This is a delightful week for us here at Lip-sticking. Not only do we feel as if we are finally accomplishing things -- such as writing in our blog on a more regular basis -- but, we have a most wonderful interview for you today. An interview with a woman who knows managing...a woman who has a great sense of humor... a woman who 'gets it'...that's the most we can say about our Smart Woman Online, Lisa Haneberg, from Management Craft, for now. Read on to discover a world of great information on managing well...
Lip-sticking: Let's start this conversation with your book: High Impact Middle Management: Solutions for Today's Busy Managers. We're going to skip ahead to Part Three: H.I.M.M. for Day-to-Day Execution, since that was our favorite part of the book. Where did you come up with the Mucky Muck description of the day-to-day "conflict, contradiction, and chaos"? We love originality in business books...this was not only clever, but truly inspirational.
Lisa: They say that you can’t write about wine until you have savored it and you can’t write about the Grand Canyon until it has taken your breath away. You can’t sing the blues unless you’ve had them and you can’t feel love until you have given it. Same thing here.
The concept of Mucky Muck became crystal clear for me after working for one particular company that was successful in spite of shoulder deep mucky muck.
Every company has its muck, but I did not see it with such vividness until I worked for this company. At the same time, I saw that although there are dozens of types of mucky muck (I list 17 in my book) they are kin.
I am glad you like this section, it is one of my favorites, too. I think I might like to expand on Mucky Muck and perhaps write an e-book or book about it. I’d like to go deeper into how we can root out its source and ensure we are not MM generators.
Lip-sticking: In Chapter 6, which is part of Part Three, you discuss "Learned Helplessness."We experienced this with our second pregnancy. Our first pregnancy was unremarkable, but labor and delivery -- wow, what a shock! Therefore, we tended to think the second birth was going to be as difficult and we began to dread it long before it was due.
In your example, you say the problem comes up with "middle managers who take over managing a new team of people who had previously not performed well." Give us a few pointers on how to overcome this... as it's something we really relate to.
Lisa: Learned helplessness can occur when expectations are low and the environment reinforces mediocre or poor performance and not outstanding
performance. You might think this sounds crazy, but I have seen this many times. There are two perspectives that are important here. First, if you inherit a situation where learned helplessness exists, it is important to recognize this. This often happens when a manager takes over a department and sees people who are lethargic or performing well below their potential. Or a teacher taking over a class. Or a consultant doing business with an underperforming management team.
Heck, I have even seen senior management teams that suffered from
learned helplessless. It is important not to jump to conclusions that the people are duds and need to be replaced. The remedy is the change the context and conversations going on including establishing new expectations, reconnecting to people’s desire to do great work, and providing meaning projects that people can sink their teeth into. In the book I share a real life example of a turn around situation that occurred in under a year.
The second perspective is to ensure that we are not creating learned helplessness. We all have groups of people we influence. Are we contributing to their success or are we part of what’s holding them back? Learned helplessness is related to the self-fulfilling prophecy or the Pygmalion Effect, but applied to groups. It's what happens when several people sink to meet our low expectations of them.
Lip-sticking: Business books talk a lot about 'goals.' Your book advices managers to "Clarify vision, purpose, and goals for the department." You go on to say, "These expectations should represent the needs and wants of both internal and external customers." While we like the idea of clarifying vision, purpose and goals...we're confused...who are you talking about when you say 'internal and external customers'?
Lisa: If you are a salesperson, your goals are easy to define and measure. Your work is focused on producing revenue and value with the external customer. For many other departments, like accounting and HR, your primary customers are internal to the organization.
So HR folks, for example, should define their goals meet the needs of their internal customers. I suggest that goals should start with the customer’s needs and wants and defined from there, not the reverse. Many internal service departments develop their goals in isolation and believe they know what’s best for their internal clients. I find this arrogant.
Lip-sticking: Chapter Eight gets into Bottlenecks. This really impressed us. Rather than have us quote from the book (and we ask our readers to buy the book to have the advantage of Lisa's excellent diagrams), tell us an experience you've had with this issue. In your work experience. Or, from a client's experience.
Lisa: I once worked for a company that hired about 500 people a year and was highly seasonal - Cruise West - with 7 small ships sailing all over the place. Staffing for the ships was a challenge because we could not afford to have people on the payroll waiting to go into the next opening, but we often got little warning that a new employee was needed (sometimes none - the work is not for everyone:-).
Typically if an employee was going to quit, he or she would tell the captain as they were leaving the ship for their 2 weeks off that they were not coming
back. that meant we would have 2 weeks to find a replacement, but we found that it took longer. By looking at each stage of the recruiting and hiring process, and determining where the bottlenecks were (drug screen and background check), we were able to shave several days off the process and do a better job of ensuring that the ship sailed fully staffed (by getting better vendors and starting the screens earlier in the process).
Another quick example: I have found looking for bottlenecks and constraints helpful in helping a product development team shorted its project completion time and reduce redundant efforts and waste. BTW: Highly talented people are often the bottleneck!
Lip-sticking: Now, before going on to introduce your blog...let's get into Chapter Nine, and the "Four Fallacies about Time." Again, this resonated with us as if you had written this part just for us. You tell readers "the best solution to issues with time might be to change your beliefs about time and your definitions of what successful use of your time looks like." Tell us more... we think too many folks today don't pay attention to time, and you have some really great advice here.
Lisa: Situation #1: I have a friend who I love to pieces but who is clueless about managing his time. He rushes around from meeting to meeting and keeps 2-3 to-do lists going at once. At the end of the day, he sees that few things are crossed off his list and feels like he accomplished little.
Situation #2: I used to work for Intel, a great company with a lot going for it. Boy, do they take time management seriously! They have 55 minute meetings so people can get to their next meetings and they have built long corridors with meeting rooms on both side of the hall that are booked online and always in use. Managers book weekly or monthly one-on-ones with employees. Lots of meetings and most are pretty effective.
In both situations, I think something is missing with regard to how they view time. When we get a real job and start moving up the company ranks we learn what the day to day looks like and the meeting and to-do list regime gets ingrained into our system. So by the time we reach middle management, we are like politicians - unable to change and a victim of the system.
I think there is another way to view time and choices about time. Instead of the tail wagging the dog, or the schedule determining what you do, take back control of your time and redefine success. Success is doing the most meaningful and impactful work possible in the time you have available. Period.
Go back to my friend in situation #1 - most of the items on his to-do lists dud not represent "the best possible use of his time." So he was fretting over not getting stuff done hat he should not be doing anyway. Sad, really.
In my last middle management role, I was most successful when I asked at the beginning of the week and each morning, "What can I do that would make the greatest difference?" I did not keep a to-do list and I said NO! to a lot of meetings. It was wonderful because I was able to make a significant impact.
Sorry for the long winded answer.... (we don't mind -- it was very helpful.)
Lip-sticking: We could spend all day talking about your book, and we plan on doing a proper review this summer, but in the meantime...let's get into your blog! Wow! One of the things that we love about your blog is that you don't relegate it to 'stuffy' management writing. You write so fluidly...and you have lots of great images (love the chicken crossing the road). What inspires you to write blog posts?
Lisa: This may sound a bit maniacal, but I like the power and control of my blog. I love the thought that this is my little publishing company and I am writer, editor, and creator. I get to decide to be serious or silly and role the dice on whether my posts will attract or repel readers. I like sitting in front of my screen and saying, "What shall I say tomorrow?" I always write my blog posts at night for the next morning unless I am traveling.
And truth be told, I tend to prefer the slightly silly posts. I get a kick out of my own jokes. Sometimes I wish that more people would let me know what they like. I like the chicken crossing the road bit, too. But my FAVORITE post was the spoof I did on the "This is your brain on drugs" commercial.
Lip-sticking: When you started your blog, what were your goals? How close are you to achieving them? Do you think your blog is good fodder for another
Lisa: Honestly, I did not know what blogging was really about and got into it for PR purposes - to promote me and my book. But, as you know, once you get blogging, things change.
I have changed my goals for blogging. Now it is how I share my voice. It’s how I test ideas. It’s a way for me to stay in touch with what people care and are bored with. Frankly, if it were not for the blog and all that has come with this (reading blogs, getting to know bloggers) I would have likely started another management book. But I think people are kinda bored with business right now and so I am excited to be working on the 2 Weeks 2 a Breakthrough Program that will lead to a book. I don’t think this project would have been on my list had I not been blogging. So, in summary, I use blogging as my tuning fork.
Lip-sticking: Jane likes to quiz our interviews on their shopping online habits. We hope you don't mind. Other than books, what else do you buy online? Why? And, is security ever an issue for you?
Lisa: Security is not an issue for me as I view the risks of someone swiping my card number at the mall just as high or higher. If I could, I would never step foot in a mall again as long as I live. I buy clothes, high tech stuff, office supplies, some food, wine, tea, gifts, and the odd ebay item online.
Lip-sticking: Here's an off the wall question: what was your favorite children's book? Do you think it influenced how you became the smart, worldy, successful lady you are today? (We're sure other aspects of your life and environment helped, also...but, we bet there was one, favorite book...)
Lisa: I was the youngest by far (translation: accident) and so I was surrounded by adults and older kids. As a result my memories are not of children‘s books, but adult books (not that kind of adult book, get you mind out of the gutter). I liked nature books. I have a slight "off" sense of humor and my favorite book was Jonathon Segal Chicken (the book about the chicken who wanted to fly).
Lip-sticking: As a final, parting question, we'd like to know what you think of three things: blogging, writing, and friendship. And, will we see you at Blogher?
Lisa: Blogging: Draining and exciting. Fun and tiresome. Absolutely intrinsic. Everyone should try a blog even if they don’t stick with it. Blogging is a challenge.
Writing: I feel like an untrained opera singer. I am driven to write and have known this most of my life, and I think I will be a very good writer one day,
but I feel I still have a lot to learn.
Friendship: I am a natural loner, so friends often have to hit me over the head with a wrought iron pan to get my attention, but I am always thankful when they do. I like all the blogging buddies I have gotten to "know" over the last year. Oddly enough, most of my socialization is virtual.
We hope you stayed for the whole interview, dear readers. We know you all want Lisa's book, and it's a must-have...but she gave away some real gems right here. Come back and re-read her comments any time.
What's not to like about that?