Managing for Success!


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Management thinking has traditionally focused on the manager’s role in managing down. Far less time and attention have been given to how direct reports can (and should) “manage up.” Essentially, managing up means managing the relationship with your manager so that both of you can achieve your goals, as well as the organization’s. It is an active rather than passive process — you have to work at it. Being proactive epitomizes the concept.

Want to see the entire article? Download the PDF file here.

When coaching for success, here are some key points to remember:
  • Do the diagnostics – the homework!
  • Talk to the people – direct reports, peers, manager, and internal customers – and read the most recent 360.
  • What are the derailers? What actions, behaviors or attitudes are getting in the way of success?
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Q: Is it possible that an incentive plan was good during robust economic times, but isn’t good when the economy is in serious recession, like now?

A: Yes. If the plan is inherently well designed, the big change that’s required is to reset performance objectives, particularly quantitative ones. These need to be realistic to avoid setting up employees for failure. Nothing is more demotivating than unattainable targets. The challenge is determining what’s realistic!

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Following an eye-opening employee engagement survey and as part of an overall strategic planning exercise, the managing partner of a regional accounting firm engaged PSG to conduct a comprehensive series of integrated mini-projects. The first step was to conduct 360o reviews for all the partners. The goal – to identify the strengths and areas for improvement and then leverage the results into a stronger, more focused organization. This would reflect strengths, optimize the talents of both partners and staff and, at the same time, recognizing gaps and weakness.

Following the individual feedback and coaching to partners, we worked with the partners to develop the strategic plan, addressing the following key issues:

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In the last few months of 2009 an into early 2010, we worked with a giant in the entertainment and media world, grappling with the challenges brought on by the recession and a rapidly changing industry:

  • Advertising down across the board
  • Newspaper and magazine circulation in the doldrums
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The 360o Review, if managed properly, is one of the most powerful diagnostic tools for a manager’s professional development and for upgrading management practices in general. The question is how to establish credibility and trust in the process. Here are some tips based on our years of experience in successfully conducting 360s:

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The managing partner of a regional accounting firm has engaged us to conduct a comprehensive series of integrated mini-projects. The first step is to conduct 360o reviews for all the partners. The goal is to identify the strengths and areas for improvement of each individual and then leverage the results into a stronger, more focused organization that optimizes the talents of both partners and staff. Following the individual feedback and coaching to partners, we will:

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We just completed our fifth annual employee survey for Toronto-based Spin Master Toys, an international toy manufacturer with offices in Hong Kong, China, Paris, London, Mexico City and Los Angeles. The multi-language survey was used to gather employee feedback on a wide range of topics, including job satisfaction, quality of the work environment, compensation and benefits and confidence in the leadership team. The survey breaks out responses by location, by function within location and by function across the entire organization. With input from PSG, Spin Master uses the results to shape its future HR plans and initiatives.

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In our May newsletter, I mentioned that we were in the process of writing an article about the often neglected, yet important area of managing up. The article combines findings from our years of experience in coaching, training, 360s and employee engagement surveys, together with a survey recently conducted with a number of our clients. To view the shorter version titled “The Importance of Managing Up” and recently published by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), click here.

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PSG continues to focus on employee engagement since high employee engagement has extremely high correlation with performance, productivity and therefore profitability. Performance and productivity are a cornerstone of our practice with these surveys an essential diagnostic tool.

Stan Friedman, leveraging over thirty years of communications experience, has actively participated in major PSG international projects, focusing on organizational development and communication issues. He follows up on our previous article on employee engagement (July 2010 issue) with some tips on assessing organizational communications in this area.

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PSG’s experience is that nothing is more important than follow-up to and accountability for addressing the issues raised in your employee engagement survey. The fundamental is that expectations for change have been raised. Our suggested approach, based on the many surveys we’ve conducted, is as follows:

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Here’s a short exchange that might strike a responsive chord.

John: Michael, I guess we’re meeting because your manager told you that you need an executive coach.

Michael: I’m certainly under pressure. I’ve been stretched incredibly thin and I’m just not coping as effectively as I’d like.

John: What’s the problem? Not enough resources? The wrong priorities? Too much into the details and not watching the big picture?

Michael: You know, it’s a strange thing. I’ve had all this responsibility pushed onto me with limited resources. I ask for help, get very little and I’m knocking myself out.

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Why do managers forget to give the positive feedback that motivates their direct reports and gives the necessary encouragement to stay motivated? They’re busy, pre-occupied, but mostly, they just take things for granted — it’s part of the job; it’s expected. However, people like to know where they stand, like to know that when they make the effort or think of something creative, it is appreciated.

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Companies are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the performance management process with annual merit increases and incentive payouts linked more closely through formula-driven systems. This has been accompanied by a shift towards “metrics” (simply another word for measures). The old adage, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” has gained increasing credibility.

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