Many budget processes look like this:

  • They happen once a year and go out a year ahead.
  • Managers and departments have every incentive to ask for everything, whether they need it or not, because their demands will be negotiated down. If they don’t ask for everything, someone else will.
    • Managers and departments often also have the incentive to spend everything from the year before. If you save money, you obviously didn’t need it and won’t get it next year.
  • Trust is minimal, as is input from people outside the room — the rank and file, particularly.
  • A budget is cobbled out of this somehow and sets the tone — and maybe the strategy — for the next year. See you in 12 months.

Sound familiar? For Aubrey Daniels, a noted expert and author on performance management and other management, leadership and workplace issues, budget planning is one of the more frustrating things about companies today, and he has some ideas on how to improve the process. (read more…)

There were 25 managers in a recent leadership program I facilitated. Part of the program included a pre-work assessment where each manager and their direct reports assessed the manager’s leadership behaviors and overall effectiveness.

For many leaders around the globe today, such feedback is unusual — and a bit threatening. Most organizations don’t provide leaders with this kind of feedback very often.

These managers had never received such feedback in their company. I walked them through the data, helping them understand where their team members see them doing well and not as well as needed.

One manager blurted out, “I’m a great engineer. I’m clearly a lousy manager!” (His terminology for “lousy” was, um, colorful.) The whole room laughed and a number of heads nodded.

I hope — and believe — I helped these managers learn from their assessment and “get past” the critical feedback they received.

What is obvious is that this company has been somewhat casual about defining leader effectiveness. (read more…)

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 190,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our e-newsletter.

Last week, we asked: How effective are you at driving innovation?

  • Very — I generate a ton of innovative ideas: 37.68%
  • Kind of — I’ll be inspired from time to time: 51.84%
  • Infrequently — Inspiration is hard to find: 7.65%
  • Rarely — I can’t remember my last great idea: 2.83%

Innovation takes Time. The day to day can consume us leaving us precious little time for innovation. And there’s a big difference between incrementalism and true innovation. To generate those truly big ideas, try carving out at least two focused hours per month for you and your team to ask some challenging innovation questions that will help you find those big ideas. Dedicated time and a rigorous approach to innovation will make all the difference between ideas and big ideas. (read more…)

As a business leader, you’re constantly being challenged to make complex decisions in a fast-paced, rapidly changing landscape.

But to do this, you need more than factual data points. After all, if there were an easy answer, someone else in your company would have (hopefully) found it already. On the other hand, making knee-jerk decisions based on your intuition alone could permanently harm your company.

Instead, you need a combination of hard data, trend insights, and intuitive discernment — you need high-quality industry information.

What is high-quality information?

High-quality information is both factual and relevant. It’s the intelligence you need when questions without simple “yes” or “no” answers bubble up through your organization. Here are three example situations:

  • The CEO of a software company believes that acquiring a small startup will add value for a specific niche within his market, increasing his company’s net worth. He’s tasked one of his researchers to pull data for him, but he wants to know more about the nuances of this particular niche before he makes a decision.
  • (read more…)

A 49-year-old father of two hits his alarm clock at 6:30 a.m., starts a pot of coffee and prepares for his daily commute. For the past three years, Bill Lewis has worked for a large company based in the heart of New York City; even though his home in Texas is nearly 2,000 miles from the office, Bill’s daily commute only takes him a few steps. Along with a rapidly growing percent of America’s workforce, Bill Lewis is a telecommuter, a remote employee. He completes his daily assignments from his front porch, sends e-mails from a coffee shop down the street, and holds conference calls in his living room.

In the past 10 years, this type of work environment has become one of the fastest growing trends in the corporate world. According to the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey, it is estimated that telecommuting rose 79% between 2005 and 2012, and with the constant evolution of communication technology, this trend shows no signs of stopping. (read more…)