The Management Blog
Tips & advice to help you improve your performance
What’s your main purpose in managing? After many years of deliberation, I believe it comes down to one main thing: the results or outcomes you achieve.
Many managers we meet put a lot of emphasis on the activity they and their teams carry out. This is all well and good, but what, exactly, are you hoping to achieve? Being very busy, but not achieving much, doesn’t help anyone.
So you need to prioritise and focus your energy and planning on results. Ask yourself, What is meant to be the result of the work done by my department? What differences should we be making, and how will we measure them? Learn More
On a recent management course we were running, the discussion revolved around the key skills managers need to make an impact in today’s working environment. One delegate suggested consistency in approach. But another delegate thought it would stifle creativity if a manager tried to be consistent.
I thought about this and have come up with a few benefits of management consistency:
1) Consistency reduces confusion and uncertainty within the team. If your team wonder how you are going to respond to various ideas and issues, you create an atmosphere of doubt and people will think twice about airing thoughts that might be more creative because of concern about your reaction
2) Being consistent brings the perception of who you are and who others think you are closer together. This means people are able to trust you and understand your reactions if there’s a difference of opinion
3) Consistency helps you to ‘walk your talk’. It improves and highlights your personal brand and helps people recognise who you are and the standards you aim for
4) Consistency enables your team to support you in your decision-making. Knowing how you will respond will allow team members to have confidence in approaching you and supporting the way you deal with problems
5) Consistency can still encourage creativity. It just means that in situations that require you to make decisions, people know where they stand with you and can predict your behavioural styles
So, there’s no doubt that people can build their trust in you when you are consistent in your approach and a level of understanding not found where inconsistency is rife.
One thing that differentiates average managers from the really successful ones is their devotion to excellence.
When we ask managers how committed they are to excellence in their role, the majority tell us that they are ‘very’ or ‘totally’. But when we probe a little further and ask what they specifically do to show excellence in their work, there is a distinct lack of clarity.
Let me ask you the same question; how committed are you to excellence in everything you do?
Those we have worked with over the years who have demonstrated this commitment to excel in all they do, share one particular emotion that makes them stand out. And that is the passion they show for excellence.
By that I mean they see opportunities to show a very high work ethic in everything they do, and the passion they show for that level of performance outweighs everything else. All they do is stamped with high quality, and they approach their tasks with a resolute mind-set that creates a confidence in everyone who works with them.
So can you raise your standards whenever you need to get results? If you do that consistently, there is every chance you have a ‘passion for excellence.
If you are an empathetic and thoughtful manager, chances are that at times your staff will approach you with their personal problems that might be affecting their work, or home life, or both.
Here are some ideas to help you in these sometimes awkward situations;
* Make sure your team member sees that you take such problems seriously. This means you may have to leave the office and go somewhere quiet. Constant interruptions from phone, emails, other employees, etc. show that you aren’t really concerned. If it’s really not a good time for you, say so, and immediately set aside a specific time to discuss it with them
* Encourage your team member to talk by listening actively. Be re-assuring by not judging, and by rephrasing and summarising. Ask questions to clarify, if necessary. Your behaviour is the key to a successful session. Try to be empathetic and supportive
* Note any hidden meanings, like blame or over-sensitivity. Listen to expressions and mannerisms and especially watch body-language
* Isolate the problem. Having got through the web of detail and emotions, identify the core problem and its probable cause. Analyse the true problem, not just the symptoms
* Work towards solutions. Remember that the aim is for your team member to solve the problem for themselves. Ask what options they see. If necessary, make tentative suggestions, like ‘how about this for an idea…’ or ‘one option might be….’. Decide what the pros and cons might be
* Encourage them in whatever decision they make. Naturally, there will be many areas where you simply aren’t able to offer advice, and you may have to suggest they see a professional to sort out some of the deeper problems they may be experiencing
* Finally, never betray a trust. Your team member will appreciate it if the discussions are kept private, unless they agree to having someone else help out. Remember your purpose in all of this…to help the team member through the situation.
Sometimes, all they want is a hearing ear, someone to bounce their problems around with. Resist the temptation to give advice in areas you are unfamiliar with. Just asking the right questions can sometimes help. When you’ve done the best you can, your team mate may be able to solve it themselves, or at least find a way forward. And you might gain yourself a high-performing employee again.
One of the best-known management models to come out of Japan is the technique called the Five Whys, and it should be part of your management armoury.
It’s a solid way of getting to the root of any problem you may have. When you have a problem, you ask the question ‘why?’ up to five times, by which time you should have reached the root of any problem you are dealing with. Learn More
I know it will be controversial, but I don’t think the expression work/life (as if you can split work from life – surely they are part of the same thing?) is entirely accurate.
I prefer to think of it as work/social/home life split. But many people tell me that they find it difficult to switch off from work when they are at home. Does this include you? Here are some ideas that may help:
Commuting: Use this as a sort of transition time between home and work. If possible, think through what your plans are for the day, but also spend some of that time reading an absorbing book or listening to music that will set you up for the day.
Actually switch off when you are at home: If you find yourself mulling over stuff from work, make a specific change at home that will switch your brain from work-mode to home/family mode. Get a soduko or crossword puzzle, or do something physically challenging. It will get your brain engaged in something different to work.
Avoid the ‘Blackberry Always On’ syndrome: This links in with the previous tip, in that, while your phone is on, your brain is still mentally connected to work. If you really want that family dinner un-interrupted, take the plunge and put the phone away.
Have an agreed finish time at least two days per week: Agree a time with your boss and stick to it. That will keep you in control and give your family a specific time to plan things in the evening without the worry of cancellations.
Actually take time off: I know it will exasperate many of you, but research has shown that you are actually more productive on the Monday if you have actually taken the weekend off doing things YOU want to do. You know it makes sense!
Take regular breaks during the day: If you come in early and work late, having regular breaks will stop you from thinking you’re working all the time. Even 5 minutes of down time two or three times in the morning, and an extended lunch break, can convince your brain you are actually working efficiently and will avoid overload.
By identifying what you can do to create a barrier between your work and home life, you will be able to spend more focused time on doing what is important at work without it causing problems emotionally at home.