“Stop Making Sense” is one of the best concert movies ever, but that’s not the topic of this blog. What I want to address instead is a phenomenon that happens every day in organizations, with results ranging from sub-par to disastrous.
To understand this productivity-killer, we have to back up a bit first and understand what this term “sense-making” is all about.
It sounds a little abstract, even nebulous; maybe one of those terms that crops up in leadership development from time to time that confuses as much as enlightens.
In fact, sense-making is a very clear and fundamental … Read the rest
One common criticism of the work of supervisory development is that “it’s all common sense.”
Depending on what you define as common (and leaving aside for the moment the sometimes profound differences among people in such definitions), this can be true.
One participant in a workshop some time ago made this point, but the woman sitting right next to her immediately followed with, “I could never do all these things!”
You see, we sometimes reply to the criticism with the comment that common sense is not always common practice.
And as has been said, “To know and not do … Read the rest
It had been a long, eventful week and I was greeting the weekend from the comfort of my favorite chair with a cappuccino when my wife came into the room to tell me she had discovered a secret of life.
Well, two, actually, but the second is the point of this blog.
OK, if you were wondering what the first is, it’s to do work you love. That’s actually very relevant to supervising people, but we’ll have to come back to that one another time.
For now, here’s the secret – the second one — she wanted to share: … Read the rest
The supervisor was in disbelief, then shock, then rage, and finally full-out sobbing as she heard the staff talk openly for the first time about what it was like to work for her. For many years, she had run the place, doing whatever she thought was right, getting work done, thinking things must be OK.
But the results were getting less and less OK, and so a consultant had been called in. He talked with everyone, asking questions, noticing things, and finally convening a meeting in which people got honest.
It was fascinating to watch the supervisor. At first, … Read the rest
In the business of supervisory development, we have a favorite old story that makes a powerful point. Here it is:
A supervisor says to an employee, “Bring me a rock.”
So the employee responds, proudly delivering a rock to the supervisor’s desk.
“I didn’t mean one this big!” the supervisor says.
So the employee brings back a smaller rock.
“I didn’t mean tiny!” the supervisor says. “What’s with the extremism?”
So the employee brings a mid-sized rock. But it’s not the right color. Too grey.
So the next rock is brown. But it has sharp edges, and the supervisor … Read the rest
So the head of the Windows operating system is out at Microsoft.
Just a few months ago he was the hero, having pulled off a rescue of the much-maligned Vista operating system.
He was (and I guess still is) apparently brilliant.
So why the axe?
The one word that kept coming up when people described his management style was “abrasive.”
Maybe you know someone who is abrasive. It’s often characterized by impatience, voice raising, intimidation, arguing, even threats. This kind of personality keeps others one edge, wondering what’s next, and when a caustic comment or even explosion is around … Read the rest
Sometimes in life, it’s hard to know how you’re doing. The measurement may not be clear, people may not give you any feedback, and the goal itself may be fuzzy.
However, in supervision there is one way to keep really good track of how you’re doing in the eyes of those you supervise. I learned this one the hard way many years ago while supervising a group of journalists in London (another career), and here it is:
The more you rely on your positional power – your authority — to get things done, the more trouble you’re in.
In … Read the rest
If you’re ever in a group that is having trouble agreeing on much of anything, just ask if they know someone who was a great individual performer, got promoted into a supervisory role, and then stunk the place up.
This phenomenon has become almost an archetype. In fact, the Peter Principle – that people get promoted to their level of incompetence – was coined to describe just such a pattern.
Why would any organization do this?
The first reason is that people are not skilled at differentiating technical performance from leading people. That is, they do not have a … Read the rest
You have probably been in all kinds of different teams over the years. That means you’ve been in good ones and bad ones, and you already know, for sure, there is a really big difference.
Life in a great team is usually exciting, energizing, fun and productive. Things get into a good groove. Life in a bad team is . . . well, I won’t go into the adjectives since this blog is intended for polite company.
The things that bedevil teams often fall into two categories: technical and social. Technical problems include things like an unclear purpose, poor … Read the rest
It’s always unsettling when you’ve got a good thing going on, and then someone ups and changes the rules of the game.
That was how I thought many federal supervisors must have felt when reading the GAO report last week titled “Human Capital Management: Effectively Implementing Reforms and Closing Critical Skills Gaps Are Key to Addressing Federal Workforce Challenges.”
If you can get past that long title, and to understand the magnitude of the disruption, let’s review four of the fundamentals of the federal government.
• First, it’s a classic, traditional hierarchy. It goes top-down, with SES at the … Read the rest