Pamela A. Scott


Joshua’s a List Maker

by Pamela A. Scott,

I got a call from a client today about a problem with a direct report. Here’s the situation.

Joshua's a List MakerSituation

Bob, owner of a 25-person civil engineering firm, needs Joshua, a senior project manager, to drop what he (Joshua) is doing and call Marty at Topsoil Construction. It’s urgent—Marty has some concerns that need to be addressed right away. Topsoil is a major client, worth at least $500,000 of business each year. They also are a long-time, repeat client—an A-level client without a doubt.

Bob went by Joshua’s office at 8 a.m. today and explained the situation. Joshua said he would get on it.

At noon, Bob checked back in with Joshua, expecting to hear how the call went and that problems were resolved. Joshua said he hadn’t called yet and would get to it probably around 4 p.m.

Bob is furious. “What do I have to do to get Joshua to jump when I say ‘jump’? You know what I mean—get a sense of urgency about something.”

Insight into Joshua’s world

Joshua is a list-maker. Every morning he reviews yesterday’s list to make sure everything got done. Then he makes a to-do list for today. The items are numbered 1 through whatever. Then Joshua works his list. He does No. 1 until it’s done, and he can check it off. Then he moves to No.2, and so on.

Unfortunately, Bob didn’t get to Joshua before Joshua made today’s to-do list. So when Bob told Joshua to call Marty, Marty got added to today’s list. Marty is now No. 7 on what was a six-item list.

I joke that if the office were on fire and Bob yelled to evacuate, Joshua would keep working his list until he got to “No. 10–evacuate burning building.” The building could burn down around him—he’s only on No. 7 on his list. Learn More »

How to Manage Up

by Pamela A. Scott

Last week I talked about characteristics of the Millennials, the young people you are hiring today. If you check last week’s post, you will see a great comment and additional info from one
How to Manage Upof our readers. Thank you, unidentified reader, for contributing.

This week, let’s explore a 24-year-old Millennial who has to manage a 55-year-old Boomer.


Respect Boomers’ experience and use it. Ask them about the history of projects and relationships. Rely on their expertise.

Don’t worry about being talked down to. It’s hard for me to type that, but I’m sure that Boomers probably come across as patronizing when addressing a Millennial boss. The Boomer’s generation valued experience and time on the job. That won’t change overnight. Learn More »

Ming and the Biz of Biz

By Pamela A. Scott

I was meeting with Ming, CEO of a firm with 120 engineers and architects. Ming shared his dismay about staff’s perceptions about recent changes in the business. “We’ve had to make Focus on all the Letterssome cutbacks, due to a slowdown in the market. Some of those changes included cutting back on our training costs and requiring staff to strategically plan their trips to minimize travel costs and time away from the office.”

As always, my staff engineers are questioning the changes. Their target is the business development folks. ‘You’re asking us to make cutbacks, but Don and Janet still play golf, go to ballgames, and more. They’re never in the office. Why are they so special?’

“I don’t know what to do to help the engineers understand why the business development (BD) staff do what they do.”

The Situation

Ming’s dilemma is common to all businesses, regardless of size. The troops have tunnel vision. Each employee only knows his or her small piece of the business. They don’t understand that doing business is a long process, and they are each one little point in the process.

Let’s use the alphabet as a simple example. As you know, there are 26 letters that go from A to Z. Say your name begins with S. Then for you, S is the focus of your alphabet. As S, you don’t focus on the other 25 letters. If your name begins with C, C is your focus. As C, you don’t pay much attention to the other 25 letters. Learn More »

Getting the Troops to Understand You! [part II]

by Pamela A. Scott,

To recap from the October blog – part 1: Glenn, CEO of a midsize engineering firm, is frustrated because he thinks he is communicating his annual state of the company message clearly, but the troops never seem to get it. What can he do?

The Challenges

When you are addressing a large, diverse group of people, you have multiple needs to meet.

  1. Some listeners/readers want a history of how we got to where we are. This is a favored approach for many engineers. So, you tell your story from a chronological standpoint. “In 2006, we were here… In 2007, we…”
  2. Upon hearing that, other folks will think, “Here we go again. Same old, same old.” And they will stop listening. These are likely the folks who want the big picture: “Where are we going in 2008? What new markets are we looking at? What new and exciting opportunities do we expect to find?” They are looking to the future and new possibilities.
  3. You have the group that wants to hear the logic behind these plans. This group can come across as challenging you and your thinking. Consider who we are talking about—engineers. They are natural problem solvers who are going to find problems even when you think you’ve taken care of all the problems. For this group, you have to enlighten them on the thinking behind your decisions.
  4. Then there are the folks who always want to know about the impact on the people. Learn More »
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