January 2012

. . . helping organizations find solutions to people-related problems


Many leaders find the temptation of day-to-day firefighting addictive.   Facing the blank flip chart or electronic white board is just too intimidating and demanding. And yet management theory and practice strongly suggest that senior managers spend more time on planning than on daily operations. Try honestly tracking your time each day for several weeks and you will likely discover that much of it is eaten up by activities that could better be done by others. In virtually every business model, discipline is an essential ingredient that, with most of us, suffers abuse.  

  Someone has defined discipline as doing what needs to be done even when you don't have the desire to do it. In discussing key leadership principles, Norman Schwarzkopf puts it this way: "Leadership is getting people to do willingly what they normally would not do." Discipline is virtually the same idea applied to self rather than others. In any case, it is the senior leader's role to make planning a top priority and to delegate day-to-day problem-solving to mid-level managers and first-line supervisors. The reality is that these latter groups are in the best position organizationally to solve such problems in the first place.

  Top management's role is to focus on where the ship is headed and not on how things are going in the boiler room--to be observant in evaluating the obstacles ahead and be able to navigate with skill and wisdom rather than simply be tossed and turned by serendipitous events and conditions. The challenge is commonly characterized by balancing the old and the new--by managing evitable change while keeping the ship stable and moving in a long-term positive and safe direction. This is no simple task. It requires awareness of the external environment, an honest assessment of strengths and vulnerabilities, and the people power to sustain effective communication, and intelligent interactions at all levels.


I recently attended a meeting of individuals from a variety of other organizations. The subject was communications. One individual, who happened to be the chief financial officer of his family-owned business, offered the following observation with a most positive tone and tenor: "When we have meetings, we are very aware that the meeting must have a purpose and produce tangible results. We keep track of the salary dollars we spend in meetings, so we have a measure of how much effort has been expended and how valuable the results should be to our company." These words were spoken with simplicity and sincerity that conveyed a strong sense of reality and credibility.

  As the phrase "death by meeting" implies, many organizations waste time, energy, and emotional currency on meetings that are poorly planned, poorly prepared for, and poorly executed. Sometimes they feel like quasi-social events that pay neither organizational nor social dividends and frustrate participants who feel that otherwise productive time is being wasted.

  A recent HBR "Management TIP of the Day" identifies keys to successful meetings, which are the responsibility of the meeting organizer:

  • Clarify the objective. Be sure people know why they are there. If it's to make a decision, be sure they have the time and materials they need to prepare.

  • Prepare key people.   Talking with key players beforehand can tailor the agenda and produce insights to make meeting time more productive.

  • Manage the meeting team. Have participants do their homework. Have relevant materials at hand. Use gate-keeping to encourage individual input and to generate new and vital ideas.

  • Make sure there is closure. Concisely summarize meaningful results. Identify next steps and responsible individuals. Set realistic targets for further events and activities. Recognize individual contributions.


Keeping the parts of your organization moving together, moving the ball down the field as one team, feeling that "click" when everyone is at the right spot at the right time with the right resources is a constant challenge. It requires quality communications, careful coordination, and a sixth sense that tells you when your team is performing at consummate levels.

  We have a variety of new and exciting programs and tools designed to help you and your team reach new performance levels. These third-generation assessment and research-validated learning models create a highly personalized learning and development experience. Each is topic-specific with in-depth information, including tips, strategies, and action plans to help individuals at all levels become more effective contributors to your team goals.

  • Everything DiSC Workplace® can be used with everyone in the organization. Individuals learn how their styles affect priorities, goal accomplishment, and building more effective relationships with other team members.

  • Everything DiSC Management® teaches managers how to bring out the best in their team--how to delegate and adapt to various follower styles to promote productivity and effectiveness.

  • Everything DiSC Work of Leaders® focuses on vision, alignment, and execution. It provides leaders with the insights and perspectives essential to quality leadership and goal accomplishment.

  • Everything DiSC Sales® helps your sales force connect with customers by understanding their styles and how to vary their approach to different customer buying styles and needs.

    These and other time-tested Inscape Publishing® products provide powerful insights through practical, results-oriented learning tools that create a common language to help individuals and teams understand themselves and others and improve overall organizational performance.  
  Talk to us about how these new applications can help your company sharpen its competitive edge.


If your employee handbook hasn't been updated in the past 6-12 months, there's a good chance it is out-of-date.

  • Have you updated your social media policies in light of recent NLRB rulings on Facebook and Twitter?

  • Do your policies conflict with the employee rights explained in the new NLRB labor poster?

  • Do your Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) and Americans with Disabilities (ADA) policies include current labor law changes?

  • Do your human resource policies make sense for your company's culture and leadership style?
Your company's handbook is an invaluable organizational tool. It not only reflects current labor law, but should also serve as a guideline for supervisors and employees alike in promoting a workplace marked by fairness, stability, and teamwork.

Take care to be sure your written policies and your management practices work hand-in-hand in keeping your organization up-to-date, productive, profitable, and protected.

Warm regards

Dave Martin


HRA Services, Inc.

"Applying Systematic Thinking to the Human Dimension"