Managing Me

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

Permalink Print

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

Permalink Print

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

Permalink Print

March 19, 2010

Building Workplace Relationships – Being the Model

The value of excellent workplace relationships cannot be over-estimated.

Leveraging the interactions between individuals, be they manager to employee or visa-versa is incredible, so taking responsibility for this has to be progressed by someone.

When a manager recognizes that there is work to do on taking up the responsibility for making better use of workplace relationships, that’s a great start.

Simply noticing that the way they interact with their people is not as productive as it might be, is a huge step, because that awareness so often leads to an understanding of the situations they face.

With awareness comes a decision. Whilst the responsibility for moving relationships up to a new level does not entirely fall on a manager or supervisor, there is an opportunity for them to make the first step.

Recognizing that relationships are not working as positively as they might is one thing, the next step is the logical progression to appreciating that a responsibility for moving them forward is the first step.

Now, it’s possible that everyone on the team understands that there is more to come, but the management focus needs to be on leading from the front and grasping personally the responsibility for improving relations.

Sometimes, there can be hurdles to overcome. Past history, personal preferences and, yes, prejudices can get in the way. There can even be a bit of ‘Why should I?’ in the pot as well.

Managers need to see past this, because the rewards are clear. By taking the responsibility for moving forward relationships that aren’t working to their best, managers start to model for their people a broadening of attitudes that they will replicate.

When there’s a brick wall, someone needs to be prepared to take the first swing at it, because until someone does, there will be no progress. Once a chink of light is seem, others will become much more able to get involved themselves.

Where managers show that they will take responsibility themselves to improve the working environment by engaging better with their people, the relationships will all start to grow, with gathering pace, so that the value from everyone getting on better, with trust, support and encouragement, begins to be realized.

As you people notice those small changes, they too will embrace the needs for change. they will notice how improved relationships begin to make a positive contribution to their lives as well. They will begin to see that they have some responsibilities in this area themselves.

Where you take responsibility for the first steps and show them they way, your personal modeling at this stage will be the catalyst for significant shifts for each one of your team as well.

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

Permalink Print

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

Permalink Print Comment

March 17, 2010

Outcomes to Seek When Building Workplace Relationships

The relationships any manager builds with his employees is the critical factor that will decide whether they are successful.

No manager is an island and with the help and support of their team, they will be able to deliver. There is work to do to achieve this.

Managers make relationships with the people in their team for a number of reasons. There is, however only one bottom line purpose for any of the activities that managers get involved in – and that’s to deliver the outcomes that are required of them.

Relationships are the facilitator of success and there are real and vital reasons for this. Working with a team of people opens up the scope of possibilities for managers, such that there is leverage in the simple numbers, as well as varied inputs from the different characters there.

When relationships are built based on trust, honesty and shared purpose, there are many simple outcomes that will lead to that end goal being delivered.

Such relationships are easy to create when you ensure that you spend at least some part of your day in easy conversations with your people. Once that’s in place, between you will find you are much more able to deliver:-

•    Openness – ensuring that each side is prepared to let the other in
•    Volume – the numbers onside will help to share the load
•    Creativity – from openness comes the ability to ‘think out loud’
•    Synergy – sharing ideas enables each to build on the other enabling more productive outcomes
•    Commitment – through the bonding that comes with trust and honesty
•    Morale – built through all working together in an open environment
•    Motivation – comes from being heard, fundamental in all good workplace relationships
•    Support – because they are open, they ask for help more
•    Drive – when people feel a full part and valued, they contribute more to the bigger goal
•    Understanding – knowing each other well, means there is focus on common expectations
•    Communication – always works better when there is a great relationship

There may be more of these in particular locations like yours and if the relationship is good, you will have a clear route to get to know them better yourself.

Remember, the resulting value of these small outcomes of great relationships is much, much bigger than a simple sum of the parts. Yet whilst we might look for and even actively seek much more, each component needs to be in place to enable the whole to be that bigger benefit.

The base of good interactions between managers and employees has to come from the manager themselves in the behaviors they show.

Taking the time to ensure this is a strong element of your management toolkit is an investment worth making and over time, be assured that little effort will be needed to keep the plates spinning.

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

Permalink Print

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

Permalink Print Comment

March 12, 2010

Management Development Tips – Look Inside Yourself First

Progressive managers learn to develop themselves by ensuring they continue to grow through their careers.

When they get stuck, the first place they look is within.

All good managers have the innate capability to look inwardly from time to time to understand better how they are doing.

They can be very focused and objective about how they go about their self-assessment, or – which is much more value-creating on a different level – they can ask their team about how they are doing as well.

When you are able to do this, you’ll have a far greater knowledge of how you work yourself, which is extraordinarily useful, generating interesting insights as well as offering lots of possibilities too.

One of the reasons people (not just managers), struggle with a better understanding of themselves, is that they are frightened of what they might come up with.

It’s a scary place, being your real self – especially when, for a long time – many years even – you have become used to playing an inauthentic role. Truth is, we are all acting a part in our lives, because of the way we have become fashioned through our experiences.

And it can make us both uncomfortable as well as less capable when we are working outside our natural skin.

Once you have taken steps to recognize any areas where you need to fine tune them, you can take steps, often with the support and help from your team, to develop your skills in a much more productive way.

For junior managers, you can start this right from the beginning of your management role. By engaging others in your team with your development through a bit of self-analysis, you will help them see that this is the most valuable way to progress their performance.

For more experienced managers, such openness, whilst relatively rare, has enormous possibilities for you as well as the team itself.

Being open about who you are and how you go about your work, is most revealing – not least in the response you get from your people, which whilst initially may be a little puzzled, is likely, over time, to become fascinated by the internal changes you make and they can learn from too.

Often there will be programs that will be able to help you. Your organization may have one-off training courses you can do. You may have team members or colleagues who have the specific experiences you need if you take the time to look around.

There is nothing like being focused, taking your development into your own hands and creating the opportunities for your own development yourself.

If you sit around waiting for the magic workshop to transform your management development to clear all your shortcomings, you may well have to wait a long time indeed.

Far better to seek out support from an experienced hand that will be able to guide you through ‘learning by doing exercises’ that will neatly feather into your day-job.

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

Permalink Print Comment

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

Permalink Print

March 10, 2010

Management Development Tips – Self- Driven Learning Is The Best

Management development is a critical activity for all managers to undertake, whatever their levels of expertise.

Noticing what you need to do differently is the vital first step and then taking action without waiting for others to do it for you.

There can be amazing value when you are focused enough to want to develop and grow.

It is pretty obvious that there are many managers out there who are at different starting points in their careers. Knowing where to start as you move your career along can be a bit tricky.

Because what’s just right for a new manager, still getting their basics right, will be very different for a seasoned manager who – when being very honest – will know exactly where they have their weaker points that will need attention.

Please remember, wherever you are up the ladder of success, there will always be something that you can develop, regardless of the level of experience you have and the interest you take in your own future growth.

It can be much more challenging when you feel things aren’t going as well as they might and then try to pass the blame to anything that will take it. Like your employees; outside influences; the weather even (it has been known!).

Where you are new, you’ll look for an experienced hand to guide you quickly to help you make a great start. You will be able to absorb all sorts of information and it will all be very valuable.

You know that it’s important to reflect on what you are learning and sense how it is serving you. It is easy to get distracted, of course, and you will need to be choosy. It’s also worth taking time out to reflect on your behaviors, to check out whether the ‘how’ of the ways you do things is the most appropriate and productive.

For those more experienced, you see things in different ways, from a position of ‘been there, done that’. Much experience is invaluable for you and the key to check here is whether what you do has served you well – no, really, check it out with your people – so that you can select other options to make the difference going forward.

It just depends on you to take a few minutes out of your week to find what you need to move forward, that’s all. When you find that specific little gem you can improve – even just a little – you really will find that it’s been worth your while.

It’s worth noting that the very action you take to improve your performance shows that you are one of the small percentage who are prepared to take their career into their own hands.

With that level of a pro-active spirit, aligned with the activities and learning you can find – often very inexpensively – out there, you have much greater opportunities to be successful than many of your colleagues.

And that is immensely valuable, both financially and for your own fulfillment too, as well as the development and growth of your own people, which you will inevitably begin to support them with as part of your focused development.

Management development is a fascinating activity for managers – of any age or experience – to get involved in and the most valuable and rewarding comes from grasping the nettle and taking personal responsibility for your own growth.

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

Permalink Print Comment