Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Manager Strikes Back

I'm afraid that the poor manager (which is a double entendre, get it?) has been getting a bad rap on this blog. . . and is pretty upset about it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Enlightened Self Interest

Anyone can manage by fear and intimidation. Especially in these uncertain times.

The problem is that although it may be possible to 'control' things that can be measured, employees managed this way will withhold their best creative energy unless there's something in it for them (like professional opportunities, personal growth, job satisfaction, etc.)

And they will work against poor managers whenever they can. In small ways, perhaps, like complaining on company time. Or doing only what is asked and not one iota more. But although these small acts of defiance may not hit the corporate metrics in an obvious way, they do add up.

Personally, I think the Canadians are onto something with their fake potholes. Sure, you can have a law against speeding but people will follow it sporadically at best and you have to measure it to manage it. The fake pothole neatly sidesteps this problem by making it in the driver's perceived self-interest to slow down.

It creates a positive incentive to do the right thing, which tends to work better than a negative incentive to do the wrong thing.

Get it?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Change - Are We Having Fun Yet?

A blogger friend of mine just wrote a great post about joy as an agent of change.

Change is a must in business, a foregone conclusion. Failure to adapt is failure to survive and great ideas can come from fresh thinking.

But few people actually enjoy change, not low performing employees who fear they won't be able to change and certainly not high performing employees who have perfected a process that works well for them.

And somehow all this change inevitably requires lots of boring meetings.

What makes a meeting boring? Barring a presenter who speaks like a plank of wood, I think it comes down to three things: 1) lack of discipline; 2) lack of relevance; and 3) lack of discussion.

Lack of discipline manifests as a meeting with no clear agenda and/or people droning on about whatever occurs to them because 'we're scheduled for an hour anyway.' I'm sure you've all been in meetings like this.

A good manager will cut these people off, keep them on track and end early.

Lack of relevance occurs when someone talks in great detail about something you don't care about and don't need to know in order to do your job. A common culpit is the deadly roundtable meeting, which can be a highly valuable forum for sharing useful information but so often isn't.

A good manager will identify topics that are suitable for large meetings. There's a fine line to be walked here because you have to find the right balance between encouraging communication v. sticking to topics that actually need to be discussed in a large weekly forum.

Lack of discussion occurs in meetings where the purpose is to 'communicate down' or inform people of how it's going to be. It also helps if the manager doesn't welcome honest feedback. Of course, too much lively discussion can result in either of the previous two problems so again, it's a fine line.

A good manager knows how to walk that line. Enough said.

So, to recap, a good manager calls the right meetings and keeps people on topic while encouraging discussion.

A great manager also injects some fun into the process.

A great manager asks, can the new process be somehow more enjoyable than the old process?

If it can't, is there something in it for the people who have to change how they work, such as demonstrable value add or time saved?

If not, can we at least find some humor and have a good laugh about the new process?

Maybe a prize can be offered for the biggest embracer of the change?

Or how about just a little heart felt appreciation for people being so open to newness?

See? It's not so hard.

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