Management Basics

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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March 29, 2010

Management Development Tips – Enhance Your Learning With Reflection

If you decide to be pro-active in your quest to develop your management skills, you might find that it’s not easy to make the best of what you take on. Fear not, it’s the small things that work best…

When you seek to improve your performance as a manager, you will find that there are a number of areas that you find there is value for you to make progress.

Some of these will be more challenging than others, which could, in some cases be off-putting and cause you to lose some of your enthusiasm and motivation.

Progress though, comes in many forms and quite often there are really quite small shifts in behaviors, that will make noticeable differences to the results obtained.

Changes in the words you use – even a single word or two – can create a significant shift in the outcomes you achieve, because the impact on others around you can be so significant.

On other occasions, what might seem to be a daunting change in the way you do things to integrate what you have learnt, can be split down into bite-sized chunks that are more easily do-able and will build confidence as progress is achieved.

As you learn and practice new twists to the skills you already had (because you will have had some, of course!), you will see changes and results and appreciate that the effort has been very worthwhile indeed.

It’s possible to pretty much double the return that you get from enhanced skills, by using one easy tactic that will take little time and effort, yet will not only embed the learning, but also drive additional benefits going forward

Whilst it is relatively easy for you integrate simple, new behaviors in your work, to make these stick you need to go a further step whilst you are on the case.

By reflecting on the changes you made as well as the results that came from that you will go a long way to recognizing what happened and how to replicate it

If you go a little further and get to the bottom of just ‘why’ the different approach made the improvements that it did, you will begin to uncover a significant secret where many others fail to go.

Careful and deep consideration of the reasons behind the enhanced outcomes which happened because you changed tack will really make the difference for you.

That said, management development is such a huge beast that you will be surprised at how often some of the changes you make – especially in the early days – will serve you well in the endeavors to come in the future as you progress.

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

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March 25, 2010

Management Development Tips – Learning Outside From The Workplace

Great opportunities are all around managers in the workplace when they want to improve and grow their skills.

There are a range of people who can support them and sometimes, to add to the mix, there are opportunities to learn from further afield too.

Like never before, where managers have the vision to see the possibilities as they develop their skills and career, there are no end of opportunities they can experience, even aside from the usual workshops and training sessions.

As we become aware of the responsibilities we have to improve ourselves, we will listen to the wisdom of mentors, who have done the role we have and, as they say, ‘gotten the tee-shirt’!

If we are truly fortunate, we will enjoy the support of our own line-manager who will have the care to nurture us through their challenging coaching, which will draw through us our latent capabilities.

We will see and hear the works of employees, colleagues and our peer group managers who can share experiences and ‘what worked’ and ‘what didn’t’ too.

In the workplace therefore, there is much going for us where we can expand our basic abilities we have to become much, much more.

For those managers who care to look further afield, there are ideas and strategies for you that can pop up from the most unlikely of sources.

Here are three rather different places to look for a little enlightenment, in the broadest sense!

Similar Organizations

Where you can take a close look at what competitors or other like-minded organizations do, there are often useful insights you can glean from what they are about.

You can assimilate tactics from these, but to find out about their management activities that will help you develop personally, you need to know more.

It could be that you listen carefully to those of their people you come into contact with and extrapolate the management behaviors that drive their sharp-end employees’ performances.

Different Organizations

If you are confident enough, you can draw just as much valuable information from very different organizations and businesses.

By being very broad in your awareness of what other management teams do in their workplace, you can start to draw out ideas that might work in a very different environment.

Here, you need to be prepared to move away from tunnel-vision around your industry and prepared to take a risk or two with the integration of very different management behaviors.

Would Ricardo Semler’s ‘Maverick’ washing machine self-managed team tactics work in a retail organization? (The answer is yes, by the way!) How might the core activities of an ambulance service be paralleled with the creative team focused on new ice-cream flavors?

There will be links you can use, if you look hard enough and they will give you entirely new ways to consider some of the ways you and your people currently do things.

Other People

Even when you get a life and out of the day job, there are vital lessons you can learn. Where you are on a day off or vacation is the ideal time to make observations of anyone around you that might give hints and clues that you could find useful.

How does the deckchair rental guy make sure that no-one gets off without paying? How is crowd control balanced with the drive to give extraordinary entertainment at a rock concert.

Watching a child explore and be curious about the world around them can be incredibly revealing for you – and how can you add value to your own team from what you see there as the child plays?

How do your observations of these mini-scenarios fit for you in, say, your expanding coffee-shop business?

There are more – and the possibilities are only as limited as your imagination.

The key here for managers who really want to maximize their performance, is to be open to the possibilities that will ‘ring a bell’ for them from anywhere.

Then notice things that appeal as interesting just from the curiosity you have been able to show

And finally, work on how you can translate what you see and hear for yourself, taking care to be accepting of ideas that comes from unexpected sources, if even just for the heck of it!

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

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March 22, 2010

Starting Small In Taking Responsibility To Build Relationships

Creating excellent workplace relationships is a valuable exercise at any time. The responsibility for developing these, belongs to everyone in the team.

Getting this going needs to start somewhere…

Once we get clear in our minds that there is a significant value in having effective business relationships with our people – and for them with us – it’s vital to understand that the responsibility doesn’t fall simply on someone else.

Managers and their employees share that responsibility, so that everyone benefits from the value that workplace relationships – at their best, of course – provide for all.

After time being unaware that there is work to do, the simple act of understanding that each one has some level of responsibility can be daunting. And, when this happens, it’s possible that those first tiny steps to take that challenge on, becomes less attractive.

So, where to start?

When we realize that we all have to develop tactics to make the best of those we work with, the most important activity is simply recognizing that up to now, perhaps we might not have done as much as we could.

The simple act of noticing that we might have been more proactive; more receptive or even better, taken a look at what we are and aren’t doing, is a great first step to take.

Once that awareness have become apparent, next up is starting to acknowledge that there are steps we can take that will make the start in bring us closer to our people.

Now, whilst everyone has some responsibility for the whole relationship building activity, as a manager, it might well be useful to ensure that you take the lead, at least at first, by acknowledging and taking steps to appreciate that you have a responsibility to get things moving – at least a little.

As you notice where you might have stopped seeing that some of the responsibility for creating valuable relationships lies with you, you will start to see some of the opportunities for you.

These will be small at first, because relationships can only be started at first, then, as they gain momentum, you will find that more and more opportunities come to your attention.

It’s almost as if that small first step is the catalyst. Acknowledging that it is yours to do, at last in part will also trigger others to see the ffort you are making, and then do a little more themselves, every day.

You aren’t going to get everyone on board at first – you are going to be able to show them that you have seen the way forward and are grasping the opportunity.

Relationships only start when those involved start to recognize that they have work to do to make the best of these interactions.

By starting small to each take a shared responsibility, you each have every chance that this will grow – and then everyone will be the beneficiary.

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

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March 20, 2010

Management Development Tips – The Simple Art Of Coaching Your People

There are many ways to develop those employees that you have within your team. Some are more productive than others and depend on your own, personal management style.

The easiest way is to ensure that you use the momentum each individual has within themselves.

When we manage, we use the services of the individuals in our teams, to pull together to create a valuable return on our investment in them.

A lot of a manager’s time is spent focusing on ensuring that they do what we want them to do and chasing them till they do.

We can fire instructions all day long – and then tomorrow, come right back for more which, frankly, makes for a day’s hard work, every day of your career.

Or we can coach.

Over the last few years, coaching has got a bit of a reputation.

From a weird and wonderful ‘mumbo-jumbo’ new age activity (the ‘life-coaching’ thing), right through to seriously expensive executive coaching at the highest level, coaching comes in all shapes and forms.

For managers, it’s a behavior; a style of way of working that’s useful and effective and doesn’t require loads of time one-on-one and face-to-face with someone sitting across from you in your office for a couple of hours.

Coaching is best done in the informal relationships you have with your people, in the easy and regular conversations you have with them all the time.

The truth is that it’s not hard to find out for yourself what coaching is all about – and as you master it as a skill, you will have all you need to be a very effective – and attractive – manager style.

There are books and programs out there that offer instruction and advice about what to do first and second and last. The truth is that coaching isn’t that difficult at all – the experts and gurus just make it out to be!

Forget the huge expense and months, if not years, of exclusive and extravagant training, be it online, via conference call or as many away-days that you can squeeze in.

It’s always best to find ways to make it easy for you, with relevant, quick and simple action steps to use every day, to help you make the most of this amazing skill.

When you seek the information you need to understand what coaching is all about, you want to find only as much as you need to make this work really well for you. The information and skills you seek will be geared to simple application and practice, leading to a growing confidence inside yourself with results to boot.

Coaching is not at all complicated, whatever you might hear, especially at the level a manager needs. Good questioning and listening skills, mixed in with a healthy dose of effective relationship building and you’re there.

And it is probably the most powerful management skill you can use, in whatever business or organization you are in, at whatever level of experience or skill you currently have.

Because having a coaching attitude, overlays everything we do in the way we support guide and manage those in our care as managers.

And that’s very powerful indeed!

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

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March 16, 2010

The Importance For Managers of Attention to Detail

An eye for detail is critical in you want the best performances from your team. Your awareness skills need to be sharpened fully and noticing when there is something out of line, however minor, will serve you very well indeed.

When you create a sensitivity to the unexplained; unclear; silent and seemingly innocuous in your workplace, you find out more.

This works especially well when you get to know people, because you sense an off-day and become aware. You are not necessarily doing anything to start with. It’s just something you notice, log and perhaps raise later where it needs it. Having this innate sensitivity is very useful as you become and evolve as a manager.

When it comes to ‘things’ your sensitivity can be very valuable too. That unlabelled, seemingly empty box can be valuable product that goes out of date soon. It could be a time-sensitive audit that’s been sitting on someone’s desk for a while. It might be a wall that looks a little out of line or a machine that sounds a little unusual.

There are many, many opportunities to sharpen this awareness of yours, in all shapes and forms, depending on what industry you are in. It’s a talent that can be practiced by review after events as well as listening to the comments of your people and following through.

Sensitivity and attention to detail are skills that take little time and yet can be very valuable in the returns they provide, in efficient and effective uses of your time. Often any time invested here can be easily shown to be some of the most value-creating time you ever spent.

This is all about noticing and then gently investigating, through questioning and listening (those so valuable coaching skills that you learn), to focus in many situations where you need to know more – as well as raise the awareness of your team about the issue – and that you know!

‘How’s that audit coming along?’
‘What’s this here?’
‘What’s in that box?’
‘Who is dealing with this right now?’
‘When is product ‘x’ due in next’?

Being curious about things is almost as valuable as being curious about your people, important though that is. because ‘things’ give clues about the attention to detail of others, who have responsibilities that might not be as sharp as yours – in fact, they might not be as sharp as they need to be.

Not only will you learn much, your people will know that you are sharp too and through that, their awareness and attention to detail will get much better.

Funny, over a short period of time, not only will the number of empty, unlabelled boxes drop dramatically, but those that linger, you can bet your people will know all about them.

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

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March 15, 2010

3 Valuable Reasons To Develop Your People

One of the biggest reasons managers fail to achieve their best results is because they fail to make the move from ‘doing’ to ‘managing’. It seems much easier to work even harder and make sure the job is done right because it’s you doing it. This is not a solution that is sustainable.

Many managers make assumptions about the capability of their people based on the flimsiest of evidence, if there is any evidence at all. Often there is a belief that employees are incapable of taking on more and growing in their role.

They fail to do this because they find it hard to nurture and raise the bar for the people in their teams, many of whom have significantly more potential than is visible at the surface.

It’s not easy to pin the causes of this directly on those managers who seem to miss the ‘developing others’ boat. In many managers there is a significant difference in their aptitude for seeing the value in their people. Some seem more able to make the best out of the individuals who work with them and others find it harder.

In fact, there are real gems out there in our teams. Pretty often, you have people right now who are capable of much, much more. And when you find the right key, unlocking that potential can quickly and easily provide success for your business for years to come.

Just some of the benefits of well managed teams, where the individuals have been enabled to meet their potential are as follows:-

1.    Developing your people will make your job a lot easier, because much of the work that you seem to need to do right now, can be effectively delegated to others who are just as able to do it as their skills extend

2.    Developing your people will make them much happier, because as they succeed in achieving new challenges that stretch them, their interest is maintained, they feel good about themselves and they become more marketable, as their skills grow

3.    Both of these will make you a lot happier and much more fulfilled, when you see your people become better employees and that you have been the facilitator of them achieving their potential in the work they do

Each of these aspects of management are so often underplayed. It’s safe to say that there are far wider implications emotionally, mentally, socially and well as economically when you take the time to get people development right. This is where everyone’s a winner

You cannot make the business thrive without ‘Developing Your People’ being on the highest of your agendas. And that’s where many managers fall down.

They simply struggle to move from doing it all themselves, to fulfilling their own role of managing others to do their jobs well.

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

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March 14, 2010

Management Development Tips – Taking Focused Action Is The Key

To build your skills and abilities as a manager, you need to find out those areas where you have a need to grow.

That’s just the start, though, then you have to create actions that will kick-start your management development.

Once you have looked carefully at your own performance as a manager, either alone or with the help of your team and the feedback they give you, you will be a lot clearer in the priority areas that are so vital when you are developing your manager skills.

Frankly folks, that’s not enough.

In the modern world of business, whatever area of management you work in, there are pressures unheard of even 5 years ago.

Organizations of any size have to deliver big-time and at any sort of manager level, the focus for delivery is on you.

Having been dynamic in getting you thinking about how to set about your management development activities, now is the time for taking action by creating some small activities that will help you learn, grow and be much more effective.

Sometimes, you need guidance and help about what to do.

Whilst there are many books out there (well over 100,000 management books at the last count on Amazon!), you can find very focused, inexpensive and easy to use programs and activities that have the potential to literally transform your management performance

By being aware of and seeking out development opportunities that are available, you will be taking the first (always the hardest) steps to grow, because these will continue to shape your focus and enable your progress.

Management skills blur and overlap across each many different disciplines, where one action can actually make a significant difference in other areas of your performance.

By taking in the broader picture and letting the learning experience flow, you will take the learning as it comes – a very satisfying and fun way to learn, whilst benefiting from the improved outcomes you starts to see come through.

The key here is to focus, engage your mind on taking action, making the changes and reflecting on what you learnt as you go.

By targeting yourself and trying our new activities (however small they are, for the biggest wins will come as you ‘tweak’ rather that try to change the world in one go) every week, you are refining your behaviors to add new levels each week.

You will find that the activities you choose to pursue, all fit together. Although sometimes you might not always find it logical, what you’ll be learning a few months into your ‘project’, is that ideas repeat themselves in different ways, giving opportunities to revisit elements of skills development in different ways which will help a lot.

That’s the essence of some of the great programs out there that you can find. Structured, simple to adopt as well as refined in such a way as to repeatedly link together for your ongoing development in ways that you might have not thought possible.

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

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March 11, 2010

Key Benefits Of Giving Feedback – For Everyone

When we hear those dreaded words ‘Would you like some feedback?’, it can drive fear through our hearts. Yet there are definite benefits to gain, once it’s a tactic that everyone gets used to…

Through learning how well we do and where we can get better, in a culture that is supportive and encouraging, the truth is, everyone wins.

All will get valuable returns when they are open enough to accept feedback that is regular, constructive and helps people grow through their learning and appreciation of what they do and how they do it.

On the one hand, by learning that they deliver good performance for significant proportions of the time they work, most people will start to recognize and appreciate the contribution they bring to their role.

This builds their confidence that they are valued as a team member. With greater confidence, people do more; they try more out; they take new risks and they stretch themselves; they share their skills; they prepare themselves for new roles; for bigger career steps.

Confidence and self-awareness are the building blocks of rounded, capable employees, most of whom have much potential hidden just under the surface.

On the other hand, by becoming aware of those areas where even just slightly changing behaviors and actions will make an even more valuable contribution, people get better at their job.

The driver for this is an innate desire by human beings to get things right and see the appreciation of those who measure their performance.

Some people are much more driven in this than others. To an extent, everyone wants to do their job well and be seen as someone who contributes fully and consistently.

Learning in a non-threatening way is the best route to developmental success for everyone. For you; for me; for your boss; for a small child. We all want to get better without feeling too bad about the bits we might have gotten not quite right in the past.

There are others who benefit from feedback, in the bigger picture:-

•    Managers benefit as individuals deliver more closely to the requirements of the business and as they grow into new capabilities for the future
•    Businesses benefit from the gradually improving performance of everyone
•    Stakeholders benefit too. Like customers who get better service. Stockholders who have better returns on their investment. Suppliers who have more informed dealings with your people. Families who have members who are more valued at work and share some of that in their behaviors at home.

Feedback drives improved performance and when we, as managers, take the time to make it a positive activity, our people will grow beyond their and our, wildest dreams.

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

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