About a year ago, I wrote a column for Profit Magazine – How to Stop Doing Employees’ Work For Them – about how not to fall into the classic leadership trap known as “reverse delegation”, which is the natural tendency that many leaders have to “help” a struggling employee by taking back a task that’s been assigned to him/her.
Reverse delegation occurs far more often than you might realize (or that you are willing to admit), and usually strikes when you fall into the mindset of “It will be faster and easier to just do this myself.” But it’s not good leadership … for two reasons. First, reverse delegation doesn’t permit you to build skills and confidence in your people (a very important job for leaders), and two (and perhaps even more importantly), it simply causes your personal workload to escalate. Continue reading
Last month I got pulled over by local law enforcement and was issued a $310 ticket and a summons to appear in court. The ticket was legitimate; after all I was (unbeknownst to me) driving around town with an expired registration. But the whole mess caused me to ask the question: Are you (inadvertently) taking actions that set people up to fail? My premise was that the province of Alberta made a unilateral change in its procedures earlier this year without notifying those who were directly affected. And that’s a sure-fire recipe for setting people up to fail! The change: vehicle owners would no longer receive a reminder that their registration was expiring; it was now their responsibility to track expiry dates and renew accordingly. And, you might ask, how were people to become aware of this change? The assumption was that people would find out through announcements in traditional and social media. Unfortunately, and to my bad luck, I was traveling out of the country during the “media blitz” and was blissfully unaware of the change … until of course I got pulled over by one of the boys in blue.
So on July 20th I made my way down to the local provincial courthouse to do as the ticket had commanded – present myself to a Justice of the Peace to make my case, and if I was not successful, to pay the fine. Simple, right? Wrong. When I arrived, there were approximately 75 people in line ahead of me, many of whom were there for exactly the same violation. Continue reading
For the last couple of posts, I’ve been talking about actions you can take to strengthen your working relationship with your boss. Earlier this week, it was about building trust through consistency in behaviour and action. Today I want to cover one final topic in this series – how to address conflicting priorities with the full support of your manager or supervisor.
Conflicting priorities are a reality in every single client organization I work with. Whether they are originating directly from your boss, or from a variety of senior people with whom you have working relationships, it’s not unusual to find yourself in a situation where you’ve got too much to do, not enough time to get it done, and all expected to be done at the same time. In such situations, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But there is a solution that can not only ease the pressure but also allow you to strengthen your relationship with your boss at the same time. Set your priorities jointly with your manager. This is a lot easier that you might realize.
Boss [insert your manager’s name here], Roger has requested the sales forecast by tomorrow, and we’ve also got the Board presentation and your legal team briefing document that need to be finished right away. I’m thinking of prioritizing the Board presentation and getting that completed first since it may require additional review. What do you think?
Did you see what I just did? I just accomplished several things. First, I let the boss know that I have conflicting priorities, so he is now part of the solution. Second, I started a dialogue about how to rank several important tasks and the ensuing conversation will give me greater insight into what my boss considers to have the greatest urgency. Third, whatever approach I now take, my boss is on board and supportive of it, which means that even if things don’t turn out exactly the way we expected, I can still count on the boss to have my back. Bottom line: jointly setting priorities makes this a team effort, and if you can do that, you’ve strengthened your relationship with your boss.
Comments? Please share your thoughts below.
Last week I started a short series on definitive actions you can take to improve your working relationship with your boss with a post about tailoring your presentations. Today I want to continue on that subject by highlighting the importance of consistency, both in the quality of the work you do for him or her, as well as in your behaviour.
Your ultimate goal in your working relationship with your boss should be to get to a point where s/he trusts you; trusts you to step in, take charge, act appropriately, get things done, and to bring issues and problems to a successful conclusion. And trust comes from consistency. Establish a consistent track record of professional behaviour, level-headed responses, sound decision-making, and quality work. If your boss knows that she can count on you to deliver outcomes similar to what she might have done herself, then she is more likely to trust you to act on her behalf. If he can be confident that you will act in manner that will not come back to haunt him later, then you are well on your way to becoming a reliable right-hand.
However, don’t fall into the trap that I have observed in many a workplace – the “slacking off” mistake. Continue reading
In September 2013, I wrote a series of three blog posts focused on how to build a stronger working relationship with your boss. Specifically, I covered keeping your boss informed, learning more about his style, and finding out her objectives. So I thought I’d take another look at this important topic in the next three blog posts. And today, I want to address the importance of tailoring your presentation approach so that it matches your boss’s.
Some senior leaders are detail people who appreciate in-depth background information, and others are big-picture thinkers who value concise recommendations. The former usually expect full contextual data, but the latter just want a “one-pager” that gives them everything they need to know at a glance. Take the time to understand which one your boss is, or at least what end of the continuum s/he tends towards. You can do this in a couple of ways. Continue reading
I read something the other day that gave me reason to pause and consider how my clients and other stakeholders value the services that I have to offer.
You have likely heard of (and perhaps even used) the Michelin Red Guide, the oldest European hotel and restaurant reference guide, which awards Michelin stars for excellence to only a select few establishments. Restaurants in Europe vie to get one, two or even three Michelin stars, as it can have a dramatic effect on the success of their business. You may not however know that this now world-famous guide started life as a mere marketing ploy. In 1900, when there were less than 3,000 cars in France, brothers André and Édouard Michelin published the first edition of the guide for French motorists as a way to boost people’s interest in cars. You see, the two brothers owned a tire manufacturing company, and they hoped that by getting people to drive more and thus buy more cars, it would also increase the demand for tires. The very first Michelin Guide contained a variety of useful information for motorists, including maps, instructions for repairing and changing tires, and lists of car mechanics, hotels and petrol stations. During the last century, the Guide slowly morphed into what is so well-known and recognized today. Interesting fact: when the guide was first published, the brothers had nearly 35,000 copies printed, and gave them away free of charge. This continued (with a short gap during World War I) until 1920, when the story goes that André Michelin was visiting a tire merchant and noticed that copies of the book were being used to prop up a workbench. He immediately made the decision to start charging for the guide. He is said to have declared that “Man only truly respects what he pays for”. Continue reading
Employee engagement is big business in North America; a recent estimate in The Globe & Mail pegs it at a USD $720 million spend annually. After all, companies want their employees to be productive, and engaged employees are one reliable way of assessing workplace productivity. I routinely blog about what leaders can do to create engaged employees (and limit disengaged ones). In fact, one recent post titled High employee turnover? It’s not usually about compensation offered two specific ideas to create highly engaged employees, both physically as well as mentally.
I bring up this topic again today because my colleagues at The Globe & Mail are sponsoring a very cool project – a Canada-wide survey that is investigating what companies are doing to foster a working environment that creates engaged AND healthy employees. And by “healthy”, I don’t just mean in physical health, but also mental, work and life health. Why this subject? Because past research has shown that highly-engaged employees are not always healthy, which means that their productivity is only short-term. Think about it – a highly-engaged staff member who works long, demanding hours but doesn’t know how to cope or take care of his health is someone whose productivity will only last until he burns out. In fact, this past research has shown three categories of highly-engaged employees – those with high health, those with moderate health, and those with low health. As a leader, you obviously want the first (and perhaps even second) group, but certainly not the third. Continue reading
Sometimes, managers deliberately and consciously take actions that while logical, create situations that are non-productive and hugely demotivating. In fact, I wrote about just this topic in one of my regular The Globe & Mail columns titled Why do smart managers do stupid things? Well it happened again! I got a call from an employee at a large client company the other day, very upset because his manager had blocked his internal transfer. This organization has an online internal job bulletin board that permits employees to apply for internal jobs within the company. This particular employee had, with his manager’s knowledge, applied for a job in another department. Since he has been in his current role for over three years, he was seeking different challenges and new learning opportunities. The interview process went well and he was optimistic about getting this new assignment. Imagine his surprise to learn that he did not get the job because his manager had blocked the transfer. Turns out that there had been some other recent unexpected personnel changes in the department, and his manager felt that his move would be too much change, too fast. Continue reading