Management & Leadership Trends 2nd Half 2009

Last week, I gave a presentation in Las Vegas on what I perceive to be the significant trends for managers and leaders during the last half of this year – check it out!

Even More Questions To Ask Your Boss

The most important component of management is the ability to communicate.

But communication goes both ways. A manager can’t inherently know what an employee wants. Good managers ask – and good employees proactively manage up by asking what their boss wants.

In April 2008, we wrote about great questions to ask your boss, and it remains the most visited article in the history of this blog.

Here are some more questions, courtesy of Caroline Ceniza-Levine via CareerBuilder.com:

  1. How will we gauge my success in three, six or 12 months?
  2. How do you prefer to communicate and how often?
  3. What does my career path look like at this company?
  4. What areas do I need to develop to advance my career?
  5. What’s our top priority?
  6. Let me see if I understand this correctly … am I missing anything?
  7. What are my strengths?
  8. What can I do to help you?
  9. I’m working on X, Y and Z — do you think I can handle this task?

Concentration, Poker, Effectiveness and Liz Lieu

Last Friday night, I spent an hour watching (sweating, in poker parlance) a professional poker player in a tournament at the World Series of Poker. It ended up being a lesson in how concentration works in different ways.

Liz Lieu has been a professional poker player for several years; she’s won tournaments and had top finishes at other prestigious events. (As a side note, I love watching poker – it’s one of the ultimate ways to study people).

You would expect a professional to have incredibly focused concentration; to talk little and always watch other players at the table and how the hands unfold. Not Liz. She had her I-Pod on (several people tell me that an I-Pod improves concentration; that’s never been my experience). At every chance (mostly when she was out of a hand), she was on her PDA – twittering and texting. People, mostly other pros, came over to chat and she was gracious and funny with them.

And, by the way, she was winning!

What I also noticed was when she was involved with a hand (or before she even saw her down cards) – she was intense. Behind those sunglasses (the photo, courtesy of Poker News, was taken the day I was sweating her), she wasn’t missing a thing. She saw the reactions of her competitors as they looked at their cards – what they were betting, etc. Her face gave away nothing, but she was seeing and processing everything.

What does this have to do with management?

Just as some people work better with a messy desk than a clean one, people have differences in they way they concentrate best. It’s a temptation for a manager to insist on a clean desk, or tell an employee to take out their I-pod earpiece. But it’s the wrong temptation as long as an employee is performing well.

It’s the role of a manager to foster an atmosphere where employees can flourish and perform at their best level.

Although there’s no way I could play in a poker tournament while doing all the things Liz does, what she does works best for her. Remember that when the temptation strikes with your employees.

Avoiding EFCA and Leading Better

The EFCA is designed to make it easier for employees to organize into a union. Although the bill has lost some momentum recently, the possibility of your business turning into a union shop is stronger now than at any time since the NRLB was enacted in 1935.

If you don’t want your workforce subject to the demands of a union, what do you do?

In 2008, Kenexa Research Institute published a report of a study made of 10,000 U.S. workers. Each participant was asked to agree or disagree with a list of statements about their employers. A significant percentage of those favoring unions responded negatively. Although there were also negative responses from the employees who were not in favor of unions, the number of negative responses was substantially lower. The following are statements for which the “pro-union” employees had a significantly more negative view as compared with employees who did not favor unions:

  1. My organization shows a commitment to ethical business decisions and conduct.
  2. I have confidence in my company’s senior leaders.
  3. When my company’s senior management says something, you can believe it is true.
  4. Where I work, ethical issues and concerns can be discussed without negative consequences.
  5. My manager treats me fairly.
  6. Senior management is committed to providing high quality products and services to external customers.
  7. My company enables people from diverse backgrounds to excel.
  8. My manager treats me with respect and dignity.
  9. Management shows concern for the well-being and morale of team members.
  10. Senior management demonstrates that employees are important to the success of the company.
  11. I feel free to try new things on my job, even though my efforts may not succeed.
  12. My company supports employees’ efforts to balance work and family/personal responsibilities.

How do you know if your employees agree or disagree with those statements? Many employers believe wrongly that their employees are satisfied, but with little evidence to back that up. Remember, employees will tell you what they think you want to hear.

Get an employee assessment/360 degree survey done right away. At a minimum, it will provide a road map to show you how to improve your business.

And at most, it may help you avoid unionization of your workers.

Ways To Improve Morale

In the down economy, with layoffs all over the place, its critical for management to take steps to maintain and improve morale of their existing employees. After all, you need your existing employees to do more now that there are fewer people to do the work.

How do you increase morale when budgets are so tight?

The key is constant, frequent, and candid communication with employees. They deserve to know what’s going on and what you’re doing about this frightening economy.

An excellent summation (including, thankfully, the call for transparency and communication) is found in this Wall Street Journal post about a case study at a company in Boston – Greenough Communications.

What Generation Y Wants From Their Boss

Volumes of research has been conducted on how to manage Generation Y. I find most of the information way too general and not specific enough – after all, Generation Y, like Gen X and boomers, are still individuals and cannot all be gathered into one generic group.

A couple of people stand out in understanding Gen Y: Jessica Lee and Jennifer Kushell.

Recently, while conducting management training for a bunch of Gen Y’ers, I asked them to think of the best boss they ever worked for. Then I asked them what that person was their best boss. Here are their responses:

  • Gave me frequent and good feedback
  • Explanations before delegating to me
  • Pushed me to better myself
  • Helped in my career development/was a mentor
  • Provided clear direction and purpose
  • Showed concern for a work/life balance
  • Treated me as a partner and collaborator, not just an employee
  • Trusted me/empowered me
  • Focused on my strengths
  • Was a good teacher

If you manage Generation Y employees – is this the type of boss you are?

What Generation Y Managers Want

I’m in the middle of conducting a Leadership Development Program for a company that is young. And their managers – 11 of them – are really young: the oldest is 29 and the youngest is 23. What’s more – none of them have had management training before, so it’s been an interesting experience for all of us.

Prior to conducting the program, I asked them what they most wanted from their training. Here are their answers:

  1. How to give both positive and negative feedback.
  2. How to utilize people’s strengths and optimize their weaknesses.
  3. How to get subordinates to Manage Up.
  4. How to keep my team motivated
  5. How to make the most efficient use of my time.
  6. How to delegate (this is related to #5).
  7. How to manage expectations.

A pretty good list – and, I think, not just limited to Gen Y Managers.

Thoughts?