Friday 29 October 2010

Hello Ron

So you struggle with managing people who resent being managed.

I see this one quite a bit in my client base. In my experience, there are only a few reasons:
1. The manager is younger than the staff member, or in some way is perceived as being "lesser"

2. More generally, the staff member's world view has them in the role of high capability contributor who should be given a free hand

3. Even more generally, the staff member harbours resentments against their employer in the broader sense

In any case, to dissolve this situation, it will be necessary to explore it openly with the staff member. You should see what their view is, tell them how you see things, and what's wrong with their view, try to find common goals about your shared future, and agree some rules moving forward.

If this proves impossible, then the staff member should be made aware that your world-view is the one supported by the company (make sure it is, before you even think of treading this path), and that you're not willing to tolerate obstructive or otherwise difficult working staff members, and that there is a procedure leading to eventual dismissal which you are prepared to walk for the benefit of the team, the company, and actually - for the staff member themselves.

Much of this requires the existence of a management chain and an ethical, professional framework which would support you in these actions. Often, that's simply missing - especially in the public sector (and I note you work in the NHS where I have a lot of experience), in which cased, you'll be needing some more innovative strategies :o)

Friday 22 October 2010

Hello Sam,

So you're organising your day but being unable to stick to your plan because of distractions.
Here are some thoughts on that which you may find helpful.
Firstly, I recommend you keep a work diary for a week or so. Remind yourself to keep it by setting an alarm on your computer of mobile phone to go off 30 minutes after you start work. When it goes off, write as little as you can, to capture what you've done for the last half hour - maybe just one, two or three words - then snooze the alarm for 30 minutes. When it goes off again, keep doing this throughout the day. Our memories are notoriously unreliable, but this technique will give you a high quality record of your real day, and that's an invaluable resource for improving your effectiveness.

Next, be totally honest about how much you like certain tasks. You may find you hate some things and love others. Now look at the things you hate and ask yourself why. Often you don't really hate the task intrinsically, but you hate some aspect of it - for example, at school many people say they hate maths, but what they really mean is they hate being bad at maths. Another example - many people say they hate writing weekly reports, but perhaps they hate it because they don't keep a diary to remind them of what they did, or that can't use Word properly. When you have this second level insight you can often see ways to remove the problem at source. For example, get yourself on a Word course. So this tactic can improve your enjoyment of the tasks you tend to avoid.

Next about distractions. You might switch some completely off (personal email access at work, for example). Others you might silence (don't have it ping at you when mail comes in). Remove yourself to quiet places, or away from tempting distractions to complete critical work. If distractions are other people, learn to say "no". Say it nicely, but say it. People will learn. You can sometimes put up a sign to head them off at the door.

You can also support task-focus by using the alarm technique above to remind you what you should be doing. I use this myself, and often my alarm snatches me back from somehow becoming immersed in the fascinating world of Japanese Nose Flutes or Tibetan knit wear.

Next think about your sweet spots. Are you a morning person or an afternoon person? When are you most hard-working, most creative etc. Try to match these zones with the tasks you place in them.

Next take regular short breaks - probably hourly. Five minutes should do, but get up, walk away, maybe get a drink and come back. Do your diary entry before you go.

Next, don't put too much in your day. If you schedule more than 70% of your time formally, you can expect to crash and burn.

Next, learn from your mistakes. Which tasks keep getting not done? Which failure mechanisms are common - and what can you do to stop them? Treat all of this positively - think of it as a great opportunity.

Next, how can you make work go away entirely - your three options are decimate (make it go away - things like newsletter subscriptions, meetings which serve no purpose, etc.) delegate (give it to someone else - are you really the person who SHOULD be doing all that you do?) or automate (lots of opportunities as the web blossoms).
If you can do some of these, your working day will be less busy and your stress levels will fall. You'll enjoy work more and when you get home, you'll be ready to enjoy that more too. Oh, and you'll be recognised for your cheerful efficiency, and that could mean more money or a promotion.