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Golden business ideas.

Here are a few tips to remember and pass along to fellow travelers:

* In an airport, if someone accidentally spills food on you and then offers to help you clean it up, be especially alert. An accomplice may be nearby waiting to slip away with your luggage while you're preoccupied. Ditto if someone asks you to take a picture of them.

* When loading luggage onto the X-ray scanner, be sure everything--especially your laptop--fully enters the scanner tunnel before walking through yourself. If you leave any luggage poking out of the entry end of the tunnel, a passerby could easily lift it as you turn your back and walk through. And keep an eye out at the other end of the scanner, too.

When Empowerment Works

Many of today's management gurus advocate empowerment training programs as a key ingredient for invigorating a less-than-sparkling staff. And for some workers, empowerment is just what the doctor ordered. But for others empowerment can be a form of punishment: They like their work niche, it's comfortable and they do their job well. They resist taking on any more responsibility--sometimes because they know they are intellectually or emotionally incapable of handling it. Wisely, they will say, "No, thank-you"

What to do? If you're leaning toward initiating an empowerment program, survey your staff first and let workers weed themselves out. It could spare you many headaches.

The Power of Feedback

You spend 20 minutes outlining a project that your staff is expected to execute. In closing you ask, "Any questions?" How many times do you get a nod in response or just one or two questions? And then, when the work gets under way, some people do it incorrectly.

What went wrong?

Some people, of course, think they understand (so they nod and don't ask questions), but they really don't get it. Others don't understand, but they don't want to look stupid so they say nothing. Either way, the job fails to get done properly, and that's what you'd like to fix.

Solution: Ask listeners to give back your instructions in their own words.

Bonus: When you hear the feedback, you may not only uncover what they misunderstand, you may even discover disconnects in your plan or you may realize there are better ways to implement it.

Are You a Leader or a Manager?.

It's not widely acknowledged, but it's rare for even a good executive to be both a leader and a manager. Many top executives confuse the two roles--appointing the wrong person to a critical job. A leader, for example, innovates; a manager administers. The difference is fundamental and the skills are not always transferable. So when you're hiring an executive, keep these advisories in mind:

* Leaders focus on people; managers focus on systems and structures.

* Leaders inspire trust; managers use control.

* Leaders have a long-range view; managers take a shorter-range view.

* Leaders originate; managers imitate and execute.

* Leaders ask what and why; managers ask how and when.

* Leaders search the horizon; managers watch the bottom line.

Confuse the two roles at your peril.

An Invitation

The JofA publishes a monthly collection of Golden Business Ideas and invites readers to contribute their favorites (for attribution, if you like).

Send your ideas to Senior Editor Stanley Zarowin via either e-mail ( or regular mail at the Journal of Accountancy, Harborside Financial Center, 201 Plaza Three, Jersey City, NJ 07311-3881.
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Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Date:Nov 1, 2002
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