Focusing on Costs as an Area which Needs Improvement

In my  article on How to Know What Areas Need Improvement , the first guide that I give is to focus on costs.

The article stresses that whatever your organization is, whether you are operating for profit or with a budget, like a government agency, the good result of initiating with a cost reduction is great.

This doesn’t mean that we eliminate necessary services, such as income-generating activity, in order to reduce costs.  It means producing more products and services for every amount that the organization spends.

You must analyze and act assertively on how the present operating expenses can produce more products and services or  how the same volume or products and services can be produced at lesser costs.

A manager’s basic function is to get the work done, but certainly not at any cost.  Finding ways to improve your operations with better, less wasteful methods is as important a contribution to your company as meeting production quotas and schedules.  Here’s how to balance the two areas of responsibility:

*  Use Time Well. Wasted time is one of the costliest elements in any operation.  A manager can cut this waste by engaging the right equipment, the right materials and the right people at the right time.  Time is the essential element.  The lack of any factor at the right time holds up the job and increases costs.  Learn these facts about each operation:  how long it takes, how many people are needed, how the work flows from station to station, and the capacity of each station.

*  Coordinate Correctly. After determining just what has to be done, where, and by whom, each step must be coordinated.  Proper coordination can eliminate waiting for assignments or supplies, cut down chasing time for information or materials, and assure optimum use of workers and equipment.

*  Insure Proper Work Flow. Sometimes poor work flow just sort of grows from a lack of any real planning.  Improper work flow results in uneven workloads and unproductive waiting time.  Don’t let time-wasting bad habits develop into accepted procedures.

*  Schedule Carefully. Any kind of bottleneck adds to costs, but you can avoid some of them with proper scheduling.  Even the occasional rush job should not throw off your schedule if you have padded in a little extra time for the inevitable emergencies.  If you don’t need the time, you don’t have to use it.  But if you do need it, using it won’t create excessive costs.

*  Use Manpower Efficiently. Failing to use available manpower to the fullest potential is always the costliest item of doing business.  Target these areas of waste:

–        Using more workers on a job than are actually needed.

–        Not having enough workers on a job, resulting in unnecessary overtime.

–        Using highly paid, skilled workers on jobs that lower paid workers can do.

–        Failure to use skilled workers in their specialties for reasons of day-to-day expediency.

–        Failure to give adequate on-the-job training.

–        Not policing the overtime.  Is it really necessary or would realistic scheduling help reduce it?

As good executive, you shall act as role model in terms of cost reduction. According to John Maxwell, When they need to cut cost, many executives will sacrifice employees ahead of their own corporate perks. They see their OWN picture instead of the big picture. I believe that a leader should not ask others to make sacrifices until he’s made some himself. A good employee is simply too valuable to let go without exhausting other options.

If you have any other cost reduction ideas to include in this list, I shall be very glad to hear from you.

Your friend,

Nimia Acebes

Effective Leaders LEAD

A young officer in the Army discovered that he had no change when he tried to buy a soft drink from a vending machine. He flagged down a passing private and asked him, “Do you have change for a dollar?”

The private said cheerfully, “I think so. Let me take a look.”

The officer drew himself up stiffly and said, “Soldier, that is no way to address a superior. We’ll start all over again. Do you have change for a dollar?”

The private came to attention, saluted smartly, and said, “No, sir!”

Each of us commands some authority. There are or will be those we guide, supervise, rear, mentor or lead. Some of us will be effective and others will feel as if we’re running a cemetery: we’ve got a lot of people under us and nobody’s listening.

Much has been written and taught about leadership, but I find that at least four traits are common in all people of authority who effectively elicit cooperation and respect from those who look up to them. Whether you are a parent, whether you find yourself in the workplace, sitting on a volunteer committee or teaching some-one a new skill, these traits will help you effectively guide those who
would seek to follow.

These good leaders are…

L isteners. They take time to listen to the suggestions and concerns of those they endeavor to lead.

E ncouragers. They don’t try to do it all themselves. Neither do they motivate by force or guilt. They encourage others and help bring out their best.

A ssertive. They say what needs to be said without being unkind. They tell the truth as they see it, openly and frankly.

D ecisive. They know what needs to be done and they make timely, even difficult, decisions when necessary. But they can also take charge without running over the people in their lives.

In short, good leaders L-E-A-D!

It’s said that the trouble with being a leader today is that you can’t be sure whether people are following you or chasing you. But those who will develop these four traits are sure to find that their authority will be valued and respected.

— Taken from an article by Steve Goodier on the Four Traits of Effective Leaders at http://www.lifesupportsystem.com

Have a Plan for Personal Growth

Growth is not automatic; it does not necessarily come with experience, nor simply as a result of gathering information.  Personal growth must be deliberate, planned, and consistent. – John Maxwell

I came across the practical steps for personal growth in the book, Developing the Leaders Around You, by JOHN MAXWELL.

JOHN MAXWELL, who was listed as number one  in my post on  the Top Ten Leadership Gurus, outlines these five practical steps for personal growth:

1. Set aside time daily for growth. John Maxwell shares with us the two important concepts in this step:

First, time for growth must be planned.

Second, the time set aside must be set aside daily – for no fewer than five days a week.

Reading books and informative magazines while traveling and waiting is also good for personal growth.

When I was reassigned from the regional office  to the central office, I made my daily schedule of reading books and other resource materials, at least one hour when I wake up early in the morning and one hour in the evening, to prepare me intellectually to the bigger responsibilities I was facing.

2. File or copy quickly what you learn. Always carry with you a small planner or notebook where you could write what you learn from your readings or from the tapes.

3. Apply quickly what you learn. Choose a learning that you want to apply each week.

4. Grow with someone. The best way to grow is to share your knowledge with someone.

5. Plan your growth and follow it for a year. If you want to read one book per month and listen to one tape per week, you will be able to read twelve books and listen to 52 tapes in a year.

According to John Maxwell, personal growth is like investing.  It’s not your timing.  It’s your time in.  Get them going now.

Your friend,

Nimia Acebes

A Good Leader is PROUD

We look for a good leader to lead us into achieving our goals; to lead us into prosperity and greatness.  Whenever failures happen in a country or organization we oftentimes attribute it to poor leadership.

What are the qualities of a good leader?  A good leader is

People developer.

John Maxwell says, The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership. Most leaders are not successful on this because it takes a lot of hard work and patience.

People are the most important assets of an organization and developing them demands our time, attention and commitment.

A supervisor is briefing an employee on how the result shall look like.

Resilient.  The ability to bounce back when the problems arise.  Doug Dickerson  says that a resilient leader learns from every experience and never gives up in the face of adversity.

Organized.  The ability to organize time, paper and people so that potential productivity can be translated into a coherent program.

Stephanie Winston, in her book,  the Organized Executive says, Organizing is, quite simply, a learned skill – a set of methods and tools with which to arrange your time and workload to meet your goals.  

Understanding.  In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey says, The more deeply you understand other people, the more you will appreciate them, the more reverent you will feel about them…When we really, deeply understand each other, we open the door to creative solutions and third alternatives.  Our differences are no longer stumbling blocks to communications and progress.  Instead, they become the stepping stones to synergy.

Disciplined.  The willingness to do what is required regardless of personal mood.  Self-discipline is the foundation of good relationship because without self-discipline you will be rude, insensitive and unfair to other people.

Mike Tyson, an American boxer, says, Without discipline, no matter how good you are, you are nothing!

In short, a good leader is P-R-O-U-D. If you have these qualities as a leader, you will be loved and respected by your people.

Your friend,

Nimia Acebes

Lead with Patience

You probably became the person you are today because somebody had patience with you at some critical points in your life…When you are patient with a person, you make a long-term investment in them.- Blaine Lee

On November 25, 2009, I posted an article titled Leaders Pay Attention to the Details. It stressed that there are projects which fail due to the leader’s failure to be attentive to details.

Most projects and problems encountered by us are not as simple as they seem.  It needs patience to dig into the details of each task and issue.  Much more, it takes a lot of patience to deal with the people doing the task or causing the issue –  people of varied attitude, work habits and experiences.

We develop the people we lead because people is the life of the organization .  We have to study the details of the project or of the job to help our people improve their performance. We could not teach what we don’t know.  Helping people grow requires patience.  We don’t keep digging up a  plant to know how it’s growing.

A Director is discussing the details of the job with her employees.

When I was  new in supervising people, I was so impatient with the slow learners,  slow workers and those who always commit mistakes.  I wanted everyone to be efficient and high achievers to meet and even exceed our goals.  But, I realized that my impatience has affected our relationship and didn’t motivate them to do better. Later on, I learned to be a good coach to them and most of them thanked me for the learnings they got from me.

In his book, The Power Principle: Influence with Honor, Blaine Lee suggests the following words to say to ourselves to check for patience:

Are their efforts acceptable as a place to start?

Must it really be done now?  This way?

Are the deadlines real?

Where are the pressures coming from?

Are the pressures real?

Is this good enough for now?

Are they good enough for now?

Am I open to their opinions?

How do you demonstrate patience to your people and to your peers?  Please let me hear from you by leaving your comments below this article.

Your friend,

Nimia Acebes