The New Management Blues

So there you are settled comfortably in your work routine and along comes the inevitable winds of change. Your current manager leaves the company or gets promoted and suddenly a new sheriff is coming to town. We all know that any time there is a personnel change within a company, the entire system and everyone in it is going to be affected. There are steps that both the new manager and the employees can take and thought processes that can be adopted to make the transition a positive one. Having been both an employee and a new manager I would like to share what I have learned.

The incoming manager is likely to be just as apprehensive about taking over a new department as the employees are about getting a new manager. If the new manager has been promoted from within the company there may be resentment and jealousy within the department that will have to be resolved. The new manager may now be managing someone with whom they are friends. Being accused of favoritism toward an employee may be a concern. If the new manager is an outside hire, then he or she could be uneasy about working for a new company where they may not know anyone and are not entirely sure of what lies ahead for them.

From the employee’s standpoint, they have become accustomed to the way the departing manager operated. The employees and the manager found ways of functioning together that worked well for everyone. The employees may not have always agreed with their manager, but at least they knew what to expect. They may be concerned that the new boss will change procedures and they will have to learn new procedures that may not work as well. They may be worried about the management style of the new boss and how they will all get along together.

Now, let’s take a step back and look at this from a little higher vantage point. The new manager and the employees have a few important things in common… They are all human. No one is perfect. This situation is equally stressful for the employees and the incoming manager.

A new manager would be wise to begin their new position by taking time to learn everything they can about the current procedures and how the department interacts with other departments. I also recommend that they interview each employee they will be managing. Get to know them and find out what they like and don’t like about the way things have been done in the past. Be aware of the employees’ need to be respected and valued. They are apprehensive about you and the changes you might make. If not under pressure from upper management to do so, don’t make any changes for at least 30 – 60 days. Making changes too quickly can be counter-productive. If you were promoted from within the company and there are jealousy or resentment issues among those who now report to you, it is best to address those issues immediately so they do not become exacerbated and cause problems within the department.

As employees, it is easy to get seduced by the “story” of a new manger coming in and turning the whole department upside down. Thoughts of that nature lead to feelings of being victims with no control over the outcome. In most situations, it is the way we choose to think about something that creates the outcome. Think of your new boss as an opportunity for positive change and brush away thoughts of negativity on the subject. Ask your co-workers to work together to make the new manager feel welcome. I encourage you to remember that the new manager is a human being just like you. Even if they don’t show it, he or she may be feeling out of place, uncomfortable and a little unsure of themselves. Treat them with kindness and respect. If the new manager is an outside hire, offer to give him or her a tour of the building. As a group, ask the new manager to meet with you and tell you his or her objectives for the department. Find out what is important to him or her and make sure that gets done. As an employee, one goal is to help make the manager’s job easier by doing what is supposed to be done when and how it needs to be done. Keep in mind that when an employee makes a mistake, the manager is the one on the front line with upper management. Maintain your integrity at all times. Do not become a “yes” man or woman, just be honest and supportive of your manager. Help your manager to achieve his or her goals and you will have a strong advocate when it comes time for a salary increase or promotion.

In closing I will add that there is one thing we can all count on… nothing will ever stay the same. Every cell in our body, every molecule in the universe is in a constant flux. If we try to stand still, we are likely to get left behind. So welcome change, embrace it and find out what it is here to teach you.

Recommended Reading: Who Moved My Cheese? by Dr. Spencer Johnson

In Business Communications, Sharpen Your Writing Skills and Presentation Skills by Being Concise

“Public speaking is the art of diluting a two-minute idea with a two-hour vocabulary.” John F. Kennedy

I like what JFK had to say for a couple reasons. First, if you can’t stand up and say it in 15 or 20 minutes, then keep your rear end planted in the chair. When it comes to business communication skills, ponderous length doesn’t impress; it alienates. We’re all busy, and we all have limited attention spans. FOCUS your message and never forget: Brevity is clarity.

In business communication, the same rule applies whether you’re trying to sharpen your presentation skills or writing skills. Keep your audience or readers uppermost in your mind — stifling the urge to pontificate — and they’ll be there with you. The last thing you want them to do is examine the insides of their eyelids when you’re halfway through your speech.

Of course, keeping it concise isn’t necessarily the easiest way. Many times I recall returning to the newsroom as a reporter with a notebook full of facts and juicy quotes from a homicide scene or a contentious city council meeting, only to hear my editor say: “We’re putting it on the front page, but keep it short. We’ve only got 10 inches for it.”

Ouch, I’d think. I don’t have time to write short. Now I have to decide what NOT to use. But remember: It’s worth it. Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was 278 words, and it took him only six or seven minutes to deliver the magnificent 701-word Second Inaugural Address. No, you’re not Lincoln. But you are capable of distilling your thoughts and stifling your ego.

Second, I’ve got some advice for anyone frightened at the prospect of stand-up business communication, meaning a presentation or a speech: Think about it as a conversation between two intelligent people who care about effective communication. That way, you’re not an actor all alone up there on a stage. Instead, you’re in a dialogue that takes on energy and depth thanks to partners who listen and work with you.

In a conversation, avoiding eye contact would be rude, wouldn’t it? So why would you lower the lights and keep turning away from your listeners to look at a PowerPoint presentation on a screen behind you?

Any good conversation is two-way, a give-and-take, a natural form of effective communication skills that benefits both parties. Of course, with a speech, you have to start out by doing most of the talking. But everything you say should be directed at encouraging questions from audience members and a conversation among them. If you start by standing up and speaking, then find yourself facilitating a lively discussion, congratulate yourself. You can add public speaking to your growing list of communication skills.

Quality Time With Some Talking Seals

Not long ago, I did some writing training and presentation skills training for seven bright young SEALs, the Navy equivalent of Special Forces. When they’re not “operational” in South America or Bosnia or Afghanistan or Iraq, these seven guys test new weapons and tactics at the Naval Special Weapons Development Group in Virginia Beach, Va.

Having covered the Pentagon for Business Week magazine, my expectations were low when it comes to military writing skills — jargony, acronym-clogged, even pompous-sounding language. I was in for a pleasant surprise. To be sure, the SEALs were a bit wordy, but they quickly grasped the key to any workplace writing: Get to the point. Tell me what you want. Persuade me to adopt a new policy or spend money, analyze a complex situation, or explain a new development. Then tell me why I should be interested, what’s in it for me. From there, you support that idea with details.

What’s more, respect me, and all readers, by being concise. Quoting the English poet Robert Southey: “If you be pungent, be brief; for it is with words as with sunbeams — the more they are condensed the deeper they burn.” That’s quite a leap from modern-day elite warriors to a Romantic Age poet, isn’t it? Still, it’s all about deploying the language we share to achieve effective communication, using words wisely and economically and with conviction.

I heard something else from the SEALs that makes me think all is not lost when it comes to military writing today. Their superiors have introduced them to a writing organization concept called “bottom line up front.” Makes sense, doesn’t it? Get to the point. Unfortunately, that leaves us with the acronym BLUF. I wonder if the powers-that-be would like to rephrase that.

5 Tip-Offs Your Counterpart is a Better Trained Negotiator Than You Are!

Nobody likes to be snookered, to be taken advantage of, and this especially so when we’re negotiating.

If we’re hoodwinked or conned when dollars and cents and promotions and salaries are at stake, it’s especially painful.

Before you rush off to that next job interview or performance evaluation, or you race to bargain for that new car or enticing house, open your eyes and take the measure of the people you’re negotiating with.

It may save you money, embarrassment, and even your career!

Here are 5 tip-offs that they may be more skilled at the game than you are:

(1) IS HE TOO DUMB TO BE TRUE? That car dealer that seems to be the village idiot may be simply playing Lt. Columbo with you. You remember him, the TV detective who mumbled and bumbled his way to solving case after case, ensnaring the most evil and, get this, the cockiest and most over-confident bad guys in the world! Playing the bozo is a smart move, according to a consensus of negotiating pro’s. By asking questions and appearing un-slick, you gain several advantages, not the last of which is you listen more than you talk, you fact-find, uncover their negotiating ranges, and you induce the other party to make damaging disclosures while avoiding the perils of blabbing. There was only one job interview where it paid for me to appear smart, and that was when I sought college teaching positions. So, exceptions exist, but they’re rare.

(2) IS SHE THE NICEST PERSON YOU’VE MET IN MONTHS?

Nice people are disarming. They offer us a glass of water, hold doors open for us, smile, make pleasant eye contact, compliment our attire, and put us at ease. And in doing so, they get far more from us, through tit-for-tat, our desire to reciprocate, than they would ever extract through bullying. The “hard negotiator” exists, the one who seems to put his bulldog personality before all else. But he isn’t nearly as effective, in most cases, as that flawlessly polite and congenial person that seems to REALLY LIKE US! Beware of them.

(3) DOES SHE CONFESS THAT SHE HAS LIMITED AUTHORITY?

This is one of the oldest gambits in the book. If I have limited authority, I can’t seal a deal all by myself, which means if you can, what you promise is binding, but what I “think I might be able to do,” is always tentative. This means you make concessions without a stop-loss, and I haven’t conceded a thing. I’ll leave the table with all of my options open, always promising to “see what I can do,” but only getting final approval much later on, after you have caved in on point after point.

(4) LIKE A GREAT FOOTBALL COACH, DOES HE KNOW HOW TO PLAY THE CLOCK?

Effective negotiators seem to speed up and slow down the pace of the game, nearly at will. When a sense of urgency suits them, you feel pressure to answer their questions, provide commitments, and make concessions on the spot. When they find it valuable to slow the pace, to heighten your frustration and to tweak your need for quick closure, suddenly, they have to take a break or are called into another meeting or have to take a call and get back to you later. The Master of the Clock is typically a negotiation master, as well.

(5) JUST WHEN YOU THINK YOU HAVE A DEAL, DOES SHE NEED JUST ONE SMALL FAVOR OR ADDITIONAL ITEM?

A “nibble” is a tiny morsel that your counterpart asks for just as, or even some time after you think your terms have been agreed upon and are final. The smart buyer says to the car dealer, “Of course, you’re going to make sure to give me a full tank of gas, aren’t you?” Depending on the model, that can be a $50 nibble, or much more, if you’re buying a Winnebago. Is any sane seller going to refuse, to watch his commission scamper away over a measly few dollars? Yes, some will, who resent nibblers, but most won’t.

Looking at the bright side, now you know five of the most typical negotiating gambits, and of course, you can use them too, when you encounter someone with even LESS training!