Being a Good Manager: Overcoming 5 Common Myths

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Building healthy culture, promoting innovation and bringing people together are key indicators of a successful manager. While working as an organizational consultant with startups who aim to scale their business, I’ve noticed five recurring misconceptions related to managing people that produce opposite results: unhealthy workplaces, unmotivated employees and frustrated managers. Especially for individuals who have started a business and end up hiring employees and becoming managers, here are five simple myths of managing that will help you turn around the way that you supervise your employees.

Myth #1: “The paycheck is the reward. That should be enough.”
Try this instead: A paycheck will not motivate employees to move mountains. Their paycheck is expected when people show up for work. Most employees aren’t concerned with your business bottom line. They do however concern themselves with the people they work with. The relationship they have with their co-workers and management. Daniel, the CEO of a startup in Santa Monica I work with, often sends a delivery order of chicken soup to his sick employees. I’ve told him that this is the type of gesture that expresses louder than words that his care extends past the quality and/or quantity of their work. An employee vested in the relationship will be happier and as a result more productive, more innovative and stay loyal as the company grows and changes. Yes, people need pay check to eat, but an “A” performance generally requires more than just a paycheck.

Myth #2: “They work for me.” 
Try this instead: It is your job to make your employees successful. A good manager strives to eliminate obstacles that impede their employees from reaching their goals. Try spending a day figuring out what you can do to make your employee’s life easier. When consulting with a local software company, their programmers mentioned that they would be happier if they could have one “flexible work day” where they could choose to work from home. The manager decided to implement this and soon found that his employees would only take advantage of the day when they truly needed it, and were happier and less concerned with balancing their work and life commitments. What obstacles can you remove to help your team meet their goals and achieve their deliverables? Yes, they may contractually work for you, but a good manager is also a servant of his people.

Myth #3: “I’ve told them this multiple times, they should be doing it already.”
Try this instead: Many employees have a difficult time keeping track of verbal suggestions. Verbal feedback is much more effective if paired with written feedback. The research suggests that therapists were more likely to provide higher quality services to their patients when their supervisor gave feedback orally, then followed up with written confirmation of the feedback. Are you frustrated that your employee isn’t responding to in-person feedback? The key word is accountability — and people feel much more accountable when documentation exists to make them easily accountable.

2013-12-02-WrittenFeedback.pngTry adding a followup email to your verbal suggestions. A quick email can serve as a good reference point if the problem persists, can create a paper trail of known issues to use for more formal feedback, and also allows the employee to go back and see a history of their progress. If the instruction already exists in an employee handbook, job description or email and you still notice compliance issues, feel free to cite the document and date to jog their memory and increase their accountability. Yes, your employees may forget your suggestions, but accountability is essential to good management and it is your job to hold yourself and them accountable.

Myth #4: “My employee’s mistakes cost me money.”
Try this instead: Mistakes employees make are typically unintentional and are an opportunity to improve existing systems. While some large mistakes can be very costly. The small day-to-day mistakes you deal with as a manager are perfect opportunities to understand flaws in your system. This upfront cost of identifying a hole in your system will save you money long-term if instead of blaming your employee, you use it as a way to give them feedback and improve your systems.

While working in a small health care company, we worked on a project to transition the responsibility of scheduling patients from the clinician to an in-house scheduling department. Although there were some instances where short-term utilization of billable hours wasn’t optimal, instead of blaming the scheduler, clinician or unreliable patient, we used these instances as a golden opportunity to revisit the scheduling protocols and identify gaps in the system. Yes, there is an instant cost of an error, but there are also hidden savings if you take the time to learn from this expensive lesson by providing feedback about the error and improving your systems.

Myth #5: “It’s faster for me to do it myself, than to train someone else to do it.”
Try this instead: Training takes time, but the time saved after your employee knows the ropes can give you more time to focus on more complicated tasks. Joe, a physician who decided to open a wellness center quickly found that running a boutique clinic was even more complicated than treating medical conditions. He often found himself filing patient charts, scheduling appointments, booking guest lecturers and creating daily activity schedules. When scaling his business, he resisted spending time training his employees on more important or complicated tasks, fearing that it wouldn’t be done correctly. In Joe’s case, by holding onto more complicated tasks, like finding his ideal guest lecturers to come visit his clinic, instead of integrating those into an employee’s workflow began causing later roadblocks when he was faced with more complicated medical-related demands. Once he realized that training his administrative assistant to research leads and give him options allowed him to focus on improving his clinic’s patient experience and he was able to make sure he was always operating at maximum capacity.

When faced with challenges, a manager should identify how these challenges fit within the context of growing their business and creating a stronger organizational structure. By trying these strategies, each obstacle sheds light on a learning opportunity to hone your managing skills, tighten your company protocols and learn about yourself and your team. Adopting these alternative views of the five common myths of management is a great place to start your journey to becoming a great manager. – Sara Gershfeld

The Three Habits of Highly Effective Demotivators

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Jake, a young marketing whiz, thought he’d found his perfect match in a well-funded technology startup in the academic sector. (It’s a real company, but I’ve changed all names.) For the first few months, Jake was in heaven: smart colleagues, plenty of autonomy, an open field of savvy customers looking for solutions in a hot sector, behind-the-curve competitors, and a terrific product he could sell with his heart.

The only problem was Lawrence, the startup’s CEO. Lawrence was brilliant, no doubt about it, and great when it came to dazzling the venture crowd. He’d step into a roomful of funders, deliver the gospel as he saw it, paint a thrilling picture of the company’s future, and walk away with bulging pockets.

But among his super-talented employees, most of whom had joined the company because they felt inspired by the service the company offered, Lawrence was known mostly as the “DM.” As in, “The DM’s in the building.” As in, “I’m psyched, but let’s see how the DM spins it.” Those initials? They stand for the demotivator.

It didn’t take Jake long to recognize that Lawrence had an uncanny ability for knocking the wind out of the sails of even the most enthusiastic contributor, a positive genius for turning eager beavers into disheartened slogs. A few moments in his presence were enough to sow doubt where there had been clarity of purpose, depress energy where it abounded, undercut confidence, and instill frustration. As Jake noted, Lawrence had an artist’s touch when it came to disheartening people.

Hearing Jake’s stories, I decided to interview a few people other people in the company to see what lessons a world-class demotivator might have to teach. I talked to Jake’s colleague Cassie, a stellar client relationship manager with a rosy future (likely somewhere else), and to Lee, the IT hotshot Lawrence had enticed away from one of the world’s great tech innovators because Lee loved the idea of supporting education.

Digging down into the experiences of these committed and naturally motivated individuals enabled me to come up with a few tried and true rules for sucking the energy and life out of other people at work. If you seek to undermine your employees—or people in your division or your unit––these three practices will help guarantee your success.

First, great demotivators always tell people how to do things they are already doing— especially if they are doing those things well.

This is a kind of two-fer in the demotivation sweepstakes in that it accomplishes two essential tasks at once. On one hand, it makes clear to your employees that you actually have no idea about the scope or nature of their contributions. This is bound to make them feel that all their efforts are in vain, the psychological sweet spot for which all dedicated demotivators aim.

At the same time, your maneuver sets you up nicely to take credit for your employees’ achievements when they bear fruit. Since you told them what to do, their future success in doing it may then be claimed as a result of your timely intervention.

Second, great demotivators make sure that any humiliation they inflict occurs in public, preferably before an audience that the employee really cares about.

Great demotivators make sure that any humiliation they inflict occurs in public.

Cassie described Lawrence’s mastery of this essential technique. “Whenever I bring clients into meetings––and that’s a big part of my job––I’m always totally on edge. That’s because I’m waiting for Lawrence to come up with some fresh way of making me look like a complete jerk. Just last week I brought reps from a new online learning service in Scandinavia in for a demo of one of our coolest tools. They were loving it when Lawrence piped up, “And here Cassie was convinced you wouldn’t understand this technology!”

Third, great demotivators are connoisseurs of surprise.

Lee, the brains behind Lawrence’s IT program, noted that his boss has a gift for spreading confusion about what’s really going on. For example, Lee has more than once invited a client to meet to discuss a strategy, only to find that Lawrence has already talked to them without letting him know.

As with many demotivators, Lawrence has a ready explanation for his behavior: “We’re moving at warp speed, we don’t have time to worry about who gets credit or who talks to who.” And because the company is growing rapidly, this explanation makes sense to recent hires whose enthusiasm has yet to collapse under the weight of their boss’s efforts to make them feel hopeless. But after a few months in the company, people start to catch on that taking a great product to market is agony if you don’t have support.

Lawrence reminds me of a boss I had in my days as a speechwriter who churned through talent at an alarming rate. One day, after ranting about how great our service was, he turned to me in all seriousness and said, “We’d be a great company if it weren’t for our people.” – Sally Helgesen

I’d like to hear from you. Have you ever worked for a demotivator like Lawrence? How did you handle it, did you stuck around?

Five Ways To Be Amazing At Work

StarIn every company, there are a few employees who stand out. They’re the ones who always finish first, get recognized for their accomplishments and eventually make their way up the ranks. Invariably, they know how to play the political game. But there are other qualities that world-class performers have in common. Here’s how you can be one of them.

1. Be obsessed with productivity. The best employees tend to work in jobs and businesses they love. As a result, thoughts of how to be more successful and productive rarely leave their mind. In fact, the great ones have to force themselves into non-work activities just to give their mind a chance to rest and recover.

2. Solve problems. Problem solving is the cornerstone of commerce. Average employees tend to spend more time jockeying for position to gain favor from their superiors than they do solving problems. Great ones are not interested in management kudos; they are interested in results. World-class managers and employees solve problems quickly and move on to solving bigger, more complex problems, whether individually or as part of a team.

3. Take risks. The most common commodity in corporate America is the sales manager who craves the approval and friendship of his sales team. The second most common commodity is the sales manager who rules her team with an iron fist, refusing to consider feedback or input from the field.

World-class leaders are neither dictators nor micromanagers. Instead, they have two primary objectives: increase revenues and bring out the best in the people they lead. That might mean being unpopular and pushing people beyond their comfort zones, or being there for a team member who has hit rock bottom. These leaders can adapt to any situation. The great ones never play it safe when it comes to leading their teams through change, knowing their job is to serve as a guide and coach.

4. Have a strong work ethic. Amateurs work just hard enough to escape being fired. They expect to be compensated for every little thing they do – if they can be over-compensated, even better.

The pros have exactly the opposite mindset. They understand that the marketplace will richly reward a world-class work ethic with an endless stream of opportunities. This work ethic is the reason so many immigrants come to the free world and become millionaires. They’re so grateful for the opportunity to work hard that no one can convince them to slow down.

5. Find a coach. Corporate America and entrepreneurs are starting to catch on to something that athletes have always known: if you want to maximize your potential in anything, hire a coach. Coaching is to performance what leadership is to an organization. Since human beings are primarily emotional creatures, competent coaches are experts in stoking the fires that burn within. The more coachable and open-minded your employees, the better they’ll perform.

Trouble is, ego can get in the way. The best employees are the most open to world-class coaching. They don’t care about ego satisfaction when it comes to improving their results; all they’re looking for is an edge, no matter how slight. When two companies or opponents go head-to-head, many times the only thing that favors the winner is a slight edge in thinking, strategy and technique.

From: http://www.mentaltoughnesssecrets.com/

6 Secrets to Hiring and Retaining Great Employees

1 GiraffesDrupal Connect’s founder John Florez drives the fast growth of his company by stacking his team with top tier talent. Here’s what he looks for when hiring for his Drupal development company and how he keeps them excited about coming in each day.

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Hire Awesome Personalities

Hire people who are not only awesome talents, but awesome to be around as well! You’re building a team; each member has to be able to work well within a collaborative environment. Hiring someone who is talented but a “lone wolf” is a risky and potentially costly endeavor.

2 Monkey
Positive People Are Contagious

Hire cool people who have a positive outlook on life. The employee you want to take on is someone you can share a beer with at the end of the day. Positive attitudes spread, and ultimately come to define your company as a whole.

3 Dog and Frisbee
Keep People Excited About Work

Be a leader who is welcoming and positive, and sees the best in each of their employees. This attitude will trickle down and make for a more positive work experience overall. People want to wake up each morning excited about coming to work. It’s important for a leader to create an environment and culture that people are proud and excited about.

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Don’t Nickel-and-Dime Your Employees

Be mindful of the bottom line – but not at the expense of nickel-and-diming! These are tough times for a lot of people out there. But let’s face it: no one wants to work for a cheap boss.

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Coach Your Leaders

Coach your leaders, but don’t manage them. If you find yourself managing your top people, you’re doing something wrong. You’re not inspiring, and you’re therefore not bringing out the best in your lead employees. If you properly coach your leaders by bringing out their best qualities, they will in turn coach those reporting to them.

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Avoid Stagnation

Make constant growth a priority, and encourage your team to contribute to this evolution. Your company is a living, breathing organism that needs to be fed and nurtured, and employees need to be able to contribute to this growth process. For example, six months ago, a team member suggested we create a support and maintenance program to offer to our clients. Today, this program is a thriving and growing part of our company, accounting for 20% of our overall business!