A (Perfect) Day in the Life of a Manager

Smiling warehouse managers talking together in a large warehouseWhenever I talk with managers, I get the sense that their day consists of putting out fires, mediating problems with employees, sitting in endless meetings, and answering email.  Oh yes, and most of the time they’re still involved in the very technical tasks they were promoted to management from.

I often see them with that “1,000 Yard Stare” and sense their mental and physical exhaustion.  Sadly, in spite of that, most of them aren’t particularly clear on what their actual job in “management” really is.  That lack of clear focus and purpose wears on them.  It’s a whole lot of activity with no real sense of accomplishment.

What if that could be turned around?

One of my clients has a very elaborate labor-tracking system they use.  When I met with them recently, one of the managers mentioned that for managers, there is an actually time code that represents what a manager is supposed to do.  They refer to it as Management Oversight.  It’s the only time I’ve actually seen a company designate time to “management.”

Identifying WHAT to call the time is a good start.  What needs to get DONE in that time is important.  I have three suggestions.

  1. Develop Your People.  This is job #1.  When you focus time on building rapport, assigning goals and tasks, giving feedback and coaching on those tasks, and engaging an employee in planning their career both inside and out of your organization, it’s a safe bet to say that work will get done!  I know it sounds counter-intuitive when you’re used to running around like your ass is on fire, but take the time to develop your people and you’ll find that work will get done much more efficiently.
  2. Stabilize Systems and Processes.  Most managers will feel comfortable with this task.  It’s the closest thing to their previous technical job.  It doesn’t mean working in those jobs though.  A manager has to ensure processes are stable and efficient.  Systems need to be aligned with corporate goals and those metrics and targets met.  Finally, any flaws, impediments, and breakdowns in the systems need to be fixed.  The manager has to identify those and assign staff to repair.  Yes, this gets done WHILE developing people.
  3. Protect the House.  Managers also need to ensure their department, people, products, and services are in compliance with all regulations.  This requires them to be HR experts, lawyers, auditors, and inspectors (but of course they aren’t so they need to know where to get that expertise).  This means taking and not sleeping through those HR briefings on FMLA, ADA, OSHA, and other acronym-laden areas.  Legal experts have already determined that a manager should or should-have-known where there are violations.  Better that you actually know and address these!  Yes, this also gets done while developing people.

I know it sounds like a lot but really, if you get your people developed and trained, much of protecting the house will happen automatically.  You’ll also have fewer systems and processes to stabilize because your people will know how to do things right.

Management Oversight is one of the most valuable gifts you give to your organization.  Be sure to identify these as tangible tasks and let your superiors know exactly what your roles and goals are as a manager.  Managing with a purpose will give you that specific, rewarding credibility that you seek!

How to Develop a Success Strategic Performance Management System
Presented by Mack Munro, Founder/CEO, MACK Worldwide

If you are looking to bring a strategic edge to your organization, a robust performance management system is a key component. This presentation will show the importance of balancing performance management, strategic goals and initiatives, wants and needs of employees and managers, and tight budgets while working to implement a culture of performance improvement.

In this session, participants will learn to proactively initiate (or adeptly respond to a request for) a “performance management system or initiative” Specifically, they will learn techniques to identify need, gather relevant data, leverage performance management, and communicate findings to senior management. They will learn key areas to consider and standard traps to avoid falling into. Finally, they will learn how to keep a program energized and permanently ingrain it into the organization’s culture, all the while communicating its success in the language of business.


Date: October 20, 2016
Time: 7:00 - 9:00 a.m.
Event: Wilson County SHRM - How to Develop a Successful Strategic Performance Management System
Topic: How to Develop a Successful Strategic Performance Management System
Venue: Holiday Inn Express & Suites
Location: 565 S Mt Juliet Rd
Mt. Juliet, TN 37122
Public: Public
Registration: Click here to register.

For Managers: How to Have Your Best Day Ever

Desperate unhappy young business womanIn my work as an organizational repairman, I find the most common cause of problems in a company is the quality of the management.  Much of my work revolves around training managers to be more effective.

If I could nail down the one time a day that sets a manager up for success or failure, it would have to be the first contact with employees in the morning or at the beginning of a shift.  That contact sets the tone for the shift and allows the manager and employee to communicate so that the entire shift runs well.  It’s a crucial moment…

…that usually doesn’t happen.  Most managers get into their office, grab some coffee, and immediately start browsing email.  They may watch as employees file in but often trust this function to a line supervisor.  Soon the calls start coming in and the crises grow.  By lunchtime, that manager has sat in at least one useless meeting and put out several fires.  The afternoon runs much the same and at 5PM or later, the manager leaves work exhausted.  The next day brings more of the same, as does the next and the next and the next.

If you’re a manager, how can you stop this madness and set yourself up for success?  Be deliberate in how you handle that first contact of the morning.

Let’s be honest.  The main reason managers hide in their offices is because they’re afraid to talk to the staff.  They hide this fear with the “I’m so busy” excuse.  After all, if they walk the floors, they may be made aware of problems that they’ll have to fix.  It seems they’d rather avoid those problems now so they can read an email about them or hear about them in a meeting a day or two later.  How about quit being such a big wuss and get more proactive!

Here’s my suggestion.  In the morning, greet your employees with the following questions: (Be sure to bring a pad of paper and a pencil with you.)

  • How are you doing?
  • What are you working on today?
  • What updates do you have?
  • What problems need my attention?

Four quick questions.  Sometimes nothing needs to be said.  Other times, major problems can be headed off early.  Either way, if you get your team used to it, this can go pretty fast.  Now, here are some things to be careful of:

  1. Build rapport first.  Don’t expect your employees to open up to you if they don’t trust you.  Work now on building a better relationship (not buddy-buddy) with them now.
  2. Don’t fall into the trap of doing a meeting each day for this.  That’s a time waster.  If you HAVE to do it thjs way, use the model I learned in the Navy of morning quarters.  That was a 10 minute max meeting, where everyone stood (to avoid getting comfortable and letting the meeting drag on) and heard the plan of the day.  There was a few minutes for questions and then off to work we went.

Finally, if you’re an employee reading this, forward a copy of it to your boss.  This technique not only makes the boss’s day a whole lot better, it does the same for you to too!

A Message to Millennials

warningDear Millennial:

For some time, you’ve been much maligned by people of my generation.  They’ve called you lazy, entitled, arrogant, unwilling to wait, wanting gratification now, and expecting everything handed to you.  Books have been written on how to motivate you and some consultants base their entire practice on helping older generations understand you and connect better with you.  In some ways, you’re seen as more of a disease than a part of the human race.  You’re something to be tolerated, dealt with, and especially, put in your proper place.

I think that’s a bunch of crap.

As the father of four millennials, I think I understand you.  I don’t see you as part of a stereotypical grouping, I see you as what you are:  young people.  What old-timers like me forget is that we were young like you and said and did exactly what you’re doing now.

Still, it leaves you in a tough place, having to prove yourself and operate in environments that put you face to face with seasoned workers.  In order to help you survive and thrive, I’d like to offer you a few pieces of advice.

  1. Set your career goals now and begin your journey in a focused way.  Having a career goal (i.e. become CEO of my startup) and articulating it lets everyone around you know that you’re being deliberate in what you do.  The knock on your generation is that you don’t know what you want to do and that you got a meaningless degree, now work at Applebees, and are content to live with your parents.  I know that’s not what you want.  Figure out what you want and let us know you have a plan.
  2. Understand why people think you are disrespectful.  I’m pretty sure you want to be taken seriously, to have your ideas listened to, and get that elusive “seat at the table.”  That’s normal.  All of us wanted the same thing.  Unfortunately, those privileges are awarded slowly and it’s because wisdom comes through experience.  Your challenge is that those who can give you the respect and award you the credibility are only now themselves being taken seriously.  Because it took us so long, we think it should take YOU that long too.  It’s neither right or wrong, it simply is.  HOWEVER, you can shorten the wait and GET the respect from those older than you by asking for help.  Rather than treat us as adversaries, leverage our experience and let us shorten your learning curve.  We would be happy to mentor you.  Communicate your career goals and ask us for help.  Those older folks who turn you down SHOULD be feared and don’t deserve your respect.  Do what you need to do to succeed around them, within the boundaries of the organization, and move on.  Oh yes, and HOW you ask questions of us is pretty important too.  Here’s an example: (You) “Why do we have to do it this way?” (seen as challenging and disrespectful.  Try (You) “I’m not sure I understand.  Can you tell me why we have to do it this way?”  Watch the tone of voice.  Even this, in a demanding tone, can come off as disrespectful.  Yeah I know it sounds like we’re a bunch of babies.  Just humor us ok?
  3. Realize that you’ll be in our position sooner than you think.  The script on that graphic above is the truth.  Where you are now, we once were.  We were young, excited, and fearless.  We wanted it all, sooner rather than later, and were willing to kick and scratch to get it.  And we finally did.  But that works the other way too.  Where we are now, someday you will be.  One day you’ll look in the mirror and see the wrinkles and gray hair.  The songs you listen to now on your cool Spotify playlist will be spun on the “oldies” station.  You and your colleagues will start noticing how the newer workers seem to want it all now, are unmotivated, and entitled.  You’ll complain how they need to “pay their dues” just like you did.  More than one of you will brand themselves as ______ generation “experts” and write a book and give talks about it.  And then hopefully you’ll get over yourselves and make it your mission to grow and develop that new generation.

The circle of life affects more than Simba and Mufasa.  It’s part of all of us.  You can fight it or leverage it.  Just know that the circle always completes, with or without you.

Those *&%$ Millennials Are At It Again!

Social but not socialMike, a 19-year-old has been in the Navy for nearly a year.  In that short period of time, one thing has become glaringly clear:  people in the Navy do a lot of dumb things, there are a lot of dumb rules, and Mike is feeling like he’s ready to explode.  When he asks why the Navy does dumb things, like fill out endless log books to record mundane events, he’s told that “this is the way we do things, don’t ask, just do them.”

One hot Saturday afternoon, Mike and his friends Jeff and Roger venture out to the base swimming pool.  The petty officer on duty there has stepped away and sitting on the desk is that ever-present green log book.  A plastic sign warns them to sign in before entering the locker room.  Mike and his friends sign in as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy.   Approximately 30 minutes later the petty officer on duty asks which one of them is Mickey.  All three get a butt-chewing and are kicked out of the pool. The petty officer shakes her head and whispers under her breath, “These young sailors have no respect, can’t take orders, question authority, and the Navy is going to hell in a handbasket.”

Yep, those millennials are at it again.

Or are they?

Actually, Mike is me.  The year is 1984 and the buzz around the Navy and workplaces in general centers around this new and frightening group of young people known as Generation X.  We’re accused of being entitled, spoiled, wanting instant gratification, and generally disdaining hard work and effort.  Books are written on how to deal with us and more than a few “experts” are putting together strategies on how to protect the workforce and the future of the United States against our upstart generation.

And yet we managed to grow up and do just fine.  As did our long-haired hippy radical Baby Boomer parents and our moonshining and wild-partying grandparents, and their parents and grandparents before them.

I recently worked with a young (early 20s) group of retail managers and supervisors.  They were inquisitive and motivated to do well.  They didn’t fit any stereotype put out by millennial “experts” nor did they treat a geezer like me with disrespect.  They asked good questions, lots of them in fact.  They will need coaching and guiding and honest feedback, but they’ll do well,  as will most of this over-hyped generation.

But left without guidance, why would you expect they would turn out any different than some of the lazy, unmotivated Baby Boomers, and gently graying and balding GenX’rs you work with?  Without someone taking the time to guide and mentor them, they won’t succeed.

This week, when you’re tempted to stereotype one of 81 million young people of the millennial generation, ask yourself what YOU’RE doing to guide them?  Don’t outsource this to a consultant.  YOU take care of it.

After all, you’re where you are, regardless of your age or generation, because someone did or didn’t do that same thing for you.

Are You INJURED or Just HURT?

hurt or injuredYears ago, when my son played youth football, I remember the coach constantly asking the kids after they complained of injuries this standard question:

Are you hurt or are you injured?

Now in case you don’t know, there is a BIG difference.

Hurt means you feel pain.  Injured means you have a condition that means you can’t continue.

Since so much of football is a mental game, the choice pushes a player past what they THINK they can’t do and gets them back in the game.  It’s probably why there is a whole generation of football players now with CTE, but that’s not my point here.

For those of us whose days of competitive athletics are long over, the choice between hurt and injured are not quite as distinct, yet they are more than ever most important to sort between.

All of us experience rejection, disappointment, and failure in our professional lives.  The question is:

Do these rejections, disappointments, and failures hurt us or injure us?

If I’m “hurt”, I then have the choice to get my mind and emotions back together and give it another shot.  If I’m “injured” then I might have some serious retooling to do in order to get back in the professional game.  When I was first turned down for the Navy Medical Service Corps Inservice Procurement Program back in 1994, I was hurt.  Then I heard that every single candidate selected had a Masters degree.  That meant I had two years of retooling to get over that career “injury”.  If I had quit because I was hurt, I would have never grown professionally.  The Masters degree never did get me in the program (hurt) but it’s lead me to the rewarding career I have today (overcoming injury)

This week, take stock of your most recent failures.  Are you allowing “hurt” to prevent you from trying again?  If you’re “injured” are you doing everything you can to rehab yourself back to success?

In many ways, professional life is a game.  If that’s true, you have to play hard to win.  Separate hurt from injured.  Get your mind right, Go full speed.  Never quit.  Those football colloquialisms are just as relevant in the workplace as they are on the field.  I’m still in the game.  Are you?