Meetings – where you begin to be a more effective manager

A recent New York Times article “Building a Better Teacher” by Elizabeth Green((1)) told the story of Doug Lemov’s discovery that a large component of high performing teachers’ success came from their classroom management skills. While reading the article, and, especially watching the videos of teachers actually employing good class management, I was struck by an interesting parallel in the management world. Just as education schools do not do a good job of preparing teachers to know what to do when they first walk into a classroom, most managers learn their craft by trial and error. They have little help from mentoring or development programs in their companies. And, business schools seem to provide little guidance either.

Meeting management is to effective managers as classroom management is to successful teachers

Meetings are a great place to start to learn the management craft and a crucial platform for driving and sustaining high performance. Great managers and great organizations have great meetings. And, from the perspective of a manager interested in developing a high performance culture, meetings are a great starting point in building a high performance company. After all, meetings exhibit all of the important attributes of high performance organization and culture. And, no effective manager can be ineffective in meetings.

Good meetings:

  • focus on results ($s, people and values)
  • engage, empower and demand every participant’s energies
  • use fact-based thinking
  • orient to customer needs (internal and external)
  • devolve strategy into tactics
  • employ process and systems thinking
  • use well-developed problem solving tools and approaches
  • focus on adding value for customers (internal and external)
  • look for waste reduction
  • build on company and individual strengths
  • among the more important……

Meetings are a great place to start because they are a regular event in which the manager has significant control and can demonstrate, concretely, high performance principles and practices in front of, and with their direct reports.


Footnotes:
  1. March 2, 2010 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/07/magazine/07Teachers-t.html []

Leadership – “bringing people around softly” and speaking last

The other day I was talking with a business owner about her people management practices. In comparing some thoughts about how to effectively supervise people she noted that waving your finger and giving instructions was almost always a non-starter. She said that she thought that “people need to be brought around softly”. Continue reading

Podcast – Three Counter-Intuitive Steps to Becoming a More Effective Manager

Be a More Effective Manager – stop answering those questions, seize your time, and it’s your fault

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Three Counter-Intuitive Steps to Becoming a More Effective Manager

Become a More Effective Manager – Three Counter-Intuitive Steps

In the world of planning and strategy, there is a truism that too much planning, too much detail, too much analysis, leads to inaction, to a loss of opportunity. Along the same line of observation, in the world of learning to becoming a more effective manager, there can be too much study, too much thinking, too much integration of the many many skills and aptitudes required to become more effective. In both strategy and management skills action is almost always preferable to another round of study. Action bumps you up against the real world and provides the real basis for improving skills and results.

But, that still leaves us with the nagging question as a manager, especially for rookie managers and supervisors, how do I get started?

Based on many years of personal work as a manager and many years coaching managers, here are three steps you can take that will get you into action and guarantee striking results. These results will come in your personal effectiveness and in of the results of the organization you manage.  Remember,  by results, I am referring to the three meanings Drucker defined: (1) direct business results (usually measured in $s); (2) improved organizational culture (values); and (3) development of people.((1))

1. Stop Answering Questions

If most managers could listen to themselves, the proverbial fly on the wall, for just a few hours, they would discover that they are chronically enabling dependency all around them and undermining whatever formal delegation systems are in place. How is this happening? Just listen and you will hear a stream of questions coming at them followed by answers in response. You are enabling the following the reflexive pattern: ask the expert and be rewarded with answers. Ask the boss, get an answer, and be safe from responsibility for the answers.

If you want to get people to take responsibility and be involved in the business, you can’t go on answering all these questions. They will just go on asking whether they need to or not. And, you are spending an enormous amount of your time, your most valuable resource, to answering all of these questions.

What should a manager do to break this pattern? Continue reading

Footnotes:
  1. see Chapter 2 – What Can I Contribute? in his book The Effective Executive []

Learning To Be Effective – comments on Kelley’s How To Be a Star At Work

Learning to be an effective manager is almost entirely a self-guided learning enterprise. Almost no business schools even approach the topic despite the hundreds of courses they offer on almost every functional aspect of management((1))

No Significant Differences between Stars and Average in Intelligence, Problem-solving or Technical Skills

So it was with some anticipation that I read through Robert E. Kelley’s  How to Be a Star at Work: 9 Breakthrough Strategies You Need to Succeed (Three Rivers Press, 1999).  This book is based on research at Bell Labs in the 1980s, and 3M a bit later, on the differences between “stars” and average managers.  . Learning to be an effective manager is a multi-disciplinary-multi-modal effort. Clearly an important step is to understand what constitutes the approaches, practices, and skills of an effective manager. How To Be a Star at Work - KelleyBased on work with hundreds of managers, Kelley found that there was no significant difference between “star” and average managers in their raw intelligence, problem solving skills, and technical skill attributes.This may seem surprising until you remember that accomplishing real results in the business world is not a based on individual performance but on the collective efforts of a whole organization. There are almost no significant business problems (or technical ones, too) that can be solved by a single individual. In fact, it is the job of a manager to bring together all of the resources required to achieve real results, focus them on the task and push, pull, inveigle, cajole, lead, or any other verb that describes the persuading that goes on to organize groups in action to achieve real results. Viewed from this perspective it seems less surprising that being a “star” manager has more to do with attributes other than raw intelligence, problem-solving, and technical knowledge.

Better Strategies and Skills in nine areas

What Kelley did find was that the stars has better strategies and skills in nine areas:

  1. Initiative – working the white spaces of the organization
  2. Networking – knowing who knows what in the company’
  3. Self-management – managing your whole life at work
  4. Getting the big picture
  5. Followership – checking your ego at the door and leading in assists
  6. Teamwork
  7. Leadership – doing small-“l” leadership in a big”L”world
  8. Organizational savvy
  9. Show-and-Tell: persuading your audience with the right message

There is some overlap among these nine strategies. For instance Followership, Teamwork, and Small “l” leadership are clearly interdependent ideas. But I do not want to quible here. If you compare this list with the attributes of high performance organizations you will find useful correlations and synergies.

This book is widely available through your local library and from bookstores local and online.

Footnotes:
  1. see Henry Mintzberg, Managers Not MBAs: A Hard Look at the Soft Practice of Managing and Management Development, 1st ed. (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2004) for more on this. []