TRUE LIFE: Diaries of a Middle-Manager

So I get asked a lot how do I get my executives on social tools (see here), like Yammer. The people on the ground, the front line LOVE tools like this. Yet what I find most interesting is managing on Enterprise Social tools and what is the role of a manager in a networked community. This is  something I want to dig deeper than just my personal experiences, so if you have research, please share my way.

For a while, if not forever, managers had the role of dissemination of information. Similar to the role of parents to children, teaching their kids about the world in a way they think they should learn, however far away or close to reality that ends up being.

You’ll need to take note. I am a millennial. I manage millennials and Xers. I am managed by a Xer.



You probably also have experienced this as well. Some roles of your organization are shifting. The role of IT. The role of Corp Communication. The role of Learning & Development. The role of Marketing…. To name a few.

I also think the role of the manager is changing as  well in the social space.

And I don’t mean, because I use twitter, I am a better manager (although that might make another good blog post). I mean internally social tools like Yammer break down the dissemination of information in ways that managers have been holding the keys for ages. What is the role of the manager when my CEO can simply read and “like” a message of my direct reports. How does that reflect on me? How does it reflect on them? Is it a good thing? And what does the role look like if my reports can interact with the CEO without my involvement? What DO they need me for?


Three areas for managers to focus —  team, individuals, the company.

  • Team operations – As a manager I have certain things that I liked to do when I attend meetings, as well as when I am participant at meetings. I create a space for us to co-author meeting minutes and notes. No more of everyone take their own notes and someone compile them at the end of the day (and sent over email). I also ask what are my teams “highs and lows” for the week in our Team Yammer group. I do this to see how they are doing and whats going on, what ends up happening is that the lows or the highs spark other conversations. When my team “wins” or does something great, I tag the conversation, this why at the end of the year /quarter or month we can celebrate the team (I used #YES_we_can because the team was the Yammer Education Services aka YES team).
  • Individuals – With allowing people to work out loud on their projects in a variety of groups openly, it allows me to never have to guess what my people are up to. Then during our 1:1s I can follow up on specific conversations or roadblocks and see how I can help remove them to get them to move forward faster. I also use the Praise functionality to give the pat on the back of something small or big, but something worth deserving.
  • The company – By staying connected to a variety of groups that might not be so relevant for my day to day job, it helps me keep an ear to the ground and a heart toward the future of the company. I know and find out things before most people do because I can peer into their groups or spaces and see what they are up to. This allows me to translate and share it with my team on how they should prepare or how our customers will be affected by the other work. As a remote manager this helps me stay connected and virtually walk the halls of other teams and projects.

Your teams need you to serve them. To motivate. To remove and unblock barriers. To help plan and prioritize. And to get into the action, offer up your own hands to get dirty in the work when you need to. Your team needs to be that connecter, and not to stand in the way of connecting the dots for them as they grow and succeed. You need  to help build their networks. And they also need you to get out of the way, and have the opportunity to do it themselves, no matter how much you want to just do it.  And this is amplified in a social networked world. They don’t need you to horde or disseminate the information. If you are like me, my team is educated and has good intention. They don’t need me to be a blocker, they need me to open  the doors and get out of the way. Because at the end of the day, its not about you, it should be about them.


Last week I attended ASTD (Now ATD) International conference and I sat in a session with Marcus Buckingham about performance management. His whole talk revolved around the manager employee relationship. He asked managers to ask their employees early and often: 1. At work, do you have a chance to do your best every day? 2. Do you know what is expected of you? 3. Are you colleagues committed to quality (with the definition of quality varying in each organization and team).  Help your employees find their strengths, focus on their strengths and understand the expectations of the quality that the organization needs. You can’t have this level of conversation without actually knowing your team, and really understanding them for who there are and where they’ve been.


How do you lead? How do you manage people on social networking tools like Yammer? Do you have anything else to add?


A sense of urgency and questions to ask

I have been reading a bunch of books these past few months. One of them I just finished was A Sense of Urgency, by John Kotter.

Kotter explains urgency, but further explains that a false sense of urgency an organization might have is worse than complacency. Running from meeting to meeting and filing your day with activities to make it like you are truly busy busy busy. But, “A false sense of urgency, may be even worse than complacency because it drains needed energy in activity and productivity. (P 6)”. So a false sense of urgency is worse than complacency.

So what are you personally currently complacent about? Where has your organization grown complacent? Does your organization have a false sense of urgency?

Kotter clarifies that a sense of urgency is actually more feeling than it is intellect. “Underlying a true sense of urgency is a set of feelings: a compulsive determination to move and win, now.” … “Feelings are more influential than thoughts.” … “Great leaders win over the hearts and minds of others”… “Great leaders win the minds and hearts of others. Heart comes first.” (p. 45). Kotter further explains, “Our brains are programmed much more for stories than for PowerPoint slides and abstracts ideas. Stories with a little drama seem to be enjoyed by our feelings and, more importantly, are remembered far longer than any dry slide filled with analytics. (p. 54)”

How can you create stories around the issue at hand to create a sense of urgency? What personal stories can you use professionally to create the sense of urgency your organization needs today?

Kotter says, “With a culture of urgency, people deeply value the capacity to grab new opportunities, avoid new hazards, and continually find ways to win. Behaviors that are the norm include being constantly alert, focusing externally, moving fast, stopping low-value-added activities that absorb time and effort, relentlessly pushing for change when it is needed and providing the leadership to produce smart change no matter where you are in the hierarchy… Create the behaviors you want (p. 185).”

What about your organization culture, does it have a culture of real urgency?

“Focus on quick and easy…. Be opportunistic. Try something… Whatever you do, look for feedback. If an action does not help, abandon it. If it works well, consider doing more. Make something happen….  Raise the culture question: “Is the way we do things around here a barrier to ____?” (p.190-191)

In your organization, where can you focus on the quick and easy to build a sense of urgency?

I am going to continue to dive into some of the tactics in this book a bit deeper in blog posts in the future. This is just to get you thinking about change…

Read more: The Biggest Mistake Kotter sees

Helicopter Parents

I had an amazing opportunity to speak to a group of learning professionals last Friday.  Anyways – I will write another post on that – however, during the Q&A panel time after the presentations someone asked me a question similar to this.

“Your generation has helicopter parents. Parents, who had a voice in College when things didn’t work out their way because they were footing the bill. Parents who have hovered over their child’s first real job and the employers  negotiating salary, benefits and responsibility. What do you do when the helicopter parents are now involved the HR discussions about complaints filed against their child?”

My jaw dropped. I had no idea what to say. Thankfully one of the other panelist had a really good answer until I could come up with something. However, I still don’t have any really good answer. I hadn’t heard of this before.

But what I did say, was I am embarrassed for that “child”. How could they do that to themselves? Did they know what that made them look like on the job? What was their motive behind getting their parent involved?  When were the parents going to learn that they were sheltering their child – and not letting themselves stand alone and be responsible for their performance and behaviors – was actually a really bad thing; for their child and his or her career.  And if the parent was always their to save and protect the child – whose fault is it? The child – for letting this unacceptable adult behavior go on – or the adult for never letting go of their child – giving them the chance to actually make mistakes, learn from them and grow up.

Personally, it was a great day for me when I was finally financially free from my parents. I haven’t looked back. And if my parents did that I would be ashamed and embarrassed. I love my parents but so glad they have not helicopter’ed me until the grave

So whats really going on? I don’t have any real insight or real stories but would like to see if anyone else has seen this happen?

Any helicopter parents out there? Would love to hear your side to this?

And any adult children out there – who have helicopter parents – interfering with their careers? Or who feel safe with their parents protection?

I would love to know more about what’s actually going on in the workplace with this…