#1490 STAR supervision: A

This week I am sharing tips on becoming a STAR supervisor — for more on that, see Monday’s dotTuesday’s dot on S = STARTING and Wednesday’s dot on T = TIME. Today focuses on the “A” — ALIGNMENT, and how good supervision occurs when you create philosophical alignment to get the results you want without micromanaging.

My goal has always been to “infuse me” into my staff; ideally having them do what I would do without the need for me to be there. In order for this to occur, I invest considerable time to ensure that we are both on the same page about their priorities and how the work is to be done. Sometimes I do this informally, but on other occasions, I utilize the alignment exercise to make sure we are clear. I often ask my staff whether they could keep two of themselves busy if we were proficient in cloning. Invariably the answer is yes. The alignment exercise helps ensure that the half of the job the one person is doing is the same half that I would want done!

However you do it, I think it is essential to spell out expectations and be specific about what is acceptable behavior. Mike Matheny, now manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, clearly spelled out his expectations in a letter to parents when he was coaching Little League. Other examples are how expectations were outlined for student employees or for the university receptionist.

It becomes important to align your expectations so that you can hold staff accountable for following them. Making frequent small corrections helps ensure that you remain in alignment. A method of achieving this is described in Danny Meyer’s salt shaker analogy

Another part of your job as supervisor is to help your staff prioritize their time and to give them permission to say no to things. Aligning their time with what is important gives focus to them and to you. “As a leader, we are not responsible for the results,” says author Simon Sinek. “As a leader, we are responsible for the people who are responsible for the results.”

If you exercise clarity in the beginning of the process and then provide direct feedback when someone is out of alignment, I believe you will lead a great team and achieve great results. I close with a quote from Marcus Buckingham’s The One Thing You Need to Know:

Effective leaders don’t have to be charming or brilliant
What they must be is clear.
CLARITY is the essence of great leadership.
Show us who we should seek to serve,
Show us where our core strength lays,
Show us which score we should focus on
And which actions we must take,
And we will reward you by working our hearts out
To make our better future come true.

To be a STAR supervisor, provide that clear alignment for your staff then read tomorrow how to deploy R = RESOURCES to achieve results.

beth triplett

#1489 STAR supervision: T

This week I am sharing tips on becoming a STAR supervisor — for more on that, see Monday’s dot and Tuesday’s dot on S = STARTING. Today focuses on the “T” — TIME, and how good supervision requires a commitment of time. 

The time you spend on supervision pays dividends in the long term as it builds capacity in your staff. I try to spend time both on developing the person as well as helping them improve in their job responsibilities. The two are different, and you need to be intentional about addressing both aspects of your supervision and coaching.

The cornerstone of time I spend with my staff happens in weekly one-to-one meetings. Information sharing and becoming aware of a problem can happen in a doorway conversation, but for true development I believe you need to have a regular time on the calendar. In these meetings you can discuss rationale, aspirations, background, context and really talk through things. Much learning and understanding takes place in this setting — for both the supervisor and employee. 

I also believe what Ram Charan and Larry Bossily wrote in their book Execution: that informality breeds candor. I try to see my employees in different settings to gain the trust that comes with time spent together. In the past, I have taught a class, helped staff with class assignments, gone on walks, been in a bowling league with colleagues, had every sort of meal and participated in outside social events to spend some informal time with staff. I also use these blogs to communicate lessons and messages in an indirect way. 

In addition to spending time with direct reports, I am intentional about spending time with middle managers and others in my division who do not directly report to me. I think it is important to involve people from all levels on committees and in meetings about tough topics so that they gain understanding and learn the “why” behind decisions.

I also take the time to learn about individuals and tailor rewards to them see dot #4. Sometimes this involves material goods, but often the investment of time is more meaningful. I have helped staff members learn how to write articles for publication, taught mini-classes on big picture topics, reviewed proposals and offered my involvement in ways that were most helpful to them.

There are no shortcuts to truly developing your staff, but I believe the time you invest is your most important job. It also takes time to truly reach A = ALIGNMENT, the topic for tomorrow…

beth triplett

#1488 STAR supervision: S

This week I am sharing tips on becoming a STAR supervisor — for more on that, see Monday’s dotToday focuses on the “S” = START, and how good supervision begins in the hiring process.

BEFORE HIRING: Prior to placing an ad, I recommend developing a “desired attributes” list that outlines the characteristics you are seeking from an ideal candidate. You can then incorporate these key points into your posting, and ask for examples in the interview to ascertain whether the candidate possesses your desired qualities. You form impressions as a supervisor from the ad forward, and it is good to start off giving the candidate a sense of what you value. I always send a pre-interview packet (and expectations that they have read it and can translate their experiences to fit real life examples) and have an intentional and comprehensive interview schedule to give the candidate a sense of fit with potential colleagues. I also always conduct the reference checks on my own (see dot #1391).

ONCE HIRED: As soon as the person is hired, we always route a card throughout the department so everyone can add a word of welcome to the candidate. We send this to their home, often accompanied by a few items of “swag” for them (and their family if they have one.) I know that leaving the current job/city/organization involves a sense of loss, and I want to keep the happy aspects of coming to us as prominent as I can. We put a sign and words of welcome on their desk for the first day, and provide a comprehensive orientation schedule in advance, assuring the employee that we have plans to acclimate them to the culture, the job duties, the city if their arrival involved a move, and to the organization as a whole. We communicate start time, parking locations, who will meet them and where, as well as dress code norms for the first day so there is no anxiety about that.

FIRST WEEKS: It is important that things are realistic, not all rosy, from the beginning. Set expectations from the start. Acknowledge where there is some flexibility, but hold firm to rules or policies that must remain rigid. Provide feedback on where the new employee is doing well, but also where they could tweak their behavior. If you have one-to-one meetings with your new staff, conduct them in the way you plan to hold them going forward. You want to set the tone and be the boss from the beginning, not be their new friend. It is easier to loosen expectations later than it is to gain respect or create more restrictions.

At one training session that a colleague and I facilitated for new supervisors, we handed out magnets with a picture of Bruce Springsteen. We encouraged the supervisors to put these where they could see them and remind themselves that they are THE BOSS and need to act accordingly. You, too, are THE BOSS, and the sooner you establish what that means for you, the better your relationship will be with your employees.

More tomorrow on T = TIME…

beth triplett

#1487 STAR supervision

One of my most requested workshops is Becoming a STAR Supervisor, and this week I will share some of the highlights via this blog. I believe strongly that the most important thing we do is supervise staff, even though we sometimes lose focus of that and concentrate on “our work” instead. But if you have staff, being a STAR supervisor is your job, and it is an area where everyone can always learn and improve.

Supervision is a summary of skills, including hiring, training, coaching, evaluating, truth-telling, visioning, goal setting, saying no, holding people accountable, compassion, humor, advocacy and tough love. The mix of challenge and support that you provide your staff will not only influence their personal growth and professional development, but it will also, to a large measure, determine the performance of your unit.

I think people don’t supervise well because they claim to be too busy, don’t have the confidence or skills, want people to like them, think things will be fine on their own, or have the misguided notion that if you give power away, you won’t have any for yourself. Many people are promoted into supervisory roles with no previous experience in this area and don’t know how to obtain it except by trial and error.

I will synthesize four key aspects of supervision and discuss in more detail each day this week, but to be a STAR supervisor, I recommend concentrating your efforts in these areas:
S: START — start supervising beginning with the hiring process
T: TIME — commit the time it takes to supervise well
A: ALIGNMENT — align your staff and your expectations
R: RESOURCES — deploy resources to build capacity

In a Harvard Business Review article* entitled Creating the Best Workplace on Earth, authors Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones found that people did not cite great pay or benefits when describing their ideal job. What people were looking for was a place where: you can be yourself, you’re told what’s really going on, your strengths are magnified, the company stands for something meaningful, your daily work is rewarding and stupid rules don’t exist. As a supervisor, you have a large amount of control to create this pocket of greatness with your staff. Pick up some tips this week on how to do that…

— beth triplett

*Source: Creating the Best Workplace on Earth by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, Harvard Business Review, May, 2013

#1486 hitchhiker

I had dinner last week at a little restaurant by the marina. It was a perfect night and I was looking out at all the slips full of boats, wishing that I knew someone who would take me out on the Mississippi River for a ride.

And then I got thinking about all the other “sharing” services that are out there: Uber, Airbnb, etc. and I wondered why there isn’t a boat sharing service. If people are willing to rent out their homes to strangers, why wouldn’t they loan their boat? Or, like Uber, why isn’t there a way to know who would happily take on a passenger or two in exchange for gas money?

I think there is an unfilled niche in this area. In 2010, there were 12.5 million registered recreational boats in the U.S.*  Surely one of their owners would let me glide with them along the river in exchange for a case of beer!

Think about what role you could play in the sharing economy. Maybe you have something to loan, or perhaps you are the one who uses the services. Or maybe you are the one with this great idea that could start a whole new industry! If you figure out how to get me a ride, please let me know!

beth triplett

Source: National Marine Manufacturers Association U.S. Recreational Boat Registration Statistics Report, 10/3/11 at http://www.nmma.org

Look at all these boats I could have been sharing!

#1485 train the trainer

On Friday, I received this message: Is tomorrow’s dot about your extrovert BFF and how we work have learned to work so beautifully together????” 

What a great idea!

As I wrote yesterday, extroverts and introverts gather their energy from different sources. In a training or workshop setting, it is important to take both temperaments into account and provide activities that allow everyone to flourish. What better way to do that than by having an introvert and extrovert design the training together?

For many years, my BFF and I did sessions together on training the trainer. I wore solid navy. She wore bright colored florals. I had neat stacks of props and let’s just say hers were more fluid. I had notes and sections timed out; she was spontaneous. I facilitated the exercises that required more reflection; she generated the energy to get the group engaged.

While we now do an abundance of training on our own, those early lessons from training together help us to be aware of the mix of material that helps everyone to learn. We both incorporate elements in our sessions that appeal more to the opposite temperament as ours, and are consciously aware of introversion/extroversion in our training design. 

Think about this dichotomy the next time you are presenting before a group. Have you allowed some time for introverts to think before they need to respond? Have you incorporated hands on activities for the extroverts to express themselves through talking? Can you provide materials for post-session reflection and seek on-site feedback verbally?

There are many ways to honor the needs and desires of both introverts and extroverts, and embracing this kinetic relationship can eventually influence not only your training, but your work patterns and even fashion choices. Take a lesson from these polar opposites that great synergy can come from incorporating the strengths of each.

beth triplett

#1484 opposites

I listened to a webinar this week that addressed the topic of introverts and extroverts working together. While the “wiring” of each different temperament may drive the other one crazy, Jennifer Kahnweiler provided strategies on working together to create results that could not be created alone. And doing so, she argued, is essential in today’s workplace where “partnerships are the new work model.”

The three main ways introverts and extroverts differ:
1. Introverts draw their energy from being alone vs. Extroverts drawing energy from being with people

2. Introverts draw energy from thinking vs. Extroverts draw energy from talking

3. Introverts relish their privacy vs. Extroverts are more comfortable as an open book

Kahnweiler said that you can’t change the opposite temperament, but understanding the differences goes a long way toward acceptance. She urges people to move beyond acknowledgement to actually embrace the creative tension and use it to foster breakthroughs. 

Kahnweiler refers to extrovert/introvert pairings as the Genius of Opposites and shared examples of many “dynamic duos”: Penn and Teller, Siskel and Ebert, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Venus and Serena Williams, and Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. 

Think about your temperament and preference — and then think about who you could partner with to complement the aspects that you are lacking. Who can be the other part of your pair? You may be tempted to align with someone who is like you, but the real magic comes from finding someone dissimilar to fill that role. As Penn described about Teller: “we are like flint and steel, but when we get together is when the sparks are created.”

beth triplett

Source: Managing Opposites: Introverts & Extroverts Achieving Extraordinary Results AMA Webinar presented by Jennifer Kahnweiler, June 22, 2106   Recording of the webinar available at: http://ow.ly/q0yK301hK6W 

#1483 QWERTY

Today is International Typewriter Day — just in case you need something to celebrate! I am not alone in my affection for the hallowed machine, as the typewriter and its font are one of the most reproduced images even today.

I paid for much of my college by banging out term papers for others and being employed as a secretary during summers and breaks. My first foray into student organizations was as a secretary to a committee on the program board, and my journalism classes all required us to sit at manual typewriters to practice our craft. Without the typewriter and my ability to use it well, I would have had a very different collegiate experience. 

I have always been a fan of typewriters, and, even though I no longer use them, I have three vintage models that decorate my home. For me, typewriters put me closer to the written word; it always felt more real when I was using a typewriter than when I am writing on a computer. 

Maybe journalist and manual typewriter user Will Self has an explanation for why: “I think the computer user does their thinking on the screen, and the non-computer user is compelled, because he or she has to retype a whole text, to do a lot more thinking in the head.*” 

To celebrate International Typewriter Day, I don’t expect you to drag out the Royal or Remington to do your paperwork, but maybe you could pretend like you are. Think about what you are going to write before you just put your fingers on QWERTY, and formulate those thoughts as if it was arduous to revise them after you hit the keys. Your finger muscles have it easier than when manual typewriters were used; don’t let your thinking muscle get soft too.

beth triplett

*Source: Why typewriters beat computers, BBC News, 5-30-08 as quoted in Wikipedia

#1482 inventory

Lately I have noticed the different levels of inventory that people maintain for their use. Some people operate with a just-in-time mentality, and keep only a minimal supply on hand, while others have a plentiful amount of everything from pasta to project folders. Neither is right or wrong, rather just reflective of different levels of comfort, finances, storage space and temperament. But for the most part, things accumulate without any thought given to the amassment.

Really think about the inventory that you carry in your home or office, and strategies you could deploy to be intentional about what you keep on hand. Do you have a stack of half-used legal pads that could be used up before you grab for a new one? A bottle of shampoo that isn’t as great as you had hoped, that sits on the shelf instead of being finished? Enough of your second-favorite flavor that stays in the cupboard while you buy more of your #1 choice? A box of promotional items that could be used up before you order new? Or do you need to buy extra of that ink so you don’t run out in the middle of a report?

It is good to have a margin of supply so you aren’t running to the store for every project or meal. And it’s fine to have an abundance of things; hypothetically, say a vast collection of Sharpies, if that is what you have consciously chosen to do. Just don’t let the inventory be invisible; you should be intentional about what you have to count on.

beth triplett

#1481 let’s dance

Over the weekend, I attended a big band concert where the venue was set up in such a way that provided a dance floor in front of the stage. Throughout the first set, the conductor kept encouraging people to come forward to dance.

No one did.

Until one couple stepped out onto the floor. 

Suddenly, dozens of couples made their way to the front and danced to the rhythm of the music. The band, the dancers and even the rest of the audience had a more enjoyable time because of the extra level of participation in front.

Can you be like the first couple the next time opportunity presents itself? Do you have the courage to step forward and be first, even if it may be a bit uncomfortable? Are you confident enough to be in the lead instead of waiting to follow?

The risk of being the first dancer was fairly low. None of the people on the dance floor were Dancing-with-the-Stars-worthy, and no one really cared about their form. What mattered was that they started.

Take a lesson from the dancers and raise your hand (or feet) the next time you receive an invitation. Don’t be a wallflower on the dance floor or at work and wait for others to set the tempo.

beth triplett