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.

 

YES TEAM

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?

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Rock and Role – What’s our roll look like in the future?

I know I just used the wrong type of “rolls” in the title. I always get a kick out of people when they use the wrong roll, role or wear and where, and hare and hair. I mean I think sometimes I am a bit dyslexic too. I can hardly spell  – but I think its because I have grown up in the spell check era – and anything that I have constantly spelled wrong, has been auto-corrected for me and I don’t know the RIGHT (or write) way to actually spell it (or sometimes it corrects itself!).

Anyways that was a tangent  – but I have been thinking a lot lately, mostly because it’s been the topic of a few different discussions and communities of practice about the ROLE of Learning and Development.

A few weeks ago, I was in a lunch meeting with a very intelligent man in the communications area of a huge R&D company. We talked about how his teams were struggling with their jobs – not in the fact that they weren’t doing them but they were realizing that they had lost control of the message. The real question is – did they ever really control it? I think the same goes for L&D  – when did this shift happen, or did we ever have control?   Were people not going and getting their own information when we didn’t have a formal class on the subject? Honestly, I think they were getting information elsewhere.

I haven’t worked in L&D for really that long – almost 3 years actually – so honestly who is to say that I really knew what the ROLE looked like – however I do want to have an impact in the way it looks in the future… But what do I want it to look like in the future? I really don’t KNOW. Does anyone? If you do, fill me in.

What do I wish that this role looks like in the future? Facilitator of behavioral change.  Now thats a BIG job. Training is a basic building block for change, but its not the only thing that facilitates change. “Training” comes in all sorts and sizes and methods. Social, informal, on the job, just in time, classroom, lecture, workshop, webinar, webcasts, sessions, presentations, activities are just the beginning. I think the role of L&D professionals is going to have to help the business facilitate change. And work WITH them to figure out what the best methods are to combat resistance and to get people on board to head down the path to success.  Also I know that training is not always the solution and you have to be armed and ready for people who think that training should be able to solve everything.

For example, a recent conversation with my new manager went like this:

me “People need basic training on our product.”

manager “ok – lets make a video blog. “

me “uh? no. thats not really… ” and I lost the attention of my manager.

He wants a quick fix. And unfortunately there isn’t one.  Sorry. Change is hard. Getting people to switch from one thing they are used to and to do something different is really hard. To say that a video blog is going to train them, isn’t really THE solution. (what the heck is a video blog anyways??) This may be apart of the solution. But back up and let’s figure out what the problem is first. And I don’t think there is a one size fits all type of solution for my role. I do know adults (myself included) like to get their hands dirty  rather than listen to someone talk through 40 slides.

So in my own honest opinion some key things we will need for future for this role is:

  • Change Management background, skills, knowledge and anything else related to change
  • Having an open mind – without limiting to what people may need
  • Communication skills
  • Business acumen and business process knowledge.  I am not an expert by any means but the time I spent learning Purchasing, Customer Service, Manufacturing, Accounts Receivable and General Ledger stuff has proved invaluable. You have to know the business and different areas. No question about it.
  • Planning – get the bigger picture down on paper – but be OK if it needs to tweaked or adjusted.
  • Technology savvy. There is really no way around this, it has become an expectation, especially in social media.
What about you? What skills do you think are needed for the L&D role in the future?

Are you World Class or Well-Rounded?

So my husband and I are taking Financial Peace University – by Dave Ramsey. Its changing the way we view – money, debt, life, goals – you name it he has talked about it. Its something that isn’t taught in business school. If you are like me, I didn’t learn it from my parents (more or less, I learned what not to do). But since we are newly wedded, and we know that a lot of marriages end because of money issues – we were being proactive. (note: he always wears the same outfit.) Anyways – NOT the point of this post.

He talks about using your strength to do something that you, uniquely can do better than anyone else.  His stories he shares, about how parents push their children to figure out weaknesses and to help strengthen them… almost instead of building and continuing to build their strengths. Like, if you always wanted your son to be an engineer, but he always got a D in math – but straight A’s on everything else.. maybe he isn’t cut out to be the engineer after all.

Anyways -he talks a lot about being “well rounded” – just means you are OK at a bunch of things.

But you need not to be well rounded, but World Class.

Wow. That stuck out to me. World Class, eh? What in the world, do I do better than anyone in this world?  And how can I use that micro-niche to figure out how to scale it to the world that is looking for it?

What do you think?  Do you think its more important to be world class or well rounded? Well rounded-ness is what they teach you in College – that’s why you have to take Astronomy when you are studying Accounting. Or I took – Phsyics of Light and Color. Well-rounded – my a** – I hated that class and I was well aware that science, is not one of my strengths – so I knew it was not going to end well (Thankfully for a huge curve and answered prayers, I passed. I don’t remember anything I learned btw).

I believe that our companies – should be working more towards our strengths – acknowledge the weaknesses and figure out what the gaps are and fill those gaps with people and tools with that strength. What is the Learning and Development and Training Department’s role in all this?  Where do we fit in, with helping associates and managers figure this out? Or is that of someone else responsibility?

I would say – I am world class networker, and very resourceful. If I don’t know/have it personally – give me 30 seconds to think of someone who does, or who will know someone that does. It happens DAILY in my job. It happened all the time while I was in College, and before.  I have to be in the know – and I love knowing.

So I think I am aware what I do really well, and what I don’t do well – and currently, I am working with my manager to figure out how to play to my strengths – while still attending to those things I don’t do exceptionally well – but leveraging the resources that are available to me to get those other things done.

Some of these books were mentioned to read and I am very interested in getting my hands into some of these. Let me know if you read them and your thoughts!

The Dip by Seth Godin

48 Days to the Work You Love , and No More Mondays- Dan Miller

Purple Cow by Seth Godin

Good to Great – Jim Collins