January 2010

January 31, 2010

Why Workplace Relationships Are So Valuable

Management is the art of getting the very best from your people. It is essentially a people skill that many managers have, yet struggle to make the best of.

The workplace relationships you form are most likely the major critical factor in your success.

The purpose of creating effective relationships with each and every one of your employees has many aspects. And every single one of them adds value to your proposition as a manager. That’s why building relationships adds much more value than having a buddy or two in the team.

Here are a few reasons that give purpose to relationship building – reminding us that every minute we spend getting to know our people well, is a great minute’s work!

  • Power of More than One – When we synergize our efforts, using the great interactions we have with our people, it is incredibly productive
  • Openness – workplace relationships worked well, offer the opportunity to share more; explain more; create more, in an environment where trust is strong
  • Hopes and Fears – as trust builds, each and every partner will feel able to expand their thinking – their personal thinking sometimes – and share with others, who will help
  • Better Understanding – avoiding miscommunication, because the relationship is strong enough to ask if not sure, means we become more effective & efficient
  • Feel Good – good relationships foster a general feeling of goodwill around the place, limiting politics and gossip, because ‘we just don’t do that round here’
  • Unexpected Positives – the best relationships add fun into the mix, where we can share laughter and enjoy each other’s company
  • Intuition – as our relationships build with our people, we are able to sense more, giving us the benefit of an ‘early warning system’ to catch problems early
  • Getting Support – where we support and help our people, they realize that we have needs too and offer help where you might need it
  • Hidden Talents and Skills – knowing our people well from the close interactions we have with them, means we get to know them well, uncovering the possibilities
  • Problem Shared – is a problem halved – at least! When we trust and others trust us, we have a reservoir of talent to supplement our own. Sometimes, others really do have better solutions
  • Bottom Line – the ultimate goal, providing focus and purpose to the work we do. Adding value to the results we seek is far, far easier when we have good working relationships with others in our teams

So, the purpose of building relationships in the workplace is many fold for anyone managing others. From the purely business focused results to the emotional personal sense of success and belonging that it can create.

The time investment is minimal, because relationship building is best done in the moment, informally, so there are no excuses.

What are you waiting for? There’s no time like the present to make this your immediate goal.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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January 30, 2010

Dealing With Difficult People – General Principles

Difficult people can be found anywhere. As managers or supervisors, you are likely to have at least one you can name. It’s as common as that.

There is a general principle to use as a first step.

Most managers come across difficult people at some stage in their careers or other. They are common and challenging sometimes by their behaviors, which can be very demanding, as well as time-consuming for us all.

What is fascinating, is how many managers come across a lot, yet others seem ‘lucky’ and come across far fewer.

It’s not luck.

You see, some managers are better at dealing with difficult people than others, even though they might not always be too sure about exactly how they do it.

There is often something that triggers their character and just as often, that will provide you with detailed clues about what you can do about it.

When considering why this is, there is one simple tactic that rises above others. The managers who are best at handling difficult people, are almost always good at building relationships, which they do without much effort.

They spend time using their listening skills to pay full attention to everyone – difficult or otherwise – they come across, thereby showing them that they are interested in them. This is the first part of the simple solution to dealing with difficult people and, as such, is the key to all workplace relationships too.

After listening to the issues raised by a difficult person, these managers are also very good at asking relevant questions to show they are listening and also to help the individual find new perspectives on the situation they are being difficult about.

Once they have created this level of rapport, managers who handle difficult people well are also very good at drawing a line under proceedings and moving the difficult person right along.

It’s only by using all of these tactics, that a manager will have the best results with difficult people, and minimize the frustrations.

Indeed, some managers have been so damaged by just one difficult person in a team that they give up themselves.

All they needed was a full awareness of what is happening and the steps to take to make the problem resolved

And it’s worth bearing in mind in the organizations we work in, that there are usually two different circumstances that we come across that need slightly different twists on the simple approach above.

They are people you are with regularly – people in your life outside work even – and those you aren’t. These are people who are strangers in your business and life who you might only come across once, for example.

Both can be resolved using the tactics above quite easily, so it’s always worth taking the time to ensure that they are fully utilized.

Filed under Blog, Customer Service, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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January 29, 2010

Workplace Relationship Building – Hopes and Fears

Managers and supervisors are human. Let’s take that as a given. We don’t always feel we can share this with our people too much, but it’s true. We have feelings as well.

How we share that with our people is another matter.

One of the biggest challenges facing managers is their approachability. Despite the world moving onto a more ‘team’ approach in many workplaces, there is still a certain reverence for any manager with his people.

The irony here is that managers are just as vulnerable to the range of emotions as every member of their team, as was once said, ‘They pull their pants on just like you and I do everyday’!

So, recognizing that we are all the same, allows us to understand there might be differences in some things, but deep down, we live with ourselves every day.

In fact, because of the isolated nature of a managers elevated role, there are times when they are in a worse position that those in their team’s, because they have to maintain discipline and cannot therefore be simple ‘one of the boys’ (or ‘girls’).

This is an opportunity when building workplace relationships with employees. They don’t often have the chance to relate to managers in quite the same way as their colleagues, such is the still elevated ‘position’ that a manager holds.

The opportunity comes because relationship building offers the potential to get closer to your people by showing them that you are just like them. You really do have the same emotions as anyone else and, although most often it’s easy to put on a mask of competence, sometimes you too have bad days.

Days where you feel like you need someone around to talk to. Someone to share the fears you have about how things are going and, whilst it would be wrong to splay open your self-doubt too widely, there is nothing wrong with airing some of your self-concerns, once you have the right level of relationship.

Similarly, whilst you are keen to hear from others their aspirations and hopes, sharing yours with your people will do you no harm either.

Indeed, being a little more open with your hopes, fears and concerns will draw your people in, especially when you do it in a controlled way that emphasizes the relationship that you have with each others.

The hopes and fears you have in the role you hold are pretty normal. We all wonder about how we can cope, survive and be successful. As long as you do this in the right way, you will be valued for the way you show that far from being different, you are pretty much just like most of your people.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Focus on Results, Management Basics by Martin

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January 28, 2010

Workplace Relationships – What Does Responsibility Mean?

Managers and employees have shared responsibilities for ensuring that they have a relationship between them that is strong. Let’s get clear about what this actually means in practice.

In the workplace, everyone interacts with each other. This is how society organizes itself and communicates together at work. These relationships are valuable for the opportunities they create to improve performance of individuals, as well as benefiting them, by creating a more useful and interesting place to work.

Each person in the team has a responsibility and a vested interest in making these relationships work, for their mutual benefit.

When you are a manager, there are steps you might take to rebuild a damaged relationship. Or perhaps it’s vital to start off a whole new team of people and hit the ground running by creating the right environment for working together.

As an employee, you need to have a voice that’s heard in an appropriate setting and also, where you can, show that you too can add value by the contributions you offer.

In practice, ‘responsibility’ is all about doing your bit (and maybe a little more) to oil the wheels of the relationships you have with all of your colleagues, at whatever level of hierarchy they might be, such that everyone is a winner.

This is not a time to take sides, so this is vital for everyone who shows up each morning to do their bit. Whether you are one of the senior management team or newly recruited this week, it doesn’t matter.

There are five critical activities that anyone creating a workplace relationship needs to be aware of – and be prepared to put into practice.

1. Show Commitment

By being onside and decided to make the difference, whatever the history, you are starting a process to build relationships, even if it means you have to rethink your position as well a bit.

2. Let Go Of The Past

Relationship building can be made much more difficult by ‘history’. This is a time to lead from the front, whichever position you are coming from and bury your own hatchets, ready for progress.

3. Be Interested in Others

You’ll build relationships faster if you dump talking all about yourself and make sure you ask questions that will help you get to know people better. Yet, this isn’t actually the point. It’s that you are showing that you are interested that counts.

4. Take a Breath

Leaving space for others to say their piece is a vital part of building relationships with anyone, remembering that when you are prepared to listen, you will stand out in a crowd, where others simply do not do this, making you all the more attractive for the ongoing relationship.

5. Create Trust

Following through with what you say you will do; being as open and honest as possible; giving and accepting feedback, as well as showing confidentiality and discretion, are all tiny and still vital tactics to adopt when building new and maintaining existing relationships.

These are the actions of all sides of the responsibility calculation where relationships are created or lost.

Everyone has a part to play and everyone is just as equally a contributor to the overall challenge, for which the outcome is always going to be of great value.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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January 27, 2010

Designing Team Working Standards – Who Is Involved?

Agreeing the standards by which your team will work is an invaluable piece of work to do. Your people need to know what’s in and what’s not, so clarifying this early is remarkably important.

But who decides these important standards best?

Many managers fail to recognize the opportunity to agree a set way of working with their people. individuals coming together in teams often have different ways of working and some sort of understanding needs to be in place for everyone to get on.

The challenge is to appreciate just who will add best value when the decisions are being made.

The thing is, decisions about who to include when designing team standards can be quite simple. Usually, the more members of the team who are involved the better, here’s why…

  • Involving a wide range of individuals will bring synergy to the decision making processes. Creating a safe place for team members to contribute is a role that any manager needs to focus on if they want to ensure that the most valuable ideas are shared and then developed.
  • You may well have people on your team who are more reluctant to get involved in group discussions and if you facilitate any such meeting appropriately, you will both benefit from their input, as well as encouraging them to be more prepared to get involved in the future.
  • By using a good number of your people, it will be possible to build credibility in this democratic process that you have decided upon, to create team ownership and harmony. This will mean that your management style becomes much more appreciated by those who might otherwise have been critical.
  • The more employees that get involved, will mean that you will have perspectives not only of individuals, but also of levels. Sometimes it’s useful to have experienced individuals help you out and create solutions.

Where you can, by using all levels of experience, you will get questions that are much more varied and naive even. This is more likely to give you a rounded solution, which will be much more valuable.

Depending perhaps on the size of your team, amongst other things, you may not be able to include everybody.

It’s valuable to encourage a cross-section to be involved and then to ensure where you have repeat activities that involve team contributions, others get their chance later on.

When you work remotely, you have the opportunity to capture input by e-mail or conference call. Distance and remoteness need not be a reason for lack of inclusiveness.

It will just be different and yet a positive approach to an issue that cannot be easily resolved in the usual way.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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January 26, 2010

Top Ten Benefits of Facilitation

By using facilitation as a tactic, you can ensure that you free up your people in all sorts of ways when they work together – after all, it’s there to make the process work.

But what exactly are the benefits?

Facilitation is a simple skill whereby the process to an end result is supported – especially in meetings – to ensure that the participants are able to contribute fully, without worrying unduly about the activity. They do the content, thinking and debate, the facilitator enables it to happen.

So, what exactly are the benefits of using facilitation in the workplace?

Here are ten of them…

1. Freeing
Because a great facilitator focuses specifically on the process, everyone else can get on with the purpose and outcomes and concentrate fully.

2. Structure
Meetings follow a precise route, engaging those present and reducing concerns. In the future, the process creates a ‘safe space’ for members to meet and contribute.

3. Clarity
The facilitated meeting clarifies roles and enables the leader to be fully ‘present’ – thus reducing their focus on the clock and their own, often internal, agenda.

4. Neutral
When using an internal or external facilitator, they bring a process-focused neutrality to the proceedings and have no role in the issue.

5. Value-Creating
Facilitated meetings create value. The synergies released once the process is clear, enable a freedom of thinking that provides for much better solutions.

6. Experiential
If used as a learning exercise, as well as a real activity, Facilitation is learnable. Like anything new, those present can be a little resistant, but still, with post-meeting review, lessons learned make subsequent occasions progress quickly.

7. Timely
Meetings which are facilitated are timely. With the focus created by a skilled facilitator, there is no wasted time, so building confidence, trust and team spirit.

8. Contributory
More individuals on the team are able to say their piece, because the rules are agreed upfront. Any minor transgressions are reflected upon quickly in the facilitated process. So everyone’s input is valued and inappropriate behaviors are controlled.

9. Progressive
Because the process is fair and ‘managed’, there is an understood commitment to outcomes and actions. Accountabilities are very clear, written down and agreed.

10. Clarifies Roles

Pre-meeting discussion between the facilitator and key players clarifies the roles of those involved in the activity. Thus a lead will have a clear understanding that his or her role is broader than driving his or her own solutions. Hence team skills are improved and the leader begins to appreciate the true value of the bigger team ethic.

When meetings are facilitated, progress happens. Facilitation in other situations can work too, so it can be used as a valuable tool to generate successful outputs, when people get together to work effectively and efficiently towards a common goal.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Focus on Results, Managing Me by Martin

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January 25, 2010

Coaching – The Critical Value of Goal and Reality

Many will know the GROW model as a valuable asset when coaching others to their development.

What is less clear is just why you need to understand the value of the Goal and Reality elements of GROW as you begin to seek progress.

When you work with your people on projects of all sorts of shapes and sizes, it’s always best to have a clear outcome for the end-point. This outcome is the Goal that is the target result that is desired.

An example of a goal could be anything, from an increase in sales, to improved attendance at work, to projects as large as ‘build a new bridge over the river’!

There’s a much better way of defining goals by SMARTening them up, which ensures that a Goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timescaled. That really starts to get things buzzing and progressing at pace! (SMART is great!).

We get clarity on the ‘Goal’ they desire by asking questions and listening carefully; framing a conversation that helps them discover, rather than us tell. In those moments of coaching, the real work gets done – and it’s usually by them, not you!

Once they have an understanding of where they want to get to, it’s vital that there is absolute clarity about where they are starting from, otherwise, how would they know the direction to start them off on their quest!

After all, when on a journey, even when clear on where you want to go, you need to know the starting point or you don’t have a clue about what direction to start off on!

Reality is an honest assessment of where they are right now in their closeness to the Goal.

It important to know where they stand in relation to the outcome, so that they can design the steps between Reality and Goal with you as their manager-coach simply facilitating them for this.

Coaching is all about ‘working the gap’. By finding out the details of what’s wanted as a result, as well as where they are starting from, the size of the challenge can be recognized and appropriate steps developed to make progress.

That gap is all the more clear when you and your employee understand better what that gap actually is.

In fact it can be very valuable to create an arbitrary 1 to 10 measure on the ‘distance’ between where they are right now and where they want to be, just so that the steps taken can be given some sort of value along that line as well.

This can be hugely motivating for people who need some sort of encouragement to even make a start, because the length of that gap is often less than they might have appreciated to start with.

GROW is a valuable coaching model and getting to know where they are going as well as where they are starting from is a great beginning, to a fruitful coaching outcome.

(c) 2010 Martin Haworth. This is a short excerpt from one of 52 lessons in management development at Super Successful Manager!, an easy to use, step-by-step weekly development program for managers of EVERY skill level. Find out more at http://www.SuperSuccessfulManager.com.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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January 24, 2010

Workplace Collaborations – The Power of More than One

Managers can be notoriously isolated. The role of manager is usually someplace between the team they lead and the powers that be in the organizational hierarchy.

This makes managers pretty self-sufficient, yet there’s power in the workplace relationships they build.

As we progress to management, we are able to develop skills that enable us to take on the role. Through experiences and training; through coaching and mentoring; through the networks of colleagues and experts We encourage and build, we are able to generate the skills and know-how to do the job of management.

Once in the role, it is easy for others to see us as an incredible resource, which builds our own confidence in ourselves, such that we find answers to the questions that many answer and problem-solve for our people.

This makes us feel good! It’s natural and when we’re good at it, we enjoy this part of our role, because we feel fulfilled with our abilities.

As we progress, the teams we lead are bigger and have a bigger job to do, so our input can be stretched ever more, with each promotion we take on. It is easy in this growth of role to mean there are expectations of many more people to focus on us.

This is not sustainable, because you cannot do it alone.

When you are good with people, you foster great relationships with your employees as you progress. Your first management offers you great opportunities to work intimately with those who are in your team.

In such situations, you can build your abilities in communication, intuition, performance management and many more of the management skills that will be so vital for you in the years to come.

When you’re smart, it’s here that you start to understand, when you are open to it, how you can leverage the interaction with others, sometimes with your team as a whole. More often, by utilizing the great relationships you have built with each individual employee, to get their input too.

Imagine a conversation when you have a tricky decision that you need to make. When you’ve invested a bit of time with your people to help them feel comfortable contributing openly when they work with you – their manager – the richness of the debate will be stronger and much more valuable.

Ideas will flow from them as well as you, synergizing thinking to create the outstanding solutions.

Once you can have this quality of debate with individuals, you can extract even more with whole-team debates too, magnifying the value of the wonderful workplace relationships you’ve already got in place.

There is much more power in ‘more than one’, particularly when you’ve done your groundwork and prepared your interactions with others, one-by-one, by creating business relationships that are ripe for reaping the reward.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Focus on Results, Management Basics by Martin

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January 23, 2010

Workplace Relationship Building – The Purpose of Openness

The relationships that managers have with their people are vital for success. Where fruitful interactions happen, there needs to be a level of trust to enable as much sharing as possible.

And openness is the key.

When we want to get the best from our employees, we have to make the effort to get to know them better. It has to be a two-way process to help them feel comfortable with you, so that opening up is an easy step for them.

Getting to know them well, includes giving them an understanding of what you are about too. By sharing just a little of your inner self, you will encourage them to be more open too. There’s no need to go too far with this. No need to overwhelm them with the problems you face, until you feel able to and when you know it is appropriate and it will be valuable – on both sides.

These levels of relationships are very intimate and with that comes responsibilities such as confidentiality, understanding and support as the very least.

Being open with you, their boss, can create vulnerabilities and sensitivities that you need to realize is an honor, because people do not let just anyone under their skin. It has to be earned and respected.

When you are open with people, you share your innermost self with them. When your team members feel safe enough to do so, the openness they offer needs to be reciprocated, so that they know that it is the relationship that is valuable, both ways, such that trust and win-win are the expected outcomes.

In the overall concept of workplace relationships’ the purpose of encouraging openness is to create and expand that bond between you both, such that each recognizes the value of the other in that pairing. Sharing a little of yourself with your people will be incredibly encouraging for them.

Being ‘human’ and one-to-one with people – in itself – is a huge step towards openness. The time you take to create the space for the interaction is an indication that you value them as an individual. That you respect their needs as well as see them as a significant contributor.

As this evolves, they will share more deeply their thoughts about their work. They will start to tell you that they have aspirations; that they struggle a little. The value of developing this openness between you is not just that you find out more about your people either.

Where you share your own challenges openly, you may be surprised at the offers of contributions to support you that you can generate. Openness is simply not about one-way traffic, it engenders togetherness through trust, working together to help and develop each other, irrespective of hierarchy.

And openness starts with you, their manager encouraging it through the model you show them, and the way your behaviors bring it on.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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January 22, 2010

The Top Ten Benefits of Teams

Teams are fundamental to business and organizational success.

So what exactly are the benefits that a well-organized and productive team brings?

There are many values and benefits successful teams bring to their organizations. pulled together not only by effective leaders, but also by a will on the part of their members to provide outcomes that are the best possible.

Team working can be incredibly effective and much more so than individulas working alone.

Here are 10 reasons why:-

1.    Capacity

Managers can’t do it alone. The outcomes they need are too big for them to do all the work themselves, so they need others to help them. Great managers have teams they fully engage with, to maximize the volume of activity they cover.

2.    Variety

With a range of individuals, they all are different. Different skills, talents and above all in business, behaviors that will engage each other as they communicate with each other. These ‘differences’ are what makes a team so powerful and are a real positive.

3.    Skills

Bringing expertise in the key areas managers need to get the job done, enables every activity that forms part of the team performance, to be delivered to achieve the goals.

4.    Energy

When individuals get together, they generate energy. Teams utilize this energy by accessing the adrenaline that kicks in when people interact, with different ideas and opinions that are strongly felt, defended and proposed.

5.    Collaboration

With a range of skills, ideas and experiences, team members pull together to come up with options that come from the discussions and debate that ensues.

Collaboration is about adding together individual positions to a point where outcomes are much more valuable.
6.    Challenge Up

Great teams work with team leaders as part of the team ethic, yet they don’t just follow along innocently. With the wisdom and confidence their togetherness generates, they ask questions upwards, to help the overall outcome.

7.    Synergy

Individuals in teams bring particular skills and talents into the mix. These have great value, especially when they blend and merge with each other. In teams, as we saw in the foreword, the sum of the parts is greater than just adding together the components.

8.    Individual Drive

The individuals in teams have personal aspirations to drive their careers through the way they do their own work. In these areas, working in a team can be tricky as its output must be ‘for the team’, yet it is a powerful asset to have in the team, when directed by the team leader accordingly.

9.    Experiences

As well as skill, team members have experiences that can be shared, to benefit the team as a whole, to make results much more effective.

10.    Spirit, Celebration and Togetherness

By celebrating, as successes are achieved, bonds become stronger and performance is maximized. The best team leaders take part in the celebrations too – after all, they are part of the team success too!

That’s effective teamwork, much more than the sum of the parts!

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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