Thursday, July 2, 2009

Do Bad Managers Make Us Perform Better?

So, which is more important to you: Having a manager you like, or one who can take you to the top of your profession?

It's certainly an interesting dilemma. In a survey of 380 Major League Baseball players, five of the managers that players say they would "least like to play for" include some pretty successful managers, including Tony LaRussa, who has two World Series wins under his belt. (Full disclosure: I'm a big Cardinals fan.)

And some other big names in the baseball management ranks made the list, including Ozzie Guillen, who was Manager of the Year in 2005, and Joe Torre. (Torre seemed to have a dual personality -- players also named him second as a manager they would MOST like to play for.)

In our workplace culture, it's been said by some that you've got to be a real butthead to survive and rise through the ranks, and being a jerk is rewarded. It appears that even professional baseball players seem to be grappling with that issue.

So, which would you rather have: A manager you don't like who takes you to the "world series," or a manager you like, but who never helps you get to the top of your game?

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Performance Evaluations Can be Like Playing Strip Poker -- Only You're Blindfolded

I'd like to meet just one person who came out of performance evaluation saying, "Gee, that was a swell experience. Can't wait to do it again next year!"

Managers hate performance evaluations. Employees hate performance evaluations. They stare at each other across a table and try and remember all the Oprah shows that talked about how to read body language.

But what it comes down to is this: The employee is supposed to bare his/her soul, so to speak, while the manager tries to look wise and supportive and doesn't let on what he or she is really thinking.

It's sort of like someone asking you to play strip poker, only you have to wear a blindfold. The boss has all the advantages. The employee is forced to bare all, but never even gets a glimpse at what the manager might be thinking.

So, I think it's time we evened the playing field a little bit. Got rid of the blindfolds, and made performance evaluations -- if not enjoyable -- at least a bit more enjoyable. (And no, I'm not talking about taking off any clothes. That was an analogy, OK?)

Some rules for performance appraisals that should be enacted by Congress immediately include:

* No surprises. Every employee should have a pretty good idea of the areas where they're not living up to expectations, because the manager has been saying so for some time. At the same time, the employee should have an even better idea of what improvements need to be made.

* Walk the talk. No manager should be allowed to be late in performing an evaluation. Employees get in trouble for being late with stuff -- the same should be true for a manager. Further, no manager should be allowed to be sarcastic, belittling, grumpy or unprofessional with an employee during an evaluation. Managers should be evaluated on how well they handled the process. Paula, Randy and Simon from American Idol could serve as judges for manager evaluation performance.
Randy: "Dog, that was hot!"
Paula: "Oohh...wonderful, fantastic. I also liked the second evaluation the best. What? There was no second evaluation?"
Simon: "Sounded a bit karaoke to me."

* No sticks allowed. The evaluation process should be a chance for the manager to provide some inspiration to the employee, to emphasize how his or her performance is really important to the bottom line. Employees who come out of the process re-energized and recommitted to their jobs should be the norm, not the exception.

Ever have a bad experience in a performance evaluation? How should the process be changed? Please share your thoughts.


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Monday, March 24, 2008

Pros Reveal How to Become a Great Manager

For some people, achieving supervisor status is a career dream come true. They have put in long hours, committed their creativity and energy to helping the company succeed and now will reap the benefits.

Unfortunately, many companies throw new supervisors into the management waters without a boat or even a life preserver. It’s little wonder that many new managers sink in such conditions.

There are ways, however, to minimize the chances of being swept under, including taking the time to understand the new position, what will be expected of you, and how you can lead a group of people with integrity and professionalism.

Among the suggestions from experienced managers:
Listen to employees. This is the time to find out what their expectations are, what they believe to be critical issues. Perhaps they need support with projects, or are having difficulties with interactions with another department. They key is to ask lots of questions and listen carefully without injecting your own opinion.
• Understand the company agenda. Never assume because you’ve got experience with an employer that you understand what you are supposed to do as a supervisor. Talk to your boss and find out the goals he or she has, what they expect you to accomplish. Find out how the boss likes to communicate (meetings, telephone, e-mail), and how often these communications should be made. Try to avoid jumping to conclusions – give yourself time to just listen and observe and don’t waste energies trying to fit everything into black and white scenarios.
• Ask for help. Just because you’ve now got that management title doesn’t mean you’ve become some kind of superhero. Ask for help from your boss, your customers, your peers, your employees. They will appreciate that you are receptive to new ideas and innovations, and don’t expect to ramrod through your own opinions simply because you are in charge.
• Set the tone. From the beginning it’s critical that you establish good conduct so that employees can see firsthand your expectations. Be professional, and protect the privacy of others. Now that you’re in a supervisory role, gossiping for any reason is a no-no. If you say you’re going to do something, be dependable and follow-through. Do not make promises you can’t keep.
One of the key ways to establish a professional, fair image is to avoid criticizing other departments or individuals in front of other employees, or make guesses about a situation where you don’t have all the facts. Apologize if you’ve made a mistake, and don’t blame others to cover an error.
• Lead by example. By being courteous, fair and cool in the face of criticism, you are showing workers exactly how you want customers treated. Or, if you expect employees to be organized, don’t show up late for meetings, shuffling papers and unprepared to give your report.
• Be a nice person. This may sound silly, especially if you believe you are already a nice person. But it’s amazing how many young supervisors start to lose their polite behavior when they’re stressed from trying to meet new goals and expectations. By remaining respectful and courteous to employees, you are building the most important block of your career – employee commitment. And, most of the “nice” supervisors will say that employees who are treated well are more than willing to jump in a help a new boss whenever it’s needed. Tyrant bosses rarely get any help volunteered, and workers may even try to sabotage them.
• Know the rules. Take time to read your new job description, and the job descriptions and past performance evaluations of those you will supervise. Understand company policies and procedures, and where to refer employees if you cannot answer a question. Know your training responsibilities, employee benefits, and any collective bargaining agreement with workers.


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