Entries Tagged 'Corporate' ↓

Becoming a manager – fear of politics

Last time I wrote on this subject, I covered only a third of the equation of the decision to become a manager.  There were still some open questions, including figuring out what skills and talents I could bring to the management table, and how to deal with the vague “ugly stuff” that most technical contributors seem to fear hides behind the manager’s job title.

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Casual Friday: Presenting Perils

While waiting for a meeting to start yesterday, a colleague and I swapped stories of the perils of presenting.  Whether it’s a livemeeting or a projector hooked to your desktop, there’s some loss of privacy that can come with using your PC to host a meeting.  For example ….

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Why did you become a manager?

I hear it all the time, from technical contributors: “I’d never want to be a manager.”  The reasons are usually straightforward.  Some fear losing their technical acumen, others dislike office politics, and many just enjoy feeling in control of their own contribution and don’t want to worry about other people.

Sometimes I’m asked why I made the decision to enter management.  I realized today that even though I started this blog to talk about that question, I haven’t spent much time really digging into it.

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Reviewing resumes

I’m in the interesting and enviable position of having an open (entry-ish level) position on my team, here at EMC.  Over the years I’ve brought a few people into the company, either directly or indirectly.  But it’s been a while, and it’s interesting to see the state of the hiring process … and the people trying to get hired.

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Know thyself. Then what?

It’s that time of year again when people begin complaining about how difficult it is for them to write self-appraisals.  I wrote some about this subject last year around this time, and it’s since been consistently the most-visited page on my blog.  Obviously people feel ill-prepared to write appraisals of their own performance.  What I keep hearing from people is that they are uncomfortable making note of their strengths.

The first question I ask is the most obvious.  Do you know what your strengths are?  If not, you have a bigger problem than your self-appraisal to deal with.

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It’s that time of year

As we enter the week of Thanksgiving, and head into the core US holiday season, we’re supposed to be thinking about giving thanks and being generous.  Of course, we’re also entering the final stretch of the quarter and the year, so we’re over-committed at work and trying to balance our obligations at home as well.  It’s a tricky time to be an effective employee.

It’s worth noting, however, that managers are also soon going to be working on annual performance reviews.  And while we all know reviews should cover the entire year’s work, often times a high-impact event at the close of the year gets some extra mental attention during this busy time.  So what can you do at work to bring a little bit of what the holidays are supposed to be about into your routine?

Be thankful

A simple “thank you” goes a long way.  A more complex “thank you” goes a little further.  “Thanks, Bill, I wouldn’t have thought of looking there, you made my day a lot easier.”  It takes 15 seconds to type that, and whoever you are thanking probably saved you more than 15 seconds.  So send the email.  Better yet, drop by their cubicle, or say something when you spot them in the hallway.

Be generous

Sitting in your inbox is that simple request.  It’ll take you a couple minutes to process it, and you have so much else going on, but it’ll really make a difference in that person’s day.  So ttop putting it off.  Set aside 5 minutes this morning to be helpful, and then go on to your “real” work.

You can also be generous with your praise.  Saying “thank you” is great, but copying the boss is generous as well.  It wins on so many levels it’s hard to even list them.  I’m not suggesting every single “thanks” needs a cc: line, but once in a while it’s a powerful tool.

It doesn’t need to be a “thanks” either.  Sometimes you can just directly tell someone about great performance by a team member.  I recently sent an email to a senior director letting him know about a great moment with someone in his organization.  His response was that he rarely receives that kind of direct feedback.  Flood your management with emails and you’ll get ignored.  Target a couple moments of high performance, though, and you’re playing with powerful tools.

Balance your life

It’s crucial now to remember your work-life balance, and that of your teammates.  Tensions may be high, and small things leap into significance. Don’t forget that for some people, the holidays are a time of joy and pleasure … while others are on an emotional rollercoaster.

As for yourself, be present at your family dinner; put down the Blackberry and enjoy the blackberry pie instead.  That email will still be there after the kids are in bed.

The great thing about gestures like this is that they multiply. You are essentially increasing the positive climate, and as a colleague of mine recently put it, when the tide rises all ships rise with it.

Discard your crutches and run!

If you’re in the corporate workforce, you’re familiar with Powerpoint, and probably familiar with various controversies around it.  People spend a lot of time debating how much or how little to put on slides, they design cool systems for maximizing impact, and they worry endlessly about how to word something on a slide in case it somehow bites them later.

There’s a radical solution here which I like to apply once in a while.  Don’t show any slides.  Just call your meeting and meet.

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Working in the moment

I’ve been thinking a bit more about the topic of my previous post (deadlines forcing decisions and focus), and comparing it to some other moments of high-energy, high-engagement, high-satisfaction productivity over the years.  I realized there was a factor I hadn’t really considered before, and that was the capacity of the task to force all participants to remain in the moment.

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From the “no kidding” department

Watson Wyatt surprised nobody this week when they released results of a new study that showed massive drops in employee engagement and morale of late.  Well, that’s not entirely true … some of what they said surprised me.  Here’s a quote:

Employee engagement levels for all workers at the companies surveyed have dropped 9 percent since last year, and close to 25 percent for top performers.

If one assumes that in general top performers are more engaged than their peers, this stat suggests maybe the engagement levels, well, leveled. There’s one more ugly stat in there:

Forty-one percent of employees indicate that changes have had an adverse impact on quality and customer service, while only 17 percent of employers believe this is the case.

So let’s get this straight.  We’ve got massive disconnect between corporate perception and employee perception, and our most critical people are disengaged and uninspired.

What’s a manager to do?

Well, you could do worse than to model your response after what successful companies do during times like these: invest in the things that matter most, take market share, and be ready to emerge from the rough times stronger than your competitors.

Now more than ever it’s important to get the little things right.  You may have zero budget, zero time, and nothing but grim news.  But you’ve got to find ways to invest in your relationships with your co-workers.

Know your (social media) norms

(Those of you old enough to remember Cheers, I’m not talking about that Norm.)

I was paging through my reader this evening and came across an article by the always-wise Jeremiah Owyang about handling your boss’s connecting with you on Facebook.  You probably know where I stand on this already, especially if you’ve read my post “Five reasons to ‘friend’ your co-workers (or boss!)“.  Basically, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage if you have the opportunity to do this, and don’t.

But one thing Owyang talks about that I failed to, is how to handle being the boss and entering this situation.  As a manager I’ve been in this situation a couple times, and chatted about it with co-workers over lunch.  The key to avoiding difficulty is knowing (and communicating) your social media norms.  For reference, here are mine, as relate to mixing work and online networking:

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