Management 101

I haven’t posted in sometime and I apologize.  The transition allowed me to take some time to disconnect…and my wife has loved it!  Anyway, most of you know that I love reading about project management, leadership, and management topics.  I find that there are a core set of topics which people take a swipe at explaining in a number of different and ‘innovative’ ways.  Without getting to too much of a personal topic, much of what we discuss in management and leadership can be found in the Bible anyway.  With such a selection of medium to select from (books, classes, podcasts, audio book, conferences, etc) and personality types to choose for the delivery, you would think the majority of managers have a good understanding that an engaged and happy workforce translates into a stronger, more profitable company.  After speaking with friends through the years, I can certainly tell you that there are managers that haven’t picked up a management book since their days in graduate school, they have egos that get in the way of them ever seeing the books, or they simply do not care that they are ineffective managers.

Do any of these management behaviors/techniques sound motivating to you?

  1. Proposing that the workforce where a uniform even though they never see a customer/client.
  2. Forbidding you to engage other members of the organization without their ‘permission’.
  3. Asking that every step of a process be approved by management.  A response to 1 in 100 being wrong and taking the process from 1-3 minutes to 1-3 days?
  4. Saying to the team “Well, what you guys are doing isn’t really difficult anyway”
  5. When SLA’s compliance is increasing dramatically and volume is doubling, instituting a clock in system and software tracking tools to ensure efficiency

I am very happy to say that these really are not my stories, but unfortunately are real to my friends and family.  With the exception of 1 person, I have always had tremendous managers.  While I recognize there are certain industries and environments that would warrant a uniform, I do believe that there are a large number of terrible managers out there!  So what does it take?

Inclusion & Collaboration – Employees need to feel that they are a part of something bigger then a data entry, hourly job.  Managers need to allow opportunities for the team members to engage and collaborate on process, systems, etc.  I get it, the manager is there to make the tough decisions, manage the P&L, strategic planning, etc but there are ways to include your team members in the thought process.  AND DO NOT just host a meeting to let them vent with no intentions of using their input.  I know one manager that asked a colleague to interview someone on a Wednesday and provide their feedback ‘as a part of the process.”  Well, Monday came and the guy was hired.  I asked my colleague “I thought you said you hated that candidate?”  Her response was “I tried approaching Manager X and she was busy, so I never got to share my input”

Know & Invest In Your People – You need to get out of your Holy Grail (Office) and talk with your people.  How are they doing?  How did little John’s baseball game go last night?  I get it…familiarity breeds contentment.  Well so does your complete disconnect from your people!  You don’t have to go to dinner with these folks and invite them for Christmas dinner, but you do need to connect and show you care.  I know one guy who’s teenage daughter went missing for a few days.  His manager shared the story with the SVP of that org and you know that Sr Manager called my friend and offered to put a reward up out of his own pocket!  That is connecting.  I know someone else that works in an org where the managers are trying to teach the team accounting, elevator pitches, and presentation skills.  Aside from my friend, everyone else in that group is a few years from retirement and have been doing that same job for 20 years.  They don’t want to learn something new and their management has no clue, because they don’t know what drives their employees.  Know them…invest in them (training, time, special projects, etc).  And in the ever tightening world of budgets, you better figure out a way to send your team back to school, to that industry conference, or the training class on that new software.  A big reason for my recent move was not so much that I wasn’t being invested in, but NO ONE on the team was.  Another PM was asking for training classes for 2 years and nothing.  Someone else was assigned to run SEO for the entire web and even though she has never done it before, the org would invest $1,500 in a week long class.  I looked around and saw there was zero investment in the people…that to me means zero value in their people.  I don’t see that you are worth $1,500 is how I read that.

Support Your Team – I mentioned the 1 manager of mine that I thought was horrible and this was one of his weaknesses.  He would sit with you prepping for an exec update and ask you to change A, B, C on the presentation, but when the Exec crushes those very changes during the update he would sit quiet!!  Even worse…sometimes he would join in “Yeah, Robert we really need to see this view of the…”  Listen, if you want people to give you their all, then you better back them.  If you provide direction and it is the wrong direction, then stand-up and take the hit.  “Mrs. Exec, I asked Robert to slice the data that way because…. We can come back with the other view by end of day” This also goes a long way in building trust and integrity with your team.

Make Decisions! – I have heard so many people waiting and waiting and waiting on their executive.  They have sliced the data a dozen ways and provided supporting documentation that would make any Big4 firm happy, yet the exec isn’t providing the direction.  Make decisions, move, and be ready to adjust.  I don’t know anyone that would fault an engaged manager who makes the wrong decision.  If the team was collaborating, the manager is engaged, and he/she has integrity then we are all in it together.  But if you sit on it, then you don’t look like you know what you are doing, loose that unsaid leadership appeal that hovers over you, and begin to anger your team.  After all, they pulled together all of this data and you are not using it!

A FEW of my favorite resources….

Manager Tools

30 Second MBA

TED | Leadership


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