Do you want to be a manager?

feeton desk

Most people enter into their business careers with ambition. Everyone wants to grow and achieve something. However, as the years go by, for some the ambition turns to disillusion, and they get stuck. Others cling onto the ambition and drive fore something more, and for many in business that something more is to be a manager.

In this article I would like to define what exactly it is to be a manager. To attempt to put aside some of the myths and really add an element of reality, so that young people in business understand what they are aspiring towards and what they will be getting themselves into.

So let’s cover the myths first. Management is not about:

  • Getting a bigger office
  • Getting a bigger pay cheque
  • Finally being able to boss others around
  • Working less hours because you dictate the times
  • An opportunity to bore others in meetings

Now many aspiring managers can be forgiven for thinking that the above is true, as they see many managers above them exerting this very behavior. However, the “Peter Principle” (rising to your level of incompetence) will eventually take hold and return the system to management equilibrium i.e. normally the person gets fired.

So if being a manager is not about the above points, what exactly is it about? Well, consider the following description. A manager is a person who needs to create an environment that maximizes the required outputs. Sounds simple enough? Not when you consider all the elements that make up the environment.

In a typical corporate company the environment consists of, people or employees, up-line managers (bosses), systems, education, customers, products, and mostly problems.

With this system and the definition in mind what does one need to do to optimize and maximize the required outputs? Here is the list:

  • Hiring the best people for the job
  • Managing the expectations of your up-line managers or bosses
  • Accepting responsibility when others in your team mess up
  • Giving credit to others when things go well
  • Accepting that your staff are human beings and as such come with problems and issues. You cannot ignore these, as they eventually become your problems too. Always be ready to listen.
  • Ensuring that your staff are always learning and growing in their roles
  • Mentoring and assisting with your staffs career progress
  • Handling customers complaints as now the buck stops with you
  • Being knowledgeable about your companies products
  • Acknowledging that you cannot ignore problems or you will become another managerial failure statistic.
  • Work the hours that are needed to get the job done, while maintaining a healthy life balance.
  • And lastly, manage your own career.

The last point is an interesting one, as although it comes last on the list, most people think they should put it first. This is so evident in large corporate environments where political infighting is the order of the day.

The irony is, if you look after all the preceding points, you will not need to manager your career success, as it will automatically and spontaneously occur.  That is of course provided you have selected to work for a boss that works accordingly to these principles.  So perhaps at your next interview, when it comes time for you to ask any questions, the one to ask is, “What do you consider to be important in management?”. After all, it has been shown that careers advance more rapidly with better bosses.

So, if you aspire to be a manager, give some thought to the points above. It’s not for everyone. More money is normally made in sales with less of a burden to carry, and open plan offices tend to be the order of the day. However, if you feel you will be fulfilled by the above list, management can be a rewarding and awesome experience. So go ahead and apply for that job. Create your life.

Managing for Emotional Profit

It’s Monday morning. You woke up 30 minutes late because you forgot to reset the alarm after the weekend sleep-in. You rush to get ready, skipping breakfast to make up for lost time. Traffic wise, all is looking good, when you turn the cornemotions01er and you see an accident in front of you. Tick, tick ,tick, you are never going to make you 8am meeting. You call ahead from your cell phone to alert them you will be late and your blood pressure goes up just a touch more. By the time you get to the office, the rest you gained from the weekend has been replaced with a stress-o-meter score of 10+.

After the meeting you notice two of your staff members waiting at your desk. “What do you want??….. I mean what can I do for you?” you bark. You have not given a seconds thought to how you are feeling and how this might influence your reaction to your staff. In those two minutes of unconscious interaction you have set back the teams morale and motivation for the day. Word gets out that you are in a bad mood and down goes the teams motivational bank balance.

So what you say? These are your staff members, and you are the boss. It’s your job to ensure that they turn up to work each day. To make sure they deliver on their job specs, sell more, do more, and achieve more for you and for the company. You have to manage your up-lines expectations and your down-lines demands. If you have stress, they damn well better just handle it. Well, if the outcome you are driving for is company profit and low staff turnover, best you start paying attention to your own emotions, and change that attitude

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to be aware of, understand, and manage the emotions in yourself and others. There are four main branches involved in emotional intelligence. These are:

• Self –Awareness
• Self-Management
• Social Awareness
• Relationship Management

(Daniel Goleman, 2002)

Research has shown that the best leaders are people with high levels of emotional intelligence (EQ)(Golman, 1996). Studies have also shown that people with high levels of EQ create higher performing teams and generate greater profits (Golman, 1996).

Although there are four branches of EQ, (shown above), in this article I am only going to focus on one aspect of the Self-Awareness trait, and that is Emotional Self Awareness.

Emotional Self Awareness is the ability to understand your own emotional reactions. It is the voice of reason inside your head that can observe your reactions and realize that the emotional state you are in e.g. anger or frustration may not be the best for the particular situation. Developing your own awareness is the first step to gaining control over your emotional states.

Try this exercise as a suggestion to see how aware you are of your emotional states. Set an hourly alarm on your phone or watch to remind you to think about your emotional state during the day. On the hour, stop for a moment and note down your emotion that you are feeling. I would even encourage you to make a note of these emotions in your diary. This activity will bring your awareness inward and allow you to actively think about how you are feeling. Try and describe the emotions in as much detail as possible. For example, instead of just saying “anger”, give some thought to the question of are you feeling slightly ticked off, or are you livid? The varying degrees of emotional states are important to comprehend as they affect our ability to deal with situations.

Once you have been able to recognize these emotions in yourself, the next step is to understand which of them assist you in doing your job and drive towards the best outcome, and which are a hindrance to you. A slight degree of frustration may focus you towards a specific task, while intense anger will just blind you from seeing potential solutions.

Employees are usually very in tune to their manager’s moods. Knowing very well when to stay out of his/her way and when would be a good time to discuss that raise. If you want to ensure that you get the best out of your employees, the first step is knowing how to get the best out of yourself. Understanding your own emotions is key to starting this journey.

So the next time you feel your blood pressure rising and need to engage with members of your staff, take a quick time out. Breathe deeply and think about how you are feeling and if your emotions are going to help the situation. Then either modify your reaction, or suggest that you meet with the person a little later.

I find keeping the concept of having an emotional bank balance with your staff in the back of your mind, a great help. When things are good, and you can motivate and inspire them, you make great deposits into the account. However, one instance of losing your cool can deplete the entire account, making it hard work to get your balance back.

So why not start giving a bit more thought to your own emotions and how you are affecting your own work environment and those around you. I am prepared to bet that the results will speak for themselves. A more in control you and a more profitable and happy team. Create your life.

If you would like to hear more about the benefits of Emotional Intelligence, why not book Kevin for his talk on “The Emotional Advantage – The business benefits of EQ”. More details on www.kevinderman.com

The Dangers of Multitasking

My name is Kevin and I’m a multitasker. I need help. It starting to happen more and more often. I’m sitting eating a bowl of soup and I’m thinking, “I should be checking my email while eating, I’m wasting time.”. I’m on the phone having a conversatimultitasking3on, I open Facebook, then LinkedIn, “yes of course I’m listening to you”, whats happening on Twitter, I should go through the last proposal, got to maximise my time, wonder if I can listen to the latest talk on TED while talking, “yes, I know, that’s terrible, what it’s not? um sorry can you repeat the story.”. If I am not multitasking, I am left with a feeling of panic that I am wasting time, when in reality the opposite is true.

A great example of the ever busy, doing, multi-sensory society we live in is restaurants. Pioneering this fad in the early ninety’s , Sports Cafe’s were the start of this downward trend in human relationships. Come to a restaurant with friends, each table has its own screen, and if you find the conversation boring, well you can zone out and stare at the screen while appearing to be in conversation. Today, you would be hard pressed to find a restaurant without a TV screen. The next time you are in a restaurant, have a look at the amount of people sitting at a table together but either engaged with text messages on their cellphone or staring at a TV screen, while the people in their immediate vicinity are ignored and clearly disengaged from any personal interaction.

In business, the problem is compounded further by the many modes of communication we have available. Phones, cell phones, text messages, numerous email accounts, instant messaging, skype etc. are just a few of these. We have made ourselves so contactable that we don’t have any time to spend with the people who are lucky enough to get hold of us. I have been in management meetings where every single person in the room (except the one speaking) is answering email. I have been the boss who listened with one ear to a team member while continuing an online conversation in order to satisfy both parties. The unfortunate result is neither is satisfied. People know when we do not give them our full attention. In the end our relationships with our colleagues and staff suffer, leading to  further problems for the company down the line. In order to grow people we need to give them our attention. Half the attention will yield half the results.

We are living in a society that encourages multitasking. We are bombarded by messages all around us that tell us we have to do more. Use the tools, maximise your time, communicate and connect, do more with less. The sad fact of the matter is the more we do, the less we experience. Our minds are only capable of a certain bandwidth of experience. So while we might be able to be physically present in a conversation and type a text message at the same time, the reality is we are missing out on being mentally present with the person we are having a conversation with. When it comes down to it, our lives are an accumulation of our experiences. There is nothing more. Even the possessions we collect along the way mean nothing if we cant experience them. By multitasking we are cheating ourselves out of fully experiencing the very things we engage with. Human or inanimate, multitasking removes us from being directly engaged and the full experience.

My suggestion is that we keep a time and place for multitasking. I think a few ground rules would serve us well in this regard and here are my top five suggestions:

  • Try not to multitask when interacting with others. Apart from being rude, it robs you of the experience of the interaction.
  • Remind yourself that the value of time is in your experience during that time, not how much you can get done.
  • In business, focus on the task at hand. Set aside time for email, and messages. Don’t be ruled by interruptions of a digital nature.
  • Set aside a technology free day, once a month or once a week if you can manage. It brings about a sense of reality to the connection chaos.
  • Learn to switch off, and take back control on when to be contactable. This way you will be very present in your interactions without distractions.

I have to check my mail now and answer the phone so good luck with the suggestions. Seriously though, once the panic settles and you decide when to multitask, you will be more effective and engaged than ever before. So take back control. Create your life.

Meaning or Money Part II

meaningworkA previous article of mine  “Meaning or Money” drew some interesting and rather fierce criticism. This is great, because I do not write articles with the view that I have the only correct understanding. I write them with an opinion and hope to be challenged if that opinion is not correct or if there are views to add to it. The comments were from the point of view of the individual in the job, and one needs to keep in mind that the article was written as management advice for leading a team. However, these points deserve consideration and comment.

Two of the comments were:

  1. I don’t need to find meaning in my day job. I find meaning in my life after work.
  2. Most people feel a lack of meaning in their lives not from something missing within them but rather from the nature of the  “system” in which they function.

So I have given some thought to these two points and wish to offer some additional comments up for debate.

To point number 1. I would be hard pressed to agree that human beings would prefer to stay in a role that offered no meaning, rather than gravitate towards a position that offered them some meaning and appreciation. Yes, one can derive meaning to their life outside of the workplace. However, keep in mind that we spend almost 70% of our waking hours in this “job”.  To derive meaning only in the remaining 30% seems like a waste. The role you are in at work might not be stimulating, or solving a major world problem, however there are many ways one can improve on the meaning in your daily environment. We need to take control of our own environment and what it means to us, instead of waiting for our managers to create the meaning for us. Examples of this are:

  • Become a mentor for people starting out in the company
  • Look for ways to share your knowledge
  • Gain a better understanding of the role you play and how it fits into the companies big picture
  • Form an interest group at work for furthering the area of expertise you are in
  • Investigate ways to do things better in your role and make suggestions
  • Chat to your manager and ask to be more involved in the business.

Regarding point number 2. which blames the system for a lack of meaning. I feel that we need to acknowledge that business systems do not exist without the individuals that drive them. Therefore, the only way to affect change within these systems, is to change the individuals themselves. My aim in offering these thoughts is to do exactly that. To get people, especially managers, thinking about how they manage their teams. For them to give consideration to the way they treat their staff, and to realise that putting in the extra effort is a win-win scenario. Your staff will be happier, and as a result, more motivated, which will lead to better company profits. Definitely a win-win scenario. So rather than accepting the system for what it is, give thought as to how you can do your bit to change the way it works.

A research project by Dan Airely examined the difference in work output between three groups of people. All groups had to complete some work on a form and hand it in and then complete additional forms in return for payment. Group 1 wrote their name on the form, and were thanked for the work. Group 2 handed in anonymous forms, and group 3 had their forms shredded in front of them as they handed them in. The results showed that group 2 and 3 displayed significantly less motivation for the work and suffered from decreased work output.

This research emphasizes my points above and  highlights three key aspects to meaning.

  1. Acknowledgment
  2. Ownership
  3. A feeling of contribution

These points fall within the control of the manager. However, if you are working for an organization where these are not being addressed then you have the ability to ask for these aspects to change, or change your situation.

The key point is that no one has to accept the status quo in a situation. Whether you are a manager or an employee, we all can do more for others and for ourselves. Don’t wait for others to do it for you. Create your life.

World Cup Focus for Business

With two days to go to the end of the Soccer World Cup, an anticipation of Post World Cup Depression (PWCD) is taking hold of the general population. For the past month South Africa has been gripped by soccer fever. Daily activities have been re-prioritised. In the best of spirits, factions of supporters have arisen in companies, organsations and families. But the biggest aspect that I am scared of losing and will miss most, is the positivity and focus that the World Cup has given South Africa.

While thinking along these lines, I suddenly thought if South Africa was a company and I was the CEO, I would be seriously concerned about the general morale in the company come Monday morning. In additioWorldCupn to this thought was the notion of what have we learned from the World Cup that we could apply to business.

For starters, there is not one person in South Africa that did not feel the “Gees” (vibe/spirit) as the World Cup approached and during the last month. The nation has been focused with a positive energy. This was not only for support of our team (Bafana Bafana) but for ensuring that we excelled as a host nation. Evident by the fact that although the South African team was out in the first stage, the country continued to show their support for the World Cup as a whole.

The lesson here is about focus. It’s about the power of the many when there is a clear goal, a mission, and a vision. It drives home the message of communication to the team, to give clear examples of what we want to achieve and what the outcome looks like. South Africa attained this by media messages. Newspapers, TV, magazines, radio, and Internet sites all communicated what it means to be a host nation, and how we should welcome the people to our country and ensure that the experience is a positive one. Never before have South Africans been so proud to fly our flag, much to the joy of all the Nigerians selling flags at the street corners. Companies should take the example of this and give thought on how to communicate their message is in their own companies. Some ideas are:

  • Does everyone in the company know what the mission and vision of the company is?
  • Is the company mission one that inspires and motivates? If not, perhaps it’s time to revisit this.
  • Is there an example of what awesome company behavior is?
  • How do you communicate and celebrate success in your company?

I think it is evident that with focus and positivity, anything is possible. If you are a manager or leader in your company, give some thought as to how you can focus your company in the same way. Create your own World Cup attitude. Create the “Gees” in your environment.

Coming back to Monday morning’s problem. I feel it essential that on reaching one goal that we celebrate the success, visit the learnings from the experience, and then refocus the country on the next goal. I guess what this will be remains to be seen. Who knows, Olympics 2020? I will be there blowing my Vuvuzela all the way.

So don’t forget to play your part. Celebrate, support, contribute, be involved, lead. Create your life.

Meaning or Money?

If I offered you R2 500 a day to write articles for me, and when you handed them in I just deleted them without even reading them and said thanks, would you take the job? At first glance you might think, “sure, easy money, no stress, where do I sign”. Now, what if I tell you that that is all you are going to do for the next 5, 10 or even 20 years. Does it change your answer? I’m prepared to bet that the majority of people when faced with this question willlifetree not even do the job for more than a month.

I would like to put in a proviso in the above statement that reflects on Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If you are low down on this pyramid you will probably do anything to ensure that your basic needs are met, and would not give a damn if your work is used or not. So, bear in mind that I am talking about people who have jobs, homes, and their basic needs met.

Dan Ariely in his book “The upside of Irrationality”, poses the question of are we merely rats in a maze, wanting to get to the food with the least amount of effort, or is the meaning of the maze more important to us?

In the modern connected work environment, employees are wanting to understand the meaning in their work more and more. They share their experiences on Facebook and Twitter. They tweet about their existence at every opportunity. The resultant effect is a mirror is being held up to their lives that shouts who they are. Self awareness stops being an after hours thought and meaning becomes more important. Hence we are seeing higher levels of dissatisfaction in the workplace than ever before.

The modern manager therefore has a responsibility. This responsibility is to ensure that every member of his/her team understands their position and the role they have to play. He/she needs to manage not only the work output component but also the work perception component. Work perception revolves around all the components about what people think and feel in their jobs. These include but are not limited to: Is my work valued? Am I a member of a winning team? Do people recognise me for who I am in the team? Am I seen as a dispensable component? Today’s manager needs to be able to take all these components into account in order to maximise the value of the team.

The old way of looking at employee productivity stated:

Employee Productivity = High Work Output(WO)

My suggestion is that we re look at this in a holistic view:

Employee Productivity = High Work Output (WO) + High Work Value Perception (WVP)

I would even suggest that a greater focus on Work Value Perception will lead to high work output and that managers should reconsider where they spend most of their time. Spend less time on sales forecasts and more on life forecasts.

Help your team. Create your life!

It’s easy to be a good manager….crap!

fight-or-flight-two-businessmen-arguingIt’s easy to be a good manager. It’s easy to be the boss that everyone likes. It’s even easy to create a winning team. When the economy is good and business is booming, all of this stuff is easy. However, when the economy turns, sales drop off. Decreased sales mean greater competition for the small amount of business that is out there. This all leads to pressure in the system. Unlike good coffee percolators, pressure has a nasty way in companies of flowing down. Most managers, “manage” pressure in the system by distributing it amongst their staff. This is where good managers have a chance to shine. This is where good managers can become great managers.

So, as with everything in life, difficulties come to test us and give us an opportunity to show what we are made of. Corporate life, unfortunately can dehumanise the process. All too often we turn to managing by the way we are managed. If we are screamed at, we scream at our staff. If we are belittled in the board meeting, we turn to belittling our staff in our team meetings. We try and fit into what seems to be the corporate culture of the day. And here lies the opportunity to go from good to great.

In order to turn this around, you as the manager need to be aware. This awareness needs to be in two areas, an external awareness and an internal awareness.

Firstly, externally, be aware of the stress and pressure that your up-line manager (your boss) is under. Understanding his/her emotions in light of this awareness sheds some light on the situation. Empathy makes a world of difference, and an understanding from your side will shift the dynamic. Next, shift inward, you need to understand your own emotions. How do you feel when pressure is placed on you? Do you feel your blood pressure rising? Do you start raising your voice? Can you see things spiraling out of control as tensions increase. Alternatively, do you perhaps shut down? Take it all and show no reaction, saying it does not affect you, and then take it out on your staff, spouse, and the dog when you get home.

The second area of internal awareness is an understanding of what this time of increased stress is doing to you. How do you feel about going into your meetings? Can you feel your agitation? More importantly, how are you managing the stress that is being placed on you? When we realise that we can’t control others emotions, but more importantly we realise we have control over our own emotions, stress has a way of dissipating. We also can control our activities and focus on beneficial stress reducing activities e.g. exercise, deep breathing techniques, and  meditation. These activities raise our resilience to stressful situations.

Lastly, move back to an external focus and give some thought to your staff’s and colleagues emotions. Always work toward the outcome you want to achieve. If you want motivated staff, then you need to keep them motivated and focused. Instead of threats, manage with shared goals and celebrate small achievements. Offer encouragement and explain the pressure in the system and how they can help to alleviate it. Nothing motivates more than seeing the goal and knowing where they are on the road towards it. So find a visual way of depicting this and keep everyone informed. Keep in mind that you need to manage in the way that is effective regardless of how you are managed.

So buck the trend, don’t fall in line and perpetuate the style of the day. If it is not working to motivate you, you can be damn sure it’s not working to motivate your staff either. So take charge of the situation. Create your life.

These internal and external aspects of awareness are the major branches of emotional intelligence. If you would like more information why not book my talk “The Emotional Advantage” for your management team and give your company the competitive edge.