Friday, February 27, 2009


The whole world is now going through a difficult period. We all are experiencing a recession, in Israel where I live and write, as well as in the US and everywhere else.
Once, we used to think that globalization is a good thing; the recession has taught us that the absence of place and time limits has also its deficiencies, and globalization enables the spreading of less attractive factors, from the US to China, Europe, Israel and actually, every other place. Moreover, the US is not to blame. It could start also elsewhere (i.e. the SARS disease).

How should one manage the organization in a recession period? How should he or she manage their knowledge workers? Are there any guiding rules?
When one writes a book, s/he can choose to focus on specific areas, ignoring others, ignoring the happenings. When one writes a blog, people expect you to be connected to reality and to the existence. Not speaking on such issues may imply non-transparency and non-willing to open up.

Do not misunderstand me. The company, which I manage, while writing these lines, continues to makes its living, continues not to loose. Thus, even though we all are already four months inside an economic crisis. What will happen tomorrow? Will we continue to earn enough? No one can really know. For the time being, things are stable. Yet, this post is a necessity as we are all part of something big, bigger than us. It is important to speak about this management issue, even though it is not easy to hear, nor easy to say.

As this blog deals with managing the employees, the post will focus on the relevant issues, leaving out economic or other business aspects, all critical to the situation.

It is important to express and show transparency at this time. This does not imply that every business detail should be announced widely, and that every time we feel bad after a customer shares us with his distress, we should pass our feelings on, yet employees should be shared regarding the overall situation and updated periodically reflecting the changing trends.
I do believe that such a saying could be difficult to implement in times of growth and economic bubbles. While experiencing a recession, this might seem easier to implement. Now, employees are not so easily willing to move to another place of work, as it is probably more risky to be in a place that you do not know, that somewhere you already know and understand.
This therefore is not only a correct thing to say, but also an applicable one.

It is not less important to be sensitive to our subordinates. We must understand that each one and one of them experiences the instability differently, even though we are all in one company. The feelings may be a result of seniority in the organization, the job itself, the necessity as they sense it, and, of course, ones character.

It is important to be sensitive as each one of our employees has back at home parents, husbands, wives and other close people who may be in distress or even has maybe lost his or her job. Such an event can affect the emotional and economic state of the employee.

It is important to economize and save. Be cautious! Too much can seem as miserliness, or drive a feeling of instability. It is important to show that now is no party time; no spending time. Nevertheless, some small spending is important for our souls and we must find the right balance in between.

It is important to share the employees not only about facts regarding the recession and its impacts, rather in ways to change. Share your employees and ask them to share responsibility in bringing in new customers. Sit and speak with your employees asking them to come up with ideas how to offer more, or offer differently, considering the timing. This may result in better figures; moreover, we sense here the togetherness. People say that crisis is an opportunity. I would be happy to give up such opportunities if that's what it takes not to have any crisis. Yet, as the crisis is already here, let us drive higher cohesion between the company's employees.

It is important to be humble. To remember, that even if we think we are the best, we probably are not, and surely not perfect. Not everything is in our hands. In periods of growth and success, we as employers are captive somewhat, as we manage knowledge workers and these are free to leave and find some other place to work. Recession is employers' era. We must not take advantage! We must remain humble. We must remember that tomorrow will be a different era, but furthermore, we must remember to respect the other even though we are in charge and have the authority.

I read the lines above, and I suddenly realize; the crisis and the recess that followed teach us how to act, also in crisis time, but also in every other period. Maybe in recession it is a necessity, but it all times it is probably the proper and more dignified way to act.

Transparency, sensitivity, cohesion, sharing and humbleness. Not to much- yet everything.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Friday morning. Seven o'clock and I step into the Supermarket near home. This is the opening hour, and within minutes I look around and the place is full. People arrive, fill their carts, say hello and goodbye and move on. Every time, this simple operation fills me with pride to the place in which I live. In Tel-Aviv for example, Before Ten o'clock in the morning, no one wakes up, surely does not find him or herself in the Supermarket. I always feel proud; we have diligent people.
Many people have spoke about the importance of diligence. Voltaire has said that "The richness of a country depends on the amount of diligent people it holds"; Samuel Johnson claimed that " '''Few things are impossible to diligence and skill". Jean-Jacques Rousseau said that "Moderation and diligence are the true cure of the humanity", and in the Bible, in Proverbs, the book of wisdom, that was written by King Solomon, we find the saying: "Go to the ant, O sluggard, and consider her ways, and learn wisdom".
Diligence is ascribed, from what is said, to wisdom and success. Yet, I have a feeling that this word, the "diligence" has to be reminded sometimes, as we hear and use it less and less. I checked in Google and found only approximately 6 million times the word was mentioned. Wisdom, in comparison, is mentioned 76 million times, success 435 million times, beauty 659 million times and love is mentioned 2 billion times!
I can continue and compare diligence to many other words, but there is no need: The case is loud and clear. Diligence has lost its glory.

I believe, that even though we are in the 21st century, it is very important that our employees are diligent and that we nurture them in this direction. Why? Because diligence is probably an essential component in good performance; however, there is an additional reason: Diligence is an essential component also in entrepreneurship and in the organizations ability to maintain not only in the presence but also to step towards the future.

The interesting question is what is diligence in the practical level and how do we achieve it. I will share with my understanding of diligence and my way to it.

There are several aspects to diligence:
First, a diligent employee works enough hours and does not tend to miss hours or days of work. I speak with people who I interview to work, and explain that the work is at minimum nine hours a day. Many times, more is required. The truth is that I do not really require much more, unless we experience peeks. Organizations who demand 11-12 hours a day, do not deal, to my opinion, with diligence. I believe it is more like taking advantage of people. Diligence is positive, yet our body and souls need the rest so we can continue contributing also on the next day and week.

Another aspect to deal with diligence has to do with the time in which we respond and act. If missions are delayed up to the last moment, or performed almost as they are held out. I have learned that missions that are performed rather early take me less time, twofold: We remember the setting and all related details and therefore save energy of re-entering the subject. Furthermore, remembering we have another task, and trying to remember all details (until we start) takes energy and attention. A diligent person starts early. In the Bible, we find two people that started early: Abraham, who got up early in order to fill God's request to sacrifice his son Isaac; and Bilam, who got up early running on to curse the people of Israel.

The last aspect, regarding diligent, as I see it, has to do with the work we carry on. In every job, in every role, there are parts that are enriching, parts that challenge us intellectually and other parts are less cherishing. Sometimes we think a less skilled person could fill in, sometimes it includes parts we do not like to do.
Even though it may be not the definition of diligence, I found out, that diligent people never say no to a mission, also if they do not fantasy it. They never say they are overqualified, or that they were not hired for this type of missions. Diligent people are prepared to work. Even if it is work, and not fun.

How do I achieve diligence within my employees?
I do so in two simple ways:
a) I demand diligence from all employees, in all three aspects mentioned.
b) I try to give them a good example. Role modeling.

Does it work? I believe so. Even though we are in the 21st century and diligence is not a sexy or trendy word, the employees are diligence. I indeed appreciate them for that.