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Showing posts from August, 2009

Teach Something New

Take the opportunity today to teach an employee something new. Nearly everyone likes to learn and is capable of tackling a new challenge.

Teach your employee something that expands his (oer her) current job description. Teach something that will help him to get promoted within your organization at a later date. Teach him a skill that uses new technology. Or, teach him something that will allow him to be a more skilled leader and manager in the future.

You can even teach something that you no longer need to be doing in your position, but that will be a rewarding challenge/task for your employee.

The benefit to your employee is obvious. The benefit to you is you'll have a more skilled team member who is capable of handling more work that can help you to grow your business and/or make it run more efficiently.

Don't Take All The Credit

Insecure managers hog the credit for a job well done. Or, they hide the credit and don't give credit where credit is due. These managers are afraid to let their employees be in the limelight.

Secure and successful managers talk up their employees, highlighting the good performance they've done, and are eager to give credit where credit is due. They promote their staff to their supervisor and to others within their organization.

Successful managers know that they look good when their employees look good.

Giving credit where credit is due is a sign of a manager who is wise and confident. It's a sign of a manager who demonstrates good leadership skills. So, when your employees excel, allow them to take the spotlight.

Learn Legal Terms Quickly

As a manager, you likely review vendor agreements, sales contracts and other documents with legal terms you may not know so well.

Perhaps you've run across terms, such as:

Governing Law
Counterparts
Material Breach
Representations
Indemnifications
Material Default
Fiduciary
Letter of Intent
Penalty Clause
Arbitration
Copyright

You can find the definitions and explanations for all these and thousands of other legal terms in the pocket-sized Barron's Law Dictionary by Steven H. Gifis. You can find the book on Amazon for less than $5.00.

Whether you buy this book or find another more suitable resource to meet your needs, it's good to have on hand a legal terms dictionary, or access to legal terms information online. You'll need that information to help you navigate your next legal document.

Don't sign or approve a document with legal language you don't understand.

Do This Exercise With Your Team/Department

One of my most talented former direct reports uses with her team the book "Now, Discover Your Strengths" and the exercise that accompanies that book.

She recently got me hooked on the book/exercise program.

The program helps you identify your five most important strengths in ways I've never seen before. Among the 34 strength themes covered in the book, I discovered my strengths to be:

Maximizer
Consistency
Empathy
Responsibility
Achiever

Equally, important to knowing one's own strengths is understanding the strengths of each employee you manage. With that knowledge you can build and organize your team, make strategic work assignments, and even hire more effectively.

When I last used the exercise with a department I oversaw, it was fascinating to see how each person discovered something they hadn't anticipated as a strength. It was also fun and enlightening to go around the meeting room and watch the team guess the strength themes of their co-workers.

Marcus Buck…

Get A Second Read On Your Important Documents

When writing important memos, policies, instructions and/or global communications, ask a co-worker or fellow manager to read your document before you distribute it.

Getting that second opinion/read can be very helpful. Often, the other person will spot misspellings. Sometimes, she (or he) can help you tweak the tone to better fit your document's audience. And most important, she can point out areas that are unclear. Those in particular are the things you'll want to re-write.

It likely won't take much time for your co-worker to review your document. And after she does, offer to return the favor the next time she has written something where she needs a second opinion/read.

In my experience, every time I've asked a fellow employees to preview a document, they've always had good suggestions for improvement. About 99% of the time I've made the changes they recommended.

Be Visible

If you are a manager in a small business or not so large department, it's probably easy for you to be visible to your employees and co-workers.

If you manage a large business, department or organization, you'll want to make a conscious effort to be visible. Don't spend your days behind closed doors or constantly in meetings.

Walk around. Make conversation with your team members. It's important that you maintain visibility with your employees. That also means associating with employees at all levels. Don't limit your time for only your direct reports.

The benefits for your employees are that they get to know you better and feel that you are more in tune with what's going on. The benefits to you are that you'll build a stronger rapport with your team, and you'll undoubtedly hear about good things and bad things through casual conversation that you would have missed if you had been less visible.

Hire To Complement, Not To Duplicate

Despite the temptation to hire someone like yourself, hire someone to complement your skills --not to duplicate your skills.

Managers often find it easier, more comfortable, or less threatening to hire someone with similar skills and work habits. But, to build a well-balanced team and to achieve maximum success, you need to have employees who can fill in your weaker areas.

So, if you are a great idea person, but a poor communicator, hire someone with strong communications skills. Similarly, if your team excels in sales but lacks organization, add an employee who leads in organization.

This may all seem like common sense. And you obviously need to hire someone to meet certain/minimum skill sets and who will be a good overall fit. But, do what you can to avoid the trap or temptation to hire someone just like you.

Provide Constructive Feedback

Think about how much feedback a football coach gives his players. Or, how much feedback you get from a private lesson golf instructor. Think about how much feedback you give your kid when she is first learning to ride a bike.

We all are learn from getting constructive feedback. We learn what we're doing well. We learn what we need to improve.

Good managers provide constructive feedback to their employees on a routine basis. They give feedback when an employee does well to reinforce that behavior. Equally important, good managers give feedback when an employee needs to change what they are doing incorrectly.

Be sure that part of your day today, or sometime this week, you are spending time giving your employees constructive feedback.

Plan A Job Learning Day Each Month

Having your employees learn more about what their fellow employees do is invaluable. When everyone knows how each job/position on your team fits together, your team can accomplish so much more. Plus, the new-found knowledge drives a better appreciation for what everyone does, and proves to the team, that success comes only when all the pieces fit together like a well-oiled machine.

So, plan a half day where you pair up employees. Once paired, one employee explains to his (or her) partner what he does in a "typical" day. Allow enough time for sharing samples of his work and for Q&A. Then, it's the second person's turn to share about their "typical" day. If your half day is a morning, suggest the pairs of employees have lunch together, where they can finish by incorporating more discussion about away-from-work hobbies and interests.

Schedule your job learning days for once a month and have your employees meet with different partners each time. It's be…

Dig Deep For Ideas

The next time you are looking for ideas for how to grow revenue, streamline processes and procedures and/or reduce expenses, dig deep within your organization. Don't ask only your direct reports for their suggestions.

Instead, ask everyone at all levels. Some of the best ideas will come from your lower and mid-level employees who are interacting with your vendors, customers and co-workers every day in the very areas that, if improved, could make the most dramatic impact.

Be sure to acknowledge receipt of each idea. Keep everyone informed of the types of ideas you've received. Perhaps update them on a monthly basis. When you implement a suggestion, recognize and reward the submitter, including possibly financially.

Feel free to accept ideas anonymously. But, if employees know you are sincere about wanting their input, and witness you acting upon suggestions, most of your team members will be proud to tie their names to their ideas.

Finally, if there are some of the same suggestions…

Build Your Team Through Community Service

If you manage a small business or a department within a large organization, a great way to improve the cohesiveness of your employee team is to engage them in an activity away from the workplace.

Engaging in a community service activity is a great example. Your team can work at a food bank. Or, they can pick up liter along a highway. Or, they can provide a service at a local senior citizen center.

When you and your team are away from the workplace, working together and giving back to the community, everyone bonds in a way that is often difficult to do within the workplace. Away from work, it's an even playing field. Job titles and position levels disappear. Walls come down. Discussions open up.

Shoot for having your team do one activity per month. Make it voluntary. You may start out with a small group, but as the months go by and participants benefit from the team-building and the good feeling of providing service to their community, you'll soon likely get close to 100% particip…

Have An Open Door Policy

As a manager, having an open door policy means your employees know they can come to you just about any time with any news, problem or concern. Good managers also let their employees know that the open door policy means employees can and should come with even bad news. Or, news about mistakes they have made.

But, for employees to bring you bad news -- often more important for you to hear as a manager versus hearing good news -- you need to provide a non-threatening environment as part of your open door policy.

That means, when an employee delivers bad news or tells you about a mistake they made, resist from yelling or losing your temper. Instead, listen carefully. Ask clarifying questions.

If a mistake was made, ask your employee to explain how it happened. Learn what the employee did or didn't do that caused the poor result. Then, thank the employee for coming to you with the bad news. Next, take the time to teach him or guide him so the mistake doesn't happen again.

Your employee…

Pretend You Are The Customer

One of the best ways to determine if your service/business/organization is providing excellent customer service is for you, as a manager, to pretend you are the customer.

Try it today. Contact your business via the phone, mail, and via the web. Use all three methods! Make a different contact each day for the next week.

During those different instances, ask to reach a person where you only know their first name. Next time, ask for a person who no longer works at the business. Another time, complain about the service/product. Ask how to return a product. Or, you can pretend you want to talk to someone to learn more about the business. Try different scenarios that would be typical for your customers when they contact your business.

Then, observe what happens. I bet you'll be surprised. Hopefully, pleasantly surprised. But, you may be shocked. In addition to likely getting helpful assistance, you may experience people being rude or unhelpful. You may get bounced from person to person. Wo…

Send A Thank You Note

Nearly all employees want to do both a good job and please their supervisor. When they succeed, send them a thank you for a job well done.

A short note (handwritten is particularly good) thanking them for a good job is extremely powerful. Particularly for new employees on your team. Or, for employees new to the workforce and early in their careers. Include in your note a sentence regarding what they did especially well and how their specific action made a positive impact. Remember, be as specific as possible in what you write.

Be sure to send your note soon after the job was completed. If you wait too long (more than a week), the note will lose its impact.

Send your note in a way it can be easily saved by your employee. Even employees who have been on your team for a long time will likely save your note. I still have 20-year-old memorable thank you notes in a file.

Finally, reserve your sending thank you notes for the big jobs, large projects, extra special work. If you send thank yo…

Quickly Lose Respect - Don't Do This

Picture this. You call an employee into your office for a meeting. As your employee is explaining something to you, you turn to your computer monitor to check e-mail. Or, you answer your phone. Or, you look at your mobile device. Or, you engage in a conversation with someone who enters your doorway.

Do any of these once and your employee will likely forgive you. Do any of these actions regularly and you'll quickly lose the respect of your employee!

Rarely is there a reason not to give your employee your full, undivided attention during a meeting/conversation. You can only be a good listener if you are maintaining eye contact with your employee and not multi-tasking.

Find The Truth In The Middle

If you're a parent of two children you already know that when the two are fighting and child #1 tells you what happened, you then ask child #2 what happened, and most often the truth is somewhere in the middle of what the two children have told you.

Surprisingly, many managers, even when they are parents, don't use this parenting "discovery" skill in the workplace. Instead, they often listen to only one side of a situation. Whether it is because of lack of interest or lack of time, they don't proactively seek out the other side of the story.

The unfortunate result is those managers form incorrect perceptions that can often lead to poor decisions and/or directives.

So, the next time two employees are at odds, or when one department complains about another department within your organization, take the time to listen to all sides of the situation to discover the truth that's in the middle.

Read This Must-Read Book

The next time you have three to four hours to read a business book, pick up a copy of Peter F. Drucker's "The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization."

Whether you are you are in business, non-profit or the private sector, you'll find the five questions helpful in better understanding what you do and how to do it better.

And, the five questions make for perfect discussion points with your employees/team.

A leader of a non-profit organization recently recommended the book to me, and I am glad he did.

Don't Delay The Tough Conversation

If you have an employee who needs to improve his/her performance don't delay the tough conversation with them.

If you don't address the issue right now, the employee has little chance to improve and you'll only get more frustrated.

Most employees want to do a good job. Sometimes they just don't know they aren't performing up to the required standards.

Waiting until the employee's annual performance appraisal to have the tough conversation is unhealthy for you and the employee. So, address the issue now.

Sit down with your employee in a private setting. Look them in the eye. First, tell them what they do well. Thank them for that good work. Then, tell them where they need to improve. Be clear. Be precise. Ask them if they understand, and ask them if they need any help from you on how to do a better job.

Explain to them that your taking the time to have the tough conversation means you care about them. You want them to do better. You believe they can do better. E…

Instill Good Customer Service

Have you noticed how many more companies are providing better customer service right now? Many have beefed up their service primarily to hang onto their current customers during these tough economic times.

I've noticed it. Particularly during the past six months while shopping and communicating with businesses over the phone. More are addressing me by name, thanking me for my business and asking how else they can help me.

But, why does it take a recession to make some companies wake up to realize the importance of providing good customer service?

Successful managers lead their teams in providing good customer service, both internally and externally. And, when that happens those teams provide good service year-round, during bad AND good economic times.

Let's hope that when we pull out of this current recession businesses don't abandon good customer service. Let's hope they continue to:


Learn and remember your name, and then address you by name when you visit that business w…

Be Decisive

A manager who can't make a decision or who can't make a timely decision will frustrate his/her employees. Equally bad, a lack of decision will impede the progress of the manager's team.

Some managers make endless requests for data as a way to postpone their having to make a decision. Employees end up spinning in circles, slicing and dicing the information far beyond what is truly needed for the manager to make a decision.

Some managers are simply afraid to make a decision in fear of making a "wrong" decision. These managers don't necessarily request needless data, but simply just never decide.

Successful managers gather the data from their employees, make any truly necessary follow-up requests (probing beyond what their employee may have researched/gathered on their own), and then make their decision...knowing that in virtually all cases most decisions are not black and white "right or "wrong," but are the best decisions made at that time for the…

Lead By Example

One of the most powerful and effective things a good manager can do is to lead by example.

You've undoubtedly heard this many times before. But, it's surprising how often some managers don't lead by setting a good example.

Try the following and my bet is most of your employees will learn to mimic your behavior:Work hard and lend a hand when deadlines are tight.
Show respect for everyone on your team.
Follow through when you say you will.
Allow learning to happen when mistakes are made.
Allow prudent autonomy.
Give credit where credit is due.
Communicate clearly.
Listen effectively.
Teach something new. Nearly everyone wants to learn how to do something better or faster.
Show and demonstrate trust.
Praise when compliments are earned.
Say "Thank You" and sincerely mean it.
Respond to questions quickly and fully.
Be decisive.These behaviors all sound pretty simple. They really can be. Select the ones you may not be doing and give them a try.