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Manager Training – Training Managers in 14 Critical Skills

New supervisors need training, but admitting it means you shouldn’t be supervisor. What a dilemma!

But face it, there are nearly 50 separate skills new supervisors should possess. From listening, showing empathy, increase observational powers, solving conflicts, you’ll flounder for years without formal training and education. The new supervisor may eventually figure it out, but not without risk, expense, and the knawing and nashing of teeth!

If you are a new manager, you don’t want to hear trite phrases of advice like, “just be yourself”, “go slow”, and “listen more than you talk”. No way. You want how-to information and concrete stuff. Regardless of your head count or type of business, you must develop “people smarts” to manage, motivate, and problem-solve effectively as a manager, especially if you are new.

The 14 manager skills found below include various aspects of communication: listening well, speaking clearly, resolving conflicts with a calm, and fair-minded approach, and other critical job functions like observing performance, documenting properly, preventing violence, and getting along with upper management, and many more.

Let’s go through the list “David Letterman” Style:

14. Observing Performance: Look for evidence to support your impression of how employees do their jobs. There’s no substitute for observing employees’ performance. It’s an invaluable tool to assess workers’ skills, abilities, motivations and attitudes about their jobs. Some supervisors prefer to study activity reports, spreadsheets and work-flow charts. But that’s a mistake. Sitting at a desk behind closed doors poring over paperwork prevents you from seeing with your own eyes how workers behave and what they actually do during their shift. The best way to observe performance is to devise a system that encompasses what to look for. You want to watch each employee not only to assess work quality, but also to evaluate conduct, appearance, vitality, attitude and eagerness to learn.

13. Documenting Performance Problems: Treat documentation as a communication tool to preserve facts and remove ambiguities. Experienced supervisors know that the first question their boss will ask when they propose terminating a problem employee is, “Do you have all the documentation you need?” Document personnel matters as they occur, not weeks or months later. To serve their purpose, documents must reflect a complete, accurate account of what individuals discussed and what events transpired on a specific date. Failing to maintain ongoing documentation can not only embarrass you in front of your boss and human resources director, but also limit your organization’s ability to terminate poor employees.

12. Mastering Constructive Confrontation: Many supervisors dread confronting employees. It’s often easier to drop hints and make indirect threats rather than initiate a face-to-face, fish-or-cut-bait conversation with an individual who must shape up, pronto. Constructive confrontation works best when you organize your thoughts in advance. In the days before you meet with an employee whose behavior or performance is unacceptable, map out what to say so that you follow a clear, logical framework.

11. Evaluating Performance: Give employees ongoing feedback on their performance so that they always know what they’re doing right-and what they need to improve upon. Effective supervisors shower employees with frequent feedback. Assessing performance is a central part of their daily interaction with their staff. They praise superior work and provide constructive suggestions on how employees can elevate mediocre or substandard work into something truly excellent.

10. Resolving Coworker Conflicts: Pick your battles and focus on shared goals to referee disputes effectively. As much as you want to supervise people who get along well all the time, the harsh truth is conflicts will erupt. And when they do, it’s not necessarily your job to intervene. In many cases, the best way to deal with bickering employees is to adopt a hands-off policy. Keep your distance. Let them resolve their own issues. If you rush to referee every conflict, you may wind up breeding more conflicts. Employees may figure that they can get your attention by butting heads with a coworker, so conflicts can multiply. What’s worse, your quick intervention to settle conflicts teaches employees that they need not take responsibility for getting along on their own.

9. Giving Feedback: Express both good and bad input with judgment-free specificity so that it has a more positive, lasting impact on the employee. Old-school managers fold their arms across their chest, bark orders and tell workers what they’re doing wrong. With a perpetual scowl on their face, these managers point out every mistake but rarely dish out praise. Today’s more enlightened supervisors, by contrast, give feedback with an eye toward motivating employees. They treat feedback as a way to help fuel good performance, teach new skills and provide guidance that leads to improvement. Feedback is defined as the process of providing information to your employees about their past behavior in order to influence their future behavior. Effective feedback requires mutual understanding. Employees must understand that its purpose is to help them excel, not find fault or shake their confidence.

8. Delegating Work and Following Up: Boost your efficiency-and your team’s morale-by handing off assignments to the right people. Delegating is a win-win proposition for you and your employees. You free yourself to focus on what matters most while you train and motivate your workers by entrusting key assignments to them. Supervisors often harbor misconceptions about delegation. They equate delegating with doling out tasks to people. But it’s actually the process of having employees address meaningful projects-including ongoing duties-that go beyond short-term, to-do items.

7. Dispensing Discipline: Treat discipline as a means to educate employees and elevate their behavior, not as a form of punishment. Effective discipline flows from clear communication. If you and your employer provide clear, written guidelines to employees on your standards and expectations for acceptable behavior, then discipline becomes a simple, straightforward educational and enforcement tool. Your employee handbook should state your policy for responding to improper conduct or poor performance. As long as you dispense discipline in a uniform manner, you can address inappropriate or unacceptable behavior using a fair, consistent approach.

6. Inspiring and Praising Employees to Build Morale: Energize employees by taking every opportunity to recognize their contributions and urging them to excel. Every conversation with your employees produces one of three results: positive impact, no impact or negative impact. You want to create as many positive encounters as possible. To inspire people, set their sights on a faraway goal that’s so exciting and potentially rewarding that they cannot help but covet it. Help them visualize what it’ll feel like to reach the mountaintop-to know that they gave every ounce of their effort to deliver superior performance.

5. Building Your Team: By choosing the right people and getting them to believe in a shared goal, you lay the groundwork for a winning team. Building successful teams revolves around trust. People work together more effectively when they share a desire to achieve group goals without egos or rivalries getting in the way. Your challenge as supervisor is to earn credibility as the team’s leader. How? Admit what you don’t know and ask the team for help. Allot plenty of time in meetings for teammates to give input so that you speak less and listen more. Support the team’s findings and increase its influence throughout your organization. Accept the strengths and weaknesses of each member. If you play favorites and tend to only listen to certain people, you’ll exclude others and drive a wedge into the team. Pay special attention to quiet individuals. Let them speak up, even if that means muzzling more vocal members of the group.

4. Communicating Effectively with Upper Management: Relate to the top brass on their terms and present your ideas as solutions to problems they face. Relating to upper management boils down to one critical skill: analyzing issues from their perspective, not yours. Use empathy to deepen your understanding of the bosses’ outlook. Step into their shoes. Ask yourself what aspects of your operation management cares about most. What do they like to measure? What pressures do they face? How do they define success? Communicating with senior executives requires rigorous preparation. Before you propose ideas, you must anticipate their questions, concerns and objections-and know what to say to address them.

3. Investigating Complaints and Incidents Properly: Take an unbiased, fact-based approach when investigating employee complaints. A litigation explosion has occurred in the past 20 years. Employers face mounting legal exposure on many fronts from harassment to discrimination. By investigating employee complaints properly, you can keep your employer out of court and help all parties reach a fast, fair resolution. As soon as you learn of a problem that merits investigation, speed and responsiveness are critical. Your prompt attention to the matter sends a message that you take the employee’s complaint seriously. Putting off an investigation is viewed as negligence and apathy, even if you were just too busy at the time.

2. Managing Unfit for Duty Employees: Even if 99 percent of your employees are fit for duty, the remaining 1 percent can prove a handful. Follow your organization’s fitness-for-duty policy and its procedures if you have one. It is designed to provide reasonable assurance that employees can perform their tasks in a reliable manner, that they are not under the influence of any substance, legal or illegal, that may impair their ability to perform, and are not mentally or physically impaired from any cause that can adversely affect their ability to competently perform their duties. As soon as you believe or realize that a worker appears unfit for duty, your first priority is to prevent harm to the employee and others. Enlist another manager to help you approach the employee; never take action alone against someone who poses a threat. If you and a colleague confront the employee, you reduce the physical danger and you gain the benefit of having a reliable witness in case of litigation.

1. Acting to Prevent Violence: Awareness of the red flags that can signal violent behavior can save lives. Know the conditions that breed violence, and protect your workplace from toxic conflicts. Much of the violence we read or hear about in the news occurs in faraway places. But when it erupts at work, it’s an entirely different type of tragedy because we are more affected by the circumstances surrounding the incident. It’s impossible to prevent all workplace violence. But we can become more astute at predicting when and where violence can occur-and take sensible steps to lower its odds.

Have each of these 14 skills become a link on your company web site that will permit managers to instantly review the essential skills of his or her position. Each requires or only four to six minutes to master and the information packed into them allows any supervisor to accelerate supervisory skills learning curve. Learn more here 14 Vital Skills Course.

The Golden Rule Of Management

The revolution of young top-managers and “young billionaires” is one of the most appreciable signs of the “new economy”. The stereotypes fall and new styles of management with a new business philosophy arises. Every respectable company in the world is looking for these kinds of managers today. But to find them becomes difficult. If before graduates of prestigious schools with high ratings were considered the big successes to start their career in world-renowned corporations, so now the “leaders of the generation” prefer to create their own business. Today, if you have intellectual capital you can reach the top of the new economy very quickly.

This is a call to the giants of the economy. The young top managers are building their businesses based on new progressive ideas and become very competitive to existing ones. There is always room for opportunities. According to statistics, only 1% of all financed projects are really capable of making competition to existed high-tech giants. The rest of the majority of top managers, armed with the experience of a new era of navigation in business knowledge, still join the big corporations. As a result are new priorities in business strategy.

The strategic vision of prospects and skills to lead a team built on a company’s values and goals is the main quality of successful new top-managers. Enterprise experience has given them skills to correctly use information and the environment. They have all the necessary parts of leaderships: analytical skills, organizing skills plus motivation talent.

Business reengineering and decreasing size of companies was for a long time considered as an effective business strategy for old school managers. In reality it just slowed down progress and development in those companies. Caution and conservatism of the heads of the old companies taught them: it is better to cut expenses, reduce the price, comfortably sit in their chairs and without risk get stable profits than jump into danger and uncontrollable growth. The young top managers that tasted the forbidden fruit of modern business have written a “New Testament” of business. Continuous growth based on innovation is the first precept. The secret weapon of new leaders is the ability to operate a continuous transformation of all subsystems of the company based on the aspiration to reach the corporation’s goals.

Following the common rules and standard schemes, trying to keep everything stable are the main values of yesterday’s managers. Today those kinds of values are considered as negative qualities for top managers. The business models that you learn even at the most advanced business schools become outdated already the next day because of the fast growth of new technologies and new markets. If before the education you received was enough for the rest of your life then now progress demands that you continuously improve it.

Readiness for change of spheres and fields of business is another new feature of today’s new top managers. This is actually one of the most common requirements of employers today. Today’s day manager is obliged to have experience in different types of markets.

One leader of the German IT-business once said: “The one who stops growing stops being the best. The first place takes the competitor and throws out the former fashion-maker from the market”. This person knew what he was talking about. He was hit by such destiny. Obsession, flexibility, readiness for constant changes, and a willingness to provoke such changes are the real qualities of the top manager of a new era. I would name such a combination “The golden rule of management”

Can Conflict Among Teachers and Staff Be Good a Good Thing? How Conflict Can Help School Districts

It’s safe to assume most school districts have already, or are currently attempting to create a culture of learning and development in efforts to keep pace with the dynamic demands of preparing students for learning in the 21st century. Constant and evolving change can be a source of conflict and is often difficult on teachers and school district employees who feel comfortable with the status quo. Unfortunately, nature has not been kind to organisms that fail to adapt. Evolution is a system that turns random mutations in to lasting advantages. Nature tells us the ability to adapt and evolve is what separates living organisms from extinct organisms. In the same way, the ability of school districts to adapt and evolve to meet modern learning demands and deal with conflict that is an avoidable part of change will determine the long term viability of public education. If a district is attempting to create a culture of learning and development, they must also learn to manage conflict. The question for a progressive and learning school district then is not if your school district will face conflict, but how will you deal with it?

Learning and development is essential to growth in any organization, especially school districts. Research by Mannix, Behfar, and Peterson, (2008) highlight the positive aspects that conflict can provide when managed correctly. Organizational conflict occurs when staff members engage in activities that are incompatible with those of colleagues they must directly or indirectly interact with to complete work activities. Conflict is evidenced by incompatibility or disagreement between individuals or groups in the organization. The main focus of conflict management strategies should be to enhance organizational learning. Continued Training and development of school district staff is essential because communities of today and tomorrow expect their schools to provide relevant instruction to prepare students for the realities and skills they will need to be productive successful citizens.

Interpersonal (Unproductive Conflict) vs. Substantive Conflict (Productive Conflict)

Not all conflict is the same and not all conflict is beneficial to improving the effectiveness of school districts. Interpersonal conflict has negative effects on schools. This type of conflict takes the form of personal attacks on matters not related to job tasks or work objectives (though interpersonal conflict can manifest itself from task related, or substantive conflict if staff members are not properly trained to manage conflict). Interpersonal conflict obstructs task improvement and development. If interpersonal conflict is left unchecked, teachers and staff may spend portions of their day reducing threats, increasing power, and building cohesion, when they should be focused on providing instruction to students.

Other types of conflict can actually be helpful in school districts. Substantive conflict has been found to have positive effects on individuals and groups (Rahim, 2002). This type of conflict typically relates to disagreements related work tasks, methodologies, and broader objectives. When employees are trained to manage substantive conflict, performance improves because it fosters discussion and debate. Ideas or action items are pressed and refined through healthy conflict and debate which is more likely to lead to decisions that have been evaluated thoroughly from many different viewpoints. It is important to note that substantive conflict has only been found to be useful in non-routine tasks and is not immune to the same negative effects of interpersonal conflict. If the school district staff has not been trained on how to manage and work through substantive conflict they are more likely deal with the negative effects of all forms of conflict (e.g. decreasing levels of: group loyalty, work group commitment, intent to stay, and job satisfaction). It is also worth repeating that all school districts who are attempting to be a progressive learning organization will, at many different cross-roads, experience substantive conflict. Substantive conflict has a “Goldilocks Zone.” School districts that take steps to avoid conflict or have very little substantive conflict are more likely to have an apathetic environment where development is stagnate. However, organizations where substantive conflict is unbridled, and staff members are inept in their conflict management skills, leaders should expect negative and potentially detrimental consequences. Through practice and being conscience of productive conflict schools can find that blend of conflict that is “just right” and moves them forward towards accomplishing goals that increase student and staff learning.

Sources of Conflict in School Districts

Conflict often is the result of staff members with poor self-perceptions or ideals that are not aligned with their supervisor’s judgment or vision. Often teachers and staff members feel past and current methods of instruction are the most effective. When a supervisor or change agent suggests an alternative method, school district staff members may feel threatened or embarrassed. School districts can avoid conflict by choosing not to discuss task performance and methodologies that could be viewed as ineffective by most everyone except the staff member performing the task. Effective schools though, will deal with issue and use strategies to manage the inherent conflict that results in any change process.

Generational differences may also be a source of conflict. Generation Y workers are making their way into classrooms, but as teachers. Generation Y members are more likely to question and challenge the status quo. As a result, they often bring the conflict to their supervisors even though they are often ill equipped to productively work through conflict with their superior. Conflict, as mentioned before, can be a good thing if all parties know how to work towards productive solutions. Without training though, tensions are likely to increase as new staff members challenge old paradigms. School districts can build cultures that support moderate and productive conflict where staff members are equipped with strategies to work through conflict towards positive outcomes.

Conclusion

The purpose of this post was to dispel a common myth that any conflict within an organization is bad. Research has shown this is simply not true. Organizations that currently have, or are developing a learning culture are bringing conflict to their front door because substantive conflict is a natural part of learning, developing, and growing. This topic is too extensive to fit into one post. I have attempted to discuss the positive and negative aspects of conflict and common sources of origin. I’ll have a follow up post in the near future that will detail some general ways to actually train school district teachers and staff members on how to manage conflict to make their schools more effective.

Behfar, K.J., Peterson, R.S., Mannix, E.A., & Trochim, M.K. (2008). The critical role of conflict resolution in teams: a close look at the links between conflict type, conflict management strategies, and team outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93 (1), 170-188.

Rahim, A.M., (2002). Toward a theory of managing organizational conflict. International Journal of Managing Organizational Conflict, 13 (3), 206-230.