Networking for the Advancement Game

p37a7991copy

Advancement. It’s on everyone’s mind. Many of my coaching sessions include a discussion about this topic. Yet, while advancement is such a concern, I am stunned by the number of times the notion of networking as a means toward advancement is viewed as an “ah-ha” moment.

What I mean is, I regularly hear young professionals talking among themselves sharing this “newfound wisdom”. The phrase is usually something like:

“I wish I had worked at networking from the beginning.”

Read moreNetworking for the Advancement Game

Finding Slack for Better Work-Life Balance

When I was a kid, we actually played with the old tin cans connected by string. By pulling the string tight between the cans, you could use them as a low grade telephone to talk to your friends. The science was that sound waves which could be transmitted down the string to the other can. Simple, cheap, and very low tech. [Ok, so yes, I am dating myself]

Courtesy 123rf.com
Courtesy 123rf.com

Recently I was reading an article about a new technology start-up called Slack Technologies. The founder and CEO, Stewart Butterfield, was inspired by this tin can model to name the company. ‘Slack’ became the ‘backronym’ (Butterfield’s words) to name a technology that can improve team collaboration and communication. Since its inception, Slack has become widely used by over 90,000 companies as their internal platform for communication. The roll call of those companies is impressive; including NASA, Intuit, HBO, and Salesforce. (See FastCompany Dec.2015 edition)

Butterfield has stated that ‘slack’, as a commodity, is necessary to alleviate the tensions in the work world. Most of us run our business days pretty tightly extended from task to task. We need periods of slack to help unwind and rejuvenate. With the tin cans, letting the string go slack meant the sound could no longer travel.

I like this concept of creating slack in our busy lives. No one can run at full tension all of the time. We have to give ourselves some ‘slack’.

[shareable cite=”Doug Thorpe”]People looking for better work-life balance actually need some slack times. [/shareable]

All of my clients define slack in their own way. Some resort to physical activity like going to the gym or riding a mountain bike. Others rely upon meditation or yoga.

I suggest to you slack needs to include a good measure of absolute quiet time. Taking the moments to stop everything, release all of the tension in the string. Just let everything drop slack for a little bit of time. You can use the quiet to silently reflect, meditate, concentrate, pray, think, or whatever your mind may need. The idea is to allow time to let all of the pressures and tensions surrounding you go silent for a brief time.

Give yourself some slack. Make slack become a part of your day to better energize you for the times when you must be fully engaged and on task.

[reminder]Share your thoughts and comments on ways you build slack into the day.[/reminder]

PS –  You can see more about Slack Technologies at Slack.com

For FTC purposes, HeadwayExec and DougThorpe.com have no affiliate relationships with Slack Technologies. We gain no value, monetary or otherwise, by mentioning their products or services here.

Power Trippin’

As managers, many face the challenge of handling the power that comes with our position. All positions of management have some notion of power attached, whether the person filling the role deserves it or not. The fact that they were selected to be the manager gives them that power.

[shareable cite=”Doug Thorpe”]Use wisely the power of your position.[/shareable]

What happens when power is abused? Power in the wrong hands can be disastrous or sometimes, just comical.

Read morePower Trippin’

Money Matters: How Much is Enough?

From my many years as a community banker, I learned something very interesting about money. Every person has a different view on the age-old question “how much is enough”.

This issue causes a constant state of turmoil for so many people. Finding the right answer for yourself can resolve a large number of conflicts.

As I visited with customer after customer as they came in to handle their banking needs, they would share their financial circumstances and concerns. Let me tell you two stories to demonstrate the extremes.

Courtesy 123rf.com/ tsuneo
Courtesy 123rf.com/ tsuneo

Read moreMoney Matters: How Much is Enough?

9 Steps to Becoming a Better Manager

Are you a new manager? Or an experienced manager whose people skills might be slipping? Take this refresher course in effective management strategies.

In most businesses, many managers acquire their titles and supervisory responsibilities in the absence of any formal training—or, for that matter, any natural leadership skills.

Even trained managers may occasionally get so busy with their day-to-day responsibilities that they neglect the basics of handling people. Whether you are a new manager or a veteran, take some time out to brush up on these essential skills.

Courtesy 123rf.com
Courtesy 123rf.com

Read more9 Steps to Becoming a Better Manager

Managers: Are you Thankful?

So today is the holiday known as Thanksgiving in the U.S.

Tradition has families gathering at dinner tables all over the country. The feast is legend. Usually the main course is turkey prepared now in numerous ways; baked, fried, stuffed, and on and on.

The ‘trimmings’, as we call it in the south, can range from sweet potatoes and corn casseroles to exotic fruit salads. Various ethnic groups have their own ways of preparing the feast we call Thanksgiving.

34051306_s

As this year’s edition of Thanksgiving happens, it, for me, is time to pause. Quiet pause leads to reflection. Reflection leads, hopefully, to revelation of things needing to be included in a list of possible changes to come. Here is my list of things:

1. On a very large scale, the recent events in the world emphasize the fact that this world is changing very fast. New forces have risen to strike fear in otherwise peaceful people who only want to live each day. I choose to not honor that fear. My challenge is to awake each day and strive to make the day a little better for someone somewhere.

2. My business can be better by me being sure I show up, in the moment, fully engaged and ready to participate. No distractions, no exceptions.

3. My family can be better if I stay focused on maintaining my faith in God, living my love for my wife, and by showing my committed trust and love for my children, regardless of how old they are.

To be in a place where I have the personal freedom to make these choices is the biggest blessing of all. I love Thanksgiving because it causes a time to pause and reflect.

My prayer for you is that you take your own time to reflect. Give thanks where it is due. Speak the words and show the appreciation.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

How to Know if YOU have the Heart of a Leader

Need a coach

There is a whole body of academic work surrounding studies about management versus leadership.

Need a coachOne of the best explanations I know states simply:

Management is about the process. Leadership is about people. ~Doug Thorpe

Being a good manager means business goals (or personal goals) are getting met. The process is working close to or at its peak potential. You, as a manager, can influence the priorities, push the right buttons, and get things done. Some managers make good, solid careers operating at this level. However, there may not be any meaningful impact in the lives of the employees subjected to a ‘pure manager’ approach.

Managers can certainly be decent handlers of their people; fair, honest, respectful, and so forth. But frankly, some managers are not good with people. While results are being posted, the people on the team are slowly feeling disconnected and uninspired.

Leadership takes the influence with people to a whole higher level. Leadership definitely gets the work done and meets or exceeds goals. While that is happening, people are feeling inspired. Team morale is building. Loyalty is growing.

Understanding how to be both an efficient manager and an effective leader takes some work.

In his book “The Heart of Leadership”, Mark Miller tells a story of a young business man named Blake. Blake is struggling at work with his duties as a team leader. He seeks some counsel from a close family friend. I won’t tell all of the story, but the core value comes down to this simple acrostic.

H.E.A.R.T.

The initials stand for:

  • Hunger for wisdom –  keep learning new and different things to improve yourself
  • Expect the best –  set a high standard and maintain your expectations for it
  • Accept responsibility – stop the blame game, take your ownership seriously
  • Respond with courage –  be bold with your decisions
  • Think others first –  be willing to be more of a servant rather than a boss

True leadership does in fact have heart. I like the simple way this can be explained. (By the way, Mark’s book is a great read for anyone struggling in this area).

As with Blake in this story, you might need to seek multiple mentors to guide you in each of these areas. Find role models who fully understand these principles. Soak in their experiences. Begin the journey to apply the teachings to your efforts both in the office and at home.

I promise you will be amazed by the shift in those who report to you, for whom you have influence and impact. When all things are said and done, leadership to inspire and guide people will far outperform pure management. Having a heart for leadership wins the day!

New Managers – Begin with the End in Mind

This is one of the wisest teachings I have heard in a long time. Anyone who has been appointed as a new manager should be thinking about this vital aspect of the new role they are playing at work.

Step #2 in Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits” is ‘begin with the end in mind’. I was thinking about this the other day and it occurred to me that many things do not end well.

There are the obvious examples like divorces, car crashes, job loss, health issues, and financial change (downward). Then there are the things like our favorite TV shows that came to an end. Shows like Lost, Friends, Fraser, and Boston Legal all had pretty good endings. But some very successful and well admired shows had really bad endings; think fade to black on The Sopranos. How often have you seen a movie or read a book and said “gee, I didn’t like the way it ended”?

Read moreNew Managers – Begin with the End in Mind

Be a Better Boss | Add Recognition to the Mix

In a recent article featured in the Harvard Business Review, recognition was identified as one of the easiest things you can do to be considered a great boss. According to David Stuart:

“Most leaders receive surprisingly little development before assuming their first supervisory roles. In fact, many get no leadership training at all until they’ve been in the executive ranks for nearly a decade—reaching, on average, age 42.”

Courtesy 123rf.com/ iqoncept
Courtesy 123rf.com/ iqoncept

He goes on, “But whether you’ve had formal training or not, there’s one simple action that can dramatically increase any manager’s success in gaining the support and engagement of subordinates: recognize great work. That means calling out excellent accomplishments by your employees right away—and doing so in consistent and regular increments from the start.”

Read moreBe a Better Boss | Add Recognition to the Mix

Advice to New Managers | Complaints Go Up

First time managers face a big challenge knowing how to channel the complaints they feel about the workplace. In a clip from the epic WWII movie, “Saving Private Ryan”, Tom Hanks as Captain Miller answers a question from one of his men about what to do with complaints.

I could not express this topic any better than the advice given in this clip.

[shareable cite=”Tom Hanks as CPT Miller”]Complaints go UP, always up.[/shareable]

[reminder]What do you do with complaints?[/reminder]