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Articles tagged with: Relationship Management

TAGS How To Make Room For More Meaningful Relationships In Business

Being a leader means mastering the art of juggling both the current task and all the challenges it presents, but also keeping an eye on the horizon for new challenges and opportunities. This constant balancing act makes it easy to forget that the value of being connected to your colleagues is equally as important as being effective and efficient at getting the job done. Personal connections enrich and support the work at hand. Thus, leaders must also focus on being personable and engaging in their relationships.

Could Relationship Be the Motivational "Carrot" You’re Looking For?

My husband and I recently traveled to Italy with several of our family members.  We were fortunate enough to be hosted by dear friends of my in-laws who are natives of Pesaro. The landscape was breathtakingly beautiful; the architecture was inspirational. I enjoyed the savory food and delectable wine, but what most impressed me most was the allure and authenticity of the people and their relationships.

From the moment we met our new “friends”, we were embraced as family.  We did not have to “do” anything to earn or deserve their affection… we didn’t even have to “wait” for a certain period of time to prove ourselves.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.  We were welcomed with warm smiles, holding of hands, sincere hugs, kisses on the cheek and instantly meaningful conversation.  I immediately became skeptical (even though I loved it).  I thought… “This is just because they are long term friends of my in-laws”.   Over the course of 10 days in Italy, I found this sort of charm and openness to be legitimate in relationships and consistent with most of the people I met.  We were also fortunate enough to be in a location that was not populated with tourists. So, our experience was authentically Italian.  Whether I was meeting someone in a shop or observing total strangers interact, relationships were the center focus.

This experience caused me to reflect on my own view of relationships and how I interact with strangers, new acquaintances, and even a friend I run into, on the street.  I have a tendency to be very focused (especially during work hours).  If a specific time was not scheduled, I rush any “interruptions” or “spontaneous encounters” in order to get back to my scheduled agenda.  I realize in doing this, I may be missing out on much of the richness of life that my Italian friends have mastered.

As I reflected on my own behaviors in relationships, I began to think about the importance of relationships in leadership.  If you have spent any time developing yourself as a leader, you know relationships are a vital part of being successful.  I wonder how many of us know this in our head as true (theory) but struggle to genuinely practice it.  I realize I do.  Even though I have spent years talking about how important relationships are, my short time in another country proved I do not practice it as much as I should. 

I am writing this to challenge myself and other leaders like me to make room for spontaneity in relationships and to embrace a less guarded approach… an approach that focuses on the individual and what they are saying and not on the next meeting.  I also encourage you (and myself) to not be afraid to appropriately give a hug or a pat on the shoulder.  I think we may both discover this to be rewarding both personally and professionally.  I am also confident there is a positive unintended by-product of truly connecting with people. Many times, we're looking for all kinds of ways to motivate people. Cultivating relationship frees up that mental energy we're using, because sincere and meaningful relationships are the motivational carrot that brings loyalty, commitment and drive.  I realize my behavior may never be as my new friends in Italy; however, I can work to be a little more like them.

What are your thoughts on this subject? If this is an area you would like to further develop in, I'd encourage you to contact us to discuss leadership coaching.

Help! I'm Addicted to Micromanagement!

While creating a training program for newly appointed managers,  I reflected on commonly faced challenges, as well as my own personal experiences. One of the greatest challenges I faced as a new manager was micromanagement. In fact, I may have been the worst micro-manager ever (to all of you out there that I may have micromanaged, I apologize).

Micro-Managing to Create “Mini-Mes”

Why Do New Managers Tend to Micro-Manage?

Micro-managing drove me crazy, so I know it drove my team crazy. As these embarrassing and painful growth experiences went through my mind I began to process through the reasons a new manager, or any leader, micromanages. I decided to throw the question out on Twitter™ and received great feedback from my Twitter world, including these answers:

  • Fear
  • Narcissism
  • Need to be in control
  • Lack of trust
  • Do not know how to let go
  • Need for perfection
  • Don’t think anyone can do it as well as they can
  • Someone may get more credit or recognition than them
  • Do not know what else to do

I think all these suggestions can be correct for different people in different situations. Upon pondering my own personal reasons for micromanaging, I found several of these to be true. I was a star individual performer who was promoted to management without any training in leadership. I knew how to do my job well as an individual performer. Once I was promoted, therefore, it made sense to create “mini-mes”. This is a really bad idea. It’s not a way to win friends and influence people. I thought that to increase someone’s performance all they needed to do was to do exactly what I did before I was promoted. I thought this would make them successful, thus making me successful – huge misconception. I know to those of you in leadership, this is obvious, but more often than not, it is not obvious to a new manager.

I was also fearful. I still made bonuses, but they were no longer based  on my individual performance. Instead, they were based on the team’s performance. In my young mind, this made it even more reason to create little “Me Robots.” If they could do the job exactly as I did, they could generate the same revenue I did, and we should all be happy… right?

As with most new leaders I was tapping into familiarity. I was doing what I knew how to do, but what I was doing was not producing the results I hoped for. It was not until one of my team members was leaving the organization that I had to face the truth. His parting comment to me was “you use the word team all the time, but there is no team here.” It was then that I realized that what I was doing was not working. I decided to educate myself on the skills of leadership. Following are the seven things I learned that helped me to regain perspective.

7 Tips to Help Micro-Managing Leaders:

  1. Recognize that micromanagement causes people to become resentful or turn their brains off: Why should they think if you are doing all the thinking for them?
  2. Become the leader of the team and not the star performer.
  3. Get to know your team members individually, learn what their strengths are and how to motivate them.
  4. Trust that they are able to succeed in their own way, and give them the room to grow and develop.
  5. Create a safe environment for innovation, creative ideas and new processes.
  6. Keep  in mind that NO ONE is motivated by micromanagement, no matter what the reason.
  7. Never be afraid to have a team of people who are smarter than you. When the team shines, the leader shines!

All aspects of the leadership journey are part of an insightful learning process. We never “arrive” and we are always gathering new information to apply. As leaders, it is meaningful to reflect on our journeys, seeking ways to improve our methods and style. As you reflect on your own journey, ask yourself what you have learned and how you can help new managers along the way.

Why do you think leaders micromanage? Do you have some tips to help micro-managing leaders overcome this addiction? Please share  you thoughts by leaving a comment to this article.

Strategic Transformation: The HOW Matters!

Thanks for joining us again for the third post for the Strategic Transformation Series. In the first two entries we talked about The Strategy and Engagement Connection & To Plan or To Transform? We look forward to your comments and questions as we dive into how strategic planning can not only enhance your company’s bottom line, but the engagement of your employees as well.

True transformation comes down to Intent. If our intention is to truly transform our organization through strategic planning, then that significant intention will require significant action.

Create a Strong Foundation If your last strategic plan is collecting dust on the shelf, let me ask you a few questions:

  1. How organized was the pre-planning? Did you identify stakeholders, decision makers, timelines and milestones?
  2. Was the rest of the organization well informed of this plan? Did you continue to communicate transparently and frequently?
  3. Were the right people involved? Did you have enough diversity of experience, subject matter expertise and perspectives to create a full picture?
  4. What historical information was gathered and provided to the team? Did they know what worked and didn’t work in the past?
  5. Were the leaders of your organization in the right frame of mind and open to thinking big about the possibilities for the future?
  6. Was the team prepared to communicate effectively and deal appropriately with conflict? Was there a designated facilitator?

By answering YES to these questions, we show our intent to create strong foundation for success by HOW we prepare. Important work and we haven’t even started the planning! This important phase of creating cultural preparedness for your organization will help you create that all important buy-in from your teams that you need to have the transformation you desire.

Define the Future

Once you’ve created the foundation, it’s time to get to the business of planning. Here are some things to consider as you create the high level strategy that we are all familiar with.

  1. Is your mission and vision clear? Does everyone have the same understanding and clarity that you need to move forward?
  2. When’s the last time you took inventory of everything that your organization does? You might be surprised how many “I didn’t know we did that…” comments you hear around the room.
  3. Are they the right activities? What would you like to be doing? How would you enhance those activities? What would it take to get there?

Strategy, at its heart, is about great communication. Remember – this intent is that this strategy be something everyone in your organization understands and lives by. Be mindful of the strong foundation and work to develop the goals and objectives collaboratively and interactively through a series of facilitated sessions that draw upon all stakeholders’ input and perspectives.

As you write the plan, keep the messaging clear, concise and actionable. Less is more. Consider a strategy map to help as a communication tool that can help to internalize this strategy in your culture.

The Plan to Get There

The typical next step is to issue the plan to the entire organization and instruct that they cascade the high-level goals and objectives into their operational divisions. We might even instruct that performance goals be tied to this strategy.

This all sounds good, in theory. However, Implementation Planning is often missing key results such as:

  • opportunities for collaboration between divisions to execute the goals
  • collective priority setting and coordination
  • adequate resources to execute across the organization
  • measurement of progress and enhanced performance

HOW you plan to implement the strategy is key to its success. Don’t let all that hard work go to waste; be sure to create a consistent process by which divisions are creating work plans that contribute to an overarching organizational work plan. Then work collaboratively to ensure the proper priorities and resources are allocated to TRANSFORM your organization!

MSBC brings an innovative approach and a team with extensive experience to guide your leadership through this Strategic Transformation process. Let us know if you like to learn more at .

Misteps that New Managers Often Make

This is an issue entire books are written on. I believe the major reason new managers fail is due to lack of training. New managers go into a position with “sugar plums dancing in their heads” and wide-eyed wonder of how fantastic it is to be a leader. It is wonderful to be a leader, but it is also a challenge.

We have to look at why people get promoted to leadership. It is usually because they were great individual performers. We then take them out of the role in which they have: excelled, built identity, and earned autonomy. We then we put them in a role where they are the “new kid on the block”, have not managed people before, and are trying to figure out who they are in this new realm. That seems to be a recipe for disaster and yet it happens every day. Instead of being responsible for themselves and for personal results, they are now responsible for a team of people, motivating and managing different personalities, and let’s not forget still having someone above them telling them what to do.

I think there are a several challenges that a new leader faces in this new opportunity. I will list them below with a few suggestions as to why this happens:

  1. Micromanaging – there are several reasons for this. The first was discussed above. New managers often know how to do the technical aspects of the job well so they continue to go back to that by default because they have not been trained to manage people. New managers often think they can do it better than their team. This may be true and why got promoted in the first place, they need to realize it is not about being “the best” as an individual performer, it is about inspiring and training the team to be the best. A high-performance team will reflect better on them in their new role as a manager in the long-run. Another reason for micromanagement is they want to look good in their new role so they are afraid to let someone else do it when they know how well they can perform – again this may be true but they have to understand they are now training people to be as good as they are, even better! The new manager has to work on trusting their people – it is amazing what a new manager’s team will accomplish when they feel valued and trusted. My advice to new managers who are micromanaging is, let it go – give your team some margin for error, the opportunity to learn and then coach them to improvement.
  2. Insecurity – a new manager is going to feel insecure in their new role initially, even if they never tell anyone. It is normal to feel this way anytime we do something new. This can be another factor in micromanaging. A new manager needs to give themselves some time to develop and grow. I highly recommend a mentor or coach to partner with you in this new journey.
  3. They don’t know what else to do – New managers are often only comfortable performing the task rather than managing the task because they have not been trained what the role of the manager is – try delegating – ask your team members what they want to do, observe what they are good at. Your job is to manage them to their own greatness.
  4. Need to be in control – this is usually tied into insecurity or fear. A leader does not need to control others to be in control.
  5. A need for things to be perfect – people cannot grow under this pressure. New managers should learn to strive and train for excellence but remember where they started. Train, mentor, and partner people up for better performance.
  6. Not running effective meetings – again this goes back to the lack of new manager training. If there is nothing to talk about, there is no need for a meeting just to “have it”. Meetings should have purpose, a schedule, an opportunity to connect and people should leave with a feeling of accomplishment. Meetings do not have to take a long time. Time does not equate importance.
  7. Thinking that because they are the “boss” they have all the answers – This is a misconception that can be due to past experience with managers who thought they knew everything or from the misconception that as the boss they have to know everything. New managers need to recognize that they are not going to have all the answers and that is OK, normal and the way it is suppose to be – this is why they have a team!
  8. Trying to be everyone’s buddy – this often happens when a new manager is promoted from within. They are not sure how to make the shift and do not know how to lead and still be connected. They may be afraid of being seen a “bossy” or just taking over and telling everyone what to do. They want to be liked… that is the way it was before… new leaders may not know how to transition into the realm of leadership. A new leader has to recognize that things are different now. When they have “buddies” on the team, the rest of the team will assume favorites even if they are not playing favorites. It’s better to keep the “buddy” friendships and “private jokes” about the night before out of the office.
  9. Avoid the “maverick” syndrome – whether hired from the outside or promoted from within, coming in as a “maverick” with all the answers or going to show this place “how it is done” does not usually work. It is better to get to know the culture and the people, earn respect and then begin to make changes. This will play in their favor in the long run.
  10. Not understanding the importance of managing up – Managing up is a skill that takes time to develop; however, when done properly can really help a new manager learn and excel. The foundation of managing up is relationship building and strong emotional intelligence
  11. Not self-aware enough to know how they want to lead or be known – it is important for a new leader to process through how they want to lead, what do they want to be known for, what their personal/professional values are, and how are they reflected in their leadership style. This takes time and self-reflection for any leader including the new manager.
  12. Inability to balance new responsibilities with the rest of their life – going back to self-awareness, what do they value? What do they want their life to look like? Set a plan of action according to that – and don’t expect everyone on the team to have the same priorities or work-life balance.
  13. Managing everyone the same way – people are different, they are motivated differently, and respond differently in situations. New managers should get to know individuals on their team and manage them the way that they will be most successful for them individually.
  14. Being a suck up – this never works, the best idea is to learn how to manage up, not suck up.
  15. Not valuing the importance of a safe network of support – a support team is important to bounce ideas off of, share frustrations with and concerns – self-aware leaders know that as humans we need support. All leaders need that support to give feedback, encourage and hold accountable to your own value system.
  16. Having favorites – see the notes above on “buddies” at work. People know when you have favorites and will not be able to be loyal and dedicated if they know you have “favorites.”
  17. Relying on or hiding behind email – some situations require personal contact, especially if something can be misunderstood and/or if conflict is involved. If an email has gone back and forth more than 3 times, it is time to pick up the phone or set a meeting. If it can cause or has the potential to cause conflict, have the conversation in person, body language and non-verbal messages are important for a leader to read and they cannot do this over email.
  18. Not showing respect for people that have been there a long time – new managers should listen to the feedback of those with seniority, even if they disagree. They will be surprised what they may learn. New managers should find a way to create win-win scenarios and always show respect. “If you want it you have to give it.” I think many of the hurdles that new managers face can be overcome from having a coach and or mentor to work with – this coupled with good leadership training workshops will help to bring success. We should not fail to recognize the value of “the school of hard knocks”.

Help, I’m A Control Freak!

Dear Michelle,
My husband and even my dear friends refer to me as a control freak! I own and operate a catering business, and yes I’ll admit I have a tendency to micro-manage (one time I almost divorced my husband and now ex-chef just because I thought his cilantro pesto was too salty!) How do I break away from my compulsion to control everything while maintaining top notch food service and quality for my clients?
– Control Freak in Harrisonburg, VA.

Dear Control Freak,
You have taken the first big step with any personal challenge and that is, “owning it”. In order to improve a behavioral pattern we have to first be aware of it, the second step is to make a plan of action. Most of our problems do not stem from what we do not know, they manifest from doing nothing. Below are some suggestions that should help:

  1. Open your mind to other people’s opinions and ideas – your way is not the only way.
  2. Wait, breathe, and think before you respond – this gives you a window of opportunity to mitigate a situation without regrets.
  3. Practice self-observation and keep a journal – this helps you to “see” yourself from an outsider’s perspective so you can correct mistakes.
  4. Set one goal at a time for yourself – changing a long-time behavioral pattern takes time, so be patient and try not to get overwhelmed.
  5. Set up accountability partners – confide in 1 to 3 trusted people about your new goals and give them permission to hold you accountable to the behavior changes you have set for yourself.

Changing anything takes time, but staying focused, developing a plan, and surrounding yourself with accountability partners will keep you on track. Following these steps will relieve stress on yourself and your business colleagues, plus give you more fulfillment in your life. Now how do I get a hold of some of the cilantro pesto?

TMI… How Much is TOO Much Information?

As a leader of a team or an organization creating a culture of transparency can be a powerful tool to build trust and organizational cohesion.

But what should we share, and when?  How much is too much?

One thing to consider the type of information, is it tactical or strategic?  Is it key to executing the next steps on the path, or is it helping to make sure we are on the right path?  The level of information and the way it is presented will depend on what its purpose is.

Tactical: How can you tell if you are giving too much information a leader about day-to-day operations or a specific project?   How much of the details of what you are doing (behind the scenes) or reasons for your decisions do you make should you share?

Ask yourself:

  • How much information does your team really need to do their job effectively?
  • Will they be more engaged if you explain the details – or check-out from boredom?
  • What does this do to your credibility as a leader?  Will explaining this allow them to see more clearly how you think and act or is it just your ego wanting attention?

When it comes to transactional information – its important to keep people in the loop – but more often than not, it should be at a higher level.  Just as you aren’t always interested in HOW the job got done, just that it did and satisfactorily, by keeping status updates and decisions made at the summary level, it allows them to make informed decisions and act on their own with a more comprehensive understanding of the impacts of their decision.

Too many details will make your meetings long and expects your team to be able to connect the dot and understand their impact to their work at the same time.   Make it easier for them by giving the highlights and the outcomes and offer offline explanations to anyone interested.

Strategic More often than not, we need to share the strategic vision and mission of our organizations and projects.  This helps to make sure everyone’s activities are in alignment with the overall expected outcomes.

Most of us communicate the “What” and the “How” of our activities pretty well, but it is also important to share "Why" we are doing them.  Good things come from including why we are doing things like:

  • Connection the “what and how”
  • Creating dialogue
  • Encouraging innovation and creativity
  • Providing clarity
  • Identifying errors/flaws/misunderstandings
  • Ensuring safety
  • Improving employee engagement
  • Generating buy-in

Always Share:

  • Strategic vision and mission of the organization
  • The challenges to achieving the vision and mission
  • The strategies and tactics to overcome the challenges
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Decisions that affect people, policies, methodologies, products, and services
  • The rationale or decision-making processes for difficult situations

Dangerous Territory:

  • Too much Personal Information – Use your personal relationship with the recipient as a barometer – but understand all things you share will become part of how people view you.  It is always important to be authentic, but you don’t also have to air your dirty laundry– and it can be a damaging habit to confide too much.
  • Ideas not fully vetted or thought out  (outside of a brainstorming activity) – or that are seriously couched
  • Sharing Frustration or overwhelm.  Be a real person, but buffer appropriately if the recipients can’t actually help.  Stress is contagious and drama is never productive.
  • Concerns about other leaders in organization
  • Admitting Flaws or Mistakes is often a great way to help other people learn from your own experiences.  However, not all that goes on behind the wizard’s curtain is required to be shared… just like I don’t tell my guests about the laundry baskets full of toys and papers shoved in the closet when they come over!

When in Doubt:

  • Consider Size and culture of your organization; share when sharing is promoted and accepted
  • Consider Role of the Recipient and their ability to act on the information – or will they just feel overwhelmed by the stress of the information?
  • Recipient’s ability to assimilate the level of detail shared with out disrupting their ability to function.  Not everyone is good at being in the weeds!
  • Before sharing – ask what your team wants, what level of information they need to do great work and make good decisions
  • Ask yourself:
    • What is my intention for sharing this information?  If the intent is pure, and you deliver it in a careful way, the outcome will often be good.
    • Is this stimulating the passion and commitment in the team members? Remember to also ask for their thoughts and ideas in order to get buy in and commitment!