Sometimes, in the course of your day, you receive requests from others that have no basis in reality. Your first response may be incredulity, but then you realize they are serious. What do you do in the face of this?
Here are a few ideas:
• Ask them to repeat the request, just to ground it
• Ask them if they think the request can be done in the time they want or if there is a compelling reason why it must be done
• Ask them what help they can give you and tell them what you think is needed
• Tell them whether you think it can be done or not
• Tell them the extent to which you think you can be held accountable for getting it done, considering the circumstances
The purpose of these suggestions is to ask the question “Really?” in a thoughtful way and bring the conversation to a place of reality, rather than fantasy.
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1. Step back and take every opportunity to observe and understand upper management – what their priorities, stresses, styles and challenges are. Compare them with yours.
2. Find the win-wins between your goals and those of upper management and go for them.
3. Do your job extremely well, so that upper management takes notice of what you can contribute.
4. Collaborate with all levels of your organization, so that upper management’s job is easier.
5. Communicate clearly, giving just the right amount of information; not wasting their time, but providing what they need.
6. Communicate your and your teams’ successes.
7. When problems occur, think them out and bring upper management solid options for solving them.
8. Accept accountability for your and your team’s performance.
9. Be true to yourself, so that upper management knows who you are.
10. Ask for feedback and take it to heart.
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Accountability is essential to effective coaching. Not everyone wants to hear this word; its use can create fear in some and potentially undo the safe space needed for coaching. How do you bring accountability into the coaching relationship in a constructive and positive way?
When I begin a coaching relationship, I bring accountability up early, as we set up our coaching. I do not impose it, but rather, ask a question: How do we hold you accountable in this coaching relationship? This allows the person being coached to suggest a way they can ensure commitment and results. In my experience, seldom does anyone challenge or resist introducing accountability into the coaching relationship. I think this is due to their involvement in determining how we deal with accountability. If someone does challenge accountability, I ask how they feel about entering the coaching relationship. If it is a voluntary relationship, I let their answer inform me regarding whether they are ready for coaching. If it is not a voluntary relationship, I work with them to ensure there is accountability, doing my best to keep an open and safe space for our coaching.
Accountability does not have to be rigid. At the end of each coaching meeting I ask for an “intent” from the person being coached that specifies what they will do by our next meeting. I check in at the start of our next meeting on their intent and what they have done. Sometimes, much can be learned when a commitment is not carried through on. I explore with the person being coached why it was not done and that exploration often leads to key insights. The thread of accountability has to be maintained however, to ensure results. Accountability matters, as you well know as a manager.
Bring accountability into the coaching relationship at an early point. Allow the person you are coaching to participate in establishing it and keep accountability alive throughout the coaching relationship.
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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