The Manager Worldview

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“I want you to grow and develop yourself, to get yourself the job you want, even if it isn’t with this company.”  This was the perception of a high level leaders of a company who took it upon herself to teach two classes in good resume and interviewing tactics based on the book she had written about the practice.  Staff in the company responded well to this, appreciating that the company was interested in not just what they give to the the company, but how the staff could grow in their careers.

Time went on and the leader could no longer teach the class.  One of her staff thought it was a good idea still and has talked with his supervisor about taking over and revamping the class.  The supervisor thought it was a good idea and brought it to her manager.  That is where the idea ended.  The manager declared that it was not in the company’s interest to spend its money to teach people how to leave the company.  The classes were removed from the catalog, and the staff would no longer have the opportunity to practice their skills in getting a new job, whether it be inside the company or outside the company.

I found this to be a very sad development when I heard about it.  It seemed rather shortsighted.  The manager had assumed that the people taking the course would immediately beat a path out of the company to find their own version of the promised land.  Following that train of reasoning, if she was so worried about that possibility, what does it say about her view of the company and the company in general?

A manager can have three different types of worldviews.  They can have the company worldview, where they see everything out of the prism of what is good for the company, no matter if it hurts the employees or not.  They can have a personal worldview, where they see everything out of the prism of what is good for them, and not care if it is good for the company or the employees.  Or, they can have a people worldview, where they see everything out of the prism of what is good for my people (the ones they supervise) or the people of the company in general.  Most, in my experience, have a combination of the three.  The ones who are rated good managers by their employees have a healthy dose of the people worldview in that combination.

The people view managers have a longer view.  They see that things like a resume writing class may cause some to charge for the door.  They also see that the same class may give a promising employee the skills to bid for a new job, possibly one that would promote them in the company.   You’ve retained someone who hopefully now sees that the company is investing in them, so they will do more to invest in the company.  Yes, it could be that the newly promoted employee may be the type of manager we’ve written about for 100 entries or so, but it is the chance you take.  The people view manager is willing to take that chance, knowing that it can provide an avenue for some really good leaders of the next generation to be born.

The corporate worldview managers are well too cautious for that.  Their is a very short term view.  The next report, the next quarter, the next performance review.  What if someone leaves the company because of the resume class?  They want people at their desks, laboring away for the good of the company, not giving a thought to their own well-being.  Yes, they can get promoted, but they have to do it on their own time, not the company’s!  You want to learn how to write that resume?  Fine, you take a class, read a book, or find some training on it on your own time.  You can ignore the spouse, the kids, the dog, or the responsibilities for a while.  You can’t ignore that the company needs you slaving away, not being a dreamer.

In the end, it wasn’t really about a resume class.  It was about two different styles of thinking.  The leaders who offered the class originally saw that it was her responsibility to grow the people of the company, making them better people, and making it a better company.  The manager who refused to continue the classes saw it was her responsibility to stop anyone from wasting the company’s money for a chance to possibly leave the company.  I wonder if she even thought that those employees with managers like her would probably not allow their people to take the resume class anyway, and for the very same reasons.

It comes down to a very simple equation.  The people worldview managers don’t have to worry as much about their people leaving, because they don’t want to.  The personal or corporate worldview managers do have to worry about their people leaving, and one company sponsored class won’t make a big difference for someone heading out the door.

A Dickens of Impatience

There are no ghosts, but there should be a passing resemblance between what happened to Ebenezer Scrooge and Francine, the subject of this story.  Unfortunately, while the lessons were the same, there was no change of heart for our hero in this story.

Many people in the department knew they could go in and ask Francine a question.  They also knew they could not go in and ask Francine a question twice.  If they did, they would get the same reaction.  Francine would roll her eyes, exhale loudly, and talk condescendingly, as if to say, ‘I told you this once, I should not have to tell you again’.  In essence, Francine was telling the people of her department that she was too busy, too important, to be bothered with their silly questions, and to ask a second time was just an imposition on her and her time.

Francine then became seriously ill.  In her long convalescence, she had to relearn to do some previously simple tasks.  She had to repeat those tasks again and again.  Each time, Francine’s therapists would patiently work with her until she had learned the lessons she needed in order to do the task.  There was no eye rolling.  There were no exasperated exhalations.  There was no annoyance in their coaching of her.  See the parallel?

Happily, Francine overcame the illness and got through her therapy well.  She returned to work and resumed her duties.  Unfortunately, the lessons taught to her during her time in rehab were lost on her.  Less than a month into her resumed duties, she also resumed the eye rolls, the exhalation, and the exasperated replies if someone dared to ask something a second time.  She had learned nothing from her Ghost of Christmas Present, it seems.

We expect a lot of our leaders.  We expect them to teach us, to mentor us, and to model the behavior they wish us to exhibit.  When they don’t, it is glaringly obvious, especially when they advocate one thing and do another.  We hope that they will learn, that there will be an epiphany of some sort that will show them how they have acted is not appropriate, as their employees can’t tell them lest they receive sanctions.  When that opportunity happens and they learn nothing, any sympathy that the staff may have had for the leader disappears.  Employees feel the caring was wasted on someone who does not have the will to change, to see that they are wrong, or the ego to recognize their faults.  It leads to an even more dispirited workforce.

To paraphrase Dickens, a good manager should live good management in their hearts throughout the whole year.  When they don’t. even after they have been given an extraordinary chance to change their ways, even Jacob Marley could not save them.

The Petulant Manager Strikes Again

Recently, I wrote about a leader in an organization who was acting more like a petulant child than someone who is supposed to be the example setter for the group.  As she didn’t get to keep a temporary job where she realized her dream of leading an organization, but did get a promotion and a big, fat raise out of the deal, she decided to act as if she would take her ball and go home from the playground.  It seems that this manager wasn’t through having a temper tantrum.

One of the people in the department she used to supervise came to her with a question.  It was within the scope of her knowledge, and she had trumpeted her knowledge of the subject to many.  The manager could have done two things and still stayed professional:

  • Answered the question, but suggest that the employee go see the head of the department about her view on the subject, as the head of the department was the person this employee now reported to, or
  • Politely referred the employee to the head of the department, indicating that she would not want to contradict what the employee’s manager would say

Unfortunately, neither of those happened.  Instead, the manager snapped at the employee, saying, “I’m no longer your boss, go talk to the person who is”.  The employee, feeling her head bitten off, slowly backed away and spoke to her own manager, who answered the question and settled the matter.

I am reminded of a story from several years ago.  A first level vice president at a company was speaking to me about how there seems to be no teamwork anymore.  The reason for this discussion was that an employee had informed him that she could not handle an assignment that he wanted to give to her.  On the surface, it would seem the v.p. had a point.  If one knew the department, however, one would have seen that the v.p. was shedding crocodile tears, as he rarely did anything that didn’t benefit himself first and foremost, and this was one of those situations.  He was trying to pawn work off on this employee, and when he didn’t get his way, was couching it in terms of teamwork and not helping each other.

The leader could have politely dealt with the employee, acting in a professional manner and guiding her to where she should have asked the question.  No, she was still stewing in her own bitterness of not getting what she wanted and lashing out at people she knew could not inform her that this was unacceptable behavior.  This behavior, which she would have called anyone else on the carpet about, didn’t have to happen, and added another count to why the department wasn’t exactly fond of this leader.  Apparently, she didn’t care about being a role model.  She only wanted to take her ball and go home.

Part of leadership is learning to lose gracefully and putting the best interests of the department ahead of your own.  A good manager or leader does this, knowing they still have to put on the professional face when dealing with their people.  Want to stomp and fume?  Walk out of your building and find the nearest playground.  There you will find those who act in such a way, and they won’t care how important you think you are.

Shiny Trinkets

A manager sat in her office very proud of herself.  She reflected over the ‘awards’ she had given out to her staff.  The staff member would receive a certificate of some value, which could be turned in for a prize of some equivalent size.  This proved to her that she was adequately rewarding her staff, and would pull out her spreadsheet showing the person and the award any time she was questioned about her dedication to her staff.  She could not understand why her staff was not happy at times, or didn’t appreciate all the work she had put into this effort.  After all, there was the spreadsheet.

What she didn’t want to, or refused to, understand that was rewarding employee behavior was much more than the shiny trinkets she was handing out with such great fanfare.  While promoting the idea that rewards did not have to be monetary, these were the only type that she seemed to give out.

She didn’t realize that for every award she gave out, there were dozens of time she was critical of a staff member for doing something or not doing something, instead of sitting down with the staff member to find out what kind of difficulties lay in the path of getting something done.  For every award that she gave out, there were dozens of missed opportunities to walk over to a staff member and say, “You did great work on this project, staff member, and I wanted you to know I appreciate it”.  No,she was too busy for praise.

She didn’t realize that the awards meant less to her staff than her simply understanding that the workload she placed upon them was unreachable, and that the greater reward would have been her clearing out any preconceived notions of what was an acceptable workload and what was not.

The award quickly faded away every time she said, “It’s not that there is too much work, it’s just that you are inefficient”.  The award quickly faded away every time there was silence when a staff member completed a task or project, because she was too busy on her ‘manager stuff’ to take time out.  The award quickly faded away when she would assign five more assignments on someone the day after the award and walk away thinking nothing of it.  The award faded away when the very next day she would be critical of some little detail and not want to hear any explanation or excuse.

Read any parenting book and it will tell you that bad parenting is just buying gifts for your kids, using that as a substitute for spending time with your children, playing with them, reading to them, talking with them.  The same can be said for the manager-employee relationship.  Good management is more than just shiny trinkets.  It is having your employees trust you implicitly, for they know you have their best interests in heart.  It is knowing how to bring up issues and truly see what the problem is, not just blithely blame someone.  It is knowing when the employee is at the end of their rope and needs your assistance.  It is taking time with them to say, simply, ‘good work’.

Shiny trinkets, when not accompanied by all the above, are the lazy manager’s way of interacting with their staff.  It is ‘buying them off’, and then patting yourself on the back for your good management practices.  A good manager doesn’t have to buy their way into an employee’s heart.  A good manager never has to buy anything ever, and will still have the most engaged workforce the manager can hope for.

Forgo the shiny trinkets.  Be a good manager, instead.

What’s That Phrase? Oh, ‘Thank You’

In three previous blogs I wrote about two major projects and the leadership issues that each had.  I’d like to make that a four parter, as there is yet another lesson to learn.  In the second of the three blogs, I discussed a project where a major systems upgrade was taking place, and the project manager of the upgrade didn’t seem to get the point that people valued their home time rather than working on the project.  The project manager valued getting the project done, and had a difficult time understanding other points of view.

In the third of the three blogs on this project, I wrote about a manager who, though told by the project manager about the importance of her sole staff person on this project, and how he needed help to make this a success (something the staff person had also indicated), the manager’s response was literally, ‘Blah, blah, blah’.

Well, the project ended successfully.  The system was turned on the date it was supposed to, things ran pretty smoothly, and there were no major system meltdowns.  Notes came out from the executives on the project extolling the hard work from all involved, thanking people for their dedicated to the task, and how this was an example of team working towards a common goal.  There were two notable exceptions to those thank you notes:  the two managers named above.

The Project Manager did not send out a note of thanks to anyone on her immediate or extended team.  The ‘Blah, blah, blah’ manager didn’t send out a note to the sole contributor on her team, though the project had taken a toll on the health of the team member.  While none of the team members saw anything effusive in the notes sent out by the executives, it was acknowledged they at least sent out notes.  The two managers who did not send out anything were conspicuous by their absence.

What is the fallout?  As expected, their respective teams are demoralized.  More than one person has now said for all the thanks they got, they put in their eight hours and go home.  There is no loyalty.  People are asked to stay late and politely decline.  There’s an issue with the system?  Too bad, we’ll get to it when we get to it.  One team member, when criticized about not putting in extra hours, has been reported as saying, “Why?  You don’t appreciate it”.

They are two simple words, but they mean quite a bit.  Those two simple words, “Thank you”, illustrate that you as a manager realize you could not have done this alone.  You are showing someone’s contribution has been noted and respected.  You are opening the door and giving a bit of yourself to make sure your people feel valued.  By not saying it, you are showing you think nothing of them at all.  Your focus is fully on you and everyone else has any meaning in your universe.  It was, is, and will be all about you.  And when your team shows no loyalty beyond their paycheck, you wonder why.

To be that good manager, you look past yourself.  You realize it is the team behind you that will make you or break you.  The price for their loyalty isn’t high.  It can be as cheap as two little words. Tthe good manager is always ready to pay that price.  The bad manager will be paying it for years to come.

Are you ready to pay a small price now, or a much larger one down the road?

Want to Be a Good Leader? Read This Book!

As those who have read this blog with any frequency know, the usual way I try to demonstrate good behavior is to show its opposite in some situation, and then dissect what went wrong and discuss how to make it right.  I’d like to change that format for this blog and recommend a book that every manager or leader should have as required reading.  It is called The Truth About Leadership, and it is one of the best books on the subject I have read in a while.

Why do I like it so much?  Simply put, it is simply put.  No radical theories here.  It is tried and true principles that have proven to drive engagement, energize your followers, and really make an impact on your team, which makes an impact on the company.  The authors back this up with decades worth of research, case studies, and testimonials.  It is not a system, not a program, and not something you have to pay hundreds of dollars for to implement.  The book contains simple, basic truths that anyone from a leader of a project to a CEO can and should follow, if they want to be successful.

Here are some of the radical ideas presented:

  • Be truthful in your dealings
  • You can’t do it alone, so honor the people helping you
  • Reward the good and try to help correct the bad
  • It’s not all about you…it’s about your team
  • Be bold and be envisioning
  • If you don’t have credibility, you won’t have leadership

These principles are presented in a no-nonsense, practical style that makes this both an easy and fascinating read.  If you are a new leader of people or a seasoned veteran, you will find the advice in here to be timeless and relevant to your station, no matter what it is.

Simply put, if every manager and leader followed the principles in this book, this blog would not be necessary.

Enjoy.

The New Manager’s Good Management Guide

In over a year of writing this blog, I’ve explored the many facets of management and what the good manager can do in order to have a happy, cohesive, and engaged team.  In many of these cases, the manager in question was one who had been managing staff for at least one year, sometimes much longer than that.  They were experienced managers, who had practiced their style and were comfortable in what they were doing, properly or improperly.

One area that we have not covered in depth is the new manager.  As generations move through the workplace, new managers must be created as more experienced supervisors of people are promoted, move on, or gain other responsibilities.  Where do these newly minted managers get their skills, advice, and mentoring?  Many companies have some form of new manager onboarding, providing training in good management practices, people skills, and a foundation in the law as a new manager. This is important, but also is a one-time offering.  The new manager will need some fundamental principles in order to navigate their first months and years.  Happily, help is available.

Jennifer King is an HR Analyst at Software Advice, a company that reviews recruiting and employee evaluation software. She blogs about technology, trends, and best practices in human resources and recruiting.  Recently, Jennifer wrote about some critical ways a new manager can succeed.  The full article, which I highly recommend reading, can be found on  her HR blog, but I wanted to highlight the topics here

  • Get to Know Your People
  • Learn to See Your Work Through Others
  • Listen Up!
  • Develop Your Own Style
  • Don’t Expect to Be Awesome in the Beginning

These tips, if practiced by the new manager, will go a long way in giving him or her the respect of their people they need and the time to practice becoming a good manager.

Equally important to the formal training is the mentoring that an experienced leader provides to this new manager.  While there are formal mentoring programs established in corporations, I am referring to the more common, and informal, mentoring that a manager in a department will give to the new manager of people.  What the new manager is taught in these situations will often shape their managerial style for decades to come.  With luck, the good will outweigh the bad.  If not, the new manager could be in for some rough seas ahead.

In the next few blogs, we’ll explore when this mentoring goes awry and ways to put it back on track.   The expectations placed upon a new manager can either shape a great leader of people, or a clone of a very poor people manager, because the examples set were poor from the beginning.

My thanks to Jennifer for a well researched and well written article.  It is a great primer for those who now find themselves as ‘the boss’.

Two Admins

Author’s note:  This entry is a part of a series on hypocritical behavior exhibited by managers and how it can affect their employees.  While there have been previous entries written on this subject, several incidents have come to me recently to justify this ‘series’.  I hope you enjoy and invite you to contribute your own stories in comments.

Despite her protestations to the contrary, it was obvious that the head of the department didn’t really like one administrative professional.   The head of the department had made up her mind about the admin and there was no changing her opinion.  At every turn, no matter the good that the admin did, the head of the department would find the things the admin did wrong and magnify them to outrageous proportions.  While the head of the department had exhibited this behavior towards others, she seemed to have a special affinity towards this particular employee.  Among the requirements:

The admin could not only be a minute late, but had to be in five minutes before her start time so she could be ‘ready to work’

As soon as an event of the department was over, the admin had to take down the marketing for that and have something in its place.  Even a day’s delay would bring the wrath of the department head.

At any change in the online calendar, the admin would have to make sure the calendar was immediately updated.  Even though she did not have releasing power to the internal intranet, she was called on the carpet for not keeping the calendar up to date.

She had to act as a professional administrative professional, as the department head often said that her next hire would be someone who had vast experience in doing this type of work.

Eventually, despite the admin’s work, she was fired from the company.  A new administrative professional was brought in.  This person, though a nice woman, had no experience whatsoever in doing departmental admin work.  However, the head of the department liked her.

This admin didn’t arrive five minutes beforehand, but many times late, blaming traffic.  The head of the department never said a word.

It was mentioned by others that the marketing materials were up for months on end, even after the event had ended.  There was no comment by the department head.

The online calendar wasn’t modified for a month or more.  The department head did not say a thing.

The treatment of the first admin was noticed by many people in the department, as was how the new admin didn’t seem to have the scrutiny given the first admin.  They noticed how the rules seemed to change not based on the situation, but on the subjective feelings of the department head.   Not only did any remaining respect for this manager evaporate, but it decreased the efficiency of the department.  Everyone wondered if they would be next in the whims of this manager and the treatment she afforded people based on these whims.

Whether you like the spotlight or not, being a manager, your actions are always in the spotlight.  It is imperative that you present yourself as fair and just in your actions and your words.   Will you be perfect in this?  No, you are human.  A good manager portrays themselves as human and realizes their staff are human beings as well.   A good manager does discipline their people, but also celebrates them as well.  A Gallup ® study confirmed that the optimal ratio is 14 good to 1 bad.

When all a manager does is spotlight the bad in someone, for the sole reason of getting rid of that person or to justify their initial opinion of someone, it is bad management.  When the same manager sees the same behavior in someone else and make no mention of it, they lose any hope of that critical relationship that a manger and employee need to have in order be at peak effectiveness.   Other see this too, and the damage spreads.

A good manager knows their behavior is being noticed.  A bad manager doesn’t care.

Lessons Forgotten

In my last blog, I described a project where the people on the project were treated rather terribly.  The top leadership were insensitive to people’s needs, incredible hours were being worked, and when it was done, the leadership thought a cookie (literally) and a thank you note were adequate compensation for the heartache implementing the system caused among the employees.

Fast forward five years.  Because so much customization had been done to the previous system, the cost to upgrade it was prohibitive.  The decision was made to spend that money in creating a new system entirely.  We will leave the wisdom of replacing a five year old system to others to debate, but suffice it to say, the staff was not happy to hear this.  In this particular organization, which had a long tenured staff, there were many people who remembered the first implementation and the personal chaos that ensued.

Some lessons had been learned from the first project, as told to me by several of the key people on the project.  They wanted to be more realistic about time frames, and they were.  Feedback was more welcomed than the first project, where giving you opinion could result in punishment or dismissal.  Buffers had been put into place in case there was a delay in the project, where few had existed before.

Still, not all lessons had been learned.  As the project grew nearer and nearer to the completion date, people were once again told they may have to work extra hours for weeks on end in order to meet the deadline.  Once again there were people who would come in at 8 am and not leave until 10 pm every weekday.  The rush-rush-rush mentality began creeping into the mindsets of managers, all driven by the head of the company, who publicly promised that he would resign if the project didn’t launch on time.

One vignette, I believe, illustrates this well.  In one department, the manager, who was also a chief project manager on this endeavor, would hold a weekly status on how things were going.  While she had an overall view of the project, her subordinates in her department were responsible for testing the product to see if it worked properly, and report if it did not.  When she announced what the testing times would be, she received feedback from her team that the timeline was too tight, and that they could not do all the testing necessary along with doing their regular jobs of keeping the old system running.  The manager’s response?  “Well, you’ll just have to work nights and weekends then.  Can’t you see how important this project is?”

This was reiterated in a more professional way by the same manager at an ‘all hands’ meeting held right before the Christmas holidays.  Addressing a group of over 100 people, this manager said that she realized it was the holidays, but they needed to keep on track, so ‘we might ask you to put in some extra hours’.  This was not well received by people who had already been doubling the amount of hours they usually worked.

In talking with this manager’s staff, it became apparent that this manager was a workaholic, and being such, didn’t see what was wrong with people putting in extra hours.  She failed to see that others weren’t workaholics, and was trying to appeal to them on a level which didn’t hold any significance for them.  Rather, being veterans of the previous project, they wanted as little as possible to do with the project, as they remembered the scars from five years ago.

The lesson from this project is that a good manager needs to find the significance for their employees in order to have engagement.  He or she needs to find the way to have people decide they want to put in the extra hours, or go the extra mile, especially if the manager is handicapped in this by ghosts from projects past.   A good manager will be filling that reservoir of good will every day, so when he or she needs to draw from it, they can.  Failing that, they need to find a way to respect their people.  Saying, “Well, you will need to work evenings and weekends” is not finding that respect.  That is bossing people around.

While the old joke that goes, “We have a great incentive plan here.  Work and get paid.” holds appeal to some managers, they will never get the traction that a manager who realizes their people are primary can get.  That manager will have a better quality product, better quality team, and people who will walk through fire for them.

I tell you, when they are done with this, there better not just be cookies.