Stop It!

Management is indeed a difficult job. As a manager you are responsible for a number of things. Making sure the projects your department is responsible for are on track. Meeting HR deadlines for performance appraisals. Seeing to that your direct reports are receiving the right amount training and coaching when and where necessary. It’s a wonder that you get anything done.

As a consultant and coach I often hear about all the work that managers have to do with little or no resources and an ever shortening of time to complete projects before receiving a new set of number one priorities from their boss. The complaints of being overworked are never-ending. But, when pushed on why they don’t take action to correct the problem I get blank stares. Let me explain.

When I inquire into what is getting in the way of their ability to complete work, I hear they often have to redo work that they delegated. For some reason it doesn’t met their expectations of quality. When asked why I get some ambiguous response. So we take some time to break it down to review the process of delegation. Eventually we find a fixable problem and the manager is thankful for the assistance and has her plan for making the adjustments with high hopes. I would like to say that’s the end of it and we can proceed to other issues that require addressing, but, the problem comes back, because I hear the same complaints. Naturally I wonder is it something I’m not conveying am I not be clear enough.

After going through this process a number of times I realize it’s not me. I don’t say that to brag but as a fact. What it turns out to be is the manager doesn’t want to change. They really don’t want to remove the obstacle because it’s become their bragging point with other managers. Sounds strange I know, but, managers – especially middle managers – feel they need to have something to always complain about, call it a cause celeb. It provides them their set of war stories they convey to fellow managers at other companies. It’s reminiscent of the old joke about the man who goes to the doctor and tells him hurts every time he flaps his arms, he asks what he should do. The doctor tells him to stop doing what is causing him pain which is flapping his arms. Simple, but for far too many extremely hard to do.

I’m convinced that managers don’t really want to learn how to successfully delegate, if they did, they wouldn’t always be signing up for the newest how to delegate course thinking they’re going to learn some new technique. When all they have to is apply what they already know and stop taking work back that isn’t meeting standards. They don’t want to stop.

We all have things we can stop doing we just have to identify them. In case of managers redoing work they delegated it starts with setting clear expectations around the finish product and holding the people accountable for meeting them and to stop accepting incomplete work product.

In the individual sense it requires one to identify things they don’t need to do and just stop doing them. It could start with stop listening to people who are always complaining about their lot in life. People like this suck the life out of you, and they don’t really want help they just want to take up your time and like to hear themselves talk. Cutting them lose will free you in ways you can’t image.

Managers are always looking for time saving techniques and far too many have bought into various programs and processes that claim to help them be better at time management. But, if as a manager, you don’t stop doing things that suck up your time, it won’t matter what sophisticated system you implement because it will ultimately fail because you just refuse to stop doing what you do.

For those of you who remember the old Bob Newhart show he played a psychologist People would come to him for help with their problems and he had some simple and straight forward advice, just stop it. When people would push back and ask what he meant he would look at them and say you need to just stop it.

In the wise words of Bob Newhart STOP IT.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved

Willingness to learn: Are you?

I was sitting outside a Burger King having lunch and I noticed a mother and her two young girls. Her girls were between 4 and 18 months. What struck me were the questions they were asking their mom as they were entering the Burger King. Like why was the motorcycle so loud, what was the crow saying? They wanted to understand what was going on around them they had a willingness to learn.

Children do have a way of teaching us in ways we least expect. In the example, these young girls’ minds were open to take in new information that would be used later. Perhaps in helping to identify the call of a crow, or making the distinction between a loud car and motorcycle, this future ability will be the result of asking their mother questions to help them understand what was happening around them.

Watching these young girls interact with their mother I thought of those individuals who are managers and found myself asking, “Are managers willing to learn?” If you’re a manager, you may often feel like a parent. You have to juggle multiple project deadlines, intercede with employees who may not get along, or provide answers to questions that appear obvious to you. So if someone (like me) where to ask “are you willing to learn?” and you responded with a “are you kidding, when am I not learning, or when do I have time with everything I have to do? Your response would be understandable, but, shortsighted. Managers today have a responsibility to be willing to learn, if they don’t then they won’t be in management very long. Let me explain.

Collectively the people you manage know more that you! The group you manage will know more than you will when it comes to doing their jobs. The knowledge they possess is what makes them valuable to the organization. For you to be able to manage them, then you have to commit to making learning a habit. Managing knowledge workers requires that you understand how to manage valuable assets, which knowledge workers are. Meaning, that you need to develop the various competencies required for the group you’re working with. The willingness to commit to continuous learning is important.

Willingness to learn will present you with numerous opportunities! Effective managing requires you to grow and expand your knowledge around managing. You have to deal with the practice and application of management principles and practices. Meaning there will be days when you need to be the philosopher, psychologist or the economist. Other days will require you to be the teacher, the designer and implementer or salesperson. Your willingness to learn how to develop these skills allows you to see a bigger picture thus affording you greater opportunities for mobility and advancement.

Part of being willing to learn means being willing to listen! Hemingway said, “When people talk listen completely. Most people never listen.” Too many of us are not good listeners. Listening is hard to master. Many think they are good listeners, but, in actuality, they’re not. Learning to listen and allowing them to fully express their thoughts out on a subject without, a) interrupting, or b) thinking about how you’re going to respond. If we train ourselves to really listen, you will be the recipient of a great deal of useful information that can help you out later.

Willingness to learn means learning from your mistakes and you will have them! Not everything you do will work out the way you want or expect. There will be times will some things will just crash and burn. It’s what you do when that happens. Mistakes provide a good way of learning. Remember what we said earlier, being a good manager means committing to a path of continuous learning which means, as you, travel this path mistakes will happen when they do they should be seen as lessons learn. Hopefully you won’t repeat them.

If you have the privilege of being a manager, then, look at it as an ongoing learning experience and open yourself up and be willing to learn.

© Timothy A. Wilson 2013. All Rights Reserved

Who Owns The Leadership and Development Process?

Who owns the leadership development process for the company? I mean who is the ultimate person responsible for ensuring that you’re recruiting, hiring, and retaining talent for your company. I would not be surprise if some said Human Resources or others said the CEO. Those who selected the CEO are half right. Ensuring the recruitment and retention of key talent is a shared responsibility between the CEO and his board. Human Resources are responsible for developing and administering a reasonable process that assists the CEO and Board in ensuring that Leadership Development takes place.

“Forget capital, strategy, R&D. In today’s fast-paced, global economy, the most important criteria for success may well be a robust, active process for identifying, developing, and retaining leaders three or more levels below the CEO.”

As companies move in the direction of expanding their operations overseas, they have an ever increasing requirement for talented managers throughout the ranks of the company. Thus, the need to make sure they have a process in place for identifying, developing, and keeping leaders in their companies. Boards of Directors have the responsibility of holding their CEO’s accountable. For making sure there is exists a pipeline of talented and capable individuals who can make the upward transition positively and not in an abortive manner such as experienced at Dell Computers or Starbucks, where the CEO’s whose return were necessary to bring the companies out of the doldrums and shore up failing stock prices.

Our experience has shown that well defined strategies, and superbly designed products are useless, without talented people to implement the strategy and manufacture, sell the product, and manage the processes required to get it all done. It’s incumbent on the CEO to make sure they have well designed and developed workforce plan that allows for strong recruiting and provides an intractable path for retention of talented employees at all levels of their organization. If this means that, they have to become personally involved in the leadership training great. What better way for the CEO to know the strengths and weaknesses of their talent pool.

So when considering what the CEO’s can do to develop leaders in their organizations? I feel there are three key areas:

  1. Working with their BOD to determine what and how they are going to measure potential new leaders in the company. How they are going to educate and train them so they are successful in moving the company forward even if that means doing things differently.
  2. Demanding that their Human Resource Function provides a process by which they (the HR department) are constantly on the lookout for talent individuals that will bring value to the company, helping those employees who are no longer motivated or who do not have the skills needed for the job leave.
  3. Be actively involved in the education and training of those identified as potential future leaders. Do this by teaching some of the leadership classes, also having members of your senior management staff engage in coaching and teaching as well. The following quote supports what we are saying:

“First, people have to have the right experiences. Second, they need some kind of mechanism to process those experiences. And third, they have to have the inclination to learn.” – Tom Saporito CEO RHR

By involving the board and focusing HR on results, oriented leadership development is how a CEO can truly develop leaders.

© Timothy A. Wilson 2012. All Rights Reserved

Skills You Need In The Work Place and Why.

Recently the Wall Street Journal published and article on skills needed in the workplace for 2013. They were described as must have skills. To be successful in today’s work environment requires you to be constantly aware of what is going on around you. The work place will always be challenging and competitive. So any help one can get on that will assist them should be sound and workable. The author cited four skills she postulated that would be in demand by employers, they where; clear communications, personal branding, flexibility and productivity improvement. So let’s take a moment and examine these must have skills

First of the four mentioned is; clear communications. Who can argue about the need to be able to communicate effectively? One could say it’s a no brainer, but poor communication is often at the center of organizational problems. Clear communications according to management consultant Alan Weiss means “to read with comprehension, write with expression, speak with influence, and listen with discernment.” It would seem that developing clear communication skills isn’t just for 2013 but throughout one’s career if they hope to be successful.

The second must have skills focused on personal branding. The author equated a brand to how a person represents themselves in the world of social media. However, a brand is much more than your persona on social media. It’s what sets you apart from others, it’s what makes you a sought after individual. Development of a strong brand puts you on a potential pathway of becoming a thought leader. But, it must be carefully cultivated. As the author correctly points out, if you post things that puts you in unflattering situations you do risk tarnishing your brand. It would be much better for you to be known as a networking expert, than networking clown.

Must have skills three and four deal with flexibility and productivity improvement. It’s interesting how the author describes these skills. Flexibility is another way of describing adaptability or adapting to changes that take place in the work setting. Having to do with understanding that change takes place and nothing is ever the same. Actually, with some managers, they make sudden changes, not because they’re needed, but mainly because of their own neuroses.

While the article author attributes flexibility as getting out of one’s comfort zone, it’s much more. Having flexibility or adaptability requires you to be aware of written as well as unwritten rules. It’s the unwritten rules that require you highest level of flexibility as they can put in unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations and you will have to make it up as you go because there are no rules for you to follow.

This brings us to productivity improvement skill. It’s finding ways to work smarter in your environment. The article suggests you volunteer for projects as a method of increasing your productivity. The underlying idea behind this suggestion is that employers are looking for a 20% improvement in employee performance. This is just the employer’s way of saying they want an additional eight hours from their employees under the guise of saying this is showing initiative. There is indeed merit in finding ways you can improve productivity and it will help if you volunteer for the boss’s pet projects, but you have to weigh this with couple of factors. The first, do you have the skills, knowledge, time, and temperament to take on additional work.

Not all projects are equal. Special projects are considered special for a reason. Usually they are time consuming, ill defined, and laden with traps and pitfalls that will deter the stoutest of heart.

Second, you must assess the risk that you will be undertaking. Is this a high risk assignment where the reward will be high if you succeed, but your chances of success are narrow? You need the skill to assess these types of projects, a skill that you cultivate by taking on projects of moderate risk and will be seen as productivity improvement and you have a much better chance of succeeding.

Clear communications, personal branding, flexibility and productivity improvement are good skills to have, but they’re not the only ones you’ll need to be successful at work. But they’re a good start and its best you start mastering them now and build on them as you move forward.

© Timothy A. Wilson 2012. All Rights Reserved

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