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Quick, practical management tips and ideas from HBR.org
Updated: 17 hours 19 min ago

Help Overly Eager Employees Slow Down

Fri, 2018-01-19 12:30

It’s nice to have fast-acting employees on your team. But some people have such a deep need to get things resolved that they move too quickly and make a mess. They may secure a bad deal just to say they’ve done it, or issue a faulty directive so that they can say they’ve handled a problem. You can help these people learn to corral their sense of urgency. Start by demonstrating how their approach might be hurting them. When someone is urgent about only their own goals and tasks, others may perceive them as being not a team player. It’s typical for too-urgent employees to see the upsides but not the downsides of acting quickly, so encourage them to identify all the consequences of their actions. Then put them on projects with high-performing, long-term thinkers so that they can see the benefits of a tempered, thoughtful approach. By watching others, they will observe how reflection and deliberation can generate significantly better results.

Adapted from “How to Manage Someone Who Thinks Everything Is Urgent,” by Liz Kislik

Talk About Skills When Talking About Promotions

Thu, 2018-01-18 12:30

Conversations about promotions can be tense — both for the person asking and for you, the manager. Your first instinct might be to consider whether the employee is a “good fit” for the new role, but it’s better to focus on their skills. Ask yourself, What will the person need to do the job well? Then communicate the answer to your employee. For example, you might say: “You would need to develop expertise with Tableau,” or Excel, or giving presentations. That is a far simpler message to deliver than “I don’t know if you’re equipped to be a manager yet.” By breaking down the role into the required skills, you’ll demystify the promotion and make it more attainable for the employee. Plus, a request to learn new skills is much easier, and quicker, for you to grant.

Adapted from “How to Support Employees’ Learning Goals While Getting Day-to-Day Stuff Done,” Nick Gidwani

Say Nice Things About Your Coworkers Whenever You Can

Wed, 2018-01-17 12:30

Whether we realize it or not, we are constantly given small opportunities to build up or put down our coworkers. If we’re introducing two colleagues, telling a story about how a meeting went, or sharing a colleague’s project, how we talk about others can make a big difference in how they feel about themselves and their work. So take advantage of these opportunities to speak positively about your coworkers. When introducing people, share details that highlight how the person is interesting, and describe them as someone others would want to know. When you bring together a new team, tell stories about each person’s potential contributions to the group. If you witness someone being interrupted or silenced, build them up by reiterating their point or asking them a question that gives them the opportunity to speak. Stay aware of these moments and make the best use of them. You’re likely to get compliments in return.

Adapted from “The Benefits of Saying Nice Things About Your Colleagues,” by Jane E. Dutton and Julia Lee

Stay in Touch with Your Friends, No Matter How Focused You Are on Your Career

Tue, 2018-01-16 12:30

Many people let their personal relationships fall by the wayside as they focus on their careers and start a family. Yet research shows that we are more successful in our careers when we’re supported by a foundation of strong, stable friendships. Don’t run the risk of losing touch with your closest social connections. Career and friendships can reinforce each other — friends can share big-picture career insights and even inspire your passion for professional growth. Counteract the natural drift away, and make the effort to maintain your friendships. Call a close friend instead of just clicking on their Facebook page. Make plans to see them (and don’t cancel!). It’s OK to set ambitious career goals, but don’t sacrifice close ties in the process.

Adapted from “Being Too Busy for Friends Won’t Help Your Career,” by Neal J. Roese

Don’t Let Immediate Concerns Rush Your Strategic Meetings

Mon, 2018-01-15 12:30

Executives need to constantly balance the long- and short-term demands of their businesses, but it can be difficult to remain strategic when you’re facing immediate concerns. To keep your next strategy meeting focused on the future, slow down. Issues that need to be addressed over a longer time frame benefit from exploration. Before jumping in to solve strategic issues, consider them from multiple angles. Ask for opinions from everyone in the room; it’s possible that each person has interpreted the challenge differently. You may also need to spread the discussion over several meetings so that you can better understand the data, discuss the various points of view, and examine the implications of different strategies. When strategy is on the agenda, it’s important to adopt a slower, more deliberate, and participative approach.

Adapted from “Keeping Your Strategy Meetings Focused on the Long Term,” by Sabina Nawaz

Before Resigning, Rehearse What You’ll Say

Fri, 2018-01-12 12:30

Telling your boss that you’re leaving your job isn’t an easy conversation — but flubbing it could burn bridges. Not being able to explain clearly and reasonably why you’re moving on can lead to hurt feelings and misunderstandings, and it can open the door to protracted and painful attempts to talk you into staying. A recent survey showed that one of the most common regrets executives had over resigning was that they didn’t rehearse what they would say. So before you spring your decision on your boss, practice what you’ll say with a trusted colleague. Talk through your personal and professional reasons for leaving and how you plan to mitigate the effects on coworkers and the company. Your colleague may point out implications you hadn’t considered, such as timing or a potential reaction your boss could have. Ask for their advice on the best way to approach the conversation.

Adapted from “3 Mistakes Executives Make When Telling People That They’re Leaving,” by Kelly O. Kay

Having a Tough Conversation with a Coworker When You Both Hate Tough Conversations

Thu, 2018-01-11 12:30

If you’re having a conflict with a coworker, talking about it together might help. But that can be tricky if the two of you tend to shy away from conflict. While both of you may prefer to do nothing, it’s dangerous if you end up tamping down feelings that could explode later on. One of you needs to take the lead — you might say to your colleague, “I know neither of us likes conflict, but instead of ignoring the problem, what can we do about it?” This will help to engage your colleague in the conversation. Then, do your best to draw the other person out in a sensitive, thoughtful way. If things get tough, don’t withdraw. You’ll need to fight your natural instinct to avoid conflict.

Adapted from “How People with Different Conflict Styles Can Work Together,” by Amy Gallo

What Can You Delegate Today?

Wed, 2018-01-10 12:30

Many of us know the benefits of delegation: It helps teams share the workload so that managers focus on the work only they can do. But in reality, you (like most managers) probably hoard tasks and become a bottleneck. To fix that, start with baby steps. Ask yourself regularly, even daily: “What can I, and only I, do?” If a certain task could be done by someone else, maybe it should be. Try to delegate small tasks that add up to something bigger, or projects that are relatively simple. Also consider time-sensitive work that competes with your other priorities. If you’re still struggling to delegate, try this: For two weeks, make a list of tasks that you might delegate, writing them down as you think of them. This exercise will get you one step closer to handing off the work you need to.

Adapted from “How to Decide Which Tasks to Delegate,” by Jenny Blake

Don’t Set Growth Targets Without Thinking Carefully About Timing

Tue, 2018-01-09 12:30

You’ve probably seen them before — those project spreadsheets in which Year 2 revenue is Year 1 revenue plus 10%, and so on. These projections are rarely accurate, because they reduce the world to linear models — when in reality the growth process is nonlinear, sometimes even exponential. Instead of assuming that growth will happen right away, and at a steady pace, think about the likely times at which revenues will be realized. What’s the realistic lag time between initiating your growth project and reaping the rewards from it? Focus on three inputs: the revenue goal for the investment at steady state; the assumed first-year revenue; and the inflection point, which is the time required to reach 50% of the revenue goal. Unrealistic revenue projections can lead to career-ending misses. So take plenty of time to do some smart thinking beforehand.

Adapted from “How to Set More-Realistic Growth Targets,” by Rita Gunther McGrath and Alexander van Putten

Which of Your Strengths Are You Overusing?

Mon, 2018-01-08 12:30

Most leaders have strengths that make them distinctive. But those same characteristics, when overused, can have a downside. For example, a well-honed sense of self-control can turn into rigidity. Courage, taken to the extreme, might become recklessness. Honesty, if not tempered, can turn into cruelty. It’s worth taking some time to think about which of your skills you might be relying on too much. For example, consider one of your strengths that has served you well at work and has been admired by others. Then try to recall a situation in which you relied on that quality more than you should have. Are there occasions when your strength became a liability, causing more harm than good — and perhaps even leading to an unintended outcome? Keep in mind that we tend to overuse our strengths under stress. When we’re not getting what we want, our instinct is to double down on whatever has worked best in the past.

Adapted from “How to Become a More Well-Rounded Leader,” by Tony Schwartz

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