December 2010

December 21, 2010

10 Things for Managers To Do With a Spare Hour

There are those times when you’ve got your management act together when you reach those ‘One Minute Manager’ (Ken Blanchard) moments.

In the first book of the series (there are lots of great follow-ups), our star manager ensures that he’s able to spend a fair bit of time gazing out of the window because all the plates are spinning perfectly, with the minimal of intervention.

So, when you’re in that place with your management performance, what to do?

Here are ten ideas that you might want to consider when you are able to devote a spare hour to any activity you choose. The list is, of course, not exhaustive and you will have some favorites of your own.

That said, if you never have time to spare, taking a look at some of these will help you make that time, because the outcomes they will tend to produce will be constructive in magnifying the available time you have.

So, what’s not to like about these?

1. Pick an item to delegate – finding something that you permanently do NOT need to do yourself is a good first step. Second is to find someone who genuinely will benefit from doing that task. Thirdly, take the time to explain why you are delegating to them and the outcome you are looking for (don’t necessarily tell them how!).

2. Say ‘thank yous’ – just get out there and catch your people doing something right and thank them for it. This one is really simple and extremely productive.

3. Take an alternative view – ask yourself what would happen to a situation if you took exactly the opposite course of action than you have a current tendency towards. Just wonder about it a little.

4. Go and listen – get into easy conversations with your people and spend much more (90%) of the time in the conversation listening and work at just 10% of hearing your own voice.

5. Ask for help – go seek someone else’s help with a problem you are challenged with.

6. Ask for feedback – simple as it says – go off and ask someone on your team how you did with something recently. Listen to what they say, discipline yourself to NOT make excuses, if it isn’t positive. Just listen, absorb and thank then for their honesty. Feedback is a gift.

7. Be nosy – go poke around where your people work – not with personal stuff, but find out what they’re working on and ask questions that will help them tell you more about it (and then listen a lot – of course!).

8. Take a walk – yep, it’s time to ‘leave the building’. Spend a little time (you have an hour I’m giving you, right?) and go for a walk. No, there’s no catch!

9. Ask a customer – work out a way to interact with a customer or client informally. It might be a chat on the shopfloor. It might need a phone call to a random client. Whatever, just go for it and – you got it – listen!

10. Ring yourself – as a final challenge to your customer/client service, take a chance and ring into your own business, ask for yourself and test the experience. You will find it a revealing and, hopefully, a rewarding experience, even when you find out that your line is engaged!

How much fun is that? Instead of filling that hour with other ‘stuff’, you qualify all of these activities for that very productive ‘Quadrant 2’ as defined by Stephen Covey in ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. Important and not Urgent.

All the more valuable and value-creating because of that.

Filed under Blog, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

Permalink Print

December 20, 2010

Serendipity Rules

Just noticed that ‘Sliding Doors’ has started on BBC2.

It’s a favorite because it just shows the different possibilities we come across in every day we live.

And how those fateful opportunities we are given are decided simply by minuscule slivers of fate. Isn’t life fab!

Filed under Blog by Martin

Permalink Print

December 15, 2010

Go For Your Goals!

For many managers, career development is about putting the hours in, developing performance and skills and then moving up the ladder when the opportunity comes along.

The next rung to climb may, depending on the organization (and how organized they are) be structured to bring the best out of the potential that manager seems to have, dictated by the outcomes of assessments, performance reviews and consequently ‘noticed’ possibilities espied by line managers, project team leaders and others – often in random ways.

The next opportunity comes along on a wing and a prayer and suddenly you’re in the thick of a new challenge, trying to make the best of what you inherit. That can be an established team running well; a poor team who are struggling (‘Where did our last boss go, anyway?’) or a new project where the sheet of paper is blank.

The temptation to get in the thick of what you find is very attractive.

Heads down and see how things show up is an easy attitude to have. Being really busy from the off, shows the team your style of hard work, focus on the short terms and, above all, role-model the level of effort you expect from them real soon.

Smart managers are a lot cleverer than this. They DO invest their early days creating excellent relationships with their people. They show interest in them, listen a lot to show that they care and show they want to learn and understand about them.

And from a very early stage, they use the language of ‘goals’ and ‘expectations’ so that this becomes embodied in the culture of how the team will operate.

Some caution in the goals created will be necessary, of course, to ensure the direction taken is fully aligned with the outputs expected too. That said, there’s nothing wrong with creating goals together from early on in the relationships – and then together tweaking them as necessary.

The alternative of blindly drifting along, is a recipe for only one outcome, a vague set of results achieved with people who are puzzled with what they are supposed to be doing and disillusioned all the more because of this.

Better to have clearly focused goals to start and then refine together, than have ill-defined (if any) goals and no real direction.

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

Permalink Print

December 8, 2010

Leadership Lessons of ‘The West Wing’

Many of you will remember that I’m steadily working my way through the 7 seasons of ‘The West Wing’ boxed set. And so far, it’s not difficult to appreciate why so many Americans (and others) would readily take Jed Bartlett as their President.

There are many aspects of Bartlett that are agreeable and none more so than his tremendous leadership of others.

In an example I watched just the other night, one of his senior team takes an incredibly brave step to ask Bartlett personal details of his relationship with his father. Whilst this might seem a step too far in his relationship with ‘Mr President’, Toby Ziegler is performing an ideal, if rather intimate service to his boss.

Initially, Bartlett is rather incensed at Ziegler’s impertinence and then, in the next couple of episodes, we see the true leadership come through, where he responds to the raw edge that Ziegler has exposed. Bartlett sees past his own bruised ego and ‘gets’ the point of Ziegler’s intervention.

In his own way, Bartlett shows Ziegler how much he values the man’s courage to speak up in such a sensitive area – and, incidentally, an area that Bartlett really does need to investigate.

In too many cases, leaders are so engrossed in their own ego that they fail to appreciate that giving feedback to your boss is a tough thing to do.

Bosses very often intimidate, whether they mean to or not.

To have the courage to give feedback is a rare thing in an employee. Even when they do get brave enough, the handling of this feedback has to be very careful indeed, or valuable relationships will stutter and the most likely outcome is that no more feedback will ever be forthcoming.

(Hint – never start to argue or justify your side of it, just thank them and accept the feedback very graciously and ponder on it honestly).

Great leaders – like the fictional character Bartlett that Martin Sheen plays so effectively – value both the very feedback they are given by acting on it constructively, as well as respecting the generosity and courage shown by the employee who has the kindness to offer it.

We see feedback as a one-way street – often interpreted by employees as ‘criticism’ (and negatively as a consequence) – where we dole it out downwards when we lead others (often more for our benefit than theirs).

Where we graciously accept feedback given that is intended to help us ourselves evolve, we make best use of the gift for our own benefits and also show our people that it adds value and is to be appreciated, which, in turn, makes it much more likely for them to value too when they are on the receiving end.

When we accept and look into feedback that seems hard to take, we are being provided with a perception of us that sometimes – often indeed – is just where our blind spot is.

And that’s such a valuable steer for someone to take the time and trouble to share with us.

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

Permalink Print Comment

December 6, 2010

The Curiosity of Employees

How do children learn? It is, after all, something we all have to do – and the formative years of kids are fascinating to observe.

Children learn be experiencing new things. By having the freedom – whilst being protected by their carers as much as possible from harm – to explore anything and everything in their lives.

Each object, idea and concept is there for the level of study they feel appropriate, simply by being curious.

We let them be that way without demeaning them. We smile at their odd questions and behaviors and enjoy the moment with them.

Over the years of getting older, as we discover our emotional side, we lose the ability to take risks with new things in quite the same way ever again.

It happens to a greater or lesser extent in every single one of us, as we move into middle childhood and then as adults.

Often in the workplace, this can prevent learning and development, at the very least, with the possibilities to explore and learn by doing falling way behind in the self-fulfilment pecking order.

We protect ourselves from experiencing painful and indeed harmful emotions that hurt our self-esteem, by being a lot less inclined to do things when we have been affected before.

So, unless carefully nurtured, as employees we hold back and stay safe. We’ve experienced the bump on the head or the graze on the knee once too often to try it again, especially when it made us feel not only physically bad, but even more so when it hurts us inside.

As managers, we can really get much more from the potential of our people by making exploration and new learning a very safe place to go.

When we start to appreciate just what it is that we need to do to lighten up our people; to let them make their mistakes; to let them learn from the little bumps and scrapes that children learn from, we offer an enlightening experience indeed.

We are there to nurture our people to ‘find things out’ freely and without besmirching or embarrassing them at all, we do them such a favor. Indeed we develop our teams so effectively as well.

So once again, where we take the time to recognize exactly how each of our employees needs us to be, everyone can become a winner.

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

Permalink Print