Tag Archives: tips

Tips on Handling Micro-Managers

Micro-managerYears ago I was going to a meeting in place of my boss.  As I was leaving for it he told me he trusted me to make good decisions and if I didn’t he would just fire me.  My response was “promises, promises.”  From this exchange it’s pretty obvious that John did not fully trust me to act in the best interests of the department, or in his best interests.

Needless to say when I think about the “bad” bosses I’ve had over the years John comes to mind right away.  In reality he was a nice guy and he wanted me to succeed.  Unfortunately he was so worried about us doing well that he didn’t let us make our own decisions and take our own risks.  His concern showed up as micro-managing all of us.  His behaviors lead the group to act like a herd of sheep.  Most of the group was not willing to make a decision without checking in with him first.  A few of us went against this grain and regularly had issues because of it.

I was not willing to abdicate my ability to think to the boss.  If I was out supporting our customers, both internal and external, I made decisions about what needed to be done on the spot.  There was no efficiency in checking in with the boss for every little thing that needed to be done.  Our customers had no interest in waiting for someone else to approve my actions.  My position was supporting production which means problem solving most of the time.  I learned a few tricks in dealing with micro-managers like John.

  1. Touch base regularly.  Even though I was not willing to handover all decision making to John I would stop by and let him know what I had done and shared the results of my actions.
  2. No surprises.  Part of the driver behind micro-managers is a need for control so it was important to let John know what was happening, particularly anything that went wrong.  He responded better when he heard of problems from me before he heard about it from someone else.
  3. Use as a sounding board.  One great technique was to identify a problem, come up with a complete solution and then run it by John for his take on it.  Using a micro-manager as a sounding board gives them some up front input to your solutions.  With time the changes he made to my ideas dropped significantly.
  4. Own your issues.  John was asking a co-worker and I what was delaying implementation of a project.  Mike answered “that would be me”.  John just asked why.  When Mike explained the cause John said “get it done” and left.  That type of delay would normally earn the person a dressing down in John’s office.  By owning the issue there was nothing left for John to say.
  5. Provide solutions.  Micro-managers love it when people bring them problems to solve.  However, for your career success you need to be able to act independently.  Bring solutions to problems when you meet with your boss.  This will earn you respect from them and eventually they will relax their control.

In the long run I learned a lot from John, some of which was how not to treat my employees and some was the danger of sheltering people from the tough decisions that must be made.  I had a good relationship with him and he did support me when I moved onto another factory.  By holding my own and showing him that he could trust me to make good decisions I was given more freedom to act than most in my department.  It was much harder to earn his trust, I had to force it.  Learning how to succeed with a major micro-manager also showed me how people want to be treated and how to respond properly to them.  When you run across a micro-manager tread carefully but stay true to yourself.  Being aware of their issues will help you be heard and you can succeed in spite of their restraints.

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Regain Control of Your Time – FREE Webinar

keys

Are you struggling with all the things you have to do each day?  Wondering how to get it all done?  Managing your time is a critical skill to help you achieve your goals and get things done.  In this webinar we will cover the benefits of time management, the types of activities that we all face and review key strategies to gaining control over your time and activities.

Topics:

  • Why Manage Time
  • Types of Activities
  • Keys to Controlling Your Schedule
  • Next Steps

***

I spent 20+ years in corporate America, moving from process engineer to supervisory positions overseeing people in multiple factories both domestically and internationally.

I started with little training in critical thinking.  I just jumped in and learned along the way.  Now, I’m sharing what I learned.

Date: April 17, 2013

Webinar Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. Central Standard Time

Cost: Free!

Register atKeys to Regaining Control of Your Schedule

Bonus: All participants will receive handout materials

Post questions you’d like answered here. I’ll do my best to answer yours during the webinar.

Leave a comment

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5 Tips to Increase Your Concentration

ConcentrationIf you are like most of us there days when you just can’t focus on what needs to be done.  You sit and stare at the computer in a futile attempt to get you brain engaged.  All of us have days like this, how we overcome these slumps is what differentiates the highly productive from the average.  There are projects and tasks that require us to concentrate to ensure they are done well and without mistakes.   Being able to focus your concentration when needed is a skill that will help increase your productivity.  Concentrating can be improved with practice and habits.

Here are five tips to help you increase your ability to concentrate and focus more effectively:

  1. Close email and chats:  The pop-ups from these can be very distracting. They create a false sense of urgency so close them when you are focusing on tasks and plan time later to go through everything.  The frequency that you check your emails will depend on how timely your responses must be.  Many people can get by with checking in once an hour.
  2. Take breaks:  We can only focus for short periods of time, so allow for a short break periodically.  Plan on a 5 – 10 minute break every hour and your productivity will increase.  This can be used to check those emails, but make sure you get back to work on the task at hand.
  3. Switch tasks:  Alternate between high attention and low attention tasks.  This gives your mind that break it needs to refresh and stay at peak performance.  Use the breaks to help recharge.
  4. Plan your peak time:  Take time to figure when you are most productive.  For some it’s the morning and for others it’s the afternoon.  Then plan to do the items that require the most attention and focus during the time of day when you are at your best.  Everyone has a peak time when they really get things done.  Use it wisely.
  5. Deal with worries:  It is hard to focus when we are worrying about other things.  These worries range from deadlines to personality conflicts and everything in between.  When you find your mind wandering off to worry, write down the issue and set aside time later to address it.  This will free your mind from holding onto it and it allows you to concentrate on the current task now and problem solving the worry later.

If you plan how you will deal with distractions it will help you when it’s time to get serious about concentrating on the task at hand.  Establish methods that help you reduce the interruptions and carve out time to spend on the high attention tasks.  The more you make focusing a habit the easier it becomes and the faster you will recover when you find yourself getting pulled into the interruptions.

Increasing your ability to concentrate requires a plan and methods for dealing with the daily distractions.  When your priorities are clear, you know what needs your undivided attention, and you have methods for clearing your mind and reducing distractions you will increase your productivity and get more done.

What is your favorite method for staying focused?

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FREE Webinar – Keys to Critical Thinking

keys

We make hundreds of decisions each day.  Some are simple and take little or no work while others are more complex and can be paralyzing,   Critical thinking provides a process to help you make solid, well thought out decisions that lead to effective problem resolution.  Learn to improve your critical thinking skills in a FREE webinar.

Topics:

  • What is Critical Thinking
  • Critical Thinking in the Workplace
  • Keys to Success
  • Next Steps
  • Questions and answers

***

I spent 20+ years in corporate America, moving from process engineer to supervisory positions overseeing people in multiple factories both domestically and internationally.

I started with little training in critical thinking.  I just jumped in and learned along the way.  Now, I’m sharing what I learned.

Date: March 20, 2013

Webinar Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. Central Standard Time

Cost: Free!

Register atKeys to Critical Thinking

Bonus: All participants will receive handout materials

Post questions you’d like answered here. I’ll do my best to answer yours during the webinar.

Leave a comment

Filed under Communication, Leadership

Critical Thinking – FREE Webinar

keys

In today’s workplace people who can think critically, evaluate the situation, develop options and analyze risk are highly valued employees.  Critical thinking and its application to problem solving are seen as some of the most sought after skills by employers.  Learn to improve your critical thinking skills in a FREE webinar.

Topics:

  • What is Critical Thinking
  • Critical Thinking in the Workplace
  • Keys to Success
  • Next Steps
  • Questions and answers

***

I spent 20+ years in corporate America, moving from process engineer to supervisory positions overseeing people in multiple factories both domestically and internationally.

I started with little training in critical thinking.  I just jumped in and learned along the way.  Now, I’m sharing what I learned.

Date: March 20, 2013

Webinar Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. Central Standard Time

Cost: Free!

Register atKeys to Critical Thinking

Bonus: All participants will receive handout materials

Post questions you’d like answered here. I’ll do my best to answer yours during the webinar.

Leave a comment

Filed under Communication, Leadership

FREE Keys to Effective Communication Webinar

keys

You have the technical skills and the desire to move up.  Now learn the keys to effective communication, a fundamental leadership skill.

Topics:

  • Why communication matters
  • Forms of communication
  • 3 keys to successful communications
  • Steps to take to improve your communication skills
  • Questions and answers

***

I spent 20+ years in corporate America, moving from process engineer to supervisory positions overseeing people in multiple factories both domestically and internationally.

I started with little training in communicating well or managing others.  I just jumped in and learned along the way.  Now, I’m sharing what I learned.

Date: February 27, 2013

Webinar Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. Central Standard Time

Cost: Free!

Register atKeys to Effective Communication

Bonus: All participants will receive handout materials

Post questions you’d like answered here. I’ll do my best to answer yours during the webinar.

Leave a comment

Filed under Communication, Leadership

September Reading

These are just are some articles that I have read recently that got me thinking about time managment.  I hope you enjoy them as well.

A great look at what gets you moving towards your goals from PPM Blog.  Learning to Understand Your Motivation

Do you take time off so that you can stay focused on what you need to do?  This is an interesting take on why vacations make you more effective.  By Tony Schwartz from HBR Blog  More Vacation is the Secret Sauce

Suggestions on how to regain control over your to-do list from Simple Productivity Blog.  Can’t Keep Up – 10 Ways to Simplify Your To Do List

If you work from home this is a great list of how to manage being productive while being your own boss.  By Timo Kiander on LifeHack.  5 Critical Elements of Successful Work at Home Productivity

This is a fresh look at time management ideas on The Organized Executive.  It’s a two part series.  The New Time Management Model Part 1 & The New Time Management Model Part 2

Finding time to stay sharp and keep learning.  From Franklin Covey Blog.  Balance Beam – Finding Time to Sharpen the Saw

Happy reading.  What have you read that inspired you to do / be more?

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Habits of the Unproductive

Here is a link to a great article on seven habits that contribute to being unproductive.  It’s too good not to pass along.  From Simple Productivity Blog.  Take a look as see what you can change  to banish these habits from your world.

7 Habits of Highly Unproductive People

Enjoy!

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Managing Solo Projects to Avoid Burnout

What do you do when a project relies mostly on your ability to get all the work done?  On your solo projects do you dive in and immerse yourself in it until it’s completed perfectly or do you take it one small step at a time and whittle away at it seemingly forever?  These are the two extremes of handling projects that are solo acts, the real key to being satisfied with the results is moderation, an approach that is somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.

Right now I have several solo projects that fall so I have to find the right balance in each one.  The biggest of the projects is one that I personally would love to have done tomorrow.  That is totally unrealistic and I would be so burned out nothing else would get done during and after while I recover.  To help me keep things in perspective, I’ve taken some time to remember how to divide up the work in practical chunks.  These ideas are:

1.      Know the deadline.  When do things really need to be completed?  Obviously some things have hard deadlines, while others are in the category of “when you get time”.   For the things that have no hard date, set a target date that is realistic for you given all that is on your plate. 

2.      Keep deadlines realistic.  If you are setting a target date for some of you projects make sure you stop and think hard about when you will be able to finish it.  Setting a date too soon will push you too hard and setting a date too far out may keep you from making any progress.

3.      Divide up the work.  Stop and take a hard look at what has to be done, how you will divide it up, what gets done first, second, and so on.  Plan the steps; this can be formal or as simple as making a list of all the steps to get it done. 

4.      Set milestones.  Once you divide up the work you can set target dates for each step along the way.  Again make sure they are realistic and can be accomplished by that date.  This will help you track your progress towards the goal.

5.      Get help.  If you can get help, take it.  Your days will be more manageable if you have someone to share the load with when possible.  Help is not always available, so use it when it is.

6.      Take a break!  To keep you energy up, along with your productivity, take some time to step away from the project.  When you are totally immersed in a project you lose perspective and your productivity.  It becomes a grind that will wear you down too fast.

7.      Celebrate your success.  When you have gotten it all done, spend a few minutes reflecting on what you have accomplished.  It’s good to sit back and rest on your laurels, at least for a short amount of time.  Recognizing what you have done and enjoying the sweet taste of success will energize you to complete the next project.

Solo projects can be very rewarding while often being the most challenging.  Taking the time to plan the work first can help make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew. 

How do you avoid burn out on solo projects?

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Cheer the Team onto Increased Productivity

In a world where we have so much to work can all be a grind with little or no relief for the team.  This will wreck your team’s productivity, engagement and quality of work.  The harder the push is to get things done, the more important it is to step back once in a while and relax.  As a team leader part of your role is to be a cheerleader who encourages the team.  Short, fun team times can really help re-energize everyone and make it easier to get through all the stuff ahead.  It also will help each person feel appreciated and that their sacrifices are recognized.

So with all the deadlines looming, how do you find the time to stop and smell the roses?  It can be very easy and cost effective to make a little fun time for the team.  Keep in mind it should be voluntary to attend and if everyone is working long hours stay away from making time after work hours.  Another disclaimer, make sure what you choose is in line with your companies culture.  So here are a few suggestions to help de-stress and have a little fun:

  1. Buy lunch for the team and keep work out of the room for 30 minutes.  Get pizza and salads delivered, spring for soda and water.  Lead the conversation about funny things that have happened to you.  Keep the stories appropriate and free from HR land mines.  Laughing at yourself will help the team relax and learn more about you.
  2. Have breakfast brought in before a team meeting.  Enjoy some coffee, donuts / bagels, and fresh fruit along with some light conversation about non-project topics.  Taking 15 minutes to get everyone fueled up will help get things going later.  Make sure you manage the time without seeming to rush the coffee break.
  3. Have an afternoon break where everyone gets 15 minutes or so to have a snack and unwind before the end of the day push.
  4. Celebrate office birthdays once a month.  Gather everyone in a conference room mid-afternoon and enjoy a short break and some cake.  Recognize everyone who has a birthday that month. 
  5. Take 15 minutes or less each week to recognize the progress that has been made so far.  Make it an upbeat pep talk that focuses on how far you’ve come and that you will get through the tough days.

Most people are willing to work harder than they expected to if they feel appreciated.  When we slave away and all we hear is that there is more to be done there is little motivation to keep at it.  Have a little fun once in a while, recognize the hard work and provide pep talks to keep spirits up.  You will find that your mindset improves as does your teams.

What things have you done to keep your team energized during the tough times?

Photo from iStockPhoto.com

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