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Loaay’s Two Cents
Got business problems or challenges at work? With his Two Cents column, Loaay Ahmed shares his expertise in strategic management consulting to help management, employees and entrepreneurs thrive.

By Loaay Ahmed, March (2011) edition of bazaar
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Loaay's Two Cents
Loaay's Two Cents
 

My team suggests ideas during our strategic planning meetings that are not the best or most efficient solutions. How do I give them feedback without destroying their creativity or enthusiasm?

 

LA: Many directors, CEOs and entrepreneurs think that they know best in their organization due to the seniority of their positions. So, make sure you are not turning their ideas away because of your ego. Also, it’s easy to subconsciously skip recognizing the employees and jump to picking holes in the ideas. When your mind is processing the ideas and thinking of what’s wrong, you can have an annoyed face without knowing. Avoid a reaction like, “This idea won’t work because of...” It sends a destructive message that puts people down. If you find a problem with an idea, don’t state it, but lead them to it. This is how you train your employees to think on their own. For example, consider saying, “That’s good thinking. Do you expect any operational productivity overload as a result of implementing your suggested idea?” If they say yes, ask them what they suggest to solve the challenge.

 

In general, be careful about your tone. Thank them for their effort and for their creative input and ask them to keep coming up with ideas especially when you won’t implement or develop their ideas for whatever reason. As Socrates once said, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”…and that’s just my two cents.

 

 

There are rumors in our company that it will be sold in the coming quarter. Some employees have already started to look for new jobs. The owners are not saying a word. Almost everybody is worried, should I?

 

LA: Holy memo! You and your colleagues have the right to be worried. Uncertainty and fear of the unknown are not feelings to be taken lightly. New ownership is the poster child for ‘change’. Some new owners might look at existing managers as part of the past and would feel the need to bring people they know and trust to help them get their money back as quick possible. If the new owners had a good breakfast on their first day at the company and half of their brain cells are working, they should investigate to find and keep the most effective and efficient managers. Of course, people below middle management don’t have much to worry about, unless there’s a strategic shift to cancel a department or to do some serious cost cutting, Ninja style.

 

For now, go to the elevator and press the button that takes you to the last floor. No, don’t jump; have a straight talk with the owners and pay attention to body language as well as the choice of words during the discussion. Take into consideration your current employer’s reputation and history when you’re drawing your own conclusions. If you’re still on the fence, you can always wait to see how the new owners behave. After all, even if they asked you to hit the road, you still have a notice period and the rest of this quarter to have more savings. You never know, they might surprise you and turn the company to a brighter future…and that’s just my two cents.

 

If you talk to any of our departments’ heads individually, you would see how much each cares about their departments. If you see the overall vibe and performance of the company, you would think that nobody is dedicated; otherwise, the business would’ve been much better. Where’s the missing link?

 

LA:Imagine going to restaurant for breakfast with your spouse or a friend. The place is nice and clean with an open kitchen style and other customers are busy eating and talking. Suddenly, everyone starts paying attention to the chef shouting as if he was in a street fight at the cooks for being late with preparing a dish, for doing things wrong, and for a general poor standard. Customers can tell from the reputation of the restaurant that the chef cares about the quality of the food, but this chef’s caring ruined the atmosphere for the guests. Sometimes, managers care about their departments more than caring about the company. Isn’t that a good thing, you might think? Well, while on the surface it might look positive, in reality, they’re damaging the business more than they think.

 

This chef we’re talking about cares about the quality of his department’s work. He wants every dish to look like a work of art and tastes like a piece of heaven. However, he forgot about the fact that he’s based in an open kitchen and that customers and other staff hear him clearly. Nevertheless, he was shouting over and over and over. As a result, the food came out at the end exactly like how he wants it, but you can bet your mouse pad that many of the customers who witnessed this noise pollution would not jump immediately on the idea of going to the same restaurant when a friend suggests it. It’s good to be dedicated to your job, not to your department. Otherwise, you will create a mini company within the company and you will start competing with other departments instead of real competition…and that’s just my two cents.

 

 

For Loaay Ahmed’s advice on business or work matters, send a short email to loaay@knightscapital.com. Please note that only the questions chosen for publishing will be answered.

Loaay Ahmed is a management consultant and strategic expert. To learn more about Loaay and his consulting service, strategic business therapy, visit www.knightscapital.com.

 
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