The art of getting someone else to do something
you want done because he wants to do it.
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
The good news for the charisma-challenged of us is that
leading -- influencing people to take effective action -- doesn't
really require an exciting personality. Leading is not necessarily getting
people to do things they don't want to.
Leading can be broken down into these activities:
"The buck stops here."
-- Harry Truman's desk
Decision-making includes all the work done to reach the conclusions and
judgments needed for people to act. Leaders are counted on to make decisions
-- and good ones.
Decisions can be classified as either spontaneous or rational. There
are appropriate circumstances for each type.
- A spontaneous decision is reached intuitively, perhaps based on prior
experience, with little attempt to
ascertain facts. In emergencies, spontaneous decisions may be
- A rational decision is based an logical analysis of a problem or opportunity.
When time permits, fact-finding and logic may produce better decisions.
A recommended procedure for reaching rational decisions is taken
from the Scientific Method:
- State the apparent problem
- Gather facts
- Use the facts to define the real problem, which may differ from the apparent problem.
- Develop alternative solutions and assess them
- Select the best solution
- Determine a course of action
- Evaluate your decision
Here are some principles to guide you
- Problem definition -- effective action usually requires an adequate definition of the
problem. Poor ore absent problem definitions are primary
causes of failure to solve problems. A good problem definition will often
suggest its solution.
- Adequate evidence -- a good problem definition rests on the underpinning evidence.
Do not stint on fact-gathering, even if some turn out to be irrelevant.
- Differing perceptions -- Facts may be seen differently from
different perspectives. One excellent leader felt that, unless at least one
person disagreed with a group consensus, an inadequate range of perspectives had been
Past decisions tend to restrict or limit future decisions. For example,
IBM's commitment to main-frame computers left it slow to see and respond to
the personal computer explosion of the 1980s. In its rush to get its own PC
to market, it let Bill Gates' Microsoft team retain the rights to the
Management Action Plan
The form on this page combines the aspects of planning and leading into one
convenient place. It has proved highly useful.
Understanding & Acceptance, Style
Almost more important than the nature of the decision is the
understanding & acceptance it receives by those to whom it applies. The more
understood and accepted a decision, the easier its implementation.
The style of decision-making can heavily influence understanding &
acceptance. Unilateral decisions te4nd to be poorly undertood and grudgingly
accepted. Collegial decision-making processes tend to lead to fuller
understanding and wider acceptance.
We'll take this up here because decisions are often made in meetings,
though recently, many meetings are a series of e-mail and text-message exchanges.
Regardless of the medium, there are some guidelines for success.
Plan the agenda
Set a tangible goal and the intermediate steps for achieving it. The
agenda will show when the meeting is losing focus or spinning its
Start and end on time
Convey the message that everyone's time is valuable and not to be wasted.
Start with a team-building moment
Get everyone working together.
End with "who will do what, & by when"
Seal the deal with actions.
“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said,
but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
-- Robert McCloskey
"... And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!"
-- The blind men and the elephant,
Indian legend &
19th century poem by John Godfrey Saxe
Communicating consists of creating understanding among people so that
they can act effectively. Communication seems simple but as the quotations
above show, it can be extremely
Communication is a process; its components include asking, telling, listening and
understanding. Barriers include language, selectivity (hearing what one wants to
hear) and emotion.
Many leaders confuse form with function. The forms may be many; the function
is to create shared understandings. One respected manager advocated "management
by walking around"; as he walked, he not only absorbed information for
future decisions but
communicated to workers that they and their work were important.
Communicating is a two-way street, or a multi-way intersection. It's not
only about what the manager puts out, but also what he or she takes in. Objective facts
are only part of the information; feelings and perceptions can be equally important.
You can improve your communicating as a leader by
- Knowing what you want to say -- get the message clear in your own mind;
plan & rehearse (or re-write).
- Knowing your audience -- start where they are; talk or write neither above
nor below your audience's present understanding; gradually lead to more
- Getting favorable attention at the outset and maintaining it. (When they start to fidget
or look away,
it may be too late.)
- Securing understanding -- this is the communicator's goal and
the key test of its effectiveness.
- Ensuring retention -- messages "here today, gone tomorrow" aren't effective
- Encouraging feedback -- helps clear up misunderstandings and reinforce
A leader also communicates by setting an example. His or her behavior
either reinforces or undermines the intended message.
Since the 1980s, the importance of "organization culture" (the
environment) has become recognized. Some organizations celebrate innovation;
others conformity. Some value profit; others social good. For example, how
would you compare the culture of Goldman-Sachs with that of Google?
Leaders help to establish culture by how and what they communicate. An
excellent article by John Kotter discusses how the culture of Eastman
Kodak kept it from adapting to the change from chemical film to digital imaging.
Once one of America's leading, most-profitable and most-respected companies, it
filed for bankruptcy in January 2012. According to Kotter, Kodak developed a culture of complacency:
"Of course all the people buried in the hierarchy who saw the oncoming problems and had ideas
for solutions made no progress. Their bosses and peers ignored them."
The proper culture for a DNA genealogy project values rationality,
objectivity, fairness, and open-mindedness. It discourages, prejudice and
Listening & hearing
Understanding another's intended message is equally important to communication.
It is often taken for granted and neglected; many people would rather talk
This requires "active listening" or, in written communication,
"active reading". Techniques include:
- Clear your mind of your own thoughts so you can receive others'. Don't be
thinking of your response before you've got what the other has to say.
- Avoid assuming you know what they'll say before they say it.
- Look at the speaker. It signals that what they're saying is important to
you. And, you may pick up additional clues in body language.
- Question: Ask questions about what they said; ask them to explain
- Reflection: Reflect back what you've understood, "Are you saying ...?".
- Above all: Do not interrupt or interject; give time to finish the
The goal, at this point, is not to press your own point but to understand
theirs and establish trust that you can and do listen.
In the Kodak example above, the company's leadership had developed a culture
antithetical to listening.
Communicating is a vital part of the administrator's job; it will take up more time and
effort than any other single activity. You will need to communicate with
- Project members
- Welcome letter: New members
should be acknowledged, thanked and introduced to the project's way of
operating. Their roles and that of the admin team should be spelled out.
Results/match letter: When members match each other, the parties should be informed of the
matches and the implications.
- Drop letter: It becomes necessary from
time to time to remove a person from membership
- Periodic updates: Periodic reports from the project admin
promote a sense fo belonging to an active group and can be a vehicle for
communicating desired messages.
- Queries: Members (present and prospective) will have multitudes of questions. They look
to the admin team to answer.
- Prospective members and curious persons
- FTDNA staff
- Other project admins
The above list shows a wide range in levels of understanding.
The real problem is to communicate at a level, and in a way, that makes sense
to the other party.
Timeliness is an important aspect of communication. Endeavor to respond
within a day.
"Great ideas need landing gear as well as wings."
-- C.D. Jackson
“Enthusiasm is excitement with inspiration, motivation, and a pinch of creativity.”
-- Bo Bennett
Motivating includes the activities to the inspire, encourage and impel people to take
effective action. In the final analysis, it is done by the motivated, not
to them. A manager's
role is to create the climate for motivation to occur.
The key test of motivating is understanding & acceptance that a particular action is necessary,
not necessarily enthusiasm or agreement, Many of the men who rushed Omaha
Beach on D-Day 1944 would have rather been somewhere else; they acted
bravely because they understood and accepted that it was necessary.
Part of motivating is explaining the organization's needs. Many bosses
have won my understanding and acceptance of an undesirable
assignment by simply saying "We need you to do this."
Maslow's hierarchy of needs is helpful: Motivation comes from need
satisfaction. As people satisfy their most basic needs (food, shelter, clothing)
they move on to higher needs, among which is self-actualization.
Communicating and motivating are closely related.
- Communicating creates understanding.
- Motivating creates acceptance.
A very effective way to motivate -- especially, project participants -- is to start from the needs of
of those you wish to motivate. This topic is worth its own,separate page.
“He who chooses the beginning of the road chooses the place it leads to."
It is the means that determines the end."
-- Harry Emerson Fosdick, 1878-1969
“The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to
their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”
-- Vince Lombardi
Finding and choosing the right people to work with and/or promote is one of a
manager's most important activities. The people chosen will determine
accomplishment (or not) of the objectives and affect the organization's
success, perhaps long after the manager.
Future performance potential is often best predicted by past accomplishments. We look
for demonstrated performance, work habits, and how a candidate's qualifications
fit with the job requirements.
We are all, perhaps, familiar with the standard hiring procedure of
applications, first interviews, follow-up interviews, etc. Before that process
begins, the manager should be sure the job is necessary and specify
qualifications for it.
During the 2008-2012 recession, many employers received more applications and resumés than they could handle. Their follow-up wasn't perhaps, as prompt as it
should have been.
TFG Admin Team
Volunteers may be hard to find, particularly in such a narrow field as
genetic genealogy. One looks for those with an interest more general than
his or her own family history, a willingness to learn and motivation to give
a few hours per week to the project.
Introverts and Extroverts
Good people come int all types. Personalities differ widely.
Many attracted to genetic genealogy are introverts. We have
for working with them.
"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day;
teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
"The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches
but to reveal to him his own."
-- Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister
As important as selecting the right people is to help them improve their
knowledge, skills and attitudes. It's often said that one duty of every
manager is to train his or her replacement.
Performance evaluation is at the heart of development and, therefore, ties
into measuring performance. It communicates to
the employee how he's meeting the standards and should not be
confined to an annual formal appraisal; it should be done continuously.
Many managers procrastinate on performance evaluation or give it short
shrift. An honest appraisal may require saying things the person doesn't want
to hear. However, attempted firings are often overturned because performance evaluations said the employee was doing a good
Performance evaluation, in a volunteer environment, is more difficult; a
bad evaluation could cause the volunteer to quit working. And yet, we don't
want to ignore the need to improve performance. Here is a way to frame the "needs improvement" aspects:
- Lead with a positive statement, what the person has done well.
- Follow with the
difficult part, the criticism
- Describe the expectations.
(You'll need them clear in your own mind.)
- Describe the actual performance.
- Show how expectations and performance differ and how it affects the
- Ask the person for ideas on how to improve.
- Keep asking until the ideas turn into tangible actions. (A
suggestion or so may help guide the process.)
- Seal the deal; make it a contract between the two of you.
- Close with another positive.
Once you've gone through this, you aren't done. You'll need to follow up.
Other development options
Other ways of developing include formal training and developmental
assignments. A manager might delegate an activity which requires an employee to
stretch his or her abilities in order to complete it.
Counseling, or coaching, also aids development. It starts with
discussing the work the person is doing and the results they're getting. Then, it
proceeds into advice, help and encouragement.
Sometimes, "counseling" is the last procedurally-required step before
"de-selecting" (firing). Here, the important aspect is to point out what the employee was supposed
to do, what they actually did and how the two differed.
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