New Year’s Tips Posted

I have posted my most recent Pragmatic Manager newsletter on my site. Read Johanna’s 2014 New Years Tips. I have a question for you. I send the newsletter to my subscribers the last week of the year. I call them “this-year” tips. Some people ask me if I meanĀ “the next year”. I don’t because it’s this year. Is this confusing? Should I rename my end-of-the-year tips? Thanks for your...

Five Tips for Tactical Management

Sometimes, you just need to get on with the work. You need to give yourself some breathing room so you can think for a while. Here are some tips that will help you tackle the day-to-day management work: Schedule and conduct your one-on-ones. Being a manager means you make room forĀ  the people stuff: the one-on-ones, the coaching and feedback or the meta-coaching or the meta-feedback that you offer in the one-on-ones. Those actions are tactical and if you don’t do them, they become strategic. As a manager, make sure you have team meetings. No, not serial status meetings. Never those. Problem solving meetings, please. The more managers you manage, the more critical this step is. If you miss these meetings, people notice. They wonder what’s wrong with you and they make up stories. While the stories might be interesting, you do not want people making stories up about what is wrong with you or your management, do you? Stop multitasking and delegate. Your people are way more capable than you think they are. Stop trying to do it all. Stop trying to do technical work if you are a manager. Take pride in your management work and do the management work. Stop estimating on behalf of your people. This is especially true for agile teams. If you don’t like the estimate, ask them why they think it will take that long, and then work with them on removing obstacles. If you have leftover time, it’s time to work on the strategic work. What is the most important work you and your team can do? What is your number...

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...

How Serving Is Your Leadership?

I once worked for a manager who thought everyone should bow down and kiss his feet. Okay, I’m not sure if he actually thought that, but that’s how it felt to me. He regularly canceled his one-on-ones with me. He interrupted me when I spoke at meetings. He tried to tell the people in my group what to do. (I put a stop to that, pretty darn quick.) He undermined my self-confidence and everything I tried to accomplish in my organization. When I realized what was going on, I gathered my managers. At the time, I was a Director of Many Things. I said, “Our VP is very busy. I think he has too many things on his plate. Here is what I would like to do. If he interrupts your work with a request, politely acknowledge him, and say, “Johanna will put that in our queue. She is managing our project portfolio.” If he interrupts you in a meeting, feel free to manage him the same way you manage me.” That got a laugh. “I am working with him on some customer issues, and I hope to resolve them soon.” My managers and project managers kept on track with their work. We finished our deliverables, which was key to our success as an organization. My relationship with my manager however, deteriorated even further. In three months, he canceled every single one-on-one. He was rude to me in every public meeting. I started looking for a new job. I found a new job, and left my two week notice on his desk. He ran down the hall, swept into...

Give Credit Generously

I had a boss who was great at saying, “Terri did this. Jen did that. JR did this other thing.” We all knew who had learned about different areas of the system, who had succeeded at which parts of testing or development or project management. It was great. She didn’t just tell us. Nope, our boss told her bosses. That’s one of the reasons I had many opportunities to grow in that particular job. Not just because I worked hard and did a good job. But because my boss told her management team. Contrast that with some other places I’ve worked, especially where command-and-control still had a foothold. I once led a small team where we were implementing a process control application. It was a difficult project. My manager knew what we were doing, but we were on the hairy edge of success/failure the entire time. I took a one-week vacation, and my team continued while I was away. Another VP across the organization—not my manager—inserted himself in my project while I was away. For that entire week, he “managed” our customer. I had been the sole customer contact up until then. All hell broke loose. I returned from vacation to a gazillion voice mails on my personal answering machine. (This is before the days of cell phones It took me a month of plane rides to fix this customer problem. When we released that project, it was successful. At the next Ops meeting, he told everyone that he personally had overseen the project. My manager did not participate at Ops meetings. Afterwards, my manager asked me about the...