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Career Development

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


Do you have a career plan?  You should.  Even if you have not charted out the rest of your life, you should have a shrewd idea of how long you want to stay where you are now; doing what you are doing; and what next.

Here are some exercises that will help you to plan out this and the next stages of your career.

Exercise 1: Getting to Grips with a New Job

Answer these three questions:

  1. What is the true essence of your job?
  2. What is one thing you can achieve quickly to start to build a good reputation?
  3. Who are the people you most need to get to know and to influence?

Exercise 2: Getting Ahead in your Current Job

Set yourself three objectives:

  1. Three people to get to know during the next three months
  2. A substantial opportunity to be innovative, take the lead or make something happen
  3. Some training, development or learning that will position you for a step forward

Exercise 3: Refreshing your Attitude to your Current Job

In ‘Same Job: New Job’, we looked at how to spice up your attitude to your current job, if a move is not on the cards.  Read that blog and choose three petals of the Flower Model of Job Satisfaction.  For each one, decide on one action you will carry out, to boost the way you feel about your job.

Exercise 4: What Next?

You may not yet have a strategic vision of how you want your career to proceed and where you want to get to.  If this is the case, ask yourself the question: ‘what do I want from my career?’

Write this down as a heading on a sheet of paper one evening.  The next day, get up early, make a cuppa, then sit and write anything that comes into your mind onto the page.  Don’t censor or try to organise it.  Just get the ideas down.

Repeat two or three times and then, when you have a quiet hour to spare, go through it all and see what is there that makes real sense to you.

Now you will have the basis for deciding what needs to come next.  Put together a plan for:

  • on-the-job learning
  • continuing professional development
  • taking on projects
  • looking for new opportunities

Exercise 5: Continuing Professional Development

If you are a member of a professional or trade body, this will almost certainly come with your chosen career.  Even so, there will be discretionary modules and units, so make choices based on what you want to prepare yourself for.  If you are not part of such a membership organisation, then look at the training your employer can offer, maybe your trade union has some training you can use, and also look at local FE colleges and the courses they can provide.  You may also want to look at independent training providers who run open programmes.

The trick is to build a logical case that will show your employer what they will gain by investing in putting you on that training.  Be clear about the facts and ask the provider for help in identifying the workplace benefits of their course.

Exercise 6: A Career Change?

There is an excellent set of resources for this at the Open University careers advisory service site.

Further Reading

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Decision Making

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics This is part of an extended course in management.


In understanding decision-making, there are three key things to focus on:

  1. Using a structured process
  2. The role of intuition, gut instinct and hunches
  3. The effects of bias and automatic thinking

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Structured Decision Making Process

… like the example below.

Structured Decision Process

One of the most important choices in your decision process will be whether to go for an adversarial process of setting the options against one another – perhaps even having advocates for each, competing with one another to win the decision – or to go for a process of inquiry, learning as much as you can before assessing the options.

Intuition

Although Malcolm Gladwell received a lot of attention for his book Blink, his work leans heavily on the research by Gary Klein and his books, The Power of Intuition and the more technical Sources of Power are first rate.  Klein shows how, in domains that are very complex and in which you have extensive experience, your intuition can quickly get you to the right understanding, well ahead of your ability to explain why or how you reached the conclusion you did.  But, if you don’t have sufficient experience, then your hunches are likely to be wrong, due to the existence of…

Bias and Automatic Thinking

Two psychologists, Daniel Kahnemann and Amos Tversky, were responsible for overthrowing the crude assumption that economics is based on rational decisions.  In fact, they showed that many decisions are a result of automatic thinking and biases.  The automatic thinking is a short cut that works well in the domains in which humans evolved, but leads frequently to wrong answers in a modern world context.  An example is the ‘horns and halo effect’ and another is our bias towards noticing examples that confirm what we believe to be true, whilst being blind to counter examples.  Daniel Kahnemann wrote the wonderful ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ to summarise a life’s research and it is, without a doubt, one of the most important and stimulating reads of the last few years.

Further Reading

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Manage Stress at Work

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics This is part of an extended course in management.


As a manager, you have two stress management responsibilities:

  1. To manage your own stress levels
  2. To manage the environment to avoid subjecting your team members to inappropriate levels of stress

Let’s scamper through the basics.

Exercise 1: How to spot the signs of stress in your team?

Make a list for yourself of all of the outward signs that suggest that a team member may be experiencing stress.  These are the things you could observe in their demeanour, appearance and behaviour.

Part of your responsibility is to monitor your team’s collective performance.  What if stress were an endemic problem?  What would be the indicators and behaviours that would signal this problem? Note these down.

For some examples, click here.

Reducing Stress

To understand stress, you need to focus on one thing: control.  We feel stressed when we do not feel we have enough control in our lives.  Therefore, to reduce stress, we must increase control.

Supporting your team

Look for places where stressed team members feel robbed of control.  Where you can, restore some of their control.  Where that is not possible, help them to find other areas where they can take control.

Points of Control

The five key points of control for all of us are:

  1. Our environment
    How can you or your team members make changes to the environment to feel a greater sense of control.  Often, very little things are enough.  Personalisation is an important driver.
  2. Our use of time
    Where can you use your time more effectively (you may want to look at the time management tips in an earlier blog)?  How can you give team members more control over the way they use their time to get their work done.  Autonomy is another important driver.
  3. Our physical response to stressors
    Simple choices like what to eat, getting enough exercise and prioritising rest and relaxation will make a big difference to stress levels.  Poor physical health will reduce our resilience to a stress response.
  4. Our mental response to stressors
    ’there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’
    Hamlet was spot on when he understood that it is the meaning we attach to events that determines our response to them: elation, contentment, boredom, or stress for example.  When feeling stressed, take control of your mental response and start focusing on what opportunities there are, what resources you have, and what there is to be grateful for.
  5. Our values – what is important to us
    A mismatch between what we are told is important at work and what we fundamentally believe is important to ourselves is a major cause of stress.  Examine your values – they may be out of date and you may want to shift, for example from: ‘it is important I work hard’ to ‘it is important I do great work’.  If your values are still out of sync with what your employer requires, you are in the wrong job.

Further Reading

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John Adair’s Four-D System

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog is going back to basics. This is part of an extended course in management skills.


Time management is a vital part of your personal effectiveness.  As a manager, you will face greater time challenges than you did as a team member; but you will also have additional resources and greater flexibility in how you use your time.

One of the simplest and most powerful time management approaches is John Adair’s Four-D System.  This is documented in his (now out of print) Handbook of Management and Leadership.

Adair starts with a standard Eisenhower Matrix putting urgency against importance.

Urgent&Important

Adair then identifies starting time management strategy for each class of activities:

  1. Do it now
  2. Delay it until you have some good quality time
  3. Do it quickly
  4. Drop it or Delegate it

Critique

As always, John has identified a powerful model with real practical application.  Yet I can’t help feeling we must modify it a little.  Here are three ways you can make it even more effective still:

Priorities

Although the urgency suggests that box 1 is top priority, this creates a high stress, low sustainability work style.  Prioritise box 2 and you will find yourself planning and preparing ahead of urgency and so find less work falls into box 1.

Drop or delegate… Really?

If it is not worth your time to do it, why is it worth someone else’s time?  Yes it may be important enough for someone else to do it, but don’t just Dump it on someone to avoid an assertive NO.  Indeed, get in the habit of delegating Box 1, 2, and 3 tasks too, to develop the people who work for you.

More Ds…

We’ve already added Dump, but I don’t propose to honour it with emphasis.  But Diminish is a powerful strategy.  Look at the task and ask: ‘do I need to do all of it?’  If you can reduce the work required and still deliver all or most of the value, you will save valuable time.  And there is another D: Decide.  You need to decide which strategy to adopt.  Unless, that is, you Defer your decision.  If you do that as an example of purposive procrastination* it is a sound approach.

Exercise

Make an Eisenhower grid on a whiteboard or on the four panels of a door, or in your notebook.  Use post-it type notes to jot down all the tasks facing you (big for the whiteboard/door or small for your notebook).  Allocate the notes to one of the four quadrants.  If everything is at the top left, re-calibrate your mental scales for importance and urgency.

Further Reading


*Purposive Procrastination: putting something off because there will be a better time to tackle it.

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Type A and Type B

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog is going back to basics. This is part of an extended course in management skills.


Are you a ‘rush-rush-got-to-get-things-done’ sort of a manager, or are you a ‘take my time; want to get things right’ type?  Or are you nicely balanced.  Doctors Mike Friedman and Ray Rosenman identified these two styles as, respectively, Type A and Type B personalities.  When I tell you they were cardiac specialists, you might start to worry.  There is no need.  Take the test and then I’ll explain.

Exercise

For each of these nine statements, score yourself 0 to 10 according to how close you lie to the first statement (a low score) or to the second statement (a high score).

Type A-B Thermometer

.

Casual and relaxed 0 … 10 Often feel on edge

Slow and deliberate 0 … 10 Always rushing

Dislike deadlines 0 … 10 Love working to deadlines

Patient 0 … 10 Impatient

Express your feelings 0 … 10 Suppress your feelings

One thing at a time 0 … 10 Lots of things at once

Ready in advance 0 … 10 Just in time

Plan and prepare 0 … 10 Just do it

Enjoy relaxing 0 … 10 Feel guilty when relaxing

.

Interpretation

Friedman and Rosenman predicted that strong Type A personalities would be prone to heart disease and die young.  They were wrong.  Many of their patients did have a cluster of personality traits that they characterised as Type A, but only a few of them were truly predictive of illness – and not the ones relating to rushing about.

However, both Type A and Type B personalities each have their own challenges in operating in an organisation.  Let’s look at some.

Dealing with other People

Inevitably, we deal best with people who are like us.  We find them easy to understand and their habits agreeable.  Type As readily get impatient with Type Bs.  They want the B to hurry up and despair that the B has no sense of urgency about things.  Type Bs find Type As’ hurry annoying; they would rather the A would slow down and do things properly and are concerned about quality standards.

Dealing with Admin

Type Bs will take on the organising and admin tasks as another thing to do carefully and well.  Type As – unless they really value it – will rush through it, wanting to move quickly onto ‘proper work’.  They will then get angry when they can’t find what they need or get what they want.

Dealing with Interruptions

Type Bs may not welcome an interruption – especially when they are engrossed in something – but when they accept it has happened, they will turn their whole attention to you.  This is great for the interrupter and can lead to positive outcomes.  But when the interrupter has a non-critical issue, Type Bs can lose valuable time on the work they were doing.  Not so Type A’s.  The interruption may be unwelcome or a welcome distraction when they are starting to feel bored, but the Type A will soon be tapping their foot, keen to get on.

Managing Time

Type A personalities get masses done; often just in time and at breakneck pace.  Quality can suffer, especially when they try to multi-task, but it is Type As who are at the heart of the (perfectly true) cliché: ‘if you want it done; ask a busy person.’  Type Bs focus on one thing at a time and do it well.  They plan well and execute effectively, as long as they don’t get held up by an interruption or by finding a problem and working deliberately to solve it.

Exercise: Balance is Everything

The most successful people inevitably balance both personality types.  Look at your weak points and note them down.  What strategies can you use to neutralise them?

Further Reading

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Assertiveness

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog is going back to basics. This is part of an extended course in management skills.


There is only one thing that you need to know about assertiveness, to fully understand it:

Assertiveness is all about respect

Assertiveness is about the respect you have for the people you deal with and for yourself.  Let’s see a summary diagram.

Assertiveness

Aggressive behaviour has little respect for the other person and instead, focuses on winning-out over them.  It can be controlling – even abusive  – and has no place in modern management.

Passive behaviour shows little respect for yourself.  It focuses on not getting hurt and so leads people to submit their own legitimate needs and desires to avoid the possibility of confrontation.  Often that possibility is more perceived than real.  Passivity shows itself in a fear to disagree, guilt at saying no, and a reluctance to offer feedback.  It too has no value to you as a manager.

Assertive behaviour is what to aim for.  Respect yourself and the other person and focus on over-coming events and getting the best result you can.  Do what is right: not what is easy and celebrate success.  Be collaborative, offer sincere praise and objective feedback, say what you think and feel, taking responsibility for your emotions and for your decisions.  Be confident to ask for help and support when you need it.

An Exercise

Think back to examples you have observed in colleagues of assertive, aggressive and passive behaviours.  Make a note of:

  1. some words you associate with each of these
  2. voice and speech patterns you associate with each of these
  3. facial expressions and patterns of eye-contact you associate with each of these
  4. postures, gestures and body language you associate with each of these

Exercise Part 2: Reflection

Now look over your notes.  Which of these seems most like you a lot of the time?  Which one do you tend towards during stress?

Assertively making a request

Be direct but courteous.  Be specific about what you want and offer details as appropriate.  You don’t need to apologise, unless you know you are putting someone out, but do say ‘please’.  The best asking words are ‘would you…’  Alternatives can seem weak (could you), doubting my ability (can you) or too direct (will you).  Finally, respect my right to say ‘no’.  If no is not an option, then be honest, and tell me.

Assertively disagreeing and putting your views

Listen intently.  Identify where we agree and disagree and acknowledge both.  Use ‘I’ to take responsibility for your point of view and be constructive in building on mine.  Offer reasons, facts and supporting evidence.

Assertively giving bad news

Be proactive in addressing the situation.  Make good eye contact, and prepare me with: ‘I have some bad news.’ Be brief and to the point, though never abrupt.  Be specific about the news, but the more complex and damaging it is, the less information I will be able to take in – at least at first.  Answer my questions and allow me to express my emotions.  You do not need to be defensive.  Be factual and caring and be prepared to help me work through the implications.

Assertively saying ‘no’

Be short, to the point, and respectful.  Offer reasons when you can and alternatives where appropriate.

Further Reading

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Personal Impact

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog is going back to basics with a return visit to our correspondence course in management.


As a manager you need to make an appropriate personal impact at all times in the workplace and when representing your organisation or business.

Here is a checklist of things to consider.  You may want to make a note in your notebook about how you propose to respond.  The best way to get things right is to look to the successful managers you meet in your organisation.  How do they carry off each of these things? What can you learn from each of them?

You will not, of course, want to copy their style, but rather, you should apply your own style, but recognise the appropriate levels of dress and appearance.

Personal Impact 1: Mental and Physical State

Start with your mental and physical state – this will profoundly affect how you come across.  If you have not done the exercises in the previous part of this course, they will be helpful to you.

Personal Impact 2: Dress and Style

Choose clothes of a quality and style that matches that of managers at your level.  If you are ambitious, look at how managers one level up from you dress and emulate them.  But be careful over-dressing to match top directors – that can be seen as presumptuous, over-ambitious or just quirky.  A personal style is fine, but make sure it is authentic to who you are and is appropriate to your environment.

Make sure that your clothes and shoes are well-cared for and use accessories to boost your impact.  A good quality, standard, off-the-peg suit need not cost much.  Add a few accessories and you will come across as far more classy.  These include your work bag, pens, tie or scarf, belt or brooch, bracelet or cuff-links.

Dress for Impact

Joke ties, cute phone covers and loud brooches are all perfect for the weekend, but if your accessories draw more attention to themselves than you can command on your own; ditch them.

It may be worth investing in a style advisor who can help you select clothes and colours that work for you.  Alternatively, if you have a trusted friend who dresses really well, ask them to help you with shopping.

Personal Impact 3: Personal Care

Don’t waste money on great clothes if you are not going to take care of basic personal grooming: hair, teeth, facial hair and fingernails are particularly important.

Further Reading

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Positive Organisational Scholarship

Positive Organisational Scholarship

Positive Organisational ScholarshipThe easiest way to understand Positive Organisational Scholarship is to think of it as the systematic study of Positive Psychology, at the level of an organisation. And, if you need a primer on Positive Psychology, take a look at our article.

A lot of the formal descriptions of Positive Organisational Scholarship (POS) use dry academic language. Put simply, it’s the study of what makes members of an organisation perform at their best levels, by focusing on what they do well.

Continue reading Positive Organisational Scholarship

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Self Confidence

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog is going back to basics. This is the first of a series of posts on management skills.


Self confidence is the starting place for any manager.  Your promotion to managerial role has probably been triggered more by your expertise in doing your previous job, your reliability, and your character, than by any specific evidence of your managerial capability.  And that’s fine, because it is the way most of your colleagues were promoted too.

But it can leave you feeling a little nervous about your suitability to manage and, when your boss tells you to ‘get on with it – I have every trust in you’ you can feel a little isolated.  Your boss leaves you to it, your new management peers don’t yet trust you, and your team are wary of how you will treat them, now you have become a manager.

Here are three exercises to help boost your self-confidence.

Exercise 1: A Reassuring Word

Write down your answers to the following sentences:

  • ‘I earned my managerial role because…
  • ‘My three most valuable managerial assets are…
  • ‘The managers I learned most from are…
  • ‘I will know I am doing a good job as manager when…
  • ‘Things will go wrong; that’s life.  If they do, the people I can go to are…

Exercise 2: Seeing Success

Imagine it is Monday morning and you are in work, ready to start the day.  In a minute, close your eyes and picture yourself there.  Picture your first few conversations and meetings going well.  Notice yourself handling the situations effectively, feeling well-prepared.  As you go through your morning, picture everything you do going as planned. At each stage, notice how good that makes you feel.  At the end of your morning, imagine how positive and confident you will feel.

Now, close your eyes and play that movie in your head for several minutes.

When you have done this, make a note in your notebook about how you felt at the end of each part of your morning.  Write down what you did to achieve your successes.

This is an exercise to repeat several times over the coming days.  Each time you do it, choose another day and either the morning or afternoon.  Every time you do it, you will increase your base level of confidence.

Exercise 3: Power Poses

One of the reasons some people feel more confident than others is simply levels of hormones in their bodies.  For example, increased testosterone levels increase confidence, whilst increased cortisol levels decrease confidence.  Perhaps it is surprising, but your gross posture affects levels of both of these hormones and, whether you are a man or a woman, you can increase testosterone levels and decrease cortisol, by adopting power poses.

You can do these poses for two or three minutes before going into a stressful situation and you can maintain confidence-boosting hormone levels by maintaining upright, open postures during your day.

Power Poses

Stand upright, legs apart – slightly wider than shoulder width – and put your hands on your hips.  If there is a table, counter or a solid back of a stable chair available, place your hands firmly on it, about 70-80cm apart (wider than your shoulders) and lean forward.  Adopt these poses for two minutes or so.

If you have a chair to sit on, try sitting upright, legs apart, with feeet firmly on the floor.  Plant your hands firmly on your upper thighs, with elbows outwards.  Lean your body back a little, with head a little forward.  Or try putting your feet up on a table, leaning back in your chair, with your hands clasped behing your head, elbows splayed out.  Adopt one of these for two minutes.

If these poses remind you of a typical ‘old-school alpha-male boss’, they should.  The difference is that you will adopt these poses privately for a few minutes at most, to boost your confidence for the next meeting; rather than maintain it in the meeting to intimidate your colleagues.

Upright Postures

For all-of-the-time posture, keep to standing with feet at hip or maybe shoulder width, head upright, as if pulled by a puppet string, and arms by your sides.  This open body, coupled with upright posture, will not only make you feel more assertive, but will enhance your breathing, your vocal tone and projection and present your image as confident and authoritative.

Further Reading

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Customer Journey: Mapping your Relationship

Customer Journey

Customer JourneyYou can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. That’s the principle behind mapping out your customer journey. It’s a way to get an insight into how it feels for your customers to deal with you at each step along the path.

And since understanding your customer is vital to making them feel good about buying and using your product, customer journey mapping is a valuable tool to support this Big Idea.

Continue reading Customer Journey: Mapping your Relationship

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