So you have landed the job of your dreams as a senior manager – What to do next?
The pressure will start and it may come from the places that you least expected. People will want to see what you have got and what you will bring to the role. Some will test you, some will support you but have no doubt all will be watching you.
The people above you will want to see progress, results and plans. They may also want to see change, depending on the starting position.
They will expect to see problems addressed. They will expect you to see the problems that they see.
Others in your team will watch for a very different reason. They will want to know, how is this change going to affect me?
These expectations may make you tempted to start ‘doing stuff.’ This may mean making changes and doing it fast.
Tip number one – slow down and breath!
There will be time to deal with the issues. When it feels like you don’t, think again.
Back yourself and form your own opinions. You have been hired for a reason and unless you fudged your own CV you have all the skills and resources to do this job. So before you take any actions assess the current situation and really look at what you have inherited.
‘The good, the bad and the ugly.’
Your new bosses have hired you for a reason, and they will also have an opinion on what is working well and what is not.
Never forget, they appointed you to the role because you are good at what you do.
Who is on your Team? - Get to know them.
Spend time ‘wandering around.’ Have ‘one on one’ conversations with people on your team. Find out what they think and what makes them tick. Ask them about the business. It is amazing how engaged people can be when you ask and then truly listen and care about what they think and value their opinions. This is 101 Rapport building and if you want the best from your team you need to start here.
Keep Talking – To everyone
The people who report to the people who report to you will have valuable information and will tell you a lot about the company. A casual chat is all that is needed. Introduce your self and find out what they do. Ask them what your customers think of your business and where the problems might be?
Don’t sit in front of the computer – Keep talking (and listening)
Repeat this exercise with customers if appropriate. Get out and talk to as many as you can. It is an opportunity to get valuable feedback and really find out what is important to them and what you are doing well and what they don’t like.
Keep Listening (and Talking)
Talk to anyone who will listen. Many different vantage points and opinions will give you valuable feedback on what is going well and what is not going so well. Having learned the term Management by Wandering Around (MBWA) I cannot tell you how valuable this is and how much real information you will hear. Not only are you connecting with the people that are the lifeblood of the company and finding out what makes them tick you are building rapport and trust. You will by now have discarded all of the information you were told at interview. You have gathered you own information.
Where to now?
Your dumb questions are enabling you to build up your own SWOT analysis. What are we good at? Where are we weak? Where are the opportunities? What are the threats? Who are our good people? Who’s struggling? What follows is a well thought out list of what your priorities will be during the remainder of your first 90 days.
Then communicate your findings to the key stakeholders and give them the opportunity to challenge your assumptions. They need to understand what you are trying to achieve so they can support your aspirations and decisions.
Do not be afraid to do it your way and not be pressured to ‘get stuff done’
Get the first 30 days right and you will achieve more in your first 90 days and be ready for your first review. All because you took the time to ask and listen to the people that can make it work.
Striving for precision may seem like a desirable trait, but research suggests extreme perfectionism is a risk factor for depression, anxiety and eating disorders.
We live in a world dominated by the pursuit of perfection. From how we perform at school and in the workplace, to whether we win a social game of tennis and even how we choose romantic partners and raise our kids, achieving top marks or the best possible outcome has come to define our understanding of success.
There’s no doubt that setting goals and having high expectations is a healthy pattern of behaviour, but when these habits are taken to an extreme level it can increase the risk of some of our most common mental health problems.
Clinical perfectionists set themselves unrealistic high standards and are overly critical of their efforts to achieve these objectives. “These people judge their self-worth in terms of their ability to pursue and achieve their goals,” says Professor Tracey Wade MAPS* from the School of Psychology at Flinders University.
“The thing about this group of people is the bar starts to escalate higher and higher because if they achieve a goal, they consider it must have been too easy so they start to escalate the level of the goal and eventually it gets to the point where it becomes quite unrealistic. If they don’t achieve their goal, they interpret it as meaning they are less worthwhile as a person.”
While clinical perfectionism isn’t classified as a specific psychological disorder, it’s what psychologists term ‘trans-diagnostic’ and a growing body of research suggests it can increase the risk of depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and eating disorders.
Self-criticism is believed to be the common link among these disorders. “The more self-critical you are, the more helpless, ineffective and unable you feel to be able to achieve your goals,” says Professor Wade. “You beat yourself into a state of learned helplessness.”
Worryingly, unhealthy self-criticism can begin in childhood and adolescence. One longitudinal study published in Behaviour Research and Therapy found adolescents who were highly self-critical experienced feelings of ineffectiveness, which led to an increased risk of disordered eating.
Facts and figures
Researchers believe clinical perfectionism is on the rise in Australia, but further investigation is required.
About 25 per cent of adolescents are self-critical when their standards aren’t met, which Professor Wade says is consistent with figures that report about 30 per cent of people experience depression in their lifetime, 20 per cent of people have anxiety disorders and 20 per cent are affected by eating disorders.
Certain environments may also promote clinical perfectionism. “If you’re at a school where academic achievement is important and it’s very competitive, that may feed into a family that values achievement,” says Professor Wade. “Some people have professions where it is functional to be a little bit obsessive, such as building bridges and operating on people. You have to get the details right but your performance can decline if you are self-critical.”
Lowering your expectations
If you’re worried about your perfectionist tendencies, what can you do to be less perfect? “It’s good to look at the costs and benefits of self-criticism,” says Professor Wade.
“A lot of perfectionists are reluctant to give up perfectionism because they fear if they don’t criticise themselves they’ll become second rate and ordinary. People need to look at the downsides of that behaviour and how it’s impacting on the different areas of their life in order to weigh up whether it’s a strategy that’s working for them or not.”
Research consistently shows that criticism works to demotivate rather than motivate, which can actually take you further away from your goals. ‘Adaptive’ – or healthy – perfectionists, who are more likely to practise self-compassion than self-criticism, have similar high standards to clinical perfectionists but understand that absolute perfection is unattainable.
Instead of wallowing in self-criticism, they focus on learning from mistakes, trying to improve performance and achieving flexible goals. As such, adaptive perfectionists are at lower risk of depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and eating disorders.
Competition in the workplace is a great way to motivate your employees as long as it is done right. It can act as a good motivator but too much can have a negative effect in productivity. This will lead to workers being too stressed and worried to do their job effectively. Or worse, they can get burned out from striving too hard. This can create a drain on creativity and may ultimately cause good employees to look for work elsewhere.
A good leader must know how to motivate employees positively and with moderation in order to create a healthy competition in the workplace. Here are some suggestions that can help your team stay competitive without going overboard.
1. Provide feedback. People tend to get more competitive when they don’t know where they stand in the company—are they doing well? Is there something they should be doing better? Are their managers happy? Regular feedback and reviews from management can help them get a better sense of how they’re doing, so they can relax a little bit.
2. Give multidimensional evaluations. To the previous point, when you’re developing a review process, make sure to include more than just numbers. A person’s productivity depends on a variety of factors, and although it’s hard to take everything into consideration, it’s important that reviews cover more than just sales numbers and product output.
3. Set examples. Oftentimes workers feel competitive and want to work more hours because they see their peers and managers doing it too. There are times when this kind of time spent in the office is necessary — a looming deadline, a new product launch — but make it clear that employees are not expected to work extra hours all the time, and encourage senior-level staff to set the example by sticking to 40-hour workweeks.
4. Set goals. As with not knowing if you’re doing your job well, not knowing what your job actually is can also lead to increased competitiveness. Have managers set specific and clearly-defined goals for their departments and for each employee. That way everyone knows what he or she should be working to achieve.
5. Be flexibile. Focusing on getting the work done, and less on how exactly it gets done can help employees feel less stress and be less competitive in the office. Try to foster a more flexible workplace, for example by offering options to telecommute or work staggered hours.
6. Change the culture. Most importantly, company culture has to change. If managers expect employees to work 80 hours a week, then no employee will feel comfortable working any less. The company itself must acknowledge if there’s a problem of unhealthy competition among coworkers and address it, before productivity begins to suffer.
Any of us that have spent any time putting boots on in the early morning hours and heading outside after a few cups of coffee in the accommodations understand that when someone mentions the words safety, performance, morale or team building it tends to lead into conversations that ensue that there are unsettling troubles amongst your team that sometimes are misunderstood but are simply “mechanisms of team creation” rather than a negative impact on the operation as a whole.
While we work and live in a world that revolves around revenue and safety as being the leading edge numbers that all drilling contractors look at when they evaluate their operations, there is often “the thin gray line” that is forgotten or misplaced amongst the stifling effect of an industry that does not understand the very policies and procedures they enforce.
This stifling effect came from the movement of personnel without the required knowledge or skill to obtain or hold a position of supervisor skill. The lackluster of a once strong industry that managed operations with “veteran” team members leading them in their day to day tasks do not exist anymore because of the talent that has moved on either into happy retirement or left the industry due to many other causes.
There are very good operations and there are very bad operations..
Safety, morale, team building and performance are an upfront reflection of how the teams are perceived by management. Management is not just people that hold executive roles within the organization, it is a combination and understanding between multiple layers of management that trusting the person that you are speaking to will execute a request or follow a set of milestones that is put out there for the team to follow.
Successful teams make mistakes, unsuccessful teams hide mistakes…
How you recover as a team when you make mistakes is what builds the core thread of what every good team is made of. Recovery is not pleasant sometimes and leaders of these teams will face repercussion from management of some companies asking why discipline was not handed down to team members that did not follow a procedure or a policy as indicated in the safety management system. We tend to forget that these leaders and team members have been promoted and placed by competent people and are trusted in managing multiple operations at one time. Do we hold them responsible for the mistakes of a team member they did not train?
For every one mistake that is made in the industry right now, there are teams of professionals that are making a huge revenue on teaching us “how” to manage this one mistake. The cost of making these mistakes are very high and the realization of how the team was created is the basic building blocks and the corner stone of bringing the core of the team back together and helping them realign their vision if it needs to be. Some teams don’t need realignment, they need support, support in the fashion of their management trusting that the right decision was made and equally that the team will own up to when a bad or questionable decision was made.
Pride is something that takes years to overcome, trust on the other hand can almost never be regained if the leaders are not transparent and open about what the real cause of many underlying issues are. Either it be related to the client not understanding a particular operation, simple operations are often the most misunderstood as they are taken for granted as being “normal” or “day to day” tasks or an internal issue that may not be out in plain view.
We tend as human being to be more reactive with issues than proactive, it’s just how it is, it’s a protective mechanism that is programmed into who we are. Teams that are proactive by nature will find themselves teaching or training other teams involved with the operation and again…human nature will set in and a feeling of worth is lost when some of these teaching are passed on and other members become successful. But when you teach these teams that it’s okay for them to make mistakes, the volume, level and frequency in which these mistakes are made is what makes the difference because once the contract is over….all you have is your reputation.
When contracts and daily rates are as high as they have ever been in many years, time spent understanding your team and how you can build a learning and creative atmosphere is worth every moment that you invest into it.
In the featured article above, Greg raises a number of interesting points. We are all human and we will all make mistakes. Some mistakes are more costly than others either in terms of money (say expensive materials used or ruined) and some are costly in terms of injury or death in work teams. Often the organisational focus is on profits is about cutting costs and the focus on safety is about procedures being followed but there is more to it than that. Sometimes the push for profits conflicts with the drive for safety and this can help to explain why “mistakes” continue to be made. Perhaps the crews are working long hours… well past fatigue point, perhaps they are given less staff than they need or the materials are not first class. Maybe the constant need for speed means there is no time to ensure procedures are followed or safety gear is worn. As Greg also points out the WAY people are managed and the organisational environment the team operates in has a good deal to do with how well people work on a day to day basis. A negative environment where people are afraid to make mistakes creates certain undesirable states in their brain which actually makes it more likely that they will make mistakes. Stress makes it more difficult for us to function effectively and the longer we are “stressed” the worse it gets. It affects our memory and our concentration. Once a mistake has happened the skill of the manager or supervisor at dealing with the “mistake” in a constructive way is also vital to determining how that team will function in the future. It is up to the organisation to make sure that all “leaders” (including front line managers and supervisors) are properly trained and supported to lead in a positive way that encourages good brain function and team “morale”. This will in turn improve both profit and safety numbers.
“Where you sit makes a big difference”. This is a simple yet powerful observation and Judy has used three great stories to illustrate the point. The story of the three Cs points to the importance of being aware of the impact of our actions as leaders. Our actions have consequences. Sometimes these are intended and sometimes they are unintended. Judy’s experiment exposed a number of the issues that were leading to the very behaviour that was troubling the CEO. It highlighted a fearful response to the rigid power structure within the organisation. The executive (and perhaps the whole organisation) had formed certain “habits” that was negatively affecting both the executive and the other leaders. By breaking the “normal” behaviour of those in “power” the “normal” response of the other leaders also changed and the group moved from “US/THEM” (where the goal is to protect ourselves from “them”) to form a “WE” where it is safe (due to the new listening stance of the Cs) to work together. It is always fascinating to see the reactions of leaders when they suddenly become aware that sometimes the most effective way to make lasting change to the behaviour of others (or indeed the whole organisation) is to change their own behaviour first. They can then create the conditions to encourage the desired change to move through the organisational “organism” over time.
I used to for an organisation with a few hundred employees. My position required me to travel to different offices around the state. Whenever I arrived at an office I would look for an empty desk in the middle of where everyone was working. It did not take long for me to develop a fairly good ideal of what was going on in the office including any tensions and problems. It was easy to see why some procedures were not being implemented as the “real world” conditions did not always facilitate the efficient introduction of the change in the different office environments. I also found that people were much more comfortable approaching me with issues when I was sitting close and easily accessed.
Occasionally there were no spaces in the main open plan office and I used a managers “office” or interview room. This was great for getting lots of paperwork, phone calls and emails done, but did not facilitate the kind of interaction and connection that was often the main reason for my office visits.
I was very interested by the heading of this article. Dealing with the huge amounts of information that come to us by many different channels every day is one of the biggest challenges for most people when it comes to being truly productive and doing quality work.
The advances in neuroscience over the last 15 years have been truly astounding and has revealed more about many of the previously hidden brain processes that direct behaviour and generate emotion. We also understand now that there are structural and functional limitations to just what our brain can do. We cannot, for example, truly multi-task. We can ONLY do one thing at a time .. so advice to focus on tasks and reduce interruptions is very important and based on brain science. When we have a lot more to do and a lot more information to attend to, the outcome may generally be that we seem to do more but “less well” and with “less attention”.
It is also important to understand that one of the ways our brains “handle” all this extra information is not by intelligent and logical analysis, but buy reacting on “auto” programs based on habits (either helpful or unhelpful) and by reacting to situations based on “feelings” (approach or avoidance).
It is also true that we do have more of an understanding of how truly complex the functioning of our brain is, but also how this depends on the context in which our brains find themselves at any given moment. It is important to understand that any “intervention” or advice about how to improve productivity in a workplace cannot really be reduced to simple generalised prescriptions. One of the examples given was that standing for a meeting may be helpful to promote collaboration. In some teams this may indeed be helpful occasionally as a “novel” situation for the brain (which is known to stimulate brain activity). This is most likely to happen where there are high levels of trust among the team, there the manager was perceived as supportive, where a consultative process was undertaken or where the team was keen to participate in the “experiment” of standing for a meeting. Creating other “novel” situations for meetings (such as moving to a different room, changing how the meeting is run, or changing where everyone sits) might have a similar “stimulating” effect.
I can imagine some organisational contexts (from my experience) in which suggesting your team stand for their meeting and making sure there are no chairs for them to sit in would result in resentment and anger. Comments regarding “lack of consideration or respect” may result. It may be seen as a punitive measure and may reduce the opportunity for quality engagement or exploration of complex ideas/issues. This is most likely to happen where there is not a healthy relationship between the team members and their organisation or manager.
Lack of collaboration could more usefully be seen as a symptom of a broader problem within the organisation or team and could more usefully be addressed by a longer term strategy to build engagement (including leadership development). Or perhaps lack of collaboration may simply be a sign that the person running the meeting could benefit from some coaching on how to run a better meeting (or a focus on leadership development).
It is important to recognise that our brains will perform better when in a “positive state”. The question is how best to produce this “positive state” as part of a sustainable “positive’ organisational environment.
Both employees and executives are under increasing pressure to deliver positive and efficient results to their organisations. Having access to the right tools, materials and training can provide group and individualized development in terms of leadership skills, strategic planning and personal and career growth.