10 ways-to-be-a-better-manager


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10 ways-to-be-a-better-manager

  1. 1. 10ways to be abetter manager
  2. 2. www.smartcompany.com.au 1 Introduction It’s not easy being a manager these days. If the current patchy economic environment wasn’t enough to worry about, modern leaders need to juggle skills shortages, demands from very different generations of workers and ever-increasing workplace regulations. To help managers navigate this minefield – and tackle the perennial problems of engaging and motivating staff – SmartCompany has created an eBook dedicated to helping you become a better manager. You’ll find tips on delegation, making meetings run better and giving constructive feedback. You’ll also learn about building a lasting workplace culture, educating senior leaders and managing gossip. You’ll even learn when is the right time to bring in an executive assistant and why IT issues always need a special management touch. Good luck and remember, the best manager is one who never stops learning. James Thomson, SmartCompany editor10 ways to be a better manager 2
  3. 3. www.smartcompany.com.au 1 Be AN example, not THE example A fully-functioning work team doesn’t need an example. What it needs is the freedom to be led by its own example. This is where leadership is more about empowerment than delegation. There are times when an individual may lack insight, skill or ability. Much of that can be learned, trained or developed, but where people act autonomously in their job, the role is very different. As a principal and owner/operator of an enterprise it is desirable for you to be AN example but not THE example. I understand that information flows upward and for major strategic decisions you may realistically be the only one with all of the facts and figures and strategic perspective. All of the factors empower you. What is worth exploring is how and when is it appropriate to share the leadership responsibility. Strategic decision-making can be shared with a board, professional advisors and mentors. Some aspects of a small enterprise like cashflow management, exit strategies and downsizing are sensitive issues. There is a strong case for selectively choosing your confidante. One business owner I knew was in grave financial difficulty. In the absence of proper counsel she shared the business’ woes with her staff. All that did was spread panic. There is a case for the judicious sharing of sensitive information. Being transparent doesn’t mean showing your dirty underwear in all of its finery. What would have been appropriate in that circumstance would have been to acknowledge that the trading performance was down, cashflow was tight, budget cutbacks likely and reaffirm the commitment to devise strategies to trade through the temporary setback. The key in this instance was not sharing the facts objectively but remaining calm and emotionally centred in doing so. Dennis Roberts, executive coach and mentor10 ways to be a better manager 3
  4. 4. www.smartcompany.com.au 2 How to monitor delegated tasks Managers can’t afford to handball off responsibilities and just leave it. That is a recipe for disaster because nothing will be done. You have to understand what you are delegating and what resources they will require and how you will manage and measure what is being achieved. You can do that with special meetings or general meetings, depending on the task. I might say to you, for example, that I want you to report to me every week or every month on these key indicators. Then we can canvass whether it’s going well or not, whether we need to allocate more resources or maybe we need to redefine the task. A good system might start with daily meetings that run for a couple of weeks. Then it becomes a meeting twice a week. After that settles in, the entrepreneur and manager can meet once a week. The critical thing is that each meeting should have a clear agenda. There needs to be an action plan with key performance indicators. The action plan written out at the end of the meeting should set out what each party has to do at the next meeting so it doesn’t become another talk fest. Zelko Lendich, CEO of egg producer Farm Pride10 ways to be a better manager 4
  5. 5. www.smartcompany.com.au 3 Nine rules for effective meetings Endless meetings reflect the kind of culture where the organisation and its managers aren’t clear about what they want those meetings to achieve. It’s a lack of process, it’s a lack of agreement and understanding of what it should be. This nine-point plan for more effective meetings can be circulated to everyone: • Is there a business case for this meeting? Does it make sense? Is it a waste of time? • Circulate the meeting agenda. That includes preparation reading with a good lead time. • Allocate roles and responsibilities. Who is going to keep time? Take minutes? Keep things on track? • Manage the time. • Manage focus. Keep people on track. Stick to the agenda. • All members have a responsibility to contribute and facilitate consensus. Everyone has role, no matter who they are. Everyone has to help others participate in the meeting. • Always evaluate content and process. At the end of the meeting, ask whether you achieved what you set out to do. Mark it out of 10. • Circulate minutes, assignments and whatever else came out of the meeting. • Be a good role model. For managers, that also means turning up on time. Ed Robins, director of ProFocus10 ways to be a better manager 5
  6. 6. www.smartcompany.com.au 4 Quick tips for giving feedback A few years ago a wise old business owner, David, gave me some useful tips for giving feedback to staff. I dug them out recently. • Before you start, reframe the concept of “criticism” in your mind, turning it from delivering a negative reprimand to sharing a helpful learning. I still often remind myself of this. • Preface your criticism with a warm introduction, such as “Can I give you some feedback?” or “Can I show you a better/quicker/neater way of doing that?” • Talk straight: don’t beat around the bush or hide your criticism in compliments. This one was a biggie for me. I realised that I hid my feedback in so much fluff – a tendency I blame on my English heritage – that it was impossible for anyone to work out what message I was trying to deliver. • Give regular feedback. If you give feedback in little bite-sized pieces, and do it often, it won’t feel like such a big issue for you or your employee. Finally, of course, practice makes you much better. I have most definitely improved over the past few years, but I would never use the word perfect. Julia Bickerstaff of Butterfly Coaching and The Business Bakery10 ways to be a better manager 6
  7. 7. www.smartcompany.com.au 5 How to improve negative workplace cultures 1. Talk to as many employees as possible The only way to get a true idea of what is really making your people tick is to speak to them directly. Your direct reports will always filter the perception of things in a favourable light. This is not a deceitful practice – it’s human nature to want to understate the negatives when talking to a person of authority. So delve, ask interesting questions and engage them in the discussion. 2. Find out the real concerns The challenge here is to create an honest, non-intimidating exchange between the leader and employee such that the fundamental issues driving the negative culture are discussed. As more discussions are had, common themes will appear and give you some direction in how to address the issues. Once you create an environment of honesty without blame or punishment, you will uncover the problems. 3. Find the mood leaders Within every organisation there are certain individuals who are more influential on mood and culture than others. They have the ability to change the mood of a place simply by walking into a room. If they are in a positive mind frame, that becomes infectious, and everyone gets a bit more excited. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true – if these people are unimpressed, stressed or unsatisfied they will let the world know and others will start to question their own satisfaction. And you may begin to realise this is you! So look no further and get cracking on your own turnaround. Be brave and ask more questions to get examples of your behaviours and actions that impact the culture. And be open to change. 4. Understand that it takes time and ongoing effort When you talk to people start asking what they think would be needed to improve the culture. What would they do in your role? Get their ideas and act on whatever you can as soon as you can. Ask great questions and you will find ready answers without paying outside consultants to give it to you months down the track with a big bill. Eve Ash, Seven Dimensions10 ways to be a better manager 7
  8. 8. www.smartcompany.com.au 6 Plan your staff reviews Prior to meeting for staff performance reviews, here’s a couple of suggestions: 1. Set the context in terms of time period and scope For example, say upfront that it is going to be an annual performance review covering July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011. It is a performance review of how well you achieved the duties, measures outlined in your employment agreements, contract or whatever you have documented. The first rule of performance reviews is: no surprises. If you, or they, spend much of the review discussing or debating items of feedback that haven’t previously been aired, you are not giving enough informal/formal feedback ongoing. If this rings true, learn from it, and change your ways. 2. Invite your staff member to conduct a self-assessment prior to meeting with you The questions you can prepare are “What worked/didn’t work?”, “What did I do well/not so well?”, “What were my major wins?”, “What should I keep doing, stop doing or improve?” 3. Let them talk If they have prepared answers to the questions above, once they have shared their view, then you can add to the discussion. You may have a different view, and that is okay, but let them hold the floor for a bit. 4. Setting expectations If someone’s performance hasn’t come up to scratch, state what you expect of them. Provide lots of specific examples. Give generous, objective feedback. Listen a lot. If they have done well, be lavish in your praise. Remain objective and be specific. The best way to be specific is to give examples. Dennis Roberts, executive coach and mentor10 ways to be a better manager 8
  9. 9. www.smartcompany.com.au 7 Don’t let gossip get a grip on your team As a leader, there are a few ways you can help manage gossip in your team: • Talk openly to your team about the damaging impact gossip has on individuals and the credibility and reputation of the team. • If someone comes to you and complains or gossips about another team member, clarify why they are giving you this information. Do they need your help to work through a situation or do they need you to organise a meeting with the individual(s) to discuss the issue? If they needed someone to vent with, be careful about how you proceed. You can coach them through the situation, being careful not to join in on the gossip, or you can simply state that while you are happy to help them work through the situation, you are not happy to get drawn into a venting session. Explain that it doesn’t serve either of you to do so. • Be mindful that as humans we all have our own map of the world; a way of perceiving things to be true (for us). Asking some clarifying questions and challenging the reality of the situation can sometimes help to diffuse tension. You are only hearing one side of the story, be sure to check facts before reacting on the information being provided. • Model the behaviour you want to see. Under no circumstances engage in gossip about any team member or person outside of your team. • Check in with your HR team about the company policy for dealing with gossip in the workplace. What accountability can you enforce if the gossiping doesn’t stop? Are you able to link this into a performance discussion when reviews are given? • Keep yourself honest! Have you been influenced by the gossip you have just heard? This is a good reason to cut off the conversation when gossip begins. • As a leader there may be times when you need to vent about a team member’s behaviour. Take some time to get really clear about what you need to talk about. Are you venting? Are you getting personal? We are all human and none of us are perfect. However, with some thought (while you are not angry or upset by someone’s behaviour and not needing to vent) you can put some steps in place to help you when you need it. A good one is to write it down: write down everything you are feeling and want to say, and then shred it. Once you have downloaded you can ask yourself: ‘What’s the real issue here?’ Then find someone you trust and be honest. Tell them you are struggling with an individual(s) and need to vent. You may wish to keep the identity of the person to yourself and use the person you are talking to as a sounding board. Pollyanna Lenkic, founder of Perspectives Coaching10 ways to be a better manager 9
  10. 10. www.smartcompany.com.au 8 Guide your culture with a set of corporate values Atlassian formally proclaimed its values three years ago in a unique exercise. While other companies send their management teams off to retreats to work out their values, Atlassian did it the other way around. Management sat down and wrote out a list, and employees wrote down theirs. The two were compared. We were surprised by how similar the two lists were. If you don’t have an alignment, you have a serious problem. But you can’t impose a value on a company. It’s not like a company goal or KPI. It needs to bubble up from below and it needs to be genuinely felt by all the staff. To keep the values front and centre, Atlassian highlights examples of behaviour that promote them. Staff members who do that are turned into heroes. If there is an example of helping the customer, we make sure we put some spotlights on it. Atlassian’s core values are: • Open company • No bullsh.t • Build with heart and balance • Don’t f..k the customer • Play as a team • Be the change you seek Joris Luijke, human resources director at software group Atlassian10 ways to be a better manager 10
  11. 11. www.smartcompany.com.au 9 Know when to get the help of a great executive assistant The return on investment from a good executive assistant can be substantial. I probably get somewhere between 120 and 150 emails a day – internal and external. I try and cover those off within 24 hours. A lot of the time, it’s before work and after work. I also have four or five meetings, external and internal, a day and at the moment, I arrange those myself. Often, if you can’t get hold of somebody, you have to try and get them the second, third or fourth time. So you have emails back and forth. That in itself probably takes up one or two hours a day –probably more. I think if I can be two hours more productive every day, getting an EA will easily make sense. So a CEO on close to $1 million a year might have an EA earning about one-tenth of that. But in a 60-hour working week, the EA will save the executive 10 hours a week (based on two hours a day) – a near 17% increase in productivity. That makes a $100,000 proposition a good investment. Those are the sorts of calculations you have to go through. Is it a must-have or nice-to- have? Paul Lyons, managing director of recruitment firm Ambition10 ways to be a better manager 11
  12. 12. www.smartcompany.com.au 10 Handle IT issues with care Yelling will not create harmony or progress, so I suggest you seek alternative ways to strike the right balance between reactive and preventative solutions for your IT environment. I recommend employing a system of logging requests that allows a team of people to prioritise the jobs that need doing in a structured way. That also allows service levels to be assigned to problems. This process will ensure that the higher the impact of a problem, the sooner it is tackled by the experts. You then need access to a team with the breadth and depth required to resolve the varied problems you face – mountains and molehills! Large organisations have made use of helpdesk software and project management software for years to ensure delivery is not a yelling match. Somehow, this is not always the case in smaller organisations, but that need not be the case, as there are now scalable tools for smart managers in the smallest of businesses. If IT is a core part of your business, but the process of researching and implementing the appropriate management tools is a daunting task, perhaps it is time to consider outsourcing it to a team of people with a broad set of skills and a good management tools. David Markus, founder of IT services company Combo10 ways to be a better manager 12