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Showing posts from September, 2009

Explain Each Person's Relevance

Your employees appreciate clearly knowing how what they do each day specifically contributes to your company's or organization's success. So, it's important that you explain the relevance of each person's job. Help each employee or team member to understand how what they do makes a difference. Answer their questions about the significance of their work. Demonstrate how if their job isn't done well, or isn't fully completed, how that negatively impacts the rest of the process or your business' overall product or service. Sometimes in organizations too much time is spent explaining the relevance of sales positions or management positions. But, everyone on the team needs to understand their relevance and the importance of what they do.

Explain Decisions

Making a decision is one of the most important actions you'll take as a leader. When communicating your decisions to your team, be sure to explain both the process (how you came to the decision) and the reason for making your decision. Sometimes, unfortunately, managers announce a decision without clarifying the process and the reason for the decision. If you take the time to be clear you'll get better understanding of your decisions from employees, and also more buy-in from your team.

Let It Sit

As a leader a time will come when you have to write an email, memo or letter to address an issue of great importance or concern to you. Or, perhaps in response to something that displeased you, disappointed you, frustrated you, or upset you. Write that document. Then, let it sit. Preferably, let it sit for 24 hours. Then, re-read it. It's almost guaranteed you'll end up tweaking the document. You might add a fact that you accidentally omitted in the heat of the moment the day before. Or, more likely, you'll alter the tone so it will achieve a better response from the document's recipient. You may even decide not to send the document at all, and instead will discuss the matter in person or over the phone with the intended recipient. Usually, time and circumstances permit you to let your document sit for a day. And when your document sits for a day, you'll end up ultimately crafting a better message.

Be Humble

The best leaders possess a host of skills, natural talents and learned behaviors that make them successful. Leaders are also humble. Perhaps Margaret Thatcher said it best when she declared: "Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't."

End Your Meetings With A To Do List

Every time you host a meeting, be sure to end it with an actionable To Do list. First, briefly recap what was discussed. Then, make the To Do assignments, stating what needs to be done and by whom it needs to be done. Include a due date for each To Do. Sending a follow-up e-mail to your meeting attendees that includes your discussion highlights and the To Do list will keep everyone on the same page. It will also ensure there is no confusion about the accountability for each assigned To Do.

Develop Your Middle Layer

As a manager and leader, your focus may gravitate toward your lower level employees and your higher level employees on your team. But, don't forget your middle-layer employees who appreciate your attention and coaching, and your training and opportunities for new challenges. Often these employees are more eager to learn and to tackle new projects because they have the drive to move up and to learn new skills. And they recognize they have a shorter path to achieve advancement. So, develop your middle layer employees. It's a win-win situation.

Make A Lasting Impact

Leaders make an impact every day. Really good leaders leave a lasting impact -- often, long after they have left a company or organization. Many of the things I write about in this Blog are behaviors my second supervisor in my career taught me. He's moved on to other places. But, on my 25th anniversary at the company where I worked, I emailed him to thank him for the leadership skills he taught me that I am still using today. As a leader, work hard to make a lasting impact. Help create a little of you in each of your promising employees who will lead after you have moved on. They will surely be eternally grateful.

Read To Lead

Leaders are always learning. They readily welcome new ideas, suggestions and techniques. Successful leaders also do a lot of reading about how to become even more effective. A book a colleague recommended to me is one I recommend to you. It's called "Execution -- The Discipline Of Getting Things Done." Particularly powerful are the seven behaviors of strong leaders that the book mentions on page 57: 1. Know your people and your business. 2. Insist on realism. 3. Set clear goals and priorities. 4. Follow through. 5. Reward the doers. 6. Expand people's capabilities. 7. Know yourself. You'll find posts on this Blog about some of these behaviors, but for expanded thoughts about each, give the book a read.

Use Job Descriptions

Whether you have one or many employees, be sure each has a current and accurate job description. A job description is a written document that should include the employee's duties, responsibilities and outcomes needed from that position. It should also include the required qualifications and reporting relationship. If your employee has a poorly written job description, or one that is out-of-date, it will lead to confusion and misunderstandings. Once you have a job description for each employee, you'll be able to ensure the descriptions all fit together logically and leave no holes in the duties that need to be assigned. Check your job descriptions at least yearly to be sure they reflect the employee's proper title and current duties. Very often employees get new job titles or are assigned new tasks mid-year, and those don't get reflected in their job descriptions. Don't let that happen. Finally, if you don't have access to a Human Resources department t

Encourage Personal Growth

Encourage your employees to grow professionally. If your budget allows, send them to a training program to learn a new computer skill or how to improve their customer service skills. Perhaps you don't have training dollars to spend, but you have a budget to send your employee to a trade show or industry conference. If you don't have any budget for outside training or travel, then invite your employee to sit in on a meeting or discussion where they'll be exposed to something new and enlightening.

Follow Through

Set a good example for your employees and follow through on everything you say you are going to do. If you promise to get an employee an answer, get it for him or her. If you say you'll send a team member a report, do so. As the Nike campaign/slogan so aptly says, "Just Do It." Too many managers don't follow through. Perhaps they get busy. Perhaps they forget. But, following through is critical to keeping your team effective and efficient. And it's necessary for gaining respect from your employees. Following through also means doing so in a timely fashion. If you take too long to follow through, it's as bad as not following through at all.

Share The Bad News, Too

Of course it's much easier to share good news with your employees, but it's perhaps even more important to share the bad news. If revenue is down, or if you've lost a large customer, or if a new competitor has entered the market, let your team know. Your employees need to know about the health of your company or organization. And it's only when they have the full picture -- the good news and the bad news -- that they can rally together with you to brainstorm possible solutions. Don't keep your team in the dark. Don't give them a false sense of the situation by sharing only good news. Keep them fully informed. They can handle the bad along with the good. Most likely they have a sense of the bad already. Or, they'll hear it second-hand. You'll gain their respect when they hear the bad news from you.

Start Meetings On Time

You call a meeting. Chances are one or more people will show up late. Perhaps 10 minutes late. If there are six people waiting on the latecomers, that's 10 minutes times 6. Sixty minutes. One hour of collective wasted time. If you hold a lot of meetings that each start late, the wasted time will really add up. So, start your meetings on time. It won't take long before the habitual latecomers will start coming on time, particularly if you start your meetings with a piece of really important news that your employees would much prefer to hear first-hand.

Acknowledge Personal Milestone Events

Your employee will appreciate your acknowledging his birthday, advanced degree graduation achievement, wedding engagement, wedding, or other personal milestone event. If he (or she) shares with you information about any important event in his life, take the opportunity to congratulate him, honor him and acknowledge him. You can give him a card. Or, take him to lunch. Or, even a simple handshake can go a long way. Taking an interest in your employee goes a long way and it's one of the easiest, meaningful actions you can take. If you manage a large team, you'll likely want to create a way to help you remember upcoming milestone events for each of your employees.

Think About What You Liked

As a manager, you've undoubtedly worked for other managers in your career. You've likely worked for good managers and for not so good managers. One of the simplest things you can do to ensure you are a good manager is to think about what you liked and disliked about your past managers. Then, adapt your management style to include the things you appreciated most from your past good managers. Most important, don't do the things that you disliked about how your past managers behaved. Odds are that those are the same things your employees won't like you to do.

Close Your Door

This may seem obvious, but some managers don't, or forget to, close their door when disciplining an employee. If you don't have a door to close, move your discussion to a private area away from the rest of your employees. Some employees like to be praised in public. Some prefer to be praised in private. But, all employees should be disciplined in private.

Help Your Employees Learn From Their Mistakes

Mistakes happen. The best thing you can do as a manager is to help your employee learn from his (or her) mistake. If your employee is afraid of ever making a mistake, he will be paralyzed from taking action or taking even calculated risks. If he knows that mistakes happen in the course of doing business and that one learns from making mistakes, you will have a more productive employee. Most important, be sure your employee knows that if he makes a mistake, he should let you know as soon as possible. As soon as he does, quickly rectify the situation. Then, discuss with him how the mistake happened. Find out what he did or didn't do. Ask him what he thinks he can do in the future to avoid the mistake from happening again. Chances are he has already figured this out. If not, teach him what he needs to do differently to avoid the mistake from reoccurring . Finally, you may discover that the mistake happened because policies, procedures or your assignment instructions were con

Ask For Help

If you are new to managing, or if you are struggling with a management dilemma, ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help. Seek the guidance of a colleague at work. Reach out to a mentor at or away from work. Turn to an online resource. Consult a book on managing. Whatever you do, don't sit back and do nothing. Managing even one employee can be challenging. And many managers receive little or no formal training on how to be a manager. That means you have to be proactive about learning how to be a good manager. Your team is depending on you, and to lead them effectively you need to know to how manage effectively. So, ask for help.

Listen Carefully

Being an expert listener is one of the most powerful things you can do as a manager. When you listen carefully to your employees, you'll gain their respect and you'll learn more about what's going on within your organization. Listening involves much more than what you hear. When you listen carefully, you are maintaining eye contact with the person speaking. You are watching for non-verbal clues, body language, gestures and facial expressions. Being an effective listener also means repeating back to the employee what you heard her say to ensure that you understood her correctly. This is a crucial step that many managers forget to do. Being an expert listener is not easy, but it's vital to making a manager successful.

Tailor Your Motivation Techniques

If you manage a team of more than a couple employees, chances are that each person is motivated by something different. As their manager, learn what motivates each person on your team and tailor your motivation techniques accordingly. You'll find that most people are motivated by much more than money. Some want and need routine praise. Others seek public recognition for a job well done, while some people prefer less public acknowledgement. Some employees are motivated by being given increasingly more challenging tasks. You may also find that you'll have employees on your team who are motivated by being included on your decision making process when you establish policies or procedures. And still others are motivated by being given as much autonomy as reasonably possible. So, observe, listen, and then tailor your motivation techniques for each of your employees, and be prepared to tweak those techniques if necessary as each person grows within your organization.

Support Mentoring

Sports heroes mention their mentors at award ceremonies. Successful business people thank their mentors at career milestone celebrations. Young adults who become accomplished acknowledge their mentors when asked who was influential in their success. Mentoring is indeed powerful. Most managers have been both a mentor and a mentee at some point in their careers . Sometimes, though, not everyone understands the important difference between informal mentoring and formal mentoring. Formal mentoring is structured, intentional, and short-termed. It also requires the support of top management. In addition to the informal mentoring that is surely taking place at your company/organization, consider establishing a formal mentoring program. You can learn about formal mentoring from many sources, but here is one resource/company that can provide you with easy-to-follow workbooks for both the mentor and mentee : The Mentoring Group in Grass Valley, CA

Lead By Example

Because I believe leading by example is one of the most powerful things a manager can do to ensure success for his or her employees, I'll start each month of my Blog with my "Lead By Example" posting. Try any or all of the following actions and your employees will learn to emulate your winning style: * Praise when compliments are earned. * De decisive. * Say "Thank You" and sincerely mean it. * Show and demonstrate trust. * Communicate clearly. * Listen effectively. * Teach something new. * 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. * Respond to questions quickly and fully. * Give credit where credit is due.