management skills

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 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 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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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

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January 5, 2010

Creating Effective Relationships – The Valuable Benefits of Summarizing

There are many tactics that help develop the capabilities of your people. One that is always vital is when you build confidence – always a challenge for employees embarking on a development path. Yet there’s a tactic that’s very valuable.

Listening hard to one of your team and reflecting on what they have said is a simple skill to adopt when you need to help them feel that they are valued.

By reflecting back in a summary of what you’ve heard them say, you really will make a difference.

Apart from building an understanding that within people management skills as a whole, the way you hold conversations can be maneuvered to your advantage, let’s take a look at the key value you can gain here.

Summarizing as a tactic…

•    Shows you heard – that you listened closely enough, to sort out what they said and condense it into a coherent understanding. This sort of close attention to them makes them feel that you were interested enough to have heard and this, apart from building rapport…

•    Shows you value what they said – it was interesting; they are interesting and that you think they are a valuable human being. Believe it or not, but many people just don’t have that sense of themselves, for all sorts of reasons. You are different, you value them – and they like that, so it…

•    Opens the conversation to more – by summarizing, you show them that you engaged with them fully. It’s about helping them see that you are interested enough to hear more. With that encouragement, they find the confidence to keep going and then, of course, this starts to…

•    Stimulates their thinking – this ‘Time to Think’ is hugely valuable for creative thinking; development of ideas; analysis of pitfalls and more. The act of summarizing gets them to listen to what you have taken from what they have said and encourages them to challenge your perception, for right or wrong. That is, your interpretation might be different from what they meant and they start to consider that, not forgetting that what you are doing…

•    Builds the relationship – by showing you value them and are prepared to take the time to hear their input; their side of the equation; their hopes, fears, concerns about the issues. They recognize that you are an asset to them, which makes another difference as it…

•    Builds their confidence – because what they have said makes a difference; they have a value. When this happens, people really do want to do more and more. Your summary will show them that you notice that they can contribute and that you will ask them for more. When they find this, their confidence will soar. Confidence which is, always, one of the biggest drivers to developing themselves.

By taking a little time to manage yourself, as you engage in conversation with your people as individuals, you will emerge with very constructive possibilities, as they grow in confidence before your very eyes, because having the ‘boss’ show a real interest in hugely motivational.

It just needs your focus and attention to summarize as you go!

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

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March 25, 2009

Bad Customer Service – Where Does the Fault Lie?

I’m going to be all contentious here – are you ready?

Bad customer service is almost never the fault of the person who gives it. Period.

When we are at the blunt end of bad service as a customer, we immediately feel that it’s the one facing us (or in an increasingly virtual world, on the other end of some sort of line or another), who’s at fault.

Yet, I’m pretty sure that most people who go to work each day want to feel that they have done a great job. Trouble is, their environment isn’t always right.

So, what does that mean? Well, let me share with you 5 top line reasons why the obvious culprit in not the individual in your line of fire, the person right in front of you:-

1. The Wrong Person

You see, when organizations recruit customer ‘facing’ personnel, they need to be very definitely choosing those who like interacting with others.

So often, what I call ‘people-people’ don’t get selected because they can come across as a bit forward at interview, and that can irritate the selection team.

This is wrong.

People-people are outward and love interacting. So, when selection teams recruit, sometimes the wrong person gets put in front of you because the wrong choices were made, often for the wrong reasons.

2. The Wrong Priorities 1

Customers aren’t quite the priority the organization says they are.

Of course every organization on the planet ‘says’ that the customers is ‘the most important person’ (I actually disagree – see 4. below) – and then they don’t walk their talk. A customer is only the priority level that the sharp-end management gives it.

So they go giving their supposedly customer focused employees a ton of other jobs to do so they make best (financial) use of them.

Where is the logic of that?

3. The Wrong Priorities 2

Organizations love processes!

It’s what employs a whole bunch of people and then, with all that ‘delighting customers’ they are supposed to be doing, they lumber their people with audits and stock control and a multitude of non-customer aligned activities that support who?

Probably the bean counters and auditors who provide the processes in the first place. The customer front line employees have to comply, or they get into trouble – or focus on customers.

Well, we know what they are going to do, aren’t they.

4. The Wrong Focus

Organizations upset their people without even trying.

They fail to recognize and act on some of the most basic standards that any employee might expect.

Pay gets botched and/or paid late; workwear is always ‘delayed’; people don’t say ‘thank you’; personal ambition isn’t on the radar; holidays get moved.

None of this helps a customer facing employee be at their very best when they need to be.

5. The Wrong Managers

More and more these days, manager appointments are being dumbed down to a pretty low denominator.

Managers are given roles that don’t suit them and they don’t have adequate people skills to make the best of the people they have; nor appreciate the criteria required to get the right fit.

Add to that where managers don’t show they care about their people because their communication skills are lacking and you have the absolute recipe for trouble.

Can you see the reasons why it’s pretty unlikely that customer facing employees are rarely where the fault for failure lies?

If you’re a manager yourself, what do you need to change in the way you run your team; department or business. What do you not know about how the sharp-end works. And, when will you find out about it.

Or maybe you are part of the problem, not the solution?

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

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January 2, 2009

Two More Management Skills That Build Trust

Language matters

Watching your language is crucial.

By avoiding using the “us” and “them” figures of speech and sticking with “we” wherever possible, your team will bond better with you.

Your language should be clear and simple, because everyone interprets what is said differently – so you need to speak plainly for everyone to understand.

Have some fun!

Having fun with your team enhances the trust building process. In context, social interactions are a big opportunity for success for any good manager.

To make a team which works together efficiently, requires the abundant presence of mutual trust. By consistently thinking of and working on trust building, any manager will reap long-lasting positive benefits.

Filed under Building the Future, Managing Me by Martin

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December 12, 2008

Management Is OK – Then The Leader Comes Along!

Because a manager is interacting so intimately with all parties, he or she will instinctively have knowledge of what clicks, who should be made to work together with whom and how to deal with problems.

But while a manager by virtue of the nature of his work has to be an insider, working closely at the sharp-end of the business every day, the leader does not.

He can work from the sidelines and inspire change without even having a personal stake in what’s happening today.

Leadership is needed for future growth and development in any business. It is a strategic activity, requiring vision, creativity and market-wisdom.

Management is what gets work done; what brings today’s cash-flow and ensures the health of the business right now and in the foreseeable future.

It is the true force and inspiration behind any successful organization, without which, there would be no future.

Filed under Building the Future, Focus on Results, Management Basics by Martin

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December 10, 2008

Listening Skills Revisited – 8 – Don’t Forget ‘Virtual’

When we are talking about communication, it does not necessarily refer to face-to-face communication.

Memos, emails, phone calls, video calls, letters etc are all important in your behaviors.

Whenever you have contact from someone on your team, make sure you acknowledge it as soon as you can at least – even if you are going to take time to reply to it.

It’s just as important as the times you can have conversations – maybe even more so.

If you looking to develop a functional, productive team, it is important to make your employees feel that they are an indispensable part of it.

Putting your listening skills to optimum use when you are communicating with the people working under you can truly make the difference.

Filed under Developing Your People, Managing Me by Martin

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