Over the past year with working with different organizations and industries, I used those contacts to run a survey of the employee base. It was one to help me with understanding what employees did not like that their managers were doing. This is not a scientific survey, just me asking people questions about their experiences with the direct manager. It is always easier to look at the bad in a situation to help learn. Here are top five items (with some quick fixes) from my experiences.
- Surprises. This should come as no surprise, but this was highlighted in almost 95% of the folks surveyed. Highlighted in the comments were simply, “I like to know what is happening and not guess what daily change or mood swing is coming.” Very telling! What can you do: Make sure that you have a daily dialogue with your team. Insure that you are being transparent with them. Don’t make surprises the norm.
- Unfair. 94% responded about managers playing favorites or treating someone different that the rest. With many companies still using a performance appraisal system, this time of year is very telling with unfairness. What can you do: The simplest of items is probably the most difficult for managers, be a role model for your team. Be consistent in how you follow the rules and delivering consequences for not following the rules.
- Missing Leader. There are two particular items that stood out with this one. The first one was, folks felt like the manager was not around or sat in their office. Coming out when they felt like they had too. The other one was the leader that was out of touch with their team. Either way, the manager is not there. What you can do: My favorite term here is management by walking around. As the manager, you get to see, hear and discuss with the team what is happening. Being a part of the team will make you more successful in the long run.
- Empty talk or action. Personally, I would have thought this one would have been higher (I guess managers are getting much better at this one). The comments here were all around leaders that don’t do what they say they are going to do. Nothing frustrates them more than having critical matters sit undecided because of the manager hasn’t gotten to it yet. What can you do: Be accountable! If you say you are going to do something, then you better do it. Step up and lead your team. I know that sounds harsh, but that is the easiest thing you can do.
- Unclear goals. There are two ways to look at unclear goals – there are none or they are so grand. Either way, it is hard for the team to understand what is expected of them. What you can do: I have written a lot about goal setting. The simplest way to make sure that the goals are clear and the team knows what is expected is to involve them. This will help them understand the goal and how best to contribute in achieving them.
Learning from mistakes is easier than learning from your success. Using a critical filter can always help. Managing your team is difficult. The best piece of advice I received was to spend time with your team. Get to know them. Work along side of them. Listen and watch – you will learn lots.
, New To Management
, Leading Teams
, performance appraisal
One important item that a US Army Colonel told me when I was just a newbie second lieutenant, “you are only as good as your people.” My first assignment was a platoon leader in an engineering company. He made it very clear that my success would be directly tied to the overall success of my platoon. I can think back over my career and remember managers that frankly never understood that principle. Their success was probably at the expense of their team. I can safely say that that the Colonel’s one piece of advice I have carried with me for many years.
The Colonel went on deeper to give me a basic understanding of what that meant. He shared that my platoon has experiences that I don’t have. I need to learn to listen before acting. Lastly, never forget that you are here for them. Over my years of experience, I have learned to hone in on what I believe should go into that one principle.
- Train Them Well: Provide every one of your people with the necessary training to be able to do their job in an outstanding manner. Average is not good enough. Many times we see situations or outcomes that look like they just go by. That is because we are okay with accepting just getting by or average work. I am competitive and average is not good enough. The military taught me that average could get someone killed. Be outstanding and your mission will be successful (and everyone will come home!).
- Coach Them Up: Ensuring that they are prepared 100%. Giving them your expectations, the schedule and following up along the way. Recently I posted about coaching 3 and 4 year olds in soccer. Those players wanted to be win (even though we did not keep score) and they wanted their parents (and my) approval. Giving them the expectations and helping coach them before, during and after the game helped them to improve and do some pretty amazing things. This by no means is an easy task, but one that you need to really develop.
- Listen To Them: It is so easy for managers and leaders to do all the talking. I think it is expected. A great leader listens more than they speak. As a newbie second lieutenant or a newbie manager, you don’t know everything. In fact, you probably don’t know much. Those eyes that are looking at you, do. Ask questions and make sure that you truly listen. The information you get could insure that you get it right.
- Have Fun: Some of you are thinking, why is having fun in with you are only as good as your people? Well, that is simple. Think about how much time you spend at work. Quite a bit right? Think about your best job or activity that quickly comes to your mind. What is some thing that made that stand out in your head? For me, it is we worked hard and played hard together and accomplished some pretty incredible things. We had fun doing it!
If you are in a leadership position and don’t think your success is dependent upon your team’s success – you are going to fail.
After spending most of my working adult life inside a large company, you get to witness many things. Some would probably call them the good, bad and ugly. How many articles, blog posts and conversations have you been a part of that talks about “you must innovate” to continue to succeed? Can you really innovate in a large company? If you are in a large company or have worked in a large company, think about that for a minute. Pause… What is your definition of truly innovating? Take out the tweaks to what you are already doing. I would like you to think about those innovations that transform what the company is doing. Now, is there innovation happening?
I think it can happen, but it must be stressed and discussed at almost every turn. From my experience, many large companies have put in a lot of “systems” to insure that decisions or budget or product changes or whatever are following some version of “red” tape. Necessary? Yes, to a point. I feel that those “systems” cause many of the employee base to shy away from innovating. Why?
- Fear of making a mistake. We all are told to “think outside of the box” or take a risk, but with many in a large company, make a mistake and you could be the person that is at the bottom of the performance curve. Taking risks and making mistakes can not be punished. All you have to think about is the mistake that invented the post-it note (the glue that just did not stick as well as it should have). I don’t want to tell you how many times I witnessed that risk taker get singled out for not performing like the others. The first time it happens in a department, risk taking goes straight out the window. No words can bring it back.
- Setting up “innovation programs” don’t work. Let me clarify the “program” a bit. These are those programs that have a sponsor, list of ideas, committees that review the ideas, approval processes, tracking approved projects and rewarding those “successful” innovators. Placing red tape completely around innovation. That does not really get innovation or does it? From my experience it just gives you tweaks to what you already have. Usually those that are administering the “innovation system” are not entrepreneurial spirits but process certified folks. I would argue that many employees will shy away from “red” tape.
- Actions speak louder than words. Ever sit in a department update meeting and count the number of times the word “innovation” was used? Try it in your next large department meeting. Makes you want to get going on innovating. Then off you go! Once down that path. How did it go? With most large companies, it was a painful process. If you “really” wanted to fight city hall all the way – you would be exhausted and tell your co-workers about your experience. Actions are real (and in most cases shared with the rest).
What does it take for a large company to innovate? Right off the top there truly needs to be within the culture of the organization of entrepreneurial spirit. Thinking and acting like an entrepreneur. Time must be given within the daily order of business. If the “day job” is all time consuming, how in the world will people get to be thinking or working on something innovative. If you must have a process, make sure that it is very lean. Take out the many review committees, long templates and death by data analysis. Keep it simple (stupid). Lastly, reward every for their attempts at innovation. There is success in failure (you just have to look). I would say, it is better to focus on those that don’t or are not working on innovation. Make that a priority in their professional development plan. If you want that organization to be innovative… You must innovate your organization away from what they are doing today.
, Decision making
, Leading Teams
, performance management