Bringing Value as a Manager

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
You described one role of a manager is to bring value to the decision making and problem solving of the team, collectively and individually. Let’s say I buy that. How does a manager do that? How does a manager bring that value?

Response:
The role of the manager is to bring value to the problem solving and decision making of the team. Easy to say, more difficult to do.

How does a manager bring that value?

I spend hundreds of hours each year coaching CEOs. You are not privileged to those 1-1 conversations, but can you imagine that I tell each of my clients how to run their business?

The answer is no, they wouldn’t listen to me anyway. So, how do I, or how does any manager bring value to that 1-1 conversation? When the level of work creeps up and there is uncertainty in decision making and problem solving, how does the manager bring value?

The most effective managers are not those who tell people what to do, but those who ask the most effective questions.

If There Were No Managers?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
You talked about the Peter Principle, how at some point everyone in a hierarchy gets promoted to their level of incompetence. I see this as a problem with hierarchy. Get rid of the hierarchy and let people settle in roles where they feel comfortable.

Response:
One reason you think the problem is hierarchy, you think it exists to create a reporting protocol. Here’s the bad news. You think you are a manager so people can report to you. Not true.

You are a manager to bring value to the decision making and problem solving of your team, collectively and individually. If there were no managers, there would be no one with the accountability to bring that value.

I hear people rail against hierarchy with tomes about self directed work groups and holocracy. Hierarchy exists for a very specific reason. When the level of work creeps up, hierarchy provides the structure to create that value stream, where managers bring value to the decision making and problem solving of the team.

Incompetence

From the Ask Tom mailbag-

Question:
When I read this article, I think about Timespan and you. I hope this quote is not accurate.

“In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his or her level of incompetence. Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence. In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties.”

Response:
Sadly, this is true. We tend to promote people to a level of incompetence, and then hope and pray. This understanding was popularized in a book by Lawrence J. Peter published in 1969, called the Peter Principle. The Peter Principle is alive and well.

The solution to this dilemma is easy. From now on, no one in your organization gets a promotion. They earn promotions (or even lateral moves) by demonstrating competence in the task assignments contained in the new role. You test people with project work. And, in that project, you must embed decision making and problem at that next higher level. The same goes for a lateral move where there is a new skill set.

Counter-Intuitive Response

In the sport of snow skiing, control is achieved by counter-intuitive thinking. As speed increases, and the skier becomes “out of control,” conventional thinking causes the skier to lean backwards. This disastrous response moves the front edges of the skis off of the snow creating less control and increasing speed. The counter-intuitive response is to shift the body-weight forward, creating leverage on the front edges of the skis, giving the skier the ability to turn out of the fall line, resulting in skier control and a decrease of speed.

I see many managers attempt to gain “control” of their teams using force, command and control, threat of firing. Those of us with children know the futility of these efforts. The counter intuitive response is to ask questions instead of telling, to ask for commitment instead of demanding. It takes more time, requires more patience and has a longer lasting impact. Sometimes it even works with children.

Avoid the Hazard

The paceline moved north, into a headwind, pulling 18mph. “Walker up!” The shout came from the lead cyclist on the nose. He pulled his right hand off the handlebars, arm straight out, pointing to the pedestrian in the bike lane. A second later, his right hand dropped, waved the pace line left, out of the bike lane into the active traffic lane. Though the group may not have seen the walker, each cyclist in the line knew about the hazard and knew to follow the lead bike into the active traffic lane to avoid it.

Intentional, agreed-upon communication. It was simple, efficient and effective. As the paceline continued north, there were other hazards to avoid, potholes, a tree branch in the road, narrowing traffic lanes, overtaking cars. Through a series of hand signals and audible shouts, the group made its way safely through urban traffic.

How does your team communicate in its daily routine? Do they have simple, efficient protocols to warn of impending hazards, delays, material shortages? Do they have agreed-upon signals to provide each other with feedback?

Chances are good that prior to a delay, prior to a material shortage, prior to a change in schedule, somebody knew. Someone could have warned the group and the group could have acted according to an agreed-upon protocol.

Get your team together and play the “what if” game. Find out what problems occur often and how they are best solved. Then create the “signal.”

“Walker up!”
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We are putting the finishing touches on Hiring Talent 2019. Pre-registration is now open.

Shell Game for Amateurs

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
You talk about time-leverage. You talk about working one hour to gain two hours productivity. How does that work?

Response:
No manager can afford to work very long at a time ratio of 1:1. Working one hour to gain one hour’s productivity is a shell game for amateurs. Even working managers have to devote a significant focus to time-leveraged activities. How do you work for one hour and gain two hour’s productivity, or work one hour and gain five hours productivity?

The central element of leverage is delegation. Take project that would take you five hours to complete. Call a 20-minute meeting with three of your team members. In the meeting, you describe your vision for project completion and the performance standards for project completion (including quality and time frame). The rest of the twenty minutes is a discussion of the action steps , resources and who will be responsible for what. The three team members each take a portion of the project, two 10-minute follow-up meetings are scheduled and off we go. As the manager, you end end up with one-hour of meetings, your team members work the five hours of the project. You work for one hour, you get five hours of productivity. (1:5)

Here’s is the challenge, what does (1:10) look like? I consistently work with executives whose goal is (1:100), that is one hour’s work to produce one-hundred hours of productivity. How about you, what is your ratio?
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Hiring Talent 2019 (our interactive hiring program) is scheduled for release, Mon, Jan 7, 2019.

The Land of Dangerfield

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question
I don’t know how to gain their respect. Sometime in the meeting, it’s as if they are not even listening to me. They nod and agree, promise to follow through. The next day, they are back to the same non-productive behavior. They don’t even respect the meeting. They show up late, sometimes not at all. Where are their priorities?

Response
Rodney lives on in the lives of many managers. Expecting respect, demanding respect didn’t work for Mr. Dangerfield and doesn’t work for most managers.

You will never gain respect until you, as their manager, bring value to their problem solving and decision making.

Stop thinking about yourself, start thinking about your team. If you, as a manager, want to bring value to the thinking and work of your team members, start by asking questions. Through questions, you can help them clarify, explore, challenge, plan and follow-up.

In my years in the classroom, I found that no one really listens to me, anyway. So, I stopped lecturing and started asking questions. Something happened. My students started to learn from themselves.

Start. Start asking questions that bring value to the problem solving and decision making of your team. Rodney will rest in peace.

Oh, if you are not getting the response you want, you are asking the wrong question. Happy New Year!
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Hiring Talent 2019 (our interactive hiring program) is scheduled for release, Mon, Jan 7, 2019.

Happy Holidays

The year is winding down. I am tucked away in a snow bunker somewhere in Utah. Management Blog will return January 3, 2019, in its 15th year of publication. For now, a reprise of our Christmas Holiday greeting originally published December 2005.
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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.

More Than The Thought That Counts

It’s not the thought that counts. It’s the hug, the squeezed hand, the warm smile, sharing a cup of coffee, dropping by, saying hello, listening.

It’s the card from a friend with a special note, calling to talk about things more important than the weather.

It’s sitting with a family member through a tough time, standing up for someone in their proudest moment.

Sometimes it’s just showing up and being fully present.

Want to Build Your Business?

This is how it starts. In the beginning, the founder has an idea. This could be a hare-brained concept or even a hobby. (Some hobbies should stay hobbies.) But, the founder, not being able to resist, transforms the hobby into a business.

Admittedly, it is a little business, and who is doing all the work? The founder, of course. Is there work left over? There is always work left over.

So, the founder hires the first employees, mostly friends and family, because no one else will work for those paltry wages. And, what do these people do? A little bit of everything. The founder organizes the work around the people, asking what each employee (friend or family member) does well. “What do you do well?”

Indeed, there is some of that work to go around, and around. The work is organized around the people (scarce resources). Is there work left over? There is always work left over.

The strategic focus for this startup organization is all about sales. Without sales, this fragile organization dies. And, in the beginning, these don’t have to be profitable sales, because in the beginning, the founder puts all the expenses on a credit card, line of credit, whatever it takes to get the company off the ground.

This is proof of concept time. Is there a customer out there, anywhere, willing to buy our product or service, at any price. Why would a customer buy? There must be an angle, something unique. Oh, it must also be cheaper.

All of this requires energy and hard work. Success depends on it. The problem is, the just dessert for hard work is – more hard work.