Newsletter – March 3, 2011

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Regaining control of your calendar, what to say when you have to fire someone, and more

Hello friends,

Watching activists bringing change to the Middle East, I hope you’re as inspired as I am about what can happen when people work together effectively!

Toward that end (though admittedly on a less grand scale!), we’ve got a great new batch of resources below — some from us, some from clients, and some from other places.  Read on:

1. The Value Of Debriefs

Here’s something fascinating:  Harvard Business School researchers looked at a group of surgeons learning a new operating technique and found that the surgeons who discussed each case in detail and debriefed with team members after procedures managed to halve their operating time … while those who didn’t discuss and debrief afterwards hardly improved their time at all.

If you’re not debriefing with your staff at the end of projects, you’re missing a valuable opportunity to improve future work. We’ve put together a template to help you make sure debriefs happen and to know what to ask when you convene them; you can get it here.

2. Is Your Calendar Managing You?

I’d bet you a very large pizza that you rarely feel you have enough time to fit everything into your days that you’d like to. This very helpful article from Ron Ashkenas points out that the “disconnect between stated priorities and the actual allocation of managerial time … often happens without the manager even realizing it …[M]anagers’ schedules fill up with all sorts of lower-value activities that water down the focus on high-priority projects, change efforts, or opportunities.”

Sound familiar? Ashkenas’ article will walk you through the process of analyzing your calendar, then rebuilding it from the ground up, and then figuring out how to discard activities that add little or no value.

3. Presenting Cutbacks To Your Staff

When an organization is faced with budget shortfalls that necessitate staff cutbacks, communicating openly is key to building a culture of transparency and good will and protecting staff morale. This 2010 memo from American Independent News Network CEO David Bennahum to AINN’s staff about upcoming changes is a great example of transparency about the funding realities driving the changes, specifics about finances and cuts needed in response, and candor about how the organization would move forward. You can read David’s email here (shared with permission).

4. What To Say When You Have To Fire Someone

If there’s one thing managers struggle with, it’s finding the words to tell someone you’re letting them go. Here’s a sample script that can help you put words to this difficult conversation.

5. Is That Job Candidate Right For You?

Last month, we asked you what exercises you’re using to evaluate job candidates. Here’s a great one submitted by a reader, testing candidates’ writing, tact, listening comprehension, and ability to take feedback all at once. Check it out here and see if something similar might work for you.

6. Send Us Your Check-In Strategies!

We’ve all been there — you schedule a check-in with a staff member, but you’re not seeing a lot of impact for the time spent and you’re tempted to wonder if you could have skipped it. To ensure that check-ins aren’t just rote checklists of project updates, what methods do you use to truly get beneath the surface to a meaty, helpful discussion? We’ve got one sample agenda here — but we’d love to hear what strategies you’ve found that work especially well, so please tell us!

As always, I hope you find these resources useful in your work.


Jerry Hauser
The Management Center

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