The Management Blog
Tips & advice to help you improve your performance
In this unprecedented time, one thing is for sure; business will never be the same again, and with respect to your department budget, this will more than likely be the case!
It’s unlikely that the company will increase the overall budget available.
You’ve decided that two candidates for an important role in the department should be invited back for a further interview. Both have similar experience and backgrounds…both would fit in well with your team. Here are some questions that might help you differentiate between them.
“You need to convince me you’re the right person for the job. What can you tell me that would make me say ‘yes’?” Learn More
Imagine what’s going on in the mind of your new employee when they come to work on their first day.
“Have I made the right decision? I wonder what they have planned for me. I’m excited but really nervous. Will I make a good impression? I hope I don’t mess up on my first day”
What can you do to ensure these natural concerns are dealt with immediately?
Professionally organised and delivered induction training is your new employees’ first proper impression of you and your company, so it’s also an excellent opportunity to reinforce their decision to come and work for you. Proper induction training is increasingly a legal requirement. Employers have a formal duty to provide new employees with all relevant information and training relating to health and safety in particular.
Creating and issuing a suitable induction plan for each new person will help them do their job better and quicker, and with less dependence on your time in the future. Employees who are not properly inducted need a lot more looking after, so failing to provide good induction training is false economy.
Here are some examples of how you can get the new person up and running as quickly as possible that can be used in addition to formal training programs:
• on the job coaching
• delegated tasks and projects
• reading assignments
• presentation assignments
• attending internal briefings and presentations, e.g. ‘breakfast briefings’ format
• special responsibilities which require obtaining new skills or knowledge or exposure
• videos and DVDs
• internet and e-learning
• customer and supplier visits
• attachment to project or other teams
• shadowing (working with another employee to see how they do it and what’s involved)
Of course, induction training will have to include some fairly dry subjects, so anything you can do to add interest, variety, different formats and experiences will greatly improve the overall induction process.
Induction training must include the following elements:
• General training relating to the organisation, including values and philosophy as well as structure and history, etc.
• Mandatory training relating to health and safety and other essential or legal areas.
• Job training relating to the role that the new starter will be performing.
• Training evaluation, involving confirmation of understanding, and feedback about the quality and response to the training.
Remember, each new starter will have different learning styles, so ensure you include a lot of variety to cater for all styles and abilities.
Here are some tips to make sure you give yourself the best opportunity to create a successful induction:
• Use a feedback form of some sort to check the effectiveness and response to induction training – whatever you choose as a format should be an evolving and improving process.
• Involve your existing staff in the induction process. Have them create and deliver sessions, do demonstrations, accompany, and mentor the new starters wherever possible.
• Make sure you involve a lot of contact with other staff for the new person. It’s important that they get to know the values and standards of the company by watching others and learning from them. It’s also a good task to set team members, as it brings home to them the responsibilities they hold as a key worker, and encourages them to share their knowledge.
• Depending on the job role, the new person may not always be able to get out and about to introduce themselves, so make this a proactive task within the whole process.
• Keep close tabs on the feedback from the new person, helping them to see how their role plays an important part in the company. Encourage them to ask questions and to be aware of the mentoring that is available to them.
For the first few days and weeks, your new team member will be looking for guidance and advice without asking for it. They are an ‘unconscious incompetent’ at this point (they don’t know what they don’t know). So speed up the contribution that the new person offers to you by proactively managing their expectations and you’ll see their learning and development quickly grow and they become a supportive and valuable member of your team. They’ll be glad they made the decision to come to work for you!
Are you sending a team member on a training course soon?
Many delegates arrive on courses without knowing the objectives and the main reasons why they are there. You can get a great deal more commitment from your team member who is about to be trained by covering a few bases before, during and after the course, so you can be more sure of the results.
BEFORE THE COURSE
Go through why you have chosen the person to attend this course. What are you hoping they will do differently afterwards? Go through the logistics, so they understand the venue details, any traveling issues, expenses and so on.
Discuss what personal learning objectives the person will have
Confirm the objectives and content of the course, and cover those specific aspects that will mean the most for the person
Cover off any concerns the person may have about the course. Will others from your business be attending or are they the only one? Ensure any fears are dealt with
What benefits will the person gain in the long term? How will it affect their future within the company?
How will the person’s job load be covered while they are away? Confirm you will only contact them in an emergency, or outside the course hours
Arrange a time and date for debriefing after they return. This shows how important you consider their development
DURING THE COURSE
Ensure their colleagues know why the person is going on the course and your expectations of them while the person is away
If they contact you or their colleagues while on the course, keep encouraging them to get the most out of it
FOLLOWING THE COURSE
Arrange to meet as soon as possible after the course, to discuss their action plans and what key learnings have been made
Go through the main points of the course, highlighting any areas that you had planned to cover in your briefing
Consider the action plan that the person made and flesh out the bones of how those plans can be implemented
Discuss how you and their colleagues can support their action plan
Set achievable and timely goals you would like the person to achieve as a result of the course
Discuss if any other members of the team would benefit from similar training
Place the training on their personal records and discuss what further development the person needs
By carrying out these tasks efficiently and professionally, you will show your team members how important you view their development and identify individuals who have the skills and abilities to go far in their roles and career.
An interesting conversation on one of recent management courses revolved around the dilemma of a manager favouring one employee over another in their department. The manager on the course was discussing the impact this was having on another department within his company.
He mentioned that, even though it may have seemed a trivial matter to the manager concerned, the rest of his team members were taking it very seriously and much wailing and gnashing of teeth was surrounding the whole department.
The manager was obviously unaware of the perception that he was giving to the rest of the team by his favouring one team member over the others. Learn More
Many psychologists have long argued over the impact of negative thoughts. All agree they have a powerful effect on you. They affect your attitude, your physiology, and your motivation. Your negative thoughts actually control your behavior. They can make you sweat, make a messy presentation or forget to make that important phone call.
According to psychological researchers, up to 80% of our thoughts during the day are negative; things like, I’m always late…this report will never be finished on time…The MD will be disappointed in me…I shouldn’t have said that …. They don’t like me… and so on.
Interestingly, our bodies react to our thoughts. Every cell in your body is affected by every thought you have. If it’s negative, it weakens you, making you more prone to behaviours that can induce physical ailments.
However, positive thoughts affect your body in a positive way, making you more relaxed, centered and alert. And there’s only one person responsible for your thoughts and what you say to yourself. Yes, you’re 100% responsible.
So, when you find yourself being negative, stop and think:
What’s the positive intention behind this? What am I trying to achieve with this negativity? Am I just being negatively focused, or is there a positive meaning I can take from it?
You can actually use your negativity to drive you forward to change things.
For example, if you are thinking “I can’t do this project”, what meaning could you attach to that thought? It could mean you need to ask for more resources. It could mean you have to do more research. Or it could mean you haven’t approached the project in the right state of mind.
Whatever the reason, step back and realise what the message is that this thought is giving you. Albert Einstein said “The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” We may need to change our thought patterns to get the answers.
Remember the idea of self-fulfilling prophecy? If you say you can’t do something, your brain will do its utmost to prove you right. A better way of thinking when you are facing negativity is “OK, this is the situation. What has to change for it to look different? What’s not perfect, yet? What can I control that will drive this forward?”
From this improved mindset, you are in a stronger position to face the situation and come up with ideas. Good ideas will not flourish in a negative mind. They have to be nurtured and developed in a soil of possibility.
If you become more emotionally intelligent, you find opportunities where there were obstacles. So create a sign for yourself where, when you are thinking negatively, you recognise the fact, notice the emotion you are feeling, ask whether this is how you really want to feel, and adapt your thinking to look at possibilities rather than reasons why it can’t be done.
How you talk to yourself will have a profound effect on your mood, demeanour and behaviour. Being aware of when you’re negative can be the first step in creating the mind-set that will generate better results.
This is one area that managers are concerned about, mainly because conflict within team members often appears to be very personal and can affect morale very deeply. What causes it and how can you deal with it?
Firstly, why does it happen?
The main reasons for conflict appear to be:
• Disagreements over responsibilities (who should do what)
• Disagreements over policy (how things should be done)
• Conflicts of personality and style
These are some of the ways we typically deal with conflict.
Do you see yourself in any of them?
• Avoid the conflict.
• Deny it exists; wait until it goes away.
• Change the subject.
• React emotionally; become aggressive, abusive, in denial or frightening.
• Find someone to blame.
• Make excuses.
• Delegate the situation to someone else.
Can you imagine the results if this is allowed to continue?
What would happen to trust, morale, teamwork and efficiency?
This is why it’s important to deal with conflict within the team before it blows out of proportion.
Factors That Affect How People Manage Conflict
Some of the factors that affect how we behave in the face of conflict are:
• Status: People in higher-status positions usually feel freer to engage in conflict and are less likely to avoid confrontation.
• Gender differences: Males are generally encouraged to be more confrontational than females.
• Learned behaviours: In some teams, conflict and confrontation are a communication style. In others, conflict always remains hidden.
Conflict Resolution Skills
Conflict resolution is a set of skills that can be learned. Firstly we’ll look at how you can understand the conflict through effective listening skills, then we’ll look at ways to deal with it.
Improve your Listening Skills
By listening actively, you show a level of understanding of the situation without casting judgement. You are also able to identify the emotions that have brought about the situation in the first place.
People in conflict often get emotional, so your role is to see through the emotions by really listening to the real issues, rather than the person’s opinions or judgements.
Your responses should be made up of two parts:
(1) naming the feeling that the other person is conveying, and
(2) stating the reason for the feeling.
Here are some examples of active-listening statements:
“It sounds like you’re upset by Jenny’s remarks.”
“So, you’re angry about the mistakes Pat made. Is that correct?”
“I get the feeling you have different expectations on this project to Mike”
Notice that you just state the facts, as you see it, rather than judging the feeling.
Remember, actively listening is not the same as agreement. It is a way of demonstrating that you intend to hear and understand another’s point of view.
• It feels good when another person makes an effort to understand what you are thinking and feeling.
• Restating what you’ve heard, and checking for understanding, promotes better communication and produces fewer misunderstandings.
• Responding with active listening has a calming effect in an emotional situation.
Actions to deal with conflict
I’m sure you’ve seen conflicts escalate and cause even more problems, so what can you do to heighten your chances of dealing with conflict?
• Use “I” and “me” statements; “you” statements sound accusatory and blaming
• Avoid name-calling and put-downs (“Any logical person could see that…”).
• Soften your tone.
• Take a time-out (“Let’s take a break and cool down”).
• Acknowledge the other person’s point of view (agreement is not necessary).
• Avoid defensive or hostile body language (rolling eyes, crossing arms in front of body, tapping foot).
• Be specific and factual; avoid generalities.
Can you avoid conflict?
Is there a way you could avoid conflict in the first place, so you don’t have to go through all this pain? Some ideas may include:
• Handle situations as they are occurring, rather than allowing them time to fester and gain momentum.
• Become aware of what sets off conflict in your area. What touchpoints do you notice that causes people to have minor disagreements that build into exasperation, then full blown conflict?
• Coach everyone in the team on how to deal with conflict if it’s an issue. Prevention is always better than cure
By building conflict-handling skills within yourself and your team, you create better chances of nipping this potential motivation-killer in the bud.
Balancing quality and efficiency isn’t easy these days. Demands from customers and bosses have never been greater and sometimes you feel like throwing your hands in the air and saying “No way!” (or words to that effect!)
What can you do if you know that meeting a specific deadline will result in poor quality or corners being cut?
It might help if you asked the stakeholder “Will you approve the steps needed to meet that delivery date?”
They will probably ask for clarification. This will then allow you to make the point you wanted to make. “Your deadline will not allow me/us/the company to achieve the level of quality you would insist on”.
If they ask what steps you would suggest, tell them that a shorter deadline would force you to deliver reduced quality or quantity, less precision or less formality. Get the stakeholder to recognise these results in advance. Then tell them what will have to happen in order to alleviate these outcomes, like more or better resources or a changed time limit.
If no change can be made, make a note of what happens along the journey, not with a view to casting blame for the poor quality of the job, but to help you reflect on how to handle similar situations in the future.
Also, highlight why this seems to be happening more and more. Is your time management poor, or do you need some project management coaching? Analyse what you can control and what is outside your control before casting blame or criticism in another’s direction.
You may be able to negotiate the deadline in some way. And note that we said ‘negotiate’, not ‘concede’. You have to have something of value that you can offer the other party in order for them to accept the deadline movement. You’re the only person who will be able to answer that in detail, but think about how the change in deadline might affect quality or performance or results.
Commit to achieving those results, and the stakeholder will realise that, if you are supported, the extra time given was worth the wait.
So, learn to determine what can be done, rather than what can’t, and that will help you to ascertain the direction you need to go. Rather than saying “there’s no way”, you may end up saying “there is a way…I just have to find it!”