The Managers’ Guide

I have just been told about a great free resource for managers called TheManagersGuide.

Don’t be put off by the pictures of men and women in suits examining grpahs on flipcharts – there is a lot of very solid practical advice here – and I don’t think they are selling anything!

It also has the benefits of:

  • Being UK based and written – unlike most stuff which is imported from the US
  • Entirely free!
  • Not part of the state machinery designed to sell you apprenticeships, NVQs and other dodgy marks of management competence.

Measuring Management

Managers spend much of their time measuring – market share, year on year sales, voids, arrears, return on investment, customer satisfaction, orders fulfilled, calls handled per hour, orders placed, orders fulfilled (again), total invoiced, hours billed, attendance, productivity per employee etc

Why the obsession with measuring stuff?

Because it gives us the data to recognise what has changed, what needs to change, and when we make the change – whether it has had the impact we planned.

But none of these metrics are about US – the manager.  They are all about the performance of the system and the people that we manage.  And this often lets us of the hook for making real change in the way we manage.

What if we measured some more personal aspects of our management efforts?

  • how much time we spend listening in 121 conversation with team members
  • how many times we give REAL feedback – affirmative and adjusting – each day/week
  • how often we make sarcastic or cynical comments
  • how many times we interrupt others mid-sentence
  • how often we check our blackberry in meetings
  • how often we talk about values and vision
  • the amount of time we spend in meetings that are inefficient or worse
  • how many coaching contracts we put in place with our team members
  • what percentage of coaching contracts achieved their goals
  • how many significant tasks we genuinely delegated (rather than then allocated) because they provide great development opportunities
  • percentage of working time allocated to pursuing key objectives
  • how often we acknowledge our own development opportunities and make planned conscious change in our behaviours

I am convinced that if we started to measure our own personal performance in relation to some of these more personal aspects of management, most of us would we would pretty quickly get some powerful data on what we needed to change.  Measurement would also pretty quickly confront us with the fact that our perceptions of our performance are markedly different from reality.

As we make planned changes based on measurements of our own personal behaviours we will soon see a very positive impact in some of the more traditional areas where measurement prevails.  The act of measurement itself would also increase the likelihood of planned changes being implemented and seen through.  That after all is perhaps the main reason why we measure.

To make sure that important things get done.

Management Lessons from Frazer Irving

Had the privilege of attending my first Creative Networks event at Leeds College of Art.  Frazer Irving – a wonderful illustrator talked about his career – from which I took the following:

  1. the seeds of your future are often sown early
  2. just because it sells does not mean it is good – heroin is not better than tofu – even if it does shift more units
  3. provoke, invoke, evoke
  4. 5 years of crappy jobs and being on the dole – being on the dole were the ‘happy days’
  5. ideas burning on the inside
  6. managers/editors can leave you with tears streaming down your face and your soul ripped out and thrown on the floor
  7. the bad times provide the fuel and drive to allow the good
  8. an incessant streak of optimism helps – on being rejected by judges in a portrait competition Frazer chose to believe it was because he wasn’t important – although it might have been because I wasn’t very good
  9. it takes a lot of time, training, passion and life experience to really master your subject
  10. great technology combined with great passion and skills produce remarkable, beautiful and important results
  11. sometimes you need someone to say ‘chin up – you will be alright’
  12. sometimes when your art is ripped off it gets you great new gigs – life-changing breaks…
  13. be a slave to the muse – let the story dictate the style
  14. it is really about finding out who you are and what you can become
  15. treat me as a ‘pencil monkey’ and you will get mediocrity
  16. in the comic world a lot of bad product is there because of poor management – comics and every other industry on the planet – management is perfectly evolved to get the results it gets
  17. if it is bad it is (nearly always) because the managers/editors have put the wrong people on the job
  18. if you have recruited the wrong people then forcing them to compromise WILL lead to mediocrity
  19. recruit great talent carefully and then trust it do deliver on its own terms – not yours
  20. when your hobby becomes your job – you get another hobby
  21. musicians jam and sometimes the results are great – what is the jamming equivalent for you?
  22. be careful about your reputation – one person saying you migh tnot hit a deadline in a public forum can be a killer
  23. sometimes it is best not to claim the credit for all your ideas
  24. it really is full of ups and downs – but you come out of the downs with even more resources – psychological and technical if not financial

This was a great networking event – convival atmosphere – great facilities – good food – great speakers and good managment.

If only all networking opportunities were this good!

Twitter and the Progressive Manager

Why should progressive managers engage with twitter?

Well this post and video pretty quickly summed it up for me.

http://tinyurl.com/b4enb5

Early days for me using twitter – but so far it looks promising!

I am going to twittering some management tips and twitter about community based enterprise and how to develop it!

Any of you twittering?  What works and what doesn’t?

If you want to you can follow my twitters at:

http://twitter.com/mikechitty

Performance Management, Performance Reviews and Appraisals

I was asked by a manager yesterday to help to clarify the difference between performance management and appraisal.  I don’t think I did a great job  so I thought I would try again!

Performance management is a system with four parts:

  1. Specify the desired level of performance for the thing you are trying to manage (people, programs, products or services)
  2. Measuring performance – collecting and recording reliable data, both quantitative and qualitative
  3. Using data to compare actual performance to what is desired – recognising gaps between what is desired and what highlighting –  variances
  4. Communicating performance information – to those that are most able to use it to make progress

Performance management can happen at a number of different levels:

  1. The performance of strategies and plans at the organisational level
  2. The performance of products, services and programs
  3. The performance of teams, department or units
  4. The performance of individual employees

A key task for a manager is to decide at which level an investment in performance management is most likely to pay off.  In my experience an investment in the performance management of individual employees drives improvements at the team, product/service and organisational levels.

Performance Reviews and Appraisals are a small but important part of good performance management at the level of the individual employee and the team or business unit.  When aggregated they can also provide powerful contributions to performance management at the organisational level.

However these ‘one-off’ annual interventions need to be supplemented by more frequent processes for measurement, monitoring and change to keep up with the dynamic context in which organisations operate.  These interventions would include:

  • 121s and quarterly reviews,
  • feedback,
  • coaching and
  • delegation.

Collectively these provide a manager with a powerful framework for the performance management of individuals and teams.  Few managers that I meet consistnelty use these intervnetions with rigour, conviction and compassion. As a consequence they are at best ‘mediocre’.  Without them the likelihood of real progress being made is small.  Putting these simple interventions into practice can transform mediocrity into excellence.

Measurement is central to performance management, but it is a double edged sword that has to handled skillfully.

“People revert to metrics out of fear, not out of vision.”

(Patrick Lencioni)

Measurement is often about the minimum requirements and rarely helps to articulate a grand design.  It tends to lead to reductionist thinking and may have little to do with the ‘high ground’ of excellence.

“Managers who don’t know how to measure what they want settle for wanting what they can measure.”

( Ackoff & Addison)

Most managers spend to little time considering what they expect from an excellent employee.

  • What would excellence look like?
  • How would I recognise it?
  • How would I ensure that excellence was contagious?

Even if managers do have a conception of excellence they rarely build in the time to collect the data and establish the working relationships necessary to achieve it.  Typically this means observing people at work, giving feedback, coaching and so on.  What Tom Peters referred to as ‘Managing By Wandering Around’.

Instead managers retreat to the easy, low ground of using what they can easily measure as a proxy for performance.  They become mole whackers.  Things that are difficult to measure are neglected, while things that are easy to measure become important.

Performance management is just a tool. It can be used to

  • move your agenda forward – what is your agenda? What does progress look like?
  • provide powerful messages about what matters – it doesn’t have to be precise, just influential – what are you trying to influence?

Making Meetings Work

Most managers spend more than 50% of their working hours spent in meetings of one sort or another.

Yet few have a systematic approach towards making these meetings as effective and efficient as they can be.

Many managers just tend to accept that meetings are inherently inefficient and not often effective.  That’s just how it is.  Few take responsibility for making them better.

Outstanding managers do just that.

They run tight, focused, professional meetings.

They are clear on purpose, tightly controlled and always drive towards decisions or enlightenment.

They produce actions and name people responsible for making them happen.

These meeting outcomes are effectively commmunicated and actions are always monitored to make sure that they deliver the anticipated results.

Any variations between what was anticipated and what occurred are used to drive reflection and development.  The organisation learns and future meetings are informed by the experience.

Sounds like an unreasonably high expectation of the humble meeting?  I don’t think so.  Get trained, change your expectations, behave differently and soon you will be making meetings work.

Without Valleys There Can Be No Mountains

I am not sure where I first collected this quote but the more I think about it the more I see its relevance to effective management.

To me it means that wherever there is a great strength there is also a great weakness.  You cannot have one without the other.  Ying and Yang. I think this relates to a Jungian concept that whatever light shows us our way forward will always cast a corresponding shadow.

If this is the case then it becomes impossible to minimise a weakness without compromising the strength with which it is paired.

It also means that whenever we see a weakness we should look for the corresponding strength.  This is important because so many managers become almost obsessed by fixing problems rather than by celebrating and maximising strengths.

So when you find yourself recognising a weakness in yourself or others – spend a few moments looking for the corresponding strength.

Managing in a Poor Culture

What do yo do when you are managing in an organisation that has a poor culture?

This is the subject of a great post by Miki Saxon.

She makes the point that the starting place has to be a conscious decision that this is a place where you want to be and do great work – in spite of the culture.  The alternative is to indulge in a ‘martyr complex’ the kind of ‘poor me’ response that I often hear.  This  usually appears as a belief that ‘there is nothing I can do to provide a great service and excellence until those above me get their act sorted’.

This is a convenient belief and a powerful one.  But it does little to help us make progress.  It lets us off the hook, allows us to avoid responsibility and put the blame elsewhere.  Once enough of us are doing this – and our beliefs are re-enforcing each other –  it can start to feel like a truth.  However it is still just a belief and we can choose to drop it!

So if you take a conscious decision to keep working in a poor culture you must try to reject this belief and take all the repsonsibility that you can for making things better.

You can read the full post here.

2. Say ‘Thank You’ and Smile…

When someone pays you a compliment.

Most of us are lousy at taking compliments.

We often  respond by down sizing our achievements;

‘Oh really it was nothing’

or

‘I was just doing my job’.

This down sizing achieves nothing worthwhile.

First of all it negates the judgement and the goodwill of the person  who offered you the compliments making it less likely they will compliment you in the future.

Secondly it is a kind of powerful ‘self talk’ that is bad for own self image.  We really begin to believe that our efforts were ‘nothing’ or it was JUST ‘doing my job’.

So next time someone pays you a compliment just smile and say ‘Thank You’.

NB: Perhaps you should get in the habit of giving more compliments too – but you may find the process discouraging as many of those you pay compliments too will react by downsizing.  To avoid this you can tag a question onto your compliment that will prevent them from downsizing.  So instead of saying;

‘I love the hair cut.’

try;

‘I love the hair cut.  Where did you get it done?’.

This trivial addition prevents downsizing and helps to get through the embarrassing seconds of silence that might otherwise follow.

1. Say ‘Thank You’ and Smile…

When one of your team members offers you a suggestion that you have already thought about but discounted.

Instead of saying thank you and smiling, many managers will respond to this situation by giving way too much information. For example:

“Yes I had thought about that but decided with the current focus on xyz now would not be the time”.

From the managers perspective this is a rational, open and transparent response.

But what does it sound like from the team members perspective?

There is a good chance that they will interpret this statements to mean some or all of the following:

  1. I am way ahead of you because I had already thought of that.
  2. I am cleverer than you because I can see why the suggestion is not that good (had you really forgotten about the current focus on xyz?)
  3. You are wasting my time by dragging me back to things that I have already considered
  4. Please don’t waste my time unless you have MUCH better suggestions to bring to the table

So instead just greet the suggestion with a big smile and a genuine thank you.

You might say that you will certainly put their ideas ‘into the mix’.

You might ask them how the suggestion might be made to working in spite of the current focus on xyz.

You might choose to give them some affirming feedback to encourage further sugestions in the future.

But mainly you just smile and say thank you.