Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Relational Manager

Talent wins games. Teamwork wins championships. ~ Michael Jordan

Relationship management is a critical skill in all executives. Talent will get you promoted, but without understanding relationships you will only go so far. It is unavoidable. You can be the best at whatever you are doing, but if you don’t gain the support of others, you are limited in your success. I’m still learning this so I’m not going to pretend that I have the answers. I’m naturally a straight shooter and not a politician type. But then that’s seeing it in only two ways. I’m either one or the other, but can I be both? I see value in the ability to have both task management, while being a relational manager. My mentor has seemed to master this.

Steven Covey states it best in the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. There are different focuses: dependent, independent and interdependent. Going from independent to interdependent is what separates a task manager from a relational manager. I don’t care what it is you are doing, you are going to need to work with others eventually. Operating by yourself is operating in a vacuum and you are not gaining the benefit of the experience of others.

Also, there is a process to management. It seems that the longer you do it, the better you get at relationship management, so I look to people that have more experience than me on the matter. They’ve been through the process so why not gain more by asking questions about the process. If I get stuck, I ask “How would you handle this?” It creates a relationship between you and the senior manager. Experienced people like to share their experiences and new people like to share their “new” way of thinking. Both gain the benefit. Both are interdependent.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

You Are a Millionaire

A human life is priceless, but ever heard of the $6 million man? Guess what? To determine the value of a human life, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reviews what people are willing to pay to avoid certain risks and how much employers pay employees to take certain risks. This number is anywhere between $6 and $8 million. The point of bringing this number to your attention, is that at times people can feel less valuable than they really are. When looking at yourself in the mirror in the morning know that you are priceless and also consider yourself a multi-million asset to those who are coming up with these estimates.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Art of Letting Go

“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” Anon

Letting things go is a process. It’s about learning where to spend and focus your energy. Years ago, I’d let things affect me that have little or no meaning to me today. As I think back to those times, I remember tension, frustration, animosity and negative feelings. In present day, when I think about how miniscule some of those issues were, I sit back and think about the progress that I’ve made.

Letting go doesn’t mean being complacent or not taking action when necessary. It means that you learn that having negative feelings isn’t productive, constructive or progressive. It means that you determine what is necessary and what isn’t. Learning to not focus on the “what isn’t” part is a form of letting go.

As my schedule started to get more complex and the issues I was involved with got more in depth and greater, I started to gain an understanding of how critical this skill is. Not having this skill means that it will be difficult to progress to a higher level.

I consider it a form of art because there is a self-actualization that occurs when you start doing this. You learn about your strengths, you learn about your weaknesses, you learn about where you are and where you want to be.

Stepping back from situations and ranking them on the scale of importance helps to determine whether or not it really requires your attention and focus. If it doesn’t, let it go. It’s about choosing the right battles to win the war.

Tipping the Scales

“Know what's weird? Day by day, nothing seems to change, but pretty soon...everything's different.” Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes

I’ve often wondered how transformational change comes to fruition. What is it that tipped the scale? Rarely is it something that just happens overnight. It is the outcome of small progressive changes that lead to something significant and profound.

One definition for change is to make the form, nature or future course different from what it would be if left alone.

Change occurs through persistence and hard work. Take the pyramids in Giza. It is estimated that there are 2,300,000 stones in this pyramid and that it took around 20 years to build. I can’t imagine laying the first stone and thinking only 2,299,999 left to go. This structure is one of the seven wonders of the world and still baffles some of the smartest minds on how precise it is in terms of astronomy, math, science, positioning, engineering and construction.

When I think back to starting my first college course, I didn’t focus on the other 20 classes I’d need to take in order to get an associate’s degree. I didn’t think about the other 40 courses I’d need to get a Bachelor’s degree and I surely didn’t think about the other 52 classes I’d need to get to get a Master’s degree. I set the course to obtain a degree and focused on one class at a time. It took about 8 years and thousands of dedicated hours to complete. It has completely transformed me in terms of marketability, options, salary and overall quality of life.

These are the slow everyday changes that one day equate to success and transformation. When applied to an existing business, change can sometimes seems slow or the outcome not as we had hoped.

Persistence: the continuance of an effect after the cause of it has stopped. The pyramids aren’t being built anymore, but are still one of the most astonishing structures known to man. I’m not going to school anymore, but I’m still gaining the benefits of the work that’s been accomplished.

Think about how you can apply persistence with small changes to tip the scales that lead to transformational change.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Effectively Multitasking

Multitasking can be challenging and tricky. It requires you to have a pulse on several moving parts and takes practice to develop this skill. Here are some tips I’ve found useful.
  • Be organized. Create folders, a filing system, binders or simply a notebook containing meeting highlights. Make sure this system is easy for you to retrieve information quickly when needed.
  • Put everything in its place. Spend some time each day to file, organize email, and check messages. These things tend to snowball quickly. Deferring this can create a bigger job and dedicated amount of time to do later.
  • Delegate or seek help. Learning to delegate is a necessary skill. If there is no one to delegate to, there is no problem asking a colleague or friend to help you. If they do, you will be able to divide and conquer.
  • Outsource tasks that may not be necessary for YOU to do. This could be in the form of hiring a consultant, having someone else clean your house or mow your lawn.
  • Follow up. One thing that I’ve learned is that it’s okay to delegate, but you are still responsible. Following up and knowing what the status is will be critical for you to “get your arms around everything”.


Reducing Stress by Setting Boundaries

Taking on the world can be a bit of a challenge. I do believe in stretching your limits every day, but sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming. This is an area even I can do better in because I tend to take on more and more. Even though it’s part of personal growth, it’s important that boundaries are set and adhered to in order to keep your balance. Otherwise it’s like a teeder-todder…too much weight on one side will cause other areas to go unbalanced. Here are some tips to help reduce stress.

  • Know and set your limits. It’s hard to stretch your limits if you don’t know what they are. Being a young manager, sometimes I think I can do it all. I’ve had to learn where I need help, and where I should be helping.
  • Delegate or Push Back. Maybe this isn’t your responsibility. There are times where someone comes to me with a problem and I want to solve it. Leadership is about getting other people to think about the problem and offer solutions. If you are doing all of it, other people won’t learn.
  • Let some things go or defer them. To me this is one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn. I’m a natural multi-tasker that likes to get things done quickly and move on to the next thing. It’s a critical part of my job. In a time when resources are limited, not everything will get done on the timeline that you would like. All you can do is your best.
  • Determine what you need to focus on. Looking broadly at the big picture is necessary, but execution is key. Try to focus on realistic and measurable goals.
  • Pick your battles. There are so many issues that we think need attention, but separate issues that require attention versus issues in general.