By Jan Richards
You want to be a good manager. You really do.
And you’re doing your best, or trying to.
Yet you wonder how well things are going when situations like these happen:
You hear laughter at work, and decide to walk toward it. You’re in charge of things here, but you’re human, too. A little levity might help brighten a difficult day, you think as you walk toward the mirth. Suddenly, as you turn a corner and see the crowd collected there, the laughter stops. Everyone freezes. Then they quickly scatter, amid a variety of mumbled excuses.
You’re leading a meeting. The goal: engaging your team to find ways you can best meet suddenly far more challenging quarterly performance targets. You look out over the group assembled before you. It’s a sea of bored faces and the tops of people’s heads. They’re doing their best to be anywhere but here as they daydream, text, tweet, and scan the internet.
Performance evaluations are due. You dread this time of year (and employees do, too). And yet, you try to provide good, meaningful feedback to each employee who reports to you. Your fellow managers tease you, saying that your good intentions and time are not well-invested. “You know that your employees just want to know, ‘How much? And why not more?'” your peers explain, with a cynical smile. You get back to work, wondering if they’re right, but provide the best feedback you can, as before.
As these scenarios show, the management role and road is sometimes a lonely and frustrating one.
When you get right down to it:
– It’s hard to get people on the same page.
– Then it’s hard to get them moving forward as a well-functioning team.
– And then there is the constant need to keep individuals and the full team positive and forging ahead through all types of challenges, chores, and circumstances.
In the midst of all that (and more), bad management practices can slip in and quickly become entrenched, like it or not.
If you want to avoid (or get out of) the trap of repeating bad management practices, however you learned them, start by thinking of your work as a game.
Your goal is to help your team see and understand the game fully, prepare them to win, and then manage the team as it plays so that they bring victory in again and again.
Begin by asking yourself these important questions:
1. What “game” is our company or team playing?
2. What’s a win for our customers? What’s a win for us?
3. Who are the main players in this game?
4. What are their roles?
5. What are the rules we play by now? What are better rules for us to use?
6. How do we keep score now? Is that the best way?
7. What’s the reward for playing well?
8. What are the penalties for playing poorly?
9. How are we doing, overall? How do we know?
10. Are we playing better all the time?
11. If so, why? If not, why not? What can we do to improve?
12. How do we keep ourselves inspired, and continually moving forward?
About the author
Jan Richards mentors and provides online training for leaders and teams who want to change or improve, but the desired change hasn’t happened yet, for any of many reasons. An experienced entrepreneur and business consultant, Jan has led many teams and businesses through major change and improvement projects. She is based in the always-rapidly changing Silicon Valley and San Francisco Bay area. Her clients include large and small companies, primarily in tech, biotech, financial services, and telecommunications. She has an MBA from UC Berkeley and a BS in journalism from Iowa State. She was a national examiner for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award for five years. Prior to starting her consulting business, Jan worked for seven years at Apple Computer where she worked on and led teams that improved key business processes in product development, manufacturing, distribution, finance and administration, and sales and marketing. To learn more, visit her website at http://jan-richards.com