Year-end always has me thinking about goals. Every December I take stock of the year. How well did I achieve what I set out to do? What was my big success? What would I like to do differently? I also begin to look at the next year to fashion what I’d like to see happen in the next twelve months.
Yes, I am a serious goal-aholic. For most of my adult life, I’ve used goals to set my course of action professionally and personally. I don’t get rigid about it, some goals get abandoned mid-year when I realize that they are in some way flawed and unachievable. Some goals that sound great in January, I will realize are pulling me off course by June. Unexpected life changes can make goals inappropriate over time. Goals guide, they never dictate.
That’s a topic that I have been giving a lot of thought to lately because, increasingly, I am being hired to provide delegation-skills classes for managers in my clients’ organizations.
One of the reasons, as you well know, is that managers are being asked to do more with less—and it doesn’t look like this trend is going to change any time soon.
The trend made headlines in The Washington Post last year when the Virginia legislature allowed state employees to take Fridays off. The leaders of the Commonwealth of Virginia estimated that they’d save millions of dollars on energy by shutting down government buildings across the state one day a week.
Yet, many managers avoid it like the plague. As one manager told me, “When one of my employees wants to talk about their next career step, I want to run and hide. I usually put off the meeting as long as I can.”
Why? That’s the topic we tackle in this month’s issue of Workforce Learning, below.
I know, I know. Mere mention of the word makes you tense up a bit.
That’s why I tread softly when I teach my management skills workshop. I begin by getting a quick pulse on the health of an organization to determine if there are bad management practices lurking that will diminish the effectiveness of my teaching. I want to know as fast as possible if this organization has a pervasive culture that won’t support a good manager.
With the scent of Valentine’s Day roses still in the air, this month I tackle a topic that not many discuss in the workplace: Love.
I realize, of course, that merely uttering this word in an office setting has the tendency to set off fireworks with HR folks worried about the demon bugaboo — sexual harassment. But that doesn’t mean we should toss out the critical ideas of loving our work, colleagues, and companies. I recently scoured the business books in my library to investigate the concept of “love” at work. Here’s what I found.
My professional life is well documented on my website, which got a facelift this month. I do hope you will go there for a visit: www.workforcelearning.com
My other life, however, is something that may come as a surprise to many. It is my passion for the visual arts. The only evidence of my artistic life is the mention in my bio that I have a doctoral degree in art education.
How did I make the transition from art teacher to business owner? That is a long and complicated story, but suffice it to say that as my business has grown, I have increasingly felt the need to bring the two parts of myself together. So earlier this fall, I participated in a 12-week intensive study at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM). Beginning in January, I will be a videoconference docent, presenting interactive art-appreciation talks with schools throughout the United States using artworks from the SAAM collection.
I am so excited about this accomplishment, for being a student again after all these years was humbling. It was also invigorating, life changing, and has inspired me in ways that have yet to play out. I share more details below about the lessons I have learned from this experience.
In this month’s book review (right), I offer a little more food for thought and encourage you to pick up Five Minds for the Future, by Howard Gardner.
As we enter the holiday season, I want to thank you for all of your business and support, and look forward to 2011 being a year filled with learning, prosperity, and joy. Happy holidays! — Alice Waagen, President Workforce Learning
Case in point is a good friend of mine, who told me recently about a very bad day she had at work. She had to fire a staff member who was not performing the job he was hired to do. In fact, his performance wasn’t up to the most minimal of standards.
We talked a bit about the endless days of training and guidance that ended in the termination, and finally my friend asked me: “How can I learn how to do a better job of firing someone? They always end in tears, with me feeling guilty, as if it was my fault that the person was not the right fit for the job. What am I doing wrong?”
Can you explain how to write meaningful and measurable performance goals? Can you show us how to tell someone their work is not up to expectations?
I am asked these questions frequently as I interact with business leaders. Immediately, my brain opens the big mental file folder labeled “Managing Performance.”
For nearly a decade, I was one of the beleaguered souls known as a middle manager.
Sandwiched between front-line supervision and senior leadership, each day was a struggle to balance the needs of the workforce with the aspirations of the top dogs.
I was the last of a dying breed.
Right before I left to start my own business (and the reason why I did so), I remember excitedly telling my boss that I was going to take over the creation of a new leadership development seminar.
It had been a few years since I had put my hand to the instructional design helm, and I was eager to begin this exciting challenge.
He said, “I don’t pay you to do the work yourself. You have staff to actually produce the work. I pay you to direct them.”
His comment typified the belief about the manager’s job in those days. Yes, managers actually used to manage staff as their sole job function. Not any more. Read on to learn what has become of the role of the middle manager, and how organizational leaders need to rethink the concept of the flat organization.
Alice Waagen, President