Friday, February 16, 2007

Management Part 2: Principles of Respect

Respect is one of the key ingredients of successful management. If your team does not respect you, they will hesitate to follow you. Each time something does not go as expected or you don’t follow up, the team will keep score. As time passes and you’ve done little or nothing to earn respect, your team will fall apart. To get respect, you must first give respect.

The following are five key principles on how to earn respect from your team:

1. Respect from the Beginning
Your team members have accepted the responsibilities of their job when they decided to join your team. Part of your responsibility is to respect them for that decision. Start the relationship with this in mind.

2. Tell the Truth
Mark Twain says it best, “Always tell the truth; then you don't have to remember anything”. I have seen the C.Y.A. approach adopted in lieu of telling the truth but it does not foster respect. To me telling the truth is actually C.Y.A. In management the truth can be difficult. However, telling the truth will earn you respect and it will put you in a position of trust. Telling the truth does not mean you share everything you know about any topic asked of you. When you are not sure if certain information is appropriate to share with someone, state either that you can not discuss it or that you do not have enough information about it. Telling the truth will rarely come back to haunt you. Being yourself and sharing your honest opinions tactfully is what successful management is made of. The only situations I have seen telling the truth come back to haunt me is if my opinion was prematurely given. Then if circumstances change and my opinion becomes controversial, I may be in a tough spot. Here is where experience lends its hand – if the jury is still out, refrain from putting yourself in this position by deferring to comment until you have more facts.

3. Act like You’ve Been there Before
In stressful times people want their manager to be in control and get them through the storm. You may be asked to handle something you don’t have a clue about or have never dealt with before. Don’t convey to your team that this situation is brand new to you and you’re not sure what to do. Rather, listen to the request/situation and let your team know you will handle it. If you need to, consult with a colleague, co-worker or your manager. This doesn’t need to be done in front of your team. Maintaining a positive outlook and an image of confidence during stressful times is valuable beyond words. Once you have your decision, go back to the team and calmly explain what the next step/s will be.

4. Let Me Get Back to You
Let me get back to you is a simple concept that can make your job easier as well as make you look stronger in your role. As a manager you do not need to know all the answers to every question that you are asked. It is not reasonable for an effective manager to be able to respond with the best answer anytime they are asked a question, especially as their scope of responsibility increases. "Let me get back to you" is beneficial because you look as though you want to consider all your choices when you do not actually know the answer. This creates some time to research your options, find the best answer or ask an other's opinion. When you share your final decision you will look as though you are in control versus making a quick judgment.

5. Show Me Don’t Tell Me
One of the best ways to earn respect is through leading by example. This will demonstrate first hand that you are capable of providing the same service/function as your team. This, too, will lend to your credibility when you are “speaking their language” regarding improvements, changes, etc… People naturally relate to similar people. If you can demonstrate you are capable of doing what they do, they will mentally bridge some of the gap between management and team member. An added benefit to this concept is less chance of error – seeing is clearer than telling.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Management Part 1: Equation 30/20/50

The first time I heard of the 30/20/50 theory I was just beginning my career in management. Over the past 10 years of my career I have adopted this theory as part of my personal management philosophy.

Here is how the equation breaks down: 30% of the people in your company are truly committed to their jobs and will always go the extra mile. These people have positive attitudes, rarely complain and typically advance the quickest and farthest in their careers. These are your "go to" people. 20% of the people in your company are the exact opposite. They are negative. Nothing is ever good enough for them and the company doesn't do enough for them. They are always complaining and usually the first to leave at the end of the day. 50% of the people in your company sit right in the middle. This group really just wants to get their job done and do what is expected of them.

The challenge for management is to stay focused on the 30% and not fall into the trap of trying to change the 20%. The danger is spending too much time with this group. Ultimately what happens is the 50% group begins to pay close attention to management's focus on the 20% and starts to think the 20% group must have some merit to their position. The 50% group now begins to behave in the same manner. This can lead to a net atmosphere of 80% of your workforce in the realm of negativity and your business is at risk. If this atmosphere is prolonged, you not only continue to put your business at risk but your top performers (30%) view their efforts as being taken for granted and may begin looking for a new company to work for.

The flip side to this is if you stay focused on your star performers, the 50% group will recognize management spending their time with the 30% and behave in a similar manner.

At this point you may be thinking to yourself the same thing I thought when I first heard this theory. That is, why not just get rid of the 20% and have the perfect team? Although there are exceptions to everything and this is possible, the theory holds that this equation always balances out. If you remove the 20% it is likely someone from the 50% may disagree with your decision. This may be the beginning of that person harboring their negative outlook on management's decision and over time they themselves move from the 50% group into the 20% group. Once this happens, they begin to recruit people to their side.

In closing I want to make sure I have not implied you should ignore the 20% group of your workforce. You should be fair and give their concerns consideration and make changes if they are warranted. The overall message here is to focus on what is working (and the people making it work for you) and not get caught up in others negativity.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Leadership Part 1: Negatives Up & Positives Down

A leadership role within an organization implies you support the direction and decision makers of the company. When you are frustrated do not let the people you are responsible for see you complain or behave in a negative manner. For you to publicly complain is unprofessional and sends your direct reports the wrong message. Rather, you should share your frustrations with your manager. This is the appropriate way to express your concerns. Depending on your experience level it is likely you will learn something you did not already know and your perspective will change. This way you remain professional in the eyes of those that report to you while you have an opportunity to develop the business relationship between you and your boss.

On the other hand always share any positives you observe or learn about with the people you lead. This includes any comments or recognition from senior management outside of your department. In essence you want to keep the moral high and positive among your team. If you consistently share positives with your team they will feed off of it and focus on trying to reproduce similar results.