List Making

Of all the tools we have at our disposal as managers, list making is probably the single most important tool for improving the productivity of your associates, as well as yourself.  I encourage not only managers, but all associates to become disciplined list makers.  There is usually so much work to be done it is impossible to rely on our memory to keep track of what needs done.  That’s when things start to fall through the cracks and get overlooked.  Making a list of things to do for each associate and ourselves must become part of our daily routine.  So where do we start?

We start by making a master list – an all-encompassing list of tasks to be done.  Anything we see or think of should be recorded on our master list – even the smallest of details.   Routinely walk your lot, your facility, inspect the offices and work areas of your associates and list all items you see needing attention.

From that master list, we can prioritize our tasks.  What needs to be done today?  What must be accomplished within the next week, the next month, the next quarter, etc.  The next step is to determine who is to perform the task, as well as when and where the work should be done.  Keep in mind that list making requires more than just writing down things to do.  The art of list making is methodically planning the day’s workload to encourage the associate to work at a quicker pace therefore accomplishing more, without overloading them with unreasonable expectations of what can be accomplished in a certain period.  Too few items on the list doesn’t usually challenge our associate to improve their performance while too many items can create a sense of defeat before they ever get started.  There are many benefits to good list making techniques.

  • The master list is a comprehensive never-ending list of things to do. I’m a bit old school – give me a pen and a legal pad, and then turn me loose.  Some folks choose to maintain their master list electronically on their phone or tablet.   The point is not the means, but the results.   Ultimately, I want to make a daily work list that will challenge my associate but can be accomplished in one day.
  • Prioritize what needs done now and what can wait. Decide who needs to do what and then make a list for each associate.
  • Meet with each associate, review their daily work list and communicate expectations. Make sure my associate clearly understands what is expected of them.
  • Make sure he or she has the training and the tools needed to complete their daily list.
  • Periodically follow up and communicate with each associate throughout the day assessing their performance, helping them overcome obstacles, praising their good work and providing feedback on the areas where they have struggled or failed to meet expectations.
  • At that time also discuss what could have been done differently to influence the outcome.
  • Require them to mark off each item when completed and return the list to you at the end of the day. Take time to acknowledge their accomplishments and question the unfinished tasks.  Let them tell you the challenges they encountered that prevented them from completing the list.
  • Usually any unfinished items carry over to the following day and at the top of the list, so the associate knows the priority is to finish what didn’t get done the previous day before starting on the new list of things to do.
  • As items are completed, mark them off your master list. As you are marking things off the list, you are also adding new tasks to your list.
  • Once a week (I chose Saturday morning), tear out all pages and start a fresh list, carrying over the unfinished items.
  • List making provides opportunities for associates to show what they know and can do, while at the same time identify opportunities for improvement, which also identifies areas where we as managers can improve our training and development of our associates.
  • There is an art to list making and my experience is that few managers really maximize the value of making a work list for their associates, as well as themselves.

Make no mistake, there are managers out there who do well despite being poor list makers.  But realize that they probably work harder and longer hours than needed, and their associates probably are not as well trained, and the entire lot may be lacking in discipline.  But also understand that those managers who have the discipline to make good, thoughtful work lists day after day will have more success, less turnover, and better trained associates who can be promoted.

The choice is yours – you can become proficient at planning and writing good work lists and enjoy increased success, or you can choose to ignore this incredibly simple but effective tool and make your job and that of your associates more difficult than needed.

Make the commitment to become an effective list maker.  Do the things it takes to make sure your associates are productive every minute they are on the clock.  Do these things now so that you are better equipped to manage more staff, more customers and more profit as your business grows.

Finally, know undoubtedly the habits you are developing today will have a tremendous impact on your future and that of your associates.

-Eddie Hight, November 16th, 2018

Legacy

A few weeks ago, I lost a dear friend with whom I had worked with for nearly 20 years. At the funeral, her daughter talked about her mother’s legacy. I thought I knew Miss Jean well, but I learned much more about her that day. From the outside looking in, she wasn’t anything special – she wasn’t a manager or a leader – she just showed up for work everyday and did her job in the accounting department, which she did very well. She lived a very quiet, simple life.

Her daughter continued talking about her mother’s legacy and her impact on the world around her. As she closed out the celebration of her mother’s life, she asked each of us to consider what our legacy would be when we left this world.

The thesaurus within my computer states there are two meaning to the word legacy: bequest and relic. For this particular discussion, let’s choose relic. My thesaurus listed 8 synonyms for relic of which we will choose two: residue and remainder. Finally, my computer’s dictionary describes legacy as “something from the past”. Boom – case closed. Our legacy is our residue, our remainder – the things we leave behind (good or bad) that define who we were to those who were around us.

To me, Miss Jean’s legacy was one of “others first, me second”. She had an uncanny ability to sense when I needed some encouragement. During such times, it was not unusual to find slid under my office door a card from her with a handwritten note of encouragement. I can’t tell you how many times her thoughtfulness made my day much brighter.

So, what does this have to do with our business environment? Everything. From your associates to your customers to your vendors and everyone in between that you encounter, you will leave a legacy. What will yours be? What will you leave behind for your associates and customers to remember you by? Some may not care, but I believe most people want to be remembered for the difference they made with the folks within their sphere of influence. Don’t minimize the impact you have on those around you. You as a business owner have a tremendous obligation to your associates and your customers. Teach them. Train them. Treat them with respect. Make a positive difference wherever you can, and your legacy will be one you and your family will be proud of. One final thought for you to chew on: you are now becoming what you someday wish to be for today’s thoughts and behaviors shape your future.

How do your customers, vendors, and associates perceive you?

-Eddie Hight, November 9th, 2018

What’s The Problem?

Lightbulb on blackboard idea bubble

Some days it’s more like “what’s NOT the problem”! Of the many hats we wear daily as owner/operators or managers, the Problem Solver hat often occupies much more of our time than needed.

Consider the following questions:

  • Do I have the right associates in the right positions?
  • Are my associates adequately trained considering their tenure?
  • Have I empowered them to make decisions within the boundaries set for them?
  • Have I created a culture in which my associates aren’t afraid to make a mistake (customer service withstanding) without fear of reprimand?
  • Can my business function smoothly if I am unreachable for one week?

If you answered no to any of these questions, then you my friend are the problem. As your business grows, so does your staff, inventory, customer base, and sometimes your facility. When you feel that you must make all the decisions, or at least be in control of the outcome of decisions, you become a bottleneck that slows associate productivity and stifles associate growth.

There are problems that only you can solve; decisions that only you can make. Those belong to you and no one else. But train your associates to handle the problems that are inherent to their position, establish the boundaries within which they can freely make decisions. Then provide routine follow up.

As owners or managers, we can get in our own way and make things more difficult than necessary. I can’t speak to their validity, but I want to close with some humorous but very real examples of how management can allow a problem to become much larger than the solution.

In the early days of our space program, NASA discovered normal pens would not work in space. They subsequently spent years and millions of dollars developing a pen that would write on any surface under any condition. Russia simply chose to use pencils.

A rather sizable Japanese cosmetic company received a consumer complaint that a couple of the boxes purchased contained no product (which happened to be bars of soap) inside the box. Management demanded immediate action and the engineers implemented a high definition X-ray machine monitored by two associates, to see inside the boxes as they passed by on the line.

A rank and file associate questioned the need for such an elaborate and time-consuming process and asked he could have a crack at it. He returned with a pedestal fan, plugged it in, faced it towards the production line and turned it on high. A $40 fan accomplished the same thing as the X-Ray machine for a fraction of the cost. I can list a few examples that relate directly to your business, but you get the idea…

  • Train your associates
  • Establish boundaries
  • Empower your associates
  • Get out of their way and allow them to do their job, so you have the time to do yours!

Training and empowering your associates will!

-Eddie Hight, June 8th, 2018