Feb 14

Promote Better Communication By Eliminating Physical Barriers

Face-to-face communication may at times seem daunting, but it’s almost always the best way to get your point across.

With e-mail, telephone, instant messaging and a host of other communication channels available in today’s workplaces, you may find it difficult to figure out which one works best for your department.

But remember that face-to-face communication is still by far most effective. Continue reading

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Sep 15

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: Resolve conflicts objectively

resolving-conflict

Do you often feel like you need to walk on eggshells around fighting subordinates? Do arguments disrupt your employees’ workdays? Do you sometimes feel like you need to side with one employee or the other to truly resolve the conflict?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, here are four steps that will help you stay impartial while mediating a conflict between your employees:

  • Determine their limits. It can be difficult to get both employees to explain the root problem, so you’ll have to talk with each one personally. Find out what pushed them over the limit. Are they annoyed that their coworker takes two hours for lunch? Does one coworker engage the other in too much “mindless chit-chat?” Remember that no question is too small to ask during this stage. What seems like a silly question could lead to a productive answer.
  • Open the discussion. Fostering an open discussion between the disagreeing employees is the best way to clear the air, despite how awkward it can be. Sit in a neutral space, such as a conference room, and ask each person to state her professional goals and expectations. Keep the dialogue focused around work with words like “objective,” “target” and “expectations.”
  • Find healing. After both sides have stated their workplace goals and expectations, invite one subordinate to analyze how her behavior impedes the other’s ability to realize her goals. Then, ask the other one to do the same. Once they’re aware of how their actions harm the other’s career goals, they’ll be more likely to shape up.
  • Remember the human touch. Your employees need you to be objective and fair regarding their conflict. Instead of taking sides, provide a human touch and understand that sometimes the simplest resolution is the best — an explanation and an apology. Encourage your workers to make amends and move on.
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May 12

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: Own the skill of the future

skill-of-the-futureWhat’s the single most important skill that the next generation of supervisors will need? Smooth interpersonal skills? Superior communication abilities? Advanced technological competencies?

None of the above, says Harvard University professor Dr. Howard Gardner. The most important skill is the ability to organize and process information. Tomorrow’s supervisor will handle an increasing amount of data. Her success is dependent upon her ability to “synthesize,” or handle and analyze that information, Gardner claims.

Here’s a quick guideline to use as you prepare your next report:

  1. Pre-Synthesize. Collect data from articles, reports, Web sites and interviews. Consolidate all of your information in an easy-to-read, highly-accessible format.
  2. Decide. This is the most important step. Determine what’s crucial to your report and what facts can be spared. Consider what facts and figures you can verify, and make sure your information is timely.
  3. Evaluate. Does your data lead toward a conclusive point? Do you make a coherent argument? Look at the big picture before you continue to the details.
  4. Outline. Make a rough draft of your report and solicit feedback from colleagues or a trusted mentor. Ask them to find holes in your logic and evaluate the format.
  5. Finalize. Put everything together and deliver the final product.
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Feb 10

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: Use your controlling nature to help — not hurt — your management skills

controlling-natureEven the most rule-loving employee will wilt under a controlling supervisor who micro-manages every project or idea.

But your controlling nature could be your best friend, says Cheryl Cran, author of the new book The Control Freak Revolution: Make Your Most Maddening Behaviors Work For Your Company and To Your Advantage. Try these strategies for turning negative habits into positive influences:

  • Examine your behavior. Before you can put a positive spin on your behavior, you must acknowledge the problem. Analyze how you react when your employees address issues or concerns about their work. Do you criticize their performance or downplay their intelligence? Once you can pinpoint how your behavior is getting in the way, you can begin to change it.
  • Admit when you’re wrong. Just because you’re the supervisor doesn’t mean you can’t be wrong. Often, controlling leaders make mistakes by forcing others to perform tasks in pre-defined ways rather than allowing their employees to work independently. When this happens, you must take a step back, admit that you were wrong and determine how to fix the problem in a way that plays up everyone’s strengths.
  • Know the personalities on your team. While some employees will thrive under your diligent attention to their work, others may dread seeing you come around the corner. Try this: Give your employees a short personality quiz to find out who needs your input and who works better when given more freedom. You can find quick quizzes online, such as the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. Once you understand your workers’ many personality types, you can better cater your management style to fit their needs.
  • Inspire — don’t “fix” — your employees. It’s easy to tick off all the negative traits you’ve spotted in your employees. What’s harder is inspiring your team to improve. Employees can sense when your suggestions are more about fixing a problem than providing them with an opportunity to learn and grow. First step: The next time you offer to send an employee to a seminar to boost a specific skill, such as time management, try to focus on how the seminar will help her accomplish her professional goals (e.g., juggle more responsibility) rather than noting that it will “fix” any current problems (e.g., her tendency to miss deadlines).
  • Bask in your employees’ success. We all want to be recognized for our work, but if you take all the credit for your employees’ success, you’ll alienate and demoralize your team — neither of which lead to a productive working environment. Instead, pat your employees on the back and let others know how much you appreciate their work.
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Jan 06

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: Walk the line between friend and supervisor

walk-the-lineJuggling friendships in the workplace is particularly hard if you’re in an authoritative position. You don’t want to be the unapproachable, mean supervisor — but you can’t let your friendships interfere with your ability to be a good manager either.

You’ll find that the key to most management situations is balance, and walking the middle ground between supervisor and friend is no exception. This isn’t to say that friendships at work are all bad. You can gain good connections and land better jobs based on the friends you make. But it’s best to keep work friendships casual instead of close, recommends Cheri Swales in her article titled Being Friendly Vs. Being Friends.

Here’s some advice we’ve gleaned from Swales to help you keep work friendships advantageous — not poisonous:

  • Set ground rules. If you’ve established friendships before you take on a management role, make sure you talk to your work friends honestly about what you expect from them — and what they can expect from you. You won’t play favorites, and you’ll want your friends to keep work and personal matters separate, says Swales.
  • Keep the playing field even. To keep up your end of the bargain, you must monitor yourself. Make sure that you’re treating every employee fairly and equally. This means that you’re giving big opportunities to the best-qualified employees, despite whether you’re friends. Tip: If you’re concerned that you can’t put aside your bias to make a fair decision, ask an outside party to help, recommends Swales.
  • Be cautious with your trust. Don’t spill your deepest secrets to a work friend you’ve known for only a short time. Instead, build a good foundation of trust, suggests Swales. Another way to get a sense of who you can confide in is to watch how employees interact with one another and who other employees seem to trust.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Of course you want to forge relationships in the place where you spend most of your time. But venture outside your company for closer friendships, recommends Swales. That way you don’t have to worry too much about overstepping bounds.
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