Archive for June 2011

Empower Your Direct Reports By Setting Boundaries

June 24, 2011

No competent leader consciously micromanages or controls their direct reports’ activities.  Most leaders truly believe they give their direct reports ample autonomy to do their jobs.  Why is it then that most direct reports feel their managers don’t give them the independence they need to do their jobs effectively?  It’s because sub-consciously leaders are reluctant to empower their direct reports and tend to micromanage without recognizing it.

Dr. James Dobson in Dare to Discipline relates the study where social psychologists observed elementary school children in a playground protected by a high fence. The children ran with abandon, playing joyfully within the confines of the fence, unaware and unworried about the busy street just a few feet from the play area. Some theorists decided that the fence was too restrictive, that it inhibited the children, and that they should have more freedom. So, the fence came down.

When the children entered the playground the next day, instead of running with their previous abandon, they tended to huddle together at the center of the play area. Unsure of their limits, they appeared insecure and fearful.

Empowerment works the same way.  Leaders need to consciously define and communicate the boundaries of their direct reports’ tasks, get out of the way, and the direct reports will use their whole playground.  There are four boundaries we suggest the leader establish:

  1. expectations – what does success look like;
  2. resources – people, processes, budgeting available;
  3. timeframes – hours, deadlines, check-in points;
  4. restrictions – budgets, authority level, non-negotiables.

Consciously empower your direct reports by giving them the tools and boundaries to do their jobs, step a side, and you’ll both be more successful.

Job Definitions Should Be A Group Undertaking

June 19, 2011

As a leader you are constantly struggling to find time for the important but not urgent activities.  One of those activities is creating and updating the job descriptions/accountabilities for each of your direct reports.  Though HR or your direct reports may help, you need to take the lead for managing this critical leadership tool.

When creating or updating the job description/accountabilities (they should be updating it at least annually), it is important to get input from the key people interacting with the job.  These “stakeholders” might include the job’s incumbent, direct reports, peers, your peers, customers, or your boss.

Engaging all these stakeholders in defining the job creates “buy-in” and makes it much easier for your direct report to do the job.  Because everyone understands the challenges and expectations of the job, support is offered that would not necessary have been provide without an appreciation for the job’s complexity.

Empower your direct reports by having the key people they interact with help define their job, and your team will experience much success.

Increase Your Question To Statement Ratio

June 11, 2011

When communicating and giving feedback, we encourage leaders use questions rather than statements for a number of reasons.

When leaders ask questions and solicit solutions, they gain commitment to the execution of that solution since the direct report feels empowered.   Secondly, they expand the direct report’s critical thinking ability when they ask questions, probe for answers, outcomes, and long term ramifications.

In Jim Collins’ new book, “How the Mighty Fall,” he stresses the importance of your question to statement ratio suggesting you appoint someone in a team meeting to track how many statements you make and how many questions you ask.  Then he suggests you systematically try to increase the number of questions to double that ratio over the period of one year

Empower your direct reports by using questions to increase critical thinking and problem solving ability throughout your organization.

A Person’s First Boss Is Critical To That Person’s Development

June 6, 2011
Too many of us had bad first bosses, and we saw all kinds of behaviors that, without context, we assumed were “boss behaviors.” That means that our paradigm of how we look at bosses was flawed. All bosses were mean. All bosses were petty about their power. All bosses gave no guidance or feedback.

That may sound harsh. But if those comments described your first boss, you only had a sample size of one. Your first boss was “all” bosses. Your brain naturally helped you out, by storing away a belief, leading to a paradigm, that made “all” bosses that way.

What can leaders do? If you’re a boss with first-time professionals, make sure you’re doing it right. Develop your relationships, give plenty of professional performance feedback, and develop them. Find out what they’re good at and make sure they do a lot of it.

You’ve probably heard a lot about young professionals needing more coddling today. It’s not true. Get to know each one of them, individually, rather than accepting some gross generalization. Expect them to perform at high levels. Tell them when they do so. Tell them when they don’t.

Empower your first-time professionals to reach their potential and you’ll both experience much success.