Time and Priority Management

Join Jed and Bob as they discuss why many time management strategies don’t work… then explain how you can finally gain control of your schedule.

Listen to the ‘Time and Priority Management’ podcast (17 min 20 sec):


Click here to get the ‘Time and Priority Management’ Cheat Sheet

Introversion Isn’t a Disability

Isn’t introversion something that we need to cure people of by sending them to the Dale Carnegie course?

People hear “extrovert”, and they think: outgoing, friendly, social, capable, productive, NORMAL. People hear “introvert”, and they think: shy, withdrawn, anti-social, illusive, dysfunctional, wall-flower.

The problem with these labels is that neither is particularly accurate, and it infers that people are capable of only one set of behaviours exclusively. There is also a connotation that Extroverts are more likely to excel in business.

You might be surprised who may be a closet introvert: High-profile leaders, television personalities, sports stars, maybe even one of your friends, neighbours, or family are introverted. They’re everywhere, so beware – you never know when they’ll want to slink into the back corner of a meeting room, and silently wish everyone would stop talking at once. Or perhaps pray that someone will listen to them for 20 seconds before interrupting them. Worse yet, they may think about something before responding to a question creating that awkward few seconds silence.

As someone who spends a lot of time talking to groups of people, and a person who worked in television (for a short and spectacularly unsuccessful period of time), I am rarely accused of being an Introvert, even though that’s what my MBTI indicates.

I prefer to label myself as a Recovering-Extrovert.

Make Awesome Mistakes

Mistakes are remarkably underrated, and very few organizations are actually good at making them. When it comes to making mistakes, there are typically two types of organizations:

  1. Those with little or no tolerance for mistakes, so in order to avoid making them, they either don’t make decisions, or they analyze decisions to such a degree that they become paralyzed. I would include most public sector organizations and other big bureaucracies in this category.
  2. Those organizations where mistakes get made, and the most important thing is to assign blame. Of course, people in such organizations would not self-identify as being blame-seekers, but it is often cloaked in “holding people accountable”. Accountability is about people delivering on pre-agreed upon requirements. Making mistakes is about taking risks and doing something new.

There is a third type of organization that encourages people to take risks in certain areas of the business. Many times those risks do not pan out, but from the ashes of failure a phoenix of innovation and performance rises. This type of organization is exceptionally rare. The best examples are well known: Apple, Virgin. There are others as well, but they are as difficult to find as a trace of dignity in a reality TV star.

I always know I’m in a well run and innovative business when I hear, “Here’s a stupid idea”. A high level of confidence is required is say such a thing, and a high level of trust in your peers to take such risks.

The moral of the story: make awesome mistakes.

Millennials Aren’t All That Special

I’m continually amazed by the willingness of businesses to pay speakers and consultants to tell them how different the new generation of workers is. The money might be better spent by setting it on fire to light cigars, or better yet, send it to me.

I recently re-read a well written article from a major trade publication advising me that the new generation of workers are a lot of entitled whiners with a poor work ethic and no sense of loyalty.

I was then advised that I’d better figure out how to harness the immense potential of this group by providing a cake and parade every time they managed to get to work without wetting the bed, and help them self-actualize if I was to remain competitive in the war for talent. This new generation is completely different than anything the world has ever seen come before.

Common advice — to be sure. However, the publish date for this article was April 1994.

Yep, that’s right. The middle-aged managers that are tearing (what’s left of) their hair out over managing the Millennial generation were once that sad lot themselves.

What happened to this disruptive generation of 20 years ago that was going to revolutionize the way we work?

Two things: Kids and mortgages.

The radical kids of the 90s were assimilated by the big industrial machine. Resistance was futile. Their own distinctiveness was added to our own.

We shouldn’t be surprised. About 2500 years ago, some guy named Socrates lamented the work ethic of the new generation, and how different their values were than anything that came before it.

This is not to imply that a very real generation gap doesn’t exist. Nor do I dispute that the nature of work isn’t evolving as society and technology changes. I just don’t see the value in paying $5000 for a keynote speech about how “kids today” are so much different.

In a few years, one of these Millennials is going to hire a speaker to come in sort out the issues she has with this new generation (called 21ers – for those born in the 21st century), who she perceives as a lot of entitled whiners with a poor work ethic and no sense of loyalty, because it’s completely different than anything we’ve seen before, and will completely change the way we work.

Remember… you heard it here first.

To Build a Strength or Fix a Weakness?

One of the hot topics in Leadership Development is something called Strengths Only Leadership … or some variation thereof.

Personally, “Strengths Only” development planning makes me cringe.  Too often I’ve seen it used as an excuse for not working on a weakness that if improved, even just to the point of being “good enough”, would accelerate performance.

In choosing development focus areas, the mistake is made when leaders start the process by analyzing their own strengths and weaknesses.  This is the wrong place to begin!  Rather you should start by analyzing the key competencies required of your current job or desired future role.

Some of your weaknesses (or strengths) may be immaterial to the current role you have or the future role you want.  Spending valuable development efforts on strengths (or weaknesses) could be a waste of time if they don’t directly apply to the job you have or the job you want.

I’m aligned with developing strengths; it should definitely be part of your development planning.  But start with key competencies required first … then don’t be a fool and ignore weaknesses that might derail your performance.

Understand what’s important first … then answer the question  …

“To build a strength or fix a weakness?”

“I Told That Guy That!”

Why don’t your people do things the way they’re supposed to?!?   It may be because you didn’t set clear expectations in the first place.  Learn how to set expectations that are crystal clear, and use them as a tool to manage performance. Become a Wily Manager member today and get the full story from Bob and Jed.  Is that clear?

Many managers having uttered the words, “I told that guys that!”, become truly amazed when people don’t live up to their expectations.  There are hundreds of reasons why leaders end up being disappointed when their expectations aren’t met, but here’s our list of the top five:

Thinking you can tell people something once.  You may have “told that guy”, but if you haven’t done it multiple times, by multiple media, your job isn’t yet done.  Much like teaching your children new habits, it takes time and effort to integrate new expectations into consistent behaviors.

Thinking that expectations last forever.  You also need to periodically remind people about expectations.  I once worked for client that had very specific expectations for travel expenses.  As months and years passed without any consistent reminders or reinforcement of those expectations, people deviated substantially from the policy.  When a new manager came in and called people on their expenses, he had an uphill battle.  For years people had done what they wanted, and now this new guy was trying to hold them to account for expectations that were set long ago.

Acting Inconsistently.  “Do as I say, not as I do…” doesn’t work.  A former client made the decision to move to an open office concept from enclosed offices because they wanted to set an expectation of an open, accessible corporate culture.  It all went horribly wrong as soon as the senior leaders locked themselves behind closed doors, after creating the expectation that everyone should embrace the idea of the open concept.  There is also no faster way to eliminate any credibility you have as a leader than to say one thing, and do another.

Having a laundry list.  If you hand people a list of expectations that numbers in the hundreds, you are asking (if not begging) to be let down.  Public sector organizations are famous for this.  Due to their risk aversion, they want to cover off any and all contingencies, so they create expectations for things that could not be more impossible.  Keep your expectations clear and manageable – and never hand your people a laundry list.

Assuming people understand.  Sometimes people say they understand when they don’t.  Much like the English-speaking tourist in a foreign country who simply yells louder at the nodding cab driver, you’re still not going to get what you want if the other person doesn’t understand.  Part of setting expectations is to ask clarifying and confirming questions to ensure the other fully understands.

If you are regularly disappointed when people don’t perform according to your expectations, perhaps you aren making one or more of these common mistakes.  Avoid this unnecessary frustration – watch this week’s video about Setting Expectations.  

Become a Wily Manager and get instant access to more than 100 leadership videos and cheat sheets.  We add a new one every week.  Next week Bob and Jed will show you how to smoothly handle an employee who says they’ve been offered more money elsewhere.  You won’t want to miss out – become a Wily Manager member today.

Weekend at Bernie’s

Providing great customer service is important even if you’re not in a retail industry.  Become a Wily Manager member and you’ll get instant access to Bob and Jed’s discussion about good and bad customer service practices you can apply to any business.

Recently there was a story in the news about two women who were arrested in the UK for allegedly trying to get a dead person aboard a plane.  The deceased was propped up in a wheelchair with sunglasses on, and passed off as “sleeping”.  Of course, this is both hilarious and troubling on a variety of levels.

One of the questions few seem to be asking about this bizarre case is, “what would compel someone to attempt such an outlandish feat?”  My own theory is that they needed the departed’s mortal remains to be somewhere else, and the red tape and bureaucracy involved in making the transfer was only slightly less complicated than bringing back the dead to make the move, and then returning him to the hereafter.

This case was both amusing and personal for me as I dealt with a death in my own family.  My dad was a client of a mobile phone carrier that shall remain nameless (Bell Mobility).  About a month after his passing, I called to cancel his mobile telephone.  I can only conclude that my father was the first one of Bell’s customers ever to have died.  Perhaps we should all be advised to become a Bell customer to enjoy the benefits of immortality.

The condensed version of the story is that after four calls to their call center (each lasting over 30 minutes each), and five requests from the agents to speak with the account holder (apparently the off-shore call centre folks had never heard the English words “dead”, “deceased”, “expired”, or “passed away”), I was given a fax number to put my request in writing, along with a Death Certificate to have the phone discontinued.  Of course, the fax number was wrong.

I tried a retail location for Bell, but was told that it was their job to sell the phones and the plans, and for all other “services”, I needed to contact the call center.

This a great example of how many companies conduct their customer “service”.  I know that if Bell can’t get this right, that I could never trust them to do anything complicated.

Organizations end up in this unfortunate space because they are not willing to hire or develop employees capable of consistently making good decisions.  Instead, they have thousands of rules and regulations that they think will protect the company from losses, when in fact they make those losses worse.

I have no doubt that the decision makers in this organization will point to how much money they save by off-shoring their call centers, and how they monitor calls to ensure quality.

I hope they’re saving a whole lot of money – they’re going to need it.

Providing great customer service is important even if you’re not in a retail industry.  Become a Wily Manager member and you’ll get instant access to Bob and Jed’s discussion about good and bad customer service practices you can apply to any business.

Top 3 Excuses to NOT Have Regular One-on-Ones

The whole idea of meeting one on one with their direct reports on a regular basis is scary for many leaders.  There are a variety of reasons for this, none of which hold much water.

Excuse #1:  I don’t have time.  This is the most common excuse managers cite for not meeting regularly with their people.  Interestingly, they don’t have time to meet with their people individually on any regular basis, yet they seem to have time for an unlimited series of drop-in (or “drive-by”) meetings every day.  Here’s an idea: buy yourself an hourglass that has two-minutes worth of sand.  Next time one of your direct reports asks you if you’ve got a minute, reply, “For you… I’ve got two minutes.”  Then turn over the hourglass.

Excuse #2:  It’s too intimate.  When we suggest one on one meetings, we’re not suggesting that you light some candles, dim the lighting, and put on some John Tesh at Redrocks bootleg music.  Rather, have your direct reports be responsible for planning, scheduling and running of your one on one meetings.  If possible, go to their office or station to have the meeting – it’ll do you good to get out of your office.

Excuse #3:  I don’t like my direct reports.  If you don’t like your directs, it’s probably a condition of the prejudice you’ve developed about them because you don’t interface with them very often.  It makes no sense not to like people, just because you don’t know them.  If you take the time to really get to know your people, you’ll find all kinds of legitimate reasons not to like them – and this would make sense.  Besides… one of the conditions of sitting at the big-kids table is dealing with the fact you have to deal with people you don’t like.

I would never suggest you have to like all your direct reports – but you do need to communicate with them, and there’s no better way to do so than with highly-structured, highly-focused, regularly scheduled one on one meetings.

 

Introducing Yourself as a New Leader

Make a strong first impression in your new management job with Fast Start, our 90-Day Onboarding Program.  It will help you avoid the 8 Fatal New Manager Mistakes.

People start new jobs everyday, and most are well aware of the first-impressions they are making upon others.  When you start as a new leader, that scrutiny is amplified simply by virtue of being the boss.  There are many cues as to the tone that a new manager sets, and leaders should take control of that messaging to ensure that the impressions they make upon people are what they intend.

As such, here are a few ideas on how to set the tone, when you join a new organization as a leader:

  1. Lock yourself in your office, and have someone start a contest to guess what you look like.
  2. Keep a low profile for a couple of days, and then unannounced, run through your new workplace screaming loudly, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel – to the tower!”
  3. Begin the first week on the job by hosting a series of 3-martini lunches, and ask people to confess as to what really goes on in the organization.
  4. Dress up as a different Disney character everyday for the first two weeks, and then hold a contest to see if people can guess which one is your favourite.
  5. Hire a string quartet to serenade you to your desk every morning.

These ideas would definitely give your people an indication of what to expect of you.

As ridiculous as it sounds, doing one or all of the above is probably a better course of action than simply showing up as a new leader and hoping that things go well.  You can increase your odds of success as a new leader by doing just a little bit of planning prior to showing up.

It’s either that, or get out the Minnie Mouse suit.

Make a strong first impression in your new management job with Fast Start, our 90-Day Onboarding Program.  It will help you avoid the 8 Fatal New Manager Mistakes.

 

Onboarding Checklist – Check Your Zipper

Hit the fast-forward button and quickly turn new employees into positive contributors.  Get instant access to the Onboarding Employees Video and Cheat Sheet by becoming a Wily Manager member today.

Some organizations do an outstanding job of integrating new people into the mix.  Other organizations let people fend for themselves.  My most memorable orientation was literally my first day on the job – any job.  I was fifteen years old, and I got a job bagging groceries at the local supermarket.  Ron Grant was the manager on duty, and he met me at the door.

Ron toured me through the whole store, stopping along the way to introduce me to everyone on staff that we met, and to point out the things I might need to know for my new career wrapping groceries.  He also doled out advice that was very useful and well intentioned, but easily could have been included in the best-seller, “Sh*t My Dad Says.”  Needless to say, I learned some new words and expressions that came in very handy when I recycled them back at high school.

I learned in the months and years to come, that Ron oriented me to my new workplace completely of his own initiative.  The organization really had no process for bringing people on besides the requisite signing of the official paperwork.

At the end of this orientation, he returned me to the front of the store, where I’d spend the next several years bagging groceries.

“Any questions?” asked Ron.

“Nope… I’m ready to go.” I replied.

“Great”, he said, as I turned to get started.  “Hey Brad,” he asked, not quite getting my name right.

“Yep?”

“Your fly’s open”, he said without cracking a smile, and turning to walk away.

Presumably, he’d noticed this before he’d toured me through the whole place, but had waited until now to share this news with me.  It’s been a while since I’ve been teenage boy, but I’m assuming at the time I would have had checklist of basic hygiene items – such as making sure one’s zipper was properly secured.  Apparently, first day job jitters successfully eclipsed basic personal maintenance items.

Walking around in a public place with your fly open — I suppose that’s one way to make a first impression on when starting a new job.

Next week we’ll be talking about introducing yourself as a new leader.  You won’t want to miss out – become a Wily Manager member today.