Newsletter – January 7, 2011

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Hiring better, making the most of your time, dealing with a difficult boss, and more

Hello friends,

Instead of resolving to hit the gym, watch less (or more) TV, or clean the garage, why not make some new year’s resolutions around being a better manager? Here are five ideas — and resources to help you do it.

1. Make Better Hires

If you’ve done much hiring, at some point you’ve probably had the sinking feeling of realizing after just a few weeks with a new hire that she’s not going to cut it. While hiring will never be an exact science, there is a way to minimize hiring mistakes: having candidates simulate activities similar to what they’d be doing on the job before you hire them. Think of yourself as a football coach running tryouts:  You wouldn’t ask a player whether he could make a tackle, you’d ask to see him do it!

For instance, if you need a communications director who can write quickly under pressure, you might give a candidate a set of talking points and give her 30 minutes to draft a press release. Or if you want a CFO who can explain financial matters in simple terms, you might send candidates your financial statements ahead of time and ask them to explain them back to you in plain language during the interview. Or if you’re hiring an assistant, you could have applicants read a scenario about an upcoming meeting and draft a scheduling email to a hypothetical colleague at another organization. And in case you struggle to come up with good exercises, we’ve created a list you can consult for different types of positions.

2. Get More Time In Your Days

If you’re like most managers we know, you’d love to be able to delegate more to your staff but you struggle to identify what projects you can let go of.

This struggle is often because you’re asking yourself the wrong question. Commonly, managers ask:  What are the things I can do better than my staff? Instead you should ask:  What are the things I’m dramatically better at than my staff?  For example, you might be better at proofreading than your assistant is, but you’re probably far better than your assistant at, say, raising money and talking to the media. Your time should go to the jobs where the gap is the biggest — the areas where you’re much better than your staff, not just a bit better, because the pay-off will be greater.

Here’s a worksheet that will help you identify areas where your impact will be the greatest — and areas that you should delegate.

3. Bring Out the Best in a Difficult Boss

If you have a boss who tends to diminish the people around her — by dominating conversations, always having to have the last word, or even putting people down — this article by Liz Wiseman has great advice about how to transform your boss’s weaknesses into something that can make your own work stronger. Wiseman says that since this type cares intensely about being valued for their intelligence and ideas, the key is to “use his or her capabilities at key junctures. If she has a critical eye, could you use her to help diagnose an underlying problem in a project? Or, if he’s a big-picture thinker, could you have him share his vision to help win over a key customer?”

4. Initiate Hard Conversations

We love the section on initiating difficult conversations in this article from JD Schramm. Schramm suggests concrete ways past the initial hurdle of raising a potentially delicate subject, like sending a note in advance requesting time to chat about something “delicate” or to get “input on a touchy matter.”

5. Assign Responsibilities With More Clarity

When people aren’t 100% clear on their roles, projects can stall because of the lack of a clear driver or decision-maker … so when you’re assigning work, try to explicitly articulate what role people should be playing. We’ve heard from a lot of our clients that they’ve adopted our “MOCHA” model as an easy vocabulary to use when assigning responsibilities:
M = Manager
O = Owner
C = Consulted
H = Helper
A = Approver
Yes, it’s goofy, but people who use it seem to like it!  (And all agree that O is the most important part, because it means that there’s a clear owner who is responsible for the success or failure of the project.) Read more about MOCHA here.

I hope you find these resources useful in your work!  And just a reminder: We’re always looking for great samples to share here, so if your organization has a fantastic tool you’re using, or if you’ve come across any helpful resources lately, we’d love to see them.


Jerry Hauser
The Management Center

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