Posts with category - Management

The Effectiveness of Quiet Leadership

quiet-leadership

Lao Tzu once said that “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

I firmly believe that effective leaders shouldn’t focus on themselves, or how well they can tell their team members what to do. I believe it’s best to find ways to help your team to think more critically and constructively. As leaders, we need to help our team members to think in such a way that we are almost invisible.

Higher-Quality Thinking
Most of the time we are trying to help our teams solve problems. The best way to do this is to change the way they think. I’ve touched on this before when I discussed performance and implementing cultural change in the workplace. In fact, one could say that changing the way people think is one of the greatest challenges to improving performance and getting people to solve problems. In order to do this, we have to inspire a higher-quality of thinking in our teams.

Higher-quality thinking improves the overall thinking of others around you as well as your team. It literally improves the way your team’s brains process information, and if you can do this, you don’t have to tell them what to do, they will know. Just look at how many organizations pay employees to think and analyze data and situations. Don’t tell your team members how to solve a task, ask them how they think they should solve it. Force them to think critically and possibly develop multiple solutions to a problem, then stand back and watch them solve it. Improving the way your team thinks can be one of the best and quickest ways in which they can improve their performance and benefit the organization as a whole.

Introverted vs. Extroverted Leadership
The more traditional approach to leadership has been to be bold and assertive, to be a dominant figure who provides commanding direction. However, in my experience, I’ve seen that this approach can stifle employees who are outspoken, independent, and who would otherwise take initiative. On the other hand, I’ve seen that quiet, more introverted leaders tend to be more successful with today’s workers by allowing them to step up and grow within an organization.

Psychology today states that as much as half of the population are introverts, in spite of the the popular view that charismatic extroverts are the ones who prevail in business. I think that this has a lot to do with misconceptions such as introverts are shy, anxious, and afraid of taking charge. However, Jennifer B. Kahnweiler Pd.D., author of The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength, states that introverts are merely more reserved and process information internally. They focus on deeper meanings and connections, and only share personal information with a select few people.

Bringing it All Together
Organizations are becoming increasingly filled with intelligent employees from a wide-range of backgrounds. Employees who bring a unique set of skills and knowledge to the teams on which they work. Add to this the fact that organizations continue to adopt a self-managing approach to their team structures, which in turn, encourages more independent workers.

Many employees today don’t accept passive roles in their organizations. They want to take action and be a part of the overall vision. They do not want to be repressed by a command and control system that forces them into a hive mentality. They work better with quiet, introverted leaders who know how to encourage high-quality, critical thinking skills; leaders that step out of their employees way and allow them to shine.

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Procrastination – lack of knowledge or lack of interest?

As my list of to-do’s continue to get longer and longer, both in my professional, personal and student lives, I often wonder how much of my perceived procrastination is because I don’t know how to do something or if I just have my priorities wrong?

There are definitely responsibilities in my life that are not interesting to accomplish, and more of those seem to get added to that list than the fun energizing ones.   I definitely tend to manage my time by due dates, although at times, even those need to be de-prioritized for a something more pressing.

Recently I was discussing with my manager an issue of a peer team being non-responsive to deadlines.  He told me that people don’t get things done because they don’t know how to do it or they don’t feel it important (de-prioritize).   I have been thinking about this a lot with my own internal de-prioritization.

I am a mom, wife, daughter, graduate student, e-commerce merchandiser for a large company, entrepreneur of a seasonal brick and mortar retail store, a person that wants to get into better shape and, although sometimes I forget, a human that still needs occasional downtime (a.k.a. sleep).

When managing yourself, a team of either direct reports or peers, or even managing up to a supervisor, keep in mind the reason why things may not be getting done.

Is it because someone doesn’t know what to do, or it isn’t a priority?

In both a personal and work environment, tasks that are less desirable, will take longer, or are more challenging are often put to the bottom of the list.  Balancing that with tasks that you truly are not sure how to tackle is key.

I am the type of person that needs all of the information to best make decisions, and often to even get started on a project.   In the ever changing nature of my job, that often leaves me stressed that I am late getting projects accomplished.   However, I look at other people in my workplace who constantly provide an overload of information and the minute by minute changes, where I wait it out for the final direction and give one set of directives.   Which is better?  Of course, I’m still figuring that out.

Often, I do notice that tasks or projects that I find myself skipping on my list are those that I am missing some point of knowledge that prevents me from either starting or completing.    When managing a team of people and you find that tasks are not getting accomplished, dig deeper, find out why.

Keep in mind that often, if you are the team leader, that others will not want to admit that they don’t know what to do.   Fostering an atmosphere of openness to ask the proverbial ‘stupid question’ and ability to admit when you also don’t know something, can work wonders in helping get to the underlying issue of why things aren’t getting done.

Another issue is that of prioritization or de-prioritization.  Does your team know what needs to be done first?  What tasks are most critical to the business?  What are the clear deadlines?   What are the one, two, three things that have to be accomplished today?   I know I need to start there and I’m sure my stress level regarding the rest of that long list will ease up.

If you’re feeling like me, ask yourself,

“What’s holding you back from that To-Do list?  Information or something more important?”

 I’d love to hear ideas you have for managing your responsibilities!

 

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Is Money the Ultimate Motivator?

Over the years I have tried to find what motivates my team to do well in their jobs. I think I have found a recipe (I’m sure this is not THE recipe) but my recipe used in running my business for the past seven years. Hopefully by sharing a few of the ingredients you can freshen up your recipe for a successful team.

People want to feel valued. Give them a reason to show up every day. Tell them that no matter what small task they perform that it is essential to the overall business and without that, the business would not be successful. Help the entire team understand the goals and how everyone is needed to achieve those goals. Many times the behind the scenes employees are making ‘it’ happen for those in the limelight. Remind them that no one shines if there are burned out light bulbs and the entire business is left in the dark.

Ensure that every job has an element of fun. Now I am not saying that it is your responsibility to make sure employees are having fun at all times. However, there was something that motivated them to apply for the job, sell themselves to you in an interview and then accept the commitment to do that job. So many times, somewhere along this path, that enjoyment; fulfillment; sense of fun; is lost. Here are a few ideas to help keep or bring back the fun in your team.

  • Once a week, once a month, bring in breakfast to the team. Encourage a bit of informal water-cooler chat time to let everyone get to know each other and discuss things outside of work that means something to them. (kids, hobbies, trips, latest movies or television shows)
  • When someone has a big task that can be divided and conquered with a group, bring others in from their normal tasks to help out. Team members enjoy a change of pace and like being able to help out others. They become a part of something bigger. It can be a win-win for everyone involved.
  • Ask them what they enjoy most in their job. I know it is novel to actually ask someone, but it will tell you a lot just to ask “what part of your job did you enjoy most today, this week, etc.” It is amazing what you will find out. Use that information and try to have them do more of whatever that is for them. Again, another win-win, as long as their answer isn’t ‘going home’. But if it is, you know you need to dig deeper, that may not be the best person in the right job any longer.

Praise accomplishments, both big and small, along the way. Recognition is often left until the end of a project or sales season, when results are tallied and profits are gained. Although, don’t forget to give public praise for the steps along the way.

  • “Good job”
  • “Thanks for the extra effort to get that done”
  • “Great work in helping that customer have a wonderful experience”

These will go a long way to take a challenge or difficult customer situation and make it into one of the fun, fulfilling moments of the work day.

Loyalty is hard to find, sometimes you do need to pay for it. In an ever changing work environment, loyalty is not something that is at the top of most lists, neither the employer nor the employee. A great workplace culture will only take you so far, employees jump from job to job to make even a little bit more money. If you have found good people, you need to provide the financial incentives to keep them producing for you and not your competition. I have found that although I pay above market minimums, I cannot afford to pay the premium wages that some of my employees could command. So I make up for it by:

  • Creating sales incentives to help increase take home pay based on specific products sold
  • Paying for and providing food on busy days
  • Pay season-end bonuses (a practice that is not common for my industry)
  • Enable an aggressive employee discount on our products
  • Direct our donations to the schools and community groups that impact my employees

Here is a taste of my motivators. I know that these are nothing new, but I find in the day-to-day of everything we do, I need to remind myself to take care of those that, without them, the lights on my business would go out.

Share your thoughts:  What ingredients for success do you use to motivate your team?

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Learning to Lead: Advice for New Managers

Experience is a great educator; nearly everything I know about being a manager I have learned from the mistakes I have made, or the successes I have stumbled upon. To help a new manager avoid some of the pitfalls I have fallen into,  I want to talk about what it means to be a manager and what it takes to be a leader, two very distinct identities.

I do not believe that you have to be a manager to be an effective leader.  On the other hand, I do not think you can be an effective manager unless you are an effective leader.  I read once that the difference between the two is that a leader is born, and a manager is trained.  Do you agree with this?  I don’t.   I think it is possible to learn how to lead – look at the military if you don’t believe me – but in military environments the option to not follow orders does not exist, and therein lays the rub.  This is not true in a non-military environment, and by many accounts, it will often be the most talented of your team who will be least inclined to accept directives.

New managers are sometimes challenged with learning the nuances of leadership through trial and error, as I had to learn them. When a new manager is confronted with the unanticipated push-back from the staff, the new manager is left to wonder why.   In what can seem like a live ammunition testing ground, a new manager’s authority, judgment and decisions will sometimes be undermined or ignored, and more often than not, it is the manager’s fault.

New managers must reject the notion that their title confers authority, although it might seem counter-intuitive to the newly minted manager. That the manager can produce results and exhibit competence is more important to the personalities in his department than his professional title.  In an adaptation of the “Wall Street Journal Guide to Management” by Alan Murray, published by Harper Business, Harvard Business School Professor Linda Hill also emphasizes that a manager’s title confers nothing, and that earning trust and respect is more important than the business moniker he is assigned.

So where does effective leadership begin?  It begins with inspiration and motivation – of yourself and others, but especially others.  Leadership takes time to develop, if it happens at all, and a leader is not promoted into the role.  The leader is the person to whom others turn for guidance, encouragement, and reassurance.  The leader is the person who, through deed or personality, as gained the trust and the confidence of the team.  Leaders do not manage, they lead. Simple enough to say, but the details are in the execution, and all too often the person charged with managing a group is not, in fact, the leader.  Most assuredly it isn’t the newly minted manager.

There are a multitude of reasons why the new manager is not likely to be accepted as a leader right off the starting line.  First, a new manager is simply that – new – and “new” hasn’t been there long enough for anyone to know him, let alone trust his competence, strength of personality, or commitment to his team.  Next, the new manager is learning on the job.  It is a stressful position for someone without many tools in his managerial toolbox; it is fraught with career dangers.  The manager is in the unenviable position of high scrutiny – from the top and from the bottom – and not unlike walking a tightrope, he has to find his balance or risk falling.  There is also the human factor, which occurs anytime a new personality enters an established culture, the equilibrium is upset and it takes time to right it.

If you are a new manager I offer this advice:  Take it easy.  Don’t wear the manager label like a badge of authority. Try to understand the disruption your presence brings to the norm, and work to establish relationships, without focuses so much on establishing a hierarchy.  Help your staff get to know you, help them learn to trust you, and find a way to fit in; it is, after all, their office too, and they were there before you.  If you do all of these things with confidence, integrity, and honesty, you will begin to earn trust and eventually a loyal following.  At the point when that happens, you may even begin to become a leader.

 

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How to Improve Your Performance Evaluations

The performance evaluation is one of the toughest challenges most managers and leaders have to face, not to mention the fact that developing an effective performance evaluation system isn’t an easy task. However, the following suggestions will not only help you develop a more effective system for evaluating your team members, but they will provide you with a way to positively impact behavior and possibly cultural change within the entire company.

  • Get your team members involved in the evaluation process. If they are a part of the process, it will go a long way to ensuring they are satisfied with the overall evaluation system.
  • Set specific performance goals that you want your employees to achieve rather than general ones. Avoid being vague about your expectations. It’s crucial for your team members to have a clear vision of what they need to do to succeed.
  • Clearly communicate the results of the evaluation with your team members, and discuss how you came to your conclusions. It’s important that your evaluation provides room for discussion or a question and answer session that leaves your team members feeling satisfied that they have all they need to move forward.
  • Make sure to focus on the positive aspects of your team member’s performance, not just the areas that need improvement. It’s essential that you actively recognize and reinforce the good points in an employee’s performance
  • Performance evaluation is an ongoing process. In order for annual evaluations to be effective, it’s important to implement smaller evaluations during the year in order to reinforce positive behavior, and provide your team members with ways to improve.
  • Train lower-level managers and team leads on the performance evaluation process, and make sure they are measured on how effectively they handle this task in your evaluations of them.
Effective performance evaluations are not only good for team members, but they can be a great way to positively influence the behavior and cultural change within a company. They help to reinforce good behavior, while attempting to eliminate negative behavior that can be harmful to the company as a whole.

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