Management Success Tip #179: Let the Three Good Things Game Lift Your Work-Mood

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When things are going well, and your employees are all exceeding your expectations (except for Sam, but then, hey, “into every life” and all that), you’re in a great mood, flying high, life is good.

When things aren’t, you grind your teeth, your stomach is a mess, you can’t sleep the night through if you can even get to sleep in the first place, and you wonder why oh why did you ever accept that promotion to the supposedly magical land of manager-hood?

Time to play the “Three Good Things” game!

Research by Joyce E. Bono and Theresa M. Glomb shows that when people at work were asked to find three good things from their day and then write about them for about ten minutes that night, their stress was reduced, they had fewer mental and physical complaints, and they felt more positive about their work.

I don’t care how crappy a day it was, you can always find three things to be grateful for. Maybe it’s the fact that you’re still breathing. Hey, that’s a plus! Maybe it’s that most of your employees were where they were supposed to be, and on time, even if what they were doing wasn’t up to par. They showed up! That’s step one. Maybe it’s that you figured out what the problem was that was slowing up production. That’s going to be even more important in the weeks to come.

Not bad, altogether. And with the simple expedience of finding three positive things in your day, no matter how seemingly small, and why they mattered, your stress level diminished. Which means more room was freed up in your brain for creative thinking. Which means tomorrow is likely to be a more productive day.

Three things! When you’ve mastered three, go for four or five or ten. Your stress level will diminish accordingly, and your happiness factor most definitely increase.

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Management Success Tip #175: 3 Steps to Getting Employee-Resented Tasks Done: Give a Reason, Get Real, Give a Reward

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Into every manager’s life must fall those tasks you hate to inflict upon your team, yet must get done. Mainly because they’ve been inflicted on you by your higher-ups . . . or just because it’s that time of year.

It’s tempting to say to your team “Just do it!” and stuff your ears with cotton wads so you don’t hear their grumbling. It doesn’t work well with your kids, you should hardly be surprised that it doesn’t work well with your team either. Oh, they may do the task, but half-heartedly, not thoroughly, and with zero enthusiasm. Which disinterest may then bleed into other parts of their work, which is a shame, because they’re usually high-functioning.

There’s an easy 3-step fix: give them a reason, get real, give them a reward.

Give them a reason: “The image library has to be labeled and catalogued because it eats up far too much of our time to search haphazardly.” “Corporate year-end report must include our stats; if we don’t provide them, corporate will  send in an outside consultant to dig them up and that will mess with our work flow.”

Get real: “I don’t like having to do it either! I don’t like having to ask you to label and catalogue; it’s boring, mind-numbing and tedious. And yes, I’ll be taking on a chunk of it to do also. I’m not asking you to do something I won’t do.” “Yes, pulling the stats together is a real nuisance, but having an outsider poke around in our work is even more of a nuisance. Let’s get organized and get this done as painlessly and quickly as possible.”

Give them a reward: “When we’re done, I’m treating everyone to lunch/giving you all Friday afternoon off/tickets to the ball game/etc.” In a word, whatever works. Whatever pleases your team and is meaningful to them.

People respond to honesty and shared endeavor. And if you can find a way to kick in your sense of humor, so much the better.

Management Success Tip #173: Don’t Force Your Square Peg Employee into a Round Hole Job!

#173 Square peg round holeYou know the expression “square peg in a round hole”?  It’s usually used when we’re describing someone who just doesn’t fit in with something: like a very relaxed, mellow, easy-going fellow who’s joined the Armed Forces. Not likely to succeed! Unless somehow he forces his laid-back personality into the tight structure required by the military.

Well, all too often, managers can inadvertently “square peg round hole” an employee. By that I mean that at one time or another, the employee’s skill set and job matched up, but that over time, either the employee or the job changed, such that it isn’t a match any more.

Rather than determinedly try to seminar, coach, teach, partner-up and in general force your square peg employee into that round hole job, consider a different approach.

Take a moment, and evaluate your employee’s current strengths. What he/she brings to the workplace that is of great value. Now, how can you re-configure your employee’s responsibilities so that he/she is operating from those strengths? Because only when an employee is able to operate from their strengths a majority of the time, will they feel effective. And it’s only when we feel effective that we can actually be effective.

It’s in the best interests of your company and your employees, for them to be using their best skills.

Yes, it may take some juggling of responsibilities: perhaps the employee you’re working with can assume some responsibilities previously assigned to a different position, and vice versa. But the payoff in terms of increased productivity and improved performance will be worth it.

Should you allow your employee to only operate from their strengths? No. It’s healthy and stimulating to be challenged out of our comfort zone. We all need some impetus to reach and grow. However, spending too much time and effort out of one’s comfort zone eventually erodes self-confidence and with it, ability.

There’s a balance here, and a wise manager respects that. Evaluate your employee’s strengths, and proceed from there.

Management Success Tip #163: Give Employees What They Need to Know: Who? What? Why? When? How?!

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It’s common to think of job descriptions as a list of tasks or duties your employee must fulfill. Certainly, a job description has that function. However a job description has another, very important function, which too often is forgotten.

As Kristy Smith of Lead Change Group reminds us: “I would not accept a job from a company who didn’t clearly define job roles and expectations and I certainly would not lead a team without offering them. Why? Because I need to know what winning looks like. . . Without clarity and without painting the picture of what winning looks like, you can never truly measure performance. . . determining the who what why when how gets lost in the fog. When victories get lost in the fog and the “job well done” goes unrecognized, expect morale to drop.”

Don’t just hand out job descriptions, new or revamped, to employees and leave it at that. Instead, clarify roles and expectations. Specify in unmistakable terms what success looks like, and what are the rewards attached. Follow through by applauding all the victories along the way, small and large, and pointing out how those victories resulted from the accomplishment of various tasks and duties.

Morale will soar!

Management Success Tip #161: Servant-Leader: Not Just a Concept, a Powerful Success Generator

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Your CEO is espousing the concept of “servant-leader” as the latest and greatest way to build a platform from which tremendous productivity and performance will soar. And indeed, the idea of “servant-leader” sounds inspiring, even awe-inspiring: “A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong… The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.”

But as you scramble to meet this quarter’s deadlines, goals and other obligations, find someplace on your desktop to park yet another project requiring immediate attention, and winnow through today’s endless emails, texts and voicemails, all you can say is “How the heck am I supposed to be a ‘servant-leader’ along with everything else on my plate?!”

One step at a time. And the first step is easy, it consists of asking yourself a few questions, such as “What are my employees happy about? What aren’t they happy about? What are their challenges? How can I better respond to those challenges?” You know more than you think you do about what works for your employees and what doesn’t. And if you’re not sure, invite anonymous comments, make it safe for employees to share their experiences – good and bad.

Then, solicit ideas about how you can respond to employee experiences: how to amp the positive, find solutions to the negative.

And there you have it. You are now a budding servant-leader. By putting your employees’ concerns front and center (serving), you make it possible for both your workers and your company to thrive (leading to success).

Management Success Tip #159: How to Be Nice And Tough AND Successful!

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Mr/Ms Tough Guy/Gal? Mr/Ms Nice Guy/Gal? Which should you be? Our society values “tough” above almost everything else – at least according to the media – yet today’s business uber-stars, from Richard Branson to Barrie Bergman claim that you don’t have to choose: tough and nice aren’t incompatible.

But how does that work? In real life, yours for example. In the real workplace. The one you work at, day in day out.

According to Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, co-authors of “The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness,” two of the primary techniques are to listen to others, and to quit arguing your point.

Everyone has something of value to contribute. It may be a contribution of more or less worth, given the situation, but everyone deserves a respectful listen.

That’s where nice meets tough appropriately. The nice part is where you listen, genuinely, with respect, to your employee’s input. Where you listen for the value in what your employee has to say. And that you give his or her contribution the same consideration you give everyone else’s. The tough part is where you decide how to use the input, given all the other issues that must be considered.

Secondly, don’t argue your point. There’s a world of difference between stating your position, and arguing it. I conduct focus groups for attorneys (among other things) – it’s a great way pre-trial of uncovering issues, developing themes, and so forth. It fascinates me how some attorneys feel the need to argue with the mock jurors about the “verdict” they rendered, rather than respect the information gleaned from the group, and consider its value when shaping their case.

So it is with you. Listen, don’t argue. Take into account what you heard, and you will reap the enormous benefit of being both nice AND tough – all to your greater success.

Management Success Tip #157: Appear Confident During Crises without Channeling Your Inner Action Hero

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If managing employees was easy, business would practically run itself. Not! Management is usually about putting out fires with brief respites in between, which is why, as one of your colleagues says “They pay us the big bucks.” Yeah, right. You wish!

Meanwhile, sometimes the hardest thing to do while in the midst of putting out another of said fires, is to do so with confidence. Yes, you know what you’re doing – for the most part – but how well it will work, over the long haul as well as the short, etc., isn’t all that certain.

And yet, according to Georgina Stewart of Lead Change Group: “If you are not confident in yourself, the plan that you have formed or the actions that you are taking – how can you expect others to be confident in your ability? At the very least we ask that you appear calm, collected and confident at all times as causing others to panic on top of the situation you are already in will simply cause more stress and will burden you further.”

No, you don’t have to channel your inner Action-Hero, you just need to appear calm, collected and confident so as not to sow further panic in the ranks. And that is largely a matter of body language.

Stand straight, walk tall. Wipe the frown off your forehead, and as best you can, keep a neutral expression on your face. Think before you speak, and speak deliberately.

Here’s the thing: even as you adjust your body language for the benefit of your employees, science tells us that adopting such postures will help you feel more confident, and that, in and of itself, is worth the effort.