Archive for the ‘Business Management’ Category

ECU WORLDWIDE KENYA

Tulip House/6th Floor
Mombasa Road
P.O. Box 17911
00500 Nairobi, Kenya
Office Phone: + 254 20 2309895
Office Phone: + 254 20 2531094+6
Managing Director: Rajeev Verma
Cell: + 254 07 00449051

Due to several requests from valued customers, I, Carl Charles, made the decision to publish the name and address of my Agent for Mombasa and Nairobi, Kenya, which is an integral part of the CentEx Cargo Blog and USA Exports.

Leadership

Before going any further, it’s absolutely necessary that all readers of this entry understand the difference between leadership excellence and managerial acumen. A good manager is someone that shows good judgments, thorough knowledge, and expertise when supervising other employees. Managerial acumen also implies having a keen sense of other employees’ capabilities, who can get the job done, and how to assign workers to tasks. Lastly, a good manager always accepts responsibility for the overall performance of his/her team. However, this high level of professional competence does not necessarily make a manager a leader. A leader is someone who truly cares about those entrusted in his care. A premise that’s indicative of the type of leadership that I embrace. Based on the findings of countless studies, most human beings are genetically predisposed to trust and to cooperate with others that are in their immediate surroundings. A leader that keeps these human traits in mind when working with people and caring for them has a great chance of attaining leadership excellence. Many argue, this type of leadership is in direct opposition to capitalism; a position that resonates with a lot of conservatives. The conservative brand of leadership takes hold especially in an environment where numbers on a spreadsheet are more important than employees. As a result, corporate decisions are solely based upon data, market conditions, and financial opportunities. Corporations are elevated to “people status” while people are stripped of their humanities.
Let’s go back to my type of leadership where getting to know employees on a personal level, listening to them, and taking care of them are a priority. This noble position gives leaders the ability to empathize and subsequently embrace what Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller Companies refer to as people-centric leadership. Where exactly does a leader start? A leader should definitely start by explaining to subordinates that his acceptance of a leadership role is closely tied to providing team players with a new circle of safety. Moreover, he should also express a willingness to extend that circle of safety to every employee. This is a good starting point because it is the prerequisite to setting a positive work culture where employees can trust one another. In fact, it is the goal of leadership to set a culture in which employees are free of danger from each other. Whether you are seeking new talents or are promoted the new leader of an existing team, it is imperative that you provide a strong sense of belonging to your new circle of safety to every member of the team. According to Simon Sinek, Author of Start With Why, “this feeling of belonging, of shared values, and a deep sense of empathy, dramatically enhances trust, cooperation, and problem solving.” Without a leader providing that circle of safety, employees will be forced to spend too much of their time and energy protecting themselves from each other.
I now have everybody’s attention! I made sure and double checked that all employees know there is a new leader at work who cares about how they feel. Consequently, their stress levels about “the unknown” begin to decrease. With the stress and anxiety greatly diminished, a CEO should go straight into the next level of leadership, which entails sharing his/her vision for the company with every member of the team. There are still unknown dangers outside to worry about – e.g., competitors, a fluctuating market, rapidly changing technology … etc – but when employees are in that circle of safety, they convince themselves that those external dangers are more perilous than the dangers inside. Employees will gladly substitute individual goals for team goals when they know the more they give of themselves to see others succeed, the greater their value to the group and the more respect and compensation they will receive from the company. In this work environment, it is unequivocal that the more others want to help you, the more you can achieve.
Team building, the next component worth exploring, is an invaluable tool to leadership excellence. It is a process that should always include a new leader’s close observations of how people work together with minimal or no oversight, and how they talk to each other and behave in staff meetings . Theoretically, if everyone in a given team is completely on the same page and working in lockstep toward the same goals, as their new leader, you are half way there. With some degree of varying confidence, you can focus your time and attention making sure that every member of the team buys in to the same plan of getting results, shared accountability, group motivation, and knowing how bad each member of the team really wants to win. Your pep talk to members of your team can go as follows: “you have to decide right now, what is more important: helping the team win or advancing your own career.” We all should be aware of the ultimate test of a great team: results. And, it is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage in any given industry.

It is my sincere hope that this blog post gives its readers a glimpse into the type of leadership that I embrace. If you (individual reader, government employee, or a representative of a private company) were to order our management consulting services, Centuria Group would at that point address the first signs of a team in trouble.

teamwork-diversityimage

Let me be unequivocally clear, management should always start with a rational business model that works like a well-oiled machine. This model consists of an efficient structure with several organization charts. It is crucial at this juncture to understand, this aforementioned structure is a precursor to strategies needed to make decisions expeditiously and get things done throughout any enterprise. Moreover, the organization charts of a sound structure give employees, management, and all interested parties a line of authority referred to as “hierarchy.” A chain command of this hierarchy as it is often called, can have several layers depending on the size of the organization. Regardless of the size of your business, I prefer three (3) levels or layers of management: line supervision, mid-management, and upper-management or corporate headquarters. Having too many layers to a management system will lead to a matrix of organizational structure with way too many charts, a very complex system indeed. Complexity is never better in business, a caveat to conglomerates and big businesses. According to many different studies, the U.S. mega corporations that succeed keep things simple in spite of their humongous size and those that add unnecessary layers to management and keep their strategic plan too complicated, fail. They move around like dinosaurs before facing extinction. This brings to mind the old adage: “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” rather than “too big to fail.” And, a behemoth is not necessarily fierce. Complexity causes lethargy and inertia, which makes too many big companies unresponsive. I should point out, however, it’s not the mere size of a big company that causes its failure. Substituting a rational business model with a complex one is usually the culprit. An alternative to complexity is fluidity and flexibility, which allows people in a businesses of any size to really talk to each other regardless of their geographic locations and the large number of units in those companies. As a result, people employed by those successful companies can solve problems, fix things, and are attune to customers’ needs rather than posture, debate and delay a given process. Once you are operating in a rational business model, you know who is in charge. Be mindful that an organization chart by itself is not a company but accountable people are. The people working for a successful company represent one of its most valuable assets. There is enough empirical knowledge around to determine that a good manager is always needed to shape company values and hence motivate the people who work for that company. To motivate people, you need a good philosophy. Looking at the basic premise of psychology, I have concluded that human beings of any background are socialized to think of themselves as winners. Therefore, it is safe to say and assume, as employees, we all think that we are tops. Consequently, make sure that your organization adopt that positive outlook of its people, a philosophy that will generate high returns for any company and always pay dividends to stakeholders of any business. Don’t just write “catchy phrases” in the company literature, correspondence or any place else for that matter, you must live the adopted philosophy. It is a paradox but that philosophy represents the starting point of the corporate culture that will motivate most, if not all employees to strive for success. In any country, the quality of products, services, and productivity of workers depend on good management. Why not take the time to understand the psychology of work and human performance, and adopt the right philosophy for your company. So much of performance has to do with people being motivated by simple, beautiful and compelling values. My determination makes it emphatic that a manager convey an organization’s shared values to all employees and once accepted by all, those values should be continually emphasized until and after they become the dominant corporate culture. Based on a plethora of business studies, the excellent U.S. companies are marked by very strong cultures, so strong that you either buy into their norms or you get out. A cohesive and dominant corporate culture is always accompanied with hoopla, fanfare, and a certain level of excitement. An employee not affected by the culture that’s being fostered, will either be terminated or leave of his own volition. An advantageous position that allows a unit manager to deal with sub-standard performance in a proactive manner.  A manager’s job is to keep things tidy and under control. Well-run organizations ultimately become institutions as they are infused with consistent values. Pervasive values that demand that the performance of every employee be above par, an integral part of efficient business operations. In order for a company to remain successful, it will hire and then institutionalize new employees by infusing the system with those values mentioned above, company values that go beyond the technical requirements of any task. Moreover, other incentives should be put in place to achieve optimum performance – e.g., employee of the month, a bonus, being assigned to a special project … etc. A proactive manager will also look for coaching opportunities, a management tool that prevents any employee from falling behind. Then, and only then, can progressive discipline and punishment be used as a last resort instead of a way forward to supervise. The ubiquitous values of the excellent company often lead to employees initiating their own peer reviews and quality circles, a productivity proposition based on loyalty, commitment through effective training, and personal identification with the company’s overall success. I attest to the fact that peer pressure in this instance rather than orders from the boss becomes the main motivator to employees’ productivity. An experienced boss can now comfortably shift most of his/her attention to “quality control” and its objective measures while developing good instincts that tell immediately whether things are going well or when something is wrong . If performance is under control, what else can go wrong? Let’s say for the purpose of this blog, corporate headquarters is lean and decentralized simply because responsibilities are proportionally delegated to unit managers and line supervisors, respectively. A two-way communication is maintained between branch offices and the main office, a necessary component that permits line supervisors to identify corporate malaise given that extraordinary contributions on the part of every worker are regularly reported and verified by quality control. Corporate headquarters, in turn, don’t delay in bringing immediate corrections and change by keeping the rational business model responsive, relevant, and efficient. I did start this Blog post with a philosophy that emanates positive energy followed by a value system that gets responsible adults exciting about their work. Lastly, we find ways to stay close to the customer. The world of the excellent companies is especially open to customers, who in turn inject a sense of balance and proportion into its rational business model – even determining which slogans are used. For instance, at CentEx Cargo, we used the slogan: “The Next Level of International Shipping” to the Caribbean. Our goal to be a quality logistics company and provide quality international shipping service together with feedback from customers helped our company come up with that slogan. We then tell the people we hire over and over again, we are a customer oriented company and they are great for getting that slogan and our philosophy right every time. Doing a quality job is the only way. The customer orientation approach is by definition a way of tailoring our niche market where we can be better at something than anybody else. Moreover, allocation of company resources and building a team ought to be swayed by the paying customers. This way, management cannot only deal with unforeseen problems but turn customers complaints into marketing opportunities. Customers quickly realize that in this excellent company, employees are not only committed to doing a quality job but if things go wrong, those same employees can fix a problem to their satisfaction. Management, in turn, is confident of its capabilities. And when there is a major problem or crisis, they can bring the right people together on an ad hoc basis and expect them to bring about tangible solutions in a timely manner.

When I entered the job market in the late 70’s on a part-time basis, as a naive teenager, “Human Resources” was known as the “Personnel Department.” Human Resources progressively became the more usual name for the overall function of this department – i.e., managing staff and recruiting personnel. In approximately 5 to 7 years from attending college in the early 1980’s and my feeble attempt to join the job market, Human Resources was now the term used to describe individuals who make up the workforce of an organization. “HR” (abbreviated initials for Human Resources)  is also charged with the responsibility for implementing strategies and policies relating to the management of individuals. Whether you are a human resource professional, a manager or an individual job seeker, you are probably wondering about the future of “HR,” considering how dynamic the work environment has been these past few years. Let’s now take a look at HR from the perspective of an individual job seeker.  If you are like me; Ronald Reagan is president, you now have a Bachelor’s degree and seeking employment during a recession. Someone told you about a job opening in a company that interests you, you subsequently go to HR of that company, you read the qualifications and then apply for that job opening. On the surface, the process appeared straightforward and simple. I am sure at that time, there were also complex ways of networking. It was common knowledge then as it is now: the best jobs are not advertised. Today’s job seeker has to have a multi-faceted approach of looking for a job. Applying for a job online is now common practice. There are now websites dedicated to the listing of job openings or job boards as they are often called. Some of the most popular sites are: Monster, Careerbuilder, The Ladders, SimplyHired, USAJobs to only cite a few. The savvy job seeker not only browses through those sites for job openings, matching specific job requirements with his/her skill set, education, and work experience but posts a well-written resume or resumes on those sites as well. Those job sites also offer a feature that allows the job seeker to create “job agents” based on a number of search categories – e.g., accounting,  finance, non-profit, management, government … etc. Those search categories, in turn, send automatic job alerts via email to the creator of the aforementioned job agents. One would think, this preponderance of resources would make finding a job easier. Well, the opposite is true. Some job seekers complain that job applications submitted online except through a company kiosk, are going to a black hole. Such an assessment is well founded given that only 25% of companies notify an applicant that he/she is no longer in the running for an open position. I will be the first to say, this new way of doing things shows a level of unprofessionalism on the part of HR. However, that would only represent a singular perception of the situation. The internet makes it much easier for an individual to submit an application for a vacant position. Having the opportunity to look at job search from both sides of the spectrum makes me confident in saying that HR Departments are getting more applications than they can handle. HR has to sift through hundreds of resumes to find the ideal candidates for a job. The initial face to face meeting with an HR staff back then was essential to the screening process. It would have saved HR staff time and discouraged some unqualified applicants from applying to certain jobs. The rating system was more concise when HR was more centralized. To understand and effectively manage human resources amid the challenges posed by today’s environment, you must examine how applications are received, quantified, and subsequently rated. The rating system often starts with some keywords. Those keywords permit a sometimes automated process to classify applications based on said system conducive to recruitment and hence selection.  What is the percentage of applications not meeting any of the jobs requirements that are discarded per each job opening? I wish I knew the answer to that question. Human Resource Management, however, has several other functions in addition to what I have just described. One of those functions entails meeting the demands of today’s dynamic work environment. This environment has changed significantly with the impact of the global arena, changing demographics, technological development, and legislation. Human Resources Departments can be the very source of an organization’s competitive advantage if they are managed effectively and by having a say in how each job description is designed and then select the right person for that vacant position. We all have heard of horrific stories of downsizing that turned out to be dumbsizing  and massive layoffs. According to the Harvard Business School, many of those organizations involved in downsizing were negatively impacted in terms of their financial performance instead of saving money. The move to high performance organizations reflects today’s emphasis on human resources as an indispensable asset that is also viewed as a long-term investment and not on cutting your workforce in half. This is not how your father found a job. However, one thing that will always be true, is the legal environment within which all businesses operate. The Human Resource Department has to be proactive and ensure that all managers are appropriately educated about the legal requirements. It is imperative that managers have a solid understanding of the legislation that impacts employment regardless of the level of technology injected into its practices.

marshall_plan
One of my nephews, KC, a second generation Haitian-American came to my office and asked me the following question, “what exactly is management?” That question immediately brought to mind two of my favorite experts in the field of management: W. Edwards Deming, the management genius who helped revitalize Japanese industry after World War II, and Peter F. Drucker, the author who introduced me to Management By Objectives (MBO) in Graduate School.  As I started answering, “well, management is multidimensional,” before I could finish, my nephew interjected by saying, “management  has to be the focus of a Marshall Plan for Haiti.” Needless to say, I had to regroup, pulled out the top draw of my desk, retrieved some written words, and finally recited my management mantra, “according to Peter F. Drucker, management is independent of ownership, rank, or power. It is objective function and ought be grounded in the responsibility for performance.” Deming, on the other hand, stated that, “management creates constancy of purpose for the improvement of product and service.” There is also a conventional definition of management that has attracted a lot of attention on the Internet: “Management in business and organizations is the function that coordinates the efforts of people to accomplish goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively.” To better discuss the fundamentals of management, I had to go back to 2004, when my brother Nick, an Information Technology (IT) Specialist, and I started Centuria Group and later on, brought John B. on board who, due to many years of practical experience in the logistics business, knew warehousing like the back of his hand. As a preliminary step to a start-up business, Nick and I wrote a business plan with a five year span. During the planning stage and upon completion of that plan, I consulted with many other managers making sure that Centuria Group had the right system, one that was aligned with the goods and services we intended to sell and ultimately export. Another preliminary step was knowing our target market(s) and where our customers would come from. Part of that brainstorming with other managers and consultants also entailed designing a recruiting process that would attract a diverse but competent workforce. The next step for the team was formulating policies. Those policies were accompanied with strategies, practices, and followed with procedures that would serve as a backdrop or reference guide to duties and tasks, an employee and sometimes independent contractor would be asked to perform. Those duties, obviously, became parts of formal job descriptions. Centuria Group did exceed the goals set in our five (5) year business plan. Not only that, but we were able to forecast the longest recession of the US economy because of good management. We didn’t have a magic formula or anything like that. We simply paid attention to trends and to customers’ spending pattern. With my ear to the ground, I listened to all of my customers and documented our team every move and effort. For example, I knew that some of my customers were suddenly paying a much higher mortgage for the same house they lived in for the past two (2) years. Some owners of “mom and pop” stores became literal prisoners of their business venture, unable to take a break or any time off. They could no longer afford to join our system that could provide a part-time clerk when needed, let alone hire a full-time employee. When we asked a store owner to become part of CentEx Cargo of Centuria Group and join an efficient logistics system, we made sure our sales pitch include the added value of an owner being able to take some time off. That wasn’t working well anymore because many store owners knew they were not going to be in business very long. They would be out of business in the next six (6) months. Centuria Group, in conjunction with Jobs Unlimited, Inc watched the costs of healthcare skyrocket, costs we had to pass on to customers. In spite of those challenges, the partners at Centuria Group had a choice to make: take the money and run or stick to it through thick and thin and watch our baby grow into a legitimate and profitable organization, and later on into a viable institution. This long explanation is part-one of my  answer to my nephew’s question. Well-run organizations and viable institutions are two mandatory components to a Marshall Plan for Haiti. The introduction of good management and shared accountability would have to follow before anyone can discuss tasks, responsibilities, and the implementation of that Marshall Plan. Another key component of management is effective communications within organizations. On many occasions, I’ve visited businesses and government agencies in Haiti and witnessed first hand how supervisors and managers communicate with their employees using what appears to be a “linear hierarchy” or chain of command. I have read written memos that were like doctorate dissertations, mind you in french, intended to communicate with a workforce and sometimes general public that has minimal or no formal education. The first rule of communications is making sure the message conveyed is the message received and then understood by a majority due to follow-ups. Ideally, messages from a manager should be understood by everybody. Management has worked wonders in places like France, Japan, and the United States. In France, for instance, management has in the 1950’s removed obstacles to opportunities taking away the emphasis on birth (where were you born?), class, wealth (where do you live?), or elite education (where did you go to school?) and put those opportunities in the path of the able individual. Japan is a well managed nation and as a result, it is one the most productive countries on earth. In the United States, management has opened many doors and created new possibilities for women, African-Americans, Latinos, other people of color, and immigrants. Moreover, these examples emphasized the importance of good management and the reasons why a good manager needs to be culturally conscious and always be on the lookout for any type of discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace, hiring practices, and promotion. Companies’ management must be proactive in terms of policies and practices pertaining to those important issues. As I told my nephew, the word IMPOSSIBLE doesn’t exist. Haiti, too, can become a society of viable institutions and organizations. Only then, can “Haiti Cherie” switch over to one of my favorite definitions of management, which eloquently states that management can be the organ through which the institutions of Haiti be made to function and perform their missions to the Haitian people (e.g., clean running water, building and maintaining the country’s infrastructure, building enough schools, adequate electricity, good sanitation … etc).

Performance Evaluation

According to a fellow blogger who quoted Samuel Culbert, companies should get rid of the Performance Review because its outcome does not determine pay, and salary is determined by market forces and budgets. I find that position interesting. Having the opportunity to supervise many professionals and especially entry-level employees – i.e., cashiers and shipping clerks – in a retail environment where the turn over rate is high, compelled me to look at an alternative to the traditional performance review. That alternative is job coaching. What is job coaching? It is the interactive process whereby managers and supervisors aim to solve performance problems and develop employee capabilities. The players or employees in this case are told about  the business system of our organization, and I, in turn, assessed the functioning levels of employees based on how they learn, perform the required tasks and how interested they are in the subject matter. If you are a supervisor, you are probably wondering, why should I become a coach? You already have plenty to do and rarely have enough time to do it all. The answer is that effective coaching will actually make your job easier and enhance your career. Job coaching is generally accomplished through a four step process: observation, discussion classes, active coaching, and follow-up. I’d love to go over each of the four elements of coaching but it would be too extensive for the spectrum of this blog post. However, I’d like to state that job coaching is ideal for “on the job training” (OJT). As a training module, it enables a supervisor to identify countless coaching opportunities. Your players are put in the “Help Seat” instead of the “Hot Seat.”  In addition, keep in mind that one of the basic rules of job coaching is to always point out three (3) things the employee does right (i.e., compliment) before pointing out a single (1) discrepancy (i.e., deviation from a training expectation sometimes perceived as a negative reinforcement by the employee) and then helping him or her to correct that discrepancy. In my experience of training employees for a few retail stores, those coaching opportunities in spite of the 3 to 1 ratio approach, are not without conflicts and friction. But good coaching in spite of this low level of resistance can make your job easier by producing better job performance, greater job satisfaction for you the trainer, and higher group motivation. Lastly, it helps managers and supervisors address and overcome performance problems, develop employee skills, increase productivity, and improve overall retention. Due to good coaching techniques, I always know who the team players are and who the slackers are.

Well, what do you think of this blog post? Thank you for your valuable input. I will continue to respect the privacy of those readers who don’t want their comments published on my blog. Please continue to send me your comments to the following e-mail address: carlhcharles@gmail.com

360processIs it that time of the year again? You either dread the thought of writing performance evaluations for the employees you supervise or if you are at the receiving end, you may downplay its importance as a futile exercise. If you anticipate a positive outcome, you may view your performance review as your time to shine. If you are a manager, you are more than likely familiar with the basic premise of a traditional performance evaluation. But gathering input on employees’ performance not only from managers and supervisors but also from peers and direct reports may be a novel idea to some. I am talking about a multisource, full circle feedback. Isn’t the use of traditional performance evaluation approaches controversial enough? Many employees in a diverse workforce very often point out segments in any performance review that require too many subjective answers from an immediate supervisor and hence are not performance measurements nor an indication of goal accomplishment. The thinking behind extending 360-degree to performance reviews goes like this: because most employees today work with a wide range of other people, no single manager can accurately assess their contributions. Some experts think, however, using 360-degree feedback for performance reviews is risky – in particular, it leans heavily on the human propensity to create hierarchies and to protect status. For example, employees who rate a boss or a peer favorably may feel highly uncomfortable about getting a frank evaluation in return and may have an inherent need for revenge. Additionally, there is the quid-pro-quo dilemma (i.e., a favor for a favor). Nonetheless, it’s easy to see why so many companies are attracted to using the 360-degree approach for performance appraisals. After all, it promises a much more comprehensive picture of an employee’s performance than the traditional “boss-only review” can offer. I doubt it very much that this form of evaluation will catch on and become an integral part of our corporate culture. The 360-degree is one of the tools used in team building and putting a board of directors together where the focus is on both development and appraisal. In this instance, you get more bang for every buck invested in this process. The Board of Directors of a private enterprise that has an egalitarian feel to it and put together as a culture of trust and candor, would more than likely welcome the 360-degree feedback.