The Common Sense Blog

6
Sep

Want Them to Learn? Hang Up on Them!

Kevin is a service supervisor for a mid-sized mechanical contracting firm. He has six technicians visiting customers every day. As new technicians joined his team over the past couple of years, more and more of his communication with the field would go like this – The phone would ring. He would answer it. The technician on the other end would

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28
Aug

The Magic of Freedom Within a Framework

One of the questions I get from time to time is, “How do I provide the freedom to make decisions without losing control?” This question coincides with the employees’ question, “How far can we go in making a decision without crossing some imaginary line?” Ranjay Gulati, writing in a recent issue of the Harvard Business Review, observes, “Leaders cling to

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21
Aug

Customer Utensils? It’s Not on the Checklist

I frequent a particular fast-food chain because I like their salads. But I’ve noticed a little detail that can be annoying, yet easily fixed. That’s the issue of placing plastic utensils in the to-go orders. Twice in the past three visits, I have forgotten to grab a fork before leaving the store. In both cases I’ve ended up someplace and

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15
Aug

Well Intentioned But Tuned Out

I was sitting in a booth at a fast-food restaurant grabbing a bite to eat. The store manager was in the next booth with five of her employees, holding a staff meeting. She was going on and on though the topics she needed to cover. It appeared to be a list of about ten items – “This policy has been

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31
Jul

Teach Your New People the Top 15

It happens all the time. A new hire arrives for the first day of work. The supervisor rattles off a list of responsibilities and resources. The newbie nods over and over. The supervisor says, “You got that?” The newbie answers, “Yup.” And the supervisor says, “Good. Let’s get to work.” Then the newbie bombards the supervisor with endless questions for

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22
Jan

Have Your Young Professionals Learned How to Fail?

Yes, you read that correctly. As I speak with employers every week, one of the concerns they mention is the apprehension many new graduates display when compelled to make a decision for which there is no right answer. Sometimes this apprehension takes the form of endless questions. Sometimes it appears to be a lack of urgency. Sometimes it looks like

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2
Jan

Are You Wrapping Your Kids in a Burlap Blanket?

My wife and I and our friends, Bill and LuAnn, were sharing stories about our twenty-something kids. As we discussed the normal trials and challenges these young people face, we wondered out loud about the balance between saving them and teaching them to “sink or swim.” “We’ve always tried to wrap our kids in a burlap blanket,” said Bill. I

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18
Dec

Where is Your Locus of Control?

One recent morning, I was standing next to a woman in a local café. She appeared agitated, but I didn’t really think about it as I added a bit of cream to my coffee. A few seconds later, one of the staff approached her. “I’m sorry for the delay,” he said. “We’ll have the order ready in ten more minutes,”

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5
Dec

Making a Game of Repetitive Work

Like anyone, there are times when I am saddled with a repetitive task. Whether it’s raking the lawn, stuffing envelopes, or painting the kitchen, it can be tough to make the time go by. But I  have learned to re-frame this boredom by making a game out of it. So have most of those who grew up before the digital

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29
Nov

Get Your Front Line Thinking About Your Bottom Line

I love my kids, but they leave the lights on. They’re both in college now, but when they returned for the Thanksgiving break, I found myself following them around trying to save electricity. How about your kids? Chances are, they do the same thing. What about your employees? Turning off lights is nothing compared to breakage, the small mistake on an

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