The first job a person gets is, in many ways, the most important job you’ll ever have. If – that is – you look upon it as what is should properly be – a learning experience.
It’s always a little strange to see your thoughts in writing – especially if they’re being written by someone else.
I was recently interviewed by students at the USC Marshall School of Business – they are candidates for Master’s degrees in Leadership and Management. The focus of the interview was how to persuade employees to see your point of view.
Here’s the paper (and I didn’t edit at all!)
Background: Eric Swenson has over 20 years of experience in management, sales, training and marketing. He has managed hundreds of employees and interviewed over 2,000 people in his career. RSJ/Swenson LLC is a management and human resources consulting firm with offices in California and Nevada.
Interview Summary: Eric shared his insightful thoughts about the leadership and persuasion. For Eric, persuasion is a natural process and he prefers soft tactics. He is always honest to his superiors and subordinates. Eric believes that effective leaders are very expressive when they come to everybody. They are very candid and direct and these personal traits play a key role for persuasion process. According to Eric, the three most important aspects for managing up and down are communication, openness, and setting a positive tone that focuses on the end result.
- Self Persuasion: “If you were in my position, how would you handle my problem?”
- You should let team members identify the solutions on their own. You also remind them why they live in the same organization. This especially helps you deal with some conflicts with your members.
- Logical reasoning:
- You use facts, figures, and belief that your idea is correct. You also consider the goals, needs, and interests of your subordinates/superiors you’re trying to persuade. The more they see an idea can help them, the more likely they are to help you.
- Persuasion Tactics:
- Collaboration: You need to work with your subordinates, not at them, in order to get them to enthusiastically support your requests. You collaborate with team members, rather than using authority. You don’t need to overuse that power. The relationship based on the trust is a key for the collaboration.
- Communication/Honesty: You should facilitate communication and be very honest to your people.
- Improving Persuasive Skills: Appeal to the subject’s self-interest: You make it sure that what you need align with their best interests.
- Present strong evidence to support your views/positions: You do intensive research and show the team members an idea that will likely work.
- Establish credibility: You’re more likely to persuade your subordinates when trust and respect you. You promise to take the blame if it does not go well. This leads you to build up the trust and respect you’re your subordinates.
- Make your objectives clear: You should get your team understand what you are doing and why are why you are doing that.
Other key factors:
Decision making is a collective effort: As a leader, you have to be honest to your team members. If you found you made a wrong decision, you would change the decision. There is nothing wrong with admitting a mistake.
I believe that communication is the crucial component in managing people.
And I agree that most managers and leaders don’t do a good job at communication.
One of the best bosses I ever had was the Training Manager at a large company. He trained me when I started years before. I eventually became a trainer. Chris spent time watching me train and really left me alone. But I had no idea what he though of my performance.
I finally asked him what he thought, and he said, “You’re the best trainer I have, and one of the best I’ve ever seen.”
That was flattering, but I asked him for his suggestions for improvement, and he gave me a few which really helped me.
Chris told me his attitude was “If you’re doing well, I don’t need to talk to you.”
His mistake, which he corrected after this conversation, was that I didn’t know what he thought of my performance.
Implicit in the failure of managers to properly communicate is the failure of employees to “manage up”. Managers cannot simply divine, through ESP, what an employee wants and needs; it’s equally incumbent upon employees to ask and tell their manager what they’re looking for as well.
A good manager will always welcome the chance to find out what their employees need.
So – if you’re an employee who’s unhappy with the lack of feedback, or feels that communication is poor – make sure to ask your boss! You’ll be surprised that your boss didn’t know that was an issue, and the best bosses will take your information and be able to transform your employment experience.
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.
- How will we gauge my success in three, six or 12 months?
- How do you prefer to communicate and how often?
- What does my career path look like at this company?
- What areas do I need to develop to advance my career?
- What’s our top priority?
- Let me see if I understand this correctly … am I missing anything?
- What are my strengths?
- What can I do to help you?
- I’m working on X, Y and Z — do you think I can handle this task?
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:
- My organization shows a commitment to ethical business decisions and conduct.
- I have confidence in my company’s senior leaders.
- When my company’s senior management says something, you can believe it is true.
- Where I work, ethical issues and concerns can be discussed without negative consequences.
- My manager treats me fairly.
- Senior management is committed to providing high quality products and services to external customers.
- My company enables people from diverse backgrounds to excel.
- My manager treats me with respect and dignity.
- Management shows concern for the well-being and morale of team members.
- Senior management demonstrates that employees are important to the success of the company.
- I feel free to try new things on my job, even though my efforts may not succeed.
- 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.
What Do We Do Now? You have fewer employees but need to have the same or better performance.
Hopefully, when reducing staff, you took the first important step which is to identify those employees who are capable of doing more and retaining them.
In identifying employees who can do more – look at attitude (desire) and aptitude (ability). Communication (as always) is key – those employees are going to be doing different things and more of them.
The employees who stay need to understand why they’re there and what their role is.
Employees who stay after a layoff are even more valuable now. There is some guilt (why did I stay and my friends have to depart?), a lot of trepidation, and no small amount of concern and fear.
It’s up to the employer to alleviate those concerns and allow the business to move forward.
This post talks about a similar awareness: “You Know You’re A Bad Boss When…”
And awareness is the key component. Employees will always tell you what they think you want to hear. If you aren’t completely aware of what’s going on in your workplace, then you’re failing as a manager.
The other key component in awareness is to be completely honest with yourself when assessing your strengths and weaknesses. It takes a courageous manager to ask employees what is good and bad about his or her management style. (A 180-degree survey is also helpful, and most managers are rightfully scared to death of them).
You just might be a poor boss if ….
- You claim an open door policy and wonder why no one comes through that door.
- Your employee has to ask you why her check increased instead of you telling her prior to payday that you gave her a raise.
- You feel sorry for the Dabney Coleman character in the movie “9 to 5”
- The turnover percentage in your area is the same as the winning percentage of the White Sox.
- Your leadership role models are Machiavelli, General Patton and Atilla the Hun.
- You find a copy of A Survival Guide for Working With Bad Bosses: Dealing With Bullies, Idiots, Back-stabbers, And Other Managers from Hell by Gini Graham Scotton an employee’s desk.
- You have a budget of 30k to spend on employee bonuses and never use it.
- You think it’s good management to come in under the paltry 3.5% budget available for salary increases.
- You think that losing your temper is an indication of management strength.
Remember, being honest with yourself is the first, most important step in improving both your skills and performance – and those who work for you.
One of the cornerstones of my management philosophy is:
Without the ability to communicate well, a manager is doomed to failure, no matter how well he or she does in every other required area.
How should you communicate?
Lindsey Pollack, writing at abcnews.com, suggests that how you communicate information is predicated on the person you’re communicating to. [By the way, she’s right!]
That means you must understand your boss (or your subordinate) well enough to be able to make that correct decision.
But with layoffs already taking place and more sure to follow, it means fewer workers will have to work harder. This leads to stress and burnout – and this is a realistic theme for 2009.
It’s a major decision for an employee to make – do I hate my job? Or, – am I burned out?
If you truly hate your job, you need to quit. Life is too short to be saddled with a miserable existence for one-third (at least) of your life.
But if it’s burnout, there are a number of steps you can take to turn it around. It always starts with you. Only you can change your attitude.
Courtesy ABC Action News in Tampa Bay.