Building Better Working Relationships

Last time we suggested taking a look at which of your working relationships could use some attention. If you’ve been truly honest in your self-examination, you probably have discovered one or more key relationships could stand some improvement. Perhaps you’ve neglected one of your high-performers to focus more attention on a marginal performer. Or you may tend to avoid dealing with a co-worker who kind of rubs you the wrong way or who you frankly don’t like much.

Whatever the situation, unless you do something to change the equation, the relationship is unlikely to improve. It might continue to deteriorate if you do nothing, but it’s unlikely to improve on its own. So, what could you do?

You might begin by asking yourself several questions:

  • Why is this relationship important to me?
  • Why do I feel the relationship could be better than it is right now?
  • What would be the ideal relationship with this person?
  • What would I be willing to do in order to improve it?

Once you’ve examined the current state of the relationship, it’s time to decide what you want to do, and when you intend to do it. Realize that there may be no single “best” thing to do or say; the key here is being willing to try different things and keep at it as long as it takes to see the relationship improve.

While there certainly are plenty of practical suggestions (see Skill 3) in The 8 Essential Skills for Supervisors & Managers, here are a few that might be a good place to start:

  • Be patient! – most problem relationships did not get that way overnight; they won’t improve overnight either.
  • Be interested in the other person’s ideas, suggestions; ask for their opinion.
  • Be flexible – be willing to try different approaches until you sense things are moving in the right direction
  • Be clear about expectations – yours and theirs, but do so in a non-confrontational way
  • Re-recruit your high performers from time to time; they will appreciate the attention and value your commitment to building the team
  • Realize that changing the relationship is up to you!

As Stephen Covey so eloquently said, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” If we think more about understanding the other person, seeking their perspective, asking for their ideas, and seriously listen to what they have to say, that cannot help but move the relationship in the right direction.

Don’t you think so?

Paul

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The Proof Is . . . In My Hands

The moment when the final printed proof  of your book is in your hands is pretty special. The months of effort to revise and expand the material, researching and writing the new chapters,  the multiple revisions, the back and forth with designer and editor . . . it all becomes worth it when the finished product arrives.

A trip to the post office this morning brought the page proofs for the 2nd edition of The 8 Essential Skills for Supervisors & Managers nicely bound in its new cover. The new chapters and additional information brings the page count  to more than 420.

There is still more to do, of course. There’s the final review with my editor, Jan Andersen of Beyond Words, Inc., getting the word out to previous purchasers and organizations who adopted the 1st edition for their management development programs, marketing and promotion, as well as the upcoming eCourse.

Savoring the moment is wonderful. Now, back to work.

Stay tuned!

Paul

eCourse Planned for 8 Essential Skills

For some time now we’ve been looking for a way to provide the training course that goes along with The 8 Essential Skills for Supervisors & Managers to a wider audience. Creating the book’s 2nd Edition has been a major undertaking over the past nine months and is now nearing publication, so it’s time to devote some attention to creating a series of online video eCourse modules.

We’ve partnered with our good friends at UNIVentures, Inc. led by Candace Cox and her  team.  And through them we’ve found the folks at Thinkific as technical partners. UNIVentures operates on a global basis delivering outstanding training programs all over the world. Greg Smith and the Thinkific team are based in Vancouver, BC. We like the international flavor this provides and look forward to working with these great people in the months and years ahead. We also have other interesting projects in the works, so . . .

Stay tuned!

Paul

What’s New in the 2nd Edition?

The 2nd Edition of The 8 Essential Skills for Supervisors and Managers contains several completely new chapters in addition to the many revisions and updates to existing material. We’ve added chapters on:

  • Communicating in a Connected World – the growth of mobile computing allows many of us to work remotely from our “virtual” office nearly anywhere in the world. While that flexibility is wonderful, it also creates new challenges.
  • Resolving Conflict – learning to resolve conflict successfully has to be part of the skill set for every supervisor and manager, regardless of the organization you work in. Ignoring conflict isn’t an option; you’ve got to deal with it!
  • Diversity in the Workplace – the composition of the workforce has changed significantly in recent decades, and there is every reason to believe the workforce of tomorrow will be even more diverse.

You’ll also find a full Index as well as a Table of Cases in the Appendix of the 2nd Edition. Stay Tuned!

Paul

Revision Underway

Watch this space for news about the 2nd Edition of The 8 Essential Skills for Supervisors and Managers. We’ve added several new chapters as well as made significant revisions to content and cases. As with the 2010 edition the focus is on how we manage ourselves and each other in organizations. The 1st Edition has been adopted as a core resource by organizations of all types and sizes.

We’ll keep you posted on our progress and let you know when and how you can order the new edition.

Multiple Failures of More Than One Skill

As a resident of SW Michigan I made occasional visits to the Detroit area over the years. I enjoyed watching the Tigers playing at Briggs Stadium, particularly during the years of John E. Fetzer’s ownership of the team. The Detroit Zoo is a great place to spend a lovely spring or summer day; Greenfield Village and the Detroit Institute of the Arts are world-classs must-sees. And there is little need for a description of what the word Motown means to music fans. As a life-long “car guy” I’ve followed the automobile industry’s ups and downs over the years. The city of Detroit has always been there and although it was a big-city wonder for a small town kid it has gradually become a mere shadow of itself as the population within the City’s boundaries fell from 1.8 million in 1950 to less than 715,000.

As the news featuring Detroit became more and more about less and less – poverty of the grinding, relentless, no hope, no future kind; abandoned and crumbling homes, commercial buildings, factories, roads and bridges; “ruin porn” photo spreads, vacant blocks and empty streets; I found myself increasingly frustrated by my inability to understand what I was seeing and learning. How does a world class City become a hollowed-out shell of its formers self? What causes 60% of the population to head for the exits – either to the suburbs or to another state in the hopes of finding work?

The news media certainly provided little that would help one understand; “if it bleeds, it leads” is still true, particularly for the electronic media. The seemingly endless description of the results of the latest stabbing, shooting, drug bust, “devils night” torching of abandoned homes, financial woes and eventual bankruptcy . . . night after night the only news datelined Detroit were mind-numbingly negative. How did we get to this point?

So I started to read about Detroit and learn more about the history of this city, how it came to be the home of the auto industry, and how it came to its present state. While a number of sources were useful in seeing examples of Detroit yesterday and today, I did not find the one resource I needed – something that helped me understand the flow of time from earliest days to current reality. And then I happened upon “Detroit: A Biography” by Scott Martelle. (2012, Chicago Review Press). I highly recommend it; it helped me understand Detroit’s present tense in the arc of its history, its leadership, its successes and its failures. And it got me to thinking about it from the standpoint of “The 8 Essential Skills” – which of the 8 Skills failed to materialize within the fabric of Detroit’s past?

Skill 3 – Building Successful Relationships was clearly a failure, from the history of terrible labor relations among owners, managers, and the people they hired to work in the factories, to the rampant racism that grew out of the “Great Migration” of immigrants and rural poor who eagerly moved north for jobs paying perhaps 10 times what they could earn in a year as a farmer. From divisive city vs. suburb political fights to a sometimes The Rest of Michigan vs. Detroit mindset in the Michigan Legislature; it’s obvious that a lot of people failed to build relationships that were successful.

Skill 4 – Managing Others was also a significant failure as labor unions and management engaged in destructive “bargaining” where each side succeeded only if the other side of the table lost. Bureaucracy within the auto companies as well as in municipal government resulted in insanely complex work rules, no-show jobs, and an entrenched sense of entitlement at all levels. From the Board and CEO level down to the first line supervisor in the assembly plant, the common sense of managing other people went out the window long ago in favor of “what’s in it for me?.”

There is an object lessen here for all of us: Think beyond your own self-interest and take care of the community in which you live, regardless of where you live. We’re all in this together!

Paul

 

Adopting The Book

My recent post (Out of the Blue!) mentioned the adoption of “The 8 Essential Skills” by a large international law firm. As the sequence of orders (50, then 350, then 70 more) occured, we were initially focused on getting the books produced and making sure they were delivered on a timely basis. Fortunately, we had selected CreateSpace to produce our book “on demand” and that is what they do, and do well. Based on previous orders, my level of confidence about their capabilities was fairly high. Their track record was quite good with the few gliches we’d experienced in the past having been well-handled. The turnaround time from placing the order until the cartons showing up on the client’s loading dock was typcially about 10 days; pretty incredible.

As we got the production and shipping process moving along, two questions were of major interest to me:

  • How were they planning to use the book?

  • How did the firm “find” the book?

The firm is in the process of rolling out a 14 month developmental program for all of their supervisors and managers, and “The 8 Essential Skills” had been selected as the central text for that long-term program, along with their own internal resources. With all the long-term management development programs I’ve worked with over the years, hearing that was really gratifiying. It confirms and validates the central themes of “The 8 Essential Skills.”

My second question – how did they come to select this book? After all, there are hundreds, even thousands of other books on supervising and managing available. The answer was an indicator of how carefully this firm went about designing their program. First, they convened a task force and charged them with examining a wide variety of resources – materials that could be used in central and supplemental roles in their year-plus development program. Then the group compared what they found. One of the members downloaded the Kindle version of “8 Essential Skills”, liked it and showed it to several colleagues. Then, they ordered the printed version for task force members, who evaluated it individually. After aligning the Skills with their core competencies, they ordered copies for their 450+ supervisors and managers. That’s the kind of vetting process we think makes great sense, and I’m delighted to see the “8 Essential Skills” get such a thorough validation.

The firm kicked off their management development program this week. As you would expect, I’m looking forward to learning how that process went. Stay tuned!

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