Things NOT to Worry About

Okay, in this post I want to do things a bit differently. Instead of giving you some ideas, tips, techniques and processes to do I want to share with you some ideas on some things not to do! In my humble opinion there are things that you should not spend much (or any would be ideal!) time thinking and worrying about. Over my decades, I’ve seen lots of Middles spend an ungodly number of hours dwelling and working on things that were bottom line, a waste of their time.

My guess is that as some of you read this post you will think “this is bull” that these “things” are extremely important “things” to do, but trust me, once I was removed from the working world and reflected back on all of the things that I did over those years I realized the importance (or lack thereof) of these items and suggest to you that they are pretty much a waste of your time. I suggest that you focus on empowering and rewarding your Teamers, managing your projects and monitoring your quality. Having a positive working relationship with your clients and vendors will prove far more beneficial to you and your team than dwelling on any of these topics.

Plus, perhaps you can find the time to do some of the other ideas, tips, techniques and processes presented in this website by not spending time on any of these topics. Here’s a list of topics that I think are basically a waste of time worrying and thinking about.

What You Can’t Control - This one is simple. Why spend time thinking, worrying or working on “things” that you can’t control or influence? The older I get, the more I realize that there are just things in your life that you just can’t control - the stock market, politics or your Coworkers’ attitudes or opinions for example. Only spend your time and energy on what you can control.

 “Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”

 - Steve Maraboli

Money and Budget - I’ve spent countless hours doing budgets only to find out that my Senior already had a funding level in their mind. I humbly suggest that you simply “cut to the chase” and just ask your Senior your budget number and work with it! 

 “If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area of his life.”

 - Billy Graham

Your Senior’s Attitudes - You may influence your Senior’s attitudes, but you can never really change them. Learn to deal with it!

 “I put a dollar in one of those change machines. Nothing changed.”

 - George Carlin

Egos – Everyone has one, but don’t get into “battles” to see who is the smartest or fastest or most in-the-know, that’s just a waste of time.

 “We also consider our ego as essential, this self that we have constructed! But let me tell you that you haven’t constructed that self. Somebody has done it for you. People have told you whom you should be and whom you should not be, how you should move, how you should smell, and how you should do most of what you do. How wonderful to step back and do what the Asian says: ‘Leave your ego on the table.’ Step out of yourself and leave it there. Say, ‘You just wait a while.’ That is the only way that new messages are going to come in.”

 – Leo Buscaglia

Living, Loving & Learning

Office Politics, Rumors and Gossip - This is everywhere, big organizations and small. My suggestion is to simply ignore politics, rumors and gossip.

 “Put your heart, mind and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.”

 - Swami Sivananda

The FUD Factor - FUD stands for fear, uncertainty and doubt. I believe that some Organizations actually try to create an environment where Teamers worry about things to keep them and that limits your Teamer’s ability to feel empowered and happy doing their work.

 “It’s the little things you do that make the big things happen.”

 - Mike Dooley

Fear of Failure - Don’t worry about making a mistake. If you take a risk, you risk making a mistake. Only make sure that you learn from them.

 “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

 - Albert Einstein

Resource Wars - If you provide a product or service, you may encounter “wars” between your clients for what you can provide them. The bottom line is they ask for more resources and capacity than you have and usually The Boss or your Senior won’t help with more resources or limiting their complaining sessions.

My fundamental suggestion is that you only work on projects that are really ready to be worked on. Don’t spend resources on projects that haven’t been properly defined with a budget, a plan and necessary approvals.

 “Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after other have let go.”

 - William Feather

 

 

Key Core Values to Display Daily

First off, let me define for you what I mean by a “core value.” Simply, a “core value” is a rule, principle, belief or guideline (whatever, please call it what you will!) that guides, controls and directs you in all that you say, do and think during your work day. 

In this post I want to share with you some key core values that I suggest you consider adopting in your daily life as a Middle and encourage your Teamers to do the same. Now I don’t what to be too “preachy” about all of this, but these are things that I have found and adopted over my five decades as a Middle and I suggest that you consider, think about, develop, adopt and display daily. The key is displaying them; if you haven’t truly adopted them you can’t display them. Got it?

Due unto Others - Think about it any way that you choose – ethics, Karma or the Golden Rule, but I am convinced that you “reap what you sow” so I will preach that you need to treat your Teamers and others in your Organization as you would want to be treated by them. This is the first core value that you need to adopt!

 “The most powerful thing you can do (and it is very powerful) to change the world, is to change your own beliefs about the nature of life, people, reality, to something more positive…and begin to act accordingly.”

 - Shakti Gawain

Creative Visualization

Working in the “Flow” - The Only Way to Go! - I talked about this in my earlier post on empowering your Teamers. You must adopt this core value to always provide your Teamers with the best-possible project definition and processes to enable them to have every opportunity to work in the flow.

Always use a Project Work Plan to define and agree to the expectations for each project (again refer back to the post on empowering). Always make sure that your Teamers have the responsibility and authority to do the project and that schedules are aggressive but doable. Make sure that you provide a “panic button” for your Teamers if they get into trouble and immediate feedback on their efforts.

The reason that this is the second core value covered is that if you can get your Teamers to do the work because they want to, rather than because you want them to, it would make for a great place to work and all these other core values much easier to implement.

 “Find a job you like and you add five days to every week.”

 - H. Jackson Brown Jr.

The “Client” Is Always First - Please note that I didn’t say “always right.” They aren’t. And neither are you. But without the client there is no business and without the business…you know what is next, your job or one of your Teamers or the whole Organization goes down. Develop a value and a philosophy of focus on putting the client’s satisfaction first in all you and your Teamers do each day.

 “So I think instead of focusing on the competition, focus on the customer.”

 - Scott Cook

Run It Like Your Own Business - I got this one from two printers in an internal print shop that had been “assigned” to me during a reorganization. They had worked in the outside print world and preached the gospel of running the internal shop like “their own business!” If it needs to be done, you have to do it.

 “The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself.”

 – Mark Caine

Provide Vision, Direction and Leadership Daily - You’re the Middle. You are the leader of your Teamers. You must provide the direction, vision and leadership to all of your Teamers every day. This is not easy! You will have good days and bad days, a problem with a friend or your family, an unexpected car repair or a day you simply don’t feel well, whatever! Take a moment and look around your Organization and then ask yourself “If you don’t do this, who will?” Your Teamers are depending on you and you must deliver.

 “To the world you might be one person, but to one person you might be the world.”

 – Ebony Mikle

Don’t Worship Control Over Others or Technology - Over my years, I have witnessed Middles who have worshiped their control over others and technology, which led them to problems. Being in control over Teamers can be a very difficult challenge for some Middles to balance properly and can lead to problems working together. And don’t misunderstand me, I think that technology is great. But too many times it is the only solution to the problem and generally some folks like product A and other folks like product B so it gets into a bitching contest and a waste of time and sometimes it’s the process that’s the problem not the technology. Technology can also replace human skills like talking to one another face-to-face rather than with email.

 “Just remember, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything and the wrong way is to keep trying to make everybody else do it the right way.”

 – Colonel Potter

M*A*S*H

Always Move Quickly – Simply, you and your Teamers don’t have time to waste in analyzing a problem to death. Gather information, study it, debate it and then make a decision and move!

 “It is better to be boldly decisive and risk being wrong than to agonize at length and be right too late.”

 - Marilyn Moats Kennedy

Always Look them in the Eye with Total Honesty - This can be a very difficult core value to have and display. The Organization makes an announcement that’s very unpopular for whatever the reason and you, as the Middle will have to talk with your Teamers about their concerns with total honesty about things that you might not agree with or have any control over.

 “If I only had three words of advice, they would be, Tell the Truth. If I got three more words, I’d add, All the Time.”

 – Randy Pausch

Your Attitude - Your “attitude” at work is the sum total of all of your core values, beliefs and teachings. It’s the karma and presence that you bring to work each day.

 “Our attitudes control our lives. Attitudes are a secret power working twenty-four hours a day, for good and bad. It is of paramount importance that we know how to harness and control this great force.”

 – Irving Berlin

Friends and Family - I always wanted to work with people that I could think of the same as my “friends and family.” Perhaps it’s a dream, but why not?

 “One person is being open, friendly, caring, helpful, considerate, cheerful, confident, even joyful in her work, while the other is being closed, distant, uncaring, inconsiderate, grumpy even resentful of what she is doing.”

  - God

Conversations with God

By Neale Donald Walsch

 

Managing Projects

Let’s start off by defining what a “project” is. A project is something that you want to do, to build, implement or change. It could be a software package to calculate sales commissions, a marketing strategy to sell more steaks or an email campaign to generate new business. All projects require management from project definition, through planning on to completion, and as the Middle you must lead your Teamers in doing better project management. But always remember you don’t manage projects, you really manage the people doing those projects, and managers who don’t “project manage” aren’t really good managers.

This post presents these ideas, tips, techniques and processes to help you transform an idea into a tangible finished project; that is creating “something from nothing” – perhaps the ultimate in creativity!

“Visualize” What You Want to Build or Do - The first thing that you have to do is define the project. You need to imagine what the “world would be like” if the project existed. This requires some creativity and is hard work, but again, well worth the effort if you want the project to be successful.

In order to make certain your projects are on target with the objectives, you need to develop and use a Project Work Plan for each project your Teamers do. Your Project Work Plan should include at least these topics:

  • Target user or audience for the project
  • Current situation
  • Project objectives
  • Main benefits of the project
  • Alternative(s) to the project
  • Budget for the project
  • Call to action or next step(s)
  • Plan for the project

Once you develop this document, review it with your Teamers and Senior to get their suggestions, changes and approval and then start the project.

 “If you want to reach a goal, you must ‘see the reaching’ in your own mind before you actually arrive at your goal.”

 - Zig Ziglar

The Life Cycle - All projects have phases and steps and even sub-steps associated with them. It is critical that you identify all of these for the project that you want to do. Identifying the phases and steps for your project will help you in doing the actual planning for the project. The simplest example of a Life Cycle may be a cooking recipe. The recipe defines the parts (ingredients), each phase and stage of preparation and the overall time requirements for the food offering.

The Life Cycle is different for each project, but it represents all of the “things” that need to be done (and by whom and by when) to complete the project on time and within budget.

 “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

 - Mark Twain

Monitor Planned Versus Actual - Once you have planned the project and started it you need to keep track of the “actual” time spent on each step in the plan. Did a step take more time or less time than planned? Was there a problem with a certain step? Understanding what really happens along the plan during each step for the project will help you know where you really are on the project and develop better project plans in the future.

 “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

 - Aldous Huxley

Timekeeping - Lots of Teamers may complain about having to record their time against each project planning step, but that’s the only way to monitor the actual time spent on a step in a plan. Find a time recording system and keep the effort needed to record their time to a bare minimum and make it easy as possible to enter and make changes. Make sure that your Teamers know that this isn’t a “gotcha tool” and that the only purpose of the tool is to keep tabs on what time was spent doing what and when on each project.

 “Don’t say that you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.”

 - H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Move, Monitor and Modify - I got this one from the founder and owner of my last Organization. He preached and lived that you should always “move, monitor and modify” in all that you do. First, you have to move on the project, monitor your progress constantly and modify what needs to change to make things better.

Lastly, don’t wait for your Senior to tell you what to do. Take the initiative and be willing to take risks to achieve quality and results and encourage your Teamers to do the same.

 “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

 - Will Rogers

Adding Staff Won’t Give You the Results You Want - This is generally a myth. Throwing more dollars and staff at a project once it is started usually slows it down. Don’t be tempted to try this! For a project that is really “in the tank” use a Scope Change Process. Get all of your appropriate Teamers together and work to define the current problems with the project, then redefine and replan the remainder of the project’s Life Cycle phases, steps and estimates and be on your way.

 “The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it’s unfamiliar territory.”

 - Paul Fix

Getting More Done With Less – It Can Be Done! - You can get more done with fewer resources, but you have to be responsive to the needs of your Teamers. I suggest that you instill some core values for your team for “good” working relationships with all of the members of your team.

  •  Communicate
  • Have empathy
  • Volunteer and take risks
  • Keep target dates
  • Don't be selfish
  • Admit a problem
  • Take time off when possible         ·           

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

 Nelson Mandela

 

 

Communication Is Key to Everything

Outstanding communications may be the most critical ingredient in everything you do as a Middle. You need to take the lead in improving and directing communications between you and your Teamers, Senior(s), Clients, Partners, Coworkers and basically the rest of your Organization and perhaps the world.

This post will help you get the best communications possible with these ideas, tips, techniques and processes. 

Meetings - Meetings can be “the best of times, the worst of times” (my apologies to Mr. Dickens). Face it; most meetings are a waste of time and money. But a well run meeting can identify problems, focus your team on quality and improve the overall performance of your team. Well run meetings have certain key ingredients. Here are a few from my book that I offer for your consideration.      

  • Never go to or schedule a meeting without an agenda, that is what topics to discuss, who will discuss each topic and why and the time estimate for each topic
  • Always work to keep meetings to one hour or less.
  • Always use a facilitator to keep the meeting on schedule, a scribe to keep notes and a time keeper to stay within the time estimates for each topic.
  • No cell phones permitted unless it is a REAL emergency!

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

 - Leonardo da Vinci

The “Rumor Round-Up” Agenda Item - This was always the final agenda item for any meeting that I’ve ever managed. Simply take time at the end of the meeting to ask your Teamers if they have heard any “rumors” that are flying around and do your best to get back to the person with the question or concern. I suggest that you use this item as a way to head off problems before they can get serious.

 “Trying to squash a rumor is like trying to unring a bell.”

 - Shana Alexander

The Walk-Thru Session - Use the Walk-Thru session to gain Teamer consensus on project objectives and plans so that everyone can move forward on projects knowing what is expected. No matter what the project, there should be a written “document” that describes the project, that is what’s to be done and how and when that all of the Teamers assigned to the project have reviewed and approved.

 “In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.”

 - Warren Buffett

Listen First and Watch What You Say - As a Middle you need to listen to people first and also to watch the words and phrases that you say. You are under the microscope by your Senior, your clients and your Teamers. Not many workers have that dilemma to face each day. You really are “caught” in the middle!

 “Words have special powers. The power to create smiles or frowns. The power to generate laughs or tears. The power to lift up or put down. The power to motivate or de-motivate. The power to teach good or evil. The power to express love or hate. The power to give or take. The power to heal or harm. Choose your words carefully.”

 - A. D. Williams

Internal Communications - These are communications with your Teamers. I always had a project status meeting every week, always on the same day and time to make it habit forming for everyone. I also had impromptu staff meetings when some information would come my way. I always wanted my Teamers to hear the news from me rather than as a rumor or from someone else.

 “Ears that hear and eyes that see – the Lord has made them both.”

 - Proverbs 20:12

External Communications - These are communications with the “rest” of the Organization and perhaps the outside world. This represents a very diverse collection of audiences and information needs. I suggest that you do everything possible to have one report rather than multiple ones that covers your policies, your message(s), your processes, your current staffing level, the latest status on all projects and your current quality improvement efforts.

 “Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will.”

 – Vernon Howard

Reports for Your “Clients” - These are specific reports to your clients typically on project status. Your clients simply want to know the latest status on their projects. You must provide them with an easy way to look for the status of their projects without “bugging” you and your Teamers too often. I suggest that you provide them with “read-only” access to your status report and make sure that you and your Teamers keep this report updated to reflect the latest information on each project.

 “Written reports stifle creativity.”

 - Ross Perot

Tell Them What You Heard Them Tell You – I developed this simple technique long ago to help ensure understanding and agreement with others. Whenever meeting with someone or a group, I always summarized and repeated back to them what I had heard them say and commit to.

For example, assume that you are discussing the plans for a direct-mail campaign to generate new sales in a meeting with Teamers you might follow up with, “OK, I just heard that the copy and graphics will be finalized by the twelfth, and if we allow five days for printing and two days for mailing, we should have our Call Center ready to receive calls on the twentieth. Correct?” Always repeat what you’ve heard back to everyone to seek a simple yes-or-no response, no maybes permitted. Never just assume that everyone knows and agrees with the commitments that have been made.

 “The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions. Make sure the communication is clear. If you don’t understand, ask. Have the courage to ask questions until you are clear as you can be, and even then do not assume you know all there is to know about the given situation. Once you hear the answer, you will not have to make assumptions because you will know the truth.”

 - Don Miguel Ruiz

The Four Agreements

 

Rewarding Your Team

This post provides ideas, tips, techniques and processes on how to really show your appreciation and reward your Teamers with these topics:

The Performance Review – Perhaps you might be wondering “How can a performance review be thought of as a reward to a person?” The simple truth is that people want to know how they are doing on their jobs. Helping your Teamers understand and agree with their performance and perhaps more importantly, how to improve is viewed as a “reward” to most folks. As I said earlier on Job Description, most people know what a Performance Review is, but few know what a Performance Review can be. I’ve had good, great and really bad reviews over my years and once you’ve had a great one you will recognize the difference it can make for you as a reward. It is critical for you to involve each of your Teamers in the process of doing an interactive Performance Review.

A really good Performance Review process has these six steps:

1. The Performance Review Form – You need to develop a form or document that defines the areas to include in the review. I suggest that you cover at least these topics - job knowledge, quality of work, quantity of work, timeliness of work completed, performance on objectives, interpersonal relations and development of subordinates.

I also encourage you to define each of these topics to include the appropriate Job Success Talents described earlier to help to fine tune the review and agree upon the desired skills, performance and improvements. For example, under Job Knowledge you could include written communications, oral communications and decision making.

2. The Summary of Accomplishments – The first step in the Performance Review process is to have your Teamer collect and write down their accomplishments for the period being reviewed, that is projects completed, projects in progress, training completed and ideas and suggestions made. Once the two of you agree on this Summary of Accomplishments it serves as the basis for the review of their performance. I encouraged my Teamers to keep a log to record their accomplishments during the period instead of having a “panic” effort in trying to recall them.

3. Do “Drafts” of the Performance Review Form – After agreeing on the overall content of the Summary of Accomplishments, ask your Teamer to do a “draft” of the Performance Review Form based upon their feelings on their overall performance. You also need to do a “draft” and then share and compare the two. You will be surprised at how frequently their ratings match yours.

4. The Performance Review Meeting – Set aside a special time for this meeting with your Teamer to review and compare the two “drafts” of the Performance Review Form. The overall goal of this meeting is to reach agreement and consensus on the review ratings. Focus on the differences in your “draft” ratings. Ask your Teamer for examples of performance for ratings that don’t agree. Also spend time discussing what they feel that they did very well and what they really liked doing during the period and also what they would like to do more of and less of in the upcoming period. You may not be able to meet their requests but it is important to understand their wants and try to help.

5. Define Goals for the Next Review Period – Now it is time to set goals for the upcoming period and address any areas for improvement and training needs. Make sure that your Teamer participates in setting all of these goals for their next review.

6. Performance Review Agreements – Once you have reached agreement on all of the review categories and set goals for the next period make copies of the paperwork for everyone. I always tried to do a review for each Teamer every year. It is a lot of work but I think Teamers appreciate the effort!

 “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

 - Albert Einstein

Keep Performance and Salary Separate!! - Never mix performance and dollars together in the same meeting. Performance will dictate dollars and you must agree upon performance first. Set up a monthly schedule to do performance reviews at least two months before each Teamer’s salary review time.

 “Before you can learn a new way of doing things, you have to unlearn the old way. So beginnings depend on endings.”

 - Rick Maurer

Training - Dollars spent on training for your Teamers is a wise investment and is viewed as a “reward” by most, especially when they “found” the training opportunity themselves. I always tried to target about 10 percent of the salary budget for each Teamer’s training. Make sure it is a two way process. Have them bring possible training to you and you should look for training for them. I always had training opportunities as one of the agenda items during One-on-One sessions.

 “Learning is the beginning of wealth. Learning is the beginning of health. Learning is the beginning of spirituality. Searching and learning is where the miracle process all begins.”

 - Jim Roth

Manage by Walking Around - I was never a Middle that liked to stay in my office/cube. There was too much going on “out there” and I often would “sign-off” from my desk, telephone, email and computer and seek the first person I could find that would talk with me. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve found a “problem” or a “solution” while cruising around among my Teamers.

 “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

 - Maya Angelou

Thank Them!!! - While you are out there cruising and problem solving always take the time to thank your Teamers for something well done. If you thank them you encourage them to do it again and you also encourage other Teamers too – it can become contagious!

 “The possibility for rich relationships exists all around you – you simply have to open your eyes, open your mouth and most importantly, open your heart.”

 - Cheryl Richardson

Coaching - Coaching can be a key ingredient in helping your Teamers work in the “flow” on projects that they love. Coaching should be a daily even hourly event. If you see a problem take time now to work with your Teamer.

 “If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.”

 - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Flex Time and Flex Benefits - Not every Teamer wants the same things. Each person has different work related needs and wants. Be flexible in work hours. I offered a 4-day work week and a varied start time schedule and they both worked great! Be flexible with your benefit program if you can. Some Teamers may want dental insurance and some may not. It’s that special touch that Teamers love.

 “Never assume that what motivates you is what motivates others. It is also important to recognize that sources of happiness may vary widely between people.”

 - Confucius

Reward Them - I’ve seen reward systems work time and again from the most simple to the most elaborate. I always tried to have a reward ceremony with all of my Teamers each month. People appreciate being thanked in public. I had a simple “employee of the month” reward program that awarded two tickets to the movies to the selected Teamer. The key is to involve all of your Teamers in the nominating process.

 “Giving credit where credit is due is a very rewarding habit to form. Its rewards are inestimable.”

 - Loretta Young

 

 

 

Empowering Your Team

This post presents some ideas, tips, techniques and processes on how to empower your talent. But first, let’s define “empowerment.” To me “empowerment” means that your Teamers are really getting into what they are doing and wanting to do more and better work. They can make decisions on their own and help directly influence quality control and customer satisfaction. You need to do everything possible to help them to work in the “zone” or in the “flow” which is the state of mind that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a renowned expert on creativity, describes in his book Creativity as a “feeling of engagement and focus that time seems to pass unnoticed.” If you have participated in any sports most likely you have experienced being in the “zone.” It was the best game, match, set or round of your life! Everything went perfectly and you can have this same experience at work if you empower your team.

You need to consider and initiate these ideas, tips, techniques and processes to help you empower your Teamers:

The One-on-One Meeting - You need to have meetings with all of your Teamers on a regular basis to encourage understanding and bonding between the two of you. This is the next step or phase in developing trust between you and each of your Teamers.

The first thing that you need to do is understand and know each of your Teamers. What are their goals, values, skills, wants, needs and potential contributions to the success of your team and the Organization?

Start having regular meetings with all of your Teamers. The frequency is up to your working relationship with each Teamer. Once a week is best to start out with, but some folks will only need to get with you every other week or even once a month. But make sure that these meetings are habitual for example “every Tuesday at 10:00 o’clock.”

You should have only two goals for the One-on-One meeting:Help your Teamer feel better about you, themselves and the Organization.

  • Help your Teamer feel better about you, themselves and the Organization.
  • Help you understand them and their needs, wants, dreams and concerns so that you can help them work in the "flow" as much as possible.

Some suggested agenda items for One-on-One meetings include at least these topics:

  • Accomplishments during the past time period
  • Goals for the next time period
  • Problems or concerns
  • Training opportunities
  • Other general "stuff"

Your goal must also be for your Teamers to walk away with a positive feeling about your meeting, including the following:

  • They are in a comfort zone and can freely express themselves. There is trust and honesty present in each meeting.
  • You work on what needs to be done - direction!
  • Make needed decisions.
  • Have them feel that you really care about them, their work and their overall success.
  • Address any problems or concerns they have.

“The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.”

- Abraham Lincoln

Team Building - You need to have regular and constructive team meetings to encourage team understanding and bonding between each member of your team. This is another “trust building” program to encourage your Teamers to trust one another.

Have regular team building sessions where you encourage your team to:

  • Look at work as a team as it flows from on Teamer to another. How could they work together better and transfer work between them better?
  • Look for ways to improve handoffs to other teams or groups.
  • Look for process changes and improvements that need to be made.
  • Look for policy changes that need to be made. 

“The people that get on in this world are the people that get up and look for the circumstances that they want; and if they can’t find them, they make them.”

- George Bernard Shaw

Let Them Fail - This is a tough one. Most managers won’t let their Teamers fail since it may be a reflection on their performance.

If your Teamers fail, help them to learn the lessons they need to improve and not make the same mistakes on the next project or task. A cause analysis and team problem-solving session can help identify the problem(s) made by your Teamer(s) and the reason(s) why.

“Remember the two benefits of failure. First, if you do fail, you learn what doesn’t work; and second, the failure gives you the opportunity to try a new approach.”

- Roger von Oech

Tell Them What You Want To Achieve, But Not How - You need to have your Teamers do at least the planning, scope definition, resource allocation and quality control on the projects assigned to them.

Meet with your Teamer and give them the assignment, but don’t do it for them! Be as specific as you can on what you want them to do. Then ask them to prepare their ideas and plans on how to do the project and get back to you. Have your Teamers present their ideas and plans and listen and make suggestions and modifications to their ideas and then go!

“You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

- Walt Disney

Trust Them - Most of the folks that I’ve worked with over the years wanted to do good work and feel good about their contribution to the success of the Organization, so work to trust them.

Trust is a critical ingredient in being a good Middle. Trust is a two-way relationship; you must trust your Teamers in order for them to trust in you.

Once you give your Teamer the assignment, let them make mistakes. You must trust them to do the project. That’s part of the motivation for the project!

Work with them often so that they don’t go too far from what you want them to accomplish and give them immediate feedback on their performance.

Mutual trust may be the most critical ingredient in empowering you and your Teamers.

“Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not.”

-  Carl Jung

It’s The Work That Motivates Them - In my opinion one of the major myths of management is that a person can motivate another team member. The only two things that motivate people are the work itself and the “environment” or working conditions that they work with each day.

But what makes the work a motivator? Doing work in the “zone” or the “flow” as often as possible and you need to accept that you must be the focal point and the initiator to help your Teamers get to work in the “flow.” That’s true empowerment! There are key ingredients for projects that empower your Teamers to work in the “flow” including:

  • Clear goals
  • Immediate feedback on their progress and performance
  • Good balance between the challenges of the project and the skills of the Teamer

“If an egg is broken by outside force, Life ends. If broken by inside force, Life begins. Great things always begin from inside.”

- Jim Kwik

 

 

Recruiting the Best Talent for Your Team

Okay, let’s get this straight from the get go, as a Middle the only real tools that you have (other than your attitude) to accomplish what you want to do is your team (from now on known as Teamers). You must make every effort to find, recruit, hire and keep the best talent possible. As coaches in all sports often point out “you are only as good as your players.”

Recruiting must be your first step in improving the overall performance of you and your team. You can’t improve your quality, productivity, planning or communications without having the best possible talent on your team. But you must understand that recruiting is a process, not an event, and must include the following ideas, tips, techniques and processes to help you find the best talent possible.

Job Success Talents - First off, you need to identify and define exactly what you want to find, that is the skills and strengths that you need for each of your Teamers. How can you effectively recruit if you don’t know the talents that you need for each of your Teamers to have?

Job Success Talents are the skills and strengths that a person needs to have or develop to do a job well. Perhaps you are wondering, “What’s the difference between skills and strengths?” It is really fairly simple. I think that the best description of the difference is provided in the book Don't Retire, REWIRE! written by Jeri Sedlar and Rick Miners where they offer "strengths are innate and skills are learned. Strengths are what you have to work with; skills are what you develop."

“Innate” means talents that you have from birth or that are native to you. You can’t learn them, but you can improve them with training and practice. Some examples of strengths are being self-motivated, ambitious or determined while some examples of skills are listening, mediating or written communications.

During your recruiting interviews, don’t waste valuable time asking generic and meaningless questions such as “Why are you interested in joining our organization?” or “What do you feel that you can provide to help our organization?” During candidate interviews, always ask targeted questions to determine if the candidate really has the Job Success Talents that you need. For example, if you need a person with great oral presentation skills, ask candidates “What’s the best (or worst) presentation you’ve ever done, and why?” If you need someone who can handle stress, ask “How do you deal with stress?” If the person you need must be able to solve problems, ask “What’s the biggest problem that you’ve solved and how?” Get the idea? A resume tells you what the candidate wants you to know about them, but you need to ask the right questions during the interview to get a better idea if they really have the necessary Job Success Talents.

“In creating, the only hard thing’s to begin; a grass-blade’s no easier to make than an oak.”

- James Russell Lowell

The Job Description - A complete, formal, written and up-to-date definition of what you want each of your Teamers to do, including the talents needed, special training required, supervision exercised and overall responsibilities. Simply, the Job Description is the “pillar” of all that you do with your team. Most people know what a Job Description is but few know what a Job Description can be.

Think of the Job Description as the following tools to address these critical needs:

  • It’s an agreement between you and each of your Teamers on what you want them to do, what responsibilities they will have, what qualifications they must have or develop and how they are to work with other Teamers and the overall Organization.
  • It’s a tool to help you measure each Teamer’s performance.
  • It provides information to determine the appropriate salary for each position.
  • It provides information for advertisements and Internet postings for hiring.
  • It provides standard expectations to feed your reward, empowerment and performance review processes for your Teamers.

A good Job Description is the “vision” of the person that you want to work with and have as a member of your team.

Ask your Teamers for help in writing and updating Job Descriptions on a regular basis, but you should be the one to start the process of writing new and updating existing Job Descriptions. Have them reviewed by your Teamers. They are doing the work. They know what it takes to do their job. Trust them and always include their changes and comments!

“If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”

- Lawrence J. Peter

Ask Your Team For Help! - Ask and encourage your Teamers to help you interview and hire the talents you and they need. Don’t try to do all the interviewing and hiring as a “management thing.”

I’ve worked with lots of Middles and Seniors that think that asking for help in recruiting new talent is a sign of “weakness.” I think that is completely wrong. Asking your team to help interview and select new talent and perhaps future coworkers makes perfect sense to me.

I would always select a variety of Teamers from different disciplines to do the interviews. You get different ideas and opinions from a true cross section of your team. I kept the interviews to no more than four Teamers and myself. Make sure that everyone uses your Job Success Talents and appropriate targeted interview questions.

I always had a meeting with everyone as soon as possible after the interview. Doing a group debrief meeting immediately after the interview keeps everything fresh and you’ll make better decisions. During group debrief meetings make sure that everyone shares their opinions freely and openly. Make a group decision on hiring. If you’re not comfortable doing this, don’t! I always have, and it has always worked well for me.

“When you’re drowning, you don’t say ‘I really would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me,’ you just scream.”

- John Lennon

Recruiting Is A PROCESS Not an EVENT - Now that you know what you want to find and your Teamers are ready to help, how do you get the word out? Again, recruiting is not an “event driven” process that you do when you want to hire someone. Recruiting needs to be an ongoing process of “getting the word out” on you, your team and your organization. You must consistently communicate your “talent needs” and “opportunities offered” to the world in as many ways as possible. These are critical components that you should consider:

  • Networking - Become a member of local groups that do the same kind of work that you do, go to the meetings and help them out if you can by speaking at a meeting or just supply information on the work discipline as appropriate. Encourage your Teamers to also join and be active in these organizations. These folks love to hear from others in their field. Always ask your friends, neighbors, Coworkers and Teamers if they know someone who might match your needs and if they do always talk with their referral.
  • College and Trade School Recruiting – Some of the most fun that I ever had as a Middle was doing on-site recruiting at the local colleges, trade schools and universities that offered students with real skills that I could use now. During campus interview sessions, I often had the chance to talk with seven or eight really talented people in a single day. Think about it: you are doing what they hope to do, so the match is already made!
  • Co-op Programs – Work with your Senior to gain approval for a co-op program with the local colleges, trade schools and universities. These hires are typically a part-time or temporary position, and it’s often easier to get budget approval for a student for just a quarter or two. But these folks can really help you immediately!

“Ability is of little account without opportunity.”

- Napoleon

Matchmaker, Matchmaker Make Me A Match! - Okay, NOW you have an opening to fill. What do you do?

Letting potential candidates know that you have an open position is usually done through newspaper and trade journal print and online advertising for job positions on various websites and search engines.

With print advertising, you have a limited amount of space to describe your position, while with Internet postings you can pretty much provide as much information about the open position as you like.

Lastly, as the following quote suggests, don’t let your Human Resources group write or edit the advertising for you. You must write the ad and give them the copy, and don’t let them change a thing without your approval!

“Advertising is a business of words, but advertising agencies are infested with men and women who cannot write. They are helpless as deaf mutes on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera.”

- David Ogilvy

 

Middle Management 101 – Zen in the Art of Middle Management

This website presents a methodology of “events and steps” that you need to develop, adopt and implement to become a better and happier middle manager and improve your team’s contribution and their overall happiness. This website will offer you hundreds of practical ideas, tips, techniques and processes presented in a structured methodology to help transform managers that are “stuck in the middle” to be a happier, more effective leader working with a truly empowered them that really enjoys what they do!   

Step 1 - Recruiting the Best Talent for Your Team – If you don’t start finding better talent for your team nothing gets better! You must find the best talent possible consistently to make your team better. I will cover these topics in upcoming postings:

  • Job Success Talents
  • The Job Description
  • Ask Your Team For Help!
  • Recruiting Is a PROCESS Not an EVENT
    • Networking
    • College and Trade School Recruiting
    • Co-op Programs
  •  Matchmaker, Matchmaker Make Me A Match!

Step 2 - Empowering Your Team - Once you find the best possible talent you need to empower them to get the most for your team. I will cover these topics in upcoming postings:

  • The One-on-One Meeting
  • Team Building
  • Let Them Fail
  • Tell Them What You Want to Achieve, But Not How
  • Trust Them
  • It’s the Work That Motivates Them

Step 3 - Rewarding Your Team – Once you have empowered your team you need to understand how to keep them. I will cover these topics in upcoming postings:

  • The Performance Review
    • The Performance Review Form
    • The Summary of Accomplishments
    • Do “Drafts” of the Performance Review Form
    • The Performance Review Meeting
    • Define the Goals for the Next Review Period
    • Performance Review Agreements
  • Keep Performance and Salary Separate!!
  • Training
  • Manage By Walking Around
  • Thank Them!!!
  • Coaching
  • Flex Time and Flex Benefits
  • Reward Them

Step 4 - Communication Is Key to Everything - You’ve found talent for your team and you’ve started empowering and rewarding them, now what? I will cover these topics in upcoming postings:

  • Meetings
  • The Rumor Round-Up Agenda Item
  • The Walk-Thru Session
  • Listen First and Watch What You Say
  • Internal Communications
  • External Communications
  • Reports for Your “Clients”
  • Tell Them What You Heard Them Tell You

Step 5 - Managing Projects - You and your Teamers must also manage your projects well, that is getting from “Point A” to “Point B” and really knowing where you are every step along the way. I will cover these topics in upcoming postings:

  • “Visualize” What You Want to Build or Do
  • The Life Cycle
  • Monitor Planned Versus Actual
  • Timekeeping
  • Move, Monitor and Modify
  • Adding Staff Won’t Give You the Results You Want
  • Getting More Done With Less – It Can Be Done!
  • Technology Stuff

Step 6 - Quality - “To Be, or Not to Be?” – I feel that quality is the most misunderstood “buzzword” ever in the world of work (Productivity would be in second place, just in case you might be wondering). I will cover these topics in the upcoming postings:

  • What is Quality?
  • Tell Me If You Measure Up – This Is NOT Easy!
  • How to Improve Your Quality
  • The Post-Mortem Meeting
  • How to “Prove” Quality? Ask Your “Clients!”
  • Have Patience; They’ve Never Done This
  • Most Quality Programs Are Started by Middles

Step 7 - Key Core Values to Display Daily – These are your daily Ten Commandments to live by while you are at work. I will cover these key core values that I suggest you adopt and display daily in all that you say, do and think in upcoming postings.

  • Do unto Others
  • Working in the “Flow” – The Only Way To Go!
  • The “Client” Is Always First
  • Run It Like Your Own Business
  • Provide Vision, Direction and Leadership Daily
  • Don’t Worship Control Over Others or Technology
  • Always Move Quickly
  • Always Look Them in the Eye with Total Honesty
  • Your Attitude
  • Friends and Family

Step 8 - Things NOT to Worry About – I will provide some ideas on things that I seriously suggest you never worry about or spend time on since you really can’t do anything about them in upcoming postings.

  • What You Can’t Control
  • Money and Budget
  • Your Senior’s Attitudes
  • Egos
  • Office Politics, Rumors and Gossip
  • The FUD Factor
  • Fear of Failure
  • Resources Wars

 “It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.”

 - Wendell Berry