Manager Tools – practical advice for leaders

David Jones tipped me to the Manager Tools podcast. Every week, Michael Auzenne and Mark Horstman discuss techniques and practical tools that listeners can use to become more effective managers.

Topics of particular relevance to building an effective public relations consulting team include the importance of the one on one meeting, giving effective feedback, delegation, coaching, effective hiring, and performance reviews.

Manager Tools. It’s worth a listen.

The Impostor Syndrome

Virginia Gault’s article in today’s Globe and Mail provides good advice on what both management and employees can do to combat the impostor syndrome.

The impostor syndrome – “the constant fear of being exposed as a fraud despite a solid record of achievement” – afflicts “any demanding workplace culture, where high achievers are left on their own to sink of swim,” according to Diane Zorn, a faculty development director at York University.

High achievers left on their own to sink or swin. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, this is the reality in all too many consulting companies. And I’d be dishonest if I didn’t admit that it is also a challenge for my company.

So, what do we do about it?

First, we have replaced the standard performance review process with a career development process that puts a tight focus on our employees’ own objectives. We bring employees together with their managers no less frequently than every six months to discuss what is going well, what is not going as well, what each employee wants to achieve in the coming year and how we can support this.

But career growth is a day by day affair. So, we encourage managers to meet regularly on a one to one basis with the people for whom they are responsible. And we make employee retention and career growth a criterion on which managers’ own performance is assessed. Managers have part of their compensation at risk based on their success in retaining employees and helping them to grow on the job.

We also have established a relationship with a career coach. When people indicate an interest in having a career coach, the company will engage the coach to work with that person. We established this relationship about six months ago and we’re hoping that, by having a relationship with one coach, she will gain extra insight into our work environment that she can apply as she coaches our employees.

These are just some of the things we do to create a supportive environment that will counter the “sink or swim on your own” culture. We know that we’re not perfect and that we have much more to do. I’d be interested in hearing about what others are doing in this area.

Who's first to embrace social media?

In Across the Sound New Marketing Podcast #13 (minute 28), Steve Rubel talked about the Going the Distance discussion on the NewPR/Wiki regarding the adoption rate of social media. Rubel reported that the common thread is that “it’s going slowly. It’s account by account, team by team … and the best way to get folks involved is by throwing them into the pool.”

Our experience at Thornley Fallis with social media is similar – with one very interesting twist.

For the last year, we’ve been building our social media pool and inviting all of our team to test the water. We launched our team Wiki approximately a year ago in December 2004. Since then, we’ve moved forward to introduce an internal blog and to encourage people to author their own blogs. We’ve recently revamped our Wiki and phased out our traditional webmaster-controlled intranet to entice our people to assume responsibility for authorship of our common workspace.

Like many others, we have found that adoption has been slow.

But here’s the twist.

The first to test and then to embrace social media have not been the youngest people on our team. They have not been the most computer-oriented.

In fact, our most senior people have been the first to experiment with and adopt social media. They have seized on our internal blog as a means of creating between people in offices in different cities a conversation that has the same immediacy as the conversations they engage in with the people in their own office.

We’ve had a similar experience with our Wiki. The most aggressive user has been one of our Vice Presidents who has begun using the wiki to manage one of our largest client relationships – posting work, deadlines and calling on the team to share information in a way that the whole team can easily see it and update it

So, right now we have the interesting experience of having people at the level of CEO, President and Vice President using our blogs and our Wiki while our younger staff mostly look on.

So, we’re off to a gradual start, which has required patience and a willingness to backtrack and try new approaches. And I believe that the early participation of mostly senior people is actually a good thing because the whole team can see that the folks who run the company really are “walking the talk.”

Hopefully, the next stage will see the more junior folks jump in to the pool. We’re doing our best to convince them that the water’s warm.

The Wiki Learning Curve (2)

My company has replaced our Intranet with a Wiki. In a previous post, I wrote that the Wiki Learning Curve – the need for users raised on MS Word to adopt a new mindset suited to the Wiki interface – is impeding use of our Wiki by our team.

We’ve taken two measures which we hope will help users make the transition to the new model of collaborative software.

  • First, we’ve rearranged the main page of our wiki to include a traditional hierarchical table of contents to enable new users to easily see what’s already posted.
  • Second, we’ve added custom FAQs to the existing Help files. These FAQs address the most basic questions about adding content, editing existing pages and formatting in a way that should enable each user to quickly and easily make the most common changes. Links are provided at the bottom of each FAQ to the Wikipedia help file for that topic. In effect these FAQs are like trainer wheels for the Wiki.

    Simple measures that we hope will increase the use of our Wiki by our team. We’ll be listening closely to our user feedback and watching usage patterns in the coming weeks to see if these measures prove to be what is really required.

    And, we’ll also be looking forward to the WYSIWYG editor which I understand will soon be added to MediaWiki, the software we use for our Wiki.