relationship building

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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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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September 29, 2010

Adequately Managing Employee Expectations

There’s a small action you can take, right away, that will build  confidence in you personally, as well as ensuring that the trust that  your people have in you is high.

I’m pretty sensitive to it –  perhaps it’s just the way I am – but it’s a very important behavior that  I notice easily when it happens.

You see, I really expect people to do what they say they will. It’s not much to ask!

Now, that doesn’t seem so hard now, does it? well, you might be surprised.  In fact managers so often fail to deliver, it’s little wonder that they  fail to create the respect and trust that they need to be effective  managers.

And there’s such a simple way to ensure that you are seem to deliver what you say you will.

Under-promise.

Here’s an example.

I  was once placed in a tricky situation. The organization I worked for  had a rigid salary review process – one that once a salary raise was in  place (and it was an annual activity) there was no way to change it.

Yet we had to make the budgets balance before we could tell out people what they had achieved and were going to shortly receive.

One  of my supervisors was not happy with the outcome of her review and came  to tell me so. In fact, I had inherited the review that year (from a  previous manager) and it seemed to me that there was just cause for her  concern.

But I couldn’t fix it there and then. In fact, although  there was a small window to ‘fix’ such matters – at the half year mark –  I wasn’t prepared to ‘promise’ an increase then even.

What I did  do was promise to take a further look at her situation and be as fair  with her as possible and depending on her meeting some criteria we  agreed.

I was never perfect at this. I did notice that because I  held ‘keeping promises’ in  high regard in my business life, I would  always do my best to ensure that I met the expectations others had of  me.

Under-promising has so many benefits – and it’s a tactic that  is very worthy of consideration, particularly when you have taken time  to create relationships with your people upfront.

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

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August 31, 2010

Appreciation – Learning from Your Team

One of the simplest management tactics you can use to build trust and positive morale is where you find a small amount of time in your day to appreciate your people.

This can take the form of praise; encouragement; delegation and even that simplest of activities, just saying ‘thank you’. Sometimes even just keeping it personal is very effective indeed.

I recently came across a team where the manager wasn’t the best at saying ‘thank you’ or showing appreciation in much of any way at all.

One of his team was leaving after a few months only, to go back to college – she was 19 years old and had settled in very well, becoming a big contributor to the team very quickly.

The team had 7 people in it and it was clear that they would all miss this employee – and indeed she gave a strong impression that she would miss them too (even marking ‘so sad’ on the calendar for her leaving day!).

This was made very clear on the day after she left, when she returned to the office and left everyone a small card.

Inside the card were a few sentences which thanked each one personally for their friendship and how much she would miss them. There were also a few words of what was so special about each of them, including the manager himself.

Now, I don’t know if the hint was taken by the manager, but every individual was not only hugely touched by the gesture, but each was surprised and enlarged with the rosy-glow of the value they each contributed to the person leaving.

Small, personalized, honest and very appreciative were the comments. But what a difference they made to each of her friends and colleagues. A difference that would be long-lasting and specific to each of them.

As managers, we can always learn a lot from our people, when we take the time to notice – and then apply – what we observe.

It takes a little effort to get down off that high horse we sit on when we are the boss – and when we are humble enough to do so, we can make great steps forward, making our own difference as we go.

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

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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

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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

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March 2, 2010

Management Tactics – No Winners With Win/Lose Or Lose/Win

In every relationship we have, we need to be focused enough to ensure that there is a balance between both sides.

When there is not, that’s when the trouble begins. The workplace is definitely no exception.

The relationships that we make as managers with our people are the invaluable partnerships that enable us to deliver much more than we could alone.

The teams of individuals we bring together synergize to create results that are far more than the sum of the parts. When we manager others, it’s our role to do this.

The relationships we form to drive a successful team cannot be at group level. For the people in the team this is not enough. They need us to be prepared to engage in personal relationships with them, one-to-one, from time to time.

Whilst we can impact on the team as a whole for the decisions that we make and even impose on them, the effects are never at team level, they are always felt inside, by each and every one of those involved.

So, we have to make effective relationships with each person we manage and, there’s more, we have to ensure that the outcomes meet the needs on both side of that one-on-one partnership too.

If we seem to succeed and they feel let down (the win-lose), they will be less committed, because their needs are not being met. If this goes on for a time, they will feel used and that you are insincere in your words that encourage a close relationship. Trust starts to dissipate and the relationship will break down.

On the other hand, where you meet the needs of the person sitting opposite you and fail to achieve the goals you need to succeed, (the lose-win), the balance tips the other way and the relationship founders because you are not achieving the results that you are measured on.

With win-win, both sides get their very personally driven needs and goals met. The business thrives from successful results achieved and the individuals thrive as well, because their needs are understood and activities aligning them with the business requirements becomes much more effectively delivered too.

Indeed, if the only way you can work is where one side loses, it’s probably best that each side agrees that it isn’t working out and both sides walk away. Truly win-lose and lose-win are, in effect a win for neither side at all, because of the deeper consequences that will affect all.

Manager ‘Wins’

Let’s say a manager gives way a lot on meeting the needs of their team members. He is lax on discipline because the employees want ‘freedom to express themselves’ and gives it away.

This might result, if allowed to impact on deadlines for example, that sales quotas aren’t achieved. The manager could lose their job and individuals get a much worse deal from their new manager.

A classic example of Lose/Win, except in the bigger picture, it isn’t.

Employee ‘Wins’

The alternate view, might be where a manager rarely spends one-on-one time with his people, citing that his schedule is far too tight with the results he has to achieve.

Employees become less committed and the better ones find a new job with a manager much better suited to understanding their own, very individual, needs.

The first manager finds he struggles to achieve the results that the business needs and is challenged on his own performance (and has much less effective staff left behind to help recover).

A great example of a Win/Lose, but it isn’t even that at all.

The challenge for managers and employees is to acknowledge that the other side has to win as well, because a side that is losing is much more likely to have a significantly bigger impact all round.

Filed under Blog by Martin

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February 28, 2010

Seeking Win-Win – The Relationship Buy In

The core of all business relationships is parity. They are about the negotiation between an employer for output, in exchange for reward, the basis of which is usually a financial transaction.

So this is a fair deal then.

The best relationships serve everyone well. The term win-win comes from the need to ensure that both sides are served adequately from the interactions they have together, such that there is an appropriate return for all.

And a return that is seen to be for the benefit of all too.

There are challenges in trying to secure relationships that balance outcomes that are felt fair on every side. When we manage others we usually find that – as managers – our financial rewards and benefits are greater, so when we want interactions that are effective, we need to do the best by our people as well.

In fact, to get past the traditional differences between managers and employees, we have to be doubly sure that we look towards meeting their needs as far as we can – or better.

Win-win is not, you see, measured on financial reward alone, even though it is often the headline. That said, there clearly needs to be a sense of reality to ensure that people are appropriately rewarded, of course.

Managers can make a huge difference to the relationships they have with employees, to create benefits other than simple material reward.

Good managers acknowledge this and make savvy interactions that count in their favor. By making the time to enhance the workplace experience for all their people, there is much to offer when the possibilities are carefully considered and a little time invested.

By taking the time to be aware of (and always acknowledge) contribution; to develop and coach; to provide career opportunities and to simply provide time for people, as well as the regular interplay that goes on in typical informal conversation-making, managers have all the cards in their hands to make the relationships work so that everyone is a winner.

Take care to note, however, that the onus is on the manager to make the running when it comes to relationship-building, because many employees find it difficult to be confident enough with managers to be equal in the relationship to start with, so they need your help.

With focus and consideration, together with practice and feedback, any manager has a hundred ways to start off good relationships, so there will always be a key to open up an understanding with any and everyone in your team. Sometimes it will take a while to find it, so perseverance will be needed.

Once you get the buy-in with your people – one-by-one – there will be huge benefits for everyone, ensuring that win-wins, through the interactions you have with each of your team members, is the full fruition of the efforts made – on both sides.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Management Basics 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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February 25, 2010

Refining Employee Relationships – Getting To The Bottom Line

When we are managers, supervisors and leaders, we build workplace relationships – and we do it for a reason. We want to achieve successes and we need to do this through our people.

This is the bottom line for the interactions we take our part in.

The purpose of relationship building in the workplace is pretty simple really. There is value for all sides of the equation and within that, it’s important to acknowledge that there is a bottom line.

As employees; indeed as business owners, managers and team leaders, we are all in it for something, because the most of us need the work we do.

When we attend work, we do so for some pretty basic reasons. We want shelter to keep us from the elements. We want to be fed and kept healthy. In modern societies we are very fortunate that these are pretty much covered off for most of us.

So we need more. The basics – the core rewards that work provides us with – are sufficient to provide the minimum we need. If that was all we went to work for, well, we that’s pretty much sorted.

The more we need is the cerebral value that work provides for us. The stimulation of the work we do provides a healthiness that is not measured by outward disease. Our mental well-being is provided for by finding stimulating challenges that we enjoy and get personal satisfaction from.

Work is not about material reward alone.

When we manage others, we take that on as a stimulating challenge that gets our juices flowing, so we too are satisfied from the fulfillment that we get from the achievements we make.

Both sides achieving successes in their own personal challenges, are leveraged by organizations to ensure that results from the whole, go to meet and exceed the results that need to drop out for the financial bottom line.

If managers and their employees have personal goals they want to achieve and these are aligned with the needs of the bigger organization, then we are all in business pulling together.

The glue that binds us is the way we communicate together. And we communicate most effectively by having close working relationships that enable us to make the best outcomes possible, where everyone is a winner.

That bottom line for the relationships we build is the pleasure – the joy even – we get from achieving what we want from the work we do.

It isn’t just about financial reward. It isn’t about getting a company car that’s a bit bigger. It’s not about the pension pot we build.

Relationships enable us to work together towards a common goal. The purpose of the relationships we co-create, is the bottom line for all of us, which is very personal, yet always contributes to the outcome our employers expect of us too.

So we are all winners together.

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

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