The Management Blog
Tips & advice to help you improve your performance
Right…grab a piece of paper and a pen.
Do it now before reading on…
OK, draw a picture of a hand on that piece of paper…
It doesn’t matter if you’re not an artist…just draw it.
Good! Read on…
Let me ask you…did you look at your own hand to draw the picture? No? You’re in good company because, in this exercise, we find most people don’t look at their own hand first. Why?
Because most people prefer to work with a mental picture even though the real world is staring them in the face. We think with these mental pictures and we frequently base our performance on these illusions. Psychologists call the act of creating mental pictures generalization, abstraction, or concept acquisition. You might want to call it stereotyping.
It isn’t that important if you drew the hand based on your mental picture or by looking at your other hand as you drew it. What is more important is if you decide on team processes or company policy based on the stereotypes or generalisations you carry in your head.
You may have a distorted picture, based on your current thought processes or conditioning that will cause you to think the same way as you did last time you carried out the process. What could be the consequences?
Well, your decision may not produce the desired results you hoped for, as the process may not be in line with the way your team views the situation. Your perception may be true in your eyes, but because you have been conditioned that way, you may not see reality as seen through others’ eyes.
So, take a few moments before making a decision today to see if it’s based on how you generalise situations (stereotyping) or if it’s an up-to-date viewpoint based on taking a look at the real world.
Take another look at your drawing…did you copy your other hand? Or did you stereotype?
Food for thought!
Procrastination is a symptom. It’s your body and mind telling you there is some area of stress that you are focusing on. By relieving the feeling of pain associated with actually doing the task you are putting off, you are reducing your anxiety by focusing on something more pleasurable or less demanding.
Remember, procrastination is an end result, so you might want to diagnose what’s causing it first, before you dive into these tips and techniques: Learn More
How frustrated do you feel when you are interrupted? I know I can feel quite annoyed when I’m in the middle of a large piece of work and the phone, a colleague or an email ‘breaks up’ my concentration. By the way, that’s the original meaning of the word ‘interrupt’…to break up. How fitting!
Do you waste time planning? Many managers do, because they spend too much time trying to organise things that are un-organisable! What I mean by this is, if you spend time trying to organise other people, you run the risk of that time being wasted because of your inability to control other people.
People don’t want to be managed. This is the oxymoron in the title ‘people manager’. A good definition of a manager is someone who plans, controls, directs and organises. How would you feel if everything you did during the day was planned for you, organised for you, directed for you and you were controlled every step of the way? I can imagine your answer!
So, when you do your daily planning, make sure you focus on things that you can control or, at least, influence. Here are some ideas:
Create a ‘to do’ list and, alongside it, a ‘will do’ list. These lists are your focal points of productivity. Take your ‘to do’ list and write down from it those items you categorically must, must, must get done today, no exception. This will be your ‘will do’ list, and shouldn’t cover more than half your day. That way, you will be able to top up from your ‘to do’ list without having to buy more time. The ‘will dos’ are those things that are crucial to get completed today. And from our experience, not everything on your ‘to do’ list falls into that category.
When you are about to start a task, ask yourself: “Is this the best use of my time right now? Is there a more efficient way of handling this task? Could it be delegated? Or am I the best person to carry this out?”
Work out the hourly rate you are paid by your company. Then ask yourself “Would I be willing to pay someone else that amount to do the hour’s work I’m about to do?” This often brings you to your senses as to the best use of your time.
Look at the next appointments you are about to handle over the next three days. Is it a valuable use of your time to meet with these people? Or would it be more suitable to phone them, conference call with them or email them? Sometimes a meeting is most suitable, but plan that out first to make sure.
Many people make mistakes when they prioritise their tasks. They start off with ‘Priority 1’ then move onto ‘2’, ‘3’, ‘4’ and so on. Let me ask you a question. How seriously and with how much passion do you tackle a ‘Priority 8’ task? Be honest!
Most people take something that’s 8 or below on their list and treat it like it’s not that important and often procrastinate with it. Here’s a simple technique…don’t view your lower-priority tasks with less enthusiasm simply because they are lower on the list. Having completed ‘Priority 1’, treat ‘Priority 2’ as the new ‘Priority 1’ !!!
That way you are taking all your tasks seriously and are less likely to procrastinate. Taking your ‘Priority 8’ seriously means you get a lot more done more effectively and efficiently.
So,don’t attempt to control others’ time…just work on what you can control and you’ll see your personal effectiveness improve dramatically.
We’ve all been there…the meeting is going ok, then someone takes it off track and you end up spending a long time on subjects that are not part of the agenda and wasting everyone’s time. You need to be assertive and take control. What’s the best way? Learn More
It’s possibly the most puzzling and challenging decision you may have faced in a long time. How do you cope with a situation where a colleague has been promoted to be your boss? You might have put your name in the frame, yet, on this occasion, it didn’t work out. So what can you do to ensure the working relationship between you and your new boss starts off and continues in the right way?
Firstly, ask yourself, ‘what kind of working relationship do I want and need with my new boss?’ This proves you are acting proactively and want to establish a good foundation for working together in the future. Remember that, if you worked together well in the past, there is no reason why that shouldn’t continue…you just need to decide what kind of tasks you can complete now things have changed.
Then, discuss with your boss what you can do to make them appreciate your help. Their role will be different now, and it would be unwise to try to prove to higher management that they made the wrong decision in promoting your colleague. Higher management may well be watching your reaction to your colleague’s promotion, to see if you are also promotion material too. So if you approach the situation with an attitude of helpfulness to your new boss, you’ll be seen as promotion material in the future.
Discuss with your new boss where he or she sees you in the next five years or so. This gives you an accurate picture of how they perceive your contribution within the team and helps you identify the things you need to focus on in order to be in the frame next time.
Although you might see your new boss in a different light now, assisting them to be successful in their new role can only help your future prospects. Learn from their skills and you may see further opportunities open up for you.
Personal and professional development is one of the most valuable uses of your time in your career as a manager.
It’s only by growing and developing your skills within your current role that you convince others you are worthy of investing in for the future.
So, how much time do you devote to the development of your skills, knowledge and talents?
And how regular and consistent are you in carrying it out?
Top managers recognise the need to expand their knowledge about their industry and products regularly.
Zig Ziglar says that “Just 15 minutes a day reading books would enable the average reader to complete 15 books each year.“
But there’s so much development material out there, you have to be selective.
First, set aside quality time for this.
It’s your career we’re talking about, so it’s worthwhile spending time solely devoted to this important task.
A regularly-planned short period is better than leaving it for a large chunk of time once in a while.
Then, be selective in what you choose to read.
Determine the areas where you must keep up-to-date, and select only those magazines, journals, books and websites that currently serve your particular areas of need.
When you find an article of interest, especially if it’s in a journal or magazine, take a copy of it or rip it out and put it in your reading file.
A fabulous piece buried in a thick magazine will stay buried unless you make a conscious effort to make it more visible.
Consider joining your local Institute of Management library, and taking advantage of the wealth of material available there.
When you’ve spent some time reading, reflect on how you can use this new knowledge in your job and company. Is there something you can immediately apply?
Can you share this knowledge with someone else?
Is there someone in the organisation who would value this information as much as you?
Spend your commuting time reading or listening to new material that will improve your value to the company.
Just 30 minutes listening to a development CD in the car or on your mp3 player on the train each day will give you over 100 hours of learning each year.
That’s the equivalent of attending over 14 days’ training each year!
Try asking your boss for that much time off to develop your skills! Yet you can easily do it in dead-time on the daily commute.
JJ McCarthy said that an organisation’s continued progress will partly be based on managers’ ability to increase their knowledge and skills and to keep pace with progress and change – through professional literature.
So, lead by example in this.
Set the pace for change in your organisation by keeping up to date with reading material that will set you apart from others.
Then you will improve your value as a manager, now and in the future.
Sean McPheat Managing Director
So, the World Cup is over, and most people would say the best team won the final. Whatever your viewpoint, we can see from the amount of interest in the finals over the last month that many people follow it all with a passion. As managers, is there anything we can learn from the World Cup that can be applied in our workplaces?
Well, here are a few ideas:
1) Situational leadership will always win through: Managing a team in the World Cup is like leading a short-term project, run by remote teams in a matrix format, not having worked that much with each other before. The roles and responsibilities need to be aligned, and the strengths and skills have to be utilised in the best way.
This obviously didn’t happen with all teams in the tournament. Even Spain didn’t have the best players in all positions, but the spine of the team was skilled and talented enough to compensate for any weaknesses the opposition might expose.
Spain stuck to their game plan, even after they lost their very first game of the tournament. There were no panic buttons pressed, as they knew their strengths would win through.
So, analyse the situation before you make decisions about change and sticking to the game-plan might be more effective than making change for change sake.
2) Variety and adaptability creates winning formulae: This sounds contrary to point 1, but stick with me. If you only have Plan A and no plan B (did I hear someone mention England?) it will only work if you are sure and have proof that this plan is the most effective. If not, and the results will bear you out, you have to have some kind of varied and proactive plan of action to change the situation. Without it, you are stuck up the creek without the proverbial paddle.
3) Commitment and belief drives performance: Watching the style that teams played in the tournament proved that the manager has a key influence on how they perform. You can imagine the dressing room before they go out onto the field, and how the manager is convincing them they have the ability, the will and the confidence to go and do the job. Without this belief in the team, any manager will lose respect and, eventually, the passion from the team.
Whatever your feelings toward sport, it’s plain that we can often pick up good analogies that we can use within a management context. Learn from the successes and failures of the World Cup and you can expand your awareness of how teams can be lead in business.
Well done, Spain! The best team won! Probably!