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Kenneth W. Keller: How healthy is your company heart?

Brain Food For Business People

Posted: January 26, 2010 9:31 p.m.
Updated: January 27, 2010 4:55 a.m.
The heart in your chest pumps 72 times every minute. According to, your heart is essentially a pump, a muscle pumping blood throughout the body. Blood carries all the vital materials which help bodies function and removes unneeded waste products. The heart is a very efficient muscle except when it becomes damaged.

If the heart ever ceases to pump blood, the body begins to shut down, and after a very short period of time will die.

The human heart is to the body what the management team is to an organization. How healthy is your "company heart?" Is your management team strong and effective, or damaged and struggling?

People often talk about "our people being our greatest asset." Often, they are, but only if they are managed well. As the leader, are you managing your managers?

The late management guru Peter Drucker wrote that a manager's job consists of five key parts.

The first part is that he or she is responsible for determining the overall objective of the group, setting goals for each member of the group and making the decision as to what needs to be done to reach those goals and objectives.

Do your managers set objectives for each individual who reports to them? What are the department goals? Have you, the leader, personally seen these and provided feedback, or simply trusted that your management staff has followed through?

The second part of the manager's job is to organize. The manager divides the work into achievable chunks and decides who must do what.

Do your managers have a plan for achieving the goals that have been set, both as a team and individually? Have you, the leader, reviewed these plans to make certain they make sense and are achievable?

The third part of the manager's job is to motivate and communicate. The manager creates a team out of the workers, so they can work together toward a common goal.

Have you coached your managers as to the best practices on motivating people? Are you checking to see that communication flows openly between employees and managers?

The fourth job is for the manager to measure, creating yardsticks, targets and goals, and making the decision as to whether or not individuals and the team achieve them.

Are your managers advising their people of where they stand in relation to goals set? How often is this communicated?

Does a formal, written appraisal system exist? When was the last time you, the leader, actually read a written performance appraisal created by a manager?

Finally, a manager develops people. Employees today are individuals who must be trained and developed to achieve the potential of the organization. Your employees are all in the relationship business.

What are your managers' development plans for the employees who work for them? What is your plan, as the leader, for developing your managers?

The heart is hidden inside the body, protected by a strong rib cage. People with cardiac issues often don't realize their heart is not working the way it is supposed to because the symptoms appear unrelated: a little light-headedness; tiring easily; insignificant pain in the chest.

Most people assume everything is okay until something dramatic happens or a symptom is investigated further.

The same is true with management: On the surface, the management team can be seen as "running well."

The usual problems with a management team include blockage of information, poor work flow, undefined processes, slow decision making, lack of follow through, lack of communication, undefined goals, too many management layers, failure to measure progress of teams and individuals and focusing on the wrong priorities.

As happens in the heart, a single poorly performing manager in a critical position can damage the organization.

It may take years for a damaged heart to give up, dying slowly each day. Or it could happen suddenly, seemingly without warning. The same is true of a management team.

How healthy is your management team - the heart of your company? It could be failing and you might never know it.

Ken Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums, which brings business owners together in facilitated peer advisory boards. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Brain Food for Business People" appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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