Newsletter – May 4, 2011

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Being clearer about what you want, and more

Hello friends,

In many of the resources we’re bringing you this month, you’ll notice a theme:  making your expectations explicit. Below you’ll find a variety of tools to help you do that more easily. Take a look…

1. Ask Your Staff What’s Not Getting Done

When’s the last time you asked your staff to talk to you about what things they are not getting done? Over at the Ask a Manager blog, our friend Alison Green makes the point that many staffers won’t talk to you about this on their own, so you should probe for it:  “You want your people to proactively tell you about what’s not happening that ideally would be happening. And that’s because you want to be part of choosing what those things will be — not just letting them get selected by default … And since many (maybe most) people won’t do that on their own, you need to ask them, and you need to make it safe for them to give you an honest answer.”

2. Creating Better Role Expectations

Ever felt like your job descriptions don’t fully capture your expectations of the role? The problem might be that you’re focusing only on what the staff member is expected to accomplish and neglecting how you’d like her to approach the role. By getting explicit about both, you can better guide your staff in handling the many things that will come up that a traditional job description might not capture. Here’s an example that captures both the what and the how. (You might use something like this in many places: pulling from it as you write job announcements, using it when orienting a new employee, measuring against it in performance evaluations, and using it to set clear big-picture expectations.)

3. How to Ask for Help the Right Way

Just as you want your staffers to maintain ownership of their work and not let it shift to you if they run into a problem, you should ensure you’re not shifting the weight of your work to your own manager when you’re in a similar situation. In this Harvard Business Review article, Jodi Glickman offers advice on how to ask for help without losing ownership, noting that when a staffer comes to her with a problem, “I don’t want to do the legwork for him to figure out what he should do. I want him to come to me with an opinion. I want him to put a stake in the ground and give me an idea of what he thinks he should do. I want him to lay out his argument for or against going in a certain direction or using a certain set of assumptions, and then get my feedback or opinion on whether that’s the right course of action.”

(And in addition to being useful for dealings with your own manager, you might also share this piece with your own staff!)

4. Make Your Calendar Your Own Again

If you’re like most managers, your time is so overbooked that you struggle to carve out room for your top priorities. One executive director we know took this problem on by creating tighter guidelines for his calendar and travel and how meetings should be handled, and clearly articulating them to his staff. While the specifics here might be different from your own, this excerpt from his memo could be a helpful template for how you can seize control of your time.

5. The Psychology of Being the Boss

After working hard to get there, more than a few leaders have been surprised to discover how emotionally tough being in charge can be at times. If you’ve ever felt this way, you’ll like Brian Horowitz’s Business Insider column about how leaders can manage their own psychology. From dealing with the fact that even when you know what you are doing, things will go wrong – and it’s your fault! —  to escaping the trap of either taking things too personally (and terrorizing your team in the process) or not personally enough (and thus allowing your organization’s quality to erode), Horowitz offers valuable advice on the psychology of being in charge.

I hope you find these resources helpful!


Jerry Hauser
The Management Center

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