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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February 27, 2010

Summarizing As a Communication Tool

As managers, we need to create the best interactions with our employees as we can. Understanding each other needs to be the goal, after which, everything else follows…

When we speak to each other, it’s inevitable that what is said, sometimes, maybe even often, is misunderstood, so when a message needs to be very clear, steps need to be taken to clarify it.

One excellent tactic to use is to get the person you are talking to summarize what they have heard back to you and then refine their understanding if it doesn’t match yours.

Nothing upsets employees more than when they take a course of action they believe is expected of them and they then find it wasn’t right.

By ensuring that you get them to summarize, you give them the opportunity to tell you exactly what their interpretation of the situation is. It’s how their brain has perceived the agreement and their words make that clear.

You can then tell if they have ‘got it’ as you expected, or explain the differences if needed.

Now, even then there might be a little difference in your interpretation of their words, but it’s a lot closer than it was without them summarizing.

There’s another point here too. Believe it or not, however great a manager you are, often your people will be intimidated by you, as the ‘boss’, so they will go along with what you say, meekly nodding in agreement.

If you don’t have them tell you what it is they are agreeing to, they might well leave the conversation with hardly a clue about what you really want.

Engaging in a ‘summarizing’ conversation helps them recognize that you are going to want feedback on their understanding so if they aren’t clear, they are much more likely to ask questions to help them ‘get it’ as the relationship progresses in the future.

Whilst it might sound a little cumbersome as a process, when you try it out a few times, you will find that summarizing simply becomes another part of the conversation you have. The sign that it’s working well comes when they summarize back for you without you needing to ask at all!

You have made a clear instruction; they have summarized what they have heard; you sign that off and just keep a distant, watchful eye to help them make it happen how you want it too.

It’s all part of pulling together and making the workplace much more effective and efficient.

With this comes the genuine interactions that develop a team which really is able to be much more productive overall.

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

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January 3, 2009

“It is ironic, but true, that in this age of electronic communications, personal interaction is becoming more important than ever” Regis Kenna, Marketing Consultant

“It is ironic, but true, that in this age of electronic communications, personal interaction is becoming more important than ever”
Regis Kenna, Marketing Consultant

Over the last 30 years, technology has changed the face of the world. In fact just around that time the first calculator pocket calculators were being sold to the public – before that there was nothing electronic! Can you imagine that?

Today we have an enormous range of gadgets and widgets both in our work and our daily lives, to make it easier – which it does.

The time-changing events that technology allows for have revolutionized what we can do in every aspect of the world we live and work in.

It’s important to acknowledge what that time-saved actually does. It creates more spaces to do the things we can only do ourselves, as managers, by interacting more with our people.

And ironically, person-to-person interaction is happening less, whilst it is right now all the more critical for managers to work more effectively by getting into one-to-ones with every one of their people.

By using the time and space that technology creates for us, it is vital to ensure that we remember that in the personal relationships we have as managers, we create value as only we, uniquely, can.

Technology can crunch the numbers; can move mail faster than the postman (usually) and as managers we need to utilize this so that the time we create is used to develop our ‘people time’.

From those one-on-ones, to group meetings and even through just listening to what our people have to say about anything, regularly, day-in/day-out, is our most valuable asset.

It’s vital we don’t let the technology get in the way!

Filed under Developing Your People, Great Quotations by Martin

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December 8, 2008

“A leader needs to be in touch with the employees…” – Donald Peterson, Former Chairman, Ford Motor Company

“A leader needs to be in touch with the employees and to communicate with them on a daily basis.”
Donald Peterson, Former Chairman, Ford Motor Company

It sounds almost to crazy to say it, yet it’s true. Top managers have to be in a place where they understand how their people are doing all of the time.

It doesn’t have to be formal. It doesn’t need to be heavy. In fact it’s really good the lighter the better. It’s about your people being comfortable with you and opening themselves up (it might be little-by-little at first) as you do too.

Then you get signals on your sensitive radar.

How on earth else could anyone find out about what is going on at the sharp end of a business, other than communicating directly with them regularly?

How to do it? Well, it’s all about just getting out there, showing an interest in the people your business depends on. Listening a lot and saying much less. Valuing their contribution by hearing them and how they are feeling.

The first step is just to get out there and show an interest.

Prime your conversations, by asking questions likely to stimulate interest, then, let your people take the lead and talk to you. Your listening will be very attractive to them and they will appreciate it and say more.

By asking questions that require answers from them and avoiding the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ that can come otherwise, you will truly find out what makes your people tick, one at a time.

Then work on keeping up your interactions with them – about anything – with a schedule of actions intended to maintain your visibility.

Developing long-term relationships with as many of your people as possible, is the very best investment of your time you can make.

Filed under Developing Your People, Great Quotations, Managing Me by Martin

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