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Archive for the ‘Manager Tips’ Category

2010: Expand the pie

In ! Jen, General Work, Leaders, Manager Tips on Sunday, February 7, 2010 at 5:55 am

A friend gave me an unusual compliment in 2009–that I was one of few in her circle who did not see our collective success as being zero-sum. At first this struck me as a strange thing to say, as the archetypes of “success” that immediately come to mind are indeed zero-sum: gold/silver/brass medals, one CEO per company, a finite pool of dollars within a budget, a finite number of people in total headcount.

But within and between relationships, it’s a different story. At least, it should be. Specifically, I’m thinking of three relationship categories: bona fide friendships, life partnerships, and employee/manager.

Bona fide friendships and life partnerships should be a no-brainer but I don’t think they always are in this respect. We all have people with whom we hold back a bit, cautiously second-guessing their motivations, wondering how they will use a statement out of context. Or even, keep meticulous score.

Here’s a challenge for 2010: move these people into the “colleague” or “acquaintance” column. And for those with whom you’ve chosen to be with as a life partner, or with whom you’re friends with for the long haul, expand the pie. View their successes in 2010 as desirable as your own and provide coaching and counsel to help them. If you can’t do this, it may be worthwhile to honestly reexamine your own motivations. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

A dear girlfriend shared with me a story of consultants–differentiating, via story, between eggs & bacon. With eggs, the chicken is an involved party–but with bacon, the pig’s ultimately committed–it has skin in the game, so to speak. Be the pig.

And what of managers? Ah, here’s where I expect I may get some pushback. To the extent to which Employee X is reporting to Manager Z, I posit that Z should be engaging in this same type of relationship behavior. Z should be pushing, coaching, counseling X to achieve his best. Z should be seeing her success as contingent upon X’s. And vice versa. What does this look like? I could go on literally, forever, but here are 16 things managers can do to show that they see their success and their employees’ as shared–not zero sum:

1. Support your employee if/when they want to move on to another position. Managers who lack confidence often see their employees’ desire to wander to other pastures as disloyalty or a diss on themselves. Find out their reasons for wanting the other position and offer your support. And concurrently, seek ways to enrich their job with you.

2. Don’t stay away. This is the best thing I took away from a valuable two-day coaching workshop. One of the rules of attraction they talk about in social psych 101 is propinquity, or nearness and frequency of exposure. Managers can use this to their advantage. Stop by in the morning to say hi, asking about the weekend, or sharing a fun piece of information about a department win. This can create comfort in familiarity and an openness that will be reciprocated.

3. Take time to get to know your employee on a personal level. Get invested. Most importantly, care. This, I believe, is the huge differentiator between managers who “get it” and managers who don’t. This is one, however, that can’t be faked.

4-16. Coming in a future post. This one is getting too long. In the meantime, please comment and let us know how you show you’re wholeheartedly invested in your relationships.


Use your magic powers for good, not evil

In ! Kristy, Development, Manager Tips on Tuesday, October 13, 2009 at 2:29 pm

I spent two days last week becoming a certified facilitator of FranklinCovey’s The Speed of Trust materials. I’m a huge Covey fan; The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People has majorly influenced how I go about my life, and The Speed of Trust is in that same vein. In short, it’s Good Stuff, and it’s now part of my toolkit along with other favorites like the MBTI and Right Management’s career development material.

I’m a proud OD geek, and I’m passionate about helping others find insight using these tools. But in the wrong situation, they can eff up a team or an organization like nobody’s business, worsening the dysfunction and creating a zombie army of cynical team members.  It all depends on how you use the magic powers.

These tools rock when:

  • The leader has done the hard work of getting self-aware, identifying how she contributes to the team dynamic, and demonstrating changed behavior as a result of the feedback she received
  • The leader has made some tough people decisions and removed team members who don’t play well in the sandbox; i.e., the leader has implemented the No Assholes Rule
  • The leader is committing to a long-term development process for her team, not just a one-hit wonder “teambuilding day”

These tools crash and burn spectacularly when:

  • The leader is checking a box, particularly on his own development plan
  • The leader is trying to fix the team without fixing himself
  • The leader is assuming that a one-day “training,” followed (god forbid) by some Whirlyball, is going to fix everything
  • The leader misuses the information shared by team members during the session

How do we avoid misuse?

Certified facilitators have an ethical obligation to ensure that each tool is used in the right circumstances with the right intent. It can be difficult to speak truth to power when a client “just wants you to come in for an hour” and run through some MBTI concepts. But you’ve got to do the true consulting work.  That’s why you get paid the big bucks and have such a nice cube.

Leaders have an ethical obligation to do the hard work of change, which starts with changing you, which starts with getting self-aware and becomes real when you show others you’ve listened to their feedback by changing how you act. Also, there are some tough conversations and decisions ahead of you if you really do want to help your team. But this is the true work of leadership. That’s why you get paid even more money and may even have wood furniture.

Use those magic powers wisely, peeps.

16 Questions to Ask Your Employees in Development Discussions (With Focus on Current Job)

In ! Jen, Development, Manager Tips on Monday, October 5, 2009 at 3:33 am

These are questions I’ve culled from exchanges with countless managers and personal coaches. There are so many good ones, but here are 16 favorites. They all require an earnest approach and sincere exchange. Respond to cockamamie answers with a “no, really, I want to know.” And stay curious about your employee–don’t take their responses at face value. What do they mean? what would this look like? what is stopping them? what barriers can you help remove? Keep the dialogue alive. It creates connection, and your employee will appreciate that you cared enough to invest in this time.

16. What risks would you take in the next year in your current role, if you knew that you could not fail?

15. If you could change one thing about your job today, what would it be?

14. If you could improve one process, which would it be? How would it be different?

13. What important-but-not-urgent task or project do you wish you had more time on which to work?

12. What do you want to be remembered for in this job?

11. What skills do you need to learn to excel in your job?

10. What skills do you feel you need to practice more?

9. Who do you wish you knew in our organization to be more effective in your job?

8. What’s a recent management decision you didn’t understand?

7. Do you understand how your work contributes to our department’s success? to our organization / company’s success?

6. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being “extremely,” how satisfied would you say you are in this job? What would make it an X+1? What would make it a 10?

5. Do you feel we meet frequently enough to enable you to do your job effectively? What communication would help?

4. Are there areas of your job you wish you could receive retraining?

3. In what areas of your job do you wish you had more support? (Support could mean so many different things here.)

2. What brings you joy in your work?

1. What do you need from me to help you in your development?

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