Managing up

5 not-so-often-shared ways to manage up and have a better relationship with your boss.

You want to manage up – but what you really mean is that you simply want to work well with your boss.

Who doesn’t? Especially when your boss is pestering you with questions via Slack after work-hours, or failing to give you enough time to complete projects…

You sigh and think yourself: “How do I manage up effectively?”

This is one of the most common questions I’m asked – and, unfortunately, one of the most common situations that you might face, whether you’re a manager, executive or individual contributor.

Keep reading “Managing up”

How to build social connection in a remote team

Virtual team building is tough. Here are 7 ways you can build social connection in a remote team, even from afar.

I’ll be shocked if you’re shocked: Building social connection in a remote team is the hardest part of managing a remote team. According to a survey we ran this past fall with 297 remote managers and employees, “fostering a sense of connection without a shared location” was seen as the #1 most difficult part of being a remote manager – and the #1 most difficult part of working remotely, in general.

It’s predictable. When you work in a co-located office, you walk by someone’s desk and give them a friendly hello, catching up about their weekend. You notice a coworker’s body language appears a little “down” so you ask if they want to grab coffee later. You share a joke over lunch with another colleague when you realize you both oddly adore the same brand of obscure New Zealand mints.

Those serendipitous moments of social connection don’t happen with the same frequency or fidelity when you’re working remotely. As a result, the sentiments of “Ah, we’re in this together” or “You’ve got my back” can be absent in a remote team, unless you deliberately foster them.

Keep reading “How to build social connection in a remote team”

How to share your company vision as a leader

The #1 piece of information you should be focused on as a leader is sharing company vision. Here’s exactly how to do it.

“Company vision” might be the fluffiest business term I know.

Thrown around by every nearly business book and article, “vision” is often used vaguely, without nuance or thoughtfulness.

Yet despite it’s watered-down usage, “vision” is the most important information for us to communicate across a team. According to a survey we conducted with 355 people in the fall of 2018, vision was ranked as the #1 information people need to share in a team.

Given its significance, how to best share a company vision within a team?

Before we can answer that, we must start with what company vision exactly is and why it’s important. Then, we can dive into to how you can make sure it’s shared across the team.

Keep reading “How to share your company vision as a leader”

How to onboard a new hire

Recently I hired someone new here at Know Your Team. Here’s exactly what I wrote on Day 1 and the 23 questions I asked as a part of our employee onboarding process.

Something new happened recently: We hired a new employee at Know Your Team – and it caused me to rethink our entire employee onboarding process. As a small, profit-focused team, we don’t hire often. As a result, this time around, I wanted to be intentional about how to onboard a new hire.

After all, the numbers on how likely it is for a new employee to leave within the first 90 days are astounding: 30% employees leave before their first 3 months are up, according to a survey with 1,500 people.

It got me reflecting deeply… How to onboard a new hire, and make sure that person feels welcomed, encouraged, and well-equipped to contribute to the team?

Keep reading “How to onboard a new hire”

What great managers do: Prune

Being a great manager and English gardening have more in common than you might imagine.

If you want to improve your leadership skills, there no shortage of analogies that have been made about great managers.

A great manager is a “coach,” a “captain of a ship,” or even a “human shield.”

However, I heard a more unlikely comparison about leadership made on our podcast, The Heartbeat, when I interviewed David Cancel, CEO of Drift. He told me:

“I kind of think about most of this stuff as English gardening. If you want an English garden most of the work is actually the pruning and the taking care of. It’s not the planting, it’s not the plant selection. It’s this constant pruning. The day that you stop pruning is the day that the garden is full of weeds and overrun.”

I found this to be a brilliant analogy on several levels.

Keep reading “What great managers do: Prune”

Am I micromanaging my team?

Here are the 5 most telling signs of micromanagement – and what you can do instead.

I won’t tell anyone:  You think you might be a micromanager. Argh. If there were scarlet letters for a bad manager to wear, “m-i-c-r-o-m-a-n-a-g-e-r” would be among them.

But, how do you know if you’re a micromanager, for sure? 

Yes, you can directly ask your team members if they think you’re micromanaging them. If you have a direct report who has a penchant for shooting you straight, I highly recommend this. (In fact, when we asked through Know Your Team to 606 employees across 61 companies, “Do you feel micromanaged?” 12% said “Yes.”)

But it’s also probable that your direct report might not concede the truth. You are their boss, after all. And telling a boss they’re a micromanager is the equivalent of, well, slapping them in the face. 🙂

Keep reading “Am I micromanaging my team?”

The hardest leadership advice to follow

We all know we’re supposed to “work on the business and not in the business” as a leader… but what holds us back? And, how do you exactly put “stepping away” into practice?

“Work on the business, not in the business. Pause. Step back. Take stock. Reflect. “

This is some of the most ubiquitous advice I’ve received from leaders on our podcast, The Heartbeat, over the past few years. Yet, as often as it’s repeated, I wonder how often it’s followed.

I’m writing about myself here, namely. Yes, conventional wisdom says to “sleep on it”, to step away from the work to get a fresh perspective on it. And yes, I’ve vigorously nodded my head in agreement whenever someone espouses something along those lines. But, if I’m being honest with myself, how often do I personally act on that recommendation?

For the longest time, my answer has disappointingly been, “Not often”. Prior to last year, I didn’t regularly set aside blocks of meaningful time for myself to reflect on the business. When faced with a critical decision to make or a tough situation to resolve, I plunged myself deeper into the work.

“More, harder, faster” was my default setting. Is it yours, too?

Keep reading “The hardest leadership advice to follow”

The value of conflicting advice: How great leaders think

Here’s one way to create more mental wriggle room for yourself in tough situations as a leader.

Before you figure out what to do, you must first figure out how to think as a leader. 

But what if you’re not even sure what to think?

A direct report who’s well-liked by the team is underperforming, yet you can’t get a good read on the severity of it because this person is so popular. How do you figure out what’s truly going on? What do you tell your direct report? Should you consider finding someone else to fill the role?

Someone recently joined the leadership team who you’re pretty sure is going to be the downfall of the company, but no one else quite sees it yet. Are you even correct to think this? Do you say something if you are correct? If so, how exactly? 

What to make of situations like these? It’s like someone put you in a box that you didn’t choose to be put in. You don’t have any wriggle room. Every option seems no-win.

Keep reading “The value of conflicting advice: How great leaders think”

Your leadership weakness is being “too controlling.” What to do?

17 phrases and suggestions to avoid the common leadership weakness of coming across as too controlling as a manager.

Recently, a manager told me how he’d received feedback from his team about his greatest leadership weakness. “I come across as too intense or controlling,” he admitted. 

Genuinely concerned, he then asked me, “What can I do to not be that way?”

Among all the feedback we receive as managers about our leadership weaknesses, coming across as “too controlling” might be one of the most difficult to swallow.

You get that stuck feeling in your throat because, well, frankly, you feel like you need to be controlling, at times. You feel justified. After all, you just want the thing to get done! And record goes to show, sometimes it doesn’t get done. So how else are you supposed to communicate the urgency and significance of a deliverable, without coming across as “intense” and “controlling”? And who said “intense” and “controlling” should be perceived as a negative thing, in the first place?

Keep reading “Your leadership weakness is being “too controlling.” What to do?”

The 4 essential questions to ask yourself as a leader

Instead of seeking answers, becoming a better leader starts with asking ourselves the right questions.

You want the answer. The silver bullet, the trick, the hack, the leadership best practice, the new manager checklist. There’s got to be some secret point of leverage that you don’t yet know about to becoming a better leader… It has to be out there, right?

We’re obsessed with wanting to know the answer. The 1-2-3 steps to follow so we can right our wrongs and make progress faster.

Yet when it comes to becoming a better leader, I’m not convinced there’s is one. Scholars can hardly agree on the definition of leadership, alone. As Ralph Stogdill famously wrote in 1974, “there are almost as many different definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept.”

Keep reading “The 4 essential questions to ask yourself as a leader”