Posts Tagged ‘manager’

I Said Invisible, Not Non-Existent

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Last week I talked about how leaders, managers and coaches can be so subtle that they’re almost invisible to the people they’re leading, managing and coaching (The Invisible Coach). That’s not an excuse to do nothing! Not an excuse to abdicate, rather than delegate. Not an excuse to simply wish or hope that your people do a good job and produce the results you’re after. Not an excuse to be non-existent.

In my last post I asked whether you’re a controlling type of leader/manager, or a subtle one. Based on what I’ve seen, there are many managers who think they’re the subtle type, when really they’re the ineffective type! They’re non-existent.

If you answered my question last week by saying you’re the subtle type, my next question is just how effective you are? You may think of yourself as the subtle type, when really you’re just fooling yourself. Perhaps I’m a bit harsh, but sometimes one has to look at the brutal facts.

Some differences between an ineffective leader/manager (non-existent) and a subtle, almost invisible one are:

  • People that work for ineffective leaders/manager don’t know what’s expected of them. The leader/manager thinks he or she is giving them room to discover things on their own, when really the person is struggling with direction, whether they’re doing things right or not, or knowing what to do next. And the leader/manager is afraid to ask.
  • People that work for ineffective leaders/managers feel isolated, or unsupported. They often feel they’re working in a void. There is little connection between them. People working for subtle/invisible leaders/managers know they can always go to that person for help or support.
  • People that work for ineffective leaders/managers feel that projects or tasks are simply dumped on them because the leader/manager is not willing to do them.
  • People that work for ineffective leaders/managers often feel criticized and judged by the words of the leader/manager, rather than having received effective and productive feedback.
  • People that work for ineffective leaders/managers rarely see how their work impacts the bigger picture. They’re own goals and visions are not in alignment with the organization’s that they work for.
  • People that work for ineffective leaders/managers are often afraid to do something for fear of being blamed for anything that goes wrong. They’re constantly checking over their shoulder to see what they will be blamed for, or have to deal with next.

And that’s just the start. The obvious question is how do you know whether any of these are symptoms of your people. Awareness is a valuable tool. Ask yourself if any of these symptoms fit your employees. Or, you could ask them. In fact, sitting down and asking your employees if they have any of these symptoms will go a long way towards building or enhancing a productive working relationship. It will go a long way toward you being an invisible but effective leader/manager.

Of course, it’s easy to simply assume that you’re the subtle, invisible and effective type. It’s easy to assume you’re doing a great job and any lack of results is the fault of others. It’s easy to assume that…

How Important Is Management?

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Within a one a week period of time I spoke to two different people who had worked as a store manager for Starbucks. Interestingly, one said it was one of the best jobs he had ever had, and the other said it was the worst. What do you think was the difference?

Many of the people who work for Starbucks love it. One wrote a book about it: How Starbucks Saved My Life. Wow, that’s an endorsement for a great place to work, isn’t it?! In his book, Michael Gates Gill talks about how it was the perfect job for where he was in his life. But there was something else that made his time as a barista so rewarding. His manager.

The person I spoke to lately who loved his time at Starbucks talked about how he interacted with his regional manager at least twice a week, with a weekly in-person visit to talk through the details of the business, and a monthly visit from the regional manager’s boss.

And while the regular interaction was important, what really made this a great place for this person was the feedback he got. He knew what he was doing right, and what he needed to better. It wasn’t a case of “No news is good news” – the NNIGN problem. In so many organizations, the only feedback a person gets is when he or she does something wrong; if they don’t hear anything from their manager they can assume things are okay.

Of course, the problem with the NNIGN management approach is that humans often assume the worst. If they don’t hear anything, they begin to think something is wrong, or they are doing things wrong. So, unless they go out of their way to ask for some feedback, they stumble around, hoping they’re doing a good job. That’s not the ideal state for a person to perform well in.

Actually, what often happens is this: “Dianne” does a great job on a project, but gets no feedback from her manager. Her boss has the attitude that she should do her job, and if something needs fixing, he’ll let her know. Since Dianne doesn’t know whether she did a good job or not, the next time she is faced with a similar project, she tries something different. After all, the first approach didn’t get a response, so she might was well try something different. Dianne approaches the project differently, and if she gets lucky, she hears nothing; if she does it wrong, she’ll hear about it, and likely become frustrated by not knowing how to do things right.

In their book, How Did That Happen?, Roger Connors and Tom Smith writes about a job satisfaction survey conducted by the U.S. military, where jet fighter pilots were at the bottom of the list and cooks at the top. Why? Apparently, the fighter pilots rarely received any positive reinforcement; it was only when they got a chance to do what they were trained to do that they received any. Cooks, on the other hand, received immediate positive feedback three times a day. People are more engaged in their work – and more satisfied – when they fully understand what they’re doing right, and receive positive reinforcement.

The person who said that Starbucks was one of the worst working experiences he’d ever had complained about this very situation – a manager that would only communicate with him when he had done something the manager felt was wrong. The only feedback he got was to point out all the things he’d done wrong.

One company, two completely different experiences. The only difference was the manager, and specifically the amount of positive reinforcement or confirming feedback the person got. Makes you think, doesn’t it?