Tuesday, September 16, 2014

10 things that make you a sub par manager

Anyone that knows me knows I have had my share of troubles with management.  I've tried my hand at it myself and I consider management to be one of the more difficult jobs that's out there.  Before you managers go patting yourselves on the back, I often think that management is given not to people best qualified for managerial positions, but rather as a reward for performance in an area OTHER than management.  This happens all the time.  Well, if you have managed for a while and wonder how you are doing, consider this list.

10 -  Everywhere you go, conversation stops - One of the true hallmarks of a micro manager is things stop happening when you are around because they are afraid they are doing it wrong according to you.  If you have a way or method you want things done, Outline it and make it policy.  Don't let people go about their business and correct them as they get things wrong.  Sculpting by subtraction is an art.  Managing by the same means is folly.

9 -  You secretly fear talking to your subordinates - Employee review is imperative to company and employee growth.  It helps you monitor the satisfaction as well as the effectiveness of your employees.  It is often difficult to talk to employees because you fear they do not respect you or worse think you are an idiot.  The more you fear this, the more you may be right.  So educate yourself.  Schedule regular interviews with your employees.  The more regularly you talk to your employees, the better you will be able to see potential problems and alter them as well as give your employees praise and direction.  Look at it like like this:  If we see a meteor heading directly for earth several million miles away we have time to alter it's course even by a small margin and it will clearly miss us due to the small change.  If you only see the meteor when it is say near the moon, the amount of energy required to alter it's course increases and your chances of success decrease.

8 -  Your employees routinely work overtime - Often a bad manager will look with pride upon their employees 'burning the midnight oil'.  They believe that they have set that fire beneath their employees and really gotten some value for the company out of them.  What the same thing is telling a good manager is that they are really bad at planning and are making their subordinates pick up your slack.  But Mark, there are 'urgent hot button emergencies' and 'crunch time' and don't forget 'all hands on deck!'.  Most of these phrases are made by bad managers.  I will not say that sometimes overtime isn't necessary for things that do come up that are out of your control.  But if they ARE out of your control, that should be understood and looked at in future planning.  You are supposed to MANAGE the tasks your employees are getting, not run around with your head on fire.

7 -  You feel like you can't trust anyone - You have noticed that there isn't one opinion you have that isn't right, there isn't one move that isn't brilliant.  But in retrospect, those same opinions and moves appear to be rather pedestrian.  You want honest opinions but for some reason nobody gives them to you except the one or two people that always do and they are the ones that think everything you do is right.  Remember the employee reviews you aren't giving?  That might be a part of it.  Remember asking for opinions but always going with your own?  There might be something there.  Remember that blowup you had in front of them?  Hmmm...  Clean up your act King Henry.  Often this is the trappings of the office, but you should be able to find a way to communicate with your employees that will engender trust.

6 -  You use meetings for emails and emails for meetings - What is it about people that makes them ask for suggestions in written form but give edict in verbal form?  If you have a list of instructions for people to follow, write them down and send them out.  Even God had the 10 Commandments written down.  When you are asking for suggestions, maybe a meeting is the best for brainstorming.  The free flow of thoughts when there are no wrong answers.  The answer of course is writing.  You as a manager don't want to be saddled with writing down what you want to happen so you call a meeting so you can just tell them.  When people have ideas, you don't want to write those down either so you ask them for an email.  What is it that you actually do in that office anyway?

5 - People quote/namedrop you - This may not be a sign of bad management, but rather something that a good manager should quash.  When people name drop or quote in order to make their task seem more important than they believe it is, it indicates that they do not believe that anyone else will believe it's important enough to cooperate for.  Often this is also a method to 'fast track' a job that would otherwise take longer to complete usually amounting in a disruption of the flow of work.  If you name drop yourself by intervening in your departments daily work flow and by force of your position request 'emergency' actions, you are doubly guilty of the name drop because you are doing it yourself on behalf of yourself.

4 -  You start buying business self help books - You've seen them:  Megatrands, Good to great.  7 Successful habits,  Management for Dummies.  Books about how to manage either yourself or others.  The secret ingredients to propel you to that elusive 'next level'.  The problem is, you probably got these books well after you have established your bad managerial habits.  You then look at those books and pull out the sections that agree with your 'style' and disregard the ones that don't.  That's not enough, you start to evaluate employees based on what books they are reading.  Something to remember is that every one of these books is designed primarily to make the author money first.  They may have some good ideas but they likely aren't revolutionary and if they are, they are  probably not realistic.

3 -  Your business tech is the BEST! - Does the technology you have rival that of the NSA while your employees are forced to use something out of War Games?  How much tech do you need?  Just because your department uses technology doesn't mean your job requires more of it.  In fact managing one department probably takes as much technological power as it takes to manage any department of a similar size.  This of course only applies to pure managers.  Team leads and working managers have every need for augmented technology.  The technology of your employees should always be similar to that of your own if not better. This is of course assuming that the company is buying the tech for day to day operations.

2 -  You watch business satire and you are somewhat offended - Most sit-coms have some kind of jab at day to day business life, but nobody really looked at it directly in the daylight like The Office.  Specifically the first couple of seasons.  If you wanted to see an even MORE uncomfortable version of that show, try to watch the BBC version.  Hits a little close to home?  Enough said.

1 - You don't reward/discipline right. -  When things go wrong you swing your managerial weight around all over the place, e-mail, meetings, you name it.  everyone knows something is on fire.  You are the motivational equivalent of a shot of Novocaine before a fine meal.  Try going with the opposite approach.  Single out individuals for praise in the group and especially in broadly addressed email.  Keep reprimands quiet and discreet.  I know there are times when an official reprimand is in order and all people are not reasonable, but in general you should be able to maintain maximum motivational momentum as the leader of your troops.  Always be ready to defend your employees against the slings and arrows of the other departments.  If your department is doing poorly, there is only one place to stop for a big helping of blame.  You.  If it is doing well, you should always direct the good vibrations towards your employees.  Yes, you managed them, but it's similar to the quarterback buying their front linemen extravagant gifts as a thank you for protecting him all season.  All together you make a winning team and you will most certainly earn your just reward for the position you play but makes sure everyone gets a taste, it will go a long way.

Bonus! - You make promises for your department to keep without knowing if they have the time or ability to complete it. - Newly minted managers are especially susceptible to this.  They really want to show that the company made a good choice in making them a manager.  The best way of course is to promise all the things the prior managers couldn't get done and then deliver!  You don't stop to consider if those things even can be done, but you'll just buy the crowd a few pizzas and work them in to the wee hours and the weekends and you will be credited with getting things done.  A real manager will see how many projects are being worked on and how much of the resource of your department is being used and then will provide an estimate of how long it will take at regular hours to get something done.  Upper management wants something done right away?  It's bound to happen.  Don't forget to mention how much extra time was used in completing the task and do what you can to make sure those instances are few and far between.

Ok, based on my years of office experience, that's more or less what I've observed.  One man's opinion.  But at least it didn't cost you 24.95 at your airport newsstand.

Monday, September 1, 2014

10 things you need at your office

Most of us work in offices.  Those of you that do not, I'm sure I have a different blog post that would be interesting to you.  For those of you that do work in offices and especially those that are about to work in new offices, I give to you 10 things you should bring in with you.  This is besides your own mug of course which everyone brings, and those pens and pencils that the office provides.

10 - small tool kit - The more offices I've been to, the more technical the offices have become.  If you carry a small tool kit with you, you can suddenly save the day in any number of ways.  Many people often need something to get the job done.  There you will be with just the thing!  Of course you will need to keep track of your tools because I promise they will tend to walk away.  The best way to keep track of them is to take a picture of the person borrowing the tool with your camera.  Delete it when they bring it back.

9 - knife, fork spoon - I'm here to work not to feast Mark!  Yes of course you are.  More and more offices are asking their employees to work overtime hours.  In a small way to say thanks, they will offer you food from one of the local eateries that have sprung up there precisely because the business are there and often they will be open 24 hours.  I wonder why?...hmmm... anyway,  you get that great deli food and everything looks terrific except for the crappy plastic cutlery that doesn't belong at a child's tea party.  Teeny little forks and spoons.  Sometimes the spoons are sharper than the little knives they provide.  Well, you bring your own cutlery and you will be the envy of the office!  Many people will ask you where the knives and forks are.  The proper answer is, "If they are like mine, they are in your desk drawer".

8 - tissues / wetwipes - Many companies do not supply their own tissues.  That's expensive you know.  Women will often bring a box of tissues because of the constant uncontrollable weeping involved in day to day office work.  Men on the other hand will rarely come prepared for such malaise and will instead spend extended time in the bathroom wondering how well the wireless connection will penetrate the walls of the mens bathroom.   For a couple of bucks you can bring your own tissues.  Just be aware that other people will constantly ask you for a tissue or maybe not even ask and just assume the company provided it.  Along with this, you could consider wet wipes.  The tissue's stronger big brother.  Random stains that show up from time to time at your cube that you would like to get rid of without using the 'spit shine' method or even to wash your hands when you happen to run into that broken pen or highlighter.  Once again, very handy when you need it.

7 - hand lotion - Once again what seems to be the purview of women in the workplace is something you won't mind having if you're a guy.  Modern office buildings are hermetically sealed business compartments.  The conditioned air is often devoid of moisture and your skin will really wonder why you hate it.  One bottle of good lotion will run a couple of bucks and last your well over a year.  Once again, people will want to 'borrow' a squirt of lotion.  You can smartly inform them that you really don't want it back.

6 - First Aid Kit - For what?  A paper cut?  Actually yes.  A small first aid kit stocked with bandages some antibiotic ointment and maybe even some aspirin will be very handy if needed and the contents will never spoil.  one good paper cut, bad headache, or scrape and you will be glad you've got it.  Just because you work in a cube jungle doesn't mean you have to be a business savage.

5 - Change of clothes - What a full change?  Whatever for?  Well, you may want to just wander around with that big spilled soft drink on your shirt all day, or that large farewell cake on your pants.  But you can avoid all of that by just keeping a simple change of clothes there at the office.  Also under this category might be a sweater.  More of these office buildings are made of large windows.  This is nice to look out of but murder to regulate and if winter finds it's frosty way to your workplace you will probably find yourself in a climate akin to a meat locker from time to time.  If you can get one of those air tight bags that's good too.  You don't want your clothes getting in the way or getting dusty.  The sweater will help.  This will be one of the few times that change is actually good.

4 - Roll of Duct Tape - Don't they provide tape??  Yes, the office will provide standard transparent tape.  Interesting thing about office tape is it's designed to fasten paper to other paper.  Kind of like post it notes.  Sometimes you want to fasten things a little more securely.  There are times when the cubicle you are given will be used.  very used.  So used that you wonder if butchers actually use cubicle systems in the rendering of their animal carcasses.  As such, the cubes may have some rough edges that you keep snagging into.  Duct Tape to the Rescue!  Once you have it at the office, it becomes pretty handy.  Just like at home!

3 - finger nail clippers - Yes, you could include this in the first aid kit, and yet it's not really first aid.  It is, however, a pretty handy tool to have when you have suddenly snagged your fingernail on something.  If you don't bring one of your own, you will end up asking your female co-workers if they have nail clippers.  This is because you honestly don't think men will have any kind of helpful implement in the office.  That's because you don't think men have problems.  They do, and hangnails might be one of them.

2 - Flash Light - This one is useful when you have dropped something under your table top in your cube.  Naturally, when the power goes out having that flash light is very handy..  If you have one of these, you are automatically appointed the emergency leader I think.  Who doesn't want to be the emergency leader??

1 - Microfiber cloth large - I use the microfiber cloth to wrap my duct tape in.  very handy in cleaning monitor screens or polishing smartphone screens.  If you happen to spill water on you, microfiber to the rescue!  Super useful!

There it is, now that you have this stuff you will be Johnny/Janey on the spot in cases of sudden inconvenience.  You will be the office boy scout!  See you in another 15 days.