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Updated: 16 hours 39 min ago

Motivate Your Team by Connecting Their Work to What Matters

Fri, 2017-11-17 12:30

All managers need to motivate their employees, but many struggle to get it right. Bosses looking to deliver an effective pep talk should explain why the work they are asking people to do is important. How do the employees’ tasks connect to the organization’s purpose? Point out ways your team is making a real difference for customers, the community, or each other. The CEO of a pharmaceutical startup, for example, might say, “I know everyone here wants to help save lives from heart disease. That’s what our work is all about.” Or you can connect your employees’ responsibilities to their personal aspirations. A fast-food restaurant manager could tell teenage workers, “One of our company goals is to provide good, stable jobs so that you have money to help your families and save for college.” Research shows that connecting work to meaning is the toughest part of a pep talk to deliver, but getting it right is essential to motivating your team.

Adapted from “The Science of Pep Talks,” by Daniel McGinn

To Change Company Norms, Get Other Leaders’ Support

Thu, 2017-11-16 12:30

When you become a manager, it’s likely that your team already has norms in place. You may notice bad practices that need correcting right away, such as using work hours for personal projects or neglecting customers during too-long lunch breaks. Before you implement a new policy, however, determine whether leaders in the organization ignore the poor behavior. It will be tough to get your team to change if they know employees on other teams are getting away with it. So if some leaders condone the behavior, your first step is to convince them a change is necessary. Start by collecting information about the problem: What is this behavior costing the organization? How often does it occur? Does it damage customer service or another area of the business? Present your colleagues with data that makes a compelling business case. And structure your argument around business outcomes, not a moral appeal. You need your boss and fellow managers on your side before you can address a long-tolerated issue with your employees.

Adapted from “What to Do When You Inherit a Team That Isn’t Working Hard Enough,” by Joseph Grenny

Before a Difficult Conversation, Consider Your Counterpart’s Perspective

Wed, 2017-11-15 12:30

It’s natural to go into a difficult conversation focused on what you want from the situation. But thinking only about your goals won’t give you and your counterpart the common ground necessary to resolve the conflict. You need a good understanding of what the other person’s objectives and interests are. They had a rationale for the way they’ve behaved so far (even if you don’t agree with it), so what might that be? Think about what’s going on for them. Ask yourself: What are they hoping to accomplish? Why does this matter to them? If you’re not sure, ask someone you trust what they think is going on in your counterpart’s mind. You might say something like, “I’d love some advice and coaching. I haven’t worked much with Akiko before, but I know you have. Can you help me understand how she might be seeing this situation?” Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes will give you information you can use to navigate the discussion and propose solutions that meet both of your needs.

Adapted from the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict, by Amy Gallo

To Inspire Your Team, Show Some Emotion

Tue, 2017-11-14 12:30

Keeping a cool head at work is important for decision making and team cohesion, but it can have an unintended drawback: Your calm professional persona may be so rigid that you forget to be yourself or show your emotions. As a leader, it’s hard to generate enthusiasm among your direct reports if you always wear a serious face. Next time you prepare for an important speech or meeting, think about the emotional takeaway you want to impart to your employees. Then choose words that match your emotional tone. If you want your team to feel confident, for example, say you are “proud” and their ideas are “powerful.” Or if your team is facing a tight deadline, tell them the task is “critical” and you’re “eager” to meet the opportunity so that your organization won’t “miss out.” Without emotional language, your message may fall flat, so be forthcoming about how you feel — a leader’s emotions are contagious. If you project excitement or encouragement, your team will pick up on your energy.

Adapted from “New Managers Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Express Their Emotions,” by Kristi Hedges

Set Clear Boundaries with Needy Employees

Mon, 2017-11-13 12:30

As a manager, you probably wish you could give all the people on your team more attention. But sometimes certain employees seem to need more than their fair share of your time. Maybe they repeatedly ask you to review their work, or regularly show up at your desk with questions. If one of your employees is demanding too much of your resources, try setting clearer boundaries. The next time the employee comes over, you could say, “I have 15 minutes before my next meeting, and I can talk to you for that amount of time,” or “I am just going into a meeting. Can we table this conversation for your next one-on-one?” And be explicit about your expectations. You could say something like, “You’ve been coming to see me three times per week. Let’s try once per week from now on.” You need to help your employee unlearn a pattern of coming to you for every little thing.

Adapted from “How to Manage a Needy Employee,” by Rebecca Knight

Use Quick Feedback Sessions to Exchange Advice with Coworkers

Fri, 2017-11-10 12:30

If you’ve ever hesitated to offer critical feedback to a colleague, you’re not alone. Even when we perceive a problem, we often stay silent to avoid being seen as an interfering know-it-all. You can get over this discomfort by setting up “speed dating” feedback sessions with your coworkers. Meet one-on-one with a teammate for 20–30 minutes. Take turns offering your observations of each other’s leadership effectiveness or strategy execution. This is your opportunity to provide feedback that helps your coworker get back on track — and to listen to their advice about how you can improve in your own role. Repeat this process with each teammate, making plans to follow up as needed. Checking in with your coworkers and offering constructive feedback sets the expectation that you all share responsibility for each other’s success.

Adapted from “How to Make Raising Difficult Issues Everyone’s Job,” by Ron Carucci

Managers, Tell Your Employees How You Like to Work

Thu, 2017-11-09 12:30

There’s typically an adjustment period when managers take over a team, as they and their direct reports learn how best to work together. Accelerate this learning process — and keep your team from having to guess your management style — by creating and sharing a work-style table. In the left column, add your characteristics and behaviors. For example, “I raise tough issues up front and directly” or “I’m not a morning person.” In the right column, add suggestions for how others can work with your preferences. For example, alongside “I raise tough issues,” you could write “If you feel my response is blunt or direct, realize that it’s about the issue, not about you personally.” And next to the “morning person” entry, you could write, “Avoid scheduling meetings where I have to make a big decision before 10:00 AM.” Being open about your management-style preferences can mitigate misunderstandings and help your team work together more productively.

Adapted from “Do You Know How Each Person on Your Team Likes to Work?” by Sabina Nawaz

Avoid These 4 Behaviors That Derail Conversations

Wed, 2017-11-08 12:30

When difficult conversations at work go wrong, they can rapidly devolve into unproductive arguments. Keep your discussion on track by minding the A-BCDs: Avoid Blame, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling.

  • Blame. Try not to make assumptions about what your colleague is thinking, and don’t make groundless accusations. Keep the conversation focused on facts.
  • Contempt. Acknowledge when you’ve lashed out in exasperation, and do your best to avoid making judgments.
  • Defensiveness. Take responsibility for your part in the conversation. Are you open to input, or do you interpret new ideas as criticism?
  • Stonewalling. Commit to listening and contributing with an open mind, instead of avoiding an unpleasant topic or refusing to participate fully in the conversation.

Any of these behaviors can derail a discussion, so make a commitment to yourself — and your teammates — to avoid them.

Adapted from “8 Ways to Get a Difficult Conversation Back on Track,” by Monique Valcour

Pay Attention to the Trends Happening Inside Your Company

Tue, 2017-11-07 12:30

When we think about trends that affect our business, we often look to things happening outside our companies. But it’s just as important to pay attention to internal signals that may present opportunities or challenges right in front of you. Watch for signs related to people, process, products, and strategy: Have there been any new hires or departures of key employees in the company? Are there patterns in the types of requests you’re receiving from stakeholders? How might the introduction of a new product affect your line of business? Does a series of new products signal a change in direction? After reflecting on questions like these, consider the implications of the trends. Ask yourself, What might these changes mean for me and my department? The answers to these questions will help you identify where your own strategy and priorities may need to adapt.

Adapted from the HBR Guide to Thinking Strategically

When Pitching an Idea, Think Like a Salesperson

Mon, 2017-11-06 12:30

The next time you have to pitch an idea or project to get stakeholder buy-in, take a tip from your sales colleagues and learn as much as you can about your “customer.” Long before you make your proposal, gather information that will help you sell your idea. Have a conversation with the stakeholder you’re trying to win over, and ask empathetic questions: What business problems do they need to solve? What do they need to accomplish? Do they have a personal goal, such as advancing in the organization? Once you’ve figured out your customer’s motivations, you can tailor your proposal to suit their needs. As a great “salesperson,” you should take a genuine interest in the stakeholder’s problems. Your pitch should describe how your idea or service will solve them.

Adapted from “How to Improve Your Sales Skills, Even If You’re Not a Salesperson,” by Rebecca Knight

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