“Advanced technological tools are beginning to make it possible to measure and monitor employees as never before, with the promise of fundamentally changing how we work — along with raising concerns about privacy and the specter of unchecked surveillance in the workplace.” – New York Times, “Unblinking Eyes Track Employees”, June 21, 2014
A recent New York Times article informs us that employee surveillance is on the rise. Surveillance has many uses for employers: catching wrongdoing, gathering information, monitoring performance. Many have had to adjust to another type of surveillance as users of social media. What about workplace surveillance? It’s here and, most likely, is not going away. Will surveillance come to your work place? How will you deal with it?
Some things to consider are: whether you will accept being watched, how you will deal with your team/inform them of being watched, whether surveillance is inevitable and you are best to accept it, whether you have any non-negotiables or boundaries regarding workplace surveillance and whether this is an issue you want to be proactive on.
A new set of eyes could be watching you. Be ready.
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One of the best things you can offer to people you manage is being very clear in what you are asking of them. This involves not only clear communication, but also clear thinking. Not easy to do, when things are moving quickly around you and work volume is high. However, efficiency and effectiveness require it.
Your team needs to know what your expectations are and they need your guidance. Making an assumption that you do not need to be clear because your team knows what you are thinking, is dangerous. Doing so, may force your team to create their own assumptions on how to proceed, that may not align with yours. Paramount to clear communication is spending the time to think things out, finding effective means for your team to meet their goals and knowing what direction you are going in.
Getting clear takes time, but it is an investment worth making. How can you lead without it?
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Someone once advised me to live life as an arrow, not a target. In your managing, do you have a clear sense of where you and your team are going? Having a destination in mind allows you to focus and align your and your team’s energy in a common direction.
Goals help you do this, but it takes more than goals. You have to address the journey that will get you to your goals. The journey is comprised of plans, communication, resources, course changes, collaboration and periodic reassessment.
Take a moment to answer the question “Where are you going?” Is your answer a clear one? Would your team offer the same answer? The next question is “What are you doing to get there?” Is the path to your destination laid out clearly, with buy-in from your team?
“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” – Seneca
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Is freedom anything else than the right to live as we wish? Nothing else. – Epictetus
There is a lot involved in freedom. Is it simply the right to live as you wish? Many times you hear the phrase what price freedom? That question presupposes a price for having freedom.
I think freedom is, to a great extent, determined by the choices you make. What choices have you made in your life regarding your freedom? Do your choices give freedom a priority over other aspects of your life or do other considerations trump freedom?
Freedom runs a wide spectrum. For some, life can be severely restricted by outside forces, very difficult to control. However, for many of us, we have room within which to choose the level of freedom that we have and the price does not have to be feared. Often, society scares us away from freedom in our individual lives by saying that freedom and security are counterbalanced. As you gain freedom, you lose security. To have security, you give up freedom. I think these are false constraints.
Freedom is a factor in managing, as well. How much freedom can you give each individual in an organization? Here too, we are told freedom leads to anarchy and high risk, so has to be constrained. I think the best approach is to value freedom for the creativity, enjoyment and productivity it can bring for your team and to explore ways to allow it to flourish within your organization.
Freedom is too important to let society or others tell you how much of it you can have. You make that decision.
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Do you focus much, as a manager, on the energy of your organization and team? Reading energy is an acquired and intuitive skill. When you are adept at reading energy you have an advantage. Here are some ways to develop your skill for reading the energy of your team and others.
- Observe, observe and observe again
- Trust your intuitive feelings
- Ask questions that bring out how people feel or think
- Watch body language and learn how to interpret it
- Stay fully present in the moment and aware of what is happening
- Listen carefully to the words people use
- Do not preconceive a person’s motives; let their actions inform you
- If tension rises and is obvious, call it
- Assess the engagement or disengagement of people
- Stay neutral to what is happening in the room, so that you can read it
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We hear the word impossible a little too often in our world. Many times, it is said when we share our aspirations and dreams. As a manager, do you lead your team with a philosophy of possible or of impossible?
Leading from a philosophy of impossible is limiting and inhibits creativity and freedom. Leading from a philosophy of possible opens up the opportunity to think differently, to excel and to do things beyond the status quo. For you and for your team, hearing “impossible” too often to your suggestions and ideas can put you in a small, confining space. However, even if you do hear “impossible” often, you can create a culture of the possible. Key to this is a principle of “no wrong answer”- all ideas are valued, a willingness to tackle sometimes significant challenges to get your ideas accepted, finding a way to create at least a few “wins” for your team – even in the face of “impossible”, accepting that sometimes “impossible” will prevail and cultivating a vibrant optimism that good ideas and approaches can triumph.
What’s “possible” for you and your team in the coming week?
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Expectations, by their nature, focus on the future – they are what you anticipate will happen. They can, however, negatively impact your experience of the present moment. Expectations are not real and should not be treated as if they are. They are a part of your humanness and do not need to be eliminated; just understood. If you are not aware of the power of your expectations to influence the present moment, they can become a quicksand for you. How? The quicksand shows up when you confuse your expectations with the reality of a situation. All of a sudden, a situation does not meet your expectations and you see failure, instead of say, a need for a course-correction.
You hear a lot about managing expectations. The context for this usually is that you not expect too much. But, truly managing your expectations involves keeping them in their proper place. You can let your team know you have expectations of how they will perform and produce. You can measure against your expectations. The important factor is to know that your expectations are often subjective and are not true predictors of an outcome.
Good managing involves realism and acting effectively in the present moment. As your expectations are met or not met, manage to the present moment. To stay out of the quicksand, keep your expectations in their rightful place.
Your individuality creates a unique lens from which you see the world – your point of view. Your point of view is often shaped by your life experiences. Many advise managers to be objective in their dealings with others. To be truly objective, your unique lens must be removed. I’m not sure that is possible. However, increasing your awareness of your point of view and how it affects your communications and actions goes a long way in managing and communicating effectively.
Your point of view is your manner of seeing things. Say you have a team member who is frequently late arriving at meetings. That’s something you can address directly – be on time for meetings. However, if some past experience you had makes being late to meetings a “hot button” for you, it can negatively affect your ability to communicate because the emotions of the past experience are getting in the way. To be effective, you will have to not let the “hot button” affect how you deal with the team member. Your point of view doesn’t go away – in many situations it is a strength – you just need to know how to keep it in check when you need to.
If you are not sure about your point of view’s impact on your managing, the best way forward is self-observation. Be aware of how you respond to different situations and what they bring up for you. Soon, you will build your awareness and will know when your point of view is an asset and when it is a hindrance.
Fast Company Magazine had an article this week How Would You Feel If Your Co-Workers Decided Your Bonus? The article profiles Bonus.ly, an online peer recognition system. My first thought was that a peer recognition system could help build team collaboration. Then my mind ran away with questions. What about peers with agendas? How would you ensure awards were merited? Isn’t it a good thing to get away from hierarchy and be more egalitarian? Would culture changes have to precede such a system?
Where this ultimately led me, was to examine the nature of peer relationships and what their role is in our work. How are your peer relationships? Are these relationships something you work on? How do they matter to you? Are you dependent on peers for your own success? How much do peer relationships really matter? How is your team doing with their peer relationships?
Let me know your thoughts on peer relationships.
Teams need diversity to innovate, excel and succeed. Inherent in diversity are differences. As a manager, how do you handle differences and incompatibilities among team members and maintain diversity?
Diversity has many forms – among them personalities, culture, work styles. Differences do not lead inevitably to disagreement, but do need to be acknowledged and observed. Some teams have people who are outliers. They stand apart in skills, by choice, or otherwise and the distance can be significant.
Managing a team with one or more outliers calls first for assessing the value and origin of the outliers’ distance. Do their differences contribute or detract from the team? If they detract, challenges lie ahead for you – to minimize the detraction if the team member is worth keeping on. If the differences contribute, a good challenge lies ahead – to manage your team by honoring each individual and creating an environment for each team member to do the same. Malcolm Forbes offered this positive definition of diversity: Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.
Team outliers can make the difference between excellence and the commonplace. Inherent in diversity is difference, which makes it so valuable. Value your outliers. If you do not have one, bring some in and manage them well.