Management Development Tips

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

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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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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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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 11, 2010

Management Development Tips – Maintaining Your Momentum

As you develop and grow your management skills, it’s easy to slacken and ease off when you have a busier week.

The key here is to keep the momentum going – and only you alone can do this.

Making progress with management development is easy at first. The most obvious changes to your skills and behaviors will be the most apparent and potentially (though not necessarily!) the easiest to change.

Once you are aware, through your own very focused and objective assessment of your performance, where you can make a start and have quick successes, you will find that in itself is quite enough motivation for you – if you really are up to the challenge.

As you find activities that will help you, through an easy to use and simple guided program maybe, or a book that you’ve carefully selected and read, you will carry on along the career-long path of continuous improvement.

This journey is one to be relished, as you see opportunities come that will make you more fulfilled, much more capable and ultimately successful in your role as a manager.

There is always plenty to go at too!

These activities might take a few minutes to set up and then even just a few minutes to do, especially when they are simply part of the day-job.

There is much evidence to show that the most successful managers are able to learn on-the-job at least 70% of the time, whilst a measly 10% get full value from a workshop or training session (the other 20% comes from coaching or mentoring from your boss, one-on-one).

Even if the activities take up to a maximum of an hour, this need not be separated from what you do as part of your job anyway. The best opportunities will always be where you learn in real-life experiences and try new things on to see how they fit.

The only test to see how it’s going is how it works in the real world.

Truth is the biggest mistake any manager can make is to get today’s job confused with what’s needed to make tomorrow better. By working on development as you do the normal work, you will feel that both are being satisfied!

You see, it’s false economy to say that you are ‘too busy’. In that mode, you’ll be way too busy every day of your career.

Investing a little time in simple daily tactics and actions to develop your management skills really will make the difference going forward.

Remember this, in moments of weakness.

Fire-fighting just puts out the fire, it’s the prevention that stops them happening again and again.

So spending just a little time invested each week in making things different for the future, truly will pay off for both your business results and yourself.

In the long-term, whilst not forgetting the importance of the short, management development right there where the workplace action is, will provide ongoing opportunities to grow.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Management Development Tips, 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 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 18, 2010

Management Development Tips – Introducing New Skills Fast

Growing your management skills needs vision and action. In the busy workloads many managers have, they can find they struggle to embed any learning they get.

And, of course, there are ways to make sure that not only do you really ‘get it’, but that it works strongly in your favor as you progress.

One of the biggest challenges managers find when making the effort to learn and grow, is how to find the time to learn and then practice new skills, despite much learning these days being designed to be ‘on the job’.

So here’s a three-step (plus a stretch!) process, that seems to be how it works best for many of those managers who have taken their own steps to be better at their role.

It is an easy route to success, but not everyone will have the same challenges – we are all different and we learn in different ways as well, of course.

1. Read, Listen or Watch

Not everyone finds reading a book as easy as all that, so by learning in whichever mode you prefer, you will have an easier way to consider the contents.

Whichever way you work, try to find a short synopsis before the meaty stuff, so that you have a good overview of the contents in advance.

This will enable you to create a picture of the whole thing, which works well for many people.

2. Make Just Five Key Points

Next up is a more thorough read, listen or view, which is best done the same day that you skim it as above. When you go through it in the detail in which you decide upon, it’s a great advantage to make some notes as you go.

Because people learn more from less, you might need no more than 5 key points, just right for keeping you focused, as well as enough to get you excited!

3. Practice Soon Three Times

With the key points you’ve noted (remember, just 5!), take a look at the whole concept and, depending on its character, get into it as soon as possible.

Try to have a go at a small, relevant development activity ‘three times in a row’, where you can.

If there are a few activities you can think of, try each one three times before you move onto the next one.

Review what happened each time and notice what you learnt.

4. Stretch Bonus – Share With Someone Else

This is a great extra tip if you really want to make this a great learning experience for you.

They say that the most effective way to learn something is to get the instruction and then teach it to someone else.

Now you can’t manufacture opportunities all the time, but by being aware that opportunities might arise, you will ensure that you are ready to share just when the moment comes.

By giving these ideas a try out, you will be surprised how much more effective you will be as you learn and develop your management skills.

Filed under Blog, Management Development Tips, Managing Me 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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