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Posted: January 25, 2010

Same old way, bad old way—same bad results

...and other rules for success in life and business

Laurence B. Valant

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from business performance improvement expert Larry Valant's book, Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance.

46 - Managers must understand what their key people are really up to.

Most managers don't know what their key people are up to. This lack of understanding results from a failure by the manager to regularly and clearly communicate what is expected, what is to be delivered, by when it should be delivered, and what success looks like.

My often used phrase, "clear unambiguous communication is critical" once again applies. Establishing this level of communication is not easily done, but failure to do so means the manager has no idea what their key people are supposed to deliver and in what timeframe.

Once a Manager's expectations have been communicated there must be a clear timetable for reporting and follow-up. Such a timetable provides the ability to know exactly where your people are in terms of their deliverables and their schedule to complete them. This knowledge is essential if you are to complete your responsibilities on time to meet the expectations of your supervisor, whether that is another manager, the CEO, or the board of directors.

Knowing what your people are up to is a fundamental responsibility. Not knowing means you are not fulfilling your job requirements, which means you are subject to constant surprises, most of which are unpleasant.

Not knowing had better be fixed, and fixed fast.

47 - Same old way, bad old way, same bad results.

I love the line that says, "A form of insanity is repeating the same behavior and expecting different results."

Many in management wonder why they seem unable, year after year, to improve results when they have never worked harder or more diligently. If these managers were able to objectively examine their planning, actions, and overall behavior, it would be apparent that they are merely repeating the same behavior over and over again, perhaps changing the words and music here and there.

They are behaving in the same old way, which is the same bad old way yielding the same bad results. There may be something about the forest and the trees in this behavior.

Repeating old behaviors is easy. Expecting different results is ridiculous. When results are not the ones wanted or required, changing the way plans are developed and implemented is essential. This is not thinking outside the box, it is simply thinking. However, being able to step back and take an unprejudiced and unbiased look at one's processes for setting objectives, plans to achieve those objectives and their execution to plan is tough to accomplish.

The ability to recognize that you may not have all the answers and even more likely probably don't even know all the right questions is also tough to admit. Frequently the answer to same old way, same bad results, lies in the willingness to seek outside objective help and guidance to which you can listen and from which you can learn.

Learning new habits is very difficult, but repeating our bad habits is insanity.

48 - Too many executive teams go on a management retreat and they end up being just that - retreats.

Having nice chats in nice surroundings is pleasant and fun, but the value of most management retreats is marginal at best in terms of effecting changes in behavior and therefore improving results. Usually retreats are just that - management gets away from the issues by retreating, and while having retreated, take no meaningful action.

A leadership getaway can be sound and useful when executives remove themselves from their daily business to focus instead on strategic and tactical issues that are of great importance to their organization. Instead of calling such meetings retreats, I would much prefer calling them advances, but only when leadership planning and action sessions deliver:

 Specific objectives and goals
 Specific and detailed plans and strategies to achieve these goals
 Clear deliverables and milestones to measure progress toward achieving goals
 Cost-benefit analysis for the chosen strategies

Taking action in a planned and coherent way during such a leadership advance will also result in the much sought after and elusive team building. The ability of team members to put together a plan, engage the organization to act on that plan and deliver cost effective results will build and solidify a leadership team.

Retreating is a nice chat in nice surroundings. Advancing is a meaningful planning session that delivers results to the organization's bottom line.

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Laurence B. Valant is President and CEO of Valant & Co., a Denver-based business performance improvement consultancy that has worked with almost 300 firms to increase their value by billions of dollars. He is co-author of the hot-selling new book, “Make Plan! With Effective Execution” and now, “Lead and Manage!” Valant can be reached at lvalant@valantco.com or at 303-589-3840. If you want more information or would like to order a copy of “Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance,” please visit www.valantco.com.

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