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  • A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future

    A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink is a book that describes the specific competencies (he refers to them as “senses”) that the author claims workers in the United States will need in the “Conceptual Age”. In his definition, “Conceptual Age” is the timeframe starting now and will continue for the foreseeable future. These competencies, or senses, are in essence the characteristics that businesses will need to ensure are present in their workers, their organizational cultures and their products and services. Pink describes each of these senses in detail, each in a separate chapter of the book: Artistic/design sense – will be needed to move beyond the function of a product in order to fully engage the senses of the consumer Empathy – will be needed to move beyond simple logic and instead draw on intuition and feelings when developing and/or marketing products to consumers Ability to create a narrative or tell a story – will be needed to move beyond making an argument in favor of product or service to creating a story in which the consumer can feel involved Ability to synthesize – will be needed to move beyond the details and fully understand product or services fits within the “big picture” Ability to derive meaning – will be needed to communicate the purpose and meaning of product or service Playfulness – will be needed to bring humor and fun to products and services. In addition to describing the above senses that will be needed in the Conceptual age, Pink reiterates and expands on points made by Thomas Friedman and others concerning technical jobs moving to Asia, automation of work and the increasing abundance of consumer choices. He claims that these changes are the key indicator that the Conceptual Age is beginning now. In this book he was able to explain clearly and support what “thinking differently” may mean for Americans going forward. In addition, he provides a useful list of resources and advice to hone your skills in each of the Conceptual Age “senses.” We recommend this book because we believe it was well-written and logical, and it challenged us to think about our own opportunities to develop in these areas. We have analytical personalities, which are not known for having excessive amounts of the particular attributes that may be more important in the future – artistic/design sense, empathy, ability to create a narrative/story-telling, synthesis/big picture thinking, ability to derive meaning/purpose and playfulness. We will continue to discuss how we might further develop in these areas. Click here to see more recommended books. About the author: Paul Gillard, PhD Paul fancies himself as an author but has never quite found the time and focus to write the book he knows is within. Instead, he periodically creates short Organizational Realities Blog postings about the things that strike his interest. He hopes that you find the ideas, concepts, and options he shares both insightful and helpful.

  • The Takeaway: Tactical Advice For Holding Others Accountable

    In our post What Does It Really Mean To Hold People Accountable, we spent some time explaining the essential elements of accountability: Goals, Authority, Consequences, and Measurement. These are focused mainly on managing the behavior of direct reports by encouraging managers to think through the underlying motivational principles that either promote or inhibit accountability. This article focuses more on the process of holding people accountable, providing an almost color-by-number toolset for managers to manage and track accountability on their teams. Two simple tools we highlight, Accountability Matrix, and RAIL are used successfully by our team and our clients to drive accountability on projects. We hope they can help you as well. Communicate Who is Doing What: Accountability Matrix The Accountability Matrix (or “DRCI”: Driver-Responsible-Consulted-Informed) is a simple tool that a team or manager can use to provide a picture of who is on the hook for which tasks or deliverables. In our introductory project manager training, we present this matrix where tasks (e.g., project tasks, to-do list, decisions) are listed in rows and the various roles (can be team member names, roles, titles, etc.) are listed as column headings. Each person’s expected contribution to each task is noted in each cell. For example, for a basic process improvement project, you might prepare a diagram like the one below. Keep in mind that how the assignments are made is debatable and depends on the project, but the key value of this tool is in communicating with the team and gaining commitment to act. Here, the Sponsor is the driver for setting the high-level goals of the project, the Project Manager is Responsible for most project planning and reporting tasks, while the other roles are either performing other portions of the work, giving input (Consulted) or finding out about it after the fact (Informed). The roles are defined as: Driver (D): The party who compels the action to be taken by establishing the goal, authority, and consequences for the action. He/she has the power of veto. Only one entity can be Driver for any task, activity or decision. Ideally, this is a single person, but can also be a committee, team or other entity with shared decision making authority. Responsible (R): The individual(s) who ensures that the task is completed. If there are components of a task that are delegated to other people, the task should be broken into sub-tasks and assigned appropriately. The fewer R’s for a task, the better. A person who is responsible may also be a Driver. Consulted (C): The individual(s) who need to be consulted prior to a final decision or action being taken. This is TWO-WAY communication. Consulted parties may not have a direct part in the task but are affected by its completion, and their input may be necessary. Informed (I): The individual(s) who need to be kept up-to-date on progress, or informed after a decision or action is taken. This is ONE-WAY communication. Input from the informed party is not necessary. Click below to download our basic Rail template. Holding Accountable Involves Keeping Track: RAIL The RAIL (Rolling Action Item List) is similar to a project plan but is a less structured, simple tool to keep track of tasks, decisions and miscellaneous to-dos that are not part of any organized project or initiative. The main point of a RAIL or any task list is to keep track of “who is doing what and when”. Typically a RAIL includes the following elements: What needs to be done (action/task/decision) How important is the task (priority rating) Who has asked for this task to be done (driver) Who is doing the work (responsible) When is the task due? What is the status (e.g., Not Started, In Progress, On Hold, Completed, Cancelled)? Additional note/comment. A RAIL can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. You can build it on paper, an Excel spreadsheet, Outlook task list, an online system, or a mobile phone app. In our experience, the most important thing is that it is actually used – only the tools that are simple to learn and quick to update are used consistently over time. Click here to download the template. A More Structured Approach Many common project management tools provide a structure for holding people accountable. Some of the more common tools include Microsoft Project and, Basecamp, and Jira. In our office, we use an online project and meeting management tool that we developed in-house to manage our projects, meeting follow-ups and task lists, etc. We developed this tool because at one point when our project load grew beyond what we could keep track of informally. We realized we needed to better organize, standardize and automate our projects and office tasks. We tried a variety of project management software applications, but within a few months, we would be less inclined to go to the trouble of keeping the tool updated, and soon were back where we started (i.e., everyone managing tasks in their own ways). We found that at the heart of the problem was the extra time it took to set up and manage the tool itself and that for the laundry list of office to-dos and our smaller projects, only a few key functions of each tool were ever used anyway. In looking at the “homegrown” methods we were using – most of which were Excel-based lists – we found one of our developers had built a web-based project tracking tool to manage his own projects. When the rest of the team tried it, it was adopted immediately. The fact that it was web-based made it accessible anywhere, and it naturally included only the functions that we used in the majority of our projects (for large-scale projects we still default to Microsoft Project) and have dabbled with That marked the birth of internal preciseTRACKER™. After using it internally for a while, we added the ability to invite clients and share project progress and communications with them, schedule meetings, document decisions, and review accountability through the system. Over the years we have added to the functionality, and use it where appropriate to manage our projects. These are the tools that we use to support accountability in our office. Click on the link below for a more detailed review of commercially available project management tools that might suit your needs. We hope they will be useful to managers in tracking accountability on their own teams. 42 Best Project Management Software and Tools Please contact us if you would like to learn more about the services we offer to help you handle the challenges you face. About the authors: Paul Gillard, PhD and Rachel Radwinsky, PhD Paul and Rachel combine their strengths (or perhaps multiply their weaknesses) to occasionally produce joint blog posts. Because these typically take weeks of mind-numbing debate to produce, they are relatively rare.

  • Accountability in Difficult-to-Measure Roles.

    Certain functions and roles have a much easier time establishing accountability than others. We spent a good portion of our careers in Human Resources. Although managers look to HR for help in building accountability in their teams, we found HR teams often have more trouble holding people accountable than do their business partners. A key factor in this is the ease with which outcomes can be measured. Numbers-driven business areas such as Sales and Manufacturing are brimming with data on which to measure the attainment of goals, which enables the quick administration of incentives or repercussions. In these roles, two of the three critical elements of accountability are tied together (goals and consequences), making the task of holding someone accountable much easier. In other functions, it is not so easy. Either you make the sale, or you don’t In a Sales function, sales employee actions typically have a direct impact on the numbers, and the actions and outcomes are well understood. Consider sales tasks such as calling customers, making formal sales presentations, etc. These are relatively simple to track and have a direct impact on business outcomes (i.e., revenue). Salespeople may have additional administrative tasks (e.g., expense reporting) and the occasional “special project” that is a little more difficult to measure, but the core of their work is measured based on hard dollars or percent growth. Likewise, a factory line employee’s physical activity results in something relatively quantifiable (e.g., create a weld, build a transmission, assemble a new car), and again, these tasks account for the core of their job. Although not necessarily the easiest jobs, sales managers and factory line managers do have an advantage over managers in other functions in holding their direct reports accountable. Due to the nature of the work, managers can more easily set numbers-based goals, establish consequences, and measure success. Keep in mind that authority, resources and ability to achieve the goal still vary, however, and need to be in place to create accountability. But we’re professionals… Other functions, however, are not so fortunate. Many roles have goals that are not as readily measured, making it more difficult to hold employees accountable for the things that matter to the business. Support functions and mid-level management are two such areas. These roles often include responsibilities with complex, qualitative outcomes that cannot be easily associated with bottom-line business results (to adapt a John Wanamaker quotation: “I know half of my support efforts work, I just don’t know which half!”). To make things even more difficult, employees in these functions often are highly educated professionals who take offense when attempts to measure their work reduce it to a “metric”. Human Resources departments, in particular, find that measuring the success of their programs and initiatives (and holding people accountable for the success of those programs) is challenging. One common example is accountability for the ROI of an organization’s leadership development program. Although Kirkpatrick’s model has done much to help gauge the impact of training programs, training departments still struggle to get their arms around ROI. Because of that, success in these programs is measured not by contributions to business growth and bottom-line return (which senior management tends to refer to as a “success measure/metric” by which to hold someone accountable), but by the more easily measured participant reaction and learning scores. But the light is better over here… The problem is that when the “real” success indicators go unmeasured, two things happen. First, the manager supposedly being held accountable for ROI, but measured by attendance as a proxy for ROI, will naturally work toward the goal of getting butts in seats, not necessarily focusing on the impact of the program. This may leave him or her open to negative consequences if the whole of the program is deemed a failure, even though the attendance goal was attained. Second and most commonly, no one ends up being held accountable for what is most important to the business – the impact of the program on leaders’ ability to drive the business forward. So what does this have to do with the title of this section? Well as the story goes, it is about the man looking for his lost keys under the street light. A passerby asks if he lost the keys here, and the man says no, over there. So when the passerby asks why the man isn’t looking for his keys over there, the man answers “But the light is so much better over here”. In other words, we often focus on what is easiest to measure (butts in seats), rather than what is most meaningful, but hard to see (ROI). Don’t give up Although we cannot offer a “silver bullet” to resolve the issue, we have found that with some extra effort, management in these functions can put in place better measures to increase accountability. Some of the strategies we use are: Start with a clear understanding of what outcomes are most important to senior leadership. Never assume to know which measures they value, always ask. Use multiple, weighted measures to “triangulate” on the primary measure for accountability. Leadership training impact, for example, might be measured through a combination of performance ratings, employee engagement scores, self-assessments, staff turnover, number of promotions, 360-degree ratings, etc. On the flip side, however, do not measure everything just because the data may be available. Pick the key indicators of success and ignore the rest! Carefully define and communicate the measurement process. Although many are held accountable for “ROI”, few are able to explain how ROI is calculated, where the data came from, and so on. Ensure direct reports have a solid understanding of performance expectations, measures and consequences – never assume people know. Be in it for the long haul. One of the measurement difficulties in management and support functions is a longer time horizon for many of their efforts. Implement intermediate goals and provide progress measures to keep the direct report on track. Take advantage of simple project management tools to plan and track progress, and report the results regularly. Ensure open and continuous communication about progress against goals. Do not wait until the end to “surprise” the employee with results. This is not the Academy Awards – people want to know how they are tracking against their assigned goals. While it is sometimes a struggle to ensure adequate measures by which to hold people accountable, it is worth the time and effort. In the absence of hard and/or easily accessible data on the impact of a particular initiative, other measurement tools, such as customer surveys, can be used to assess capabilities and determine consequences. If you happen to manage a function where solid accountability measures are readily available, then consider yourself fortunate. For the rest of us, particularly those in support functions and middle management roles, do not let the challenge of measurement make you give up on improving accountability within your function. About the author: Rachel Radwinsky, PhD Rachel enjoys writing and sharing her views on a wide range of business and career-related topics. The Organizational Realities Blog serves as a creative outlet to express her observations and opinions freely - You've been warned.

  • What Does It Really Mean To Hold People Accountable?

    Most people think they know what accountability means and have strong opinions on the topic. We hear enough about it on the news – Congress wants to hold rogue politicians and reckless financial intuitions accountable, investors want to have the greedy executives accountable, and managers want to hold underperforming employees accountable. Demands for accountability abound, but what does holding an entity or a person accountable really mean? That people need to take on more responsibilities? That more people need to have decision-making authority? That more and/or faster decisions need to be made? Or that there should be more swift and severe consequences (i.e., more people need to get fired for not performing)? We began to question our understanding of accountability. We decided to do some research and “think it through”, and have come to two conclusions. First, no one has a clear, consistent definition of accountability. Many talk a good game, but few have cracked the accountability code. Our second conclusion is that the call for more accountability is often an unspoken desire for more consequences (i.e., the reward for achievement and punishment for failure). In this Organizational Realities blog, we will discuss what we think about accountability, how it relates to responsibility, and give our view of what this means for you as an employee or manager. What is Accountability? When shame-faced politicians, greedy bankers, or celebrity executives say, “I take complete accountability for my actions” at their mea culpa, please-forgive-me press conferences, we generally accept these types of statements as apologies (even when paired with “voluntary” resignations). Is this how someone is held accountable? Accountability is more than a phrase that is part of a scripted apology. Accountability, quite literally, is the ability to account for one’s actions. So now that the high-level definition is out of the way let’s fully define and lay out the true meaning of the term, starting with what needs to be in place for accountability to exist: Clear Goals Must Be Established: Quantifiable objectives should be defined, documented, and communicated. Adequate Resources and Authority Must Be Granted: Sufficient resources (e.g., financial, technical, and human), control, and influence must be available. Specific Consequences Must Be Predetermined: Outcomes for success and failure are established, documented, and communicated. If any of the above are not satisfied, employees are within their rights to question the assignment and address the gaps before proceeding. We realize this is a strong statement, but perfectly legitimate if they are to be accountable. Let’s explore each one in a little more detail. 1. Establishing Clear Goals Ambiguity regarding desired outcomes for a given project must be eliminated, and great care is taken to ensure all involved share the same definition of success. It does not matter who the leader is; projects that begin without a clear, shared picture of the end goal(s) are doomed to failure. Project goals should be Relevant, Realistic, and Reportable. Relevant – goals are aligned with overarching business objectives. Realistic – attainable given the known constraints Reportable – performance against the critical success metric(s) can be objectively quantified and communicated. "It does not matter who the leader is; projects that begin without a clear, shared picture of the end goal(s) are doomed to failure." When engaging with clients, we often get pushback on the “reportable” requirement for clear goal setting. Several reasons for not measuring and reporting progress and success are offered, including “success will be self-evident”, “it is too difficult to measure”, “we don’t have the resources or ability” or, our personal favorite, “it can’t be measured.” In such cases, we explain that the goals, whether intermediate or final, are required to keep everyone on track throughout the project and to allow for course correction as necessary. Clear reportable goals are not a luxury; rather, they are a necessity. In effect, we require that the “count” is included in accountability. 2. Granting Adequate Resources and Authority It sounds absurd for a manager to demand action from an employee while preventing the employee from performing the action. Unfortunately, managers frequently do this, often without even knowing it. Do any of these look familiar? Expecting an employee to: Procure services with an inadequate budget. Deploy technology with no IT support. Manage people having had adequate management training or support. Improve efficiency without access to necessary data or metrics. Take the lead on a project while being micromanaged. Once again, these are all examples of projects doomed to fail. The direct report is never really truly accountable, as he does not have the resources or authority to complete the task in the first place. The employee may physically complete the work, but if the manager controls the decisions/resources, the manager is still the one accountable. The manager is at fault when such projects fail, not the direct report. Or stated more eloquently, "When the manager is pulling the strings, he can’t blame the puppet for bad performance." "When the manager is pulling the strings, he can’t blame the puppet for a bad performance." Before accepting accountability for a project or a task, employees should ensure that they have the following: Adequate resources (financial, technical, and human) assigned to get the job done. The personal capability (ability, skill, and knowledge) to perform the task. The authority to make decisions and expend resources. Latitude to execute their own ideas and methods. Access to the required stakeholders, customers, and decision-makers. If any of the above are not satisfied, you cannot truly be accountable for the project. You must revisit the project with your manager to address the obvious shortcomings. Managers who have assigned projects to a direct report must ensure the employee has the wherewithal to get it done or assign it to someone with the appropriate authority, resources, and ability. 3. Predetermining Consequences When people demand more accountability, we find this is often a call for stronger and more consistently applied consequences. “Consequences” are the results – in most cases, the rewards or punishment – of the action taken. Direct reports must know what these results will be when they do or do not achieve their goals. If there are no consequences for poor or good performance or the employee is unaware of them, then a key motivator is absent. Why are consequences so often the missing link in establishing accountability? Managers may not give the consequences enough thought, may not be creative about how they can incent or redirect behavior, and may not communicate them clearly if they exist. Moreover, many managers complain that they do not have the latitude to either bestow rewards or reprimand failure. Often, the managers are unaware of what they can do. Here are some options: CareerCareer Bonuses and stock awards are clearly good motivators when tied to performance. However, penalizing poor behaviors by taking something away (privileges, awards, titles, etc.) is not so easy. Companies are often reluctant to terminate or reassign those who have failed. When it comes time to deliver the consequences, managers often avoid the conflict caused by addressing poor performance. They may be reluctant to praise positive behavior, fearing it will lead to employee complacency. This behavior is one we do not understand and have a hard time accepting. Communicating and delivering consequences (both positive and negative) is an essential part of a manager’s job. If planned and positioned appropriately, it does not have to be a negative or anxiety-inducing chore for all involved. It will deliver the final element of accountability. Again, remember to plan out and communicate the consequences upfront, and remember these basic principles: Suitability: The consequences (positive or negative) must be commensurate with the goal difficulty Immediacy: The consequence should promptly follow the outcome Certainty: Employees must know that the agreed-upon consequences will follow the actions Take care to avoid the “we learned from it and moved on” attitude expressed by employees when projects fail miserably. This is an all-too-common and inappropriate reaction. For consequences to be an effective part of building accountability, there must be consistency in how they are delivered over time and across employees. Furthermore, consequences should be explicitly stated, not implied or inferred. Accountable Versus Responsible Most who have tried to fill out or follow a RACI diagram (management tool that describes tasks in terms of Responsible-Accountable-Consulted-Informed) know the frustrating, unanswerable discussion that can ensue about who is accountable versus responsible. In reality, there is little difference between these words. Look in a dictionary; the definitions are the same. These words are used interchangeably, and one is almost always used to define the other. So, for all who have struggled with RACI (and we fall in that category), arguing if you are responsible for something, you are also accountable, and if you are accountable, then it seems like you are in some ways responsibleMerriam-Webster', then you are RIGHT! RACI has been around since the 1970s relatively unchanged (and keep in mind this was the decade that gave us Sea Monkeys and mood rings), so we propose making some upgrades to this otherwise useful task management tool. First, reframe the tool as an “Accountability Matrix.” Use it to show the different types of participation that are needed to complete a task, all of which contribute to the overall accountability. That means dropping “Accountable” from the categories and going with “Responsible.” Second, when you feel the urge to assign responsibility to people at different levels for the same task, the appropriate way to deal with this is to break the task into sub-tasks and assign it accordingly. The higher-level tasks will have “R” for the higher-level people who are “responsible” for a whole set of tasks (but maybe not actually, physically DOING the tasks). The lower-level tasks will still have “R’s” for the lower-level folks who are the “doers” for that sub-task. Either way, only one category is needed. Next, we propose adding a classification that signifies the one who sets the goals, gives the authority, and establishes the consequences. This person should be the “Driver” – the person in the organizational chain of command with the power to demand that action be taken, the one who will apportion the responsibility. Aside from clearing up the accountability-responsibility confusion, this change facilitates discussing what accountability entails. Each time the D for Driver is assigned to a task, it serves as a reminder that establishing goals, authority, and consequences are required for the Driver to fulfill their part in the task. So, that leaves us with a DRCI, not quite as smooth as “RACI”, so we suggest calling it an “Accountability Matrix.” We think these changes will keep this tool relevant for at least another decade or two. Our final thoughts are around what this means for you – as a manager trying to hold direct reports accountable or as an employee trying to be accountable for your work. As A Manager… As a reminder, setting expectations and granting authority are keys to establishing accountability. We want to emphasize the final key – consequences. One of the toughest things a manager has to do is address failure. There is no easy way around this issue – the manager must meet this challenge head-on to establish accountability. Put clear, meaningful consequences in place and, by all means, follow through. As a Direct Report… Before accepting a task, look at the accountability structure. If you are not aware of the expectations, do not have the proper authority to act, and do not know the consequences at the end of the day, you are in a bad situation. Build a case for clarifying goals, assigning resources and the authority to act, and ensuring you know the consequences. Finally, be prepared to accept the consequences if you do fail. Do it gracefully. Own up to your behavior and learn from it. That is accountability. About the author: Paul Gillard, Ph.D. Paul fancies himself as an author but has never entirely found the time and focus to write the book he knows is within. Instead, he periodically creates short Organizational Realities Blog postings about the things that strike his interest. He hopes you find his ideas, concepts, and opinions insightful and helpful.

  • Am I Being Micromanaged?

    The funny thing about micromanagement is that we recognize it when we see it, and we are extremely aware of it when it happens to us, but we rarely, if ever, recognize or admit when we do it ourselves. Admittedly, I do not deal very well with being micromanaged. I don’t think there is ever a time and place for micromanagement. There is no gray area in my book. Micromanagement can be defined as incorrectly providing MORE management (i.e., control, direction, instruction, etc.) than is needed in a given situation. So, given that definition, if you are micromanaging, you are doing something wrong (i.e., managing incorrectly)! I understand the need to take control of tasks if team members are either unable or unwilling to adequately perform the tasks themselves. When done appropriately, one might simply call that “management”. The problem manager is one who cannot “pull back” and let employees who ARE capable and willing, work, learn and be productive – stepping in when needed. In this case, they are managing poorly and probably deficient in some key management competencies, particularly Empowering Others, Delegation, Developing Others, and perhaps basic Interpersonal Skills. The effects? “The more you use your reins, the less they’ll use their brains” – The Horse Whisperer By repeatedly controlling every situation, employees become de-motivated (after all, they know their work is going to be scrutinized and reworked by the manager anyway, so why bother trying?) and more importantly, they fail to learn and adapt to new situations since it is never truly up to them to succeed or fail. This will negatively affect their long-term ability to contribute to the team and ultimately the success of the organization. This is only one of the many outcomes, but I find it best reflects my personal experience. I admit that I am very sensitive to being micromanaged. To make matters worse, I tend to stew over it instead of discussing it, often waiting until I am at the breaking point before voicing my concerns, sometimes in less-than-productive ways. As it develops, the situation can create a tense and stressful environment that affects the whole team. Is it because you just don’t like being managed? Certainly, we all have moments at work when being told what to do by someone else feels oppressive and uncomfortable. If you work for a “normal” manager, these feelings are typically short-lived, and likely are due to the situation, personal issues (yours or your boss’s) or both. However, how can you tell when you are being inappropriately or over-managed? The number one, most important element that makes the difference is the VALUE that the manager is adding to the situation. It is a manager’s job to help push the work of the team along – instructing, motivating, guiding, directing, prompting, reminding, and yes, sometimes even doing the work him/herself. The difference lies in whether all that effort is really adding value to the final output or not. If it does add value, great, call it properly applied management. If not – meaning if after all the time and energy spent there is no meaningful improvement above and beyond what the employee would have accomplished alone – then it was indeed micro-freaking-management. Your typical micromanager will argue about the definition of “meaningful” until the cows come home, but for the rest of us, this definition is pretty clear. Still not convinced? Take this test I haven’t validated it for commercial use (yet), but I have developed what I think is a fairly useful measure I refer to as my “micromanage-o-meter”. To use it, assume that no more than a certain percentage of the time it takes to perform any task should consist of non-value-added management. That, of course, does not include the instruction, assistance, advice, and guidance that a good manager provides to help an employee better perform the job. What I am referring to is all the other needling, prodding, critiquing and nitpicking that does not actually help. I personally have adopted 15% as my threshold – I build in that generous leeway with the recognition that no one is perfect, situations are constantly changing, one-off miscommunications and misunderstandings are to be expected, and well, we all have our bad days. So, of the total time that it takes to perform any given task or project, what percent of that time do you find is spent doing any or all of the following? If it exceeds your personal threshold, you are being micromanaged. Asking your manager for permission/approval for things that are clearly within your decision-making authority. Sitting with your manager as he/she exhaustively reviews, critiques and revises the infinitesimal details of documents, plans, communications, etc. (I had one manager who, I am not exaggerating, would get out a ruler and measure the margins before reading a single word of the document. The worst part was that over time I began obsessing over those details myself.) Dealing with your manager’s reversal of previously approved and implemented actions Meeting with your manager to defend, rehash, second-guess and revise past decisions Watching over your manager’s shoulder as he does the work for you Etc. Brains or Reins? The various surveys and research studies estimate that 70% of workers report they have been micromanaged at some point in their careers. Do you think you are being micromanaged? Have you stopped using your brain, and instead just let the manager “use the reins”, steering and dictating your every move? Do you watch helplessly as your time is spent responding to “non-value-added management” rather than productive work? Or, as a manager, do you find this describes some of your own behaviors? The good news is that even though it may be hard to change direction, you always have a choice. In our blog post entitled How to Deal With Micromanagement, we will talk about some of the choices that employees, managers, and organizations can make regarding micromanagement. Please contact us if you would like to learn more about the services we offer to help you handle the challenges you face. About the author: Rachel Radwinsky, Ph.D. Rachel enjoys writing and sharing her views on a wide range of business and career-related topics. The Organizational Realities Blog serves as a creative outlet to express her observations and opinions freely - You've been warned.

  • Micromanagement: What Is It And How To Deal With It

    No matter how it is defined, or WHO is interpreting it, micromanagement has a deleterious effect on a team. Relationships, teamwork, productivity, and creativity are stifled. Trust plummets, discretionary effort dissipates and stress levels can skyrocket. This is true whether the behaviors are intentional or not (most likely they aren’t intentional – few micromanagers are even aware they are doing it). It is even true whether or not it is actually occurring objectively – if the employee feels he/she is being micromanaged, the outcomes are the same. The manager then has to decide whether it is worth the effort to address the underlying issues or to replace the employee! Likewise, the employee has to decide whether to continue working for this manager or look for other options. What Should Managers Do? Management style must be matched to meet the needs of the situation. Sometimes close supervision and direction are required and other times the direct report should be given more latitude to get the job done with minimal guidance. If an employee is new to a role, has less experience or is not performing tasks at an appropriate level, then the manager needs to adopt a more directive approach. Even seasoned employees must consistently demonstrate that they can perform tasks competently or they too warrant closer management oversight. Typically the most effective – not necessarily the most popular – managers are the ones who hold their employees strictly accountable for delivering positive results. The trick is knowing when to apply the appropriate style. Other things for managers to keep in mind: Learn to tell the difference between adding value and being a perfectionist, nit-picker or simply one who likes to “kick up dust”. If the fully-loaded average employee per-hour cost is around $50, be absolutely sure that when you require an employee to spend an extra day word-smithing, that it was worth the $400 investment. Consciously allow others to have influence, make decisions and contribute to the value created by the team Identify where real performance issues exist and address them through the organization’s formal performance management process Get help – management is a skill that is honed over time through experience and training. Many great development opportunities are out there – some may be available within your current organization If the employee cannot get the job done satisfactorily, find someone who can! Making the decision to do so sooner rather than later will be better for all involved. What Can Micromanaged Employees Do? To the management levels above them, micromanagers might appear to do a pretty good job. As long as they are delivering results, no matter the cost, they are likely to be secure in their roles and will be around for years to come. Realistically, the employees are the ones who will have to adjust. Here are a couple of options that micromanaged employees can consider: Take a critical look at your own performance. Is there anything you are doing that is adding to the problem? Self-identified micromanagers often claim that they wouldn’t have to micromanage if their people would just do what they were supposed to do. It may not fix the problem, but delivering your best may give you a little more breathing room. Play by their rules. Admittedly, spending your day requesting permission for every action, justifying every decision or rewriting every sentence is not productive. However, fighting it will be even less so. Figure out the hot buttons, pet peeves and sticking points and try to abide. Sadly this may mean spending more time on the non-value-added appeasing tasks, but if you can streamline them, you may be able to create a workable relationship. Try not to take it to heart. Assuming your work is sound, try not to let the constant nit-picking affect your self-confidence. The problem is the manager’s, not yours. Talk to them about their behavior. You may want to attempt a frank, but respectful discussion with the manager about the issue. Come prepared with recent examples and ideas for how you can work better together. Be aware though, that they may be unable to recognize that their behavior is problematic and their inherent lack of trust may create a contentious discussion. Take it up with a “higher authority” (e.g., boss’s boss or HR). We tend to find this approach may end up doing more harm than good. At the very heart of micromanagement is a lack of trust, and going over the manager’s head, potentially making him/her look bad is a cardinal sin in the eyes of this type of manager. Although it may buy some momentary relief, chances are you will suffer in the long run. Leave the organization. This option may be the only choice in some situations. Assume your manager is not going to leave. If you find that your work, your family and most likely your health and well-being are suffering because of a work situation that has become intolerable, looking for a better job may be the best thing you could do for yourself and your long-term career. Ultimately, you are in control of your own future and can make the decision to leave for greener pastures. Organizations Should Take Note as Well! Whether viewed as a valid management style or dysfunctional behavior, micromanagement should be considered by an organization as they identify and groom their future leaders. Because micromanagement is often eclipsed by the more obvious management issues, it doesn’t get a lot of attention in terms of correction. Assuming the micromanager should be retained, there are some things an organization can do to help both the manager and the team. Help them to develop as managers. Choose a manager training program that focuses on teaching the manager to adjust his or her personal management style to the needs of the employees is required. Self-awareness in the form of a 360 feedback assessment or personality profiling and perhaps some one-on-one coaching would help as well. Remove their power to control by empowering the employees. For example, if the manager is a bottleneck for approval of even the most insignificant of expense reports – allow employees to submit those without approval. Or if the manager is blocking all communications from his team to the next levels in the organization, introduce new channels such as skip level lunches so that employees have a voice. Monitor and evaluate the situation. In some cases, micromanagement might be a sign of a more significant issue with the manager. If you hit a critical mass of employee complaints and other indicators of a problem, stay on top of it and take action (e.g., performance improvement plan, warnings, termination) if necessary. The Takeaway At the end of the day, we all have to decide what we can change and what we are willing to deal with. In the case of micromanagement, this goes for both the employee and the manager. Managers: You don’t want to be a micromanager. No matter how convinced you are that this article is NOT about you, be aware of your own behavior Are you appropriately adapting your management style/behaviors/inputs to the needs of your employees? Are you sure that the input, help, and guidance you are giving is adding significant value to the outcome? If you can’t give a definitive “yes” to both of these questions, do yourself and your employees a favor and get some help. The development, training and coaching resources available are endless. Employees: No one likes to be micromanaged. If you are in a situation that you find intolerable, change it. Remember, you are in control. Either find a workable solution with your manager or look for another position. Either way, stop stewing. Life is too short. Please contact us if you would like to learn more about the services we offer to help you handle the challenges you face. About the authors: Paul Gillard, PhD and Rachel Radwinsky, PhD. Paul and Rachel combine their strengths (or perhaps multiply their weaknesses) to occasionally produce joint blog posts. Because these typically take weeks of mind-numbing debate to produce, they are relatively rare.

  • Confessions Of A Micromanager.

    At times I have been referred to as a “Benevolent Dictator”, but I do not think of myself as a micromanager. Rather, I pride myself on my ability to prioritize, delegate and to know when and how to provide appropriate guidance and insight to keep projects and tasks on track. The recent feedback has made me queston my approach - have I been doing something wrong? But before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s begin with a basic definition of micromanagement: “Micromanagement is a style of management that is characterized by an excessive need for control and extreme attention to even apparently trivial details.” Most business professionals would accept the above definition as reasonable. At the crux of the issue is what constitutes “excessive” and “extreme.” These words, in and of themselves, bring to mind visions of police brutality, prisoner interrogation or worse. When used to describe a management style, most envision a tyrannical boss who has made it a personal goal to make the lives of his or her direct reports miserable. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that many professionals have a visceral reaction to being micromanaged and tend to cite it as one of the most agregious management dysfunctions. Some of the most common micromanaging behaviors incl The manager tells direct reports what to do, how to do it and when to do it, giving no latitude to the employee All decisions, no matter how trivial, must go through the manager Delegation of authority is restricted, fleeting or absent Direct reports spend more time reporting on progress than making progress The manager performs the job of direct reports The granddaddy of them all – the input provided by the manager offers minimal incremental value (e.g., nitpicking comments regarding grammatical or typographical errors on documents). I understand the problems associated with micromanagement, and have seen first-hand how damaging and counterproductive it can be. So let me go on the record by stating that TRUE micromanagement is bad and should be avoided at all costs if employees are to produce and thrive on the job. In extreme cases, micromanagement is sometimes attributed to an underlying psychological disorder related to a need for control that is deep-seated and inherently resistant to change. However, typical cases of micromanagement involve a learned set of negative behaviors that can be unlearned. It is not an easy change but it can be achieved over time with some professional coaching and a strong commitment to make the necessary cognitive and behavioral changes. That being said, I take issue with the way in which micromanagement has become synonymous with directive management. While micromanagement is almost always wrong, directive management is appropriate in specific situations. Here’s the Problem – The Term Micromanagement is Widely Misapplied The problem I have with typical “micromanagement” discussions is that the pendulum has swung too far in the anti-management direction. More and more the label of “micromanager” is being incorrectly applied to anyone who has the audacity to direct the work of another. I find this inappropriate and counterproductive. Many of the so-called micromanagers are not in fact micromanaging in any objective sense of the word, but simply well-intentioned supervisors who are doing their very best to lead, motivate, direct and yes, even drive their direct reports to excel and perform to the best of their ability. As the comic-strip Dilbert frequently, and sometimes hilariously, captures, it has been out of fashion to be the one in charge for quite some time. This is especially true when underperforming employees receive the direct, detailed instruction required to be successful. In an effort to regain some sense of control over the situation, the direct reports may lash out or whine that the manager is micromanaging rather than acknowledge and address their underlying performance issue(s) directly. I can relate to this assertion, perhaps too well, as the last thing I want in a job is a manager telling me what to do and how to do it. Yet having said this, I can certainly point to cases where I needed more direction to complete a task or a project efficiently and successfully. In my case, this is especially true for new assignments or those that I find less than interesting or tedious, and therefore tend to avoid or postpone. I need the proverbial “kick in the butt” to get back on track and focused on completing the task efficiently. Don’t Be Afraid to Manage! My message to you is that managers should never be afraid to manage. The “micromanager” label is often applied by those who do not have the perspective necessary to appreciate the overall context and business needs. I am not implying that a manager should revel in having power over others, but most organizations are structured in a hierarchy where everyone (except one) is subordinate to at least one other person for a good reason. With heavily matrixed organizations, you may even have to take direction from several different people at different times. People at higher levels giving direction to people at lower levels is the way that work gets done in companies, the government, the military, organized religions, and pretty much any other group that produces anything of significance. I think in the past two decades, we have lost sight of the need for strong directive management, when appropriate, in these settings. In the many leadership courses we have taught, managers typically have a very difficult time being directive as they have been brainwashed by well intentioned Training and HR professionals into thinking that it is never appropriate to adopt a directive approach to management and therefore avoid ‘rocking the boat’ by defaulting to a more participative management style. This is flat out wrong, as the appropriate management style is situational and should be adjusted based upon time constraints, employee capabilities and the nature of the task at hand. Managers bear the burden of evaluating outputs and adjudicating the difference between flawless and careless, and must be given the latitude to provide the appropriate amount of guidance regardless of their employees’ personal preference for autonomy. Finding the appropriate balance between directing, delegating and doing, is a primary challenge for new and seasoned managers alike and must be constantly monitored and adjusted. Now I want to make something very clear here. Ultimately, the decision to engage in more or less directive management should be made by the manager after rationally considering what is needed to ensure the short- and long-term success of the company and the employee. The decision is not the subordinate’s! The challenge is knowing when and how to provide the guidance and direction. If you have been labeled a micromanager and are exhibiting any of the associated directive behaviors take a close, hard look at your rationale for doing so and make sure you are doing them for the right reasons. If you have performance issues on your team, address them directly. If you are micromanaging, stop it. If for no other reason, you are wasting your own valuable time. Perhaps more importantly though, you are wasting the company’s resources, both in terms of employee time spent on non-value added work and the time it will take to recruit, hire and train replacements when you ultimately drive your talent away. In closing, don’t be afraid to manage (appropriately), regardless of labels, such as ‘Benevolent Dictator’, that may be assigned to you. It will be better for your direct reports, the company and you, in the long run. Please contact us if you would like to learn more about the services we offer to help you handle the challenges you face. About the author: Paul Gillard, PhD Paul fancies himself as an author but has never quite found the time and focus to write the book he knows is within. Instead, he periodically creates short Organizational Realities Blog postings about the things that strike his interest. He hopes that you find the ideas, concepts, and options he shares both insightful and helpful.

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