Tag Archives: management skills

Management Quick Tip: Watch your thoughts.

No no. Thank you!  by Aaron Stidwell

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habit.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
– Lao Tzu

As a busy manager, it’s easy to overlook the important role you play in creating your own workplace culture.  The mindset you bring to your job can impact the destiny of the whole organization.

I know…it sounds a bit airy-fairy.  But I believe it to be true, my friends.


(Photo by Aaron Stidwell via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)



Management Quick Tip: Work yourself out of a job.

No no. Thank you!  by Aaron Stidwell

Improve systems.  Streamline processes.  Eliminate unnecessary tasks.

No matter where you are in your career, don’t fall into the “if I’m busy, I must be important” trap.

Figure out how to do your job better, in less time, and people will notice.  And you’ll have the bandwidth to take on more challenging work (i.e. get promoted).

And here’s a bonus tip for those who are already managers:  Hire your replacement.

Look for smart people who want to move up and groom them for your role.

Don’t be afraid to teach them everything you know.  Their drive to succeed will increase your team’s overall productivity.  And having a successor queued up will give you the freedom to move on when new opportunities arrive.


(Photo by Aaron Stidwell via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)



Management Quick Tip: Work on your writing skills.

No no. Thank you!  by Aaron Stidwell

Email and social media have made us all writers, no matter what our job title.

And we can all stand to get better at conveying our messages clearly, succinctly and in a way that engages our readers.

Here are a few resources to help you hone your writing chops:





How about you?  Do you have a favorite book on writing?  Please share in the comments.


(Photo by Aaron Stidwell via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)


(This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.)


Management Quick Tip: Focus on the basics.

No, no.  Thank you!  by Aaron Stidwell (cropped)

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.

  • Insure your team has the necessary resources to do their jobs.  Eliminate outdated technology, streamline convoluted processes and balance the workload.
  • Provide a safe, non-threatening work environment.  Curtail any inappropriate email or other unprofessional team behavior that might make someone uncomfortable.
  • Help your team understands what they can expect from you.  Keep your management policies clear, consistent and objective.


(Photo by Aaron Stidwell via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)


Management Quick Tip: Treat people like adults.

No no. Thank you!  by Aaron Stidwell

“Experienced self-starter.”          “Highly motivated.”          “Results-oriented.”

I find it utterly bewildering that these are the characteristics managers claim to value, yet so many still insist on monitoring their employees’ minute-by-minute productivity.

Limiting internet access.  Requiring that everyone arrive at the same time.  Tracking every second of paid time-off.  These things don’t increase productivity.

You know what does?

Engaged professionals who are not bogged down by arbitrary and insulting administrative policies.

Stop assuming that your team’s default position is to slack off and take advantage.

You’ve hired responsible, educated adults.  Treat them that way.


(Photo by Aaron Stidwell via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)


Management Quick Tip: Teach, in order to learn.

No, no.  Thank you!  by Aaron Stidwell (cropped)

If you’re trying to master something new, consider presenting a team workshop or training session around that topic.  Putting together a course outline will highlight gaps in your knowledge, and you’ll discover new resources as you search for examples and supporting documents.  Plus, working on a public timeline will ward off procrastination and keep you moving forward.


(Photo by Aaron Stidwell via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)


Management Quick Tip: Learn to take a punch.

No, no.  Thank you!  by Aaron Stidwell (cropped)

Okay, maybe not literally.  (Unless you’re into that.)  But figuratively, in the sense of seeking out rejection.

My guess is you’re a high performer and you set a high standard for yourself.  You work hard to make sure you don’t fail.  That you’re not rejected.  That you don’t get punched in the face by life.

But don’t let your high standards get in the way of trying new, potentially painful, things.

Because that’s where the learning comes from.


(Photo by Aaron Stidwell via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)


Use that boring meeting to flex your management skills.

Donuts by Dave Crosby (cropped & saturated)

Let’s talk about business meetings.  Yes, the bane of our professional lives.  Those endless sessions where everyone is talking in circles and no one can seem to get to the point.  Time, and your life force, is trickling away before your eyes.

“Why is no one controlling this?” you wonder. “Shouldn’t someone step in and move this forward?”

Yes, someone should.  And knowing how to do so can be a huge asset to your career.  It’s relatively simple but, like most interpersonal skills, it does take a little gumption and finesse.  And here’s the bonus kicker:  it’s a skill that will also serve you well as a manager.

Great managers are clear thinkers who are able to sort through tons of information and break it down into meaningful actions.  They have a cohesive effect on their teams by helping everyone stay focused on a clear goal.  Great managers are awesome facilitators who are able to direct events toward a positive outcome.

Now, don’t you wish you had someone like that in those meandering, time-sucking meetings? Everyone does.  That’s why meetings are the perfect place to practice your management skills and demonstrate your ability to lead.  Here’s how:

Be aware of the reasons meetings are unproductive:

  • lack of a clear direction;
  • getting bogged down in detail, or
  • drifting off into high level visioning;
  • dominant and/or withdrawn participants;
  • personal agendas

Always practice effective listening.  I’ve covered this topic in the classroom, so I know you just rolled your eyes.  Yes, it’s basic stuff but I stand by its importance.  Be attentive and engaged, both mentally and physically.  Focus on the speaker, listen to what they’re saying and how they’re saying it.  Look for nonverbal cues and other subtle dynamics.  Fight the urge to zone out or work on other projects.  And most importantly, get in the habit of taking notes.

Learn to summarize and paraphrase.  Here is where your note-taking comes in.  Recording key words and phrases helps you focus in on the most important information being covered.  Check for understanding by conveying the information back simply and concisely.  Put the information into your own words but without questioning or judging.  Your goal is to facilitate, not force your own agenda or dominate the meeting.

Be respectful.  A warm, friendly and humble demeanor goes a long way.  If you’re not officially leading the meeting, be careful of overstepping.  Practice a few phrases to help you act as a clarifier, and be seen as leader, without insulting the meeting organizer.

            “I’m having trouble following multiple threads here. Could we focus on ____ ?”
            “Can we take a moment to recap?”
            “Just to make sure I’m clear, we’re saying ____”
           “Let me make sure I’ve captured this, our actions items are ____.”

And, ultimately, it never hurts to be the one who brings the donuts.


(Photo by Dave Crosby via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)