Monday, August 10, 2009

Control Is An Illusion

Micromanagers govern their kingdoms with rules, constant oversight, supervision and most often an iron fist. Their entire management model is build on "Control". And sadly, they typically spend so much time in the weeds, directing their subordinates, they struggle at the bigger picture of their own job - requiring their bosses to "micromanage" them as well.

The truth is, Control is an Illusion.

Whether you believe it or not, you really don't have control over anything but yourself and what YOU do. And the more Control and Authority you try to invoke over others, they less you actually have (just ask any parent with a teenager).

Your employees do what THEY want to do (nothing more and nothing less) - which is usually what they are rewarded to do. Thus, the concept of work in the first place.

You see, you and your company promise your employees a reward (pay) for coming to and engaging in the work you assign, and they gladly do just that . . . come to work and do what you "tell" them to do.

So the control you think you have, what little there actually is, comes from getting them to "want to do what you want them to do", not because you tell them to do it. Thus, the question that most managers have, but few are actually good at answering is "How do I get them to want to work?"

Hence the dilemma of the Manager, and the birth of the Micromanager.

But there are things you can do to change this. There are ideas you can implement and techniques you can follow to become a more effective manager. If you want to become a more effective manager / leader of your direct reports, you simply need to change your perspective and mindset, the behavior will follow. You need to see your employees as more than just things that do what they are told, when they are told, and how they are told to do it. You need to see them as thinking individuals, that think, act, behave, and are motivated much like you are.

You need to apply the following 5 ideas / steps to your management style:

- TEACH the methods and guidelines of the company,
- DEFINE the results,
- EMPOWER their employees,
- Establish an environment of ACCOUNTABILITY where employees are held accountable for results
- REWARD the behavior you want

Over the next five days, I will break down each of these 5 elements of Management (each day a different idea) to give you the tools you need to move from being a micromanager to an empowering leader and effective manager.

Marcus Buckingham & Curt W. Coffman

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Are You A Micromanager?

According to Wikipedia, Micromanagement is a management style where a manager closely observes or controls the work of his or her subordinates or employees.

Why is it that no one thinks they are a Micromanager, but yet everyone thinks they work for one?

Are all managers that ignorant to their style?

Are You A Micromanager?

Since the first step in improving anything in your life is recognizing and accepting that problem, let's first start with self analysis and facing the truth about yourself.

Here are seven questions that all managers should ask of themselves?
  1. Is the mission more important to you than control over the situation?
  2. Do your direct reports know what is expected of them?
  3. Do you provide guidance more than you impose direction?
  4. Do you set goals for your employees and empower them to achieve them?
  5. Do you delegate day-to-day routine functions so you can look up and out to more important things?
  6. Do you tolerate failures and allow mistakes to happen or do you castrate your staff for even the slightest hiccup?
  7. Do you praise more than you criticize?
So how many times did you answer Yes?

Six or seven times - You are a real leader - others will follow you through fire.
Four or five times - You are pretty good manager and a burgeoning leader. Your employees are committed, but the talents are still untapped.
Two or three times - You are average, but quite honestly, not getting as much from your people as you could.
Less than two times - You are a quintessential micromanager and your people hate working for you. They are more committed to their pay than to you.

Take It One Step Further

So now that you know where you stand in your own mind, how about asking your employees the same questions about you and your style of management?

Their answer maybe the same as yours, but if you are like most, they probably won't. But if you want to be the best manager you can be, then first you have to know what your direct reports think of you, as well as every other measure of success you have.

Once you know how you see yourself and how others see you, you are ready to take the steps you need to take to become a better manager and get more out of everyone that works for you. Throughout the next week, this blog will be dedicated to helping Managers and Leaders take small steps to becoming more effective. Join me and learn the little things you can do to make a difference in your office - both for yourself and for everyone that works for you.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

It's Not The Knowledge That Makes The Difference

I've spent the better part of the last three years of my life completely immersed in learning about Business. From marketing to operations and finance to human resources, the focus of my effort has been to learn and to understand how to help small businesses grow.

In my search, I have read hundreds of blogs and dozens of books, watched countless videos and listened to hours of speeches. And in spite of all the great advice out there, the single most important thing that I've learned in all of that, has little to do with any of the published knowledge and everything to do with whether or not people actually act upon the knowledge they learn.

That's right, I'm saying it matters less what you know, and more that you act upon what you know.

I know there are a lot of people that are going to get frustrated with that statement. Because if people actually listen to me, they will stop spending the hundreds of millions of dollars they are currently spending on finding out the answer, and actually begin doing what they need to do to make their businesses grow. . . take action.

It's What You Do, Not What You Know

People rarely get rich based on what they know. They do, however, get rich based on the actions they take based on what they know.

It's not necessarily having the best marketing plan. But instead actually having one and acting on it.

It's not having an MBA from a prestigious University that makes you successful in business, some of the best business men and women in the world don't even have Bachelors degrees. Instead, it's what you do, with the knowledge you have.

So, stop looking for the "silver bullet" answer out there - the one piece of education, one book, one blog, or one story that will shine the light on you. Instead begin implementing what you have learned, and make adjustments as you go and as you learn, practically.

Don't just spend all of your time learning. Start doing.

Start living!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Don't Stop And Expect The World To Stop With You

The more I learn about the human experience, the more I realize that happiness requires growth every day. Not life changing growth each day, but instead, an evolution of spirit which can often only be measured over weeks, months or years.

Avoiding change and stagnation, on the other hand, are poisons to us all. Stability may feel good for a short period to "simplify your life - trying to keep life basic and measured for days at a time. But if you make this your modus operandi, you doom yourself to watching your dreams disappear before you.

The truth is, the world grows and changes around us, along with those who we hold dear to us. As happy as you may be today with what you have or who you are, that too shall pass as the circumstances that create your happiness change before you. Your babies become young adults and need you less. Your youthful, flexible and strong body will become old, and less agile. The industry you are in will evolve and out of it will grow a new industry. Each of these things will disturb your life and necessitate growth on your part - require you to become more than you are today.

Are you ready? Do you know what you want in the future?

Do you have a strategy for moving forward in a positive manner or are you just going to let it happen to you - let life pass you by and sit idly by as it happens?

You don't have to begin with dramatic change. It might work in the short term, but the likelihood of large short term changes creating long term growth towards your desired end is very slim.

Just look at life around you, it changes slowly. Sometimes even imperceptibly. And as such, you should take the same course of action. Build into our life slow and consistent, evolutionary (not revolutionary) change. The kind of change that you may not see at the end of every day, but when viewed over the course of weeks, months and years, the growth is dramatic.

Build small changes into your life that over time will create
the YOU that you want.

For example, if you currently are lacking the educational degree to move forward in your field of expertise, don't quit your job and go back to school full time, take classes - one at a time. Sure it might take a couple years, but before you know, it you will there.

Bottom line, personal change management isn't rocket science. Sure you can try to avoid change in your life, but whether you personally try to change or not, everything around you is. It's not a matter of accepting change or not in your life, instead, it's a matter of participating in it or not.

Don't do it. Change is coming. And it's inevitable even though you may not see it.

Stop being stagnant. And take charge of the changes in your life!

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Day of Reflection

There are many special days in our lives, Birthdays (especially our own), our Wedding Day, the Day we graduate from High School or College, our 1st day of a new job, the day we turn 40, 50, 60 and beyond (I can only speculate the 50 and beyond, since I'm not quite there), and the passing of a dear friend or relative.

These are all important days in our lives, because they are the days that cause us to reflect on and take inventory of our lives - looking at what we've done in our past, who we are today, and of course, where we are going.

Today, was one of those such days for me - my Birthday.

It was a day that was filled with challenges and joy. Challenges of work, solving the problems and complexities that life presents me - truly my passion is looking at problems and trying to find solutions. And the joy of being surrounded by my loving family that accept me for who I am and love me simply for being me.

Birthdays, for many (myself included) tend to be milestone days. Like January 1st, we all look at the passing of another year and look at what we have accomplished and what we have yet still to do.

I recently took my kids to see the movie "Up!" And like many adults that I've spoken to, I was amazed as I sat in the theater and found myself moved far more than my children.

The story in "Up!" revolves around an elderly gentleman (voice by Ed Asner) who seeks to accomplish his youthful dreams after his lifelong partner and wife passes away. The journey that he goes on is nothing short of spectacular and is far beyond anything you might expect.

The beauty and simplicity of the storyline will touch you in a very personal way - as it as every one I have spoken to. For me, the moral the moral was simple:

"Life is what happens to you while you are trying to achieve your dreams. And whether you actually achieve the specifics of your dreams or not, by being the person of your dreams every minute of your life - starting NOW, you will live the life that you have always dreamed of having."

Needless to say, I am still on my journey - and look forward to that journey lasting many more years. But I'm not going to wait for someday to be who I want to be. I'm going to be that person today and do my best to live the words of the immortal James Dean,

"Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today."

Are you ready to join me?