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Monday, July 27, 2009

Management 10

Q: Hey, I had a look at adaptivecoach.wordpress.com to see what I could find on Business Coaching. I didn't realize that coaching was such a big thing.

A: How do you mean?

Q: Well there are certification bodies, and many specialties for coaches, and just a lot going on in that world, all over the world.

A: That's right. There's lots of help available once you start to look for it. And asking for help doesn't mean one is not smart or capable – actually the opposite. The most successful folks are those who have gotten help: hired competent people to support them, taken training, engaged coaches and consultants whenever needed.

Q: OK; but we didn't talk about cost. Aren't coaches and consultants expensive?

A: Not nearly as much as lawyers and plumbers! :)
But seriously, expensive consultants may get the financial press, but like everything else, one gets what one pays for. For example some of the most expensive coaches and consultants only take payment when the client declares the coaching to be successful.
And in general, while an hourly or daily rate might appear high, that has to cover all the learning, preparation, certification, business operations, etc. time that is not on the bill. So if it took 8 hours to prepare and deliver a 1 hour session, the achieved income is at the rate of 1/9 of what is billed. Believe me, it would be so deliciously wonderful, if consultants earned their published rate throughout a whole week or month.

Q: That sounded pretty personal. :)

A: OK – got me.
Unfortunately, the perceived high cost versus return is often a factor in the “easy”, but dumb, budget cuts that we talked about last time. The good news is that people who have been smart enough to use a coach or consultant – and some can provide both services – know the return is worth it. There are many studies that show results like:
"PWC Global Survey of Coaching Clients Reveals Median 7X ROI
  • 86 percent of companies that use or have used coaching report at least a 100 percent return on their initial investment
  • 82.7 percent, of individuals who have experienced professional coaching report being "very satisfied".
Q: Neat! Those are great stats.
What other ways are there for me to learn to become a good manager?

A: One is finding a good mentor in your own organization. This is kind of like having an assistant coach to whom you can turn for questions and advice who is close by and knows the organization well and the players involved.

Q: It's interesting that you used the term “assistant coach” - why?

A: Because a professional coach is well trained, certified by an independent body, follows a particular approach or model that has been proven to be successful over time.
A mentor is more like a good friend. They may be wise, insightful, friendly, have the best intentions, but there is no assurance of a professional approach. They are making it up as they go along.

Q: OK – so it's back to “you get what you pay for”?

A: Exactly. Having a good mentor is very helpful, if only as a sounding board for your concerns, ideas, issues.
If you are feeling sick, your grandmother can provide some really good chicken soup which picks you right up, or you can go to your doctor for a more complete, systematic check up. Both have their place, both can get results, one is just more thorough with an assurance of longer term benefit.

Q: So, if I'm trying to become a good manager, what do you recommend?

A: Pay attention to all of these aspects – research & training, clarity of your role and expectations, practice, and asking for help.
We've covered the principles of managing – the key elements, the need to be clear with your manager what he or she is asking of you, the benefit of practicing the elements and learning from your mistakes, and the importance of asking your own manager for help on how you are doing, and help in improving through mentoring, or a coach.

Q: And are there some essentials that are not to be missed?

A: Understanding yourself and your own values, and being open and curious. Connecting, communicating continuously, including asking for help allows you to be investigative and adaptive, and to be understood.
Managing is a people activity, and so requires connecting well with people – understanding and being understood. The foundation is fundamentally good two way communications, starting with good listening – truly hearing the other person.
Management decisions directly affect the people being managed, so it is critical to know and appreciate how they are going to be affected, and that comes from understanding them and their perspective.
Asking for help enables those conversations, builds those connections and relationships, that provides you that knowledge.

Q: So is there a way I can work on connecting and asking for help?

A: Absolutely! Check out the Core Protocols at www.businessimprovementresults.com/whatresults.html, and attend a BootCamp to build your skills.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Management 9

Q: So you always manage to divert from my question to make your own point, or to ask me a question in reply.

A: And what's wrong with that? :)

Q: Stop kidding around! The question on the table is “How does a Manager get to know about all the management stuff we have talked about”?
By the way – where have you been?

A: Now who's digressing? But thanks for asking. I've been taking a little R&R with my sweetie and recovering from a strained back – this property management stuff is hard on a desk jockey.
Back to your question:
The fact that you have to ask is an example of an issue we see regularly. Management Training just doesn't seem to be a standard item in organizations any more.

Q: For sure! I think our budget for all training has been cut back considerably over the years.

A: I'm afraid so. Things like training, coaching, consulting regularly get cut back in, or out of, budgets whenever spending is constrained. Unfortunately, there is always someone with a sharp pencil, or spreadsheet, that can make a name for themselves by finding short term savings.

Q: Yeah; but the argument always is that we need to focus on our core business, our “core competencies”, and these extras get cut.

A: Well; that's just one more aspect of short term thinking. Training, coaching, and consulting build core competencies and provide efficiencies and effectiveness to make the business more profitable. Cutting these things out once saves money – once, in this budget. That's just poor planning, staffing, and controlling.

Q: Hey! I remember those items – they're part of the management activities list. So you are saying those cuts are poor management?

A: They are unless all other options for immediate cost savings have been exhausted, like capturing the salary of the one-time-savings hero.
It really comes down to how do Managers make these decisions. And typically cutting training, coaching, consulting look like good decisions because the longer term isn't considered, or the return on investing in these items isn't known or seems to be too hard to figure out.

Q: Are you on your soapbox again?

A: Probably; but it is relevant. How does an organization prepare and develop for the future without training, coaching, and consulting? If the machinery isn't oiled today, it won't run tomorrow.
Managers get to know the fundamentals of their jobs through being taught, and then doing. The path to lots of good decisions is littered with lots of bad. Remember that the goal to start with is simply make more good ones than the others.

Q: I'm hearing that training is the start, and the doing part – including making mistakes – is next.

A: Right, just like most things. Management can be taught; good management takes practice; really good management requires great people skills that not everyone has.
So once the initial training is done, and mistakes are being made, then coaching can make a huge difference in tuning skills and adapting from lessons learned.

Q: OK; training is clear, but I'm not familiar with this “coaching” idea. You mean like a sports team coach?

A: Perhaps a better analogy is a personal fitness trainer. Only a business coach is your personal business skills trainer. And, of course, one of the business skills is management.

Q: Neat; so a coach works with you on a regular basis?

A: As often as you wish, usually on a weekly or bi-monthly basis. That way issues that the coach can help with are current, the mistakes made and lessons learned are fresh, and an effective flow is maintained for progress. The best are certified as coaches, have solid personal experience and background in the area, and so can be extremely valuable and focused on their client – you! :)

Q: And what do I get out of this?

A: Well, anything you wish. Imagine that any time you had a question about your management role, situations with employees, tough decisions, the “office politics” stuff, etc. you could reach an expert with suggestions, approaches, reminders, etc.

Q: Sounds like a real time management support life line!

A: Yeah! Cool, eh?
Why don't you, for next time, do a little research on Business Coaching. A great place to start is adaptivecoach.wordpress.com

Q: Jeez; homework again?

A: Yup. :)