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    Entries in Management (7)


    Self-Awareness...The Silent Killer

    One of the characteristics that I have really leaned into this year for myself and my staff is the need for Self-Awareness.  It is striking how many people truly lack a sense of self-awareness and specifically are completely out of touch with their present reality (strengths, weaknesses, constraints) when compared to the way that others (family, friends, co-workers, clients) perceive and evaluate them.

    Self-Awareness is the silent killer because if not dealt with in a meaningful way, it destroys relationships, careers and ultimately ones sense of self-worth.  This isn't to say that Self-Awareness can be boiled down to the simple "You are a B, thinking you are an A while often others perceive you as a C."  It goes much deeper than this, so actual characteristics and weaknesses not being dealt with because they are being denied any daylight at all.


    Joe is a hard working, salt of the earth guy that doesn't say much.  He's a thinker, but keeps many of his opinions and thoughts to himself for fear that others will judge him if he's "wrong" or speaks out of turn.

    Problem is, Joe's introspective nature often comes across to others as judging himself, condescending and passive aggressive.  So while Joe thinks he's doing himself and others a favour by not engaging...he's hurting himself and his relationships.

    In business we see this all the time...a leader that thinks he is a charismatic "people" person, but really is nothing more than a abrasive jerk or slimy snake oil salesman.

    Our assessment of our skills and strengths is important...but can often become obsolete if not taken into context with our others perceive those skills and strengths.

    A few years back, our leadership team worked with the Flippin Group to complete some 360 Profiles on ourselves individually to assess how we worked as a team in relation to each other and as individuals.  It was amazing to see how close the results were with reality and how prescriptive the profiles were in ways for each team member to counter balance constraints with routines to ensure we were being perceived as we wanted to be and maintained a clear picture of our own reality.

    So before the silent killer gets you...ask yourself:

    What are my strengths and weaknesses?

    How do others perceive me?

    What is the gap between my self assessment and the assessment of those around me?


    Stress Is Inefficient

    The issue of stress in the workplace is becoming a growing concern amongst managers and organizations everywhere. Workloads are on the rise, and in order to accommodate, so are the hours being put in by employees. Organizational structure prevents managers from addressing stress in high levels outside of the realm of the organization.

    By increasing workflow and communication within the organization, managers can limit workplace stress, attempting to isolate employee stress to issues within their personal life. Maintaining a low level of workplace stress is vital to the success of an organization practically in that is minimizes health concerns of employees, saving the organization potential heath benefit costs and lost hours to allow for recovery. By minimizing both physiological and psychological symptoms, managers can work with employees to address the issues at the source, breeding relational community at multiple organizational levels.

    Managing the needs of employees (both at home and at work) is vital to the longevity of any organization. Designing programs to help alleviate workplace stress, and assist in employee efficiency is a necessary step to successful management and a healthy workplace. As each employee comes from different situations and circumstances, it is important that these programs take into consideration the varying degree of employee values and expectations. The degree to which employees embrace the ideals of a healthy workplace directly relates to the ability to the organization to decrease workplace stress and increase productivity.

    One of the keys to minimize workplace stress is instilling order within the organization. It is important for management to take the initiative in breeding a stress-free work environment, using both programs and positive reinforcement to break stressful habits and encourage workplace community. Lower levels of workplace stress decrease employee turnover, boost morale and increase productivity, essentially helping organizations to become better equipped to run much more effectively. Career planning is a commonly utilized management tool, as it removes the barrier that upper-management often faces between their employees, and allows for a sense of worth an importance to be maintained at every level of the organization.


    Reality vs. Expectations

    I recently read an article that discussed the importance of balancing stress, priorities and goals in your life.  The author stated that at the most common cause of stress is the gap between reality and expectations.

    While I completely agree with this, I would take it one step further, and state that at the core of most conflict or division is the same gap.  How many times to relationships fall to the curb because the expectations of one side were not met with the performance or reality of the other.  Colleagues at work, personal relationships, family...if we took a step back and aligned our expectations with the reality (or parameters/constraints) of the situation or many broken-down relationships could've been rectified?

    Taking it to a deeper level, I cannot even count the number of times that the customer service of an organization has let me down.  Now please don't get me wrong, I am not saying we need to lower the expecations we have for companies and products...but I believe that we must do a better job at managing our disappointment and allowing the gap between expectations and reality to cause us to spiral out.

    I have posted this video before, but this clip of Louis CK his the nail right on the head.  Manage your with reality!



    Discernment is Decisive

    It's more than just knowing what to do and when to do it...discernment is the ability to judge well.  I find that my capacity to judge is rarely impaired, but the ability to judge WELL is in fact a gift and skill that needs to continuously be refined and developed.

    The trouble with discernment is that it is decisive...but we are not.  When I say "trouble" what I really mean is..real discernment pushes us to call a spade, take action and stand firm.  I know lots of people that are extremely discerning, unfortunately, I know more people that are all.  So rather than offer some characteristics of discernment, here are some to look for when discernment may be lacking;

    1. Impulsive - It's often said: "First out best out" or "Go with your Gut."  While these are true in the right contexts, they are not characteristics to rely on when looking for discerning people.  It's critical to differentiate being decisive with acting with unnecessary haste.  When someone is decisive, they take in the context, variables and make a tactical and calculated decision without delay...this does not mean that decisiveness is reactionary or implusive, but rather is timely and firm in the decision...confident that all angles (or at least most) have been examined and flushed out.

    2. Self-Seeking - Everyone is self-seeking at times.  It's when our decision-making and advice is driven by motives that are self-seeking.  It's easy to recommend a solution to someone that pays you their dollar or allows you to take a step up the ladder...but what about when what's best for the person or situation involves some self-sacrifice?  Discernment is honest, self-examining and conscience of its surroundings.  If you tell the truth all the time, you never need to remember what you said.

    3. Scattered and/or Unclear - Be concise.  As I reflect on situations and people that I've interacted with that lack discernment, this is a pervasive truth.  Hectic and rash actions that drive vain and implusive decisions.  Discernment is calm, collected and orderly.  The person that panics and loses control rarely makes the best decision.  Self-control and clarity of thought propel discernment and act as a guard rail down the path of decision-making.

    Discernment at its core is more about wisdom than anything else.  By surrounding yourself with trustworthy and competent individuals, you create an environment for discernment to develop.


    Management By Walking Around (MBWA)

    There are many different "styles" to management.  Some good, some bad, and others just pointless.  One of the styles (or better: strategies) that I employ is MBWA: Management By Walking Around.

    There's are many ideas about what this form of management entails (like HERE, HERE, & HERE), but one of the things that I these examples lack is the the discussion surrounding the intentionality and depth of relationship that can come about through MBWA.

    One article discusses the risks of employees feelings "spied on" while the other two place the focus largely on "chit-chat."  I believe if done correctly and with a goal in mind, MBWA can be one of the most effective forms of management around.  Here's why:

    - Focus on people AND product
    - Measurable & promotes accountability
    - Keeps dialogue open and constant, without clogging communication lines
    - Allows management to maintain a pulse on the front lines of their department

    I have developed 3 specific connections that I look for out of any MBWA conversations I have.  They are:

    1. Be Personal.  Relationships are not built on professional connections alone, but rather through connecting on issues or discussions of common ground.  From sports, to family to <gasp> politics...these help to create a basis for the other 2 connections to have legitimate depth and substance.  How can I ask for transparency through accountability with no trust or goodwill.

    2. Be Productive. Monitoring staff productivity is just a part of management.  Not babysitting, but true managing.  Based on the foundations of the personal connection, it is actually easy to simply be updated on what is going on at that snapshot in time.

    3. Be Proactive. Most people want to manage a team that is full of passionate and hungry employees.  Staff that are eager to learn, work hard and enjoy (most of the time) their job.  I believe it is a managers job to push their staff to think proactively and always be looking to pick up the next; file, client account, idea, opportunity, etc.  Without being distracted from the task at hand, having a team that does not sit idle does not just encourage growth in the bottom-line, but helps promote value on the balance sheet, creating teamwork and a climate of innovative discipline.

    When it all gets boiled down to the basic, MBWA is effective because it uses the benefits of spontaneity (if a meeting is planned, people have time to come up with their B.S story of why the work isn't done) why channeling the personal touch of being in relationship (to varying degrees) with each person you manage.

    The big DISCLAIMER on this whole post however is that obviously, each situation requires a "made to fit" approach.  MBWA works with an informal, yet structured work environments with teams more than 3 but less than 15.  If a manager of 100 people tried MBWA, it wouldn't be would be exercise!