Manager Training: Coaching and Delegation

Coaching

There are three tools that can help the subordinates to improve their efficiency: teaching, mentoring, and coaching. Teaching is telling the person step by step how to accomplish the task, mentoring is to analyze the situation with the person to find out the solution, while coaching is to help the person to come up with the solution by themselves by asking the right question.

Coaching is an important skill for mangers. It help develop the subordinates’s skill by having them go through the thinking process. People would feel more empowered being coached to finish the task rather than being taught to finish the task.

Coaching can also be challenging for managers. Coaching is different from teaching, where the latter focusing on showing the people steps to solve the problem. Coaching is more about coaching people’s reaction to the question. The coach needs to quickly find out the best questions to ask in order to further the conversation.

The best questions for coaching should be open ended question. For example, ask more questions about what and why, say ask the person to define the term they use, ask them to describe their feelings, etc. Don’t ask why questions, as this would be interpreted as the challenge to their motivations, and people might response with defensiveness.

The general structure for coaching is called TOP. T stands for topic. You should ask question to help the coachee to clarify the real topics. O stands for options. You should ask right questions to help the coachee to find out different options to solve the problem. And P stands for path. In this phase, you should focus on asking the coachee to evaluate the pros and cons of different options.

However, coaching is not necessarily always the best strategy. It takes longer time to help the people develop the required skills to solve the problem. Teaching, on the other hand, is more efficient, while it is less effective in helping people develop their skills. It is really about the constraints and where we want to take the tradeoff in terms of balancing the effectiveness and efficiency.

Delegation

Over 40% of the manager’s work could be delegated. But why they are not? Majority of the time it is because of the time is limited. The manager often under the pressing time constraints, many times they are promoted to their position because they could do their work better than anyone else in the team, so they tend to do the work by themselves instead of delegating to someone else, which could potentially take more time.

Another reason blocks our delegation is about the quality. Many managers worry that their direct reports could not finish the task as well as they do. It is true that it takes time to develop the team’s skill until they could deliver the task with high quality. For such concerns, the managers could gradually step back from involved in the actual task when they see the people are more and more comfortable with the work.

Sometimes, managers also worry that if they delegate, they might loss the details about the task. For such concerns, it is suggested that they focus on the output and learn the low level details when time is limited.

The other two major reasons are concerns about identity and the perception of the team. For example, the manager would worry that if they don’t any actual work, the team might think they are not doing anything. And they worry that the team might resent being asked to the work.

In order to delegate well, you need to consider about the following elements:

  • Context: why you would like to delegate this work or responsibility.
  • Motivation: why this person should be excited about this delegated work.
  • Information: what it takes for the person to finish the task well.

Ask the Most from Your People and Get It, Part I

The managers should ask the most from the team for many reasons. The biggest reason is that the company and the organization expects you to deliver work as a group. Your value is measured by how much value your team can deliver. The more effective your team is, the more value they could deliver and the more successful you are. This is largely why as a manager your success is determined by the success of your team.

However, some of the first time manager including feel frustrated about asking the best from their team. Some of the first time managers get promoted to the manager position because they are the most effective people on the team. And they inevitably set a high expectation on his team: the team should deliver as good as he could and he get frustrated because apparently people won’t be as effective as him.

In other times, we feel frustrated because we carry an unrealistic expectation for motivating people. We thought managers are like the inspirational speakers that he could give great speeches and inspires his fellow, or religious leaders that his fellow follows, respects, and admires him. To some extend, a great manager should be like the great speakers or religious leaders, that he could motivate his team by inspiring them to be a better themselves. However, an incorrect goal can be very misleading. As a first step, let’s try to distinguish the different skill set of a manager and a leader.

First all of, we have to realize that it is impossible to motivate people. Mislead by the wrong examples, I had once believe people could be motivated because they don’t know what they want and your job it to tell them what they should pursue. However, I gradually realized that people are only motivated by themselves. The manager’s job is not to find out a way to incept the goal to the team member’s mind, but to find out what the people truly want and put him in the position that he could achieve it.

Finding out what people truly want takes skills, and most importantly, it takes lot’s time. Many of the first time managers, including me, spent more time thinking about the strategy and execution roadmap: what the team should do, rather than thinking about what people want to do. These managers are good at providing feedbacks for people’s execution and coaching their skills. But they would find it hard to ask even more from people besides the feedback you’ve given.

In the next part of this article, I am going to discuss some of the fundamental skills I learned about asking the most from the team.

Why Agile Project Management?

I learnt extreme programming in my graduate study. The course name was software engineering and the students grouped together to finish an academic project over the semester in an agile, or extreme programming(then name) manner. Looking back, I have to admit that I didn’t really learn the secret of agile.

My first job was in a big company, the team runs Scrum, but the projects are largely planned top down approach. The product manager prepares details product requirement document(PRD), and the engineers spent long time design and discuss the design of the project to make sure every small change is considered. 

It was only when I started to run the team and the project, I started to think about how the project should be run. I still try to plan the project ahead of the time. But sometimes I see a better approach in the middle of the project and it requires a major shit of the execution direction. I convinced the team to make the change, but I have to ask myself: if I could have found this route upfront, the team would not have to waste their time on the previous approach, is it because I am not good enough? If I know this chance is necessary but the team doesn’t like the shift of direction, how do I convince the team to embrace such change? And stepping back, how do I organize the project better to reduce the risk of drastic changes? These contradicting questions bothered me.

With all these question, I started to read project management, to think more about the practices of project management. I found I didn’t really understand Agile programming. I found that the critical part is about the thought process, rather than the scrum process itself.

I found Agile is a much better choice for environments like my current team, where we have to move fast and adapt to new changes and requirement, where the team doesn’t have enough knowledge to figure out all the detailed tech roadmap upfront and have to rely on the learnings from doing.

Therefore, I started to write these series blogs to introduce Agile project management. I will share my thoughts and learning on the posts. And hopefully it will be useful for you.

Project Management: Agile V.S. Waterfall

What is scrum?

Scrum is an widely used agile process, it breaks down the project into 2-4 weeks intervals called Scrum. While each scrum is a small project that each should produce a working incremental of software. At each end of the sprint, the team will review the deliveries and do a retrospective to the past sprint.

Why using scrum?

But why people use scrum? Before answering this question, we need to know what is the traditional project management process. The more traditional project management is based on the defined process, where the roadmap and the delivery of the project is decided, and the control of the scope, schedule, and cost is also maintained. The benefit of defined process is that it delivers predictable results. However, this approach does not work well in environment where the deliverables are not predictable.

Scrum is based on empirical process, which means based on observations. Both the result and the approach is adapted according to the observation. The benefit is that it is highly adaptable, the risk is that the deliverables are not predictable.

How does Scrum works

There are three typical roles on the scrum project:

  • the product owner that is responsible for overall success/failure of the project and is the final decision maker on the requirements
  • the scrum master facilitates the team, manages the process and resolve the impediments
  • the development is responsible for developing the solution and coordinate with each other on the process.

A sprint usually last for 2 ~ 4 works. The work to be completed is time boxed. During the sprint, there will be a daily stand up meeting to update the progress.

The project owner will do backlog grooming before the start of the next sprint to correctly prioritize the work.

At the end of the sprint, there is usually a spring retrospective meeting to discuss what has been done well and what could have been done better.

Actually, which process to use is not a binary question. Many team utilize a hybrid approach to manage the project. And agile is more of a way of thinking about the issue rather than a practice like scrum.

Manager Trainning: Feedback and Hard Conversation

How do you give and ask for feedbacks? What’s your strategy for structuring the feedback so it is can be better received? What if your peer push back on your feedback?
One of the most interesting topic for becoming manager is the feedbacks. Your feedback has to be timely, be specific and be actionable. But in the mean time, the strategy for structuring the feedback is equally important.
One of the strategy is called SBI, where S stands for situation, B stands for Behavior, I stands for impact. It suggest you to structure your feedback into three parts:

  • On the Situation part, you share the situation where the behavior is captured.
  • On the behavior part, you share the behaviors which you think could be improved.
  • On the impact part, you share the impact of these unexpected behavior.

SBI structure helps you focus on the behavioral feedbacks, on the examples and on the impact. And of course, you should expect push back from the other side about your feedback many times. In these situations, try to stand your ground. Remember, it’s not your job to please someone, it’s your job to communicate clearly what’s the expected behavior of someone. 
SBI can also be used on the hard conversations, for example, performance improvement plan. For hard conversation, it is suggested that we don’t try to avoid the real topic by having hiding agendas. It is better to directly shares with the other party that you have will some hard conversation with them and what is your concern. Then you share the SBI of these behaviors and ask for the perspective .
It is very common that you would receive push back during hard conversations, people might come back to you for all different reasons. But you will need to remember to stand on your ground(again), and push it through. Some of the tips including send out document before hand and allow them to be digested, and try to use ‘and’ instead of but on your conversation. You need to let people know that you totally get their concern, but the behavior didn’t really match the expectation and is a problem for you.

Manager Tools Pod Cast: Prioritizing Your Relationship With Your Boss

  • No one is glad to be managed. So don’t try to manage your boss, but to prioritizing your relationship.
  • Three major topics
  • Communicate with your boss FIRST. Either good news or bad news, your boss don’t want to be the last person to know it. Communicate with your boss before you communicate with other people on the organization. Hearing the news about the organization from someone else make him/her feel bad, which hurts the relationship. 
  • Make changes when you get feedback. When directs get feedback, whether positive or negative feedback, consider strongly about making a feedback. If you blow off the feedback every time, people will stop sharing the feedback with you.
  • Maintain confidentiality: keep the confidential information your boss shared with you confidential. Don’t risk to ruin the trust.
  • Why does how my Boss feels matter: he/she controls your performance review, and the project you get.
  • Where the relationship comes from?  The little, daily things that built up the relationship, not the big things. 

观念和行动的转变:新任管理者工作指南

本文基于《领导力梯队》一书第二章节:从管理自我到管理他人。同时结合其他书中知识。

本文回答的问题:

  • 从个人贡献者到管理者的晋升途径是什么?
  • 在新的环境下,尤其在知识公司,初次担任管理者的挑战有哪些?
  • 初次担任经理人需要具备哪些技能?
  • 这些技能的具体内涵是什么?
  • 初次担任经理容易出现的误区在哪里?

从个人贡献者到管理者的晋升

  • 为什么要成为你管理者?
    通常来说,在互联网企业当中有两种职业发展的道路:技术路线和管理路线。我曾经听过这样一种观点:认为管理路线的机会更少,需要的职业匹配程度更高,很难从一个地方到另一个地方。而技术路线则更加自由,可以通过不断积累成为领域内的专家,同样可以赢得良好的职业发展。

这样的观点当然没错,但是是从保守的角度考虑的,从职业发展的安全性角度考虑。如果以进取的眼光看待,优秀的管理者在互联网行业当中是十分缺乏的。从最终的职业发展目标来看,优秀的管理者离优秀的企业家更加接近。从德鲁克的观点出发,优秀的管理者并不需要很多的个人天赋,他们所需要的职业技能更多的是在职业发展的过程当中培养起来的。一般来说,从个人贡献者晋升为管理者在以下方面都有较为出色的表现:

  • 积累了良好的的技术和业务知识储备
  • 对公司的业务的发展具有了良好的判断
  • 在团队当中,通过个人的表现证明了工作能力,赢得了同事的信任
  • 与同事培养了较为良好的人际关系

新环境下,初次担任管理者的挑战

在任何时候,管理者最大的挑战之一都是:如何激发员工的积极性。为此我们必须首先深入了解员工的特点。我在以创新和竞争闻名的美国硅谷从事软件开发工作,这个行业集中令了全球最顶尖的科技人才,了解他们的特点,理解驱动他们工作的原因是激发他们工作动力必不可少的一环。但是过于集中的分析本行业的特点将会损失这些原则的普适性。因此,我从所在的行业中提炼出三个要素,并试图从这些要素的三个方面进行分析:1)互联网时代;2)知识工作者,3)行业竞争较大,人员流动较为频繁。本节将从这三个方面着手分析新环境下,初次担任管理者所面对的挑战。

互联网时代员工有哪些不同?

  • 管理者获得权威的方式不同
    在人类社会中,权威的获取有两种方式:1)宰治权威,2)知识权威。前者是基于个人具有的先天优势,比如各自更高大的人,性格更外向的人更容易获得团队中的话语权。宰治权威应用在人类组织当中还包含职位权威,比如更高级别的人通常更具有权威。知识权威则是来自于领导者的个人知识,比如对于任务的远见,对于团队管理的知识和技能等等。

互联网时代,一线员工获得了大量信息。传统的,通过信息控制员工的方式已经不再适用。管理者必须通过自身的管理成效,管理风格来获得员工的信任,而不可能仅仅通过个人权威获得信任,更不可能调动员工的积极性。员工们的要求也与以前不同:他们希望深入的参与到决策的制定过程中去,同时希望在完成任务上获得一定的自由度。

今天的员工更加渴望职业发展的机会。因为他们明白真正的工作保障是具备生存的技能,并且多数清楚自己的职业发展路径。

ref:information control in social manipulation: http://www.whale.to/a/deserano.html

知识工作者公司管理者有哪些独特性?

人员流动频繁的公司管理有哪些独特性?

初次担任经理需要具备的技能

观念上的转变

  • 工作成果不再是通过自己亲自去做获得,而是通过下属和团队的努力获得。
  • 这意味着他们需要放弃为他们赢得经理职务的工作和职责。

  • 培养具有亲和力的领导风格

亲和力是领导力的必要因素。亲和力是一种积极地态度,从语言到行动,都显示他是以为平易近人的领导,让员工喜欢与之亲近,并随时可以找到他。具有亲和力的领导风格源自于价值观的转变:个人的成功来自于下属的成功,因此需要重视下属的工作,重视他们的想法和意见。

  • 重视人际关系的建立,从正确的出发点建立人际关系。重视与上司,下属,同级和下属的人际关系。

个人贡献者建立关系往往从个人利益角度,甚至从个人好恶的角度出发。德鲁克则认为正确的人际关系应该是基于一个人的贡献,具体体现在一下四个方面:1)互相沟通;2)团队合作;3)自我发展;4)培养他人。重视贡献有助于沟通,进而能够促进团队合作,同时将能够促进自我发展,因为思考的角度变成了为了对组织有所贡献我应该培养那些技能,同时,将会启发他人寻找自我发展。

具体工作方法的转变

学会界定和布置工作

界定和布置工作的重点在于:为员工分配合适的,适量的工作。合适的工作需要与员工的兴趣相匹配,同时结合员工的专长,工作的紧急和优先程度等等。良好的工作设计让员工感到他们在从事有价值的工作,专长得以发挥,能力得到提升,职业发展更有前景。
设计工作完成之后,一线经理还需要掌握授权。所谓授权是指知道下属完成工作,而不是自己亲自完成。新任经理必须明白,授权并不意味着放弃。
选拔合适的人才来做合适的事情。多数失败的选拔并不是人才因为缺乏需要的特定才能,而是因为选拔的人才与公司价值观,习惯和领导风格不适应。

提高下属的胜任能力

如果下属感到压力很大,就说明,经理缺乏这个岗位的技能。下面这些迹象说明管理者缺乏技能:

  • 把下属提出的问题看成是障碍
  • 不就下属的工作失误,而不是教会他们如何正确去做
  • 拒绝月下属分享成功,对他们的问题和失败避而远之

为了帮助员工提高胜任能力,一线经理可以从以下几个方面着手:

  • 关注员工,看他们在做什么,如何做的:需要投入大量时间和经理
  • 定期沟通,同时密切关注工作流程的执行:询问什么阻碍了工作完成,什么促进了工作完成。
  • 监督工作:当结果与期望一直,给予适当的鼓励,当结果令人失望,就通过监督获得的信息进行计划调整

建立人际关系

对于个人贡献者而言,人际关系往往没有那么重要,因为他们多数时候只需要专注的做好自己本职的工作即可,同时个人贡献者建立人际关系的出发点往往是个人的利益甚至是个人的好恶。作为管理者,则必须开始重视从正确的出发点建立人际关系,因为管理工作是高度相互依赖的,需要在横向和纵向上建立信任,开放的沟通渠道。

管理者必须重视、建立与三类人的合作关系

  • 上司,包括所有层级的上司:换位思考,从对对立视角转变为管理者的视角,与上司建立良好的合作关系,获得他身后的资源,信息等支持
  • 直接下属:建立相互尊重和支持的工作关系,而不是凭个人喜好去交往。一线经理需要对下属的成功负责,因此需要建立一种互利互惠的关系,正直诚实是建立良好人际关系的关键。
  • 供应商,客户和其他相关人员:经理与他们建立合作关系要求有更开火的视野和思路

但在建立人际关系的过程中,管理者可能发现自己遇到下列困难:

  • 作为个人贡献者的时候,没有学会如何构建人际关系
  • 公司文化没有给予足够的支持,被误认为是:拉帮结派,拍马屁和其他公司政治
    管理者需要与上级合作,以清除这些障碍和困难。

初次担任经理容易出现的误区

初次担任经理容易出现很多误区,但基本都可以用以下两个方面来概括:1)观念上和行动上没有从个人贡献者转变为管理者,因为各种原因停留在原有的观念和工作范畴内;2)没有获得管理者需要的技能。下面我们从这两个方面分析初次担任管理者的经理容易出现的误区:

观念的转变不够成功

  • 对沟通没有足够的重视。这里的沟通主要是通过与上级,同级,下级的沟通来确定工作的方向,工作的分类,优先程度。一线经理容易忽视沟通的重要性,认为做事情才是最重要的,因此他们花了更多时间在做事情上,而不是更多时间在通过沟通获取信息以做出正确判断上。
  • 不习惯授权:不擅长放手让他人去做你非常擅长并为你带来成功的业务。

初次担任经理容易出现的问题:1)大多数是业务出身,2)擅长利用专业技能完成任务,3)不熟悉如何了解和满足员工的需要和期望,4)缺乏经理岗位必须的处理人际关系的丰富经验。

没能获得管理岗位所需要的技能

  • 缺乏某种能力就倾向于在这种能力上少花时间:如果缺乏授权的能力,或者教练辅导的能力,就会花较少时间做这些事情。
  • 不愿意在以前的同事面前显得无能:因此尽可能多的做他们过去擅长的事情。
  • 逃避承担经理的责任,注入团队的工作效率,工作产出,员工能力发展等。

如何从个人贡献者转型为管理者

  • 方法1,准备:让出任经理清楚地知道新岗位的要求,包括领导技能,时间管理能力和工作理念,并为他们实现转型提供必要的培训
  • 方法二:监督:确认出任经理在转型中是否遇到了困难,困难时什么

    • 旁观:旁听初任经理与下属的沟通,看他们是否展现出了必要的领导技能
    • 抽样调查:通过360度评估,了解他人如何评价初任经理的行为和态度
    • 差距分析:询问出任经理对自己的领导技能,时间管理和工作理念的看法。
  • 方法三:监督:定期提供反馈和教练辅导,帮助出任经理实现转型,如果他们于东困难,就采取做事帮助解决问题
    • 交流辅导和反馈:上司对出任经理的一对一教练辅导
    • 向同事学习、增强合作:经理人员相互交流领导技能是一种非常有效的学习方法,彼此交换工作思路和感受,探讨共同关注的问题
    • 会议、读书和旅行:初任经理可以谈自己上任一个月学到了什么。帮助他们加深对自己转型的认知。
    • 工作调整:重返员工岗位锻炼和准备