1. “No, your idea is better.”
2. “What do you need from me?”
3. “Let me make sure I understand…”
4. “How can we reduce the number of steps in this process?”
5. “Thank you.”
Growing up and well into adulthood, whenever I left the house my dad invariably said:
Not “Drive safe” or “Be careful“, but “Watch for idiots on the road.” And as curmudgeonly and vaguely paranoid as it sounded, I always took it as a compliment.
It was his way of saying, “I know you’re smart and competent behind the wheel. It’s everyone else I’m worried about.” And I appreciated that. My dad wasn’t an overly affectionate man, but he somehow always made me feel that he believed in me.
So the tip here is really twofold:
First, actually do watch for idiots on the road. It’s sound driving advice.
And second, find a way to show your team that you believe in them. It doesn’t have to be overt or gushy or something out of a management textbook. Make it unique to you and your personality, and your team will appreciate it.
I think a lot about creativity – where it comes from, how to use it – because I’ve found that it’s all too easy to get stuck in a mental rut, particularly when it comes to our jobs.
Doing things the same way you’ve always done them isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it is limiting. And kinda boring.
So here are a few prompts to get you thinking creatively about management challenges. I urge you to spend some time letting your mind play with these ideas.
Change your perspective. Use your imagination. See what happens.
What if…your organization doubled its current square footage? (office space, manufacturing floor, whatever) What do you do with the space?
Now cut your current space in half. How do you adapt?
Find your superheroes.
What if…one person in your organization has a new product idea that will revolutionize your industry? But you don’t know who they are. And they don’t know what they have.
How do you find this person and capitalize on their idea?
“And the Oscar goes to…”
What if…your organization receives a prestigious industry award for excellence and you’re asked to represent your organization at the award ceremony.
Who do you thank in your acceptance speech? Why?
Observe and report.
What if…you were a consultant (secret agent, space alien) visiting your organization for the first time. It’s an average workday and you’re free to observe and interact with the staff.
What do you see? How do you explain your findings to the people who sent you?
Need a creative jump start? I love these books from Keri Smith:
(This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.)
Graduating with a degree in Anthropology, I never pictured myself working in the private sector, and definitely not in manufacturing.
But life happens, and I found myself in the business world. And for a long time I struggled with finding meaning in my work.
Why am I working so hard at something so mundane? How is this benefiting the world?
What saved me was realizing that my work as a manager made an impact every day. Maybe I wasn’t going to change the world by making digital projectors or truck parts, but I could change how the people in my charge felt about their work. I could change how they spent their time, how they engaged with each other, and how successful they were in their careers.
Yes, I had operational goals as well, but the beauty of well-rounded, motivated employees is that they have a practical value: they perform better. A positive work experience that helps individuals achieve their personal goals benefits the whole organization.
So when you’re looking for meaning, struggling with the “why am I here?” question, try this:
How can you help them grow their skills, or meet their personal or professional goals? Is there an outside project someone is meaning to pursue? Perhaps you can help them through networking, planning, or encouragement.
Think about how you can better meet their needs and maybe you’ll meet more of yours in the process.
Revised from original post – August 21, 2013
Consider how human groups have evolved over the millennia. Bands of individuals find themselves repeatedly faced with common problems – how to communicate, how to divide labor, how to show respect for one another. Each group chooses to solve these problems in its own way. And these unique combinations of beliefs and behaviors become the defining elements of human cultures.
At the organizational level, we can view culture in a similar way. Organizational culture evolves as its members find solutions to everyday problems. How do we interact with one another? How do we best serve our customers? How do we prioritize our time?
Your people have been asking and answering these kinds of questions since day one, and in doing so, have established what is expected and accepted within your organization.
The big question, then, is how is this culture driving behavior that serves your mission?
Is it making your organization more effective or is it dragging you down?
Revised from original post – June 22, 2013
Have you ever had an interview question like this? Did it stop you in your tracks?
Employers use these seemingly crazy questions to see how well you can think on your feet and whether you can reason through a tough problem. Here’s a more common, but equally tough, question that can stump both new and seasoned managers alike:
This one can be difficult if 1) you’re not sure what the interviewer is looking for or 2) you’re not used to articulating your core beliefs as a manager.
First, as with the penny question, the employer wants to know you can provide an organized and reasoned response. They also want to know if your management style will fit with their organizational culture and whether you understand how your leadership impacts overall performance.
Second, it’s important to distinguish between management actions (what you do) and management philosophy (what you believe and why). Rather than listing tasks, think about how your management style creates a more effective and efficient organization, and focus on the results of your approach.
Stuck on where to start?
Consider working around the 4 basic management functions: planning, organizing, leading and controlling. (Remember those from business class??)
• How do individual and team goals correlate to organizational goals?
• What’s your decision making style?
• Do you have a preferred team structure? Why?
• What’s your foundation for distributing authority?
• What do you believe drives individual motivation?
• What are major sources of conflict within a team and how do you address them?
• How does evaluation relate to performance?
• What are your options when individual or team results are not in line with expectations?
How about you? Have you ever been asked about your management philosophy in an interview? How did you respond?
For more thoughts on the interview process, try these posts:
Revised from original post – July 4, 2013
As managers, we tend to focus a lot of our energy on things like team building, employee recognition, and professional development. And while those things are definitely important, sometimes you need to step back and make sure you’re covering the basics.