Posts tagged - Management

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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Performance Evaluation Feedback: A 360-Degree Approach

One of the things that really get’s under my skin is not getting good feedback. Whether it’s a project, a presentation, or a performance evaluation. Which is why I’m adamant about providing good feedback to anyone I manage. If fact, informative and positive feedback is key to ensuring a highly effective performance evaluation. One of the most interesting feedback approaches I’ve seen is multisource feedback through the 360-Degree Approach

The 360-Degree Approach

In a 360-Degree feedback program, anyone in an employee’s circle, their 360 degree range, can be a performance evaluator. This includes peers and other team members, subordinates, managers, and even the employee being evaluated. The idea is that this 360-degree group can provide a better overall picture of an employees performance than just one person. OK, so here are some best practices for the 360-degree approach:
  • The 360-degree approach should be used for individual employee development. By focusing the attention on the individual performer, you are more likely to get that person to open up to the program and the feedback itself
  • It should be integrated with other types of activities. Make sure to follow up the performance evaluation with coaching or additional training, and even setting clear goals. The intent is to improve performance and help your employees continue to develop.
  • Make sure the feedback is in line with the overall direction and strategy of the organization. For example, if you are a service oriented company, make sure the employee development plan includes improving and building upon service-related tasks.
  • In a 360-degree feedback program it’s important that the manager (evaluator) is in complete control of the process. This includes training everyone involved in the process, planning out the improvement activities, etc.
  • It’s imperative that senior management behave as role models. If employees see you taking this process seriously and taking the appropriate actions regarding the 360-degree plan, then it stands to reason they will take the program more seriously as a result. This is an important note for those learning to lead as new managers.
  • If you plan to use coaches to help employees improve their performance, make sure those coaches are well trained themselves. It will go a long way to making sure those coaches can help create action plans and help employees understand the results so their performance evaluations.
  • It’s important to measure the overall effectiveness of the evaluation process and make the necessary modifications where they are needed.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Ok, as with any approach to performance evaluations, there are advantages and disadvantages. So let’s lay them out.
Aside form what is listed above, the key argument for a 360-degree approach is that since the evaluation doesn’t hinge on only one point of view, the impression is that the evaluation is not only fair, but more credible. Also, this approach could be a good way to improve performance evaluations overall. With that said, there are some valid arguments against this approach.
Peers may not want to hurt their fellow team member’s careers, and therefore might not provide an evaluation that accurately reflects the employee’s performance. For example, they might give higher marks than were deserved. Another disadvantage is that everyone involved in the process has to be in a position to frequently observe the employee’s performance. Differences in observation frequency can result in different opinions and therefore major differences in the results.
Informative and positive feedback is one of the keys to ensuring a highly effective performance evaluation. The 360-Degree approach allows peers and other team members, subordinates, managers to get in on the evaluation process and help each other grow as one cohesive team rather than just a group of individuals. Even if you don’t choose to use the 360-degree approach, you should definitely provide accurate and effective feedback in your performance evaluations and make sure you set a plan and goals for your employees to improve their performance.

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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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