Targeting five key managerial mistakes
In her work with executives over the years, Atlanta-based leadership development consultant Beth Armknecht Miller has found five major mistakes that leaders make. Interestingly, when managers work to improve on these leadership shortfalls, it has a positive impact on the effectiveness and profitability of the organization. On the Great Leadership blog, she highlights these five mistakes:
1. Focusing on the urgent
Like the White Rabbit in Alice's in Wonderland, some managers rush about, pulling others down the rabbit hole with them, obsessed with the urgent rather than the important. Indeed, Ms. Miller notes that some leaders get their energy from working in a crisis.
"The key is to set aside time on the calendar that is only for the important activities, and have the activities clearly prioritized so that when an urgent item is screaming at you, you can logically decide what important task can be set aside," she writes. If you are drawn into the urgent to deal with a crisis, don't get stuck there.
2. Weak communications
It may seem contradictory, but in this age of information overload she says you have to over-communicate, because staff may not have fully taken in your message the first time. Managers have a huge menu of communication technologies available: in-person discussions; written material, either in hard copy or electronic; audio; and video. Use them, frequently and consistently.
3. Ineffective feedback
Too often, managers ignore bad behaviour that is viewed as too insignificant to worry about and unlikely to be repeated. But the behaviour is repeated, and then becomes tolerated, as the manager avoids conflict.
"The best time to provide feedback is immediately after the behaviour is observed," Ms. Miller advises. "Be clear about what you observed, how it impacted you, and ask for ideas from your employee about how they could approach it in the future. And then get their commitment to make the change. This process focuses more on the future as the past can't be changed, only the future."
4. Failing to define clear goals
Defining clear objectives provides a road map for staff - and if the employee is involved in setting the goals, it becomes a map he or she is committed to. Without goals, she says, employees will not meet your performance expectations because they won't know what they are.
5. Misunderstanding motivation
You can't force motivation on someone. You must help employees to operate in an environment where their intrinsic motivation will flow. Following the model set out in Daniel Pink's book, Drive, you must meet employee's needs for salary and benefits, and then focus on three attributes that are the basis for intrinsic motivation: autonomy, a chance for mastery at something, and purpose.
ORGANIZATIONS / MIDDLE MANAGERS UNDER THE GUN
No child ever dreams of growing up to be a middle manager, notes Tacy Byham, vice-president of executive development for Development Dimensions International. These days, with the downsizing of management, middle managers may see their situation as a nightmare.
In TCB Review, Ms. Byham notes that one manager she knows has 72 direct reports and is responsible for performance reviews for all of them, while another manager says being insanely busy is a "badge of honour" in her organization.
Mid-level leaders who feel overworked and underappreciated may become disillusioned about their jobs, disengaged from their teams, and fail to do all the important things they are counted on to do.
Companies continue to neglect middle managers even though they are the lynchpin between where the organization wants to go and what it takes to get there.
"Traditionally, scarce training dollars have flowed toward maximizing the performance ... of front-line leaders, and senior-level retirements have driven a sustained focus on the need for executive development," she writes.
"The middle, meanwhile, has tended to be the overlooked level."
She urges companies to move beyond the focus on developing high-potential staff to also developing high performers, notably middle managers.
The focus should not be on preparing them to move up to the next level, but rather on helping them to excel in their roles indefinitely.
MARKETING / CSR A LIABILITY IN TIMES OF CRISIS
Proponents of corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs argue that they build up a reservoir of good will that can help companies if they run into a problem that puts them in the spotlight in a negative way.
But recent research shows that rather than acting as a form of insurance, a strong CSR record can be a liability.
Jiao Luo and Stephan Meier of Columbia Business School and Felix Oberholzer-Gee of Harvard Business School looked at the oil industry and found the news media far more likely to report accidents if they occur at a company with a strong CSR record. That could be because the accidents are more surprising and thus more newsworthy, and it's possible - using the insurance hypothesis - that the media would be more sympathetic to the company.
But that doesn't appear to happen: The researchers' analysis of the tone of coverage shows that news reports are no more positive for CSR leaders in crises than for other companies.
That doesn't mean companies should ignore social responsibility. The researchers found that oil spills at companies with the poorest environmental performance are also highly likely to draw media attention. Past regulatory problems at a company, for example, increase the likelihood that an accident will be reported.
"Executives who wish to minimize the risk of media attention to negative events need to be careful not to place their organizations at the very top or the very bottom of CSR rankings.
"Being in the middle of the pack, our estimates imply, generates the least amount of coverage," they conclude.
Acquiring assets just the first step
Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell computers, says value doesn't come from acquiring companies but rather from what you do with them: "We look at over 250 companies a year to fill gaps we have identified in our product lines. We then generally partner with many of them to understand their strengths and weaknesses and then purchase the few that make sense for us to own." Forbes.com
Leave fonts alone in PowerPoint show
Arial, Calibri and other built-in fonts for Microsoft PowerPoint are so familiar they seem boring, and you may be tempted to download an unusual font from an online typography site. But presentations expert Dave Paradi, of Mississauga, Ont., warns against doing that. He notes that if you don't use your own computer at the presentation and rely on a USB stick, the font might not be recognized by the host computer and your words will be gobbledygook.
Dave Paradi's PowerPoint Blog
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
A happy spouse can boost your career
The day after Mother's Day - which happens to be today - is reportedly the second-most popular day of the year for women to sign up on Ashley Madison, a website that serves married people seeking to have an affair. Career writer Penelope Trunk argues that this also shows Mother's Day is a career issue, because if your relationship goes sour, your life may dramatically change and your career may suffer. "If you want to keep your career options open, tell your spouse you appreciate her," she advises. Penelope Trunk.com
Need a flow chart? Yes, there's an app
Dia is a powerful but easy-to-use application for creating flow charts and diagrams.