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Managers – What Will You Be on Halloween?

This evening is Halloween; celebrated in many different ways.

Business executives, entrepreneurs

Of the many best loved traditions in America, the donning of costumes is at the top of the list. Many, many years ago, in times past, adults began dressing in elaborate costumes for Halloween parties, also known as Masquerade parties, long before it became an annual event for children. Dressing up in Halloween costumes is a recent tradition that developed in the twentieth century. The first store bought Halloween costumes were not available before the 1930’s.

With the holiday being very loosely based on old Celtic legends about the closeness between the mundane world and that of the spirits at this time of year and the Catholic Church’s celebration of their saints, it is no wonder that Halloween costumes have taken on a rather macabre appearance.

Witches, blood thirsty vampires, moaning ghosts, zombies, vicious werewolves and many other frightening monsters became the popular choices of trick or theaters every where. Thus the American idea of a creepy Halloween was born. Dressing in costumes gives one the opportunity to “let their hair down” and be someone else for a while, all in good fun of course.

When you are in a leadership role, do you dress up for the occasion? Is there a mask you like to wear? Or perhaps there are several “costumes” you choose depending upon the circumstance.

business executives, entrepreneurs

In leadership it can be very easy to revert to alter-egos, whether good or bad. Let’s roll this altogether and call it wearing a mask.

Do you ever wear a mask at work? I don’t mean the silly kind you buy at a Halloween store. I mean the face we put on when things aren’t working as they should or you have been “found out”. Masking can be a convenient way to dodge ever having to fess up to something or admit a short coming.

Dealing With Feelings

On one hand, we are taught not to complain, right? If things aren’t going well, we need to show strength and courage. People ask “How are you doing?” and we respond “Fine, thank you.” Yet you’re NOT! Now, obviously, we don’t let the folks who report to us get inundated with our “stuff”, but there are times when being real with our team is more important than masking over it.

Taking off the mask with those around us allows us to build trust and credibility. Being real doesn’t mean you have to be like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, constantly looking at life like the glass is half empty. However, you can share honest reality of what may be going on.

Now, when the big boss is raining on your head, bringing heat and pressure to perform better, it is wise to NOT simply pass down the heat. Instead, you need to be the buffer for your team, fading the heat from above. You still need to distill the message so that your team understands the new expectations. You can do that without masking.

Fear and Doubt

Fear and doubt causes some to put on a mask. If you are suffering from any doubt about your ability to manage your team, you may expose yourself in various ways. There’s the nervous laugh when others get too close to the truth. Or the dodging of questions when you truly don’t know the answer.

Masking over fear and doubt only serves to perpetuate the problem. Instead, take a proactive approach. Identify the exact reasons you feel this doubt. If it is about knowledge, go get the training you need. Sometimes simply asking to be mentored by someone in your field, outside the company can fill the knowledge gap.

It’s Tiring to Pretend

Wearing masks at work is exhausting. Fake it ’til you make it can only last so long. Maintaining a false persona takes incredible energy; energy that could be spent on far more positive efforts. Give yourself a break and remove the mask.

Deal with any root causes of the need to have a mask. Masking is only a symptom of a much deeper cause. Fix that and eliminate the need to mask.

entrepreneurs, business executives

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

Brian Tracy has been quoted as saying:

“No one lives long enough to learn everything they need to learn starting from scratch. To be successful, we absolutely, positively have to find people who have already paid the price to learn the things that we need to learn to achieve our goals.”

You need coaching and mentorship to grow. Many companies are providing leadership development programs for their rising stars. There are services available, provided by trained and certified coaches to help you grow your leadership skills. Go to the web and check out a workshop or lunch-and-learn near you.

What is your favorite mask to wear at work? Why not take it off permanently? Let your people see the real you. I promise you’ll be happier for it.

Finding Purpose: Know Your Swim Lane

life purpose

Competitive swimmers must stay in a prescribed lane during the race. It’s actually a violation to get out of your lane.

life purpose

Business professionals occasionally have a hard time defining their lane and staying in it. This often happens when an individual is asked to step into a supervisory or management role. Several things might occur:

  • They embrace the promotion and adequately shift gears (change lanes) to work on becoming a good manager.
  • They take the role, but stay in their old lane, trying to still be a contributing worker when the real need is for team supervision.

I was talking with a new contact who was relaying his job history. He shared the fact that at one point he had been promoted into management. That chapter of his career did not end well. He reverted to sole contributor mode and became a very successful professional, outside of any supervisory duties. He said he loved being his own boss again (although he has a real boss). The fact was, he hated being a manager. It was not his “thing”.

The root of this phenomenon has to do with passion and purpose. Finding your lane and staying in it is about seizing an understanding of your purpose.

We’re all wired differently. The strengths we have help to define our purpose. When you accurately identify your strengths, and follow the pursuit for using those strengths, things get easier. Your purpose emerges and you can see a better definition of your own, personal swim lane for life.

When we attempt to operate with our weaknesses, life seems hard. Conflict is everywhere. Our energy levels are low. We get tired and frustrated far too often. Our purpose seems muddled and unclear.

Reverting to our strengths gives us energy. You seldom get tired of operating inside your set of strengths.

Using my new friend’s example, being a supervisor was not his strength. He hated it because he just didn’t want to deal with the people and their perceived problems all day. He felt far more comfortable, no energized, doing his own work, growing his book of clients, and making a difference for his company as a sole contributor.

Finding your swim lane means finding your purpose.

[shareable cite=”Doug Thorpe” text=”As you live life on purpose, you make better, more meaningful contributions.”]As you live life on purpose, you make better, more meaningful contributions to your work, your family, and your community.[/shareable]

[reminder]If you need help finding your swim lane, write me here.[/reminder]

The Millennial Mindset Is Nothing New

As some of you know, I run a contrarian view of the widespread concern for millennials in the workplace. Time and time again I find workshops and speakers touting their newfound wisdom about how “to cope with millennials in the workplace”.

Executives everywhere are pondering this epidemic conundrum, or so the pundits tell us. I, on the other hand, am the father of 5 such citizens. These are 30–something, young adults who are moving through their lives, working jobs, making budgets, having kids, and basically living life, one new experience at a time, just like we all have done.

millennial, business, workplace, entrepreneur

Are they really different? I say not so much.

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Leaders: Making the Best of Change Management

business coach, consulting, executive coaching, headwayexec, executive coach houston

Though first recognized as a management discipline in the 60’s, change management (CM) is a discipline that rose in prominence in the 90s.

I share a bitter-sweet experience with formal change management protocols. Being a pragmatic and common sense kind of guy, my best work has involved making complex things simple for everyone around me to understand.

Courtesy 123rf.comI have seen “change management professionals” who bring a very complex set of tools and vocabulary to the workplace. Often the project is doomed to fail before it ever starts because the sheer weight of the new terms being used burden the effort beyond most employee’s capacity to comprehend.

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Managers! The Problem Is NOT the Problem

People in management and leadership deal with problems all day long. Plans and projects get started, procedures are written and taught, but things go awry.

Challenges present themselves in so many forms. People problems, supply problems, customer problems, and so on and so on.

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A lot of physical and emotional energy gets spent solving problems. For managers, problem solving is a big part of your job description. It can be argued that management is nothing but problem solving. Yet there is one thing that I find curious about most problems.

Usually, the problem is not the problem. The problem is the way we are thinking about the problem.

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Leadership Bullet: Don’t Water the Weeds

If you are trying to grow a garden, weeds are bad, right? When you are in leadership and someone talks about “the Weeds”, you either think about your bad employees or you think about details that feel like they are choking you (as in ‘lost in the weeds’).

Both ideas may be true and we will talk about those, but there are other weeds that creep in to your life, impacting your productivity and effectiveness as a leader.

Here are some of the other weeds:

  • Relationships that need repair or elimination.
  • Outside interests where you never say NO.
  • Your own distractions like email and social media.
  • Thought patterns that have developed over time.
  • Habits that steal health, wealth, and well being.

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The first step in successful weed management is to stop watering the weeds!

Weed factors have a way of constantly grabbing your attention. Squeaky wheels get grease right? Yes, they do! The weeds always have a way of interrupting progress and needing attention.

Constantly allowing the noise to be disruptive is a kind of watering; positive reinforcement. Every time you allow a person or thing to cause you to behave differently than you intend, you are watering a weed.

Relationships

Relationships can be very large weeds. They spring up and grow, soon to be discovered as useless. At first the relationship might be nice and warm. There may be a hopeful sense that this thing can be positive. Soon the relationship turns into demands for time, resources, or worse, convictions.

Your personal values may get challenged by the person on the other side of the relationship. Your judgment about right and  wrong can be tested. Your own sense of commitment to the relationship draws you further into the net, yet time after time, you begin to feel used and or displeased with the fruit of the relationship.

Maintaining the contact and allowing the opportunity for the other person to use you and your good nature is futile. You have to break it off.

Outside Interests

Many people have a sense of responsibility to serve their communities outside of work and family. On one hand, that is what makes our country so great.

From time to time though, the constant acceptance of roles and responsibilities elsewhere becomes weeds in our life too. People who constantly say yes, get tagged as such and are routinely asked for more and more; more time, more money, more service.

Soon the calendar is so full there is no time for the personal priorities you need to maintain. Conflicts arise. Stress increases. All because some new weeds have grown.

Your Own Distractions

How much time do you spend sifting through emails, texts, and other social media posts and pings? It is so easy to stay distracted by all that noise. STOP!

Set aside some time in each day to get your electronic fix. Then go on with other, more productive activities that are on your schedule.

Don’t let the lure of being connected keep you from being truly connected with the people around you who have higher value and deserve more of your focus.

Stay in the moment. If you are at lunch or dinner with someone, put away the phone. Connect with that person. Give them your undivided attention. Begin working on meaningful relationships.

Improve Your Thought Patterns

An old mentor once introduced me to the concept of “stinking thinking”. We all suffer from ‘voices’ that programmed us to believe we did not have what it takes to endure a situation, be successful, or try something new.

Maybe it was that third grade teacher who embarrassed you in front of the class, or the parent who never encouraged you to do anything, but belittled your initiatives.

Allowing any of those voices to dominate your frame of reference today is stinking thinking. Rise above those negative energies and go ahead and do what you believe you can.

Let me also mention your comfort zone here. What you hold onto as a comfort zone can actually be part of stinking thinking. Comfort zones can be big weed patches. Refrain from continually falling back into the comfort zone. Stretch your reach a bit. Find a new zone.

Bad Habits

The habits we develop can be weeds too. Whether the habit involves eating, spending, lifestyle, or other tangible experiences, your habits may be your biggest weeds. Stop watering them.

If you need to, get professional help breaking a cycle. Habits have a way of robbing us of our best potential. You can lose time in the day feeding a habit. You can certainly lose money with bad habits.

Most importantly you can damage good relationships with bad habits.

Oh and the First Two Types of Weeds

Employees –  I mentioned bad employees can be considered weeds at work. Watering those weeds includes actions like tolerating less than acceptable behavior.

You hire on skill and fire on behavior.

That’s an old saying in HR circles, but very true. Questionable behavior at work should not be tolerated. Coaching and counseling is required. If the employee cannot or will not respond to the effort, then action must be taken to eliminate the weed.

I love the way Jim Collins (Good to Great) describes employee selection, training, and retention.

[Paraphrasing…]Get the right people on the bus and put them in the right seat on the bus. When you realize someone is not a fit, get them off the bus.

Details –  Yes, the details we suffer at work can bog us down. As managers, we have to establish an appropriate attention to detail that changes as we promote up into the organization.

When you were on the front line as a single contributor at work, details were your life. All the details about your assigned duties were your first responsibility.

When you get selected to be manager, you have to step away from some of those details. You have to rely on the team who works for your to handle the details. Yet you must establish reporting and accountability within your team so that details are not lost or forgotten.

STOP WATERING THE WEEDS

Just like in agriculture, weeds come in all shapes and sizes. Eradication of weeds requires careful treatment. Certainly one of the best alternatives is to stop watering! Even with lack of water, some weeds survive for much too long. That’s when other, specifically designed effort is required to get rid of the weed.

historic-downtown-and-butchart-gardens-victoria-bc-canada-1

Use some of the ideas above to evaluate what weeds exist in your garden right now. Decide today what you can do to get rid of those pesky nuisances so that yours is a garden of lush, rich, and vibrant color and beauty, flourishing for others to enjoy.

Want To Be A Hero?

I am excited to announce a new series of guest bloggers joining me from time to time to share their views of management and leadership. My first guest is a long-time friend and colleague, Roger Ferguson, Founder of ISI Human Resources Consulting.

We’ve worked together for many years. He is a certified human resource professional who has developed a brave new alternative to those old, tired employee assessment models. Here is his work….

 

If you are like most of us you dread your annual employee performance appraisal.  The process requires a significant amount of time and effort and the results are rarely significant.  You are not alone.   The research on the traditional employee appraisal process is overwhelmingly negative.  No one appears to believe that is an efficient or effective process.  Why do we continue?

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6 Reasons Change Is So Challenging

It’s no coincidence that the word ‘change’ fits into the word ‘challenge’. Change is challenging, but it doesn’t have to be stressful or unpredictable.

We all face changes in our lives. Whether on a personal level or at work, change is inevitable.

By taking a deeper dive into the dynamics of the human change process, we can better understand our reluctance to change or the steps where the change process breaks.

For most people, it’s not the idea of change itself that is so daunting, but rather the transition phases of the cycle where there is nothing to hold on to. Think about the last time you faced a serious change. Then look at this diagram and ask yourself how you moved through each phase.

Here is a diagram that shows the 6 stages of change.

change-cycle1

Stage 1 follows immediately after change has taken place. It is characterized by feelings of loss and fear. Those affected by the change are likely to feel paralyzed and disempowered by the change that has taken place.

Stage 2 is a period of negative thought and doubt. Individuals tend to feel resentful of the change that has occurred and they will actively resist embracing the change around them.

Stage 3 is a passive stage characterized by feelings of anxiety and discomfort. Those affected by the change are likely to be unproductive and feel as if they are powerless to determine the outcome of events.

The danger zone in the change cycle lies between stages three and four. Change management is essential to ensure that individuals make the transition from stage three to stage four.

Stage 4 signals a shift to positive thinking surrounding change. A creative atmosphere surfaces and participants are likely to feel energized and excited about new possibilities.

Stage 5 brings greater understanding of the change process. Productive behavior returns and participants feel greater confidence about the change that has occurred.

Stage 6 refers to the final integration of change into the new way of working. Because participants understand the necessity of the change that has taken place, there is a feeling of satisfaction and a commitment to ensure full integration.

Change management is the facilitation of a structured period of transition from a current, as-is state to a future situation in order to achieve sustainable change.

Effective change management ensures that change takes place within predictable parameters, without causing unnecessary confusion or anxiety. Click here to see how we can help you manage change.

* Diagram source: SMC Group

Portions reproduced by special permission from ProjectXChange

Is Common Sense an Uncommon Commodity?

While researching some new management and leadership material recently, I was struck by a regular, recurring theme in the reviews of numerous books I found. The books were all centered around my passion for helping first time managers. The search had me looking for better ways to guide each of you towards better success and happier endings.

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Making the Big Leap from Manager to Leader

For some time now I have been presenting various messages to help new, first time managers make a successful move into the role of management.

Now it is time to begin the transition from management to leadership.

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First, let me recap a few key principles. One of the best explanations of the difference between management and leadership is this:

[shareable cite=”Doug Thorpe”]Management is about process. Leadership is about people.[/shareable]

You see, management can take a team of workers and accomplish a series of business goals. For sure, you can apply pure management skills to map out project plans, set goals, set quotas, establish metrics, build hierarchies, write reports, determine measurable results, so on and so on.

The best business schools all teach the core fundamentals about planning, budgeting, analysis, execution, and delivery. Perhaps they even added LEAN, Six Sigma (Motorola), TQM (Deming), and other notable management theory practices.

On the other hand, leadership inspires people. Leadership is the stuff that spawns remarkable stories about how people overcome great odds to achieve even greater things. With leadership, we get historic events like:

  • “Remember the Alamo”
  • D-Day
  • Martin Luther King –  “I Have a Dream”
  • Jack Welch –  G.E.
  • Steve Jobs –  Apple

True, effective leadership in the workplace, allows small, maybe nondescript teams to build amazing systems and create destiny; think the U.S. space program, the first wireless telephone, and all of the technology we enjoy today.

Leadership creates a vision to be pursued. It motivates people to go beyond themselves. It creates collaboration and a desire to be a part of a greater good. However, leadership is more than a fiery halftime speech or a series of catchy quotes and metaphors. It has substance. It can be palpable when present. It can be demoralizing when absent. Leadership makes a big difference, all the time.

We can find evidence of great leadership at all levels in our society. You do not have to become one of the history makers I mentioned to be called a leader. You won’t even have to be written about in the Wall Street Journal (maybe that’s a good thing). You can be an amazing leader right where you are, right in the job you have today.

I have been blessed to have worked with some wonderful, strong business leaders; not just leaders at work, but as people. People who made a difference in the communities where they lived and the houses of worship where they served with others.

Yes, absolutely, I believe there is a big difference between management and leadership. Over the next several posts I will be diving deeper into the ways leaders can be developed and nurtured.

You too can become more than just the manager of your department. You can become an influencer of the people around you, inspiring and motivating more positive results. You can be a LEADER!