Don't make this nonverbal communication mistake [vlog]

Don't make this nonverbal communication mistake [vlog]

Nonverbal communication is absolutely critical to successful interactions when there's any potential for misunderstanding. But as I explain in the short vlog, there’s still a possibility of miscommunication even when you include the nonverbal. I share a personal (painful) story about a time when I learned this the hard way. (And why is there a knife in this video?…). So please watch, enjoy, and learn about how to avoid this nonverbal communication mistake.

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5 Steps to Delegating Right and Reducing Your Stress

5 Steps to Delegating Right and Reducing Your Stress

Effective delegation is an essential supervisory skill. Any supervisor or manager must learn to delegate effectively in order to accomplish his or her goals. By definition, to supervise the work of others means that you have to take time away from the technical aspects of your job and tend to the people side of things. Therefore, because time resources are finite, you must remove some of the work you were previously able to accomplish on your own from your task-list in order to make time for performance management and leadership tasks. And because that work still must be completed, you will need to delegate it to your staff.

In this post I summarize the barriers and benefits of delegating, and offer a step-by-step process to help you delegate successfully.

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Don't Try This at Home: When Leading by Example Backfires

Don't Try This at Home: When Leading by Example Backfires

In this short "blog" (video blog) post, I describe the story of Charlie (made up name), a manager I coached and how he proudly led by example in a way that was going to backfire, big time. Learn about the unintended consequences he would have experienced and what I suggested that he try instead.

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7 Tips for Building Mentoring to Develop Employees and Raise Engagement

7 Tips for Building Mentoring to Develop Employees and Raise Engagement

When I decided I wanted to write a book, I was utterly terrified and baffled. Where do I start?

Thankfully, I’d learned years ago that I do not have to go it alone with new challenges: I called on a trusted mentor. Elaine Biech has written or edited more than 50 books. She knows about this thing! I’m grateful for the amazing insights Elaine shared with me to guide my book publishing process. I couldn't have done it as quickly or as well without her mentoring support.

Have you had a mentor or mentored someone? I actually devoted a whole chapter in Employee Development on a Shoestring to the idea that mentoring can be a wonderful tool to develop employees. It is also an amazing employee engagement booster. In this post, I’ll share some of the highlights with you about what mentoring is and why it’s helpful, who is the ideal candidate for this kind of relationship, and seven tips for creating a strong mentoring program and/or building a great mentoring relationships which will increase both learning and engagement in your organization, department, team, or even just yourself.

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YES! We should ditch performance appraisals!

YES! We should ditch performance appraisals!

There’s a tide of supporting evidence rising for why we should really ditch performance appraisals as we know them. Over the past year, I’ve been lucky to work with two different large clients to help them do just that. Here’s what I’ve learned so far from the research, preparation, and roll-outs of these huge cultural changes:

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The 3 Secrets of Motivating and Inspiring Others

The 3 Secrets of Motivating and Inspiring Others

Motivating others - that's a tough one, right? In this post, I share the three secrets to motivating and inspiring others. Hint: none of these secrets involve spending more money! Here are some of the key findings from scientific research about what is highly motivating to most of today's knowledge workers and how to apply these insights to your daily leadership efforts.

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Do you have the right mindset for effective feedback?

Do you have the right mindset for effective feedback?

Giving and receiving feedback can sometimes backfire - we've all experienced it. One of the 'tricks' to giving and receiving feedback effectively starts BEFORE you even open your mouth or begin the conversation: it starts with your mindset and the context of the relationship between the feedback conversation partners. In my latest vlog (video blog), I help you recognize both the right mindset and the proper context for giving feedback in a way that's better received.

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A cool tool to lighten your leadership workload AND develop your employees

A cool tool to lighten your leadership workload AND develop your employees
One of the common pitfalls of leaders I described in my last blog post is the Responsibility Virus. In this post I will share a great tool with you that should help you not only lighten up your own workload (whoa, that would have been enough, right?!) but actually help you develop your employees and create some real ‘bench strength’ on your team. Sound good? Read on!
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To Micromanage or Not to Micromanage? A Lesson From Goldilocks

Goldilocks by Krystn Palmer Photography.jpg

You've seen it done: the manager hovers over the employee's work, breathing down her neck, and giving her specific, detailed, over-controlling instructions and corrections. It's every employee's nightmare: the Micromanaging Manager.

Or is it?

Defining Micromanagement

Let's take a closer look at this concept we call Micromanagement. According to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, micromanagement is "manage[ment] especially with excessive control or attention on details". Dictionary.comdefines micromanagement as "manage[ment] or control with excessive attention to minor details".

Key word: EXCESSIVE.

Employee Development and Management Style

When I work with managers and supervisors on improving their management and leadership skills, one of the theories they find very enlightening is Ken Blanchard's time-tested Situational Leadership. In a nutshell, Situational Leadership says that there is no 'one-size-fits-all' way to manage employees. Rather, managers should always gauge the employee's (or team's) level of competence and commitment as related to a specific task or goal to identify the best-fit management style for them.

Some employees are highly-skilled and self-motivated to complete a task autonomously. They need little input and guidance from their manager for that task. Other employees are new to the organization, team, or task and are still facing the steep initial learning curve. They are not yet highly-skilled and usually feel unsure or apprehensive about their ability to succeed with a particular task or goal. These employees need lots of clear, specific instructions from their leader. They benefit from frequent follow-up conversations and feedback touch-points because they feel supported and guided in their first tentative steps on a new task or project.

Very briefly, the key take-away is that different employees need differing levels of controls and guidance. What might be excessive controls for one employee may be totally appropriate for another. Therefore, the very behaviors that exemplify the much-hated 'Micromanagement' and irritate seasoned employees are the Good Manager behaviors for new employees or for employees approaching unfamiliar tasks.

So I propose that we need to be more careful in throwing that term around.

Does Office Layout Contribute to Micromanagement Behaviors?

In addition to a tendency to be overly consistent in management style (instead of tailoring it to the employee's development level and needs), there are other traps and obstacles that may contribute to a manager applying excessive controls or attention to minor details that are environmental in nature.

Some organizations arrange employees and managers in open floor plans or in modular cubicles where managers and staff are sitting together. This is great for open communication and transparency, but can be a trap for those managers with a tendency to over-control. Managers who sit among their staff are more likely to hear how employees go about doing their work, overhear their conversations, and be the target for frequent questions and requests for input and advice.

My colleague Howard Walper recently described this very challenge to me. "Since I sit in an open-floor area with my direct reports, I notice how easily I can get 'in-the-weeds' and immersed in the tactical, day-to-day details of the work with which I entrust them" says Walper, a Senior Manager of Conferences for a publishing company in Houston, Texas. "I have to consciously resist the urge to allow my 'present-presence' affect my ability to lead strategically and let staff do their work independently. I have to resist hovering and doting and let them learn and solve problems on their own, serving as a go-to resource when they need me rather than flying in and 'saving' them from thinking through challenges."

Resist the Urge to Hover; Apply Appropriate Management Style

The bottom line for any manager is: the urge to micromanage is natural. In some cases, the behavior your intuition guides you to use is actually totally appropriate and should not be considered micromanagement. In many cases, however, it is an urge you must overcome and control if you want employees to be independent, critical-thinking, high performing team members. Too much hovering will create resentful automatons at best, and an exodus from your department/team at worst. Apply the lessons of Situational Leadership and be sure to treat employees just like Goldilocks wanted to have it: just right. Give them what their current commitment and competency level calls for; no more and no less.

Have you experienced micromanagement as a manager or an employee? What are your thoughts about it? I'd love to hear them - please comment below!  

Photo by Krystn Palmer Photography via Flickr Creative Commons


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Don't Try This at Home: When Leading by Example Backfires