Tag Archives: Management

The thing that most makes me want to punch a manager in the face

ImageThere are lots of things managers do that can infuriate you. Apart from being inept the thing that most makes me want to punch a manager in the face is when they make excuses for their decisions.

If you don’t know what that sounds like, it could be something like “we wanted you to take on that project but the deadline has moved forward”

It’s not you, it’s me.

Why do managers hide behind reasons out with their control? Or even worse use those reasons as an excuse. If you really want someone to be on a project then you will genuinely do everything in your power to get them on the project. And when you are using those reasons to cover up thinking that someone isn’t good enough then you are doing everyone a disservice.

Telling someone that they could have done A but unrelated B stopped them rather than saying they weren’t good enough to do A in the first place actually damages your relationship. You may have spared their feelings but without honesty you can’t effectively help someone to grow. And if you don’t help them to grow, they stop working.

Your opinion and decisions are what make you a leader. Nothing else. No industry knowledge, no strategy formulation, just your decisions. You may make decisions about strategy and you may have opinions on the credibility of knowledge which offer more to those that work with you, and for you, than just knowing.

So instead of thinking of reasons to tell your staff, let them know it’s your decision. You may need to justify it but at least your position will be clear.

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Don’t judge, improve

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As a leader you need to know how your staff perform. You can benchmark them against each other picking out your top performers and those that need to shape up. You judge them based on productivity reports but also on what you have seen in the day to day runnings. You can comfortably gauge your employees so there will be no surprises in planning.

Of course, your employees completely agree with your viewpoint, right?

This all comes down to the self-fulfilling prophecy. However much you want a staff member to improve their performance, if you believe they are an under-performer, it will show through in your actions. On the other hand, you may have full confidence in someone you think is a high performer. They may actually be struggling.

Stop judging your employees!

While this works for an individual who you judge worthy it has the completely opposite effect on everyone else. It can be a real disengager. To balance out the issue of “favourites” don’t focus on performance but focus on improvement. If you think everyone can perform and then focus on their improvement your actions toward them will be completely different. It will allow you to continually challenge each of your team to outperform without the pressure of a target. It will build sustainable performance. It will build engagement. It will build trust and loyalty. Used correctly it will build a learning organisation/team.

So rather than wanting your team to perform at a certain level, just want them to improve. No matter how they are performing only focus your actions on improvement. Your mindset will control your actions. And that will speak volumes.

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Management: Your problem, is that a problem, is a problem

ImageYou are managing a busy team and everything seems to be going well. Then you get a member of staff coming to you to complain about something. That staff member is an issue, right?

Wrong

Just because they are complaining doesn’t mean they are a burden. And don’t think that the problem they have raised is solely extra work for you. I’ve worked for so many managers that don’t like to hear about problems. In fact they have just thought of them as an inconvenience, or worse, threatening their practices personally. 

If someone has highlighted a genuine problem then that staff member should be praised for identifying an issue, certainly not chastised for rocking the boat. If they have perceived a problem which does not exist then talk them through it. Don’t palm them off and complain about them after. And don’t see them as a dysfunctional member of the team. 

The big issue here is about intent. If you see all advances as a threat then the outcome will always be the same. You will be defensive, aggressive or worst, passive-aggressive. You have trained yourself not to let slip those unprofessional feelings and comments but if you still think like that underneath, your subconscious will show through in your behaviours. Even worse when everything could be a threat you can overcompensate and keep people distant to avoid any issues. You can’t connect, delegate, motivate, engage etc with anyone who is distant. Trust here is key.

It can take time to trust your staff to behave positively for the organisation. But if you don’t start the ball rolling as a manager your staff certainly aren’t going to help. And they will help. You’ve just got to let them do it their way.

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leaning in or screaming in? impression management

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I will write a disclaimer to this post, I am an introvert. This is written from an introvert’s view.

I am not a fan of bravado and find it unnecessary. In my younger days I mistook bravado for shyness and covering up being comfortable with yourself. I originally studied music as a composer. My undergrad was spent squirrelling away in a room with the product of my work being very public and the only thing that was judged. I decided music should become a hobby and started in full time work. 

This was a shock to the system.

I maintained the mentality, and still do to a degree, that people’s work should speak for itself. However, in the world of work a manager with a team of 30 staff doesn’t have time to notice what is going on beyond a productivity report. They can’t discover the cogs that make the process happen. So here comes impression management to save the day. What I originally thought of as ‘brown-nosing’ was to become my greatest ally. Self-promotion of exploits and successes allowed me to be noticed. I had swallowed my pride and seen the benefit.

The only difficulty came when looking for a more senior role. I had provided what I saw as an above average contribution but my appraisals and lack of sponsor for a new role would say otherwise. I had slipped out the vision of my leaders. 

Now impression management, for me at least, is a bit of a double edged sword. While it helps individuals be noticed for their work, it also takes away the responsibility of management to stay focused on their team. A voice of performance can be reassuring to you doing a good job as a manager. So when there is benefits to both sides of this relationship, it reinforces the behaviour. And when others see the benefits of this behaviour they want to be involved. 

Very soon you can have a culture of impression management where managers rely on staff to self-promote their success to deem that a good job has been done. Now this naturally fits for extroverts. The introverts, get left behind. And as a manager you soon only see what you think is providing performance and not what actually does.

Now as a self-confessed introvert this is a challenge that we all must overcome to progress in any career. The main difficulty is when you have staff who rely on this skill without ability in their role. And managers toast success of the wrong people. Just because they say they were involved. 

Now both high performance and impression management and necessary to progress. If you work in a competitive work environment there won’t be anyone leaning out. Everyone will be leaning in hungrily to go further. With a strong self-promotion culture, people need to shout to be noticed. And when everyone is shouting, no one is heard. 

Any employee needs to build these skills but managers should be wary of continual self-promotion of staff. If they have everything relayed to them is it a realistic picture of what is going on? Maybe those delegation skills look more like abdication skills right now. Either way to be a great manager or leader look for the cogs not the result to sustain performance.

 

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Negative staff – friend or foe?

As a manager or leader it is your job to coordinate employees and processes to gain maximum performance. You construct a plan to change things that you think need improved. You even spend some time putting together a communication strategy to appease staff of the downsides. You roll out the presentation and everyone sits quietly. You think to yourself you have done an amazing job. Just to clarify, you ask a few trusted employees for their opinion. Everything comes back glowing and further boosts your confidence. Things change and performance improves. You have done your job well, right?

Right?

Further down the line you find staff turnover has increased and satisfaction survey responses are lower. It couldn’t be the changes you made as everyone was happy with those. The staff must be having personal issues or there is something else causing the issue. You bring in an under performer for an improvement plan and they let you know that the changes you made have caused their morale to fall and the job intensity to increase. So why didn’t anyone say?

Were they afraid to? Is it easier to just keep quiet? 

Many friends and previous managers I have worked with don’t like to be questioned about their decisions or workings. In one role I held previously, the employee in question was told they would be ostracised from the team for being a troublemaker and going against management. This member of staff was quoted as being a negative influence on the rest of the team and that it should stop.

Whether it is positive or negative this person has influence. More than perhaps you initially would like. But what if that influence was positive? What if that person agreed with your ideas and was your evangelist among the team? What bigger impact would that person allow for? How much more successful would your change be?

Resistance to change is not a bad thing if you don’t let it become an obstacle. You think this person is being insubordinate and questioning you personally, they see it as questioning an idea. So here are my tips for embracing insubordination.

1. Take your ego out of the equation. This project may be your baby but when you take things personally, particularly criticism, you hold to your ideas stronger and creativity is stifled. Remember this is an organisational goal, not a personal one.

2. Enjoy the challenge. Yes someone is saying your ideas are flawed but celebrate the opportunity to push yourself and your ideas further. Don’t get put out. This is not an attack.

3. Welcome opinions good and bad. Actively seek them out. You may initially see a complaining employee but try to look at this as an employee who thinks it can be better and wants to do so. Employees don’t always say it right so help them to communicate right the next time.

4. Find out why it’s bad. You may have one view of a situation but that’s not the whole picture. The staff can open up a whole other view.

5. Be afraid of those who don’t communicate. They aren’t engaged and don’t want to participate in changes. Even those who complain want to be involved.

6. Delegate the challenge. If you have staff who don’t think an initiative is good enough then let them make it better. If they are directly affected then they have better insight into what is wrong. You don’t have to sweat over it all yourself. Keep on top of their development and initiative though, as you are still accountable.

 

Taking a more open view to challenging staff can spark creativity, innovation and diversity. And remember be afraid of the silence. No one likes a quiet business.

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