Category Archives: General

How Do We Learn?

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

Hello Sir,
I am doing M.B.A (Finance) in University of Wales, Newport. I need some advice. What are the different ways to improve Managerial Skills? Could you please narrate this topic. I am a very big favourite of this blog.

Thanking you, -Yatish Kumar

Response:
Yatish, this is a very serious question. And it’s not just how we improve Managerial Skills. How do we learn anything? We can sit in classrooms, we can review case studies, we can study theories. But how do we integrate that into our daily behavior that makes us more effective?

Henry Mintzberg, Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at McGill University in Montreal is adamant about how managers learn. “MBA classrooms overemphasize the science of management while ignoring its art and denigrating its craft, leaving a distorted impression of its practice. This calls for another approach to management education, whereby practicing mangers learn from their own experience. We need to build the art and the craft back into management education, and into management itself.”

I first read Mintzberg more than a decade ago. He is likely the single most powerful influence on the way we structured Working Leadership Online. It’s not about case studies, it’s about you. It’s about you, working as a manager, in real life, struggling with limited resources, under the pressures of time, the recession, a toxic team member. It’s not Leadership. It’s Working Leadership.

Yatish, I am enrolling you in a Free Trial. And I am extending the same to the readers of Management Skills Blog. This is my Friends and Family program and the community is growing.

Working Leadership Free Trial

Our next Subject Area kicks off on March 15, Managing Time, Managing Yourself. Hope to see you online. -Tom Foster

Next Week Predictable

Brent wasn’t sure he heard me right. I know he was expecting some sympathy for all of his long hours.

“Your long hours are not because you are working hard,” I said. “Your long hours are because you didn’t budget your time.”

He tried the puppy dog look. “But I don’t know exactly how much work there is to do until it piles up on me,” he protested.

“That’s BS,” I responded. “If you would sit down and think about your week coming up, you would find that 95 percent of it is totally predictable.”

“Well, I have a TO DO list, if that’s what you mean.”

“No, I am talking about a Weekly Time Budget. I am going to email you a Weekly Time Budget Planner. It’s one page. Spreadsheet format. Let’s meet tomorrow afternoon and plan your Time Budget for next week.”

Managing Time, Managing Yourself kicks off on March 15, as our next Subject Area in Working Leadership Online. The Weekly Time Budget Planner is only one tool we will talk about as we explore how Time impacts everything we do, as managers. As a participant, you will receive a copy of this powerful, but simple, weekly planning tool. If you would like a Free Trial to the program, follow this link.

Working Leadership Online Free Trial

Mentoring and Supervision

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

Question:
What are your thoughts regarding the advantages and disadvantages of both mentoring and supervision? I believe that it’s best to have mentoring from someone outside their organization. Do you agree?

Response:
Bringing in someone from outside the organization, a consultant, should only be used as a last resort, and only when there is no one inside the organization to play that mentoring role. Elliott Jaques, Requisite Organization, was very specific about these two roles, mentoring and supervision. They are separate and distinct.

Elliott was one of the few, who recognized, and distinguished the role of supervisor from manager. The role gets confusing because we have all kinds of words, supervisor, coordinator, director, first line manager. If you have people engaged in production, the role of the supervisor is to make sure production gets done, using schedules, checklists and meetings. If your production role is measured (Time Span) at Stratum I, then the role of the Supervisor is clearly Stratum II. This relationship between the Stratum II Supervisor and Stratum I Production is based on accountability. Their conversations are coaching conversations. The purpose, is to make sure production gets done.

So, who is this mentor? What is this purpose? And why should it be an inside role, not a consultant role? If Stratum I attends to Production, and Stratum II makes sure production gets done, Elliott described Stratum III as a true managerial role, whose focus is in creating the systems in which production is done. It is the role of Stratum III to determine the best sequence of process, to design the order, set the standards. The most critical element in any business system is the people system. What do we have people doing? What skills are necessary? What capability is required? AND who do we select into those roles?

As time goes by, the Stratum III manager constantly evaluates the effectiveness of the Stratum II supervisor. We don’t have to ask the manager to do this, it is a sub-conscious evaluation that occurs every single day. At some point, the Supervisor role will turn over. The person will be promoted, transferred or will move to Montana to go fly fishing. And the Stratum III manager will now be required to fill the role. And this is where mentoring comes in. The first place the Stratum III Manager goes is to the Stratum I Production team. Is there someone on that team ready to move up to Stratum II responsibility? The only way the SIII Manager knows this, is through mentoring conversations, about career development.

Mentoring conversations have a very distinct purpose and are required as the organization goes forward. Mentoring conversations help the Stratum III Manager make decisions about who? Who has the capability, who has the necessary skills, who has the interest to move into this Stratum II role?

An outside consultant may be close enough to assist in this process, but has no stake in the game. It is the distinct role of the Stratum III Manager to engage in mentoring conversations with Stratum I. This is the role of the Manager-Once-Removed (MOR). These same mentoring conversations should occur between the Stratum IV Vice-President and the Stratum II Supervisor. These same mentoring conversations should occur between the Stratum V Business Unit President and their Stratum III Managers. Succession happens all over the organization. This mentoring relationship from the MOR is the necessary piece to make sure we make the best decision.

Latitude in Decision Making

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

Question:
What is your opinion on the idea of forcing decision making downward. Do you think downward decision making is desirable?

Response:
It depends. There are a number of factors that will determine this direction. Ultimately, I will hold the manager responsible for the results of any decision that was made. This alone may guide you.

First factor is risk management. How much risk is associated with the result of the decision? If the decision is made poorly, how much damage can be done?

The second factor has to do with purpose. What is the purpose of driving the decision down a level? Is it a learning purpose? Is its purpose to obtain buy-in to the decision? Get clear on the purpose and that will help you determine the direction to move.

Determining whether a decision is appropriate for a team member to make, can be calibrated using Time Span. Time Span is often referred to as the Time Span of Discretion. Discretion is appropriate within the defined Time Span of the role. A machine operator with a defined Time Span in the role of one week, would be given the latitude of discretionary machine maintenance to determine when, within the week, in the midst of scheduled work, would be the best time to shut a machine down to complete that maintenance.

Stuff They Don’t Teach You in Harvard Business School

Yesterday, we kicked off our new Subject Area in our Working Leadership Program, Goals, the Essence of Time Span.

This community is growing. We currently have 81 members with an additional 72 people participating in the Free Trial. This activity level is unbelievable and we would like to share it with you. We are going to hold our Free Trial open for two more days. Follow this link to Working Leadership Free Trial.

Here is what we know about our community.

  1. Our participants have a day job, as a manager.
  2. Our participants are really busy.
  3. Our participants want to be more effective, now.

This is Real
Working Leadership Online is practical. There are no quizzes or tests. There is no make-work. This is not extra work. The Field Work is real.

At Your Pace
Participants login on their schedule.

Unforgettable
The problem with most training programs is they stop. After a few classes, it’s over, good luck. Working Leadership Online goes year-round. It changes the way you think about your role as a manager.

How This Works
Your first Subject Area is on us. Then you decide. We are holding the next 50 slots. Word is already on the street, so we expect to close this offer in the next few days.

Here’s Some Feedback

This program is anti-matter to today’s barage of costly management solutions. The program covered a great deal of critical leadership material that managers can immediately benefit from. -Cathy Darby

Some people live online and I’m not one of them. I’d much rather be in a human presence. Having said that, after Tom’s first response he won me over. His honesty and feedback is invaluable. -Jane Hein

There’s a lot of valuable information in this course that isn’t easily available elsewhere, and the coaching from Tom in addition to accountability for actually carrying out the assignments makes for a solid learning experience. Keep up the good work. The online format makes the course accessible, and makes it easy to put into practice directly in a work environment. -Erik LaBianca

www.workingleadership.com

Here is the schedule for the coming year.

2010 Subject Area Schedule (Total 15 Subject Areas in 2010)

  • Jan 11 – Planning – Your 2010 Business Plan – COMPLETED
  • Feb 1 – Goal Setting – The Essence of Time Span
  • Feb 22 – Decision Making – Time Span of Discretion
  • Mar 15 – Managing Time – Managing Yourself
  • Apr 5 – Spring Break
  • Apr 12 – Communication – Mineral Rights Conversation
  • May 3 – Delegation – Leveraging Time Span Capability
  • May 24 – Control Systems and Feedback Loops
  • Jun 14 – Team Problem Solving – Time Span Inside a Team
  • Jul 5 – Summer Break
  • Jul 12 – Coaching – Bringing Value as a Manager
  • Aug 2 – Coaching Underperformance – Time Span and the Employment Contract
  • Aug 23 – Coaching High Performance – Time Span and Maximum Capability
  • Sep 13 – Fall Break
  • Sep 20 – Managerial Authorities – Time Span and Accountability
  • Oct 11 – Managerial Authorities – Time Span and Hiring Talent
  • Nov 1- Time Span and Effectiveness
  • Nov 22 – Break (Thanksgiving USA)
  • Nov 29 – Bringing Out the Best In People
  • Dec 20-Jan 9, 2011 Winter Break

Reserve your spot today – Working Leadership Free Trial

Open Enrollment

“Time Management and Accountability. Those are the big two,” I replied. “And here is something I have discovered over the years. Most managers get here without direction or training in these areas. Most of you, as managers, landed in your role and had to figure out.”

I could see the heads nodding in the room. This was my Orientation speech.

And this was my classroom. Fifteen to twenty managers at a time, an intense six weeks. More than a thousand managers over the past 15 years. I still like the classroom, but there had to be a way to bring this program to more people.

Over the past couple of years, we kicked the can around and have finally created Working Leadership Online. After a year of testing, last month, we enrolled 110 participants and I am blown away with the results.

Every three weeks, we can bring new people into the cycle, so we are opening 50 more slots for a Free Trial. Our next Subject Area starts February 1, deals directly with the source of Accountability, and demonstrates how managers make decisions about the necessity of a task, the priority of a task and who gets the task assignment.

If you would like to participate in our next Subject Area, follow this link to Working Leadership Free Trial.

Here is what we know about our community.

  1. Our participants have a day job, as a manager.
  2. Our participants are really busy.
  3. Our participants want to be more effective, now.

This is Real
Working Leadership Online is practical. There are no quizzes or tests. There is no make-work. This is not extra work. The Field Work is real.

At Your Pace
Participants login on their schedule.

Unforgettable
The problem with most training programs is they stop. After a few classes, it’s over, good luck. Working Leadership Online goes year-round. It changes the way you think about your role as a manager.

How This Works
Your first Subject Area is on us. Then you decide. We are holding the next 50 slots. Word is already on the street, so we expect to close this offer in the next few days.

Here’s Some Feedback

This program is anti-matter to today’s barage of costly management solutions. The program covered a great deal of critical leadership material that managers can immediately benefit from. -Cathy Darby

Some people live online and I’m not one of them. I’d much rather be in a human presence. Having said that, after Tom’s first response he won me over. His honesty and feedback is invaluable. -Jane Hein

There’s a lot of valuable information in this course that isn’t easily available elsewhere, and the coaching from Tom in addition to accountability for actually carrying out the assignments makes for a solid learning experience. Keep up the good work. The online format makes the course accessible, and makes it easy to put into practice directly in a work environment. -Erik LaBianca

www.workingleadership.com

Here is the schedule for the coming year.

2010 Subject Area Schedule (Total 15 Subject Areas in 2010)

  • Jan 11 – Planning – Your 2010 Business Plan – COMPLETED
  • Feb 1 – Goal Setting – The Essence of Time Span
  • Feb 22 – Decision Making – Time Span of Discretion
  • Mar 15 – Managing Time – Managing Yourself
  • Apr 5 – Spring Break
  • Apr 12 – Communication – Mineral Rights Conversation
  • May 3 – Delegation – Leveraging Time Span Capability
  • May 24 – Control Systems and Feedback Loops
  • Jun 14 – Team Problem Solving – Time Span Inside a Team
  • Jul 5 – Summer Break
  • Jul 12 – Coaching – Bringing Value as a Manager
  • Aug 2 – Coaching Underperformance – Time Span and the Employment Contract
  • Aug 23 – Coaching High Performance – Time Span and Maximum Capability
  • Sep 13 – Fall Break
  • Sep 20 – Managerial Authorities – Time Span and Accountability
  • Oct 11 – Managerial Authorities – Time Span and Hiring Talent
  • Nov 1- Time Span and Effectiveness
  • Nov 22 – Break (Thanksgiving USA)
  • Nov 29 – Bringing Out the Best In People
  • Dec 20-Jan 9, 2011 Winter Break

Reserve your spot today – Working Leadership Free Trial

What Gets in the Way of Planning?

I asked Ellyn to create a list of reasons why planning might be important to her team. Here’s her list –

  • We are more efficient when we plan.
  • We can use planning to set effective goals.
  • Planning gets everyone on the same page.
  • Planning helps us explore contingencies.

So, I asked her why she didn’t plan more often. It took a few long seconds as she sank back in her chair.

“You know,” she started, nodding her head, “sometimes it just doesn’t seem to be worth the trouble. So, here’s my list for that.

  • We have too many other emergencies to deal with today.
  • We can’t get everyone together, schedules are too difficult.
  • Even if we plan it, things never work out that way, anyway, why plan?”

So, what’s your list. What gets in your way of planning?

Merry Christmas to All

Today caught up with me. Running hard, just like you.

It has been a wild year, but then we knew it would turn out this way. We’ve worked hard to prepare, get our balance sheets in order, wean off debt, and say goodbye to some of our favorite people. It was those last goodbyes that were the most difficult, those we hoped we could keep, but couldn’t after all.

And some companies are recovering, while others still see the road ahead in trouble.

Some of what we know will no longer be valid. Some old solutions will no longer fit new problems. It will require our brightest mind and sharpest execution. And it will always come down to this.

Find a market need big enough.
Build a product or service to meet it.
Then produce it faster, better and cheaper than your competitor.

But, now it is time to rest and enjoy the holidays with family and friends. Management Skills Blog will return on January 4, 2010. And now this story, first published here in 2005.
__
As Matthew looked across the manufacturing floor, the machines stood silent, the shipping dock was clear. Outside, the service vans were neatly parked in a row. Though he was the solitary figure, Matthew shouted across the empty space.

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night.”

He reached for the switch and the mercury vapors went dark. He slid out the door and locked it behind.

It’s Almost Over

The race to the end of 2009 is on, and so is our special offer for Working Leadership Online. Our special price of $100 for an annual membership is expiring on December 31 at midnight. When the ball drops, it’s over.

Sign up, now. Special Price – Working Leadership Online.

Why would you want to become a part of this community.

  • As your company comes out of this recession, you have to bring on new people and build new teams.
  • You truly want to make a change in your effectiveness, as a manager.
  • The last thing you have time for, right now, is to take time out of your work day to attend a management program.

This is real.
There are no quizzes, just practical application.

Work on your pace.
You complete all the work on your own time, at your pace. Yet the program is highly interactive with other participants.

Specific to your role.
This program is specifically targeted to you, in your role, as a manager.

Follow this link for your special price. Special Price – Working Leadership Online.

2010 Subject Area Schedule (Total 15 Subject Areas in 2010)

  • Jan 11 – Planning – Your 2010 Business Plan
  • Feb 1 – Goal Setting – The Essence of Time Span
  • Feb 22 – Decision Making – Time Span of Discretion
  • Mar 15 – Managing Time – Managing Yourself
  • Apr 5 – Spring Break
  • Apr 12 – Communication – Mineral Rights Conversation
  • May 3 – Delegation – Leveraging Time Span Capability
  • May 24 – Control Systems and Feedback Loops
  • Jun 14 – Team Problem Solving – Time Span Inside a Team
  • Jul 5 – Summer Break
  • Jul 12 – Coaching – Bringing Value as a Manager
  • Aug 2 – Coaching Underperformance – Time Span and the Employment Contract
  • Aug 23 – Coaching High Performance – Time Span and Maximum Capability
  • Sep 13 – Fall Break
  • Sep 20 – Managerial Authorities – Time Span and Accountability
  • Oct 11 – Managerial Authorities – Time Span and Hiring Talent
  • Nov 1- Time Span and Effectiveness
  • Nov 22 – Break (Thanksgiving USA)
  • Nov 29 – Bringing Out the Best In People
  • Dec 20-Jan 9, 2011 Winter Break

See you online. -Tom Foster

Giving Thanks

We gathered around the table. In a brief moment, the conversations stopped. Glances exchanged over the food prepared. And we gave thanks.

Management Skills Blog will return next Monday following the Thanksgiving holiday. For those signed up for Working Leadership Online, Monday also kicks off our next Subject Area – Bringing Out the Best in People.

Happy Thanksgiving.