100 BITS OF RANDOM ADVICE FOR MANAGERS

A Facebook friend recently posted 50 pieces of advice on life from an 80 year old. I liked it so much that I decided to follow suit, so here are my 100 pieces of random advice to managers, from a 70 year old.

– Don’t beat around the bush … be specific … vagueness is confusing.

By P tasso (own work); CC-BY-SA-3.0,2.5,2.0,1.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

By P tasso (own work); CC-BY-SA-3.0,2.5,2.0,1.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons


– Sarcasm is for losers … say what you have to say without rancour.
– Never stop learning … it’s a journey not a destination … you will never be a perfect manager.
– Be humble … greatness doesn’t need to be advertised.
– Be prepared to take the blame for failures, but always give the credit for success to your people.
– Be yourself at all times … don’t play different characters … schizophrenics are hard to follow.
– Never lie but don’t always feel the need to blurt out the truth.
– Tell people how they make you feel … both good and bad.
– Never get angry … the minute that you do, you lose.

By Эдуард Тимченков (own work); CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

By Эдуард Тимченков (own work); CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons


– Be tough when needed … but always fair, well prepared and controlled.
– Don’t compromise … neither side wins which means neither side is fully committed.
– Give people freedom to make mistakes, and make sure that they experiment enough to do so.
– Make recruitment a major key competence.
– Share and celebrate successes … don’t overdo it as will diminish importance.
– Work is meant to be fun … this doesn’t mean funny.
– Never forget that great people have choices of where they will work.
– If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

PD USDA; via Wikimedia Commons

PD USDA; via Wikimedia Commons


– Tell people you know when they have gone that extra mile.
– Protect your people from interference from all directions.
– Grow and develop your people … this makes each year easier than the one before.
– If you hire someone for their strengths, don’t discard them just for their weaknesses.
– Do everything you can to help under performers until you are sure nothing else is going to work.
– Build talent for the whole organisation and let people fly away when they are ready.
– Build visible successors … promotion comes easier to those who have a ready replacement.
– Hire people who are smarter than you … if you can’t find them you are deluded.
– Work hard on building a culture of self-managing teams.
– Instill an understanding that competitiveness is external, collaboration is internal.
– When you are in a 1 on 1 you must have 100% focus on that person.
– Talk less, listen more.
– A 70% idea that someone is committed to is better than a 90% idea imposed.
– Learn and move on from mistakes … don’t dwell on them.
– You lead by example … your people see everything you do.
– Keep your people updated … it kills gossip and starves the rumour mill.
– Tell stories that people will understand and remember … legends live long.
– Never scream or lose your temper … people will know when you are angry anyway.
– Understand the difference between friendliness and friendship.
– The boss is not always right.
– Gender, race, religion, sexual orientation are never business decision criteria for anything.
– There is no one size fits all … every person is different.
– Be readily available, but on your terms and with your time well-managed.
– Talk to your customers … both internal and external.
– Control and limit the number of meetings … let people decide things on their own.
– Tell your people it is easier to get forgiveness than approval.
– Don’t email anything important when you can talk directly to the addressees.
– Laugh often … there is much to laugh about in business and life.
– Manage behaviours not people … behaviours define the organisation.
– Keep it simple.
– Manage the financials or they will manage you.
– Build networks … real linkages, not just linkedin connections.
– Being fair is more important than being tough.
– Delegate, delegate, delegate.
– Give people challenging assignments so they can learn and also be tested.
– Mentor high potentials and exciting young people … it is fun, inspirational and rewarding.
– Challenge people to run faster and jump higher … it shows you know they can.
– Walk the talk … you are their role model.
– Meet commitments that you make, or leave them for someone who can.
– Integrity is key … What you believe is what you say is what you do.
– People are the only sustainable competitive advantage.
– Recruit for attitude more than skill … skills can be taught.
– Create a level playing field for all.
– Never start a sentence with “When I was in your role ….” or “What I did was …”.
– Drive change and allow others the same right to question the status quo.
– Encourage creativity, innovation and calculated risk-taking.
– Build a dream/vision, share it and get buy-in.
– Never accept dishonesty of any kind.
– Share knowledge … it is contagious.
– Fight for your people … you are their champion.
– “I don’t know” is a valid response no matter how senior you are.
– Read voraciously … for business and pleasure.

Author: Joe Crawford from Moorpark; CC BY 2.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Joe Crawford from Moorpark; CC BY 2.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons


– Build a peer support team … it helps to have a sounding board.
– No dress down days … just ask people to dress appropriately for the job they are doing.
– Encourage people to introduce suitable recruits … they are great judges of who would fit.
– When good people seriously need to move on, let them go with grace and dignity.
– Your word is your bond … always.
– Meet deadlines and commitments.
– Projects must be well managed … make sure you have the best project managers.
– You can’t win everything … take losses graciously (doesn’t mean you must enjoy them).
– Nothing happens in the world until someone sells something.
– If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.
– Many senior people think they are great speakers … most aren’t … practice is key.
– No matter your opinion of your boss, you must build a strong business relationship with them.
– Make appointments with yourself … at least 1 hour per day.
– Take your job seriously … but not yourself and never your own importance.
– Have a mentor or coach no matter how senior you are.
– Dress to impress and set the standard.
– Money is only one reward and not a true motivator for everyone.
– Finding the right PA is a key to personal success.
– If you can’t explain it in just a few sentences to an outsider, it is too complex.
– It only takes a few passionate people to start a revolution.
– Only unreasonable people drive change.

… and my last 10 points which are personal tips ….

– Never forget you have a family.

By Yesenia603 (own work); CC BY 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

By Yesenia603 (own work); CC BY 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons


– You must take regular breaks and vacations.
– If you don’t love the job, change it for something that excites you.
– Plan the time with your family with same importance as business meetings.
– Play truancy every once in a while.
– Being the richest person in the cemetery makes no sense.

By Chris 73; CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

By Chris 73; CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons


– It helps to be physically fit … exercise your mind and body.
– Keep your family up to date with what is happening … travel, breaks etc.
– The time after you wake should be for someone/something you love.
– Put a photo of your family in view to remind you why you are working so hard.

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WHAT CAN ONE SAY TO A NEW MANAGER IN JUST ONE HOUR

I was recently asked by an exciting and highly successful young salesman, who had just been promoted to his first management role, to give him some “fatherly” advice on what I felt he should focus on to get started with his team. I would have preferred to have at least a year to prepare him for the management role, but we had only one hour together to chat about this vast topic, so it made me not only need to think about being concise, but also made me think about needing to drill down to the key elements of management that would really matter to a “newbie” and that, in his first 100 days as a manager, would define him to his people as their leader rather than as a peer.

Author: Tomwsulcer; CC0 1.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Tomwsulcer; CC0 1.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons


Here were the 10 key points that I discussed with him… 4 for him to pass on directly to his sales and support team, and 6 priority areas for him to focus on from the first day.

The 4 messages to his team were:

– Tell them who you are and in what you believe … That honesty (no lying, cheating or thieving) and integrity (what you believe is what you say is what you do) is at the heart of who you are and that this is what you expect from all of them. That nothing happens in the world until someone sells something, that this makes Sales the noblest profession in the world and that you will always be proud to be a salesman. That your role as their manager is to help all of them to be successful, and that you are available to them in whatever way that they need.

– Give them a dream … Set them a challenge to be the best (most successful, most professional, highest customer satisfaction) sales team in the company. That you expect the team to be a breeding ground for future leaders in the company and that you will work with all of them on their development for an opportunity to qualify. That you expect them to be the best that they can be at whatever they do. That you want other teams in the company to look at them as the standard to reach.

Source: Familiengrab_des_Otto_Schurig_-_Mutter_Erde_fec.jpg; CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Source: Familiengrab_des_Otto_Schurig_-_Mutter_Erde_fec.jpg; CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons


– Tell them what you expect from them … That you are proud and excited to be given the opportunity to lead this team. That you intend to challenge them to “do more, jump higher, run faster” and to be more successful than any of the other sales teams in the company. That you expect them to always learn and grow so that things become easier as they become more skilled and capable. That you also expect to have a lot of fun along the way.

Author: Jimmy Harris; CC BY 2.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Jimmy Harris; CC BY 2.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons


– Tell them that a team that works together is always more successful … That while we live in a highly competitive environment, the more that we can all work together and support each other the more we will all achieve. That great teamwork will always deliver more than the sum of its parts. That in the best sales teams, every member of the team succeeds not just a few. That you expect them to support each other so that every team member has a chance for success.

The 6 key areas on which I felt he should focus were:

– Ensure they all understand and accept their goals … It is important that people have a clear understanding of what is expected of them, and where/how they fit in to the dream that has been painted by their leader, over and above their financial goals. Most sales managers focus all of the goal-setting on the numbers to achieve, and the monetary rewards that come with achieving them, but this is not enough to build a high performing and professional sales organisation. It is also important to be able to answer the “Why are we here and why it’s important”, as well as the “Here’s what we need you to do”.

– Set the standards and know you will be watched … Many new managers believe that “if they say it so shall it be”, but the reality is more like “if they do it so shall it be”. No matter what a manager says, his people will watch his behaviour and will emulate this rather than follow the spoken words. I once had a manager who talked about working hard all the time, but regularly took long lunches and weekly golf breaks, both activities soon becoming a standard in the team.

– Remove the barriers … Find out what is getting in the way of your people being able to do the job well and make it your responsibility to remove the barriers to their success. Protect them from all sides from things that are time-stealers but that deliver little benefit to the company. This can be particularly true in matrix organisations where some people will “make work” to justify their existence.

Author: Kenneth Allen; Source: geograph.org.uk; CC BY-SA 2.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Kenneth Allen; Source: geograph.org.uk; CC BY-SA 2.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons


– Build the team … Build pride in the team and the privilege of being a member, overcoming the Groucho Marx comment of “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.” Set high standards of membership and ensure that people are held responsible and accountable for their actions. The team will either ascend or descend to whatever level of standards you tolerate as being acceptable.

Author: U.S. Federal government; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: U.S. Federal government; via Wikimedia Commons


– Recognise and re-enforce excellence … Recognise and celebrate success and high performance often. It only takes a bit of imagination, rather than huge expense, to be able to recognise individual and team “highs”. I know of one large team that has a wide mix of nationalities working out of the one London office, and every time a team member achieves something worthwhile, the whole team stands and tries to sing their specific national anthem … maybe a bit corny to some, but it shows respect, is a lot of fun and it fits well into the diversity of the team culture.

– Don’t over-manage … Give people the freedom to make mistakes, and give the team the right to self-manage as much as possible. People who are scared to make mistakes are too scared to step out of traditional boundaries, and as such will do what has been done before, rather than what needs to be done today in an ever changing world. New managers tend to focus too much on control, rather than to focus on re-enforcing the needed behaviours.

It is also important to remember the words of American Industrialist John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937) who said “Good management consists in showing average people how to do the work of superior people.”

FOURTH RULE OF MANAGEMENT

The first rule of management is that successful management is actually more about how you manage yourself rather than being about how you manage others (see “First rule of management” posted June 25, 2012).

The second rule of management is that the key to your own success is totally dependent on the success of your people (see “Second rule of management” posted September 24, 2012).

The third rule of management is that no man is an island, and you need to build a network in all directions (see “Third rule of management” posted October 1, 2012).

The fourth rule of management is that you do not manage people, but you manage their behaviour.

This means that the values and culture (sum of the behaviours) that you create as a leader is significantly more important than any controls, policies and procedures or rules that you put in place for your team, whatever its size.

Managing behaviour is a moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day activity for a manager and not something that can be done occasionally, which is why formal performance reviews do not work, even if they are scheduled more often than just as an annual event.

Firstly you need to build a framework for the needed behaviour patterns to flourish by establishing a strong set of ethics based on a sense of integrity in the team, being “what we believe is what we say is what we do”. This is critical, as some managers seem to have a belief that “if I say it, so it shall be”, without understanding that their staff will mainly disregard their words but will watch their actions, and will ultimately copy their behaviour patterns, no matter what rhetoric they sprout, no matter how often they sprout it, and no matter what they write in their mission and vision statements.

You can continue to write and say “our customer is number 1” an infinite amount of times but, if you do not actively and personally live your management business life with this belief at the core of all your actions, no one will believe you and they will all tend to act the same way that you do.

One CEO I worked for never stopped talking about the importance of the customer, but went out of his way to avoid customer contact, and spent much of his time complaining to his executive team about how ungrateful the customers were about the “pearls” that we provided for them. As a result, the pervasive attitude in the company towards its customers was one of arrogance and general disdain. When I had the need one time to bring a customer issue to the attention of the VP Engineering, his response was that the problems the customer was facing with our products was due to the fact that they kept hiring “stupid people”, and that I should tell them that if they had smarter people in their team the problems would go away.

“Actions do speak louder than words …”, and as so ably added by Mark Twain “… but unfortunately not as often.”

Source: steamboattimes.com; Author: A.F. Bradley; via Wikimedia Commons


Secondly, you need to understand that every interaction you have with a member of your team is an opportunity to reinforce desired behaviour, remembering that positive reinforcement is a significantly more effective way to manage behaviour than telling someone where they went wrong (see “Teaching old dogs new tricks” posted June 20, 2010). The goal is to catch people doing something right, and to tell them that this is the case, that it pleases you and that it benefits the team and the company. This not only reinforces the behaviour that you want to see repeated, but also establishes the fact that you care about your people and are aware of what they are doing.

Author: Glen Bowman; via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0 license


As said by Keith Henson, American Space engineer and evolutionary psychologist “People repeat behaviour that leads to flooding their brains with pleasurable chemicals. The short-term reward loop acts over hours to years …”.

You also need to ensure that you dedicate a significant amount of time to spend managing the behaviour of people in your team who are struggling in their allocated role. Too many managers leave “strugglers” alone till the end of the year formal performance review, which for some subordinates will be the first time that they will learn that their performance during the previous year was not at an acceptable level. I believe strongly that if you have hired people for their strengths, you cannot fire them for their weaknesses if you, as their direct supervisor, have not made significant efforts to help them redress these (see “Move them up or move them out” posted August 23, 2010). The sooner you address performance issues the sooner you have a chance to correct them, and the sooner you are able to make a considered judgement on whether the underperformer will ever be able to meet the standards of required behaviour, and hence the performance needed, to be successful.

Annual performance reviews are at best only an analysis of historical activities and as such have little influence on effectively managing behaviour, which is best handled when it is first exhibited and noted, and not left to fester till many months later. Behaviour that is unacceptable, if left alone for too long, can become so ingrained in a person and/or a team that it becomes seen as being acceptable and becomes part of standard behaviour and hence much harder to change or eradicate.

The way that you and your people behave both internally to other departments and externally to your wider ecosystem is what defines you as a manager and leader, in the same way that your behaviour in the community defines you as a neighbour, a friend and ultimately a human being.

“When man learns to understand and control his own behaviour as well as he is learning to understand and control the behaviour of crop plants and domestic animals, he may be justified in believing that he has become civilized.” American author Ayn Rand (1905-1982)

Author: Playing Futures: Applied Nomadology; CC BY 2.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons


FAKING INTEGRITY

It is known that one of the most critical characteristics of any successful business executive is “integrity” and so once you can fake that, you have it made.

But it is one characteristic that can’t be faked, and as Evelle J. Younger (Attorney General California 1971-79) said “If you have integrity – nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity -nothing else matters”.

Webster’s dictionary defines integrity as a “… firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values”.

I prefer defining integrity as “What you believe is what you say is what you do”, and while this is easy to say, it does appear to be difficult for some people to understand.

Many executives do not appear to have accepted that no matter what they say, people in their organisation will mostly focus on their behaviours rather than their verbal positioning. It is not enough to just believe that if they say it, so it shall be. For example, no matter how much a CEO puts “The customer is number 1” in his speeches or his mission/vision/values statements, if he regularly avoids customers and complains regularly and vocally about customer issues, his organisation will understand that the CEO has little real concern for customer relationships and this will then influence the culture of the whole company.

The reality is that everyone watches every move that senior people make in any organisation, and tailor their behaviours accordingly, in the belief that this is what’s expected of them … after all, if that’s the way that senior people act, then so should they. This is particularly true of new hires into the company who generally try very hard to belong, and will therefore emulate behaviours that they see around them.

This was brought home to me with one board (that I worked with on some individual executive coaching), where the underlying behaviour was antagonistic and confrontational, and yet the board members were surprised that there was a major lack of co-operation between different parts of the organisation. After all “teamwork” was a key element of their printed and laminated values statement card which was ceremoniously handed out to every new hire at induction. Board members would be relatively civil to each other face to face, but would bad mouth each other to their subordinates (and to me) outside the boardroom. As a result, no matter how much or how regularly they talked about teamwork, it was not part of their belief system nor was it part of their behaviour patterns, and yet there was this belief that as long as they kept talking about it, it would automatically become reality. They were very surprised, and disbelieving, when I told them that the behaviour of the board itself was the problem. The CEO vehemently disagreed with my findings and ultimately decided to bring in someone like Mckinsey and Company to give them the real answers as to why things were not working. I hope it helps them as I have always believed that the definition of a consultant is someone who knows 120 ways to make love, but doesn’t have a girlfriend.

People will quite often confuse integrity with honesty. I have always seen one of the major differences being the fact that honesty is what you tell everyone else, whereas integrity is what you tell yourself, so integrity involves living and acting within your own personal belief systems.

President Bill Clinton tried to convince the world that he was being honest when he said “I did not have sex with that woman” by trying to redefine which acts the word “sex” actually included, and so under his specific definition he may have not been dishonest, but he certainly showed very little integrity.

By Bob McNeely, The White House, via Wikimedia Commons

As Albert Camus says “Integrity has no need of rules”.
It needs no rationalising as it is just based on the fact that actions speak louder than words, and that ultimately we will all be measured by what we do, rather than by what we have told the world about ourselves.

New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons