Tag Archives: Work

A few thoughts on organizational culture.

Culture

Culture is the way we create solutions to shared problems.

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 organization has a culture, whether you’re conscious of it or not.

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

 

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Management Quick Tip: Care about doing it right.

No no. Thank you!  by Aaron Stidwell

“Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or doing it better.”  ~ John Updike

I love this quote.  If you’re anything like me, at some point in your career you’ve had a job that didn’t exactly feed your creative soul.  And even in the best of jobs, there are always tasks that feel tiresome and draining.

So what do we do?  Do we struggle against it?  Always looking for a better gig or a quicker shortcut, essentially living in a state of permanent dissatisfaction?

Or do we embrace it?  Shift our focus to the beauty in the details and see the opportunity for presence and mindfulness?

Not to get all new-agey or anything, but I do think there’s something to this idea.

Let me know what you think.

P.S. I haven’t read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance since high school, but thinking about this post has made me want to dig out my old copy.


 

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

 

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

 

What is your management philosophy?

Week 1 of 52 2010 by F Delventhal

How many pennies would it take to fill this room?

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:

What is your management philosophy?

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??)

Planning
• How do individual and team goals correlate to organizational goals?
• What’s your decision making style?

Organizing
• Do you have a preferred team structure?  Why?
• What’s your foundation for distributing authority?

Leading
• What do you believe drives individual motivation?
• What are major sources of conflict within a team and how do you address them?

Controlling
• 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:

To Hire, or Not To Hire: Evaluating Sales Skills

To Hire, or Not To Hire: Evaluating Cultural Fit

To Hire, or Not To Hire: Evaluating Locus of Control

 

(Photo by F Delventhal via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

 

Revised from original post – July 4, 2013

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)

 

 

5 Ways for Students to Gain Management Experience

First Student #281 (cropped) by ThoseGuys119
You don’t need to be a business major to benefit from gaining management experience.  With a BA in Anthropology, I speak from experience when I say most of us don’t end up using our specific degrees in our careers…at least, not directly.

It’s hard to know what you want to do with your life while you’re still in school.  And who knows what the job market will look like in 10, 20 or 30 years anyway?  So the smart money is on building skills that will open up the widest range of options for yourself in the future.

Whatever industry you eventually choose, the ability to effectively manage a team will put you a step ahead of other entry-level professionals.

Here’s how to get that management experience before entering the workforce:

Mentoring and Tutoring
Being a mentor is a great way to build interpersonal and coaching skills.  Tutoring will teach you to train, motivate and evaluate individual performance.  Take it a step further and start your own mentoring or tutoring program to gain experience building and managing a team.

Event Planning
Putting together a conference, lecture series or movie night allows you to demonstrate your ability to effectively coordinate people and resources.  Events are perfect for learning how to delegate, resolve conflict and work with service providers.

Volunteering
Volunteering for a good cause is rewarding work experience and many organizations are looking for someone willing to take on a specific project.  Create your own management training by putting together a project team and motivating them to succeed.

Industry organizations are also a great opportunity to volunteer for outreach or other service projects.  They also often have elected leadership positions that require management skills (meeting facilitation, financial management, etc.).

Entrepreneurship
Starting your own business is a great way to learn any number of management related skills.  Solopreneurs won’t gain much people-management experience, so create a business plan that requires you to bring on team members.

Student Government
Student government can offer many leadership opportunities beyond just running for class president.  Start a club or organize a service project.  Coordinate campus tours or create a mentoring program for incoming students.  Student government is also a great way to hone your public speaking skills.

 

And remember…employers are always thinking about how to manage and motivate the next generation of employees.  Experience managing your peers has put you a step ahead, so highlight that in your resume, portfolio and online profile.

 

(Photo by ThoseGuys119 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.)

 

Adjusting your mirrors.

Rearview mirror by Massimiliano Calamelli

“I have to adjust my rear view mirror when I leave the office at the end of the day.  When I drive to work, I’m upright and full of energy, but when I leave, I’m so tired, it’s like I’m a few inches shorter.”

A woman I worked with years ago told me this and I remember it because, at the time, I had the opposite experience.  I arrived at work slouched in the driver’s seat, dreading the day ahead of me.  But I left with a spring in my step, standing tall and looking forward to 15 hours of freedom before I had to return.

My coworker was seemingly content and quite successful, while I hated my job and was ready to move on.  But when I consider how our work was impacting our bodies, I think both scenarios are equally grim.

Even if you love your job, should you be so drained at the end of the day that your whole bearing is affected?  Sure, hard work can be satisfying.  Leaving tired isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  If the work is good, you leave tired but fulfilled.  Or tired but energized.

But just plain tired?  That tells me something is out of whack.

What do you think?

Can we judge our job satisfaction by our posture at the end of the day?

 

(Photo by Massimiliano Calamelli via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)