Employees in small companies are used to wearing many functional hats. Hire or assign a manager to create an HR system and implement it once it is set-up. This person will be in charge of the personnel review schedule, changes to regulations and contact with outside HR resources.
    • One company’s HR Manager has a one hour conversation with the company’s lawyers once a year to make sure that the company is up to speed on any regulatory changes.
  • Hire a Director of Operations and include HR in this individual’s responsibilities. This person can research options for discussion by the leadership team. Empower them to bring in resources that will meet the company’s needs.

How Do You Set Limits on Demand for your Time? Eight Tactics

Situation: A company’s CEO wants to segue from rainmaker-project manager to leader, with others taking the lead on projects. He has tried raising prices on his time, but clients are willing to pay the higher price so this hasn’t worked. How does the CEO set boundaries so that he is not involved in day-to-day project management?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The most important question is: where’s the real battle – is it in the client’s or your own head? Is this really a client problem, or are you unwilling to let go? You need to answer this question before alternate strategies will work.
  • Look for the right project managers. You will change your hiring when the goal is for you to not be deeply involved.
  • Hire people who are better than you.
  • Gradually phase existing relationships to others.
  • In early work with a new client, set expectations so that your involvement is at the appropriate level and your team handles the heavy lifting.
  • Instead of attending meetings in person, use electronics – video conferencing. This saves the travel time for the meeting.
  • Don’t respond to client emails too quickly when you are copied – let others respond.
  • As one company grew, they invented new roles with high profiles but little work. These roles were figureheads for project leadership.
    • Project emails were set up so that all client emails went to the team, as well as the CEO, but the team would then respond to client questions.
    • Over time, the CEO was able to “just say no.”

How Do You Develop Leaders and Managers? Five Factors

A company has focused on developing future leaders and managers. They do this both to increase their managerial and leadership bench strength and to boost employee retention. What has worked for you in developing managers and leaders?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Trying to make a leader doesn’t work. Leadership is a trait, not a skill. Leaders can arise from anywhere within the organization. An effective CEO recognizes this and works with both the leaders and the managers, whatever their position.
  • The Gallup Organization found that exceptional managers and exceptional leaders are not often the same people. Usually, the best managers are people who excel at bringing out the best in their employees, but may not be either visionary or strategic thinkers. Leaders, on the other hand are those to whom others look to for guidance and direction. Good leaders know how to identify and delegate to good managers.
  • Identify and develop strengths within your people; don’t try to fix weaknesses.
    • Gallup found that talented people have identified and developed their strengths. Instead of fixing weaknesses they find ways to work around weaknesses so that they are not harmed by them.
  • Use informal mentoring. Assign mentors to employees, and include cross-departmental mentor assignment to extend skills development, as well as managerial and leadership development.
    • Ask mentors to report progress to the CEO on occasional basis.
  • As you develop your talent pipeline, track the number of employees added to the pipeline per year as a key company metric. As an additional metric, look at the number of individuals in your pipeline compared with the number that you believe you need to fill future needs.

How Do You Smoothly Transition Employee Roles? Four Suggestions

Situation: Two employees within a small company are shifting roles. One is shifting from Operations Manager, a higher level position, to an engineering role in charge of production, with no reports. The second has been promoted from Customer Service Supervisor to greater responsibilities for purchasing and production scheduling. How should the CEO adjust the titles and compensation of these individuals?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The Operations Manger is really shifting to a staff engineer position. Consider the title Senior Engineer or Senior Staff Engineer if the individual is comfortable with this. It conveys respect for prior experience while delineating this individual’s preferred responsibility. You may want to make adjustments to compensation over time by holding back on salary raises rather than by cutting salary right now.
  • The Customer Service Supervisor is moving into new responsibilities, and this may take time. In a sense this is a lateral move with potential for growth. Consider retaining the title of supervisor until this individual has demonstrated ability to perform these new duties. Salary adjustments and raises can be added as the individual grows in responsibility.
  • There is no problem having multiple titles and business cards. Many small companies do this. You can give the second person two titles: Customer Service Supervisor and Production Supervisor. This enables you to elevate this individual to manager of one or both areas as ability is demonstrated to take on additional responsibility and accountability.
  • Because both employees will be working in production, albeit in different capacities, monitor the situation closely to assure that conflicts don’t develop.

How Do You Address a Key Manager Functioning at 80%? Three Points

Situation: A small company has a key employee who has been with them for one year.  Previously, this individual had been a production manager in a large company managing as many as 100 employees. He excels at analysis, QA and other “doer” roles but has not demonstrated strong supervisory skills. How do you address a key manager functioning at 80%?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Small companies are different from large ones. In a small company, people must wear multiple hats and be willing to roll up their sleeves with the others. The atmosphere can be very different in a large company. Past experience in a large company does not mean that previous skills are transferable.
  • If the person is not a fit for your needs and organization, then you must find a fit or make a change.
    • Do you have room on your payroll for a job appropriate to this individual’s skills and talents? If so retain him in a new role. If not, then take action.
    • Engineers often do not transition well to management positions. Different skill sets are required. Shortcomings may have been masked in a large company.
    • If your future need is for an individual to take on many or your current responsibilities in the role of General Manager, hire an individual who has demonstrated success in this position in a company of in size and focus as yours.
  • If you need to hire a different person, review your selection process.
    • If this position requires the wearing of multiple hats, indicate the range of responsibilities in the position description.
    • During the selection process query candidates on their experience handling these responsibilities. Ask open questions and look for specific instances where they have demonstrated talent. Confirm responses in reference checks.

Key Words: HR, Selection, Performance, Doer, Manager, Supervisor, Big vs. Small Company, Success, Experience, Selection, Position Description, References

How Do You Add a Layer of Management? Five Suggestions

Situation: A company has been seeking additional engineers. Unexpectedly, three excellent candidates independently approached the company seeking employment. This opens the door to expand the department and also to create an additional layer of management consistent with the company’s growth objectives. Currently, in this small company all engineers report directly to the CEO. What are best practices adding a layer of management to the company?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Remember that aspiration does not equal talent. There is a big difference between good individual contributors and good managers. The best predictor of managerial success is past successful experience.
  • You have a number of senior engineers who have been with you for a long time. Have any expressed an interest in management responsibility? Do any of them have a track record successfully managing teams? Similarly, evaluate your new candidates both in terms of both their ability to contribute as engineers and their prior management experience.
  • If you hire one or more of the candidates, start them at the senior engineer level. Let the company and the rest of your engineering team get used to them and observe the quality of their contribution.
  • Once you are ready to create a new level of management, make this an open process. Announce your plans to the engineering team, and ask them to approach you individually if they are interested. See who steps up.
  • When the time comes to make the promotion, how do you communicate this to the group?
    • If you’ve used an open process to evaluate one or more candidates for management, the group will already be prepared when you announce the new structure and promotion.
    • An important part of the message is that the company is growing and that there will be ongoing opportunities for talented engineers to earn promotions to management.
  • For those interested, start with small steps as leads in team projects. Who if effective at guiding their team? Who is a positive source of energy for the team? Who is helpful and goes above and beyond for other team members and for customers? How do they respond to team obstacles? Observe and coach them along the way.

Key Words: Engineer, HR, Management, Candidate, Aspiration, Talent, Individual Contributor, Manager, Experience, Success, Involve, Time, Announce, Process, Communication, Coach

How Do You Evaluate Strategic Options? Three Suggestions

Situation: A company has developed and shipped equipment that puts it into a new market. They can continue to pursue this direction or make a significant shift that will open up a larger opportunity. What are the most important considerations to this decision?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • There are a number of points that you need to clarify before making this decision:
    • What is the magnitude of difference between the two opportunities?
    • How much of a shift in technology is required to make the jump to the larger segment?
    • How much of the expertise to make this shift do you have in-house, and how much must you bring in, acquire or develop through partnerships?
    • What is your most likely exit strategy and how will each opportunity impact it?
  • Are you being realistic in your ability to meet development timelines?
    • If you don’t have deep expertise in the area that you want to develop, the answer is most likely yes. If you do you can often beat your initial estimates.
    • If the shift includes both there is risk that you will underestimate the time required to develop both the prototype and to turn the prototype into production quality technology.
  • If your ultimate objective is to sell the company, be aware that selling any company can be tricky, and you may not be able to sell the company for the value that you need to support yourself after the sale.
    • Study other companies in your geography and market, and determine both the price that they received for their companies and how they positioned their companies for sale.
    • As an alternative to selling, consider hiring a general manager to run the company. This can free you to concentrate on your passion and also increase the value of the company if you decide to sell at a future date.

Key Words: Strategy, Technology, Equipment, Market, Decision, Opportunity, Expertise, Timeline, Exit, Value, Sale, Positioning, Manager

What are Best Practices for Effective Delegation? Three Thoughts

Situation: The CEO of a small company finds that whether he gives broad direction to employees or very specific instruction he gets the same result: they don’t seem to understand what he wants. He feels that they don’t have a sense of buy-in or urgency. What are best practices for effective delegation to improve results?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • You recently fired an employee for inconsistent performance but didn’t tell your staff. When you return to the office this afternoon, get the employees together and tell why the individual was fired. Let them know that this is part of a broader pattern that you see within the company and that if you see other cases of individuals not following through on their assigned responsibilities you will have to take additional action. Unless your employees understand that nonperformance has consequences, there will be no change.
  • In your operations, set subassembly goals and intermediate milestones coupled. Create and post a set of charts in the operations room so that employees have a regular visual reminder of how they are doing. Bring these charts to employee meetings and discuss how the company is doing. If deadlines aren’t being met, ask for input on how to improve performance. Celebrate successes with recognition for individuals or groups who demonstrate the ability to meet objectives.
  • Hire an operations manager with experience working with teams the size of yours. You want an individual who excels at motivating and getting results from people, and who has supervisory versus managerial experience. Think platoon leader – a person who excels at effectively running small teams.

Key Words: Delegation, Direction, Buy-in, Urgency, Performance, Consistent, Consequences, Vision, Priorities, Goals, Milestones, Chart, Review, Employee Input, Improvement, Celebration, Manager, Motivation, Results

How Do You Identify Good Job Candidates? Four Views

Situation: A company needs to hire several upper level managers to support growth objectives In the past they have selected candidates based on referrals from existing employees or management’s “gut feel” of candidates. The results have been inconsistent. What have you done to identify good job candidates?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The answer depends upon the success of your hiring in the past, both for areas where you are comfortable with the skill sets and those areas you are less comfortable. For example, you may be good at identifying candidates for technical positions, but not for sales and marketing.
  • One CEO’s “gut feel” hires have been consistently wrong. The solution has been to have recruiters screen and evaluate candidates. Once candidates are prequalified, only the best are presented to the CEO for final selection.
  • Another CEO uses a two-step process:
    • A recruiter selects and ranks their final two or three candidates.
    • Then the CEO gets a second opinion from another recruiter on the recommended choices of the first recruiter.
    • If both recruiters agree on the best candidate, the CEO meets the person and offers a job provided that they are compatible. If the recruiters disagree, the CEO probes the differences between the evaluations and decides whether to meet with one of the candidates.
  • Another CEO involves staff and uses a ranking system to evaluate candidates in areas of competence and fit. This produces composite scores that assist them in identifying the best candidate.

Key Words: Hiring, Manager, Selection, Referral, Gut Feel, Process, Skills, Head Hunter, Recruiter, Ranking