The Good Manager

Okay, so it you are reading this and you’ve found it printed and placed on your desk anonymously, somebody wants to send you a message. I suggest strongly you read the entire piece first and then after having read it, be honest with yourself and ask why it was put on your desk, not who put it on your desk.

You’re to be congratulated first of all on obtaining your role as a Manager of people. This is a position of immense responsibility. What you have done to obtain this differs from person to person, from business to business – but you are here now. Well done.

As you look to move higher on the organizational chart, I hope you are aware of the need to advance your career by taking care of those BELOW you in the chart with care, compassion, supportive guidance and leadership. It is your responsibility alone to determine how you can best provide your subordinates with the tools necessary to succeed in their various positions, and likewise, to discuss with your staff their hopes, their dreams, their ambitions and do what you can to mentor them, guide them and help them along.

Small Supervisors and Managers tend to belittle their employees, hold them back, micromanage them, make sure they never miss an opportunity to embarrass or correct them in public, and refrain from publicly or privately giving praise and thanks for jobs well done. Some companies rely on commissions, bonuses, rewards etc. to motivate their employees to excel, with the idea that people are motivated to do better with money. While that is nice, when recessionary times hit, and financial incentives are clawed back or eliminated, how then do you motivate your staff when you need them at their best to get through tough times?

Good Managers know that people are their companies most valuable resource. It stands to reason then that Good Managers recognize and reward their employees with praise, acknowledgement, words of thanks – and all done in ways that motivate people individually. If your employee thrives in the limelight, recognize her in front of her peers. If your employee is truly modest, do so in private.

Good Managers know that the best way to advance their own career is to advance the careers of others. To influence for good those over whom they have a measure of responsibility. They sit down and LISTEN to their employees talk about where they want to go in the company, what strengths they feel they have, and areas they would like to work on. Good Managers take this valuable information and put their staff in situations where they are most likely to succeed. Good Managers ensure that staff have skilled, motivated and creative co-workers around them in order to get the most out of their team.

Unfortunately, the poorest Managers are those who feel the way to advance their own careers is to step on and over those around them. Poor Managers are some times embittered; recognizing their own shortcomings and when they see bright, hopeful, inspired people in their teams, seek to humiliate, depress and hold back these employees in some perverted way of making themselves feel elevated and superior. These are small managers (no capital intended). The best Managers can only shake their heads and wonder how on earth so-and-so got to the same position they did!

I challenge you then Manager of people, be you a Good Manager or a poor manager, to after having read this blog, sit back and digest it for a few moments – longer if you need it, and then take some positive action with those on your teams. Do something that recognizes their strengths, that shows some compassion for your fellow employees.

Sit down with your employees one by one and talk about their future with genuine interest. What can YOU DO to help advance their career? What projects, what responsibilities, what programs would they most like to work on that would fuel their creative juicies, motivate them to succeed, and really make them genuinely appreciative of YOU as their Manager.

The best Managers recognize this as the principle of SERVANT LEADERSHIP. There is nothing demeaning in the term servant. What it implies is that the Manager is acknowledged by all to be highe up on the organizational chart by the employees down below, BUT the actions of the Manager are to support those beneath them, and put them in places to succeed with all the necessary skills they need to do the job at hand. That Manager in turn, is supported and helped by their Superior District Manager, Program Director etc. and so on.

Helping out your subordinate employees to be the best they can be by creating an atmosphere that is positive to work in is not only going to improve your bottom line, it’s the right thing to do ethically. Why? Because we are all people. There is a great Italian proverb that reads, “At the end of the game, the King and the Pawn return to the same box”. There is value in everyone, and the BEST MANAGERS recognize that and live it.  

Unemployed? Multiple Job Offers Are Coming Your Way!

One of the most frustrating things about being unemployed is that you know your strengths and skills are good enough to compete successfully for jobs. IF ONLY THEY WOULD GIVE YOU A CHANCE TO PROVE YOURSELF! What’s really being voiced of course is the loss of control over your own life. Somebody else needs to see in you what you know is there, and be willing believe in your ability to deliver to the point where they offer you a job.

What an employer who presents a job offer is doing is bringing someone into their organization who can help the organization be successful. Of course to you the job seeker, what they are really doing is giving you the helping hand to get back your self esteem, your independence, and your dignity. Depending how long your unemployment has been, you may feel such gratitude that you make a commitment to repay that vote of confidence with a high level of dedication and heightened work ethic. You may even have a greater appreciation for those who are unemployed than you used to have etc.

Oh right, about those multiple job offers…

What often happens is that job seekers go through a period of time when they send out multiple job applications with very few interviews forthcoming, and then once you get one, you find you’re getting several calls to come in and have an interview. Sometimes we go for the first interview and accept a job offer because we’ve had no luck for ages and then after a week on the job (or less!) we get more calls asking us to come in for an interview. Why does this happen?

First of all, you have to think about the volume of resumes and cover letters you send out. When you send out a single resume / cover letter, you have a limited opportunity to get that hit, but with each additional application, your odds of getting an interview increases. This is why in a competitive job market, it is important to have both quality of application AND quantity. You need to get a lot of applications out there. It stands to reason then that with a large number of applications out there, you’re eventually going to get more favourable results.

This can be so reaffirming – hey there’s more than one employer out there that thinks I might have what it takes – “I’m back in the game baby!” The down side of this potential flurry of interest in you after such a long time of rejection is the stress it may inadvertently cause you. The stress might be coming from your sense of loyalty and appreciation to the company who first offered you a job – one you may have already accepted – and the knowledge that perhaps the latest offer of an interview comes from a company paying more, or more in line with what you really want to do. So what are you to do?

Deciding what to do is different for each individual. My very general advice is to think long term. What position would you really be happiest in, and what would offer the best job security? After all, you don’t want a short term job that will have you back unemployed anytime soon – if ever! Sometimes it’s also good to think beyond the initial job offer. Will the job result in an increase in hourly wages after 3 or 6 months that would be acceptable even if the first 3 to 6 months will be a tough go? Do beneifts kick in after a year? Maybe these are good reasons to think long term and take a job that in the short term isn’t as attractive.

In short – Don’t get discouraged! Resolve to have more good days than bad days. Keep your mind focused on obtaining that dream job. What does it look like? How will it feel when you get that next job offer? Get a lot of quality resumes into the hands of employers to review. Network! Get connected. Build up your list of references. Keep lines of communication open. Ask for help – it’s a strength not a weakness. Appreciate the help you get and thank those who help you out. Help out others in anyway you can.

Multiple job offers? For You? WHY NOT?

Why Do You Want To Work Here?

During the interview, you might be asked why you want to work for the employer. Even if the question isn’t specifically phrased, I suggest you make sure  before you shake hands and walk out the door, you go out of your way to express why you not only want to work in the field you do, but for this one very specific employer. So look at why.

First of all, stating why you want to work for an employer gives you a chance to elaborate on what you know about the employer from your research and if you have done your homework well, you can stress how there are strong connectiions and similarities between the company and yourself. This is where your values, beliefs, ideas and ideals can come out and into the conversation.

When you demonstrate your research into the company, the interviewer gets a good idea of how much (or how little) you will invest yourself into learning about other facets of the job if they are to hire you. After all, if the job is important to you, you would do well to be motivated enough to put some effort into this quesiton. Even if you are applying to an entry level position at a hamburger chain, you should know a bit about the company beyond the fact that they make burgers! How many years have they been in business? Where is their head office? Who is/are the founders of the company? How many offices/branches do they have? Are they international, regional, provincial, national or a mom and pop operation?

Some of the reasons you might want to work for the company? Perhaps it’s their sustainability, their solid reputation for quality, their community involvement, their emphasis on excellent customer service or their vlaues and mission statement.

Do not state you want to work for them because they are on your bus route and you hear they pay well and have a good benefit plan! While this might be true, interviewers want to hire you because of what you will bring to company and do for them; because yes, it’s all about them!

You may be looking at the interview as a chance to get the job, but the interviewer might be looking at the interview as a process to rule people out! Know why you want to work for the employer and answer the question with assurance, confidence and pleasure. Your entire body should convey positive anticipation at the prospect of working for the company and the question should be a welcome one – one you anticipated being asked.


Teach Me Something You Know

Try this in the next day or so. Go up to a colleague or even better a subordinate and ask them to teach you something. If you are unemployed, ask a friend, person in business or maybe someone in the area of Job Coaching to teach you something.

If they ask you what you want to learn you have two options: 1) Ask them to show or tell you anyting, or B) ask them about something specifically they do or know that you would benefit from.. People are usually flattered to be asked to share knowledge about anything they are good at or passionate about. You yourself will be thought of as someone who is interested and inquisitive and best of all, someone who wants to learn something who doesn’t think they know it all!

Learning from others is a great way to network. No matter what the subject is when they are sharing their information, concentrate on HOW they present the information. What can you take from their non-verbal body language, what about their passion or interest in the subject, do they speak with confidence or do they seem disinterested? When you are talking with others, what can you learn from this interaction that you can take to those future conversations? Learning from how others deliver information, and gauging your own reactions and interest will serve you well when you are pitching information, sharing what you know, or speaking about yourself in an interview. Pick up on others strengths. Do they smile often? Do they emphasize their points with fluctuations in they voice? Do they make solid eye contact, or do they use props, computers, whiteboards, paper and pen etc. to visual present an idea? What methods can you use yourself that you’d be comfortable with in order to become a more effective speaker.

Learning new things is a great way to keep your own brain active, remain open to new ways of learning, and maybe even become more productive by working smarter and faster. People appreciate being asked to share their skills and interests. So what might you ask somebody? Well, here are some ideas to get you started:

1) One or two short cut keys on the keyboard

2) How to use a feature on job specific software that you have been avoiding

3) Some aspect of the person’s job which is not a function of your own job

4) Social Media technology

5) Their personal philosophy

6) A favourite quote,

7) The premise of their favourite book, novel or film

8) About presentations, facilitation

9) About networking, self – promotion

10) About ongoing learning and positioning yourself for advancement

No matter who you ask, make sure at the end you thank them for taking an interest in helping you out. If they tell you “No probem – anytime!” Take that invitation seriously as their persmission to seek them out in the future.

Know Your Current Events

Remember back in school….maybe it was all the way back through the mists of time to your public school days….and in one of those classes you had a Current Events time slot. The teacher would rattle on about learning about things happening in your world. Some poor sucker would then go up to the front of the room and pin-up his newspaper clipping, and then some other soul would prance up to the front and recite something she had heard on the radio over last nights dinner.

Fast track back to 2012. I’m the one telling you that you should spend at least part of everyday listening to the news on the radio or browse the internet and check out one or two things happening in the world around you. Why?

The reason is this; the world is so interconnected and smaller these days because of the media that when you meet other people and engage in small talk, you’re going to appear ignorant of what’s going on if you don’t know at least one or two things that are happening. If you don’t keep up with current events, you’ll be seen as one-dimensional, knowledgeable about your job responsibilities and that’s about it. People however like to chit-chat and schmooze a little before getting down to business. If it’s interesting to your customers, your clients, your suppliers, your Supervisors, your Directors, it might be in your best interests to know enough to nod intelligently and say, “Yes I heard something interesting just last night about that”.

When you appear knowledgeable about a number of things, there is a transfer of assumption that you are up on the latest and greatest, and your credibility in your own subject area likewise rises as it is assumed you are up on the latest and greatest in your field too. That’s an advantage to you.

So what kind of things might you know at least a little about in May of 2012? Here’s some suggestions from around the old globe:

  • Egyptian democratic elections being held for the first time – ever.
  • European financial debacle especially in Greece
  • Student protests over tuition and legislation reaches over 100 days in Montreal Canada.
  • England’s Queen Elizabeth is in her diamond jubilee this year.

In addition to the big things around the globe, you should also know a thing or two about what’s happening closer to home in your country, in your province or state, and in your city, town, or community. In Ontario Canada where I live for example, I could chat briefly about these things that are in the news at the moment:

  • Toll highway is being extended all the way to the 35/115 by 2020 which was announced yesterday.
  • Severe dry conditions in the near north have led to numerous wildfires and rain is badly needed.
  • The penny is no longer in production and Canadians are encouraged to donate theirs to charities.
  • The City of Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway has had 3 pieces of concrete fall in the last two weeks.

When you are standing around the old water cooler with co-workers, or just being introduced to a new business contact, or maybe even just settling down in the reception area for your job interview, these are the moments when your knowledge of world and local events can be pulled out and get you connecting with others. Aside from being useful to advance yourself, it’s just one way of being viewed as somebody who is up on things.

So listen to the news at least once a day, which will take about 7 minutes.  Read a paper – the front section instead of only the comics (although there are some good cartoons sometimes worth sharing there too). Whether in the car, on your smart phone, your laptop, PC, TV or otherwise, get connected.

Others will be surprised how much you know about things and you might just come to appreciate what that public school teacher was trying to get at all those years ago!

Describe Your Conflict Resolution Style?

Let’s have a look at this question you might be asked in a job interview and the reason behind it. I mean, what is the employer REALLY asking here and why?

First of all, you should do some research on the subject of conflict resolution if you didn’t even know there are different conflict resolution styles in the first place. That aside, there are a number of people who have made their reputation on resolving conflict in a very one-dimensional way. These folks are recruited by some organizations to put out fires in organizations, usually brought in for a very short-term with a clear mandate. Organizations do not keep these people on permanently because it is recognized that their style is not meet the long-term needs of the company.

Then there are the majority of people, yourself likely included, who recognize that in your daily work, you use a variety of conflict resolution styles to address problems and use your best judgement to determine which is the most appropriate given the situation. To illustrate this, let’s say your thinking that the best answer to the question is to say you like to look at conflict from different points of view, consult with others to get their input, and seek win – win situations by implementing a resolution that is well thought out and planned. Good answer – sometimes but not every time. Should a fire break out, you need somebody to take control, issue commands and hustle people to safety. There’s no time to consult with others, ask everyone what their point of view is etc. GET OUT NOW!

Interviewers might be asking this question because the nature of the workplace and the proximity of the workers in it often creates conflict, and the employer wants to ensure that the productivity doesn’t drop and that people despite their differences, can still work effectively together. The employer knows one key thing you don’t; the employer knows those you may be working with, and is looking for someone to ‘fit’ in with those workers so that the chemistry is conducive to working well together.

How well your interpersonal skills are developed, or conversely how green you are in this area, will impact on your skills in conflict resolution, as will the number of individuals you will be working with in a position. Obviously if you are going to be working largely in an isolated area with very little people contact, the chances of engaging in conflict with others is reduced. Work in a situation where you will engage all day long with customers, co-workers and clients, and the likelihood of conflict arising increases.

By the way, when you get around to answering this question in an interview, don’t tell an employer what you WOULD do in any given situation, tell them what you HAVE done in past situations. After all, how you have acted in the past will likely be how you are going to react in the future. Use a situation from your past where you resolved conflict with a co-worker or Supervisor, and how that situation was resolved with a positive result. That’s the bottom line of this answer – it has to end positively with strengthened relationships, maintained or increased productivity, so that the bottom line is achieved.

I once heard a person answer this question by stating how they just asked the person they were having conflict with to step outside and proceeded to punch him in the face. As the sentence ended, the same person smiled as if  the answer they gave was awesome. Sure the situation was resolved quickly – but at what cost? Physical violence is not in vogue. Lawsuits, shut downs, lost productivity, distracted workers, investigations – who needs all that today?

Show your skills in this answer and back them up with an example or two which paint you favourably. Everyone has conflict from time to time – saying you never have conflict with anyone is unrealistic and will show the employer you either aren’t being honest, you don’t know yourself well, or you’re hiding something.

Meaningful vs. Meanial Work

Does the value of the work you perform on a daily basis have a high importance for you, or are you satisfied to be compensated for the work you do only?

The interesting thing about this question is there is no universally accepted definition of what makes work meaningful. Two workers who produce and package nuts and bolts for a living may have very different ideas of whether their work is work of high value. While they aren’t putting out fires, resucing babies or curing cancer, the argument could very well be made that for at least one of them, there is a great deal of satisfaction knowing that the product they make is needed and required by some homeowner, contractor or businessman out there, and without their diligence, the bolt will be mis-sized and not work properly. Maybe for the second fellow, “Hey it’s a bolt; a bolt! Nothing to write home about!”.

Whether your work is meaningful to you is important to you if you choose to see it that way. It’s not a stretch to imagine that if you find your work meaningful and rewarding you’ll enjoy the workplace more, coming to work will be something to look forward to rather than a drudgery, and this will affect your attendance, your attitude, and your disposition. You only have to look at others who find their work less than meaningful to see their attitudes change on the day of the week. You know the type who dread Mondays when it’s only Sunday, try just to survive until Wednesday, and then talk about the big weekend coming on Saturday like it’s all they have to hold on to. Seems kind of sad to me to live that way, because half your week is really just being hopeful for something that is yet to come and by the time it does, you’re already looking past it to something.

In order for your work to be meaningful, it should be a good fit with your personal values and beliefs, and at the end of the day you should be able to be proud with the work that you do, which enhances your self esteem. This is so critical due to the length of time you spend at work during any given week. You can usually hear the enthusiasm and pride in the voice of people who feel that their work has real meaning for them. Sometimes it will come across as passion, pride, and their body language will change as they have real interest in sharing their work stories with you.

The perfect job? Well the perfect job for most is described as doing something that has real meaning and brings them happiness in addition to providing financial security. Still, this definition isn’t for everyone either, and I realize that. The fact that we are all different means we all share different values.

There are very few if any jobs out there that NO ONE sees as having some value. Oh sure we can find jokes to make about some professions having no value, but in all seriousness, some people attach value to those jobs or they would be obsolete. Menial work is often described as the work some perform just for the security of the pay and nothing else. I would hope that before settling for a job that provided nothing more than a pay cheque, everyone would explore and find employment doing work they attach value to. But again, that’s just me!