Tag Archives: manager

Next Class – Hiring Talent – April 18, 2016

We are gathering the next group for our online program Hiring Talent which kicks off April 18, 2016. As the economy recovers, your next hires are critical. This is not a time to be casual about the hiring process. Mistakes are too expensive and margins are too thin.

Purpose of this program – to train managers and HR specialists in the discipline of conducting more effective interviews in the context of a managed recruiting process.

Candidate Interview

How long is the program? We streamlined the program so that it can be completed in six weeks. We have also added a self-paced feature so participants can work through the program even faster.

How do people participate in the program? This is an online program conducted by Tom Foster. Participants will be responsible for online assignments and participate in online facilitated discussion groups with other participants. This online platform is highly interactive. Participants will interact with Tom Foster and other participants as they work through the program.

Who should participate? This program is designed for Stratum III and Stratum IV managers and HR managers who play active roles in the recruiting process for their organizations.

What is the cost? The program investment is $499 per participant. Vistage members receive a $100 credit, so $399.

When is the program scheduled? Pre-registration is now open. The program is scheduled to kick-off April 18, 2016 with Orientation.

How much time is required to participate in this program? Participants should reserve approximately 2 hours per week. This program is designed so participants can complete their assignments on their own schedule anytime during each week’s assignment period.

Pre-register now. No payment due at this time.

April 18, 2016

  • Orientation

Week One – Role Descriptions – It’s All About the Work

  • What we are up against
  • Specific challenges in the process
  • Problems in the process
  • Defining the overall process
  • Introduction to the Role Description
  • Organizing the Role Description
  • Defining Tasks
  • Defining Goals
  • Identifying the Level of Work

Week Two

  • Publish and discuss Role Descriptions

Week Three – Interviewing for Future Behavior

  • Creating effective interview questions
  • General characteristics of effective questions
  • How to develop effective questions
  • How to interview for attitudes and non-behavioral elements
  • How to interview for Time Span
  • Assignment – Create a bank of interview questions for the specific role description

Week Four

  • Publish and discuss bank of interview questions

Week Five – Conducting the Interview

  • Organizing the interview process
  • Taking Notes during the process
  • Telephone Screening
  • Conducting the telephone interview
  • Conducting the face-to-face interview
  • Working with an interview team
  • Compiling the interview data into a Decision Matrix
  • Background Checks, Reference Checks
  • Behavioral Assessments
  • Drug Testing
  • Assignment – Conduct a face-to-face interview

Week Six

  • Publish and discuss results of interview process

Pre-registration is now open for this program. No payment is due at this time. See you online. -Tom

Don’t Be the Critical Parent

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

Question:
I’m a new manager for a staff of about 65 people. It seems that my predecessor was not a good manager. I was left with people misinformed about company and regulatory policies. Anytime I point out something being done incorrectly, I end up being the bad guy. I’ve tried to be nice, explain my reasoning and show proof, but it doesn’t work. They just keep saying the previous manager didn’t tell them. One staff member even called another department to complain. How can I get them to listen and comply with rules and regulatory policies we have to follow? Should I start writing people up or just keep explaining myself?

Response:
One thing I learned a long time ago, no one listens to me. It doesn’t matter how brilliant I am. It doesn’t matter how I nail the solution to the problem, I get no respect. It’s the Rodney effect.

Why should they listen to you? Whatever you have to say, means a change for them. And it doesn’t matter if you are right.

There is one person, however, they will listen to. If you can figure out who that person is, and get that person to dispense the helpful advice, you will make some headway.

I have found the only person from whom people will take negative criticism is themselves. The advice has to come from them.

Here is how I would start. Observe the kinds of things that people are doing outside of guidelines and policies, take some notes and build a list. Then call a meeting to discuss how we could make improvements in various areas. Describe one difficulty or problem or one process in which we would like a different result. Divide the team into smaller groups of 2-3 to brainstorm ideas to get the best ideas, then invite team members to take the new actions and try them out.

I would conduct these five minute meetings 2-3 times per week, looking at all kinds of ways to make improvements. Pretty soon, they will see new ideas you never thought of. And you don’t have to be the critical parent.

Keep Them or Transition Them Out

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
In an attempt to retain their highest producers, a call center instituted an incentive plan that highly favored a group of seven. These “Magnificent Seven,” as the partners called them, did produce a high percentage of the revenues. But they were also highly dysfunctional as a group as each one was high maintenance with lots of personal baggage in his/her own right. While the reward system worked to retain these seven, the churn rate for the remaining 23 seats was over 400%. In effect, the incentives to retain seven people came at the expense of morale, work environment, job satisfaction and even the bottom line. The cost of continuously replacing the 23 employees far exceeded the benefit of retaining the seven. Your thoughts?

Response:
So, if I was a direct manager and needed high volume sales for only the next three months, I would go the M-7 every time. But, that is not the way most organizations work. Most organizations need sustained revenue over years and decades. Most organizations need a sustainable system of sales which contemplates sales methodology, recruiting, orientation, portfolio growth, levels of work, promotion and retirement. This goes back to time span.

Three months time span – Magnificent Seven
Ten year time span – Not the Magnificent Seven

What to Delegate, What to Self-Perform?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
Here is what I have noticed about levels of work. When a leader works at a lower (incorrect) level, he/she actually destroys value in the people on the team. The team becomes frustrated and honestly sometimes, lazy, because the boss will come in and do the work anyway.

Response:
Most managers have difficulty delegating because they don’t understand the level of work in the task. Identifying level of work tells the manager specifically what tasks can effectively be delegated and what tasks must be self-performed. In the delegation, level of work tells the manager what decisions, authority and accountability can reasonably be expected. This understanding allows managers to engage in higher levels of system design, planning and problem prevention.

How to Evaluate the Effectiveness of a Manager

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
First of all thank you for your help with understanding Elliott Jaques methodology. I am interested in applying it in one of the banks where I’m working currently.

Could you please advise a practical tool of installing a simple and reliable system of performance appraisal based upon the principle that it is the direct manager who is accountable for the results of his/her subordinates?

There is a good example in Social Power & the CEO of how to arrange personal effectiveness evaluation system of rank and file staff. However it does not say anything about how to evaluate managers.

Response:
The distinguishing factor between most performance appraisals and Jaques personal effectiveness appraisal is that it requires the manager to use judgement in considering all the factors surrounding a team member’s effectiveness. This requires the manager to look at ALL the variables surrounding output, only one of which is the team member’s performance.

Jaques uses the example of concrete pouring. In some companies, a performance appraisal considers only the output, how many yards of concrete were poured during an 8-hour shift. Irrespective of how direct labor shows up to work on time, uses their best effort to locate the truck properly and guide the concrete into the forms, the actual output may have more to do with the moisture content of the mix in the truck. Sometimes, travel time between the mixing plant and the pour site delivers a HOT batch, where the chemical setting up is already occurring before the truck even arrives at the site. Or the moisture content of the sand/rock mix may be too high and creates a slurry mix. All of these variables will have an impact on output in spite of the best efforts of the pouring crew.

A personal effectiveness appraisal requires the manager to take all those factors into account when asking the simple questions – Is the team member as effective as someone in the top half of the role or the bottom half? And in that half, top, middle or bottom?

Now, how to translate that to managerial roles? It’s the same.

The problem with managerial roles, is that we seldom define the work. What is the WORK of a manager?

Most managers receive no guidance related to the WORK of a manager. That is why the role description is so critical. But, most role descriptions are poorly organized, a list of non-sequitur tasks that provide no guidance to priority or objective.

An effective role description takes that list and groups the tasks that go together and separates the tasks that don’t go together. The tasks are now grouped into key areas (Key Result Areas – KRAs). The effective role description now clearly defines the output (goal, objective, accountability) in each KRA. The process is no different for a managerial role, but the KRAs are different and include a different level of work. Here are some typical managerial KRAs found in most managerial roles.

  • Team selection
  • Production system
  • Team training
  • Output planning
  • Quality control
  • Resource coordination (equipment, materials, tools)
  • Capital equipment budgets
  • Workforce planning

An effective role description will describe the required tasks/activities and state the accountability (output, goal, objective).

With this role description, in each KRA –
Is the manager as effective as someone in the top half of the role or the bottom half? And in that half, top, middle or bottom?

If you would like to receive by email, a template that organizes this review, just Ask Tom. A detailed discussion of KRAs in the role description can be found in Hiring Talent.

Should HR Be Involved in Terminations

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
Is it common practice for HR to be directly involved in the termination of an employee?

Response:
This question speaks to the larger role for HR in any organization. And, while some things may be common practice, common practice may often create problems.

It is an excellent idea to include HR in all processes related to de-selection and termination. There are several compliance issues related to continuance of health insurance, severance conditions and eligibility for unemployment compensation. Often these issues require specific documents and sequence that I do NOT expect managers to be expert on. Managers need to have a sound understanding, but I do not expect them to be expert.

I do not expect HR to be the “hatchet.” In the same way that managers are accountable for selection, they are also accountable for de-selection and termination.

In ALL cases, managers should be actively coached by their manager on all things related to the team. That active coaching is NOT an event, but a constant, scheduled conversation about workforce requirements, utilization, team capacity and individual capability within the team.

In the instance of termination, my rule is “two sets of eyes.” The manager and the manager-once-removed must agree on termination. A third set of eyes, from HR, is always a good idea to make sure the process is conducted within established guidelines.

Whose Goal?

“What changed?” I asked.

“I told the team that if they failed to reach the goal, I am the one accountable. I told them that I would no longer yell at them if we didn’t meet the output target,” Glen explained.

“You are not going to yell? What are you, getting soft on me, turning into a nice guy?”

“This has nothing to do with being nice. This has everything to do with accountability. I realized that, as the manager, I control all the resources. I can modify the method of work, I can make adjustments to deal with unforeseen circumstances, I can add team members, I can authorize overtime, I can reassign some of the work to someone else, I can call the client and re-negotiate a partial delivery. As the manager, I control resources. It’s me. I am the one accountable for the output of the team. It’s my goal.”

“And, how did your team respond?”

“Amazing. They said they would help me.”

How to Get a Team Member to Ask for Help (when they need it)

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I have a member of my team that works hard and handles day to day tasks well, but, when his plate gets a little too full, I often don’t find out about it until after an issue happens with a client. I do my best to stay on top of his task list and he knows he can always ask me for help, he just doesn’t. Every client has different times where they are busy and times they are quiet so I need my team to let me know when they need additional resources to hit their deadlines. I think not-asking for help is a mixture of pride and a lack of foresight to see trouble coming. As his manager, how can I help make this situation better (without looking over his shoulder all day, every day)?

Response:
Little problems, allowed to fester, become big problems. And, as the manager, you would have fixed the little problem (when it was easy to fix) if you had only known.

This situation has several parts to it –

  • The team member’s recognition the problem exists.
  • The team member’s understanding where to go for help.
  • The team member’s mindset (belief) about the problem and the channels for help.

Problem Recognition
As the manager, given the same circumstance, you would have recognized the problem or at least the potential for a problem. Your team member may not see what you see, yet, you rely on your team member to spot the trouble. Spend time with your team, in general discussion, on problem identification. You can start with debriefs of completed projects.

  • What did we expect?
  • What went well?
  • What went wrong?
  • How did we find out what went wrong?
  • How can we recognize something-going-wrong next time?
  • When we recognize something-going-wrong, what can we do about it?

Next move to existing projects and ask the same questions.

  • What do we expect in this current project?
  • What do we do well, what are our strengths?
  • What could go wrong?
  • How will we find out something is about to go wrong?
  • How will we recognize something is about to go wrong?
  • When we recognize something about to go wrong, what can we do to prevent it?

Channels for Help
These debrief meetings lead into project status meetings. A project going OKAY doesn’t really tell us much. Create some sort of shorthand or code that describes specific states of projects. You can use project stages, color codes, alphabet codes. You pick. Most importantly, identify the code level when the decision is in the hands of the team member and the code level when the decision needs to surface to the manager.

I am suggesting a formal structure that guides your team to ask for help. As the manager, you are currently trusting the team member to make a decision without context. Create a context that provides specific guidelines about when and how to ask for help. Your team can (and will) help you create this context as part of the project debriefs.

Culture
Culture is a set of beliefs that provide context for behavior. Without context, the team member will create their own context, which can be misguided to the purpose of the project. Most team members do not think about the future implications of problems allowed to fester. Here are some questions to structure what we believe about the future of the problem.

  • If nothing is done, what will happen in a day?
  • If nothing is done, what will happen in a week?
  • If nothing is done, what will happen in a month?
  • If nothing is done, what will happen in a year?

Ask your team to collectively imagine into the future. It is a powerful way for a manager to get in touch with current mindsets and create a context to anticipate and prevent problems in the future. Change the context, behavior follows.

How HR Can Help Resolve a Conflict

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I have a question about how to resolve conflicts between a manager and a team member. Is this a role that is appropriate for HR, or should the conflict be resolved by the MOR (Manager Once Removed)?

Response:
I am a big fan of the HR role. HR roles help bring discipline to all those functions that involve humans. And, many times, our problems are created by a lack of discipline.

  • Lack of discipline in the hiring process
  • Lack of discipline in context setting
  • Lack of discipline in the delegation process
  • Lack of discipline in the planning process
  • Lack of discipline in project reviews
  • Lack of discipline in effectiveness reviews

And, where HR can help in discipline, accountability still rests with the manager and the MOR.

You asked about a conflict between the manager and the team member. In all situations, I need more detail, but I assume most conflicts would be about work method or priority conflict. In some cases, there may be a conflict related to underperformance or misbehavior. In all cases, it is still the manager and the MOR who are accountable for resolving the conflict.

If the conflict is about work method or priority conflict, the team member is accountable for giving best advice. The manager is accountable to consider the advice and make an appropriate decision. If the two are still at loggerheads, the manager should seek advice and coaching from their manager (the MOR). Either manager can seek advice from the HR professional, but the manager and MOR are accountable for the decision and the consequence of that decision.

If the conflict is about underperformance or misbehavior, the discussion is different, but the accountability is the same. Elliott Jaques always traced underperformance or misbehavior to one of these four absolutes –

  • Capability
  • Skill (technical knowledge and practice)
  • Interest or passion for the work, value for the work
  • Required behaviors (contracted behaviors, habits or culture)

Elliott would also expect the manager to know which of these four absolutes contributed to the underperformance or misbehavior. The underlying cause might lead to more training, coaching or de-selection.

No matter the resolution, while HR can assist in the discipline of the process, the accountability remains with the manager and the MOR.

How a Manager Creates Context

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
We have plenty of time to fight fires but never any time to make a plan of attack and everyone pull their weight. We are a bunch of individuals doing our own “thing” without the total picture perspective. We are the “managers” in the business. But we don’t manage; we fight the next fire, sometimes of our own creation. When other managers are not concerned with how their tactics affect the next process in line, the culture will not change. It’s a culture of, now that my part is done, I wash my hands of the problem and pass it along to the next manager to deal with. No ownership of the problem, so, no solution that benefits everyone. How can the culture change when the people with the culture don’t want to change?

Response:
One of the most important contributions for every manager is to create context. No behavior is isolated. ALL behavior exists inside of a context.

Context is a mental state. Wilfred Bion calls this the Basic Assumption Mental State (shortened to BAMS by Pat Murray). If, as a manager, you don’t understand the behavior, all you have to do is get in touch with the Basic Assumption Mental State or the context held in the mind of the team member. What do they believe, in that moment, about the context surrounding their behavior?

If a manager does not create the context for a team member’s behavior, the team member is free to make it up. (Because all behavior exists inside of some context.)

Let me muse about the context of your team members.

  • The most important thing around here is not to get blamed for anything.
  • The most important thing around here is to make sure, if you make a mistake, it does not get connected back to you, that someone else can be blamed.
  • The most important thing around here is that if you make a mistake, make sure it cannot be discovered in your work area, or your part of the process.

If this is what the team member believes (BAMS), what context has been created by the manager that supports those beliefs?

If you want to change the behavior, the manager has to change the context for the behavior. Gustavo Grodnitsky simply says, “Change the context, behavior follows.”

Step one, for the manager, is to determine the constructive context to gain the appropriate behavior. Then make that context visible, by example, by discussion, by observation, by consequence.
If you are a manager, what is the context to gain constructive contribution from your team?

  • Goal – this is where vision statement, mission statements come in. Most are pabulum that do NOT contribute to context that drives behavior. But try this one from Southwest Airlines – Wheels up. That’s it. That’s the context. Everything a team member does should support getting an aircraft quickly (and safely) into the air. Southwest found they make more money when their planes are in the air than they do when their planes on the ground.
  • Accountability – we normally place accountability one level-of-work too low on the team. In describing level-of-work, Elliott Jaques clearly identified the manager as the person accountable for the output of the team. This one Basic Assumption Mental State, that the manager is accountable for output, is a game-changer.
  • Example – every manager is in a fishbowl and every team member is watching. “Do as I say, not as I do,” creates disaster. Lead by example is not simply a nice leadership principle. Humans are wired to mirror behavior they see. Blaming and punitive behavior by the manager creates acceptable mirroring behavior on the part of the team.
  • Discussion – the manager can talk about context with the team, or the team can talk about context at the water cooler. The manager gets to pick.
  • Observation – the manager is in a position to observe behavior and bring attention to those behaviors that are constructive and point out behaviors that are counterproductive. The manager is in a unique position to breathe life into behavior, for better, or worse. You get the behavior you focus on.
  • Consequences – what happens in the face of underperformance? Is it punishment and blame, or is it learning and improvement?

Context drives behavior. Managers create context or allow team members to make up their own. Change the context, behavior follows.