10 Things Every New Manager Needs to Know

The first steps taken as a manager can be a mixture of fear, uncertainty and excitement – especially daunting if the step up means having to manage the team in which you were previously a team member yourself.  Unfortunately, like driving a car, a lot of management is learnt by doing, which is why so many new managers get into bad habits early on – ‘coping mechanisms’ – which are then much harder to break, and become institutionalised dysfunctional behaviours.

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Here are our Top 10 things every new manager needs to know:

1. They’re not your mates anymore. One of the toughest steps is managing the ‘gap’ needed to be an effective manager without losing the trust and respect of your old colleagues – you can be professional without being personal

2. Manage your manager. A vital part of learning to manage is developing the ‘upward’ relationship with your manager; this requires you to balance your focus appropriately between your direct reports and the senior manager

3. Get organised. Get diaries (on-line or hard-copy), a to-do list (try something like Trello) and put aside planning time on a regular basis, at least once a week if not daily.

Remember; ‘Plans are nothing – planning is everything’

4. Manage your e-mails. Don’t let them manage you. Aim to touch every e-mail once and to leave your inbox empty by the end of each day – it is achievable.

5. Coping with change. Understand how the different stages of change affect different people differently. You will need to adapt your approach depending of the needs of individuals and the team as a whole – see next point.

6. One size doesn’t fit all. If the only tool in your tool-box is a hammer – you will treat everything as if it’s a nail! Learn how to flex your management style for different circumstances and if one approach isn’t very effective try something different.

7. Have a vision. Manager or Leader? A crucial part of the manager’s role is to present a clear vision to the team for direction, focus and motivation. If you don’t have one – see point 2 above.

8. Set SMART objectives. Make sure that both you and your team member(s) know exactly what’s expected of them and that it will be monitored and reviewed at the agreed deadline and measured by the agreed standards.

9. Set standards. One of the most common weaknesses for new managers is not being clear what the appropriate standards are for both; Performance and Behaviour. Get clear on both of these and ensure your team have clarity too.

10. Coach! Managers who invest time in developing their people (and spend as much time on ‘inputs’ as ‘outputs’) get real performance improvements as well as increased engagement with their people. Top tip – label the session ‘Coaching’ and ‘Signpost’ it – it makes all the difference

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The Human Dynamics Around Successfully Managing Remote Teams

If you  you need to think very carefully about how you can achieve optimum effectiveness. Command and Control doesn’t work, and hierarchically based power structures are ineffective. A different kind of boss/subordinate paradigm is required.

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There are several critical behavioural and process dynamics required between manager and their team member for remote working to work. These form the basis of an effective psychological contract.

Mutual respect. Both must believe that the other person is credible, adds value in their role and is supportive of what the other person is trying to achieve.

Sharing the same, common purpose. When people line up on the important, fundamental issues the focus of the relationship can shift to the work and away from checking, expediting and reporting.

Trust. What is your personal attitude to trust?  Are you able to trust people who you don’t have detailed oversight of? Forget the individuals you might manage for a moment and think about your own fundamental position. I your  glass half full of trust, or are you a half empty kind of person?

Personal accountability. Are you able to engender high levels of ownership?   Autonomous people need to own their work and its required outcomes; they focus not what they’re told to do, but what needs to be done.   You know  remote managing is working when the team member takes responsibility for their  required outcomes (the KPIs – Key Performance Indicators),  and the manager takes responsibility for helping to optimise the required inputs (the CSFs – Critical success Factors) that enable the delivery of the necessary results.

Clarity. Of objectives, of working arrangements, of each other’s preferred work style and around what is mandatory (the non-negotiable policies that have to be adhered to)  and what is discretionary (guidelines, suggestions etc.). See next heading

Tight/Loose Engagement There are some things that should be carved in stone. Regular face-to-face meetings dates  should be fixed and not moved unless for extraordinary reasons and reports submitted on time.  These are the ‘tight’ aspects, the looser ones are about giving people the freedom to organise their time to best effect. Sometimes you won’t know where people are, they haven’t got back to you to your timetable. The ability to flex, and, on occasion to be pragmatic are very helpful to working remotely.

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You might notice several things about the above. One is the contradictory nature of some of the issues covered. Managing and working remotely does require both a high toleration of ambiguity and a laser like focus on certain things being done in the approved fashion.

Another key insight you may have gleaned is that effectively managing remotely has a lot more to do with leadership rather than management.  Good leaders connect with people, they are able to engage peoples’ discretionary effort and through this deep rapport the daily managing of people largely looks after itself.

 

Can You Predict Business Success?

Why is Google the Number 1 search business?

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Why is Amazon dominant in bookselling?

Why is Rolls Royce one of the world’s top two aero engine businesses?

Why is Apple now more valuable than Microsoft?

Superficially, these questions look easy to answer; Google because they wrote a great algorithm, Amazon because they did on-line books first, Rolls Royce because they adopted/refined world class design and manufacturing techniques and then applied them with discipline over many years, and finally Apple because they have imac, ipod, iphone and now ipad.

But it’s much more complicated than that. These success criteria seem so obvious now, but why only with hindsight and not at the time?

You could have bought Google shares at $85 a share when they went public, they are now worth around $485 a share (they’ve been over $650). Easy money?

Remember all the snarking at Amazon about being the world’s best internet bet but never made (and for many never would) a profit? During the 2001 dotcom crash Amazon shares could be bought for $0.08c, today they are around $1.15 and $800m profits forecast this year.

How many people thought Rolls Royce would survive their near collapse in the 1970’s, only pulling through with Government assistance to become the powerhouse they are now?

And Apple; now worth more than Google, Dell and Nokia combined. Remember when Steve Jobs was absent, there were no new products and it looked like they were sliding into irrelevance?

For organisations to thrive over the long term they need a coherent and mobilising vision, a way of looking at the market-place that others haven’t seen, and the obsessive application and pursuit of their strategic goals.

Who are the companies today that might be the Apple’s etc of the future?

Will Ocado come to dominate home delivery shopping? Can HMV avoid becoming a sunset business and reinvent themselves as an entertainment portal? – their results this week look encouraging. Will Ford complete their escape act from possible oblivion? Again the signs look promising.

All businesses trying to shape their future, how does your business’s over the horizon position look?

What Is The Most Effective Learning Style – ‘One To One’ Or In Groups?

Surely the answer to this is the same as the answer to any other complex issue – ‘it depends’. Historically we view learning from our experience of childhood education and classrooms of thirty or so children with varying abilities and backgrounds miraculously taking on-board literacy, numeracy, science, the arts and plenty more. This can be either incredibly stimulating or a complete nightmare for us as students in the preparation for our lives ahead in work and at play.

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Most of us have had limited experience of one-to-one teaching; where we’ve been ‘singled’ out for attention or for ‘special’ requirements like learning a musical instrument. These can be very trying circumstances; intensive focus on very specific requirements with no-one else to share the attention and nowhere to hide!

Today, however, more people are looking at one-to-one coaching, for example, as a way to get specific skills honed in a style that is bespoke to our individual requirements. We all remember some words of wisdom we received from someone we looked up to as a mentor or role model that gave us that individual focus and helped at a crucial stage in our development.

There are more opportunities today to look at different learning methodologies and chose those that best suit our needs. Here are some of the key areas that should be considered when choosing between Group or One-to-One learning:

Specific or Generic
How widely spread is the skills and knowledge required? How similar is the application to other related work environments? How easily transferable are the techniques needed?

Tailored or Off-the-Peg
To what extent does the learning and material need to be adapted for its application? How bespoke does the ‘fit’ need to be for the desired effect? Is there a ready-made solution available?

Simple, Complex or Subtle
Even complex subjects can be learnt in groups but sometimes where the distinctions are more subtle than complicated, a one-to-one approach ensures better understanding.Learning StylesSome individuals thrive in group activities whilst others find it easier to take on information without distractions or the need to compete for attention.

Cost v Investment
What is the budget available? Does it include the costs of premises, equipment, travel and accommodation? How much time is ‘lost’? What is the ROI expected and what is the most effective way to achieve it?

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An Early Definition of Salesmanship

What is the earliest definition of Salesmanship you have come across? What about this 18th Century  quote about a London auctioneer.

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“…there was something interesting and persuasive, as well as thoroughly agreeable in his manner. He was very animated, and it may be justly said eloquent, in his recommendation of any article to be announced from his ‘Rostrum’, as well as in occasional effusions of genuine humour. He was courteous, friendly and hospitable in private life, and was held in great esteem by his numerous friends, among whom there were many of high rank…”

This was written by a contemporary of James Christie  (1730-1803), the famous auctioneer, whose name still leads one of the two most famous auction houses in the world.

The 250 year old quote still contains a pretty good definition of what a good sales person should be about. Including being knowledgeable, articulate, persuasive, easy to get on with, and being a great networker. All wrapped in an enthusiastic outlook.

Still pretty serviceable today.