Posts Tagged 'organizational development'

Managing Management Stress

Read all the books you want; consult psychological theories and the experts.  Typically, what you’ll find is lots of advice by “experts” in behavioral psychology, always sporting a PhD and ready to tell you how YOU can subdue the stress in YOUR life. Problem; they don’t and most often have never lived in your world or walked in your shoes. They, the experts, have trouble relating so, in the absence of solid, experience based data, they rely on theories…theories expounded more “experts” who preceeded them.

Think for a moment, do you suppose Sigmund Freud would be able to relate to the working environment of a modern day manager? Do you really? I don’t.

So, what we get is a series of directives telling us how the human mind works and what goes wrong, usually based on how we were “imprinted” as kids, our early experience and behavioral conditioning, without PRACTICAL ways with which to correct the problems leading to excess and unmanageable stress.

Who has time or the inclination for counseling? Few managers I know.

With the full understanding that I’m no “expert”, I’ll suggest an Rx for managing the unavoidable stress in today’s business world. Sure, it’s somewhat general but I know it helps because it worked for me and for others with whom I’ve consulted. The most practical way to deal with natural stress is to maximize SELF-CONTROL. Figurative and literal control of your time and your life.

“Can’t be done,” you say? I’ve done it; so can you.

First, and this is the gutsy one, you must determine that you and only you will decide who you are today and how you’ll spend the rest of your working life. Doing this means going through a bit of self-analysis. No, you don’t need a shrink! You must identify those things driving you nuts. I’m talking about the “put offs”, things you have decided you must do because you can’t trust others and which you simply don’t feel comfortable doing.  Do it, the sky won’t fall and your business won’t fail.

What things are really important to you? Simply put, if you identify what is most important in your life, things and people, and find you are consistently upset and “stressed” by other things and people, you have to decide to clean up the list! You are going to focus on the important and work to dump the others.

What I’m saying is, if you want to control stress, you must control youself..and that means manging the things, people and activities in your life.

I apologize for the sermon. I’ve been at this a while and made every mistake there is to make. So, I’ve learned by suffering the slings and arrows of living a phony existance. And, thankfully, I learned how to make it better. Believe me, rich or poor, it’s better being yourself!

Now, let’s get practical for a moment. “How”, you ask, “can I do it and run my business at the same time?” How can I escape the people issues, customer problems and details? Quick answer, re-engineer your organization.

Re-engineer?  Rebuild? Reorganize? Yep! All three. Recently, I worked with a small business owner on the west coast who was drowning in a sea of details and activities that were driving him crazy but which he felt he was bound to manage. Because he came from the old school…”If you want it done right you do it yourself”, he really trusted noone but himself. And he had himself boxed in. He had no time for things he really felt great doing. 

I understand, I am over-simplifying a more complex process but, bloggers are impatient.  In a sentence, I prevailed upon the manager to sit back, analyze his time and re-focus on his skills.  Surprised as he was, we were able to establish a plan for delegating the less essential tasks, tasks that were tying him up on a daily basis and let him breathe!

Result; as the manager’s day focused more and more on the “A” items, so vital to his business and let the “B” and “C” items go to subordinates, he relaxed.  You can do the same. you will now spend time where you can add the greatest value. And, you be a happier manger…with far less stress.

Bonus; you now have a process for building the skills and abilities of the next wave of mangers.  Succession planning now will become an integral part of your team building culture. And, you will have found a tool for stress reduction…no PhD, no couch required!

Again, I do apologize for the grossly underdetailed explanation above. My point is simply to encourage managers to stop feeling that suffering is a job requirement and plan a system that works for you!


Layoffs and Cutbacks

So, everyone’s buzzing about hard times, a recession driven slow down and staff reductions. 

With all kinds of uncertainties, the most important question is….will I be on the cutback list?  Below, I’ll tell you how to know.  

First, though, understand I’ve lived through and survived several of these scenarios. I base my comments on those experiences. How did I make the “stay” list so often? Luck? Nope.  I was fortunate enough to score some important points; I had what the company wanted.  Do you?

If you have the guts to look honestly at yourself, not just at your self-image but the way others, especially superiors, see you, you will know what’s coming.

First, I’ll focus on the front line worker’s perspective:

1. Understand, companies cut from the bottom to the top. People with the power to cut, never cut themselves. Makes sense, right? Managers in the middle of your organization will be asked to force rank their teams, top to bottom.  If you fall in the lower half, start your job search now! Look at yourself vs. everyone else on your team.

2. Forced rankings place a net value on each employee.  The idea is to measure anything and everything you can do for your employer during this difficult period.  The more you can deliver, the higher your ranking.

3. To approximate your chances of surviving the next cut, take an honest, analytical look at yourself. Look not only at what you see but what others see in you. Focus on these areas of your performance:

*Can I be relied on to meet expectations 100% of the time, regardless of challenges?

*Do I complain about unusual assignments and the occasional request to do something extra…above and beyond my job description?

*How broad based and flexible am I? How many positions can I fill on at least a temporary basis.

*Am I a seen by others as postivie, a team player who is always part of the solution vs. the problemr?

*Do my senior managers like being around me? Do they voluntarily converse with me, making direct eye contact? Or, am I avoided?

*Am I a valuable multi-tasker?

*Do I have the potential to grow and develop as the current business climate brightens and the company regains it’s ability to grow?

*Finally, and you can’t underestimate the gravity of this one….what is the state of office and compnay politics? Who has been sucking up to whom? To whom are favors owed. How secure is your boss and what will he/she do to solidify his or her position. Will you become a “sacrificial lamb”?

Answer those questions and you’ll know whether or not to you are on the hit list.  Good luck!

Now, what about mid-level managers? If this is you, don’t think for a moment you are above it all.  The first thing top managers do in times of impending crisis, is to line up the “sacrificial lambs”. I’ve even seen top people promote these “lambs” so that when the day comes, they will have someone on whom to place blame, shielding themselves.  That’s just the way it is…survival of the fittest isn’t just a silly theory, it’s life.

So, managers in the middle, look at the above list of perceived values and evaluate yourself. Are you really vital to the success of your struggling organizaion? Or, are you an overpaid, fast-talker who has spent the last two or three years telling yourself how great you are. Look at the hard results of your efforts. Can you justify your position? If you were looking down the org chart at yourself, what would your judgment be?

Since you are nearer the top of the organization, you have more exposure to senior managers.  Evaluate your relationships. How are you viewed from above:

*Are you consulted before decisions are taken?

*Are you included in important meetings or sent a meeting summary?

*In meetings, are you and your topics consistently at the bottom of the agenda?

*When extra staff was last added, was it in your department of elsewhere?

*How did your department budget fair last time around?

Do you get the message? If you don’t feel the company places top value on your funtion, and this can be proven by answering the questions above, now it the time to polish up the resume and start networking..which you should have been doing all along.

And, to you, my mid-level friends, an extra measure of’ll need it!