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November 2, 2010

Tough Management Decisions

As they say ‘the buck stops here’.

For managers, there is nowhere to run when it’s time to make the hardest of decisions.

And they need look no further for the biggest challenges they will face than with the personnel they have in their teams.

Most often when decisions need to be made, as long as facts are clearly taken into account, although there might be some difficulty in telling those who might be disappointed, the right decision is pretty clear.

Being ‘factual’ makes it much more easy, because objective assessments are much easier to make than subjective ones. When we let emotions rule our decision-making process, that’s when things start to unravel.

Faced with a choice between two great contributors, is often where a manager needs to tread most carefully. Whilst it might seem to be a lot more difficult then, looking hard and being absolutely objective – not to mention keeping the required outcome very, very close to mind – can make it an easier task.

Here a manager really does have to watch for the influence of personal preference; favoritism; emotional attachment whilst deciding.

Because these can often blur objectivity.

Making the best decision – often when it seems that there might be a loser in the process – sometimes has to be done.

It can be tough to get it right for the bigger picture – and that’s where great managers earn their crust.

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

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October 27, 2010

Losing Your Best Employees

Working with a client this week, I came across one of those situations where a manager’s emotions can get confused.

I recall a training video where the manager concerned feels that if he develops his people enough, then they might be good enough to, well, get promoted and then they would leave him. And his misguided concern is that they will leave him to struggle!

The situation this week was similar. It was time for the manager’s trainee to move to a new deputy role, in a different arm of the business.

The manager was noticeably glad for the trainee, yet I could also sense a hint of sadness that he was losing a valuable member of the team – one who he’d nurtured himself to an enhanced level of performance.

In fact, losing people to new challenges – especially when they have developed to their potential – is pretty much always a good thing.

Managers who deliver great team members who are capable of moving onwards and upwards can celebrate with them – in more ways than one.

Firstly, that they (the manager) have done a great job. One where they have used their people skills to draw from that individual all the possibilities that they had within them.

Secondly, that the individual will be moving on to better personal opportunities for their own future (not least they often get a pay hike too!).

Thirdly, that they will learn more somewhere else – after all, one manager simply cannot provide all the growth for an individual.

Finally (and I’m aware there might be even more positives that others might be able to provide here), there’s another upside that all managers can draw from good people moving on.

There will be another new trainee right along soon. And there’s nothing like a new challenge to keep a manager sharp, engaged and able to reflect on how they themselves can evolve, as they start along the path to create new excellence from another raw recruit.

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

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October 25, 2010

Seeing Things Differently

Faced with the challenges that come at managers every day, it’s easy to see how reactions happen almost without thinking.

Maybe even it would make the job impossible if we were unable to do things on autopilot at least some of the time.

So finding ways to take stock and respond with more consideration to situations, can be a tough call.

Being unable to take a breath and take time over making decisions can be frustrating and ultimately be detrimental to what you are trying to achieve.

This week take up the challenge to consider making a different decision to the one that comes immediately to mind, providing you with the opportunity to create outcomes that are unexpected.

For example, what might happen if you made no decision when asked? What could be the value in making a decision that is completely the opposite to what your gut reaction suggests?

There are other options that you can consider, when you just take that extra few moments to consider what you automatically would do – and consider the others by seeing the situation differently that you would typically.

And the reward might just be greater than you could possibly expect.

Filed under Blog, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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October 13, 2010

Managing Performance – Building on Strengths

Most performance management systems for in larger corporates (and many smaller ones nowadays) these days focus on improving individual outputs.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

The goal seems to be to up the average returns that each employee makes and inevitably this often has a focus on making areas of underperformance better.

Not much wrong with that then.

Except there can be. Managers who take the cliched route to mainly work with their people on those parts of their contribution that underperforms are following a well trodden path.

It’s easy to pick out areas where employees don’t deliver. Managers will have a sixth sense to sniff out those parts of an individual’s efforts that fall short of meeting minimal expectations.

The objectives agreed will so often focus on raising someone’s game to deliver at least the average in all areas of their work.

And this is exactly the wrong tactic to adopt.

We are all good at parts of the roles for which we are employed. There are few employees who are able to shine in every single aspect of their work. For we all have one or more achilles heels.

By swinging the impetus of performance management round, we can leverage some outstanding talents in our people.

There is momentum and motivation to be gained when we focus on the very best of our people and make much more of where they are best, rather than demoralise and weary them by insisting they focus on the weaknesses they show.

Indeed, overall performance of a team will grow significantly when we work capabilities harder, especially in each the team members that they are particularly effective in.

And you know what – you will be much happier, less stressed, with motivated and committed employees who love you for how you are with them.

And an improved bottom line will go down pretty well with your bosses too.

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

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October 10, 2010

Keeping Sane – Influencing What You can

Life is busy. We have many things on our plate – too many most of us would say. And at times it can seem overwhelming.

So often there are issues we face that challenge us, often many times a day – and frequently shift our perspective, making what are relatively trivial issues magnified, such that they can easily consume us.

Much of what happens in our lives can be adjusted by the choices we make. So often a choice we make is a choice that we might make almost unconsciously, especially where we decline to make a difficult one, because the consequences of making it might be tough.

Then there are the times we spend considering and wringing our hands about circumstances over which we have no choices at all, because there are no actions we could take that are within our sphere of influence.

So we waste much of our time thinking about things that are completely outside what we can change, whatever we do.

We spend time there because it’s less controversial to be there, rather in the thick of issues where we can make real differences to our lives, because it’s easier to whine about external, uninfluenceable issues, than it is to face into areas that we could challenge.

But doing that is hard. So we bottle it and spend time blaming the rest of the world.

Sometimes, the people we associate with in our lives – and particularly where we manage others, the employees we have in our teams – lay on us their problems and issues they have in their lives that they cannot control, making their lives so seemingly awful.

The tactic here is to ensure that we encourage them simply to focus on those issues where a difference can be made and spend as little time as possible in those places where we can’t. And we do the same with our issues too.

Then we create more space to be much more productive and effective and take control, rather than waste our available time in that hole where we can – if we choose – wallow about what the world is doing to us.

As managers, we can model our ability to focus only on areas we can influence to our people too, encouraging them to be much more relevant with their thinking and then actions.

Above all, remembering that it’s a choice.

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

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September 29, 2010

Adequately Managing Employee Expectations

There’s a small action you can take, right away, that will build  confidence in you personally, as well as ensuring that the trust that  your people have in you is high.

I’m pretty sensitive to it –  perhaps it’s just the way I am – but it’s a very important behavior that  I notice easily when it happens.

You see, I really expect people to do what they say they will. It’s not much to ask!

Now, that doesn’t seem so hard now, does it? well, you might be surprised.  In fact managers so often fail to deliver, it’s little wonder that they  fail to create the respect and trust that they need to be effective  managers.

And there’s such a simple way to ensure that you are seem to deliver what you say you will.

Under-promise.

Here’s an example.

I  was once placed in a tricky situation. The organization I worked for  had a rigid salary review process – one that once a salary raise was in  place (and it was an annual activity) there was no way to change it.

Yet we had to make the budgets balance before we could tell out people what they had achieved and were going to shortly receive.

One  of my supervisors was not happy with the outcome of her review and came  to tell me so. In fact, I had inherited the review that year (from a  previous manager) and it seemed to me that there was just cause for her  concern.

But I couldn’t fix it there and then. In fact, although  there was a small window to ‘fix’ such matters – at the half year mark –  I wasn’t prepared to ‘promise’ an increase then even.

What I did  do was promise to take a further look at her situation and be as fair  with her as possible and depending on her meeting some criteria we  agreed.

I was never perfect at this. I did notice that because I  held ‘keeping promises’ in  high regard in my business life, I would  always do my best to ensure that I met the expectations others had of  me.

Under-promising has so many benefits – and it’s a tactic that  is very worthy of consideration, particularly when you have taken time  to create relationships with your people upfront.

Filed under Blog, Management Basics, Management Development Tips, Managing Me by Martin

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September 20, 2010

Attitudes to Risk Taking

“What kind of man can live where there is no daring? I don’t believe in taking foolish chances, but there’s nothing to be gained by taking no chance at all”

Charles Lindbergh

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September 19, 2010

What Do You Believe?

As many of us find out during the course of our management career, we can’t do it all.

Yet there are times when we find the workload that we have is such that there is no-one else but ourselves who can do those parts of the work that are left to do.

As managers, we know that the buck stops with us and as such we plough on with the work we are not able to give to others.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed. It’s easy to do more, take longer and spend more of our lives at work, rather than getting a fair balance between work and everything else.

Yet we feel unable to give more away, because we reckon that we don’t have people who can do more. We don’t have people who have the capabilities to deliver.

And you would be wrong.

It’s hard to accept and evidence will show that the more you support and encourage your people to take on new challenges and grow, not only will you develop them, you will motivate them and they will enjoy their work more.

What’s stopping them?

The tricky answer for you to accept is that more than likely, you are.

Managers know best. Managers are the experts. Managers are the ‘tough at the top’ people who can’t show they can’t – in anything.

Sometimes, we need to get down off the high horse and accept the following:

1. We don’t know everything.
2. We aren’t the best at everything.
3. There are others who know better
4. Our people have talents that we don’t yet appreciate.

Exploring just how much each of your people are able to contribute, often above and way beyond what you might have expected, is a leap of faith; a critical point in your management career.

So test it out.

Find out just what your people have within them, when you ask, support and challenge them.

Suspending what you believe right now and stepping aside of it might well be the evolutionary step that takes your management to the next level.

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

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You’re in Charge

However you slice it. However tough it is to appreciate. You make all your own choices. Period.

Filed under Blog by Martin

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September 16, 2010

Noticing is The Skill to Build

When we interact with our people often enough, our intuition helps us appreciate where they are right now. An invaluable asset to align ourselves with them, help them feel heard and reinforce our relationship with them. All it takes is to relax, take some weight off what seems important and spend time with them informally, simply getting to know each other better.

Filed under Blog by Martin

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