Category: Managing Not Doing

When Scratch is Not Good Enough

When Scratch is Not Good Enough

The best amateur golfer that I ever played with had an official handicap of zero (0) – also know as a scratch golfer.  We only played once, paired together at a charity tournament and when I asked how many rounds he played a year he admitted that he played more than 90.  If I played that much golf, my boss would wonder how much time I was actually in the office and it turns out his boss was the federal government and he worked from home or on the road, giving him plenty of time for golf.

Like we all do when paired with a great player, I wondered whether he was good enough to play professionally.  He was young enough and a good enough athlete – what would it take?

3 less strokes per round – at least.

I arrived at this number by checking the handicap of the best Canadian professional golfer that I have ever played with – Adam Cornelson from Langley, BC.  Adam has an official handicap of +2.8. and won for the first time on tour in 2016, his fourth year as a pro, and earned a spot in the Web.com Tour which is the next closest level to the PGA tour. And he did this by playing on much harder, longer courses than an amateur scratch golfer.

And in the world of professional golf, 3 shots a round is a huge number.  On the PGA Tour, the difference between a top 10 player and the player at number 125, just barely holding on, is 1 shot per round.  And most players feel lucky if they can improve their game a half a shot per round per year.  At that rate, the scratch golfer may just be ready for the first level of pro golf in 6 years and making a living playing golf 6 years after that.

Like these golf pros, good managers should be trying to get incrementally better every year.

Similarily, success as a manager is not something that comes easy.  There are no great leaps forward into a better understanding of how to manage people, yourself or your boss.  It’s all incremental.  One inch at a time.  One performance review, one project schedule, one hiring session, one team meeting and one little thing to make someone happy that adds up to being a good manager.

I’ve been lucky to work in a sales environment at many good companies,  and in each one sales success is all about the incremental .  What revenue are you going to bring in that is new for us this year?  You did great in 2015 with $1 million in sales and we gave you a nice bonus to recognize it, but that was last year.  How are you going to get better this year?  What new industry are you going to develop as a sales channel?  What new product line are you going to upsell into your best accounts?  What are you going to do differently to push that huge, game-changing account across the finish line after 3 years of pitches?

In managing, what one new thing have you added to your repertoire, or what existing skill have you improved or what knowledge have you gained to make you a better manager than you were a year ago?

In golf, the magic elixir for most amateur players is to improve your short game – chipping and putting as they represent 50% of the shots you take every round.  If your regular score is 90 and you can make a 10% improvement in the 45 shots you take with a wedge or a putter by chipping it closer to the hole and holing more putts – you can drop 5 strokes pretty easy.

For a manager, the short game equivalent to improve as a manager is to Become a Better People Mgr.  

Your ability to make things happen on your own is finite – there is only one of you and only so many hours in a day.  But once you begin to see yourself as a people manager first and a “doer” second, then the possibilities are infinite.  Recruiting, developing, managing and promoting people is the easiest path to successful projects, departments, companies and careers.

Start with owning the fact that your primary job is as a people manager and spend a larger percentage of your time each month on managing your team as opposed to “doing” your own work.  An incremental change of one additional hour per week “managing” can make a huge difference between now and this time next year.  I’m writing this in October and if you started now and added one hour per week each  month, you’d increase your managing time by 10% before Christmas.  Think your team would notice?  They’d wonder what the heck was happening and then just roll with the new you – and you’ll be thrilled with the results.

When you take small steps like that over time, one day you will look up and find that you are a pretty good manager.  And like golf, where there are new courses, new equipment, and new teaching methods, you can always get better.  Your situation  is always changing – new projects, new people, new companies, new customers – the dynamic is never the same and you have the opportunity to learn over and over again in order to be just a little better today than you were yesterday.

Managing from One Foot Away

Managing from One Foot Away

A recent interaction with another coach affirmed for me the wisdom of “Praise in Public, Correct in Private” and confirmed for me how personal an experience it is for anyone to receive criticism, correction or discipline from a leader, manager, coach or in this case a fitness instructor.

It’s this simple, when I’m corrected in public I feel rebuked and when it’s done one-to-one I feel encouraged.

As part of my belief in Training Ugly and getting out of my comfort zone, I take a weekly TRX class at the local rec centre.  TRX stands for Total Resistance eXercise and it’s a suspension training system that relies entirely on your own body weight to provide resistance. It’s not easy to master and after a year of classes, it continues to challenge my limits each week.

Our instructor preaches form over speed and corrects posture and position as she walks through the room.  With music playing and many other bodies planking, pulling and squatting, sometimes that correction comes in a shout from across the room and sometimes it comes from 1 foot away.

It’s amazing how the correction from afar feels like stinging, personal criticism.  It’s the affect of the audience.  Most people are OK with an expert correcting us, but not OK with other people knowing our weaknesses.  Like the first tee in golf, we feel like everyone is watching and critiquing us.  They are not, of course, and are likely too focused on their own posture or position to be worried about the tall guy in the corner not lunging correctly.

While correction stings from long distance, from 1 foot it feels collaborative and inspirational.  Like we are working toward a common goal and the small correction is a missing piece.  Many of my personal “Aha” moments in the weekly TRX class are from the softly spoken comment, suggestion or correction. From one foot I am thinking about the message and not how it was delivered or perceived in the room.

The same applies for managers that are delivering feedback.

If you can create an environment where the receiver feels the information is being shared with collaborative intent for their benefit, it’s more likely the message will be understood and acted upon.

Even disciplinary meetings should be delivered in this way.  The higher the stakes for the individual on your team – and a meeting that could lead to termination is as high as it gets – the more important it is for the manager to create a safe and personal environment.  This gives you the best chance for the message and proposed corrective action to be heard and not get lost in the emotion that the person is feeling.

So move a little closer, don’t be shy.

Can You Manage Your Kids Like You Manage Your Team?

Can You Manage Your Kids Like You Manage Your Team?

A friend recently told me that she had called an all-hands meeting with her kids and was laying out a new incentive program to get them to engage more in their tasks around the house.  I wonder if that works?  If it did, I know it would be best seller material for every manager out there who is the master of their work domain but to whom the mix of teenagers, communication and chores remain a mystery.

Maybe they seem like a mystery, compared to your team at work, because you don’t spend 8 hours a day with them.

Taking our kids to the office on a regular basis might not be feasible, but can we apply the same basics of being a good manager to parenting and get better engaged kids as the end result?  Let’s see…

From my experience – two children aged 12 and 18 – being an engaged parent does not become an issue until middle school.  Babies, infants, and toddlers dominate our every waking and sleeping moment and as new parents, we cannot help but be overwhelmed by the newness of childraising and importance of keeping another human being alive and well.

Apply this Management Lesson:  During this period, like the start-up period for a new company that we are trying to keep alive and well, a one week vacation from our children every year from ages 2-5 can be a sanity, marriage, and life saver.

Related Post:  Vacation Days Are Not the Answer

Once in elementary school, parents still play a meaningful part in a child’s day. They are still young enough to need a ride or an accompanied walk to school.  The school itself still needs parents involved in classroom activities or field trips. There is plenty of time for interaction and for getting to know who your child is in their non-home environments.  You know their friends and the other parents and it can be a very social, happy time.

Apply this Management Lesson: This is a great period for you to focus on Know, Like and Trust with your kids. Pay attention to them as individuals.  Listen to what they have to say. Care about what they care about – even if it’s Justin Bieber.

Read More Posts Related to Know Like and Trust

Middle school is where your involvement in your child’s life and their development changes.  It’s summarized nicely by the Coaching Association of Canada:

Up until now, you’ve most likely been directly involved — helping your child learn movement skills, for example, or starting them out in a sport you enjoy. But in the Training to Train stage, your children are more independent, you’re less likely to do sports with them, and your role is more an advisory one. The focus from here on is on things you need to know as opposed to things you can do.

From middle school on, you are less directly involved in your kids lives.  They walk to school with friends or take the bus.  Teachers don’t want your help.  If they play sports, they are likely playing for a trained coach, not you and another parent.   They are going through puberty.  Their need for independence is high but their  confidence and motivation may be low.

Apply this Management Lesson: Move from a focus on Directing your child to Supporting them. The Situational Leadership II framework uses  words such as reassuring, appreciating and facilitating to describe how a manager works with a team member who is moderately competent, but not highly confident.

The ability to match your parenting/leadership style to the needs of your kids comes full circle with high school aged teenagers, who have the confidence and the competency in most walks of life but still rely on you for key resources.  Resources like money or a car or tuition for school.

Apply this Management Lesson:  Like a member of your team at work who has flourished under your leadership, it is now time to let them fly on their own.  Not by running their own project or leading their own team but by leaving home for university,  choosing a career or travelling in a foreign country without you.

Through it all, parenting and managing are both Service oriented roles that require a major commitment of our time and focus.  Like we challenge managers to spend at leats 50% of their time Managing, Not Doing at work – we should accept the same challenge at home, to spend at least 50% of our time Parenting, Not Doing.

It’s a Good Sign When a Manager Feels Bored

It’s a Good Sign When a Manager Feels Bored

That’s right – a good manager should be trying to get to “bored” as quickly as possible .

It means you have delegated, managed and assigned all the urgent and not important work that makes you feel busy.  And it will allow you to spend serious, quality, slow moving time on the really important stuff -strategy, hiring, team building, coaching, and your own personal development.

What does bored feel like?

Many managers will never know because they only know busy.  Busy is not a bad thing when things need to get done that need a manager’s input , or their presence at 4 key client meetings and a dinner in one day, or at the end of the quarter when the financials need to be carefully reviewed and signed off.

A full day of performance reviews.  That’s good busy.  That’s busy with long term, important things that affect the whole company.

Bad busy is logging into your email at 7am and never leaving your desk.  It’s arbitrary deadlines, unrealistic client deliverables and last minute requests that are out of process – all on top of your normal day.  It’s going back to the office after you take two hours for your own personal life.  It’s logging in while you sit in bed.  It’s trying to do too many things in too short a time.

That kind of busy is pretty common and even held up as a badge of honour, especially at small start-ups or fast growing companies.  If we are moving fast and sleeping less, we must be growing and making more money.  I can sleep later.

But it’s not sustainable or healthy for a manager or their company and leads to burnout personally and a decline in performance professionally.  Unfortunately, many managers never escape the cycle of bad busy.  When they do escape, that’s when they feel bored and start looking around for another crisis, another deadline, another project or another job.  So they can find that quick rush of bad busy – which is the only rush they’ve ever known.

So the next time you feel bored – celebrate it and start adding long-term important work to your daily and weekly calendar.

Large blocks of door closed, out of office time that will make you and the company better.  Recruiting meetings with star candidates from other firms.  Industry conferences and seminars.  Workshops on new skills.  Weekly one to ones with members of your team.  Lunches with other managers in the same company.  You know, the work that is expected of a leader.

Pretty soon you will be good busy.

Is is Better to be a Leader than a Manager?

Is is Better to be a Leader than a Manager?

In the last week, the comparison of leader vs. manager has popped up a couple of times in my LinkedIn feed usually through a quote that implies that it’s better to be a leader than a manager. Here is one as an example, from someone whose ideas I admire:

Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.  –Tom Peters

While I am hoping that Tom intended to demonstrate the different skills inherent in managing and leading, it is likely taken by most people as an either or statement.  If you are a manager, all you do is arrange and tell, but when you are a leader, the choirs sing and the heavens part as you nurture and enhance your team. Most readers would also take those attributes and assign them by proxy to managers and leaders – because surely it’s better to be a leader than a manager.

But in most companies when do you start being a leader? At some executive title that is slightly higher up the food chain than a mere manager?  Can a supervisor be a leader?  How about a coordinator?  Or a customer service representative?

The good news is that you can do both, no matter what your job is.

Leadership and management are skill sets, not titles.

Managers demonstrate leadership skills every day and not at the expense of “arranging and telling”.  Most companies would fall apart without a manager that makes the shift schedules and communicates new policies to their team while creating an environment where people are motivated and engaged.

It is true that the balance tips more toward leadership type work the higher you climb the corporate ladder, but even C-suite executives are still spending portions of their day managing – with performance reviews, asset allocation decisions and directives on new product lines.

So yes, there is a difference between being a manager and an executive and one does tend to do more leadership type work than the other.  Both are valuable to the organization – precisely because they do the right amount of managing vs leading.

So let’s add an asterisk to Tom’s quote:

Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.** –Tom Peters

**and you should try to do both well.**

 

 

Driving the Bus – Part 4

Driving the Bus – Part 4

The most important thing you will do as a manager is Driving the Bus, which is a metaphor that I like to use when discussing recruiting and team building.  I recommend using the following Bus related questions to guide your hiring and team building:

  1. Where is the Bus going?
  2. Who should be on the Bus?
  3. Where should they sit?
  4. Who else can drive?

Each of these questions plays an integral role in building the team you go to battle with, and your long-term success.

In Part One, we talked about the pre-hiring process and in Part Two we discussed who to hire and fire.  Part 3 focused on the kind of work your team members do and making sure they are in the best physical environment.  Our final post discusses delegating control after you figure out Who Else Can Drive?

One of the most rewarding parts about being a manager is seeing your team succeed on their own merits.  Successful product launches or sales pitches or service calls benefit everyone – the company, the manager and the team members.

So after you take a moment to revel in the glory, take another moment to think about who is ready to Drive Your Bus.  Or Drive their Own Bus.

The best time for a mini promotion within the team is while the juice is still flowing from a recent success.  You will have observed who contributed at what stages, who was the most engaged, and who did the most for other team members. So as you gear up for the next project, find a way to let that person drive the bus a little.  As a kid, my dad would let me drive on the highway sitting on his lap while he worked the pedals.  I was driving but under his guidance.  Same idea here.

Here’s an example:  If it’s a product launch, ask your star to run your version of the After Action Review, gathering feedback from the team and customers about the positives and negatives from the launch, then providing a verbal briefing to other managers or better yet to executives.  This allows you to recognize the star’s contribution in front of the team and in front of your boss and their peers as well – which helps his career and your reputation as someone who develops high performers.

If that goes well, the next natural step is to ask the star to run the requirements gathering phase of the next product launch or a spin-off from the first product, which can be followed by overseeing the build process, then the Beta test, then the roll out.  If all goes well, you have a new product manager, who can then help you identify the next person to spotlight.

Greyhound drivers on long trips switch off the driving duties to keep them fresh and focused, same with airline pilots and people like us on cross country trips to Wally World.  Managers should do the same.