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Working Through Others

Working Through Others

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Published by Sara Rosu
The success of a manager is measured by the success of his team.
The success of a manager is measured by the success of his team.

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Published by: Sara Rosu on Feb 02, 2013
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Working Through Direct Reports

Your job as a manager is multifaceted—you assume multiple roles, network with a broad range of people, craft strategies for your group, and develop your managerial skills. However, your primary responsibility is to make things happen by working through your direct reports. You need to rely on your employees and their abilities, not yourself and your own skills, to accomplish your company’s goals. Even if you continue to work as an individual contributor, your first priority is to make things happen by working through others. How do you do this? You relinquish the role of doer and embrace the role of people manager. You support your direct reports by serving as a liaison between them and the organization, setting clear direction and goals, creating a supportive environment, and learning about their individual needs. In the end, your success as a manager is measured by the success of your team. Act as a liaison One of your responsibilities in managing a group is to serve as a liaison between your direct reports and the organization. You do this by continually monitoring what’s going on in the company and sharing important information with your team. You also filter requests from other parts of the organization so that inappropriate or unnecessary demands are not placed on your group. Simultaneously, you listen to suggestions and concerns made by your team and either respond to them or convey them to upper management as needed. Clarify your group's purpose and goals To ensure the success of your group, you must make sure their work aligns with the objectives of your supervisor and organization. When you become a manager, you will initially want to talk with your supervisor to make sure you understand the overarching purpose of your group and the group’s goals. You will also need to understand and clarify the existing individual goals of your direct reports. Over time, you will help establish your group’s priorities and be responsible for translating those priorities into individual employee goals. You will also be responsible for aligning your group’s goals to the strategic goals of the company. Provide a supportive environment In addition to setting clear direction and goals, you also need to provide a supportive environment for your employees. You do this by creating a climate that helps individuals see themselves as valued members of the group and by providing your employees with the resources they need to do their jobs.

help them analyze what happened and apply what they’ve learned to future challenges. Listening shows that you take people seriously and value their ideas. make sure you understand your group’s goals. Answer employees’ questions honestly: Don’t pretend you know more than you do.To ensure your employees know that you appreciate their contributions and are paying attention to their efforts. You also support your employees by acknowledging their desire to grow professionally. They know that you have their best interests at heart. Positive words provide encouragement and recognition for a job well done. Demonstrate your honesty. By creating an environment in which people feel supported and enjoy their work. Provide constructive criticism in a positive way. Trust & Respect The quality of the relationships you cultivate with your direct reports is critical to your performance as a manager. Then follow through on your promise. identify the expected benefit to your team. Avoid sending contradictory signals or giving different answers to the same question. systems. • • . say so—and promise to investigate. and people. For each resource need. Give them “stretch” assignments that enable them to master new skills. When team members offer ideas and opinions. Then consider all the resources that are available to you in the organization. If they make a mistake. and desired results. Trust is essential to effective relationships: When people trust you. objectives. Then work with your supervisor to determine how you can provide needed resources cost effectively. well informed. When you own up to your mistakes. time. you enable both the individuals in your group and your organization to achieve higher levels of success. office space. Developing Rapport. Accept responsibility for your mistakes. Resources include equipment. technologies. offer ongoing feedback that is both specific and timely. and sincere. Those qualities reinforce your appeal. To provide your employees with the resources they need. If you don’t know an answer. they are more likely to see you as believable. training. How can you create a foundation of trust and build positive bonds with your employees? The following practices can help: • Strive for consistency. which in turn makes people more inclined to support your ideas. people see you as a truthful person—on the assumption that most dishonest individuals try to conceal their faults. They also view you as possessing a strong emotional character (steady temperament) and integrity (honesty and reliability). Inconsistency makes employees skeptical of your credibility and competence. View training and development as investments in your employees' future productivity. listen to their comments and thank them for their input.

or at least schedule it. suppose a marketing director helps a valued direct report get promoted to a different department. if your company has the capability. your employees may ask you what your perceptions are of the company and its products. If you've been promoted. After introducing yourself. For instance. but accepts that helping others develop their professional skills is part of a manager's job.• Build a track record of trustworthiness. The marketing director knows it's difficult to lose a top-notch team member. Also prepare a short personal introduction highlighting previous experience that relates to your new job. the marketing director earns the trust of that direct report and also of the other department head—which may come in handy in the future. you will want to introduce yourself to your group and plan meetings with each of your direct reports. Put others' best interests first. In your first few days in your new role. • • Getting to Know Your Direct Reports Whether you are new to the group or company that you are working with. Follow through on promises and commitments you've made. You might invite employees to share their thoughts about the challenges that they think the group faces or . you should take the lead in getting to know your direct reports. Virtual teammates can be connected by telephone or. by videoconference. if you've recently joined the organization. Introduce yourself Your first team meeting sets the tone and serves as your initial introduction to the group. Prepare clear and concise responses—but try to avoid making pronouncements that might give the impression that you think you already know all the answers. you earn a reputation for beingtrustworthy. or have been promoted to a management position and will now supervise former peers. Prepare for this meeting by listing questions your employees may ask you and then rehearsing responses to each question. Encourage the exploration of ideas. hold the meeting in a room that encourages comfort and enables everyone to see one another. Listen to others' concerns to encourage dialogue and demonstrate your openness to others' perspectives. they may ask about your priorities and goals. Present consistent values. on your first day on the job. If team members are virtual—or physically separated from one another—make every effort to include them in your kickoff meeting. Finally. When people believe that you have their interests in mind. they tend to trust you and your ideas more. Bybehaving in a trustworthy manner. ask each employee to do the same. As a result. If possible. Hold this meeting. obtain a list of your employees’ names and brief biographical information from the human resources group so that you can be familiar with the important work that each of them performs. Share or give credit to those who contribute good ideas. Establish an environment where everyone can share their ideas and know that their opinions are valued. For example.

At the first meeting. Meet with each direct report In your first week or two on the job. get to know the person. your goal in these initial meetings is to get to know your employees as individuals and to understand what they consider important. Keep the conversation focused on them. urgent action is required. Remember. if asked. These initial meetings set the stage for developing a relationship of trust. End the meeting by telling your group that you will be setting up individual meetings with each of them to learn more about their challenges and concerns and that you will hold a follow-up meeting with the group at a later date.successes that they are particularly proud of. Unless your group is operating in a crisis mode and immediate. meet with each of your direct reports. talk specifically about the person’s job. clarify goals. Use the “Preparing for Meetings with Employees” tool to prepare for this meeting. Questions you might ask include: • • • • • What do you like about your work? What are your other areas of interest? What are your favorite hobbies or pastimes? Where would you like to see yourself five years from now? What are your professional goals? Although your intention is to get to know your employee. Prepare for these meetings by reviewing each employee’s job description as well as any resume or job application that may be in his or her personnel file. be prepared to share similar information about yourself. Let the employee lead the conversation. and determine whether any support is needed. your goal is to be an active listener so that you can better understand your direct reports’ concerns. It's a good idea to plan to have two conversations with each direct report. not you. Take the time to record your thoughts after each of these meetings: What have you learned about each of your employees? What are their interests and goals? How might these fit into the work the group does? At the second meeting. Questions to ask might include: • • • • What are your individual performance goals? What challenges do you have in meeting these goals? How can you best be supported in your job? What changes do you think are needed? . Ask open-ended questions—questions that cannot be answered yes or no —about their experiences and interests.

and themes that emerged from the conversations and ask your team what they think about the conclusions you’ve drawn. Understand the dilemma As a manager. Summarize the key findings. technical skills? Are individual goals aligned with those of the organization? Do team members understand how their work is contributing to the bigger picture? The answers to these questions may reconfirm your expectations of your group. Balancing Conflicting Expectations New managers report that balancing their direct reports’ expectations with those of their boss is one of the most difficult parts of being a manager. you face a tough dilemma: To motivate your people and retain talented performers. Or you may uncover themes that reveal new insights that you were not aware of. and encourage employees to give their thoughts to how issues can be addressed. Understanding how conflicting expectations arise can help you avoid being blindsided by them—and can help you generate ideas for balancing them. issues. analyze the information that you collected to see if patterns or themes emerge. Be open to people’s interpretation of the information and feedback. Are people generally satisfied in their jobs? Does the group have a broad range of capabilities. you need to satisfy your staff’s expectations. Consider how you can apply what you have learned about their experience and interests during your initial conversations with them.• In what ways do you think that your efforts support the strategic objectives of the unit and organization? After you’ve conducted second meetings with all of your direct reports. or are team members heavily weighted in one area of expertise—for example. You may want to check your insights with your boss to make sure your preliminary conclusions are correct. Communicate key findings to your group Share the insights that you gleaned from your individual meetings with your group. use the “Capturing Key Insights from Your Meetings” tool to record your observations and summarize overall themes for your group. as you tackle any issues. be sure to continue to involve your direct reports. Finally. Analyze what you learned Once all of your meetings have been conducted. But sometimes fulfilling your staff’s .

support. explore ideas. Define “leadership” as setting an agenda that furthers your company’s interests Leadership . Help your people develop skills that regardless of whether those interests serve the company’s needs first and relate to the company’s needs their career interests second Engage in frequent interactions with them to help them solve problems. what their priorities should be. and gain emotional support during stressful times Cultivate contacts with peers and other constituents that enable you to collaborate constructively with other parts of the company Buffering Shield them from major change so they Ensure that your group makes the can focus on getting their work done changes necessary to support the company’s direction Define “leadership” as meeting their requests for resources. so you can help solve their problems Strengthen your leadership skills. you’ve determined that it would be better over the long run to bring in an instructor for three days to teach your team how to use the technology and analyze the information themselves—and use the open position to hire an additional team member who is not a specialist. not your individual contributor skills Skill levels The "big picture" Professional development Networking Define the “big picture” as the group’s Define the “big picture” as your challenges and strategies for addressing company’s competitive challenges and them strategies for addressing them Support their personal career interests. The table shows examples: Issue Time Employees want you to Your boss wants you to Provide the resources they need to carry Set and implement a long-term agenda out their tasks now for your group as well as address shortterm needs Know more than they do about their jobs.expectations can jeopardize your ability to carry out your primary responsibility: supporting your company’s strategic direction. while you feel that you are balancing their needs with the company’s constraints and strategy. suppose your team wants you to hire a specialist in a particular database technology to help them carry out a new task involving analyzing customer information. You feel that this solution allows for long-term growth and encourages your team members to augment their skill base. For example. In this case. and what capacities they should bring to their work. your team may feel that you’re not fully supporting their efforts. While you have permission to hire one new person. Understand differing perspectives Many instances of conflicting expectations stem from supervisors’ and employees’ differing perspectives on how managers should behave.

By using this approach. But you could also go one step further: Invite talented and invested employees to brainstorm creative options that cost less and devise solutions to the order-processing problem. you give your employees opportunities to use their creative problemsolving skills. However. a sales rep. You could bluntly explain that your group’s limited budget must go toward expenditures that relate more directly to the company’s long-term strategy. Rather. You may uncover important differences between perceptions and reality. forthright communication can help you understand the forces behind conflicting expectations as well as begin addressing them. Follow with an explanation of the reasons behind your decision. Joan becomes visibly frustrated when you don’t immediately contact the customer. by waiting a day or two before contacting the customer. Moreover. For example. she expresses concern that you’re being “indecisive” and “unsupportive. You also need to sharpen your creative thinking abilities. Joan. the greater the possibility that they’ll understand and accept decisions that on the surface seem ill-considered. It’s always helpful to explain the big-picture rationale behind unpopular decisions. you’re providing Joan with the opportunity to come up with creative solutions on her own. suppose your group needs to reduce order-processing errors but lacks the funding required to research potential new technologies. When you ask her to explain her perceptions. In fact. You promise to gather more information about the conflict. you’re giving both Joan and the customer time to cool off— laying the groundwork for a more productive conversation about the conflict. . ask them to explain their view of the situation. At times. She asks you to intervene. the more your people know about the company’s strategy and your unit’s role in supporting that strategy. If you sense frustration among your employees after you’ve made a particular decision. has become embroiled in a dispute with a customer. you may be able to involve your group in finding solutions that meet everyone’s needs. In addition. the best decision makers take time to gather needed information before reacting to the situation. For instance. you need to handle each case separately. Leverage your group's talents Communication alone isn’t a cure-all for addressing conflicting expectations.” Here’s an opportunity for you to manage Joan’s perceptions: Explain that decisiveness and supportiveness don’t always take the form of instant action. and you demonstrate that you’re willing to involve them in the process of finding solutions to problems. and ideas for carrying out their work Your boss wants you to and taking responsibility for results Communicate to balance expectations How to handle conflicting expectations? There’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution.Issue Employees want you to knowledge. you draw on their technical expertise. For example.

also. Development level Employee is inexperienced.” You might supervise your group by periodically assessing their progress on the targets and goals that have been defined. you might create an action plan for improving performance. you might manage your direct reports by defining the performance standard.Adapting Your Management Approach As part of your role as a people manager.” You might supervise your staff by monitoring how orderprocessing data is recorded to ensure that information about errors is being reported accurately and captured in a timely manner. Yet they are two different activities that serve different purposes. In general. For instance. “Reduce order-processing errors by 15% by the end of the year. . Adjust your management style to individuals You also need to adapt your management style to each employee. Be aware. while supervisory activities typically focus on enforcement. you need to adapt your management approach to specific circumstances as well as to the individuals you’re overseeing. High-risk projects and lessexperienced employees typically require more supervision than do low-risk projects and highly trained employees. This section will help you understand how to balance supervising and managing activities and how to adapt your management style to individual employees based on their abilities. enthusiastic. management usually includes activities such as setting policies and establishing standards. If little progress toward the goal has been made. Finding the right balance between managing and supervising can be challenging. The table below shows some examples. as there is no set equation for how much time you should devote to each. that your own manager's supervisory style may influence his or her expectations about how much you should supervise others. or target. Similarly. but has a high degree of commitment Situations • Appropriate management style Directive: You monitor the New employees or employees person more closely and provide who have transitioned to a group from more explicit instructions and another department who are demands. for each of the goals that have been established. depending on his or her level of professional development and skill. you might manage your group by setting team goals such as “Reduce orderprocessing errors to meet our organization’s goal of improving customer service. For example. Practice and experience are your best teachers and will help you strike the right balance. Managing versus supervising Many people use the words managing and supervising interchangeably.

one direct report might need different styles. • Delegating: You give the person significant latitude and entrust him or her with key task responsibilities and decision making. a staff member who has completed training in conflict resolution skills avoids dealing with a difficult peer: The person has not actually practiced these skills before and therefore lacks confidence. • Appropriate management style Employee is somewhat competent. are committed to the organization. • For example. but has a low level of commitment Coaching: You identify the Employees who are experienced. a direct report is just starting out in his or her career—or just takes on a new set of responsibilities. and are proactive in developing their careers and capabilities. The more he works on the problem. but has variable commitment Supportive: You encourage the Employees who have mastered person to identify and build on the skills of the job. • For example. For example. • Matching a learning style to a particular person and situation is not an exact science. • Employee is extremely competent and highly committed Employees who are strong performers. For example. but (for whatever his or her strengths. resolving the issues. You might use a coaching . depending on the tasks at hand. an employee has a broad understanding of how his or her work supports the unit’s and company’s efforts and embraces goals enthusiastically. and to reasons) lack confidence in applying gradually take on more these skills. require little supervision. In fact. you may have a direct report who’s been grappling with a work-related problem for several days.Development level Situations For example. person’s concerns and work but are wavering in their commitment together with him or her to to the job or organization or are create an action plan for unmotivated. the more frustrated he gets. complex challenges. an individual feels frustrated about challenges he or she has encountered on the job. • Employee is experienced and capable.

This. in turn. By modifying the way you work with individuals in particular situations. you can help them reach their highest level of performance on a specific goal or task. you might use a supportive management style. . results in greater organizational effectiveness.management style to help him understand and work through the problem. Once the problem is resolved and the direct report’s frustration has abated.

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