Monthly Archives: November 2011

Getting Along with the Boss

One of the most important actions you, as a middle manager, needs to do is develop a good working relationship with your immediate supervisor.  Our positions exist to support and assist those above us in the hierarchy.

In order to do that, we need to communicate with our supervisor.  Here is a short list of some key information we need:

  • What are her primary goals? (Focus on the 1-2 that you can have the biggest impact on)
  • What are her priorities right now? (Not just what is urgent, but what is important)
  • How does she prefer to work? (Early or late arrival at work?, stay late, work weekends? in office, out on floor, at home, coffee shop?)
  • How does she prefer to communicate? (Weekly or monthly reports?  Formal written, email, verbal, phone call, hallway report?)

Information such as this helps you to set priorities and provide your supervisor with what she needs to be successful.  With patience, it can even reduce or eliminate micromanagement by our supervisor.

One of the ways to communicate with your supervisor is to schedule a regular meeting.  In a that meeting, discuss three areas:

(a)  Report what has happened in the recent past.  Mostly this will be successes and progress you’ve achieved.  Sometimes it will be a heads up of negative issues that might be developing.

(b) Provide a brief description about areas or issues you intend to focus on in the near future.

(c)   Inquire about changes in your supervisors priorities.

The meeting should be short, maybe 15-30 minutes. Regularly scheduling this meeting will help you keep your supervisor informed and you on track supporting both your and your supervisors priorities.

Studies show that about 75% of all people who leave jobs, do so because of a poor relationship with their supervisor.  While a lot of the responsibility for relationships may be on the supervisor, each of us can improve the situation as we improve communication with our supervisors and managers.

What actions would you suggest to improve upward communication?

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People Are Like Seeds

An experienced gardener recognizes that some seeds/seedlings grow better in certain climates and soils.  Instead of planting any seed in any climate or ground, she selects varieties that will thrive in the soil and climate where the garden is located.

As leaders in the workplace, the same principle applies.  The book Good to Great by Jim Collins tells us that the very best organizations ‘get the right people on the bus’.  They don’t get caught in the “he was the best  we could find” mentality (for proper effect, shrug your shoulders here with a resigned ‘sigh’) .  They search harder to find the right person for the job.  They carefully define the job so they know just exactly what qualities they need.  They structure the interview to gather the information that will tell them how well each candidate meets those criteria.  And if they don’t have someone in this round of interviews that will be a good fit, they continue the search.  Recently I became aware of a position that an organization finally filled after a year-long search.  They weren’t dragging their feet or just unable to make a decision.  They just had a clear picture of what was needed and were unwilling to settle for less.

People, like seeds, will prosper better if the situation and job fit their needs, temperament, personality, skill and/or knowledge level.

What steps would you suggest to better select the right people?

Communication & Weeds

Leadership is like growing a garden.  Tilling the soil represents our communication.  As we loosen the soil we remove weeds.  Weeds lead to wasted resources, wasted effort, and reduced productivity.  A leader that doesn’t eliminate the weeds in the workplace will have people that are doing the wrong things, in the wrong way, at the wrong time.

In the workplace, we eliminate weeds through effective communication.  And weeds crop up constantly in gardens and the workplace.  A few small weeds are a small problem, but if they are allowed to grow, they become large and numerous, and clearing them out takes substantially more effort.

To eradicate weeds in the workplace, I’d suggest leaders need to build multiple channels of communication with their subordinates.  A minimum of four channel types are needed – (a) informal one-to-one, (b) formal one-to-one, (c) informal team, and (d) formal team.

The informal one-to-one provides a setting to enable us to get to know people and build a positive relationship with team members. Also, it helps us pull small weeds as they come up.

The formal one-to-one gives us a forum to remove bigger weeds and provides a return/report function that builds accountability.

The informal team setting allows us to convey information that is important, but neither dramatic or traumatic.  This channel can stop weeds before they begin.

The formal team channel provides a setting for training, addressing broad issues and team problem-solving.  It is the place for the dramatic and traumatic that affects the entire team.

The leader that uses all four channels will have a well-weeded garden.

What are some of the methods of communication you’ve seen used effectively?