Posts Tagged ‘ Listening ’

If You Were a First Time Manager Again, What Would You Do Differently?

As we grow and learn as human beings we come across things in life which make us wonder how different things could have been if we knew then, what we know now. Working for a leadership company now, I often think about my first time manager role and how I really wasn’t as good of a manager as I could/should have been.  I wasn’t equipped with the right skills that I needed.

I want to share with you my experience about becoming a first time manager, here goes…..

I was 21 years old and worked for a very well known UK bank insurance call center,  I managed a team of 10-15 employees. I had previously worked as part of this team before I went to university and during  my holidays, so the team were my friends. I climbed up the ranks from individual contributor to team lead. When I became a manager of the team, needless to say things changed.  I was still everyone’s friend and I still went out with my close friends on the team Saturday nights, but at work there was a bit of “them versus me.” When people were performing I thought things were great, but when they weren’t being a first time manager was really tough. I remember many a night, going home and crying wondering what I had done to deserve people being so horrible to me, and thinking I never want to be a manager again.

Looking back, I brought some of it on myself. Below are some of the mistakes I made…..

  • I thought I needed to have all of the answers
  • I thought I needed to be authoritative and hard otherwise people wouldn’t respect me
  • I followed all of the rules & guidelines the company set to the T, 100% of the time
  • I never really listened or was open to be persuaded
  • I shied away from conflict, until it blew up in my face
  • The company set the goals which were very day-to-day focused, e.g., call handling times, etc. I never as a manager set any long term goals for my team or development goals, I simply followed the script, mainly because I didn’t know any different.
  • We didn’t celebrate achievements enough.

Knowing what I know now, there are lots of things I would have done differently in my first time manager role. I won’t write them all, because I could be here for days but I’ve noted just a few a below.

  • Breathe – You don’t have to answer everybody’s questions straight away. Take five minutes to reflect and stay calm even when stressed.
  • Listen – Not just for the sake of letting others talk, but really listen to what people are saying. Be open to being persuaded.
  • I wouldn’t have pretended to be something I wasn’t. I am not hard faced and authoritative, quite the opposite. People see through masks, I would have told my truth about who I am, and what I expect from the team.
  • I would have set clear expectations and goals for my team, to help them grow and develop. Worked hard to create growth opportunities for my team.
  • I would have told myself – Don’t take things so personally! I know that’s easier said than done but I used to beat myself up about not being everything to everyone. Remember you are only human.
  • When things weren’t going to plan with the team or team member, I would’ve dealt with the situation there and then and thought about my words very carefully. Asked them about what went wrong, ensure no judgement or blame.
  • Asked for help. Quite often in life, we are ashamed to ask for help. I don’t know why, because everyone in life at some point needs direction and or support.

My experience of being a first time manager, and feeling completely overwhelmed happens all of the time. People are promoted because they are good at what they do, many forget that a manager’s role requires a completely different skill set to that of an individual contributor.

What would you have done differently in your first time manager role?  Or if you haven’t been a manager yet, but looking to become one, what is your greatest concern about being a first time manager?

Sarah-Jane Kenny – EMEA Channel Solutions Consultant at the Ken Blanchard Companies

Listening – Easy Right!?

Ever been in a really bad mood , you air some frustration and everyone wants to give you advice? You don’t want to hear about what ‘they would have done ‘or ‘in their experience’. Sometimes you just want to vent and be heard.

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Not sure whether it is because I am an extrovert or that I love the sound of my own voice (probably a bit of both),  but I just can’t help but talk. When someone tells me a problem, I find a way of talking about myself and my experiences. I try so hard to stop myself but it just comes out. I am not alone I pick up on a lot of others doing exactly the same. I am not a natural listener,  but I do try and make a conscious effort when listening. I find the below help’s gear me in the right direction.

When you are listening

  • Listen intently and ask yourself what are they asking from you? Sometimes people just need to air their thoughts, sometimes they want some direction from you.
  • Make it about them not you! Ask questions to get a better understanding, show you are listening.
  • Only speak and share your experiences if it adds value to them. Think, is what you’re about to say going to add value or is it just a way for you to talk about yourself.

When you want to be listened to

  • Firstly no one is going to be able to listen attentively to someone who is highly emotional and talks all the time. Emotions can alter the way people listen to you. So if something has immediately annoyed you, take 10 minutes to gather your thoughts before talking about it.
  • What do you want to achieve from the conversation? – Tell the person you are speaking too ie.) ‘I just need to vent’, or ‘I need your advice’.
  • Ever been in a meeting , walked out and forgotten to say something really important. Write down a couple of key bullet points that you want to discuss to make sure you don’t miss something out.

One last tip – With the world at our fingertips it’s easy to get distracted and try and http://cliparts.co/cell-phone-clip-artmultitask when someone is talking to you. Don’t do it. There is nothing worse than talking to someone and they are typing away or checking their phone. It’s just rude.

Listening isn’t easy, the first step is awareness: Ask yourself, colleagues, friends and family – Are you a good listener?

Sarah-Jane Kenny – Channel Solutions Consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies

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The Look of Ethical Leadership

Call me idealistic, but I want more from Gen X and Gen Y when it comes to leadership. I want to see us go beyond the standard leadership stereotypes to something more global, accepting, and inclusive. To encourage non-typical leadership types to emerge and develop.

Can you imagine what it might look like if high-potentials weren’t chosen based on how well they fit the corporate image, but instead on how well they treat others? Have we gone overboard with making sure leaders present themselves a certain way as seen in the following video?

Sure, they all have the right corporate image, but is that what the leader of the future should be? What if these guys in the following video were the most ethical leaders you would ever met…

What about those people you work with right now who might not say the right corporate buzz-words, wear the right clothes, or graduate from the right schools?

What if instead, true leaders naturally emerge because everyone whom they come into contact with experiences a solid trustworthy person. When faced with the decision between right or wrong without hesitation he or she takes the ethical high-road. They might not have the right hair, but go out of their way to give credit to the entry-level employee with the bright idea that just made the company millions.

Maybe leadership looks more like the quiet co-worker who detests public speaking and back-to-back meetings, but whose character is unmistakable. Maybe it’s the guy who knows nothing about golf and can’t stand wearing polo shirts or it’s the girl who really doesn’t want to hide her tattoo because it’s part of who she is.

The Look of Ethical LeadershipWhat if tomorrow’s leaders are more about the inside than the outside? Less about the look and more about how they make you feel. Can you imagine? What if tomorrow’s leaders make good decisions, treat people well, and have brilliant ideas, but don’t look or sound the part.

I realize that in a global context, defining what it means to be an ethical leader will differ slightly, but the idealist in me once again asks whether we can move to a broader view of what an ethical leader should look like…

…to a leader who treats others with respect at every given opportunity, someone who is inclusive in encouraging dissenting opinions and viewpoints. Someone who really hears the thoughts and ideas of others, who doesn’t hold an employee’s title over his or her head as a mark of competence, and instead encourages all people regardless of background to lead at all times in everything they do.

All regardless image. Can you imagine…something different?

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Cheryl DePonte is a Human Resources Learning and Performance Specialist at The Ken Blanchard Companies and has over 15 years experience in the fields of organizational effectiveness and human resources development.

Leadership as an Experience in Humanness

At the beginning of my career, desperate for experience, I took whatever job I could in my field. Fortunately, my first manager treated employees and customers like gold. Luck struck twice when I was hired by yet another wonderful manager.

Regrettably, subsequent managers provided the “opportunity” to witness appalling treatment of both employees and customers. Still relatively naïve, I unconsciously swept their behavior under the rug in an attempt to gain valuable experience.

As my skill-set grew, I became disillusioned with my own attempts to lead. Emulating a combination of previous managers, who overall, seemed successful, led to followers who appeared blatantly angry, humiliated, and hostile. Advised not to take it personally, I couldn’t help but wonder what I was doing wrong and how I could change. With a warrior mentality, I read every work regarding leadership I could find and studied leaders as if by doing so I could internalize their success merely by being in their presence.

My leadership skills improved, yet something was still missing. I fervently questioned reasons why I was obsessively engaged when being led by some and so greatly disappointed when being led by others.

It took a truly unfortunate interaction with a leader long ago for me to embrace that even in the workplace I was a learning, feeling, developing, mistake-making fallible human being….and that there was nothing anyone could do to change this. The difference between those leaders who got the best and worst of me was their willingness to unconditionally accept me. Those who received my highest level of loyalty, performance, engagement, and respect were those who liked and even embraced my humanness.

Leadership as an Experience in Humanness

Downshifting emotionally, I tapped into a level of humility that allowed me to personally, yet not unprofessionally, connect with those I was leading. Forgiveness, understanding, compassion…the willingness to let go of control enveloped me. Resultantly, I felt the vulnerability and fear of those I was leading. I could see and feel the need for hand-holding and that was okay! I could connect with their lack of confidence and disbelief in their abilities.

I listened. Then, I listened some more and allowed for silence and space. Never have I experienced employees so willing and hungry to give everything they have to their work. The change was so fast and dramatic it was emotionally overwhelming. There was no need to question how those I lead felt; it was clear that through their actions they felt just as I had at the beginning of my career.

*Photo courtesy of http://i368.photobucket.com/albums/oo121/4thfrog_2008/2uel34n.jpg

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Cheryl DePonte is a Human Resources Learning and Performance Specialist at The Ken Blanchard Companies and has over 15 years experience in the fields of organizational effectiveness and human resources development.

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