1. Manage or Muddle? Part III

    A continuing series on ideas in caring for people. If you haven’t already, please read these two other posts. 



    They will guide you to this one.

    C) Invest in the individual

    At the end of the day, investing in an individual is a mutually beneficial thing to do. Really…. It is….

    For one thing, it shows them that you want them to succeed. And, if you’ve coupled it with attention to the first two big ideas that I posted, they will have a context that builds loyalty rather than a feeling of being used.

    This post will give some ideas on ways that you, as a manager, can do just that. But let’s say that you’re not the emotive, outwardly caring type, or you’re the manager who is all about work-what then?

    Let’s get into some tactics for helping individuals around you feel like you’re invested in them.

    1.) Training

    Training is an obvious way for people to see you want to invest in them. It makes sense for your business for sure, and shows the individual that you’re interested their professional growth. Those are both huge things.

    There are some ways to go about it that will make it even better for both of you.

    From a manager or employers perspective, it is often perceived that the best training is going to give the individual the skills they need to be successful in their current role. It makes sense right? You need people who can accomplish what they’re tasked with. 

    Consider this: What if I told you that’s not really investing? Investment is the idea of putting something of value in now, that if given the right time and attention, will pay dividends in the future. Of course, it could be argued that it is a value-and that would be absolutely true-in some cases.

    For example, you have an individual that has been moved into a role or hired into a role that you later find out is not quite succeeding. At that point training for their current role makes sense and should absolutely be arranged.

    On the other hand, if you have an individual who is already succeeding in their current role it isn’t likely to be too rewarding or seen as an investment.

    Here then are some ideas for you to consider as you embark down the road of investing via the training approach.

    Tactic 1) Consider asking the individual if there is training they would like. Then task them with submitting a brief proposal on the nature of the training and how it will benefit the company, either now or in the future. Discuss it with them. Don’t be afraid to express your concerns and/or encouragement. Obviously if you work in stock trading, training in sculpture may not be the best fit.

    (NOTE: Doing this individually can certainly help the individual feel like you’re interest in their training is sincere but depending on the size of your team that may not be feasible.)

    Tactic 2) Take it upon yourself to dream a little about where you think a person could fit in the company, and though it can be hard to do this, consider a fit that may not be part of your team. You may actually have a more balanced perspective than they do about themselves and their capabilities.

    2.) Down-Time

    Give people down-time and ensure that people are taking advantage of it. Just because it’s the law to provide breaks, doesn’t mean it’s not a good thing. People need to take breaks. It makes them more productive and reduces workplace stress, which increases the health of your employees.

    Tactic 1) Add an additional 15 minutes onto the afternoon break. Having a :30 minute break during that “afternoon slump” will allow people to take a walk, engage in team relationship building, and otherwise, generally disconnect. 

    Tactic 2) Encourage people to leave the building or at least their work area. Get them completely away.

    Tactic 3) Once a month or quarterly, schedule an activity during a break period. This could be as simple as bringing in a dessert or providing some special coffee, etc. Maybe you will go way out on a limb and bring in someone to teach them about healthy habits for reducing stress. Be creative. 

    In any case, encourage people to use their break time as a way to regenerate. Build a culture that supports it. 

    D) Assume Good

    Do yourself and your employees a favor, assume…. yes, ass-u-me that peoples motives and intentions are good. Most often, I’ve found that they are, or at the very least they were unknowingly making a mistake and not trying to bypass or change things. 

    In all honesty, I’m cynical. Mostly because I know myself well enough to know that I’ve failed—a lot. I’ve also witnessed and been the recipient of things that were so obviously wrong that it’s brought out my natural bent to be cynical over the years.

    That being said, by learning to look at myself first and self-evaluate, I concluded that my failings and mistakes are as good a reason as any to assume good in others. Most of the time, mistakes I’ve made, were not intentionally done with intent to harm someone else or cause conflict, etc. They were just….well…mistakes.

    By knocking back my cynical side a bit in my role as a manager, I have found that life was consistently better for all parties involved, if I assumed good first.

    Here are some ways to do it:

    Tactic 1) If you have an individual approach you with a problem about another individual, compare that problem with your own experience first. Have others mentioned anything similar? Have you noticed something that might confirm the issue? Ask yourself if it’s even an issue? We have to learn, in a workplace to balance our own personal idiosyncrasies with those of others.

    Value the persons input but do not validate their thoughts. It’s possible to do this and necessary as a manager.

    Tactic 2) Encourage the individual to talk with the other person on their own before launching into some investigation into the proposed wrong doing. I would often not even offer anything beyond “have you talked with them about this?” Nine times out of ten, the answer was “no.” I had an unspoken rule that I would not engage in the fray unless their was evidence of wrong, rather than just going on one person’s view.

    Tactic 3) Don’t leave tactic 2 by itself, instead, always offer to be a mediator for the discussion. What I saw time and time again, was that when I offered up tactic 2, some people would just shutdown because they didn’t want workplace conflict or to be seen as complaining or aggressive.

    Getting both people into the same room to talk with you as a mediator only works if you are generally fair with people all the time—all the people on your team. If one person feels ganged up on, it’s not going to end well.

    Tactic 4) Stay impartial. You really have to do your best to be “outside looking in.” Again, this is the only way that you’ll get consistently positive results from the previous tactics. I’ve also found that it truly does help to relieve your stress as a manager—it keeps you unattached from another persons struggles and allows you to evaluate these types of relational issues from a perspective of objectivity.

    To put it more clearly, having compassion for an individual is acceptable but empathizing with them is not.

    "I can understand why that would make you angry" versus "that makes me so angry!"

    E) Own your shortcomings

    As managers, owners, executives, leaders, et. al. it is easy to become too comfortable with the way you do things and think that it must be good. The reality is, that often you won’t hear anything about your shortcomings as a manager until it shows up in your review or your exit interview….. not the best times to hear negative comments. It can be downright uncomfortable.

    Tactic 1) To help with this, consider giving those you manage the opportunity to give you constructive feedback. One option for this is to set aside time within your scheduled meeting with them to allow them to give you constructive critique. Set the standard by teaching them how to do it and then allow them the same opportunity. Then the hard part—listen. 

    Tactic 2) If you make a mistake or someone on your team makes a mistake, don’t call them out to a superior. Own it. In reality, when someone who you manage fails, you also fail. If you are a decent manager, you shouldn’t have to do this very often but when there is a need, own it. It may not give you any points with your manager, but it will show you own the responsibility they’ve given you and your staff will trust and respect you.

    Tactic 3) Study, read, and implement ideas to learn about being a more consistent manager and developing the skill of valuing people. It’s hard to do it well anytime, let alone all of the time. Keep at it.


  3. Senior Pictures 2014.

    ©2014 Copyright. Sean Stark, All images, all rights reserved

  5. Facebook app permissions request…. creepy.