Thanks to those of you who expressed opinions on twitter or through the blog. Here is what I suggest you say to someone in your team who arrives 10 minutes after they should have!
Imagine the scene. A busy shift started at 08.30am.
Most of the team were there ready to start on time.
But one team member doesn’t make it to their work station until 08.40. Previously they have usually been on time
If you would ‘say something else’ then please put your preferred choice of words – or any other thoughts in the comments box below.
You can find what I would recommend you to say here.
Time management has been on my mind for a while now. Recently I re-read Druckers’ Effective Executive – the second chapter of which, ‘Know they Time’, is devoted to time management. I recommend it highly!
For the vast majority of managers that I work with making significant improvements in their time management is quick and easy.
It simply requires them to:
Work out their top priority for the coming week/month
Block out at least 2 x 90 minute slots each week when they are going to work – without interruption – on moving that priority forward.
It takes no more than that – get time for your priorities on your schedule!
This is important because so many managers just hope to fit progress on key priorities around a morass of standing meetings, e-mail and fire-fighting. Weeks slip by without any focus on progressing the priority. Yet once it is scheduled – and the time protected – BINGO! – the priority gets time and progress is made.
And while I am at it – unless work is really THE most important thing in your life – take great care about giving up week-ends and evenings to do it.
Working longer hours is rarely the key to getting more done.
It usually results in getting less done and only serves to slow down the rate of work; why have a sense of urgency to get the job done if you can always stay just another half an hour?
If you find that you must work evenings or week-ends then always make sure that you have a firm end-time for the work fixed – and stick to it. Make an appointment with what you love outside of work (family, hobby whatever) immediately after your work commitment and keep it.
My diary is littered with 5pm appointments with Danny. Danny is my dog. By having that 5pm ‘appointment’ fixed in my calendar I can get my work done and get away for a bit of me time.
Setting ‘hard stops’ like this will force you to use your time effectively.
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One of the useful tools that Steven Covey gave us was his concept of Four Quadrants in relation to time management.
Covey suggested that too many of us spend too much time in quadrant 1 (urgent and important stuff) and quadrant 3 (urgent but not important).
Activity in these 2 quadrants comes to dominate working life, with the important but non-urgent stuff of quadrant 2 being relegated to off-sites and other special occasions. And while activity in quadrants 1 and 3 keep us busy they do little to make things better. They just help us to cope with the status quo.
One of the benefits of 121s is the opportunity that they build in to focus on a regular basis on quadrant 2 type work. And as Covey pointed out, this is the key to excellence.
By building time for Quadrant 2 work into a regular schedule we can start to change the culture of the organisation.
Return on Investment in Relationships of course!
Tom Peters encourages managers to obsess on R.O.I.R – the Return on Investment in Relationships.
Usually what has to be invested is not cash – but time. And the challenge is to invest that time effectively.
For me, without doubt, the most effective tool for ROIR with employees is the 121. These are structured, documented 30 minute meetings held with each member of staff, every week. They provide the most effective ROIR with employees that I know.
ROIR through 121s comes in many forms:
- increased staff retention
- improved productivity
- recognition and acknowledgement of progress
- appreciation of those who are performing well
- identification of under performance and early resolution
- promotion of behaviours that reinforce strategic goals and values
- increased pace of coaching to develop potential and performance
- deeper professional relationships
- increased trust
- increased influence
- increased responsiveness
- better support of team members in their work
- conduit for ideas from the front line to be heard and acted upon
- management support for every member of the team – every week
- improved communication and focus on what matters
- progress made and recognised on a weekly basis
- increased sense of urgency in the team
- encourage individuals to think through their contribution to team or organisational objectives
- increased initiative and enterprise
- planning remains flexible and dynamic
- documentation makes performance reviews simpler and less contentious
- barriers to high performance are removed
- factors contributing to poor performance are identified and resolved
- formal opportunities for delegation are created
- more feedback – both given and received
- increased employee engagement
- improved knowledge management and knowledge sharing
- better talent management and development
- increased creativity
- more innovation
- more responsibility taken voluntarily by more people
- reduced absenteeism
- more diversity as 121s recognise that ‘one size fits one’
Perhaps some of these are things that you as a manager need to work on. If you are already using 121s then think how you can use them more effectively for the things that matter most to you and your business. You can find out more about 121s here.
If you are not already using 121s then you have a tremendous opportunity to improve your management practice.
Additions to the list are very welcome!
The good news is that it is not that difficult to be an outstanding manager. You just have to master 5 relatively simple skill sets, and have a system that means you use them consistently. We will talk about the system some other time. For now let’s consider the 5 simple skill sets that get you well on the way being an outstanding manager – and that (not so) secret formula:
OM = GWR (GGGF + BBC + MED + TPM)
OM = Outstanding Management
GWR = Great Working Relationships
GGF = Giving and Getting Great Feedback
BBC = Being a Brilliant Coach
MED = Maximum Effective Delegation
TPM = Time and Priority Management
On a scale of 1-10 how do you rate your ability (and success) in developing Great Working Relationships? How many working relationships do you have that don’t work so well? What are you doing to improve them? What could you do, in the next few days, that would increase your own score by 1?
On a scale of 1-10 how do you rate your ability in Getting and Giving Great Feedback? Do you give and get feedback on daily basis? Do people respond to it? Or are you wasting you breath? Do you respond to feedback? What was the last piece of feedback that changed your behaviour? What could you do, in the next few days, that would increase your own score by 1?
On a scale of 1-10 how do you rate your ability in Being a Brilliant Coach? Do you coach every member of your team, every week to improve their performance in critical areas? Or do you leave it to the annual performance review? What could you do, in the next few days, that would increase your own score by 1?
On a scale of 1-10 how do you rate your ability in Maximum Effective Delegation? Do you have a scheme of delegation and a bomb proof process for making delegations that work? Or do you just think it is quicker and easier to do it yourself? What could you do, in the next few days, that would increase your own score by 1?
On a scale of 1-10 how do you rate your ability in Time and Priority Management? Do you get all of your work done in your contracted hours? Or do yo work additional hours for free? Do you spend most of your time on the most important, highest return areas? Or do you spend a lot of time working for little apparent return? What could you do, in the next few days, that would increase your own score by 1?
So, how did you score?
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Your comments too are always welcome!
I am continually surprised by the number of organisations that I work with who are exploring the ‘higher planes’ of performance management and the pursuit of excellence (using balanced scorecards, strategy maps and so on) who do not yet practice some of the management fundamentals, such as 121s, feedback and coaching. By getting these management basics right I believe that most organisations can make substantial improvements in performance quickly and at low cost.
What is a 121?
A 121 is a planned, structured, documented meeting between a manager and a direct report held on a weekly.
Why are they so effective in improving performance?
- 121s provide the foundation on which managers and their reports can build a genuine and powerful working relationship that provides the foundation for high performance.
- They provide the report with the opportunity to bring to their manager’s attention where they need help, support or permission to act. Providing reports with this opportunity in a structured way will dramatically reduce the time that managers spend reacting to ad hoc requests.
- They give managers the chance to talk about issues that have occurred over the course of the week that may impact on the report – either because of changing priorities in the business or because of some aspect of their work.
- Managers have the chance to talk on a weekly basis about the medium and longer term future. What training and development does the report need to develop their career? What projects and opportunities might be on the horizon that the report may be interested in working on?
- 121s provide the foundation that allows manager’s to make the transition from fire fighting to genuinely managing and developing performance.
I manage 10 direct reports – I won’t have time to do weekly one to ones.
Lack of time is the most common objection to implementing 121s. If the manager has a team of ten, then 121s will take about 6 hours a week – allowing a little time for note-taking and follow-up actions.
After 2-3 weeks of doing 121s the vast majority of manager’s report that they are saving time. Because reports know that they have structured time with the manager they will hold non-critical issues until the 121, instead of raising them whenever they have the chance. Interruptions are reduced significantly.
Regular 121s allow many minor adjustments to be made in the work of, and relationship with, the report. This means that more problems are nipped in the bud and more opportunities are spotted and acted upon quickly – saving lots of fire-fighting time later on.
Scheduling 121s can be a problem. But most managers’ diaries have plenty of space just 3-4 weeks ahead. This is the time to start booking 121s.
If the number of direct reports goes much above 12 then fitting in weekly 121s can be a problem – and they can be made fortnightly instead of weekly. If your team is made up of some full and some part-timers then you may want to schedule 121s with part-timers on a less frequent basis. 121s still work if they are not done weekly, but they do not work as well and the results take longer to show.
Why do 121s have to be documented?
Taking notes, and following up on them, is a vital part of effective 121s. It demonstrates that you are taking the meeting seriously and that you are committing to acting on what is discussed. The notes also provide a comprehensive record of what has been discussed with the report over the year and make annual performance reviews much easier to do. They also allow you to keep accurate records that can be helpful when making a case for promotion or dealing with poor performance. I recommend the use of a simple proforma, which is handwritten during the 121, and stored securely in a file for each direct report.
Making the Commitment
121s show a very real commitment from the manager to each of their direct reports. This commitment has to be maintained so that 121s become part of the management routine. They should hardly ever be missed. 121s have a major impact on organisational culture when they are adopted throughout the organisation as they show a real commitment to people and performance. However if the organisation is not prepared to commit top them as a part of the culture, they work just as effectively for individual managers who chose to adopt them. In fact these managers soon develop a reputation for excellent service delivery, as great people developers and soon stand out from the managerial crowd.
Making 121s work requires both will and skill. Managers can be trained in how to effectively set up and maintain a system of 121s in a half day training session.
Lets face it. Not all of your relationships at work are working. At least, not as well as they should be.
Working relationships are essential to manage effectively. Without them we can neither listen nor be heard. Our influence is minimal. Without a working relationship management becomes almost impossible. We resort quickly to the capability and discipline procedures and watch our working relationships go from bad to worse.
But what do we mean by a working relationship?
Even great working relationships sometimes come under strain, and I am not talking about the occasional rough patch. I am talking about the consistent failure to really connect, to bring out the best in each other. Those relationships at work that feel difficult and are characterised by mediocrity, poor communication and personal antipathy. It is important to recognise that these types of relationships are common, and they cost us a lot psychologically and in productivity! We have a choice about we handle these non-working relationships. We can put up with them and do our best in the circumstance to get the best outcomes that we can. Or we can acknowledge that the relationship isn’t right and do what we can to change it. To improve it. To make it a working relationship. One where both parties are open to feedback and willing to act on it to improve things.
What you choose to do about non-working relationships will depend on who they are with. Non-working relationship with bosses, peers and reports all have different implications and challenges and need to be thought about carefully. But there are some common characteristics to be considered.
It’s a personality thing…
This is perhaps the commonest reason I am offered for why relationships aren’t working, and it is rarely helpful. It provides a usually superficial, meaningless, pseudo explanation for why we are not able to work effectively. It does little to help the situation unless we understand the personalities involved a little and change the interactions between them to reach a more productive state. Labelling the problem as a ‘personality clash’ usually just resigns us to acceptance. Understanding personality is no trivial task, but I believe that there are some simple tools that can help us to diagnose the origins of a personality clash and offer us some possibilities to improve things. Many of us have heard of, if not been profiled with, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI. 4 dimensions, 16 types, dominant and auxiliary functions, MBTI is a very useful tool – but can get a tad complicated for use in every day management practice. So I prefer a simpler model based on similar Jungian psychology called DISC. 2 dimensions, 4 types and that’s pretty much it. It has worked well for me over the years, and is relatively easy to teach, learn and apply in real life situations – without having to call an occupational psychologist! But there are lots of personality models out there and most offer useful frameworks for thinking about how we can work better together. Choose one (or more), learn it, and use it to think about what might actually behind that personality clash that you use to explain non-working relationships. I will be teaching and using the DISC model in the forthcoming workshops on How To Be A Better Manager.
It’s a behaviour thing…
Usually behind non-working relationships are a set of behaviours that are just not hitting the mark. It is the things people say and do that make it hard, or easy, for us to work well with them and vice versa. These behaviours hold a real clue to turning non-working into working relationships. If we can just get adjust our behaviours to get them working for each other. But many managers don’t deal in behaviours, preferring instead the currency of labels, such as ‘unprofessional’, ‘hard working’ or ‘poor attitude’ for example. Once these labels have been applied, and become the way we see our colleagues, they almost pre-ordain the nature of our working relationships. It is hard to have a good working relationship with someone who we have already labeled as ‘unprofessional’.
So where do these labels come from? What evidence are they based on? Often managers struggle to answer these questions with any specifics and have to learn how to track back from a label to the specific behaviours that have ‘created’ it. Let’s take for example the label ‘bad attitude’. What kind of behaviours might lead that label to be created? Well, here are some common ones: arriving late for work, leaving early, missing meetings, keeping quiet in meetings, being over bearing in meetings, responding with negative comments about ideas and proposals, checking mobiles during meetings, not making eye contact, talking loudly on the phone, tapping, clicking, sneering, shrugging, frowning…and the list goes on…
These behaviours that drive the labels are managerial gold dust. If we can observe them, describe them and their impacts, and feed them back in a way that is fast, safe and actionable then we can start to encourage more of the behaviours that create value and less of the behaviours that destroy it.
It’s a time thing…
Building good working relationships takes time courage. Time for high quality communication. Talking and listening about goals, hopes, frustrations and fears. Time to build trust and respect. Time to explore what’s working and what’s not and to demonstrate a real commitment to building a relationship that works. I am a big advocate of regular 121s. Up to half an hour every week just to talk, listen, plan, provide feedback and support. As long as you have a sensible span of control, say up to 15 direct reports, these 121s if managed well will save you a lot of time. I will be teaching The Basics of Effective 121s in a workshop later in the year.
It’s a courage thing…
Above all to building working relationships takes courage. You have to be prepared to face up to the issue and be prepared to both work on your own behaviour and exert your influence over the behaviour of others.
Working on Relationships Top Tips
- Get to grips with at least one model of personality that you can use to think about the relationship dynamics that might be at play
- Choose to work on the non-working relationships – give them time and look for positives (be careful though, don’t let the squeaky wheels get all the grease)
- Focus on behaviours – what are you doing and what are they doing that leads to the problem? Use feedback – both giving and getting it – to influence behaviours.
- Give yourself time to build the relationship – it might not happen overnight
I am pleased to say that, in partnership with Canopy Housing, I am running the first set of Be a Better Manager workshops in Leeds. There will be one half day workshop each month. Each workshop will be supported with written materials, including forms and examples supplied at the workshops, and additional advice and support published the Be A Better Manager website.
15th October – How To Be An Outstanding Manager
17th December – Giving and Getting Great Feedback that drives performance
21st January – Developing potential – Manager as Performance Coach
18th February – Effective Delegation – Getting More Done Well
18th March – Time and Priority Management
Each workshop can stand alone – but taken together they provide a comprehensive system for management that produces great results.
To become an outstanding manager is not as hard as you might expect because, to be frank, the competition is not up to much!
Many people are given managerial roles because of their technical competence in the role they will be managing. So excellent nurses become managers of nurses. High performing sales people become sales managers. Good bar staff become bar managers. Sometimes such a strategy works, but more often it does not, because managing people doing a job is a very different proposition from doing the job.
So, if it is not very hard to be an outstanding manager, what does it take?
Managers have to have the courage to say things that they might find difficult or unfamiliar. To praise when it is deserved and to challenge when it is required. Managers have to say and do things that can feel awkward. They need to be brave enough to start some difficult conversations and skilful enough to end them well too!
Managers need to have the confidence to get the job done. They have to believe that they are equipped to deal with the situations that they face, both psychologically and technically. They have to believe in themselves as a manager, and be confident in their position.
Although managers have to deal effectively with a bewildering range of situations, I believe that there is a relatively small set of core skills or tools that need to be learned to deal with most of them. These include:
- Building working relationships
- Giving and getting feedback that works
- Coaching and developing people
- Delegating, and
- Managing priorities
These are the managerial ‘Big 5’. If you can learn to do these 5 things well, and use them frequently and consistently with everyone that you manage, then you will be an outstanding manager. Many books have been written on each of these ‘Big 5’ and you can spend a lifetime learning about each of them. However for each of them competence can be acquired quite quickly by learning a few basics and then practicing them consistently. Once managers have acquired a basic proficiency in the ‘Big 5’ then in my experience they soon acquire the confidence and courage that they need.
Outstanding managers have a way of ensuring that they get better at their job. They manage their own learning and are continually developing their management practice. While it may take just a few months to become an outstanding manager it can take a professional life time to become the best manager that you can be!
Managing in The Matrix
There was perhaps a time when the vast majority of managers would just have to worry about managing their team, their ‘direct reports’. For most of us this is no longer true with lots of time being spent managing:
- horizontally with peers inside and outside the organisation
- managing up, frequently in matrix organisations, to more than one boss on more than one project
- customers, suppliers, regulators/inspectors and others touched by our work
Once again in such complex organisational settings the ‘Big 5’ are our friends and using them consistently and systematically will ensure that we are seen to be an outstanding manager.