Redefining Success

The way you define success radiates into many aspects of your professional and personal lives. What is your definition of success, as you manage your team? If your definition does not quickly come to mind, take a moment to create one now.
What is the primary focus in your definition of success? (For example, it can be bottom line results, a high performing team, your own career satisfaction or many other things.) Is your primary focus getting you to the success you desire? How is it influencing your performance and results? Take a look at this, because what you focus on is what you get.

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What is the core of managing?

What is the core of managing? It is movement and what you do to create movement. I have often thought of managing as getting a machine, of various parts, to work well. It goes beyond parts, though. There has to be some kind of fuel to enable the parts to move. So, as a manager, you are not only managing people, data, events, goals and the expectations of your managers, you are creating the fuel that will get your team moving and working together.

How do you create your fuel? For me, what makes my teams move is my providing a clear sense of purpose, feeding each team member what he or she needs to function well (not only resources, but motivation), being present and contributing as the team goes forward, listening to my team, speaking to upper management on my team’s behalf when I need to, tracking performance so that our goals are achieved and keeping my eye on the bigger picture.

The core of managing – movement – depends on the fuel you create to keep your team going forward.

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Innovation and the Creative Self

Innovation starts inside you. Many innovators have started with passion that comes from within. Innovation is, by its nature, new and unique. I’m not sure others can teach you innovation. Others may provide their own story of how they came to innovate, but each person’s passion is unique and theirs alone.

If you aspire to innovate, access and nurture your creative self. First, you find your inner creativity (yes, not as easy as writing these words) and then you keep it alive. Then, you bring your creative self to the world around you. If you want to innovate, look within.

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A Manager’s Monday Morning

Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day
The Mamas and the Papas, Monday, Monday song lyrics

What is it about Mondays? Sometimes you’ve rested over the weekend, sometimes not. It can be hard to gear up either way – whether you are tired from working on the weekend or if you were just getting into the weekend time off.
Mondays are a transition time. Recognizing this, you can treat Monday for what it is and consciously make the transition in a positive way.  What do you observe about the energy and mood of your team today? Does this give you any insights about their transitions?
Why focus on Monday morning? Because recognizing and managing your and your team’s transitions improves performance. The Monday morning transition gives you a good viewpoint from which to gain insights for managing transitions successfully.

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When Management Systems Don’t Work

Sometimes, as a manger, you can have your fill of management systems that are more of a drain on your time and team than they are useful tools for managing. At the same time, it is very difficult to function as a manager without having systems to allocate resources and track projects.  So what do you do if you’ve had your fill of your organization’s management systems, but still have to manage?

I think you have 3 options. One, operate without using management systems. Two, use your organization’s systems that do not give you what you need. Three, develop your own management systems. Option one, operating without using management systems, is fraught with peril. You need systems to manage well. Option two, using your organization’s systems, is causing you frustration, but perhaps you can provide input that results in redesigning the systems so that they work for you. Option three takes it into your own hands. With a program such as Excel or Access, you can design a simple management system that tracks your team’s priorities, time, resources and projects. With several headings (project, priority, tasks, assigned to, status) and weekly input from your team, you can have what you need to manage well.

Management systems do work. Do you have a management system that makes your job easier? I invite you to share it with the readers of The Managers Hub.

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When Managers Are Clueless

Some managers appear to have no idea of what is needed for their operations to thrive. Sometimes their disconnect is so huge, it can stop you in your tracks.  They neither listen nor speak. Well, perhaps they speak, but are so disconnected they may as well not be speaking. What do you do when your manager is clueless? I suggest first determining, as best you can, if their apparent disconnection is the result of an agenda. Sometimes managers do not want to hear. They are pursuing their agenda or others’ agendas and what is needed for their operation to thrive is irrelevant. In this case, face reality and decide from there what you want to do about it. Beware of trying to convince yourself they care, when they don’t. In other cases, managers truly are clueless. What to do then? Well, you are not Sigmund Freud – I suggest not trying to figure out why they are clueless. Rather, find a way to communicate to them what is really going on and make suggestions of what they can do.

It is truly unfortunate that we have to deal with managers who are clueless.

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Keeping Your Head While Managing

Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”  is an inspirational one for me. Can you keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you? Keeping your head is not a requisite of success in many organizations. Some managers lose their heads every day-bully bosses, anger management class candidates, idiots. However, not keeping your head gradually undermines your effectiveness as a manager.

Our world is becoming increasingly collaborative and the business world is catching up. A team is not just a leader telling others what to do. A team is a partnership of individuals working toward a common purpose. A good manager knows the fuel their team needs. No one needs a maniac leading him or her.

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Seth Godin: Managers Are Not Leaders

Seth Godin posits in his book Tribes that managers are not leaders. He says managers manage by using the authority the factory has given them; that leaders don’t care much about organization and authority, they use passion and ideas to lead people. Later, Godin provides an example of a researcher at the Pentagon who acted as a leader and changed the way generals think about the military. If this can be done at the bottom, it can be done in the middle.

Managers must lead. They cannot let the organization constrain them. They must know the environment they manage in and figure out how they can make change effectively. It takes a lot to know the game and not get wedged in by it. Managers must transcend their organization and lead creatively.

If you are a manager caught in the chaos of an organization, step back.

Think strategically about how the change you want can happen. Consider the hinges that keep the organization together and which ones can be moved. Who are the movers in your organization? How do they make change? What is the language of change in your organization — profit? savings? bottom line? competitive edge? How does the change you want to see get communicated in that language? What is within your control and what is not? Do you have allies? Can you create a tribe to lead the change? Is there a tribe working against you?

Know your boundaries. Is the change you seek essential to your work? Will harm be done if it is not made? Can you live without it? How far are you willing to go in seeking it?

Act. Without leading, you atrophy. Leading requires agile, savvy steps. Keep your focus on people and results. Change the organization you are managing in by leading.

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Managing Your Priorities By Doing Nothing

Yes, sometimes you can best manage your priorities by doing nothing. What is a priority anyway? It’s a task at the front of the queue. The doing nothing comes in for tasks not in the front of the queue. Can you ignore these secondary tasks until your priorities are handled? Yes, you can. Because getting distracted, voluntarily or involuntarily, often ensures that nothing at all gets done.

One way to manage your priorities is to limit what you define as a priority. There can’t be too many of them in one day.  Schedule time to complete your priorities realistically, considering things such as “must go to” meetings. Your priorities may be big ones that can’t be completed in a day. If that is the case, “chunk them down” into daily tasks that move you forward to completion.

As I faced this issue of how to manage my priorities, I came up with a system that was very effective for me. At the beginning of each day, I would determine what priorities needed my immediate attention. I would schedule several tasks for that day that would move me forward on my priorities. I would limit the tasks I scheduled to things I could complete in half of my day. I would focus on these tasks until they were completed, not allowing distractions to derail me. Once they were done, I still had time in my day to do other things.  This system created movement and accomplishment and increased my capacity for focus and completion.

What about those distractions? You have to practice discernment and create boundaries to deal with distraction. True emergencies must be dealt with, but you don’t have to let yourself be thrown off course by “the crisis of the day”.  Sometimes distraction can be caused by overwhelm and not knowing what to do next. Doing nothing on non-priorities and non-emergency distractions allows movement. You will get things done. The distractions will minimize, both through sharpening your own focus and as others realize that your focus is on your true priorities.

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Can You Manage in a Matrix?

Matrix organization: a cross-functional work team, which brings together individuals who report to different parts of the company in order to complete a particular project or task.

Managing in a matrix is laughable without established priorities, resource allocation and defined goals, fully supported by top management. How many matrix managers have that? Not many. The usual state of things is that the matrix manager is told to get it done without them. Top management is often deaf to their pleas regarding constantly shifting priorities, inadequate resources, team members operating in silos and having no clout.

Your success as a manager or project manager in a matrix depends on your ability to lead above you, beside you and below you. Start with well- defined goals for a project, assigned responsibilities and deadlines and get every participant’s agreement on them. If you don’t get agreement, stop and go no further. If you proceed without agreement, you are asking for frustration. At this point, look horizontally for buy-in or vertically for a champion. It’s about accountability for every member of the team, up, down and around. If you don’t create accountability, where are you going? You are going into a dysfunctional matrix that won’t be as much fun as the movie. Don’t live in a dream world that blinds you from the truth.

The matrix movie trailer (2:28)

You can manage in a matrix if you have a voice, guts, and an instinct for self – preservation (in case you can’t change the world).

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