I’m pleased and excited to announce that “The 8 Essential Skills for Supervisors & Managers” is just out and available on Amazon.com. Three Cheers for that! For those who have been waiting patiently (or not so patiently!) for the book to be published you will now find it at:
Order your copy today!
This afternoon I opened a shipment from CreateSpace – the proof for “The 8 Essential Skills for Supervisors & Managers” is in my hand. We’ll give it a final review and then . . . we go to press! More to come.
It’s been an interesting week and the news is good. On Wednesday we uploaded the book – all 382 pages of it – to the printing company, CreateSpace. and received word that the electronic files were useable. Thursday morning we ordered the proof. By Thursday afternoon the proof had been created and shipped. It arrives Tuesday. That will be the final test before production begins. Once intial production is ready, the book will be available on Amazon, on our storefront on CreateSpace, and from us directly. Exciting days!
‘When you’re up to your ass in alligators, it is difficult to remind yourself that your initial objective was to drain the swamp.‛
Most managers can easily relate to that statement. It often seems that really important things – initiatives, projects, and ideas that could make a major positive difference – drown under waves of problems to solve and details to handle. Most experienced managers agree that they sometimes feel overwhelmed and out of control when they try to deal with the challenges and changes they face. They describe what they do as something like herding cats or grasshoppers. It’s a job that’s complex, ever-changing, challenging, exhilarating, frustrating, satisfying, and never boring.
The traditional view of what it means to be a supervisor or manager has materially changed in the past decade. You may supervise a team or functional unit with a group of full-time employees reporting to you. But these days you’re just as likely to manage a variety of people working on several different projects. Some of them might be employees. Others might be employees who officially report to someone else. They might be independent contractors. And then there are freelancers who work for several different organizations. In this era of rapid change, globalization, and contract workers, you need to look beyond past notions of what a supervisor or manager does.
What’s your job like? Does it fit the traditional mold or is your position and organization radically different?
Slightly more than a week has passed since we attended the Indianapolis 500 and time to finish reflecting on examples of The 8 Essential Skills in action.
Skill 7 – Leading & Empowering: I saw examples of Leadership and Empowering behavior from the time we walked in the gate at IMS. With few exceptions, and I mean really few, the staff know their jobs . . . own their jobs, whether they are full-time, temporary, or volunteer. There has been quite a bit of change at the top of the organization in the past year as Tony George was forced out as CEO and head of the Indy Racing League. And sometimes that sort of change can throw a lot of people off their game. Not in this case. You can see leadership in crew chiefs managing their pit crews, race strategists adjusting to changing conditions and challenges while maintaining an overall race plan. It’s not quite choreography, but more a large, fluid team, all committed to helping create the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
Skill 8 – Growing Yourself: Over the years I’ve watched a series of drivers develop from rookies into seasoned veteran drivers. Team owners like Bobby Rahal and Michael Andretti graduated from the ranks of champion drivers. Their sons have “gone into the family business” and are now drivers. Sarah Fisher was a rookie in 2000 and Danica Patrick was a rookie in 2005. Both are seasoned veterans now and the 2010 race had five women drivers on the starting grid. The Indy 500 is the pinnacle of oval-track racing and to win one 500 is a remarkable achievement and is usually the result of years of preparation. Winning four 500′s like Al Unser, Rick Mears, and A.J. Foyt have takes a huge commitment to getting better all the time.
It was interesting to look for The 8 Essential Skills while at this year’s Indianapolis 500. Let me know when you spot examples in your own travels.
Stepping back for a bit of perspective on the Indy 500 as an example of The 8 Essential Skills at work, we continue to see lessons for all of us who supervise and manage, such as:
Skill 5 – Managing Change: a 500 mile auto race with 33 cars on the grid at the start is a study in Change. Often rapid and abrupt change. And it can (and does) happen at any point in the race. Davy Hamilton returned to the Indy 500 after a nine year hiatus, only to crash on the first lap after Thomas Scheckter took Hamilton’s line in Turn 2, causing Hamilton to swerve, lose control, and hit the inner wall. Sarah Fisher, on the other hand, steadily worked her way up in the field over much of the race only to graze the wall on lap 125, ending her day. Often the 500 is lost or won in the pits and when a driver is given the “Go!” signal before the fuel hose is fully disconnected, a return to the pit on the next lap causes a delay and may affect that drivers finishing order. Constant change is the norm; how it gets handled and what adjustments get made makes all the difference.
Skill 6 – Solving Problems & Making Decisions: over the course of a 500-mile race each team will have literally scores if not hundreds of decisions to make. Do we bring our car in for fuel now or wait a lap or two on the chance that there will be a yellow flag (forcing everyone to hold their positions in the standings) later? How many of our 15 our “push-to-go” turbo boost uses do we save for the final laps? Should we adjust the front wings for more downforce or more speed? Given the heat (130 degrees on the track) how often should we plan to change tires? Problems to solve and decisions to make are just a normal part of the process and are treated as such. Frustrating perhaps, but “that’s racing.”
Next time – Skills 7 & 8
This past weekend’s Indy 500 is probably the 10th time we’ve been a part of this event. Over the years I’ve watched the physical plant evolve and observed changes in the way in which the event is managed.
Skill 3 – Building Successful Relationships – there are all kinds of people associated with the business of producing the spectacle called the Indianapolis 500. Many of them, particularly some of the drivers, owners, team managers, officials and pit crews have fairly strong personalities. Despite a huge amount of talent and some pretty Type A personalities, all these people come together and create solid working relationships to create this event. Competition? Certainly, but plenty of cooperation among the various functions within that spirit of competition. It’s exciting to watch; it’s almost ballet.
Skill 4 – Managing Others – IMS is a big place with lots of different functional teams working together. Still, in each team, there is a “boss” of some sort; the person who choreographs the team’s activities and directs its reponse to rapidly changing circumstances. In the pits it may be the crew chief who directs the pit crew as they refuel and change all four tires in less than 10 seconds. All around the track there are teams who spring into action when an emergency occurs. In the stands the staff in their yellow shirts handle some 400,000 fans and help keep them safe. But in every case there is a manager or team leader who helps keep the team focused and supplied with information.
Next Time – Skills 5 & 6
Just returned from a visit to friends in Indianapolis on Memorial Day weekend and attended the warmest Indy 500 ever. 97 in the stands and 130 degrees on the track. In spite of the heat, I saw ample evidence of “The 8 Essential Skills” at work. Let’s see . . .
Skill 1 – Managing Yourself: from the drivers to the pit crews to the officials, to the volunteers, everyone knew their job and did their job. Everyone has a plan for how they will do their job, they manage themselves with that plan in mind, and when surprises occur (and they always do!) they manage their response with inspired professionalism. Self-Management at work.
Skill 2 – Communicating for Results: the systems at Indianapolis Motor Speedway are top-notch and in spite of IMS’s size (2.5 miles around) information flows rather freely and quickly. Communication flow is clear and focused on getting the job done; people get the information they need to do their jobs well, and the fans are in the loop quickly with the variety of communication channels.
Next Time – Skills 3 & 4 go to the Indy 500
What do you think?