What is an example of a difficult situation when managing people and how can you overcome it?
That’s an easy one. For years I asked participants in my supervisory skills courses what parts of their jobs they hated most. A consistent first or second was “talking to people who work for me about behavior or performance.
What people are scared of is the situation where they approach the offending team member and get into a screaming confrontation. So the first thing to know is how to make that less likely. If you’re a boss, do the following.
Set clear and reasonable expectations. Check for understanding.
Show up a lot. When you show up have conversations, like normal people have, in addition to any work-related conversations. When you show up, make sure that the understanding of your expectations has translated into performance.
If it has, praise the effort or the achievement. If not, deal with the issue right then.
If you do those things, you establish a working environment where you’re demonstrating fairness and where conversations with you are routine. That makes it more likely that when you open your mouth, your team member is prepared to listen. And, when you catch problems early they’re easier to deal with and less likely to lead to confrontation.
What was one of your greater team successes?
I’ve spent most of my life as a consultant, so let me answer this in terms of a client project where I was the advisor and what we called the “Project Wrangler.” The goal of the project was to improve profits by using then-new web technology. The team looked for an application that would make life easier for the location managers who were scattered about the countryside and for an application that would generate significant cost savings.
For the “make life easier” project, the location managers identified a short list of six things that were “big hurts” for them. We decided to streamline the process for hiring seasonal truck drivers and created a task force with representatives from the location managers, regional managers, IT and HR. The result was a decrease in average processing time from three weeks to three days, plus the location manager could track the process.
For cost savings we looked for something that was a top administrative expense. At the time the company was sending packets of information via overnight express every business day to every remote location. We made the information available on a company intranet, meaning it was available sooner and never lost in transit or delayed. In addition, the company saved enough on overnight fees to pay for the entire Web and intranet project, including all consultants, contractors and equipment and still generate savings for the company.
What is a helpful habit that you have formed?
I was fortunate enough early in my career to develop the habit of planning and review of my performance. Every day, every week, and every month I take a little time to plan key work for next period. Then I track performance against plan and review to start the next cycle.
And now without further adieu, the winners of the Contest for Managers are…
John Pratt, Ron Lachell and Chase LeBlanc – congratulations and thanks to everyone who participated!
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