My Hardwiring – A Case Study – Part 1

The easiest way I can think of to illustrate the way our hardwiring influences and steers us in certain directions is to use my own hardwiring as an example. At the risk of telling you more about me than you might care to know, here goes:

Personality Preferences – I’m an Extravert – outgoing, highly verbal, and get energized by being around other people. I’m more interested in action than I am sitting and thinking deeply about events or issues. I’m interested in the “big picture” – the “why” of things a lot more than I am interested in the “how” or details of things. I pay attention to the mission, need to craft or see the vision of what we are trying to accomplish, and use my gut-feel or intuition to help me make decisions. When making those decisions I consider the impact on others, my internal value system as well as analyzing the logic and bottom-line effects. What’s best for people is going to get my nod most of the time. I prefer to plan my work and work my plan most of the time when it comes to my professional life; schedules and deadlines are helpful, and having an organized, neat environment feels comfortable. That’s not quite so important in my personal life and that seems to be increasing as I get older. From a Myers-Briggs standpoint, that makes me an Extravert, iNtuitive, Feeler, Judger (ENFJ) with some well-developed Perceiver tendencies.

For more information on the Myers-Briggs, see the website at Midwest Consulting Group.

What about your personality preferences? Care to share?

Next Time – My Hardwiring – A Case Study – Part 2

To order The 8 Essential Skills for Supervisors & Managers” visit Amazon.com.

The 8 Skills at Indy – Lessons – Part 4

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 7Leading & 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.

Why Managers Fail – 6

Recent posts have described five reasons why 40% of the superivors and managers moving into a new position are likely to fail within the first 18 months in the job. The sixth and final reason is:

Maintaining an Inappropriate Work/Personal Life Balance

Having balance in your life is generally viewed as desirable. It means taking time to build and nurture your family and other personal relationships as well as your professional network. It might mean volunteering in your community for a cause you believe in. And, yes, it means actually taking vacations. Balance means working hard but not becoming a workaholic. Research has shown that if your workweek regularly goes beyond 52-55 hours, your ability to be productive and make good decisions goes downhill quickly – something that no organization wants. Routine 60-70 hour workweeks are a recipe for disaster.

There will be times when a long week (or even a few long weeks) might be necessary, but you can’t effectively sustain that kind of schedule without paying a severe price personally. A failed marriage, missing your children’s lives as they grow up, and generally not having a life other than work are the results of inappropriate balance. At the same time, if your boss can’t count on you to be at work regularly because you are always gone with a family emergency or crisis, you’ll be viewed as someone who isn’t reliable. In the end it is, after all, a question of balance.

How’s your work/personal life balance?

Why Managers Fail – 5

 Another reason the failure rate for supervisors and managers is so high has to do with your ability to do your job within the context of the organization’s culture and way of operating. The fifth reason cited by CCL’s research is:

Lacking Internal Political Savvy

We may complain about it, but the reality is what we call “office politics” is often simply the relationships that help move an organization ahead. Having internal political savvy means understanding how decisions are made, who has real (positional) power, and who the informal leaders are in your organization. As a manager and leader it’s essential that you build a solid internal network within the organization, and that you know how an agenda you’re pushing will affect other parts of the organization.

An important part of political savvy is the approach and tone you use. Constantly raising issues in an aggressive, complaining, tactless manner will be seen as being a P.I.A. (Pain In the Ass) by those above you in the organization. As one executive recently said, “If you are constantly in my face, run me down to others behind my back, and generally behave as a pain in my rear end, why would I want to promote you?”

In every organization there are ways to get things done, raise issues, make suggestions, and transmit important information. Having internal political savvy means understanding how to effectively communicate and interact with others in the organization. Being successful does not mean kissing ass, being a toady, or a yes-person but it does mean understanding how to do a good job within your organization.

What do you think?

Why Managers Fail – 4

For someone who believes, as my colleague and coach Mary Jo Asmus does, that “it’s all about the relationships,” then this is a major cause of supervisors and managers derailing in their careers.

Failing to Build Partnerships & Cooperative Work Relationships

Most successful organizations have effectively broken down the walls or silos that once existed among their internal units or teams. People move so frequently in larger organizations, and responsibilities change so quickly, that you can’t be successful unless you build effective relationships. Your potential for success in higher levels of management depends on your ability to build partnerships and positive relationships with your boss, your employees, and your peers. In the end, being a successful manager and leader is indeed all about relationships.

Think about your own key relationships. Are they all in the shape you’d like them to be? Could one or two relationships benefit from greater effort on your part going forward? In The 8 Essential Skills for Supervisors & Managers, you will find some excellent suggestions and tips for improving those key relationships.

Ken & His Talents

Ken was a middle manager in a manufacturing company. He had a talent for communication – for vividly passing on to others the company’s and unit’s vision and strategy. Like most managers at his level he also had budget responsibilities, for which he had little talent or interest.

Many companies would send Ken through a series of budget or financial training programs, trying to improve his skills. Over time he might improve his skills to the point of basic competence, but the financial end of the unit will never be a strong suit. Instead, Ken’s company recognized his strengths. He went through a basic training program in the company’s budget process and then delegated most of this responsibility to a trusted team member who understood the process and enjoyed working with financial data. This freed Ken to concentrate on doing what he liked and what he did best. He continues to work hard to improve his communication skills, keeps up to speed about industry developments, and is seen as a high-potential candidate for movement into corporate planning and executive management.

Lessons Learned

Thanks, in part, to his company’s support, Ken was able to focus on one of his talents and turn it into a significant strength. By building on his talents and managing around his weakness in budgeting, he is in line for the executive suite and the company is growing a highly valuable employee.

Why Managers Fail – 3

 We live and operate in a rapidly changing world. Stepping into supervision for the first time is a combination of several emotions; excitement, uncertainty, a bit of fear.

Taking Too Much Time to Learn the New Job

This is the “not getting up to speed fast enough” problem. The days when managers were gradually brought along through a series of carefully planned steps are long gone. Our work force has become highly mobile as the old job-for-life concept has fallen away. Roles, responsibilities, and assignments are often in a state of

This means we must constantly take on new tasks and projects and operate outside of our comfort zone in an ever-evolving, dynamic, ambiguous environment. Rapid lifelong learning will always be necessary. You need to accept that you’ll never feel you’re really up to speed. So it’s important for you to understand what your boss and others think that phrase means, and then give it your best shot.

Above all, getting clear about expectations is crucial. Complete clarity may be impossible, but having ongoing conversations about expectations just make sense. “What are the expectations? And how am I doing in relation to those expectations?”

What are the key expectations for you and your job?

Why Managers Fail – 2

As noted in the last post, 40% of newly appointed managers and supervisors fail within the first 18 months. One of the major reasons is:

Being Unwilling or Unable to Make Tough Decisions

It’s normal to make your first decisions carefully and thoughtfully. After all, being newly promoted or hired means upper management will keep a close eye on you for awhile. That’s fine. And certainly your first or second personnel change will come under rather close scrutiny. The successful supervisor or manager makes personnel changes carefully, keeping at least the next higher level in the loop throughout the process.

In fact, most of the truly tough decisions you’ll face are people-problem decisions. Certain issues can doom a new supervisor or manager to failure, such as being unwilling to confront poor performers positively and help them improve or move on, or ignoring interpersonal disagreements and conflicts. And while the toughest decisions are often people issues, they can also involve equipment, systems, or process problems; new product/service decisions; or other issues posing risk to your team or the organization.

Making decisions and solving problems are part of the deal when you become a supervisor or manager. Just goes with the territory. We cover a wealth of information on navigating that territory in Skill 6 of The 8 Essential Skills for Supervisors and Managers – due out in June.

Lessons Learned?

The past couple of posts have dealt with real cases from our files, as they used to say on old cop TV shows. You’ll see these cases from time to time, and they will always have some sort of lesson we learned from dealing with the situation. We change the names, alter the industry, rearrange the furniture, and otherwise make sure you don’t know who we are describing. But they are real enough.

I know I’ve learned a lot over the years from my mistakes; probably more than what I’ve learned from my successes.  Certainly I’ve learned more from the negative examples I’ve observed; the boss who is a total jerk, the coworker who seems to alienate people wherever they go, the manager who cannot (or will not) deal with the unmotived and results-challenged workers on their team. But what about the positive role models? We learn from them too.

What Lessons Learned would you have to share? It would be interesting to see what others have experienced and what was learned from the issue, incident, or situation. Post a comment, a question, or share a story from your own experience. What lessons have you learned?

Skill 8 – Growing Yourself

All of us have some ideas about how we’d like to grow and improve. You may want to get better at providing performance feedback to your employees and coaching them about your expectations. Or you may want to improve some aspect of your communications skills. Perhaps you want to improve your organizational, personal productivity, decision-making skills. Or you might want to develop your skills in more “big picture” areas, such as strategy, teamwork, or project management.

As you think about your current job, are there areas that could stand some improvement? What kind of job would you like to do next? What skills do you need to acquire to be ready if the opportunity comes along? Whatever your current situation, start thinking and behaving like your growth and development is your own responsibility. Because it is.

How about you? What areas are you growing in these days? What are your developmental plans for the rest of this year? Growing Yourself may be the most important of The 8 Essential Skills. What do you think?

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