The Productive Professional
On Wednesday, I got to have a lovely dinner with a long time listener and friend of Manager Tools. As he began to describe his work and his team, he said something like 'I feel like I have to tell you I'm doing everything perfectly'.
We laughed, but it was a moment for a serious point. Please don't ever feel like this. Don't feel like you can't tell us you're struggling and ask for help. Don't feel like this should be easy and you're the only one who finds it hard. Management is hard. Work is hard (as I told my interns, if it wasn't, they'd call it play and you wouldn't get paid for it). Life is messy. Mike, Mark, Maggie and I regularly confess to messing things up - sometimes on air. We're not doing it perfectly either.
If you're here, you're open to critiquing your own performance and trying to do better. You're open to listening to guidance and trying it out. You're doing better than 50% of the other managers you know just because of that. Give yourself an A+ in your management performance review. Don't stop though, and keep trying to do better in 2012. We'll be here to help you.
An article in Fast Company focuses on Jason Evanish, and his influence on the start up / angel investor / vc relationships in Boston. He runs a clearing house for networking events and startup resources, but he also 'turned himself into a gatekeeper, arranging strategic meetings to filter out the groupies'.
He says 'Everyone thinks entrepreneurs are short on money, when in fact their most scarce resource is time'. No one has more time than they need. I regularly wish for 48 more hours in the day. I've never had a job where I have had more than enough time to do everything - and I don't believe such a job exists.
Given that 'not enough time' seems to be a universal complaint, all we can do is work within that constraint. What are my priorities. What needs to be done now? What can I not do in order to get the stuff I need to do done?
What's the solution to your building having a mailroom which may be targeted by someone sending a suspicious powder? An article in November's Fast Company describes the way Visa has solved the problem: the mail goes into a modular building near to their office. If a suspicious powder, 'the mail room can just be airlifted away'.
That wasn't the solution I'd have come up with, but it is genius. I admire anyone who is that creative. An engineer I once worked with told me the trick to thinking of ideas like this is to stay in the 'problem space' for longer. We tend to jump straight to the 'solution space', rather than really considering the problem.
But jumping there quickly, he told me, means you don't consider the more outrageous (and genius) solutions. Really fleshing out the problem - for example, that we don't want the suspicious powder to have any more contact than absolutely necessary - allows you to find the more creative solutions.
In a regular feature, Bloomberg Businessweek gathers a bunch of smart people to 'fix' a part of the economy, or a political or other situation. In the October 17 edition, the situation to be fixed was education. Obviously, the US education system (and from my experience living in other countries, the education system of any country) is contentious.
What interested me though was at the very end of the article, when one of the participants describes going to a KIPP school in Manhattan. The participant says to the co-founder, you're doing a great job. The co-founder then takes him to a classroom and shows him 5 things the teacher (who by everyone's standard is a great teacher) does wrong in five minutes.
For example, she hasn't checked the writing that's on the bulletin board for two days. The co-founder says: "What this job is about is a thousand of those things, not about some kind of silver bullet". It's true for all our careers. There isn't some miraculous project or promotion that makes you a super star. It's about getting results day after day, are day. It's about planning your work, doing the work and then looking at it critically to see how you could have done better. It's not about the little things in terms of your expenses, but in terms of making sure you do everything to the best of your ability and then pushing yourself to do better.
There's an article in December 19th's Forbes magazine about a new burger chain that started in Denver in 2007 and now has 143 locations. In it, CEO Dave Prokupek says: "We overinvest in the things that matter most". The article goes on, 'If a line cook fills orders in under six minutes on average, he gets an extra 50 cents per hour. Store managers can earn monthly bonuses...based on monthly revenues and customer reviews'.
This reflects the reasoning in the feedback model: the reason for the feedback model is to encourage effective behaviour - in other words, we use feedback to incentivise the behaviour we want to see in the future. Reducing the cook's pay by 50 cents for being slow would be much less effective.
It's much more effective to give positive feedback for the behaviour you want than to give negative for what you don't want. AND, reasons for positive feedback happen much more often. That's why we recommended a 9/1 ratio for positive behaviour. Look for the things you want to continue, and give feedback about them.
One of Manager Tools mantras around hiring is we’ll take less skill if we can get more attitude. Skills can be taught. Attitudes - the behaviours that we want in our team and our workplace - often cannot.
I was pleased to see an article reporting on a speech given by the former People and IT Director of Asda (one of the four biggest supermarkets in the UK), which began with this title.
In it, David Smith says, that the number one principle of seven he believes will turn around a failing business is hiring for attitude. He points out: “you can switch people on or off though the new people you’re hiring. Current staff will either say, of you’re new hire, ‘who’s that? She’s great’ or ‘who hired hm? He’s rubbish’.
Yet another reason to hire well – your hires have an effect on the productivity of your current staff. If they don’t believe you care enough to hire well, they won’t care enough to work hard.
On January 1, 2012, Manager Tools LLC is proud to release our 500th cast (Manager Tools & Career Tools). We're privileged to have been able to share our learnings with you, and humbled by your letters and emails which tell us how we've made a difference to you, your directs and your careers.
In celebration, we're going to give away 5 seats at our conferences in 2012. The overall winner of our contest will get a seat at a conference AND Individual Licenses for both Manager Tools and Career Tools for LIFE.
Of course, there has to be some skill in winning. What we'd like you to do is send us an email to: email@example.com, with a 250 word essay: "What Manager Tools/Career Tools means to me". We'll be posting all the responses on our website.
The contest will close at midnight pacific on the 24 December. Between Christmas and New Year, the Manager Tools team will review your essays and we'll announce the contest winners on 1 Jan, with our 500th cast.
The list of all the 2012 conferences is here: http://manager-tools.com/effective-manager-conference.
It's taken us 6 1/2 years to get to this point, and they've been the best 6 1/2 years of our lives. Thank you, for being part of what makes Manager Tools great. We're looking forward to sharing the next 500 (and more) casts with you.
A diagram in Fast Company shows the different forms of Infographics which have become more and more popular over the last 5 or 10 years. It seems we can’t cope any more with raw numbers, we have to have them prettily coloured and arranged like a tube map or a periodic table.
The problem with that is that there were always “lies, damn lies and statistics” and infographics often make understanding the raw data intelligently more difficult not less.
When we look at an infographic, we have to ask not only: what does the data say, but also: what does the data illustrator want us to believe. A critical mind is essential to proper understanding.
An article in Bloomberg Businessweek talks about Amy Jo Martin – who is a ‘tweet coach’ to Shaquille O’Neal. In it he says: “Amy Jo always has my back. If I do something wrong, she calls me within five minutes”.
I thought this was an interesting perspective of feedback. Shaq doesn’t think of Amy Jo as behaving negatively towards him. He thinks of her as ‘having his back’. Of saving him from himself. Of being his support.
Feedback isn’t negative. Feedback just is. But one way of thinking about it if you’re giving feedback is to think that you just have your superstar’s back. Want to rant now? Somehow, that desire goes away when you think about it that way. And superstars, your manager is just showing you, he has your back. Like Amy Jo has Shaq’s.
Someone asked me recently if I liked feedback. My answer: I don’t like getting it, but I like that I get it. The actual moment of getting, (let’s assume negative here, since people don’t ask about positive) is not enjoyable. Which is not to say there’s screaming, shouting or any big deal going on – I just don’t like it.
If I didn’t get it though, I’d never know what unintended effect my actions had on others. Sometimes, my answer is ‘omg, I had no idea. Of course I’ll do it differently’. To makes someone else’s life more difficult over and over because I didn’t know any better, is a worse outcome than the pinch of a moment of feedback.
In an article in Fast Company, the CFO of Levono says: “The most dangerous thing is to be successful. You then think every decision is the right one. That’s why you have to review what you do.” If it’s working, do more. If it’s not, do it differently. That’s the essence of feedback. No big deal.