Management, Humanity and Expectations

There’s a twitter discussion of what people “should” do in certain situations. One of the participants believes that people “should” want to learn on their own time and work more than 40 hours per week. I believe in learning. I don’t believe in expecting people to work more than 40 hours/week. My experience is that when you ask people to work more than 40 hours, they get stupid. See  Management Myth 15: I Need People to Work Overtime. If you want people to learn, read Management Myth #9: We Have No Time for Training. One participant also said that people should leave their emotional baggage (my word) at home. Work supposedly isn’t for emotions. Well, I don’t understand how we can have people who work without their emotions. Emotions are how we explain how we feel about things. I want people to advocate for what they feel is useful and good. I want to know when they feel something is bad and damaging. I want that, as a manager. See Management Myth #4: I Don’t Need One-on-Ones. People are emotional. Let’s assume they are adults and can harness their emotions. If not, we can provide feedback about the situation. But, ignoring their emotions? That never works. It’s incongruent and can make the situation worse. I have a problem with “shoulds” for other people. I cannot know what is going on in other people’s lives. Nor, do I want to know all the details as a manager. I need to know enough to use my judgement as a manager to help the people and teams proceed. When managers build trust...

Trust, Accountability, and Where Does the Time Go?

As more of my clients transition to agile, many of them have a fascinating question: How do I assess who is doing what on my team? When I ask why they want to know, they say it’s all related to reviews, rewards, and general compensation. They are still discussing individual compensation, not team compensation. When I ask why they want to reward individuals instead of the team, they say, “I am sure some people do more work than others. I want to reward them, and not the other people.” Interesting idea. And, wrong for agile teams. Also wrong for any innovation or learning that you want to happen as a team (regardless of whether you are agile or not). Agile is a team-based approach to work. Why would you want to reward some people more than others? If the team is not sure that they are working well together, they need to learn to provide each other feedback. If the team doesn’t know how to manage team membership, a manager can facilitate that membership discussion and problem-solving. Then, the managers can transition team membership issues to the team, with manager as backup/facilitator. What I see is that the managers want to control team membership. Instead, why not let the team control its membership? I often see that the managers want to control feedback: who provides it and who receives it. Instead, why not train everyone in how to provide and receive feedback? When managers want to reward some people more than others, they imply that some people are less capable than others—something agile is supposed to fix with teamwork....

Management Feedback: Are You Abrasive or Assertive?

Let me guess. If you are a successful woman, in the past, you’ve been told you’re too abrasive, too direct, maybe even too assertive. Too much. See The One Word Men Never See In Their Performance Reviews. Here’s the problem. You might be. I was. But never in the “examples” my bosses provided. The “examples” they provided were the ones when I advocated for my staff. The ones where I made my managers uncomfortable. The examples, where, if I had different anatomy, they would have relaxed afterwards, and we’d gone out for a beer. But we didn’t. Because my bosses could never get over the fact that I was a woman, and “women didn’t act this way.” Now, this was more than 20 years ago. (I’ve been a consultant for 20 years.) But, based on the Fast Company article, it doesn’t seem like enough culture has changed. Middle and senior managers, here’s the deal: At work, you want your managers to advocate for their people. You want this. This is a form of problem-solving. Your first-line and middle managers see a problem. If they don’t have the entire context, explain the context to them. Now, does that change anything? If it does, you, senior or middle manager, have been derelict in your management responsibility. Your first-line manager might have been able to solve the problem with his/her staff without being abrasive if you had explained the context earlier. Maybe you need to have more one-on-ones. Maybe all your first-line managers could have solved this problem in your staff meeting, as a cross-functional team. Are you canceling one-on-ones or canceling...

Management Myth 25: Performance Reviews Are Useful

Bill popped his head into Jan’s office as he was leaving for the evening. “Jan, do you have a minute? I have to do performance reviews tonight. I was going to drink Scotch and work my way through all of them.” Jan laughed and said, “Sure. Scotch might make you feel good, but it will definitely not solve your performance review problem. “Why are you still doing performance reviews? I stopped doing them. I worked with HR and convinced them performance reviews were a useless relic of the past. What do you want to get out of performance reviews?” “Me, I don’t want anything out of them. I do them for HR.” Bill was as sure of this as he was of the fact that he needed liquid courage to write them. “That’s nonsense. You have one-on-ones, right?” “Well, I mostly have them. I mostly have them every other week.” Jan gave him the what-are-you-thinking? look. “That’s a problem. If you don’t have regular one-on-ones, you can’t do performance reviews. But the problem isn’t the review. The problem is feedback and building a trusting relationship, isn’t it? She explained more. “The idea behind a performance review is that you provide feedback to your employee. Now that we are agile, do you have any idea what your people are doing on a daily basis?” “Uh, no. They work independently. Sure, if they need me, I help. But I don’t help much anymore.” “OK, so why would you do performance reviews?” “I guess I can’t,” Bill responded. “Exactly. You need the team to provide feedback to each other. Do they know...

Management Myth 26: It’s Fine to Micromanage

Sharon poked her head into Heath’s cubicle. “Hey, Heath, are you done yet with that fix?” Heath turned around. “Sharon, you asked me that less than an hour ago. I’m not done yet.” “Well, I need to know when you will be done. Oh, and I need to know if you’re using the design we discussed.” Heath started to turn red. “We didn’t discuss any design at all. You told me a design to use. Because you used that design back in the day, back when you were a developer. So you want me to use it now. Are you delegating this fix to me or not? Do you want to do it?” Damon tapped Sharon on the shoulder before she could reply. “Sharon, it sounds as if you need information. It also sounds as if Heath needs time to finish that fix. How about I help?” Sharon looked relieved. So did Heath. “That would be great,” she replied. “I have another Ops meeting in fifteen minutes where everyone is going to ask me when the fix will be done. I’d really like to know the answer.” She took off down the hall, texting on her phone as she went. Damon sat down next to Heath. “OK, tell me what’s going on. You sound as if you’re at the end of your rope.” “I know this is a critical fix. But Sharon won’t let me do my job,” Heath said. “It’s not just this fix; it’s anything. She wants to design this fix for me. She’s come over here five times this morning, and its not even noon. OK,...