Managing Me

February 28, 2011

Personal PR – How To Fly Your Own Flag

On many occasions of any career, there are times where it’s vital to represent yourself fully. To make the best publicity you can for ‘yours sincerely’. And there are easy tactics you can use…

Whether you are applying for a promotion in your existing organization; looking for a new job altogether; or simply experiencing a performance review, there are steps you can take that will enhance your outcome.

Most, if not all individuals, find it hard to tweak their achievements to make the best of them. Whether this comes from naivety, modesty or simply a misjudgment of what they can pluck from their experiences, it’s hard to say.

The truth is that long hours wringing hands and fretting need not be suffered. Because in the main, all you need when being assessed is already within you. All you need to create a really effective candidate – or A+ result in your performance.

There are six key steps to making the most of your assets:-

1. Start Early

Be aware. When you are in the thick of experiences and learning, always, but always be prepared to make a note – however small – of something that you did. You don’t have to write a whole portfolio of it, that can come later (just kidding!). Just notice when things happen.

2. Link to Role

By being aware of what you might need to take careful note of before you start looking for it. Here you’re simply looking for the categories upon which you will ultimately be tested and then you can start to create a list of your personal activities (the ‘What I did’ of your evidence).

3. Keeping Up

As you create this list of your activities, you categorize them as you go and as the evidence piles up, create a note also of the gaps too. Then you can pro-actively ‘create’ the activities you need to make your offer almost irresistible. You will become rounded and thorough and then have the luxury of deciding not just that you have enough, but you have a choice of evidence you can talk about when you are being assessed.

4. ‘I Can’t Find Enough’

It’s vital to understand that the evidence you create does not need to move mountains. A clear action you personally took, where you can demonstrate just four simple elements – What you did; Why you did it; What the outcome was and What you learned is perfect – and keep it short and succinct. It gives them clear facts and a space to ask you more too – A perfect candidate!

5. Last Minute?

Left it too late? No problem! All you need is a kindly colleague to ask you the questions and push you for answers. It’s amazing at what we leave out or underestimate in ourselves. With focus, it’s possible to create quite comprehensive evidence if you are coached to create it in a couple of hours with a ‘coach’ friend drawing from you the actual – even where you think there are few.

6. Blagging!

Actual lying can never be condoned – least of all because you’ll get found out and if you were successful and got something without really deserving it, likely as not it wouldn’t suit you anyway. You can – and must – embellish, by really stretching out all you do in a category and make it really sing for you. Every scrap of paper evidence; every single impressive fact and figure pile up to become much more interesting to assessors.

7. And Finally

Always but always focus on what you did. Yes, you personally. Using ‘we’ and’ they’ won’t cut it. Be brave and strong and shout about you out loud. Use the ‘I’ word and really show what you are made of.

We all do pretty good work. We all deserve that you be recognized and in the main, we don’t shout about ourselves enough. And when you don’t, who will?

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

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January 12, 2011

Poor Management? This is No Solution!

Happy New Year!

OK, so after the hectic period of Christmas and New Year, I sort of forgot my usual Sunday evening activity of writing my newsletter. I knew it this morning and so I thought that I’d do it later on.

As it happens, this was fortuitous, because there was a phone-in on Radio 5 Live this morning as I was driving into my office that really resonated at first and, as the show and callers ran on, really began to annoy me.

It seems that the Cameron co-alliance, co-operative or co-alition thing – whatever we want to call it – has come up with a bright idea to stimulate business. They intend – or so it has been reported, that employees will not be able to take an employer to an industrial tribunal for unfair dismissal unless they have been employed for 2 years, rather than the current one year.

For once in my life as a manager, I found myself in complete agreement with the Union member of the panel. This was ably assisted by a rude, arrogant and 70’s command-and-control style business owner (Peter from South Wales) who, amongst other things, complained that women who are sick during pregnancy are a pain in the rear end.

I was amazed that he was allowed to get away with this – or perhaps there was little the presenter seemed to be able to do with such a rude, loud and equality-resistant man. It was a horrifying reminder of days gone by.

What I took from the program was that this change in the law is intended to nanny-state protect poor-quality managers who simply do not use existing processes, such as performance management or discipline rules to manage their people effectively, so would be given a right to get rid of under-performers – or indeed anyone they took a dislike to, with little or no redress for the employee. Back to pagan times then.

This is simply crazy. In 25 years managing, I was able to dismiss a few people who needed managing out of the businesses I was running because quite simply they were not good enough. Capable management practices enabled me to manage this adequately and legally within the framework of management.

I don’t think I needed some bizarre law change to do that.

No, this smacks of a soother to managers who simply have poor management skills. Managers who are unable to be effective; to hold difficult conversations; to be strong and fair; to be focused and rigorous with standards.

I once dismissed an individual whose performance was managed very precisely. It took myself and her line manager a full 12 months to work through the agreed performance assessment processes that were fair to the employee and to us. That was perfectly acceptable, if a bit of a challenge, but it worked and was fair.

As obnoxious caller Peter from South Wales, who found that someone pregnant who was ‘a little bit stressed’ and was signed off sick, well, it’s time to get real, my friend. Since when are you capable of making a medical decision about her condition? Time to manage effectively and what’s more, time to plan for the unexpected by developing more of your people, more of the time, so that you have a succession plan in place for eventualities just like this.

Mr Cameron, we need no changes in the framework for employees to be able to be got rid of more easily. What you do need to pay a bit attention to is the poor quality of managers we often find in this country and get that sorted out.

Not to create excuses for them.

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

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December 21, 2010

10 Things for Managers To Do With a Spare Hour

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

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

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

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

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

So, what’s not to like about these?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Filed under Blog, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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December 8, 2010

Leadership Lessons of ‘The West Wing’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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November 17, 2010

My Team Is Famous For…

Getting great people to be in the team is one of the most rewarding tactics to help managers deliver the results demanded of them.

Yet these ‘great people’ as employees can be so hard to find.

Some managers have found the key to unlock creating a successful team, by ensuring that they get well known for the environment in which they and their people work.

A compelling experience for those employees who are lucky enough to be in there. Indeed, an experience so rewarding that there is a queue to join.

Imagine that your team ‘brand’ is such that you have people clamouring to be a member. A reputation to ensure that you need not seek great employees any more – they come to find you.

In times where employee costs are most often the biggest expenditure any organisation has to endure, throwing money at recruitment is not only expensive, but it’s usually a waste of time.

Creating a renowned workplace experience that others want to become a part of, means that as long as the pay you offer isn’t stupidly small, you can get away with paying a good average rate for the job, so long as…

…what they find when they get there is good.

Here’s a secret. there are not that many components of good and what’s even more interesting, as long as you pay at an acceptable level, pay isn’t in that set of keys.

By providing an environment that your people like and enjoy, not only will the word get round and you find people come to you to join your team, you lose less of the one’s you’ve already got.

Now, it’s not about providing a cushy little number where your people can snooze their afternoon’s away. that’s not part of it at all – here are the keys…

1. A challenging job that:- stimulates and encourages employees to take risks and grow, safe in the knowledge that they will be supported and not chastised when things don’t quite go to plan.

2. Leadership that:- delivers it’s promises; values the individual; listens much more than speaks (whilst communicating effectively); is trusted and trust others; oils the wheels to make delivery of high performance easy for the team members; can be hands on; pays attention to what’s going on.

3. Have fun – simple as that!

With these in place, your team will definitely be famous for…the team that it really is worth being in.

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

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November 13, 2010

Help – Who’s In Charge?

The best managers do what they are supposed to do. They lead and manage their people to deliver the outcomes that their role requires.

Be this in a business that delivers products and services; an organization that is there to serve the public or maybe a not-for-profit body who do their best for those who need help.

A manager’s role is to get the best from their people.

This means that they focus on that key role and ensure that they have a team around them whose purpose is to deliver the systems, processes and standards that are vital for the team to be effective and efficient.

And sometimes that doesn’t work so well.

Take the case of a junior team member who wants to take some time off.

A hard worker, always ready to go the extra mile and to do that little more, because that’s their way of being. They always find the time to get there a bit early or to stay on when the business needs it.

They need a couple of hours off to help a sick relative to go to a medical appointment and they are even prepared to swap their shifts around to cover their time.

They trip off to HR to ask for the time, because this is the agreed team process for getting a bit of flexibility into employees worked time, to be told that ‘it’s not allowed’, by the HR assistant (who is, by the way, only acting on instructions they received).

They go away with their tail between their legs cursing how good, flexible and committed they themselves are to the team, whilst the organization does not give back to them in their time of need.

Where manager’s delegate the delivery of activities that the team needs to have in place, there’s always the risk that ‘the rule’ that’s in place is going to lose sight of a bigger picture issue, where that’s the rule that is implemented inflexibly.

The bigger picture being the (often small) acts of goodwill that engender motivation and commitment from the workforce when they recognize the efforts that their people make inwards.

Whilst there needs to be a system to prevent chaos, every manager needs to be sufficiently in touch to be receptive to the open and honest feedback that’s vital to understand whether the processes are simply serving themselves – or the team is being served by that valuable process that’s so useful.

Is the dog wagging the tail – or the tail wagging the dog?

Good managers delegate effectively.

Great managers sound out their people, by creating interactive relationships that go both ways, to ensure that the whole delivery of delegated activities serves to team as a whole – and not just get the boxes ticked.

Whilst compliance is important – it’s not the most human of ways to be – that needs a manager to use the time they have freed up by delegating effectively, by listening to what’s happening at grass roots – and responding to their needs within a process that works for the team, and not otherwise just because it’s always interpreted in a straight line.

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

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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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