A close colleague recently received a well-deserved promotion, and I am thrilled for her and her manager. I believe that this sort of thing – “promotion” in the very best sense of the word – has the power to change careers … and lives.
Why Promotions Matter
It’s always nice to get a raise (more money) or a promotion (a loftier title and/or higher-level job responsibilities), of course. But I find that when done thoughtfully and purposefully, it can be much more than a “nice to have” or a brief shot-in-the-arm for morale purposes. In my friend’s case, the promotion:
- Showed her that she and her contributions were valued by the organization
- Gave her increased standing and confidence to interact with clients, colleagues, and vendors on a more equal footing as professional peers
- Changed her own thinking about what future steps her career might hold in store —what possibilities could become realities for her
- Increased her already strong appreciation for her manager, knowing that he had gone to bat for her when he didn’t have to
- And, in part that she’s not aware of yet, the promotion sets her up for other jobs (inside and outside the company) for which holding her new title/level is an unstated (but very real) requirement.
In the manager’s case, the promotion demonstrated: Continue reading
Are our managers weighed down by doubts about their roles and the organization’s purposes? Simple clarity can help release powerful performance.
I was reminded again last week how important it is for organizations to communicate clear roles and purposes. Simply knowing where the organization is going and what it expects of you dramatically affects how you feel about—and how you do—your job. So simple … and so easy to forget.
As I was helping a group of front-line supervisors implement a new performance evaluation system, the question of “trust” kept coming up. At first, it was difficult to get a handle on what exactly the issue was. I kept talking about how the system would free them to coach, mentor, and support their employees—and they kept asking, “Really?”
The system itself was pretty simple, so I was confused, until it finally became clear that they weren’t questioning the system—only their role in it. The “really” was, “Are you sure that the organization really wants us spending our time coaching and mentoring? They’re really going to let us do that?”
Clearly there was some emotional baggage to overcome before any new system could take hold.
In the last ten or so years, they had experienced a number of short-term leaders. With each new leader—some more communicative than others—the role of the front-line supervisor had shifted, leaving them confused and dispirited. The common theme, Continue reading
Posted in coaching, Communication, Excellence, Leadership, Talent Management
Tagged coaching, Employee engagement, Employee Relations, Excellence, Happiness, Human Resources, Leadership, management
What does a great pastrami on rye have to do with leadership? Read below.
I’d like to share with you a story about my deli guy. Why a story about a “deli guy” in an HR/leadership blog? Because, in addition to making great sandwiches (“I’ll take a ‘Gerty’— corned beef and pastrami on rye with Russian dressing and a side of coleslaw— thanks!”), he’s also one of the most natural teachers that I’ve ever observed, and therein lies the story.
Dad’s Deli (and Training Academy)
Doug, a longtime restauranteur and caterer, co-manages Dad’s Deli with his wife, Debbie. Located in a nondescript building in a suburban setting, Dad’s has developed a loyal following. Beyond the quality of the sandwiches, this is due in no small part to the friendly, everyone-knows-your-name atmosphere (think “Cheers” in a deli) that starts with Doug’s greeting as you enter the door. A natural networker, Doug goes out of his way— even in the busiest rush periods— Continue reading
Posted in coaching, Employee Relations, Leadership, Talent Management, Training & OD
Tagged Carnegie Deli, Cheers, Leadership, loyalty, management, Pastrami, Sandwiches, teaching
During the past several months, I’ve had the pleasure of watching a few new managers grow into their jobs. I wanted to share a few observations about their struggles and successes that may apply universally to all new managers.
- Learning their craft
My young friends have viewed management as a skill to be learned, and they’ve dived into it with passion. They’re trying to read and learn and think about management skills and techniques wherever and whenever they can. Sometimes the mind gets ahead of the body, as it were (i.e., their desire to learn outpaces their actual skill at using the techniques they are learning) … but this brings with it hard-earned experience and, ultimately, greater skill.
- Learning to delegate
This might be the hardest skill to learn for most new managers (who have generally been promoted due their technical excellence in their field, not their managerial skill). They understand that their job is now to get work done throughother people now, rather than solely operating as an individual contributor. For the most part, they remember this and try to provide their teams with the resources, support, and autonomy they need to do their jobs. Every once in a Continue reading
Recently, one of our senior managers was considering promoting a long-serving employee to a supervisory position for the first time. To help paint a picture of “management” for the employee, the senior manager drew up a list of “Things Managers Are and Do” and shared it with the prospective supervisor. I thought it was a very good and thoughtful list, so I asked him if I might share it in this forum (adding a few thoughts of my own).
Things Managers Are
- They are genuine (i.e., they know that admitting mistakes makes you human, not weak)
- They are prudent (i.e., they balance the needs of all concerned)
- They are thoughtful (i.e., they try to understand and consider the implications of their actions)
- They are humble (i.e., they seek collegial relationships and use power with great restraint)
- They are hopeful (i.e., they believe in others’ potential and work to help them fulfill it)
Things Managers Do
- They manage (i.e., they take charge of situations, identifying solutions rather than complaining about problems)
- They want to manage (because they enjoy this type of work, not because of where it puts them on the corporate ladder)
- They care about, and see (and come to know) their staff as individuals first, and co-workers second.
- They understand and respect that people have a life outside of work and try to plan thoughtfully to help their teams balance business and personal responsibilities
- They truly want their staff and co-workers to be successful and work to help them become so
- They see this “role” (helping others succeed) as important as “doing their own job” – because it is part their job
- They actively demonstrate support by being available, teaching, and offering tools and resources where they reasonably can
- They represent/support the company in all matters – while maintaining their own individual integrity (i.e., when the company is wrong, they acknowledge it)
- They continually seek to learn and develop themselves in order to become better managers
- They don’t have to win an argument because they’re the boss (i.e., they seek to let the best answer prevail)
- They understand that they’re not “owed” trust and loyalty merely because they’re “the boss”; they have to earn it (day by day, action by action).
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to help new managers thrive. I’ll be writing more next week about observing two young managers as they strive to learn the art and craft of management. In the meantime, what key actions would you add to the list if you were advising a new manager (or as a reminder for long-time managers)?
After trying and mostly succeeding to post once per week for most of the past eighteen months or so, I’ve hit a bit of a dry patch – letting more than two weeks pass since my last post. It’s been somewhat of a tumultuous period in our office, which has left me a bit tentative regarding my reflections and observations. This too shall pass, as they say, I’m sure.
In the meantime, though, I recall a wise person telling me, “When you’re struggling with something, it’s often helpful to go beyond yourself – to change your mindset by focusing on helping others.” Very good advice, indeed. To that end, I wanted to share with you brief notes on four fellow members of the HR/leadership blogging community from whose wisdom I have benefited greatly over the past few years. They’re each deeply thoughtful and intuitive about different aspects of the human condition we call “leadership” or “management,” and it is a privilege to recommend them to you.
- Young Leaders – John Demma is a young manager who writes insightfully about what it is like to be a young manager – the struggle to learn the craft of guiding and motivating others, balancing just-learned grad school lessons with the realities of the school of hard knocks that is the real world of business, and juggling it all with the pressures and joys of a young family. Written with an authentic, earnest voice, John posts regularly at On Becoming A Leader.
- Day-to-Day Management, Part I – As someone who struggles to write anything in less than 700 words, I greatly respect those amongst us who can get to the point and regularly share three or four helpful nuggets of advice in 300 words or so – and do it five days a week, to boot. Experienced executive and blogger, Stephen Meyer, is just such a person. With a been-there-done-that credibility, he shares immediately useful suggestions for managing employees, organizations, and HR issues at HR Café.
- Day-to-Day Management , Part II – In a similar vein, Sharlyn Lauby, aka The HR Bartender, speaks with the authenticity of someone who has been through the wars and survived to tell the tale – but always with a upbeat, forward-looking take on things that is nothing short of refreshing and inspiring. Similar in nature to HR Café in a number of ways (down to the food metaphor), Sharlyn somehow manages to offer her practical, eminently insightful advice and perspectives – without the world-weary skepticism or snarkiness that often infects other HR blogs — on a daily basis at HR Bartender.
- Executive Leadership – For rising leaders, or those who advise and guide them, executive coach and leadership expert, Scott Eblin, is absolutely required reading. A former Fortune-500 HR Vice President at a young age, Scott now advises leaders around the world who are striving to get to the Next Level (the name of both his book and his blog). Scott has a remarkable ability to view current events through the prism of leadership and offer three or four insights you can use every time out. He can be found at Next Level Blog.
The start of the new year is traditionally a time for fresh starts, new perspectives, and transitions. I was reminded of this recently when two close friends – both long-time, high-performing senior operating executives in their firms – confided their intentions to leave their positions this year.
Both had similar reasons – in essence, they were mis-aligned with their companies’ visions and values, and they couldn’t (or didn’t want to) fight the battles there any longer. Their situations led me to wonder, “How do you know when it’s time to say good-bye?”
Signs and Signals
When one – or certainly, a few – of the following are true, it may be time to move on to greener pastures: Continue reading
Posted in Courage, Happiness, Hopefulness, Planning
Tagged company culture, Employee engagement, influencing, management, new perspectives, New Year, resignation, signs and signals, Sisyphus
Autumn provides the opportunity to tidy up our haven't-quite-gotten-to-it lists before the rush of the holidays is upon us
The falling leaves — announcing the changing of the seasons — have brought to mind the question of “wrapping up” certain activities and preparing for what’s ahead.
Tidying Up the Sidewalk
Earlier this week, I stepped outside to stretch my legs and enjoy a moment of the beautiful autumn afternoon, the sunshine giving off a golden glow. Passing a row of twin homes near our office, I exchanged greetings with an older gentleman I often see on my walks. A distinguished fellow of dignified bearing, I noticed that he was attending to the manicured patch of grass and sidewalk in front of his home with his usual care.
It struck me that my neighborhood friend’s task was symbolic of good advice for all of us this time of year – tidy up, and prepare for the next season.
Wrapping Up … Doesn’t That Feel Good!
I would venture that most of us have a few things on our I-haven’t-quite-gotten-around-to-it list. Things that aren’t necessarily the most pleasant nor enjoyable to do – but which if we finally got them done, would take a mental “load” off our minds. No one ever gets to everything on their list, of course … but here is some encouragement to check off a least a few items! (C’mon … you can do it!).
Keeping things on the professional side (but realizing we all probably have a similar list in our personal lives, as well), below are a few examples of things-not-quite-done. The list will vary amongst HR generalists and VP’s, front-line supervisors and CEO’s, of course. Regardless of position, though, there are still 6 or 8 weeks left before holiday parties and celebrations with family and friends are upon us – time enough to make a dent on things like …
- HR Generalists: the I-9, or COBRA, or FLSA audits that need to be done but – since “we haven’t gotten sued yet” – for which higher priorities have arisen every time we “meant” to tackle these tasks. Checking one of these off the list will help protect your organization in a very meaningful way.
- Recruiters: the hard-to-fill job for which you’ve almost convinced yourself qualified candidates don’t exist. Taking a fresh look and making a renewed effort on this opening would take a great weight off of two people – yourself, and the hiring manager who really needs the position filled to move his or her operation forward.
- HR VP’s/Leaders: the global PHR certification exam that you’ve been meaning to sign up and sit for. You’ve been dealing with international issues for years. You’re confident in your knowledge. You know it would be a nice final element to cement your professional credentials. It’s true that the XYZ project is coming to fruition right when the exam is scheduled. Sign up anyway.
- Organizational Leaders: the under-performer on your team you need to address. You know you have a highly-competent, exemplary leadership team … except for Harry, who’s a great guy and a trusted friend – just not a skilled manager. You’ve been meaning to have “the conversation” with him. They’ll never be “a good time” and it’s impossible to “let him down easy.” Have the conversation any way. The team will improve; so will everyone working under Harry. You’ll feel better … and so will he.
If we don’t take a few moments – or hours, or days – when the time is available, we risk having snow cover the fallen leaves, making it all that much harder to clean up, put in order, and clear a path for the future. Consider this a huge dose of friendly encouragement – and a nudge or two – to do what we need to do.
- Day 361 – Fall Leaves (singsansimpetuses.com)
- Thankful for the Falling Leaves (acreativeneed.wordpress.com)
Sitting in the dentist’s chair during a routine appointment this morning, it struck me that in almost four decades of dental visits, every dental hygienist I had ever met had almost exactly the same demeanor. Not one single time had a hygienist been anything other than upbeat, personable, attentive, and caring.
That’s quite remarkable, I think. Like everyone else, I’ve had waiters who were personable and engaging, and those who were grouchy and withdrawn; sales clerks who were enthusiastic and helpful, and those who were sullen and unaccommodating; etc. What could account for this consistency among hygienists? I think that part of the answer, oddly enough, may help managers increase the performance of their team members.
Characteristics Held in Common
Given this commonality among their temperaments, I have to assume that hiring hygienists is directly based on these characteristics (after considering their technical competence, of course). However, that’s not the thing that is necessarily instructive.
As dental hygiene is a care-giving field, it only makes sense that it would attract care-giving personalities. I suspect, though, that there must be other factors coming into play to sustain the near-universal contentment that hygienists seem to bring to their work – such as:
- A positive outlook — coming from their knowledge that Continue reading
Posted in Employee Relations, Encouragement, Excellence, Happiness, Hopefulness, Talent Management
Tagged company culture, Dental hygienist, Employee engagement, Employment, Excellence, Happiness, Human Resources, Ken Blanchard, management, meaning
Part of our continuing series of posts on “Managing By Cliches.”
Like Don Quixote, HR people sometimes idealistically "tilt at windmills" -- fighting battles that can't be won.
HR people generally try hard to “fix” things — people, organizations, relationships, etc. There is a bit of the idealistic and ever-hopeful Don Quixote “tilting at windmills” in all of us, I suppose — always trying to make things better, even when others with a more objective view might see the situation (or the person) as hopeless. In the end, though, the most challenging “truth” that we need to accept as HR people might be that we can’t fix everyone or everything … especially if they don’t “ask” us to “fix” them.
Bob, The Customer Service Rep Who And Hated His Customers
Just from the “headline” above, you might say, “Well, that seems like an easy one.” And you would be right. The “fix” — for “Bob” to get a new job, and maybe even a completely new line of work — is easily seen… by everyone except for Bob, of course.
As it turns out, Bob is a bright, hard-working, earnest 30-something who, for the past decade or so has worked two full-time jobs at the same time: managing a restaurant and leading a customer service team in a busy office. The good news is that he is talented and performs well at both jobs. The bad news is that the cumulative weight of satisfying customer demands at both jobs has left him burned out, resentful of even the most innocuous of customer request, and generally feeling Continue reading
Posted in Encouragement, Hopefulness, Managing By Cliches, Views of HR
Tagged company culture, Customer service, Don Quixote, Employee Assistance Programs, HR professionals, HR qualities, Human Resources, management