The Long & Short of It

The saying; The Long & Short of It is from a play called “The Merry Wives of Windsor”.  It is a comedy written in 1595 by William Shakespeare, played to an audience in Berkshire, England in 1602 and centres around an individual (John Falstaff) who decides to court two wealthy married women in his search for financial stability.

The saying itself means the plain and simple truth or substance of discussion when numerous details are being presented and you wish to cut to the so called facts by removing yourself from all of the rhetoric.

The other day I was reading a piece by Tim Arnold the President of Leaders for Leaders located in the Niagara Region of Ontario. Tim does a wonderful job in inspiring our leaders of today and preparing them for the challenges of tomorrow. Tim wrote about his interview with Allison Alley, President & CEO of Compassion Canada; a not for profit Canadian organization located in London, Ontario. What Allison and Tim had to say inspired me to take heed of the content and put some colour and private sector credibility into what was said. Not all content in this article is mine, it really belongs to Allison and Tim however, the real life, drama and experiences are mine and I’d like to share them with you.

Since March 13, 2020, we have been inundated with Covid 19 news and most of it doom and gloom. From companies laying off workers at unprecedented rates, corporate closures and bankruptcies, citizens receiving pandemic relief funding that they weren’t entitled to and the erosion of the middle class – we have heard it all. Now no one is saying that the news isn’t true however; perhaps we ought to accentuate some of the positives and minimize the negatives during these depressing times.

This brings me back to “The Long and Short of It” and that is – we have been through HELL and we are coming out the other side albeit torn and tattered but, still standing because – we are great and so are the organizations that we are a part of.

One thing Covid 19 has taught some organizations is that they might have to reinvent themselves while employing some of the following tactics in navigating the road to success during these unstructured and undefined times.  This is my opportunity to tell you a little about how some of my clients (PHM Brands, Hammond Power Solutions, Martinrea and Mondelez Canada) are employing these tactics or a reasonable facsimile there of, to the greater good of their organizations.

These tactics are:

  • Systematizing the Present
  • Setting Short Term Goals
  • Employing Vision Dogmatism
  • Being an Information Funnel
  • Democratizing Knowledge
  • Having Coffee with Team Members

Systematize the Present:

There are great things happening in an organization every day – even in the most difficult of times. Make sure people are aware of these signs of progress. Create programs and systems across the organization to capture and share these everyday wins.

PHM Brands in Denver, Colorado employ a Thankful Tuesday program which encourages team members to express gratitude for what they have accomplished either on the job or outside the job in their personal lives.

Mondelez Canada utilize a Good News Company Channel that gets uploaded with stories from staff and the people they serve every day, whether it be internal or external clientele.

Both programs have one thing in common, it gives the employee the right to brag and feel great about their accomplishments and the effects are contagious.  It’s a built in stabilizer that allows for employee engagement and motivation while providing a sense of self esteem and self awareness for team members who wish to participate.

Set Short-Term Goals:

Larry Lichty, Director of Human Resources at Hammond Power Solutions in Guelph, Ontario, always told the Corporate Leadership Team; “the longest journey begins with the shortest step and the shortest step is all about setting short term goals”. Perhaps that may be one of the reasons why Hammond is so successful in an extremely competitive industry and are an international powerhouse in providing electrical power based solutions the world over.

It is not always possible to accomplish your vision right away, which means that team members need quick wins to stay optimistic and hopeful. Leaders ought to set “lead goals” for their team on things they have direct control over. Seeing these short-term goals achieved and celebrating the success together allows team members to realize they are having real impact and things are moving in a good direction. 

Vision Dogmatism:

AKA “The Brady Principle”………it is imperative that leaders remind team members about the big picture and where we’re headed as an organization. People need to be constantly clear on – and inspired by – the corporate vision. Corporate vision leads to corporate progress and that reminds team members why their hard work and struggles are important and why it will be worth it in the end. 

PHM Brands Executive Vice Presidents, John Mason and Bryan Ledgerwood continuously talk about the corporate vision to their people, vendors, clients and investors because, as Mr. Mason stated; “we need our team to focus on the prize and forget about the things that we cannot control”.

There is an old saying in the food and beverage industry and Mason and Ledgerwood firm believers in this philosophy and that is; when team members are doing the doings – they can’t be doing the don’ts

Being An Information Funnel:

As a leader you have to call things out and create a shared language and common understanding around the challenges you face as an organization. Accentuate the positives (past and present) and don’t lose sight of the challenges that face the company in the future.

A technique made popular by E.D. Smith of Winona back in the early 80’s; the Information Funnel followed a pattern regular town hall sessions. These town hall sessions invested a considerable amount of time talking about the real time challenges that the company was facing and how these challenges may impact all team members. It was also a platform for positive reinforcement through key successes that allowed for growth and development and provided a way forward for all. 

The Information Funnel technique virtually worked itself through all business units in Winona and other facilities in the form of “Huddle Board” meetings which occurred ten minutes before the start of work and became a ritual onto itself.

This technique proved to be extremely successful in terms of information update and exchange and lead to a 25 % decrease in costs of services provided.

Democratization of Knowledge:

Another technique that was founded by E.D. Smith of Winona was the Democratization of Knowledge Principle whereby; leaders make pertinent company data and strategy accessible to employees across the organization, regardless of their role or business unit. In doing so, organizations place everyone on a level playing field and allows team members to always feel they are “in the know”. This also means that individual and team work plans are shared knowledge to ensure everyone is clear on how we’re doing collectively and individually and how their efforts affect the overall success of the organization. 

Coffee with Team Members:

There is a lesson for all Leaders to learn about having coffee with team members. The information glean that is derived is tantamount to company success because it creates a foundation of untapped wisdom.

Paul Maher, Human Resources Manager at Martinrea International in Tillsonburg has an interesting philosophy. A man of courage and conviction, every week or so,  he carves out sixty to ninety minutes to sit down with four to six team members from across the organization. With the value of radical candour (caring personally and challenging directly), he shares with them where Martinrea are as an organization and what he believes is coming around the corner. He also requests that team members share with him one thing that they think he doesn’t know but should know. Paul also invites comments around one thing that is not being talked about as an organization but, they believe we should be talking about. 

 Watch Outs:

The aforementioned strategies are not without risk. The risk is that the organization and leadership maybe over dosing optimism, confidence and communication with realism. Some of the tell tale signs centre around the following.

Loss of Story:

There are times when we as leaders put an abundance of energy into knowing the metrics and making sure our meetings and communications are data informed. However, we don’t pay close attention to the subservient feedback.

Anytime a leader hears feedback from team members that your tactics have a tendency to be boring or lack energy and inspiration, think in terms of overpowering the organizations story and vision. It may also be people are getting tired of the “same old – same old”. Make it fun – make it interesting – make it the teams way. 

Running on Empty:

We have super high expectations on each team member and realize that their jobs require them to navigate heavy issues that include accessing, hiring and onboarding the right people while getting the results we need to stay relevant. Despite this, our workplace culture is normally incredibly positive, and engagement is high. So, pay close attention to anytime you as a leader feel a sense of loss of focus and fatigue in team members. This may be a watch out that tells us we the leadership team need to find ways to boost optimism, positivity and a sense of well being. 

Summary:

In the words of Allison Alley;  “There is wisdom in the cliché, tough times don’t last, tough leaders do. Right now, the world needs effective leaders more than ever. Leaders who inspire those around them to have faith that our families, communities and businesses will overcome in the end, regardless of how tough things get. Leaders who can also help their teams, friends and families confront the brutal facts of the current reality, no matter how hard they are to face. This means we need leaders who refuse to be optimistic or realistic but, instead are both optimistic and realistic so that they can safely pave the way to a better and brighter future”

And that is “The Long and Short of It”

About The Author.

Nicholas Pollice is President of The Pollice Management Consulting Group located in Niagara, Ontario, Canada. An international presenter and consultant, he is known as a leader in operations management.  Nicholas conducts programs in leadership, supervision, communication, negotiation and conflict resolution. He has been a consultant since 1989 and is the author of several professional publications. His presentations have been consistently ranked in the top 10  % throughout North America. See Nicholas’ bio, his other publications and services on the PMCG.