Managing Your Boss: Get the Support You Need in 10 Minutes a Week (Includes Free Tool)

When’s the last time you had a really great one-on-one with your boss? If your answer is anything but “in the last 2 weeks,” you’re not alone. A great cadence of good one-on-one meetings is unusual. Why? Well first,  everybody’s busy. It’s easier to cancel a meeting with a direct report than with your boss. Or perhaps, your one-on-ones drag on, lack preparation, or generally feel like a waste of time.

Whether you’re the manager, the one being managed, or both, one the easiest ways to take your performance to the next level is through great one-on-one meetings.

How to Hold a 10 Minute (MIT- Most Important Thing) Huddle

Of course, you need more than 10 minutes a week to build a great relationship with your manager. You need time to get to know one another as human beings and to focus on long-term goals and career development. What I’m about to share here is not a substitute for those vital sessions. This tool is for the in-between times: to help you stay focused each week to clarify expectations, to ensure the MIT stays the MIT, and to get the support you need.

It works like this. You schedule 10 minutes a week with your boss and come prepared to discuss the following:

  • What’s the Most Important Thing you accomplished last week? (This gives you an opportunity to ensure you boss is aware of the good work you are doing)
  • What’s the Most Important Thing you’re working on this week? (This helps clarify expectations and ensure alignment)
  • What support do you need? This gives you a structured time to ask for help AND also makes it easier on your boss if you keep a running list of anything that’s not urgent and can wait.

Our Winning Well clients who are using this approach tell us it’s done wonders to streamline their communications, clarify expectations, and eliminate wasteful work.

You can download the free MIT Huddle Planner here

employee engagement

What the Best Managers Know About Disengaged Employees

According to Gallup’s recent 2017 study, 70% of employees are not engaged at work. And countless studies have shown that the number one predictor of employee engagement and satisfaction is the relationship they have with their supervisor. So what do the best managers know about disengaged employees? Today I share a story from one of the most disengaged times in my life, and how my leader helped me get through.

The Secret to Overcoming Disengagement

I have a confession.

I was arguably the most disengaged freshman sorority pledge at Wake Forest University.

I’ve always been more of the madrigal singing, academic type, not much into the party scene–which I had assumed was what being in a sorority was all about. I’d ONLY joined because the Insiders Guide to Colleges had warned that it was my only chance of having a social life, and I was 18 and wanted a boyfriend.

Two months into pledging, I realized I was in real danger of failing my advanced biology class. And since I was there on an academic scholarship that required me to keep a B+ average, I was screwed.

I began to freak out in the kind of downward spiral you may be familiar if you’ve ever been (or been around) a teenage girl.

“OMG I can’t fail biology! I’m going to lose this scholarship! My Dad is going to kill me. Crap, I don’t even think I can stay here without that money. If I fail Bio, I’m going to have to live at home WITH MY PARENTS!–and then what? Work at the Renaissance Festival as a madrigal singer? Nope– that won’t even work, that Festival’s only open August through October.”

I began skipping “mandatory” sorority events. I ignored requirements like interviewing every sister about her major,  favorite foods and secret fantasies.

One day I ran into Brig, the sorority President, while walking to class on the quad. Brig had short, dark curly hair, sparkling eyes, an a personality so big everyone was shocked when they found out she was a math major.

“Karin, Do you have a minute?”

“Ahh,” I thought, “I’m not going to have to quit, I’m going to get kicked out. That’s a relief.”

I wasn’t expecting what Brig said next. “You seem athletic. Do you roller skate?”

“Actually, I do,” I confessed.

“Great, we need someone to do the roller skate leg of the relay around the quad for the Greek games.”

“Oh, I’d love to, but I didn’t bring my skates to school.”

“Oh, I’ll find you some skates.”

“Well, I’d have to try them out and I’m so busy studying for this biology exam,” (even I knew how ridiculous that sounded as the words spewed out. Clearly I was still trying to get voted off the island.)

Brig persisted, “What time are you done studying tonight?”

“Midnight.” (Yeah, I really was being that big of a jerk.)

“Great, meet me on the quad at midnight. I’ll bring the skates.”

That night, as I walked up to the steps of the moonlit quad there was Brig standing there with two sets of roller skates.

As we strapped on our skates and began rolling around the quad she asked,

“What made you decide to join Tau Phi Delta?”

“I wanted a social life.”

“How’s that working out for you?”

I began to cry and let it all out.

Brig listened intently. Then she stopped skating. She looked me straight in the eyes and said softly:

“It strikes me that what you have here is not so much a sorority problem as a biology problem. If you had done those interviews we had asked you to do, you would know that five of our sisters are pre-med majors. They will help you study if you just ask.

How about this?  We postpone all your pledge requirements until next semester and we spend the next three weeks helping get you through biology. You can graduate with your pledge class and make up the rest next semester.

Because one of two things is going to happen here. You’re either going to quit right here on this quad tonight, or you’re going to stick with it and become President of the Sorority some day.

My vote is for President.”

When she returned for homecoming a few years later I asked her if she remembered that night. “Of course I do,” she smiled. And I’ve heard you’ve done a great job as President.”

Brig knew a secret many managers don’t. When dealing with a disengaged employee, sometimes the best approach is to strap on your skates.

Frontline Festival: Leaders Share Team Building Ideas

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival is all about team time. Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors! Next month’s Frontline Festival follows up on this month’s with a theme all about growth and change. The question for the month is:  What is an area of growth you are focusing on, either professionally or personally? Submit your growth and change related blog posts and answers to that question here!

This month’s question was: What tips do you have for working well with a team?

A sense of teamwork is crucial for a productive small business staff. Try steps for leaders to take for building teamwork in the workplace from Amanda Cameron of Patriot Software, LLC Follow Amanda.

If you find yourself on a dysfunctional team, or just want to get a new team off to a great start, ask yourself the following three questions from Susan Mazza of Random Acts of Leadership. You may discover that your team is nothing more than a committee in disguise. If so, now you’ll know exactly how to correct course.Follow Susan.

Skip Prichard of Leadership Insights gives us 10 strategies to help make a team work well together. They are derived by Dennis Perkins who studied the incredible survivor story of the Midnight Rambler and the storm that almost destroyed everything. Follow Skip.

Part of developing a team that works well together is developing the individual skills of people. A bigger part of it is developing an understanding of the system within which those people must operate and adjusting that system to the people on the team.  Too much time is devoted to changing people to fit into the constraints of the existing system and too little to changing the existing system to take advantage of individuals on the team now. Thanks, John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement Follow John.

Building product is not about having a large team to manage. It is about having a small team with the right people on it. ~ Fred Wilson

Jesse Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership asks, “How many teams have you been on that came to an official end?” If you’re like most people, it’s not too many. That’s because teams seem to take on a life of their own, even after their initial purpose has been fulfilled or no longer makes sense. Here’s how to tell when it’s time to close down a teamFollow Jesse.

Tanveer Naseer of Tanveer Naseer Leadership   helps us learn about three tactics successful leaders use to build thriving teams that can adapt to the changing needs of their organization.  Follow Tanveer.

Robyn McLeod of Thoughtful Leaders Blog notes that at times, the way a team is set up and work gets done, can cause a team to be more at odds than pulling together. But with four simple tips – as simple as reducing conflicting goals – you can help your team work as one rather than against each other.   Follow Robyn.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership reminds us that most of us do most of our work in teams. Here are four important things you should know that make a core work team effective. Follow Wally.

Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people. ~ Steve Jobs

Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culture shares an important exercise you can do with your team to help them write their unique story in “Nurture Your Team’s Narrative.” Follow Chris.

Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds shares the 10 Top Trust Terminators that will break down teamwork. Follow Julie

Chery Gegelman of Simply Understanding tells the story of an under-performing team that was feeling victimized but changed their focus, learned how to play together, built trust, began exceeding their goals and instigated organizational development projects throughout the company.  (When we create workplaces that encourage people to use their imaginations and to laugh, we will increase energy, teamwork and results!) Follow Chery.

Alli Polin of Break the Frame  shares that the best leaders know that teamwork is a dance between individual strength and team capacity. Skills matter, but team members must have each other’s back, consistently give their personal best and learn how to play well with others too. Follow Alli.

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates shares some ways to increase participation in your team. Follow Shelley

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited acknowledges that sometimes, team building starts by looking at ourselvesFollow Beth.

The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team. ~ John Wooden

 

 

The Worst Mistake You Can Make With a Bad Hire

“When did you know he was a bad hire?”

“Pretty much from day 1.”

“And when did you first have a frank conversation about your concerns?”

“Err… yesterday.”

“And now you want to terminate them?”

“Yeah, I mean it’s been a problem for a really long time. He’s got to go!”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this seen this scene play out–both in my HR exec days, and now in the frustrations of my clients looking to add more rigor to their performance management processes.

The worst mistake you can make with a low-performing
new hire is being overly patient.

Why are we overly patient? Well first off, we hired them, and it’s just freaking awkward that they’re this bad. So we convince ourselves they’ll be okay, and hold our breath and wait. Or, we know how hard it can be in a new job…so we just give them time and space to get better, and assume it will all work out.

Of course, most people don’t hit the ground running overnight. But if you’re REALLY worried after the first few customer interactions, or they just don’t seem to pick up anything you’re putting down, don’t wait too long. Better to lose the diaper drama as early in the game as possible– and tell them the truth (see more in our video interview).

5 Reasons to Be Real With Your Low Performing New Hire

They’re As Frustrated As You Are

No one starts a new job with the intention of really screwing it up. If it’s not working out, it’s likely they’re more frustrated than you are. It’s a good idea to be having “How’s it going?” conversations with all your new hires–and particularly those who are struggling.

A few conversation starters:

  • Why did you choose to work here? What most attracted you to this company/job?
  • Is the job what you expected it to be? Why or why not?
  • What do you find most satisfying with this role? What is most frustrating?
  • Where do you need some extra support?

You’ve Got a Limited Window to Clarify Expectations

Don’t assume you’ve been perfectly clear with your expectations. If you wait too long to articulate and reinforce your standards, your  new hire is likely to assume you just aren’t that serious, or that what he or she is doing is acceptable.

It’s fine to give some time to ramp up to be at full performance–but you always want to be reinforcing the end-goal and what success looks like. I can’t you how many times I’ve had crying employees in my HR office saying, “But my supervisor never told me…” And the truth is, often there was some truth to that. Be sure expectations are clear.

Bad Habits Are Hard To Break

Enough said. Be clear about the most important behaviors for achieving success, and reinforce those until they become a habit.

Your “A Players” Are Taking Notes

If the new guy comes in and gets away with less than productive behaviors, you will instantly lose credibility with your strong performers.

HR Can Help

Your HR manager can help you get extra resources to support your new hire’s success. AND, they can also help you deliver (and document) the conversations you are having. I’ve never met an HR professional who complained about being notified too early about a problem.

The best way to give your new hire and your team the best chance of success is to ditch the diaper drama as early in the game as possible, and have real conversations with your new hire.

One Reason Your Employees are Rolling Their Eyes

Have you ever had a supervisor who congratulated you for doing something that you knew wasn’t praiseworthy, or worse, something you knew actually made things worse in the long run? Or have you seen a peer recognized for their “great work” only to find yourself secretly muttering “If they only knew?”

I see this happen all the time. Managers encourage the wrong behavior, for the wrong reasons…setting off a ripple effect of well-meaning frustration. “Seriously!? He got the award, after we saved his butt for that dumb mistake?” “If you loved what I did, do you realize I had to break three stupid polices to get there? The next time I do this when your boss doesn’t have a customer breathing down their neck, I’m likely to get written up for non-compliance.”

If you want people to pick up the love you’re putting down, be sure you’re rewarding the MIT (Most Important Thing).

3 Characteristics of Encouraging Encouragement

Truly encouraging encouragement is:

Relevant

The first key to real encouragement is have a real understanding of which behaviors are driving your long-term results. For example, what behaviors lead to long-term customer retention? What leadership behaviors build employee loyalty and engagement?  Sure it’s simpler to focus only on short-term outcomes. But recognizing and rewarding short-term results will encourage win-at-all costs tactics that create long-term havoc. Your encouragement sends an important message to the employee you’re encouraging and everyone around them. Be sure you’re celebrating what matters most.

Specific

You’ve taken the time to identify your team’s relevant behaviors– your Winning Well MIT (Most Important Thing).  Be sure you’re linking your recognition back to behaviors not just outcomes. Describe what actually happened and why it is important.

Ineffective: “Hey, Bob, Great work.”

Effective: “Hey, Bob, I really appreciate the extra hours you put in on that project last week to take a deep dive into the customer’s account and uncover the root cause of the issue. The customer was delighted and renewed with us for another three years.”

If you can’t describe the actual behaviors, you’re not ready to offer encouragement because you don’t know what people did and they won’t know how to do it again. When you take the time to get specific, people know you understand their work, and you reinforce positive contributions.

Meaningful

Effective leaders know that people are different. They want encouragement in different areas, and they receive encouragement in different ways. Some people hate the spotlight, and would rather not be recognized at all than to be called on the stage and be given a plaque. Others will be annoyed if you didn’t take time to understand WHY their breakthrough formula worked on that spreadsheet. Be sure you’re providing encouragement in a way that will be most impactful to your employees. Recognition can backfire when people don’t feel “got.”  To make recognition more meaningful: customize it, personalize it, make it timely, encourage strengths, align it, and involve the team (for more detail and specific ideas see Winning Well chapter 20).