New Year’s resolutions?

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions made? Lose weight, be more active, balance work/life? Things like that? Great, good for you and we hope you’ll accomplish them all.

Any point where you stop and review what you are doing and re-check your priorities is good. At your office, you should do the same. Take stock of what is on your plate, what is not moving forward and why not. I keep this easy spreadsheet that lists the topics/projects that need to be done. I have a column for what the result needs to be, a column for the status, a column for the obvious next step I should take and most importantly a column for why I am not taking that step,

That last column is crucial. You need to be aware of why it is that you don’t move the project forward. Often it has to do with fears for reactions from others, or resistance that you anticipate. Well here is the thing, unless you move, nothing moves and the project will continue to be stalled and you will continue to have to think about it and have it contribute to your workload and worries.

My recommendation is to make that list, review the columns and develop at least three strategies to take that next step. You’ll be glad you did!

Starting as a manager

manager at workWhen you are first appointed as a manager many things will come your way. New impressions, new relations, new responsibilities and new issues that you need to ponder and find solutions for. It makes a huge difference if you were already in the company and got promoted or that you were hired from outside. Both have their pros and cons. When you were internal you’ll have an easier time negotiating the company politics, when you come from outside it will be easier to be seen as a manager and not as “Joe who got a new position”. Much more can be said about this but my main point, as usual, is that you need goal clarity. The assignment needs to be crystal clear for you as manager, in order to be able to effectively lead your group.

The other important immediate issue is to find out what the social composition of the department or group is. Who hangs out with who, who has been here forever, who is the smartest person in the group, who has most experience. You need to know your resources.

Next you’ll have to find an effective way to communicate with the people; do they need meetings, are memos a thing, will emails be effective, is there a reporting system that helps the flow of work.

All great things to think about. The Fast company has a nice article about someone starting as a manager and the lessons learned in their first 30 days.

For me the goal clarity, getting to know the resources and finding an effective way to communicate would be the first focal points. You can read more about this in my book where I highlight the importance of many other points also.

Let me know what you struggled with in your first days as a manager. We’ll follow up over time with a summary.

Fight the beta mistakes!

The alpha mistake is usually easily spotted. When you accept something you shouldn’t have people will notice. The issue comes when you have failed to accept something, or see something that you should have recognized. This is known as the beta mistake and there is in general little risk with it. Think about not hiring someone who would have been perfect for the job, or not embarking on a project that really should have been executed as it would have brought the company forward. If you hire the wrong person for a job, it will be obvious after a while. When you do a project that

Beta greek symbol on white display board. Science and mathematical concept

totally fails, it will be obvious after a while. When you fail to hire a person who would have excelled in the job, no one will notice, likewise if you fail to embark on this project that would have been wonderful for your department or business, no one will likely notice. There is little risk with inertia.

These things happen every day and institutional politics and inertia lead to a situation where there little risk anyone will notice the mistake and so great candidates don’t get hired, great advertising campaign never get started and super projects get rejected and no one will ever know if it would have made a difference.

People by their nature do not like change too much. With weak players holding on to the status quo and declining any action that could jeopardize their position, your company or department will in the longer run become stagnant, inert and passed by other departments and companies that did make the brave move and accepted the candidate with the not so obvious resume who turned out to be their next CEO or who embarked on that tricky project that brought them the technology that makes them market leader.

So how do you fight this behavior, how do you encourage your leaders and managers to take appropriate risk and move forward when there are so little consequences of doing nothing and risking nothing? Audits, peer- and sr. management- reviews can help spotting the situation and providing evidence that opportunities have been missed but that’s only after the fact.

Goal Clarity is again a way to a solution here. You need to ensure that your staff understands that you do not hire them to avoid failures but that you hire them to do the right and best things for the department or business. For this you need an environment of openness and trust, understanding and participation by all. Safe and responsible risk taking needs to be accepted and the occasional mishap as a result should not end someones career but instill respect that they have tried and were not afraid to try something in order to do the right thing and not just avoid making mistakes by staying on the beaten path.