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Fear: Change Your Thinking

FearAll of us have at least one thing we fear.  Some fear death and some fear spiders, while others may have the fear of heights or the fear of failing.  In a managerial position, the same concept is true.  Managers have fears about competition, meeting deadlines, quarterly earnings, etc.  So, how can we best overcome our fears?  Well, one of my good friends had a fear of riding roller coasters; however, one day he calls me up and says, ‘hey, let’s go to Six Flags.’  Of course, I reminded him that he didn’t like roller coasters, but he was adamant to go and conquer his fear.  He had looked up information online about roller coasters and he had watched simulation videos of roller coaster rides.  So, he was equipped and prepared to meet his fear head-on.

Therefore, the best way for managers to conquer their fears in the workplace is to change the way they think about fear.  This can be done by simply equipping and preparing themselves for a direct encounter with each fear.  This basically means doing just two things:

  • Turn Your Fears into Fascination Drivers – In other words, research and learn as much as you can about each fear.  What can you learn from it and how can you turn it into a source of positive energy?  If you have a fear about your competition, then learn everything you can about them.  What makes them tick?  What are their goals?  In what areas are they strong and weak?   Then, take this information and determine how you can re-frame it into a positive aspect that will be beneficial for you and your team.
  • View Your Fears as Opportunities – Start looking at fear as an indicator of something that needs attention…and not as something to avoid.  It’s a way to identify problems and issues and then to develop strategies to overcome those problems and issues.  Have a fear about an upcoming deadline, then take charge and develop a plan in advance with specific timelines for each step that’s needed in meeting your deadline.  Don’t procrastinate just because you have a fear because when you do that, then you’re allowing the fear to take control of your management process.

By becoming fascinated with your managerial fears and learning how to turn them into opportunities, you can become more effective in your day to day responsibilities and push forward into new, innovative areas that will advance the overall mission of your organization.  So this week, take time to list a few of your immediate fears and start changing how you think about each particular one.

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Time Management – Step #4 of 4

time expandedThis is the last step in our understanding of the perception of time and how we can best manage it.  Step #4 is learning how to expand time.  Most us have a narrow view of time – that is, we simply look at the seconds and the minutes that make up each hour…and the hours that make up each day; however, we should also look at how much we can pack into each of those hours…or how we can ‘expand’ our moments within a certain time period.  This final step of learning how to best manipulate time and manage it accordingly requires a great deal of creativity.  Mastering this technique will definitely separate the great leaders from the good leaders.

So, how can you expand time?  Well…it’s all about using all of your senses to experience each and every day.  In other words, become more aware of the importance of each minute and look for ways that you can experience a moment more indepth or how you can have a more meaningful experience regarding a specific time period.  Think of it this way – if time is wider, then you can fill it up with more things and take more from it as well.  Maybe this is similar to multi-tasking, but in a sense that you maximize all of your senses to experience a wider, fuller moment.  One example would be those individuals who enjoy rising early in the morning so that they have time to make coffee, read the paper and just take in the beauty of the morning before they begin the routine of getting dressed and out the door to work.  They are expanding time – using their senses to capture the moment.

Even though we can’t stop time or add extra hours to our days, we can alter how we experience and perceive the time we’ve been given.  If you can your relationship with time into a positive one, then you can experience a liberating life that allows you to focus on the important things.  So…as you can see, there’s a lot more to time management than just prioritizing which meeting you need to attend.  If you learn to measure time correctly, understand how circumstances affect your perception of time, determine how to best control your perception of time and learn how to expand it…then you’ll have a full grasp on how to manipulate the limited time we have so that you can be more productive, efficient and successful.  Try it out and see what happens!!   Also…be sure and follower me on Twitter – @craigholloman.   Have a great day!

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Time Management – Step #2 of 4

time fliesIn Step #1, we looked at how we should use both quantitative and qualitative elements to best balance and measure time.  Today, in Step #2, we consider how circumstances affect our perception of time.  We’ve all heard the saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun.”  Well, that’s not 100% scientifically accurate…BUT…there is some truth in it, especially related to our perception of time.  According to the experts, time seems to move a little faster when we are enjoying ourselves and are more focused on the details of our work; however, that same time seems to slow down considerably when we are anxious, unhappy or anticipating something.  For example, spending a great afternoon at the beach seems to go by so quickly for me because I am enjoying the scenery and relaxing…but if I am waiting for a call back from the doctor with results of a medical test, then it seems time just stands still.

Marney Makridakis explains in her book about Creating Time, that “time moves faster when something else supersedes our inherent attention to time.”  Therefore, for me – when I am more focused on relaxing and enjoying a vacation, time tends to move super fast…or when I am up against a hard deadline and I am so focused on the details of getting things completed, time slips away very quickly.  So – how can we better manage these circumstances that affect our perception of time?  It’s not easy.  It may help to begin by simply making a list of those circumstances in the past where it seems time moved quickly for you…and a list of those events when time moved very slow.  This will help you to better understand those moments and/or events that allow you to be more relaxed or focused, versus those times that you are overly anxious or full of anticipation.  Then maybe you can take steps to grasp how you are viewing the use of your time each and every day.

Personally for me, when I take a road trip of any significant distance, it always seems that the travel time to get there is much longer than the travel time to return.  This is because I am in a state of heightened anticipation when I am going, more-so than when I am returning. So, I look for things that will relax me or keep me focused – like listen to music or mentally plan out work items – so the drive doesn’t seem so long.  Make your lists and consider those circumstances that impact your perception of time – then adjust it as you wish.

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4 Simple Ways to Encourage Your Employees

encouragementMost of us do have a life outside of our employment.  Sometimes our work gets in the middle of our life events – such as kids ballgames, doctor visits, school plays, graduations, etc. and we have to adjust to participate; however, sometimes, our life events creep into our workplace, as well.  Given the current state of our economy, increased home foreclosures, difficult relationships, challenging family members and more, it’s easy to understand how workers have these things on their mind even while at work.  Most times, we never know what’s going on in the personal lives of our employees or those around us.  We never know when just a simple word of appreciation or encouragement might be the highlight of someone else’s day.

So, here are a few quick tips to implement into your managerial regime while you’re at work…and maybe, just maybe, you will make a huge difference in the life of at least one employee:

  • Be Attentive – Watch for signs from your employees that something is going on.  Things like tardiness, lack of performance, bad attitudes may be just a symptom of a deeper issue.  Also, be certain to really listen to your employees when they come to you.  Listening will help you determine in what areas your staff needs encouragement.
  • Be Positive – Focus on the positives instead of the negatives.  If you always expect the worst, that’s probably what you’re going to get.  So, look for ways to highlight the positive aspects of projects, employees, and teams.
  • Be Genuine – Don’t give ‘canned’ encouragement to your employees.  Saying ‘Way to go!’, ‘Good job!’ or ‘You can do it!’ can come across as a bit insincere and meaningless.  Find other ways to encourage your staff by asking follow-up questions like “how were you able to do that?  I knew you would.”  These types of responses tell the employee that you are really listening and are in-tune with what’s going on with them.
  • Be Real – You owe it to your employees to be direct and straight-forward without glossing over reality.  Every day can’t be all roses and rainbows and unicorns.  Make your employees aware of specific hurdles they may be facing at work, but then give them the tools to overcome those hurdles.  Being in the loop of what’s going on within the organization and knowing how it may affect them will give your employees more encouragement than you may realize.

Applying these four simple tips will help you to become a better person, a better manager and a better encourager to those around you.  And…just maybe some of that encouragement they receive at the workplace will carry them through those life events when they need just a little nudge to make it to the next day.  Have a great day and go mark your spot!!  Catch up with me on Twitter too – @craigholloman.

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How to Stay on Course and Meet Your Deadline

deadlineFor the western hemisphere, time is watched in a very critical way.  In our daily lives we have alarm clocks to get us up and going; we have time clocks to punch in and out of work; we have sleep timers on our televisions so it will turn off at a certain time; and we have notification ‘dings’ on our electronic calendars to remind us and keep us on schedule.  Yet, even with all of this, many people have difficulty showing up on time and meeting deadlines.  I work each and every day with about 75 engineers – and many of them don’t even know the concept of time or the meaning behind hard deadlines.  But, I digress.  For employees, it’s vital to be mindful of time and to meet set deadlines in order to be effective and productive in accomplishing the goals and objectives of their organization, department and/or team.

Here are a few steps that have helped me through the years to get all tasks completed on time so that deadlines are met and performance is enhanced:

  • Be Clear about Expectations – It’s critical to understand exactly what is expected by the deadline…as well as, the deadline itself.  Ask questions and clarify any vague instructions and re-affirm the deadline date and/or time.
  • Plan Your Schedule in Reverse – Start with the deadline period and plan your activities in reverse – allowing able time to complete each activity.  Develop specific milestones or benchmarks to identify timeframes within the process so you can measure your progress appropriately.
  • Focus on Tasks and Actions – If you’re working with a large or complex project, then it’s important to breakdown larger tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks.  Focus on completing each smaller task so that you don’t become overwhelmed with the larger project at hand.  This will keep you on track and moving toward meeting the deadline.
  • Build in Extra Time – One rule of thumb to remember – ‘It always takes longer to complete than you think.’  So, build in additional time to allow for those unintended obstacles and delays that will pop up along the way.
  • Communicate with All Involved – Keep all team players updated on the progress of each step – especially if you are working with multiple individuals and/or locations.  One element that will always prevent you from meeting a deadline on time is poor communication.  Therefore, be very detailed and concise in keeping communication open with everyone involved.

Get in front of your projects and follow these steps closely, and you’ll develop better time mangement in meeting your deadlines on a regular basis.  And remember, no project is too large or too small for these steps to be effective.  Begin applying these steps this week to your various projects and you’ll be more secure and confident as you meet your project deadlines.

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Difficult Employees: Coach or Fire?

difficult employeeIt’s stressful for everyone when we have to deal with difficult employees on the job.  Whether they have a bad attitude, lack in experience or just don’t have the necessary skills to actually do the job…the manager must determine the best way to deal with the employee.  Often times, it will be one of two things:  either coach the individual to become a better employee, or let the employee go.

So, if you’re dealing with a difficult employee and don’t know what to do about it, then look at these steps to get an idea on how to proceed:

  1. Set Expectations with all employees when they are hired about what behaviors and actions are grounds for immediate termination.  Also, provide regular performance appraisals of the work being done (or not done).  This provides the employee an opportunity to correct any deficiencies in his or her performance.
  2. Act Immediately when you notice any performance issues that are substandard.  Don’t wait for the next appraisal review.  Inquire with the employee about what is causing the poor performance and then offer suggestions on how to improve.  Be sure to keep written records of these conversations.
  3. Focus on the problem or issue that’s causing the employee’s performance to falter.  Discuss the facts only without commenting about the person.  Then coach the employee on specific action steps needed to correct the issue.  Sometimes, this may require transferring the employee to another department or assigning different responsibilities that will better match his or her skills.
  4. Document all conversations, appraisals, courses of action, etc.  It is vital that you have an adequate paper-trail to show evidence of the steps taken to make the employee aware of the issue and how an adequate amount of time was given for corrective action.
  5. Give Warning to the employee when the next step will be termination if they continue to underperform and not meet specific benchmarks for performance improvement.  This way, the employee will not be surprised when you have to terminate his/her employment with the organization.

It’s never an easy task to terminate someone, but some individuals just don’t have the proper skill sets to match the requirements of the position.  That’s why it’s even more important to develop hiring procedures to determine and assess skill sets prior to offering a job to a prospect.  Take time this week to review how you deal with difficult employees, then try to implement some of the steps listed above to provide an opportunity for him or her to improve.

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Are You a High Maintenance Manager?

high maintenanceMost of us have friends, family members, spouses, or significant others that we consider to be high maintenance.  Some people choose to be a high maintenance person, while it seems others are just born that way!  According to definitions vetted through the Urban Dictionary, the most popular definition for high maintenance is “requiring a lot of attention…overly needy…and prone to over-dramatizing a situation.”  After reading that definition, I immediately thought of several of my previous managers who definitely meet that criteria.

Do you think you’re a high maintenance manager or employee?  Well, here’s a brief test to find out:

1.  How fast do you start to depend on others for day-to-day routines?

2.  Do you share as much information with others as you expect them to share with you?

3.  How often do you contact your employees and want to know what they are doing?

4.  How often do you communicate in vague terms just to see if your workforce is listening?

5.  Do you ever admit it when you’re wrong and then apologize for it?

It doesn’t take an answer sheet to know whether you’re leaning toward being a high maintenance manager.  And…maybe you’re asking “what’s wrong with being high maintenance?”  Good question.  Well, most of us tend to steer clear of high maintenance people.  They don’t motivate us (except to get away as quickly as possible) and they tend to suck all the air out of the room upon entering.  Is that the type of environment you would want to work in?  Neither do your employees.

So…take time this week to evaluate yourself and determine if you need to eliminate any high maintenance symptoms that may be lurking in your management and leadership style.  Have a great day…and don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter at @craigholloman.

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