Developing Your People

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 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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September 16, 2010

How to Manage 14% Better

Many organisations now use surveys to see how they are doing. Some are focused at customers and clients, whilst others look at how the employees think their workplace is.

The majority of employee surveys fell out of a brilliant piece of work by two researchers at Gallup – Curt Coffman and Marcus Buckingham – and led to their iconic book ‘First Break All the Rules’.

They found that how employees responded to just 12 statements about the work experience would dictate the profitability of any team, department or organisation. They called these Q12.

Using Q12 required a licence from Gallup (and hence why they aren’t shown here, though you can find them if you Google them), so many organisations pinched the concept and just wrote the questions a bit differently.

In fact, over time they have added significantly to the 12 original statements, with many employees being asked to respond to up to 50 or more. Which rather defeats the object! Still, many HR and leadership teams couldn’t help themselves when given the opportunity to confuse and irritate their people!

A couple of the questions related to the employees experience of their manager. These related to interactions the manager has with the people in the team and how recently too, so I can share a story.

Jim (name changed) had faced a dire problem. On his promotion, he had inherited an operation with problems all over the place, which he’d had to fix. In the first year, sorting out core issues had been a focus expected of him by his own superiors.

When the employee survey was in, he didn’t do so well in the measures of him (though some results might have related to the previous guy too). In year two, he made a very conscious effort to be more visible to his people; to speak with them more often and to, well, be a bit happier too!

The year two results showed him still below the average for managers like him, but they had improved by over 14% on the previous year.

The moral of the story? If you want to engage better with your people (= be more effective with them), get out there and spend time with them – all of them.

You know it makes sense.

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

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August 31, 2010

Appreciation – Learning from Your Team

One of the simplest management tactics you can use to build trust and positive morale is where you find a small amount of time in your day to appreciate your people.

This can take the form of praise; encouragement; delegation and even that simplest of activities, just saying ‘thank you’. Sometimes even just keeping it personal is very effective indeed.

I recently came across a team where the manager wasn’t the best at saying ‘thank you’ or showing appreciation in much of any way at all.

One of his team was leaving after a few months only, to go back to college – she was 19 years old and had settled in very well, becoming a big contributor to the team very quickly.

The team had 7 people in it and it was clear that they would all miss this employee – and indeed she gave a strong impression that she would miss them too (even marking ‘so sad’ on the calendar for her leaving day!).

This was made very clear on the day after she left, when she returned to the office and left everyone a small card.

Inside the card were a few sentences which thanked each one personally for their friendship and how much she would miss them. There were also a few words of what was so special about each of them, including the manager himself.

Now, I don’t know if the hint was taken by the manager, but every individual was not only hugely touched by the gesture, but each was surprised and enlarged with the rosy-glow of the value they each contributed to the person leaving.

Small, personalized, honest and very appreciative were the comments. But what a difference they made to each of her friends and colleagues. A difference that would be long-lasting and specific to each of them.

As managers, we can always learn a lot from our people, when we take the time to notice – and then apply – what we observe.

It takes a little effort to get down off that high horse we sit on when we are the boss – and when we are humble enough to do so, we can make great steps forward, making our own difference as we go.

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

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August 24, 2010

Keeping Your Team Members Happy

A manager’s role is to build successful teams that deliver the business. We aim to seek for higher and higher performances from those we encourage, cajole and develop.  How do we keep them all happy?

We strive to create refined, capable people to inhabit our teams. The results we seek cannot be delivered by us alone, because simply we cannot do it by ourselves.

Like the soccer coach – the results come from those who cross that white line for us. All the plays the team practice during the week, are for nothing if they don’t deliver ‘when Saturday comes’ – as they say!

As managers we have to hone their skills, tactics and flair for then.

Yet what happens to our people when we’re done developing them. When they can grow no more in the circumstances that we are in a position to offer them?

Indeed is it possible that they can grow no more with us at their helm? Could that be possible?

The simple answer is – of course they can reach a peak in the team we have them in; with the support and challenge we help them with.

And sometimes, when they achieve that zenith, we have to make the more courageous decision to let them fly off and seek a new level of opportunity, to make the next leap.

Successful management is not simply about building a team that serves us well. It’s much bigger than that.

When we help create fulfilled employees, the bigger picture is where we have to be brave and let them go. We have to celebrate the success they achieve with us and – where this is what they want – prepare them for a bigger stage to explore and reach for the next level, with our support and enthusiasm.

In soccer, managers of smaller teams strive to create better and better players for the good of the team and then, whilst it may be a sad time, encourage them on to bigger teams; new arenas and bigger opportunities.

That’s where the bigger managers stand out – loving the growth they see and then accepting – no, encouraging – their people to be the most they can – even when that means moving on.

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

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August 9, 2010

Waving The Management Magic Wand – Part 2

Last week, we looked at how to make more of the opportunities you have to make things different.

Wafting your own magic wand around yourself and the way you do things is one thing, but how can you use it effectively to ‘magic’ better ways of doing things from your people?

BTW, if you have one of these – let me know and I’ll patent it.

Because here’s the secret. You can only change yourself and you cannot change others directly, however hard you try.

Now, what you can do (and successful managers do this very effectively), is to amend your own behaviors and attitudes to influence your people to be different. When they are different, they will see better ways to be and then the delivery of their work will improve.

The ball is back in your court.

So, here’s an action you might want to think about. What are the issues that you come up with that are your ‘I wish…’ moments with your people.

Then, what are ways that you could start to amend the way YOU are, that might be more likely to get the performances that would help them grow and develop into what you want?

Don’t know? Then ask them what they need to be different from you – and how that will help them.

This tactic makes the difference in so many ways.

You partner with them in solutions; you show that you are willing to change; you show you are not the smart-arse who thinks they know everything; you show you value them for their input too (there are more benefits, by the way…).

In the ‘Circles of Influence’ in your life, you are at the very center.

Make it worthwhile the only way you can, by looking inside first, before you seek to blame others.

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

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July 26, 2010

Simply About Buns

The simplest behaviors can make a manager. Sometimes those behaviors don’t even need to be regular; they are allowed to be inconsistently regular in fact.

Take the experience of buns. Once in a while, even the most senior – or junior – of managers, can do something that to them seems so ordinary, yet to their people it signifies in a small, yet profound way, an extraordinary respect that it is hugely important in how they lead their team.

The unexpectedness of something can show how much a manager cares for their people.

In was a quiet afternoon in the business when he brought the buns. They weren’t expensive, but they were unexpected. Not that he’d never done it before, he had. Yet it was almost as if today was a great ‘nothing much happening’ sort of day that he recognized the opportunity to do a little more.

Now whilst some managers might have had their people screaming down the phones for more business; or wanted to chivvy their people along on a flat day catching up with the boring stuff that so often got left, this guy was different.

Reflecting on the successes of a good couple of weeks (bun reward has to have a context; be for a reason), he took a time-out to share a few minutes to thank the team with the buns. Buns that cost a couple of pounds.

He also took time to accept the offered cup of tea and to chew the fat about well, anything. It was being what he was good at. Taking the time to listen to his people be passionate and share their lives a little bit, for a few minutes on a flat day.

A small thing? Sure. And it’s the sum of small actions that create a relationship that employees value.

Just a few buns and a few minutes.

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

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April 13, 2010

Sharing Responsibilities in Building Workplace Relationships

Over time, relationships between managers and employees have not always been at their best.

The way forward for both sides to be satisfied in their work experience and results, is to park this history and move on. It’s all about shared responsibility.

To get the best from employees, managers need to make sure that they create an environment where their people can be of their best at all times (OK, maybe with the occasional hiccup!). This involves both sides in trusting each other to look out for each other, where they can.

Building successful workplace relationships in of value to everyone in any of the regular interactions they have together. ‘Not getting on’ is simply ‘Not good enough’ any more.

To have an effective relationship, there has to be value created for both sides, so they have a return on the time and effort they invest together.

Managers (supervisors; team leaders; CEOs; whatever) of this world want results that will improve their standing and support the development of the organization – however small or large it is. Then they are safer in their role and even have the opportunity to progress.

Employees, who up to now have been sitting firmly on the other side of the desk, want survival for their job in this uncertain world in which we live and also want fulfilment, development, excitement, challenge and success (and more!) themselves too!

Both sides need each other to understand how they can help each other achieve their goals, so the shared responsibility to get on with each other well is part of the deal.

Of course, where existing ‘rivalries’ are currently in place, bringing together extreme positions is always going to be the most challenging, of course – and it can be done. There is no magic formula here and only by gently building trust through good communication skills together, will relationships start to get better.

Of course employees might expect the driver of better relationships to be their line manager. After all, they probably feel most ‘done to’ by the organization, the most accessible lead of which is their immediate boss. Of course any capable manager would already understand their obligations in this area and be taking action themselves.

There’s more to it than that.

Employees who are prepared to hold out that flag of truce are themselves taking up the responsibility, which ultimately (and hopefully) will lead to better work experiences for themselves and their colleagues as well.

Managers, who are worth their salt here, will do well to observe the significant effort being made by one or more of their team, reflect upon it and acknowledge their ‘head above the parapet’ attitude, by meeting them at least half way in their own response to the initiative.

It’s unacceptable these days, to cast blame for poor relationships on ‘the other side’. What can, and must happen, for the benefit of all, is that everyone who wants the best environment to work in, makes the effort and shares responsibility for the relationships they have with each other, whatever past experiences might imply.

All parties must share the responsibility for creating worthwhile workplace relationships and once this opportunity is recognized, there is the potential for rapidly accessing benefits for everyone, in the goals and experiences they each seek.

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

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April 9, 2010

Why Asking For Help Works For Managers

Management can be a tricky role to play. Not only is the work challenging, but sometimes it’s hard to find the help you need.

Yet there are people all around.

The simple act of asking you team for help can be a difficult step for many managers, because it can seem to be that they are not that tough, irreplaceable and fail-proof character they feel they ought to be.

Whilst that might take a little time to overcome, there might be more value in taking the first tentative steps than might seem at first obvious, so it’s a path worth pursuing.

By saying ‘I need your help’, managers open up a whole new ball game, which can have profound effects for those within whom they place this trust.

There are four reasons this works well for managers, not to say their people, who get their share in some positives too…

1. Emotional – the words ‘need’ and ‘help’ dig deep within people, such that they find it hard to refuse. Providing help to someone who needs it can be as compelling as someone who is sick and requires support.

2. Valued – you are asking them for help with something that they feel you believe they can achieve for you, so they feel useful. That is a hugely valuing sense they get of personal validation.

3. Engaged – the help you are asking them for, gets them involved in something that the ‘manager’ has specially asked for help in. Does that focus attention or what?

4. Personal – it’s a one-to-one appeal you are making to some one person (though this can be asked of a whole team too, it’s effective in a different way). This is almost a ‘secret’ pact between you, which has a huge power.

Using this tactic is a valuable tool to have available to you. You can use it in the following circumstances when you choose to:-

  • You can use it to really create space for yourself as others help you.
  • You can use it as a tactic to build someone’s confidence.
  • You can also use it when you think that a stretch and challenge will be a valuable development exercise for someone on your team.
  • You can use it when it will help you build, strengthen and enhance a relationship for you.
  • You can use it when maybe you didn’t even need to, though you have to be careful that to them, the request is fully authentic and necessary for you.

The value of asking for help cannot be overestimated as long as you are able to get out of your own way in achieving it.

(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, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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April 7, 2010

Words We Hear – Open to Interpretation

Communication is the essence of great management.

Taking the time to spend time talking and most importantly listening to your people will always be the basis of the relationships we build. Yet how we interpret what we hear can be less than correct.

We cannot always assume that the words we hear mean what we think they do. We give trust to our experiences that have kept us safe, but in the world of work, this can let us down sometimes and we fail to make the best of people because of it.

Often what people say means something very different to them than it might to you. As a manager, you have the luxury of being able to detach from worrying too much about this, as your people will generally follow what you tell them to do – up to a point.

But this isn’t your whole answer. You need your people to be onside when it comes to the information you give out to them, so that they are aligned with the expectations you have of them.

More, when they don’t clearly understand what you mean, they will become frustrated when they do what they hear you want, only to find out subsequently, that this wasn’t really the case. This can seriously damage any relationship you have with them, especially when it happens more than once.

On the other hand, as a manager, it’s easy to place your interpretation on what you hear said and create assumptions based on this. Your beliefs about people can be spoiled by your interpretation of what was said, rather than making the effort to get under the skin of the detail and work really hard to understand what they really meant.

On both sides then, dissemination of information, attitudes and even simple comment is wide open to misinformation, because our ears are not theirs. The words that are said do not neccesarily have the same meaning as what we hear.

Whilst a solution to this is to double-check both that what you say is clearly understood by them and that what they say you have clearly understood, there is a further consideration to make.

Sometimes, you need to stand in a different place than you have always done. Your appreciation of what is said is subject to your own filters through which you hear the world.

It’s vital sometimes to appreciate that the words you hear and interpret for yourself don’t have the edge that you imagine.

That your ‘spin’ is yours and not theirs.

This requires a step-change in your ability to shift your own thinking and by doing this, you are much more likely to get the real value of the thinking and ideas that are being shared.

And you are better equipped for maximizing the relationships you build, rather than wasting time and energy frustrated by the words that others use and hearing them only through your own, filtered and consequently tainted ears.

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

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