Question: How to prioritize when everything is Top Priority
Your situation is not atypical for those moving from larger to smaller organizations. Therefore, let me take a slightly different approach than my colleagues have and encourage you to look at what improvements YOU can make in how you juggle priorities.
Some suggestions for upping your game:
• Accept that any frustration or productivity loss you're experiencing when shifting between priorit...Read more
Question: Overcoming hidden bias at workplace
Surya ably speaks to the 'concealed' truth of many (most?) biases. A 360°/multi-rater-type assessment – one that allows those being degraded to anonymously provide their feedback – can be particularly helpful in articulating the negative business impact of this particular bias, as well as other instances where the leader is blind to, and/or failing to take full responsibility for, his/her imp...Read more
Question: Are micro-cultures in one organization a bad thing?
I admit to having used such a strategy, back in the day, when I was promoted to run a department that was both negatively viewed and non-core to the business.
Although the larger culture was very "performance" focused, I asked my staff to adopt a "let's be so good that no one notices" mantra so we could work "under the radar" on some basic improvements and lessen the unwanted attention -- whic...Read more
Question: Practical advice for busy managers to coach their staff
Just because you don't have the time doesn't mean that they still don't need it. And just because they say they're too busy, too, doesn't mean they still don't need it, either.
Besides, now is not the time for you to be ADDING responsibilities. Your focus is better spent on reducing your workload IN PREPARATION FOR your departure/retirement, rather than working like a dog up to...Read more
Question: Having a difficult conversation with a subordinate
Prepare for the very real possibility that the one not promoted will leave, notwithstanding your best efforts to avoid that outcome.
If s/he does leave, you'll be that much more ready to minimize (and better handle) the disruption.
If s/he stays, you'll be that much more convinced you were right in choosing who you did to promote!
In either case, it's a case of the needs of the business...Read more
Question: Difficulties in finding suitable mentors for emerging women leaders
I wholeheartedly encourage you to modernize your mentor matching methodologies -- for women AND men. Gone are the days where just one mentor is enough. What your up-and-coming leaders need is an entire PORTFOLIO of mentors. (I've been coaching/mentoring, professionally, for 14 years, but it's a lesson I learned beforehand, back when I was vice president of telecommunications for a futures/option...Read more
Question: Issues in reporting to an idealist manager
As your boss suggests, "true merit" sooner or later DOES rise to the top -- except, of course, when it does not!
Therein lies the rub.
Unmet needs -- especially like "feeling undervalued" -- can cause terrible distraction in the workplace. Even worse, it can negatively affect the work you do as you (inadvertently, but likely) shift your attention from doing exemplary work to getting more re...Read more
Question: How do I overcome difficulty in managing older employees?
I've faced similar circumstances in my own career. Great opportunities to test whether we're as good as we think we are!
What worked for me was to adopt a full-on "servant leader" approach to my older-than-me direct reports, asking them:
• Tell me how you want to be managed?
• What type of support do you want...or not want...from me?
• Do you prefer me to ask you for updates or you to pro...Read more
Question: Use of internal cultural ambassadors
Kind of ironic that your cultural ambassadors are embracing the wrong (old versus new) culture, don't you think?! But that just makes the shift, when they finally do shift, all the more powerful.
To facilitate that shift, find out what they REALLY think about the new direction, listening for any of the following phrases:
✔ "It's not urgent," which suggests that your JUSTIFICATION...Read more
Question: Countering the culture of workaholism
Maybe it's better to build some credibility with the boss-in-question by delivering some exceptional results on some of his/her major priorities, first. Then, you can try asking a question or two about his/her workday philosophy and suggest a productivity test you'd like to conduct whereby you assess what happens when your staff gets more "away time" from the office. But don't underestimate the im...Read more
Question: How can we better engage employees on our strategic initiatives?
Okay, try this: Pretend you're a DB Analyst, a Project Lead, or a Network Engineer, etc., for your company and ask yourself:
"What does knowing the company's current strategic direction mean for me in terms of how I should be doing my job differently than I currently am or was under the company's prior strategic direction?"
Then identify, for each job, some specific ways of doing things th...Read more
Question: Ensuring continued executive support in a long and difficult HR undertaking
The MentorsGuild "qna" is a great place to learn -- for mentees and mentors, alike. Thank you colleagues.
To the above, I would suggest that you identify the impact of actually implementing the program, as currently envisioned, and share your findings with the leadership team, as a whole – BEFORE making any actual compensation changes. You might do this by focusing on the following groups of...Read more
Question: Need guidance to become a more collaborative leader
The basic rule is this: Anything that someone OTHER THAN YOU can accomplish, even if you don't think they can accomplish it as quickly, elegantly, or effectively, as you: delegate it. You work on only what ONLY YOU can do.
In this way, every task or desired outcome is a learning opportunity for someone on your staff. You decide who. The concern, of course, will likely be the mistakes people ma...Read more
Question: Change management issues during company-wide system implementation
How can you ensure our 160 or so employees, in the stores, a small factory and various departments at HQ, embrace the new system? Here's a framework that has helped many clients of mine:
1. Give them the opportunity to not just be trained on the new system, but the permission to play with it -- off line -- so they can make mistakes, break it, learn how the system "thinks," and do more than just...Read more
Question: How can I drive consensus in cross-functional projects?
"While my experience in working relationship one-on-one is excellent, it becomes really difficult to manage conflicting priorities when the size of the team pushes 4 or so members." Yes, welcome to the world of herding cats -- and IT cats are the hardest to herd!
So let me suggest that you consider the level of support you NEED from each person on your key issues by using the following continu...Read more
Question: Does using the same coach for all executives lead to cultural identity?
I'd say it's certainly easier for the coach if s/he's working with everyone -- that way synergies, subtleties, and interpersonal dynamics can be seen earlier and broached in ways that leverage both accountability and confidentiality.
What's really intriguing to me, though, is your comment that "some of us are uncomfortable in sharing a coach." Take a closer look at what that's about.
It ma...Read more
Question: How can we get our suppliers to collaborate better?
Vendors have a love/hate relationship with their competition. Back in my days of management a major telecommunications operation, I'd always try to leverage that to our best advantage by using a 60/40 model with them -- I'd give one vendor about 60% of the relevant business and another about 40%. That way, "60" could brag that they were our "major provider" but knew they had to bring their A-game ...Read more
Question: Advice for retention of a key employee
Let me suggest that, unless your key employee is working on a time-sensitive (30-60 day) project AND has some critical expertise that no one else in the organization can even approximate, let whatever happens, happen, because delaying someone's departure is rarely as beneficial as one hopes.
Too, the unintended consequences of delaying an employee from leaving, like that, are significant:
Question: Is having an internal job board a best practice?
It is my understanding that the primary value of internal job boards is twofold: (1) they can help increase the speed with which job-openings are filled; (2) they can help decrease employees' beliefs that positions are being filled, unfairly, based on politics rather than merit. But listing new positions, internally, for more than 2 weeks before going "public" defeats (item 1) -- especially if the...Read more
Question: How can I provide career paths to my staff?
It can be very challenging when no obvious career paths exist and any promotion is a minimum of a step-and-a-half away. I know because twice I dealt with it directly – once, at a company where I supervised a clerical support operation, and, again, at another where I managed a large Operator Services (switchboard) area. In both cases this was precisely the problem (and in neither case, was HR abl...Read more
Question: How can the management team gauge whether CEO desires feedback or execution?
I'm going with "ask," too. Smart, busy, people spend a lot of time thinking through issues and when they then talk about them with others, they don't always provide sufficient context to know where they're coming from in what they're saying. So is your CEO delegating? Wanting to brainstorm? Looking for validation? Telling you what's already been decided? If you're not 100% sure, It's incumbent on ...Read more
Question: Balancing candor and confidentiality in staff communications.
Good that you're asking the question. Conducting a "post-mortem" on how the management team handled their communications during the sale is an excellent discussion to have. So, too, for considering how best to remedy the current anxiety. My suggestion: Add them to the agenda of your next management team meeting. Better yet, make them the only items on the agenda for your next management team meeti...Read more
Question: Pushing back on low-priority projects
The elephant in the room is that your company probably doesn't hold IT in much regard these days. (Nothing personal -- most companies don't hold IT in much regard these days!) So while you certainly CAN use a charge-back system to dissuade low priority requests, you might find you can actually earn greater company-wide support for your major initiatives (and staffing) by working more of those less...Read more
Question: How can I persuade senior executives on projects without clear ROI?
"If most projects had a clear ROI (as measured by $), leaders wouldn't get the big bucks they do because decisions would be easy & judgment would not be required." Kudos for that, Jim.
So, yes, a clear, compelling, ROI makes decisions easy. Your job, it seems, though, is to implore your CEO to consider a less-than-easy decision. To that end, it's often helpful to consider what your CEO "listens...Read more
Question: Is it important to negotiate a job title?
Vanity aside, you might do well to think about the business impact of each title. What, for example, are the pros and cons of the two titles? What do they mean "externally" -- to customers coming to you to with their requests/complaints? (Banks have so many vice presidents, in part, because they know that their customers would much rather deal with a VP than a manager when it comes to their money....Read more
Question: How does one develop an ability to "see the big-picture"?
A good way to differentiate the "forest" from the "trees" is to think in terms of the precedence or implications of a decision or recommendation.
"Trees" (more tactical decisions/recommendations) are typically one-and-done -- good for the particular circumstance/situation, but not much more. "Forests" (more strategic decisions/recommendations) are more "one-and-some," meaning they address both th...Read more
Question: What is the best way to ensure smooth executive transition?
Some excellent comments above.
A very difficult circumstance for you -- and everyone else. So the first thing to wrap your head around is that people are relying on you to help them understand how to think about what's going on. "Is it, and will it be, hugely challenging? Yes. Can you all get through it? Absolutely." They need to know that they're not alone, that the company believes in them, ...Read more
Question: My boss is trying to 'own' me
I've had a job where I had 24x7 responsibilities for mission-critical telecommunications operations. If yours is, as well, and a 2am conversation is what's needed, then a 2am conversation is what's needed. Assuming your job is not actually like this, though, my colleagues have the right idea in suggesting you manage UP.
The process of "training one's boss" is not particularly difficult, but do...Read more
Question: Smooth talked into a bad bonus package during the hiring process
What do I think is a good way for you to correct the situation? Get the company's financials back up to the level you thought they'd be...pronto.
How? By taking whatever you said you'd do to grow profitability in the 5-year-plan you likely prepared as part of the hiring process and rallying your company's employees to successfully implement those recommendations – plus whatever recommendation...Read more
Question: Disillusionment with the current executive coaching process
So let me take a slightly different tack by saying that ROI is not a truly meaningful calculation for determining a coaching initiative's value. The relationship between changes in how people think, feel, believe, and behave – which is the stuff of coaching – and the changes that occur to a company's bottom line, is indirect, at best. There are just too many variables at play to assume that an...Read more