Sunday, November 20, 2005

To thine own self (and team) be Candid!

Did you ever stop to wonder about those old standards they taught us when we were kids…. "Honesty is the best policy", "do unto others"…, and my all time favorite, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”?

There is a common and growing school of thought that we learned all the important stuff when we were in kindergarten. I believe that is absolutely true.

Let’s take one of these little gems as an example and I’ll prove my point…..

Honesty is the best policy. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? It’s a simple statement - Don’t lie! Anyone should be able to comply with that one, but in the context of adults conducting business it seems we just can’t keep it that simple.

While we muse about it being a "kindergarten rule", we can see outstanding cases where people who practice it and demand it of those around them have excelled. Take a look around you – see the best and brightest people you know. I’ll bet you can associate a number of words with them; dedicated, driven, diligent, smart and somewhere in that list will be honest. Let’s face it, there are those among us who are successful but not honest – just watch and you'll see where those people end up over the years. The folks who keep faith with the truth always achieve better success in the long run. Whether you view Jack Welsh as a great or terrible leader, you have to appreciate the benefits his drive for candor has netted for GE.

Yes, I know the objections – it’s a “Dilbert” world out there full of pointy haired imbecilic, bureaucrat bosses who would rather eat a dirt-sandwich than hear the truth…. BUT in the end, the truth will outlast bureaucracy, poor management and even stupidity.

So how do you take this little bit of wisdom into your world – simple… Be Candid! Tell people what you think. But remember that candor and politeness are not mutually exclusive – you can (and should) tell the truth in a way that is not a reproach, not condemning and not “holier than thou”. Nobody likes that stuff.

Candor in the workplace starts with simple things. It starts between you and your people – your team. Being candid with them builds trust, improves communication and sets an example that cannot be denied. The double –whammy is that in being candid, you demonstrate a behavior you want them to emulate and they feel more obliged to emulate it because you have shown them your honest conviction to being candid! Wow… talk about a case of leading by example!

Note that I didn’t say that you should run out and be honest with the boss about that terrible toupee…. that is a lesson for another day. However, you can start to provide candid feedback up and down your org-chart today by sharing your views in a polite and respectful way. People may not agree with you, but if you deliver your candid feedback properly, at least they wont hate you and at best, they will respect you for being sticking you candid with them.

I can say with absolute honesty, it has been my pleasure to post this and I look forward to your candid feedback to help me improve this blog to make it a more useful point of reference on your management journey.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The journey of 1000 miles begins with the first step

Welcome back, fearless reader. The fact that you've come back says a lot about you. I read it to mean that you have some interest in being a better boss, or better managing your boss.... in either case - you are in the right place.

Let me set a couple of ground-rules. First - everything you read here is covered under the "Dragnet disclaimer" about the story being true but the names being changed to protect the innocent (or the guilty, stupid, etc...). Second, with all the bad management going on out there, I cant pretend to guess what is important to you, so I ask for comments, questions, opinions, rants.... whatever.
Third, all the good ideas, tips, tools and useful stuff you may find here is the work of other smart people - I may have re-worded, re-packaged or re-spun it, but it is not mine. On the other hand, if it is unclear, not useful or in any way offensive, then it must be my own intellectual property. Fourth and finally, any opinions I state are mine alone, so dont try to blame or sue anybody else for what I post. Wow... what a load of HR-sounding stuff that was!!!

Now, we get down to business.
The first topic for us to cover is probably the most elusive of all - What does good management look like?
I guess the best answer there is the same as the definition of pornography - you cant explain what it is, but you sure do know it when you see it. Maybe we cant describe it easily because we dont see it enough. If you dig deep in your memory, I'll bet you can recall a manager who treated you right. They gave you opportunities and challenges that let you stretch and grow. They stated the task, conditions and standards for success clearly, offered resources to help you succeed, held you accountable for your results and followed through with the reward when you succeeded. Gee, when I explain it that way, it sounds so simple. But if it is so simple, why do so many managers fail to do it? That is a question for Oracles to ponder.

Let's take a deeper look at how a good manager assigns a task. First, they clearly lay out what the task is so that we'll know exactly what we should be doing. They explain the conditions under which the task is to be done - what tools, resources, etc are needed, and they make sure we have those things. Next, they give us a clear picture of what a successful result should look like (how many, what color and by when). Wrapped around these parts is a clear understanding that they are delegating both the task AND the accountability for getting it done. This means that the task is now ours and we will carry the benefits of success and the burden of failure.

Good managers know this and practice it every day... the rest of us knew it, forgot it and resorted to doing the task oursleves or slamming it into the inbox of a suborinate with none of the steps above - both are probably and unfortunately more familiar to you than the good example. That's a shame! Because in the way we're probably doing things today, we are cheating ourselves of the ability to focus on other tasks more in line with our resonsibilities, and cheating our staff of opportunities to learn and grow. That's the path to organizational and professional obsolesence.

So, now that you know what one facet of good management looks like, what are you going to do? Just reading this Blog isn't going to help you be a better manager... you have to take action to improve. I challenge you to take the first step in our Gureilla war against bad management practices - commit yourself to delegate JUST ONE task exactly as outlined above. When it is complete, ask the person who did it how they feel about it. Odds are that if you have followed the steps above, they will have been successful and will feel pretty good about it. That's the Guerilla way - you have just taken one seemingly simple step that will get the job done AND win the hearts and minds of your people along the way!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Guerilla HR - Because it's war out there!

Welcome to Guerilla HR.... a blog built to help you, the business people, better manage your teams and careers by providing information that will help you achieve the results you need by capitalizing on a better relationship with Human Resources, Personnel Management, Human Capital Management, or whatever it is called in your world.

My name is Patrick Williams and I have been in HR management for a whole lot longer than I care to admit. In all that time, I have always marveled at the ability of people in HR to completely transform what we do into such a black art that the mere mention of HR causes even the most seasoned business manager to shiver, sweat or slip into a catatonic state.

Ok, so why the oddball name? Why not some touchy-feely HR'ish label? Two simple reasons:

1. I wanted something off the beaten path to lure in the adventurous types... looks like it worked at least for you!

2. I wanted a name that represented this hapless little quest I have engaged on - Guerilla warfare against bad management. Let's face it - there's a lot of really bad management going on around us, and it starts with the basic interaction between managers and those being managed. This is an unofficial, "layman's terms" resource designed to arm a world of non-HR folks with the tools and tips they need to be outstanding managers, and to give all of us who are managed by someone else some good tools to help us manage up and prosper.

Now, before we take one more step down this path, let me reassure you that I'm not out to convert anybody and I'm not selling anything. This whole rant is about getting people to take advantage of some proven tactics that simply work- there is no magic snake-oil to be had here - just sound people-management advice.

I expect that's probably all the HR blather you can take in one sitting, but I'll be back soon with our first topic. Strap on your helmets - things might get bumpy from here out.....