3 signs your job is doing you no good (Blog #14)

person distressed

How have you benefited from your job?

Other than being a means to money and security, what other benefits instantly pop into your head?

Have you grown as a person? Do you feel good about yourself? Are you happy with how you perform in meetings and presentations? Do you walk away feeling content with how you dealt with certain issues or situations?

Or, do you beat yourself up thinking you could’ve done better?

In terms of how you’ve grown in your position, I think many would judge that based on if you’ve been promoted. I know I have in the past. If you made it to manager status, then that was a sign that you were doing well.

However, after 10 years and 9 jobs, I’ve learnt that this is not necessarily the case. You can make it to manager status and still be very unconfident. And I think if grades were given in the professional world that would be a big “F” for “fail”.

Here’s an example for you.

So, we jump back to 2013 and it’s a Friday afternoon and we’re just about to head into a staff update. One of my team members goes up to my manger with a question. I can’t remember what the question was, but what I do remember is my manager said, “Tinaaaaaa, not now!”

My colleague walked away a bit shocked as she didn’t think a simple question would cause that type of reaction.

Naturally, I looked over thinking, what’s up? What I saw was a person distressed big time. She was sitting down at her desk with her head down and one hand holding it up. Shaking her head side-to-side and miming the words “fuck”. She wasn’t in a good state at all.

After a few minutes it was time to go to the staff update and as we were walking up we learnt that our manager had been asked to talk casually about how through one particular task her team worked together with another team in the company.

Basically, she had to talk briefly in front of about 25-30 people. That’s all that came to the staff update.

Time came for her to talk. And she did. And it was OK.

She was rattled before it, looked rattled after it and the next week she mentioned how she still felt nervous the next day because of it.

As much as I tried to sympathise I couldn’t. The talk went for about 20 seconds and the topic was a big nothing, all about how two teams worked together. No wrong or right answer. And this is a manager we’re talking about.

Regardless, if I was a manager or not, I’d feel really bad about myself if such a small request rattled me so much.

I don’t care about what other people think, but, personally, I’d be asking the question, what is this job doing for me? And how much really have I advanced?

How much was this manager benefiting from her job when such a small hurtle, of talking in front of people, still wasn’t overcome? What was this job doing for her confidence and self-belief?

3 signs your job is doing you no good

No. 1 – Your skills are advancing at about the same rate that a turtle walks (slow and agonising), and your levels of self-belief and confidence haven’t improved much.

Looking back on my 10 years and 9 jobs the one job where I felt truly fulfilled was the one where I advanced the most. Not in positions, but in skills, experience and, most importantly, confidence and in self-belief that I am, in fact, a very competent person who could achieve just about anything that I wanted to. And obtaining this belief is something rare, as I’ve seen you could be a manager for years and still experience little to no growth in these areas.

No. 2 – You’re demotivated and have accepted it and stay exactly where you are.

When you’ve hit this point you’re telling yourself that you’ve got it good just to have that permanent full-time job that is sucking the life out of you.

I know. I’ve seen it firsthand in my last stint with government. One of my colleagues that sat across from me had become really good in the art of dodging work. Only taking on a bare minimum that would somehow justify her being there.

Anyway, just before I left I had to hand over some work to her and she gave me the whole story about how when she first got there she was a “workhorse”. Her words:
“I use to start every Monday ready to go. But what I noticed was that the more I did the more they gave me and the people that didn’t do much work were left alone. So, I thought, why should I be the workhorse around here?”

Fine. I get it. Unfair allocation of work. I think it’s safe to say most people would react the same.

But the thing is, by making this decision to stay you’re paying a big price. Basically, you’re forfeiting the chance to reach your fullest potential for a permanent job that will only enable you to be average. Very average and nothing more.

When I was there, this colleague had been there six years already. How much do you think she developed in her role doing what she did?

I can guarantee you that not only did she not develop, she probably went backwards.

I remember when I lost the job that I loved to a merger and came across to the new company that was formed. One of my old managers from the previous job said to me, “Mimoza, maybe it’s not a case of that it’s that bad where we are now, but more a case of it was really good where we were.”

I remember thinking, yeah I could agree with that. I know there is worse, I’ve experienced worse. But how was that justification for accepting it? I felt it was a completely useless point that people use to justify their decision to stay in a job they hate. And this coming from a manager.

Man! After my 10 years and 9 jobs this title “manager”, for me, really doesn’t hold a lot of weight on its own.

No. 3 – You’re very jealous of other people’s success.

And I mean to the point where you want to scream your lungs out or throw yourself off a bridge and question your whole existence. Your thoughts sound something like this:

WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE? HOW COULD A GUY I WENT TO HIGH SCHOOL WITH, WHO WASN’T EVEN THAT GOOD AT SCHOOL, BE DOING BETTER THAN ME?

Sound familiar?

You’re also very curious of what other people are doing and snoop around just to see how far they’re getting. Other people’s success really pisses you off. But at the same time, seeing that others aren’t getting further than you makes you feel better about the crappy job that you have and helps you to get through your day.

How do I know this? Because I’ve felt it too. I’m as human as you are.

And I can tell you from experience that the only time when I wasn’t jealous of someone else’s success is when I felt fully fulfilled in my role. This was a role where in one year I advanced more than the other nine years combined, simply because of the opportunities that I had through that role.

And that year, LinkedIn didn’t exist to me and neither did Seek. I didn’t care about other jobs and I didn’t care about what other people were doing. I was happy regardless.

How happy are you at the rate that you’ve advanced through your job?

How confident do you feel? Or, are you still at war with the voices in your head? Tell me about it.

If you liked this blog post subscribe to 10 Years and 9 Jobs today! For more on how it all started click here!

See you next week.

Mimoza

3 reasons why competitor analysis isn’t that important (Blog #13)

folders marked competitor analysis

It was January 2011 and I just stepped into a new role. Little did I know at the time that this role would be a defining moment in my life. Basically, the bar would be raised to the point where nothing beneath it would be acceptable anymore.

Being the only marketing person in the company, it was a huge position. Although, I didn’t have the title manager I did feel like a manager. Everything was mine to decide. Yes, it needed to get approved. But my opinion got valued the most. What I felt strongly about got actioned.

So, at the start of the job we sat down to put together the marketing plan. This being a very common step in any new marketing position.

And I remember factoring in competitor analysis and putting it down to be done every week. Yep, that was the plan.

Did it actually happen?

Nope.

In fact, that year, I did little to no competitor analysis. Not that I did it on purpose, but basically other priorities took over.

Did that influence my performance that year?

I feel very confident in saying that it didn’t have an impact at all. Career wise, it was my most successful year by far.

Why?

Because my goal was to produce the best work that I could, aiming to do better and better every day. And not knowing a lot about my competitors, didn’t stop me from producing my best work even though the industry I stepped into was completely new to me.

I quickly outlined what my priorities were and with the time that I had I applied my best to the job.

Of course research influenced my ideas and suggestions, but very little was competitor research. Being hungry for new ideas and concepts, I didn’t feel I’d achieve much simply following my competitors. At that time, for me, it was more about the world of marketing than specifically following the industry I was in.

Even my managers loved the fact that I was completely new to the industry and didn’t see this as a disadvantage whatsoever. They wanted fresh ideas, words, designs and weren’t limited to what was common in the industry.

Trust me, boundaries were pushed and achievements were made and by the end of that one year I felt like I could take on the world. Like there was nothing that I couldn’t do. I was very proud with what I had accomplished that year and started my first stint of maternity leave with a deep sense of fulfillment. I wasn’t even concerned with having the next nine months off. I felt like I’d earnt it after the year I had.

And it was only one year. Trust me, that isn’t much. I’d often think about what I would’ve done if I’d been there longer?

Now, I’m not saying not to worry about competitor analysis at all, but I don’t think that’s where the focus needs to be.

3 reasons why competitor analysis isn’t that important

No. 1 – It blocks your thinking

I remember a few times in this awesome job that I had, which I refer to as job #8, where I tried to do something very similar to what a competitor did and it blocked my thinking.

What I’ve experienced is that you become so focused on finding examples that are so similar to your competitor that you miss out on a world of opportunities.

Why?

Because it narrows down your thinking to what you have in front of you missing out on all the other possibilities.

I remember when I gave my assistant the simple task of finding website images and how it suddenly became more difficult when she started to look for images that were very similar to what our competitor had.

It was taking forever.

And every image she found, to her, wasn’t as good as the competitor’s images. Because, basically, it wasn’t exactly the same. You see, in her mind she already had a fixed idea of what it needed to look like.

That’s where I stepped in, closed down the screen with the competitor’s images and focused on what we needed for the content that we wanted to display and found some quite fast.

Looking too closely at what your competitors are doing can sometimes be a waste of time.

No. 2 – “It’s not about being better than your competitor, but improving as a company¹”

All the great minds that I follow from all over the world like Tony Robbins, Simon Sinek and Marie Forleo all talk about this need that people have to continuously develop. To improve as people, as professionals. This is where we find our fulfillment.

So, if we have developed and moved forward with our achievements as a company, does it really matter what our competitors have done?

This is precisely what Simon Sinek means when he says “The point is to be better than ourselves not our competitors².”

And this is what I experienced with job #8 when I talk about having that feeling where I could take on the world and win. This joy came from the advancements that I experienced personally and professionally that year. It didn’t come from comparing myself to what my competitors had done.

No. 3 – This type of competition shouldn’t worry you

Competition from outside the company isn’t the competition that you should worry about. Nor should it be a huge focus.

It’s the competition that’s experienced within the company that should be of concern.

What do I mean?

When work colleagues work against each other instead of for each other for personal gain.

When the focus is on “How can this benefit me?” Instead of, “How can this benefit the team?”

This is the type of competition that can do damage to a company. And this is where actions need to be put in place to ensure an environment of this sort doesn’t develop.

What are your thoughts? How important do you believe competitor analysis is?

If you liked this blog post subscribe to 10 Years and 9 Jobs today! For more on how it all started click here!

See you next week.

Mimoza

¹YouTube – Simon Sinek’s Top 10 Rules for Success.
²YouTube – Simon Sinek’s Top 10 Rules for Success.

5 things bad managers have in common (Blog #12)

Go to work!!!

If you haven’t followed my story from the start, you may be wondering, why am I writing this blog post? Or, maybe, why I’ve started a blog altogether?

One of my biggest motivators was seeing with my own eyes how the same person can change completely in different work environments.

And I mean go from chalk to cheese. Really.

I’ve witnessed a person go out of their way to make sticky date pudding for a staff party in one work environment. To not even wanting to take part in a photoshoot as an extra, in order to help out the marketing team, in another work environment.

And she didn’t make the sticky date pudding because she had to. Nor was she reimbursed for it in anyway. I mean we could’ve easily bought dessert. We bought everything else. She did it because she wanted to. That’s the thing. She loved her job and at the time loved the people she worked with.

However, after the company changed, I went up to this same person and asked for a small favour regarding the photoshoot. Her response, “Nope.” Shaking her head and with a facial expression as if to say “I don’t even want to know.” She did say “Sorry” to me, but at the same time continued to shake her head.

Who does that?

Someone whose morale and motivation at work is that low that they’ll do only what they need to do and nothing else.

Was I surprised by this answer?

No.

That’s just how it was at this particular company. If it was out of their job description people didn’t want to know.

But what’s worse was that this type of culture became a norm within the company, business as usual if you like.

Managers accepted it and some were even convinced that it wasn’t that bad.

5 things bad managers have in common

No. 1 – They’re disengaged with the people and the environment

I believe the sticky date pudding example says it all.

In other words, when most of the people in the company are hating their jobs, are unhappy with things and are simply doing the bare minimum to get by, their managers are walking around thinking one of two things:

1.       Things are going well, or;

2.       Things aren’t going that well, but they can’t be done differently. It is how it is.

No. 2 –  Their comments demotivate and frustrate their employees

It was an event at the Zoo that the marketing team, I was working for at the time, organised. The lead up to the event was catastrophic. People got yelled at and sworn at. Breakdowns happened and about half the team left after the event. Although, the event itself went OK, the lead up to it was a mess.

And then came the debriefing meeting.

Morale was at an all-time low, systems were failing, people were instructed to not speak to each other. And out of all these things that needed addressing, the only thing our senior manager was capable of saying was “We need to get our shit together.”

That was it.

The team manager at the time backed her up by saying “Yep, you can say that.”

These are the managers we had to follow.

Other than making me feel like I wanted to throw up, it offended me and the people in the team.

A person that left the team for another department specifically said, “Mimoza, I had to leave. I had no respect left for my manager.”

No. 3 – They’re unwilling to step outside their comfort zone.

In order to improve work culture what I’ve found is that you really have to put yourself out there.

What do I mean?

Doing things that may feel weird or strange at first and that most people would never consider doing.

How else do we change things if we never try something new?

So, when I took on the task of coming up with some culture building activities to help out the team, I researched companies that were recognised for their work culture. And, yes, most were start-ups.

And for many of the activities a lot of money really wasn’t needed.

I mentioned things like lunch roulette and gratitude sessions.

What did they involve?

Well, lunch roulette was about organising two people in the team to have lunch together once or twice a week to get to know each other, developing closer, stronger relationships. At the time, I thought this was a good way to ensure that people also had their lunch, as many were skipping lunch due to rediculous workloads.

And the gratitude sessions, well, I specifically got this idea from a Business Insider article that featured the start-up Stylerunner. Their founders, Julie Stevanja and Sali Stevanja, specifically mentioned how this was part of their weekly routine. It involved the team getting together twice a week to share with each other things they were grateful for. The aim was to increase positivity, creating a positive vibe in the business.

Trust me. We needed something like this.

And it made sense to me. All you needed to do is more research and you’d find other examples like it proven to improve your mood like Shawn Achor’s TED Talk about “The happy secret to better work”. He talks about how the simply act of writing down every night three things that made you happy during your day, can improve your mood in general.

How did my manager react?

Well, the first thing she said was, “Mimoza, we aren’t a start-up, so let’s not act like we are.”

But if start-ups are getting mentioned in Business Insider for the work culture they’re producing, why not mimic them?

Do we need to be a start-up to put in place lunch roulettes and gratitude sessions?

Of course not.

They’re simple actions. But what is needed is the courage of stepping outside your comfort zone and giving it a go.

What’s the worst that could happen?

No. 4 – They believe that trust and respect are instructions and don’t realise that it’s something developed over time.

How many times have you heard your manager say we need to respect each other?

I know it gets mentioned a lot. But whether it happens or not is a different issue.

And I’m sure you’ve also heard your manager say something along the lines of how “Trust among work colleagues is important.”

But there are rarely any actions put in place to develop these feelings, which is why they don’t exist in certain work places.

This is precisely where culture building activities are needed and if you ask me should be a must and not a “nice-to-have”.

No. 5 – They underestimate what their employees are capable of doing.

And this happens when internal people get overlooked for promotions or when work is outsourced believing that no one in the team has the right skills.

Way too often have I been witness to someone new coming into the team that apparently has unbelievable skills unlike anyone else. And I don’t have one example where this actually proved to be the case. In almost all cases that I’ve seen, their skills were about the same as everyone else’s in the team and there were many cases where I was far from impressed.

The only difference was that the manager had already made their mind up about the people in the team and weren’t willing to give them a go.

What are your thoughts? How many of these traits have you been witness to?

Which one has affected you the most? Tell me about it.

If you liked this blog post subscribe to 10 Years and 9 Jobs today! For more on how it all started click here!

See you next week.

Mimoza

 

 

Are you a follower or a leader? (Blog #11)

When asked at work, by perhaps a new colleague, “What is it that you do?” Have you ever said “Whatever they give me to do”?

Or, when asked by a fellow colleague why something was done a certain way, have you ever responded by saying “I don’t know. That’s what they wanted me to do”?

Those are the words of a follower. And not only have I heard those words said many times, I’ve said them myself.

In fact, at one of my jobs you could say the whole approach adopted by the company was that of a follower.

And what’s a follower’s motivation?

You simply don’t want to get in trouble. That’s it.

After you’ve dealt with the job, if all hell broke loose you wouldn’t care, just as long as they couldn’t put any blame on you.

Sound familiar?

And these are the types of employees that managers shouldn’t want.

Why?

Because other than keeping out of trouble, their care factor is 0.

And yet I’ve seen it so many times where companies put in place policies and procedures that nurture the development of followers.

What do I mean?

Some examples…

Long, exhausting approval processes. What do you think happens there? You don’t put down your best work. You put down the work that will get approved. And that’s what you become focused on. What will get passed all those approvers? By the time you get it back, you don’t even care anymore. Just as long as it’s approved and you can get it to that person that’s been asking for it for days.

Or, that pathetic task management program that you’re instructed to update continuously but fails to assist you or your team in any real way. So, why are you using it? Because as a follower you follow and don’t ask questions. You know it’s pointless, you hate it, but you still do it.

When I became a follower at one of my jobs, I can safely say I just stopped caring. I had made another career plan and was in the process of putting it in place.

But there are other types of followers that I’ve seen that become this way in a genuine attempt to please their managers as much as possible. Hoping that in some way it will pay off, only to be completely disappointed.

One example I’ve witnessed was with a person in my team who pretty much gave up her life to the job for about nine months under new management. Starting at 7am and finishing at 7pm. And 7pm was early as there were nights that went to 10pm and 11pm.

Although, this was a crazy time for the team in general, I particularly felt for this person as she had two young kids, ages three and under. I could understand. I had two young kids as well, but during this period I worked part-time. Yes, I did overtime as well, but not to the extent that she did – what she experienced was inhumane.

She worked her butt off for the team manager.

Other than working countless hours of overtime during the week, she took work home, came in on weekends and sometimes with her kids. And there were times where she was provided with no option about this. “You have to come in, even if it means bringing the kids along!”

When I heard about this I remember thinking “WTF?” Are we in the movie 2012? Is the world just about to end? What crisis is happening that would justify this type of action?

She’d come to work looking completely exhausted at times and even mentioned how she needed wine to calm herself down after a day’s worth of work. That really made it clear to me how much she was suffering.

Our team manager at the time admitted to me how hard this person was working and said “She had given her blood, sweat and tears for this job.”

I thought, “Great! She’s being recognised.”

But when two managerial positions became available in the team that covered areas that this person was already working on and currently managing – she was overlooked for both of them. And two external people were hired.

Talk about killing any hope you had in getting a promotion.

What more did this person have to do?

About two weeks later the team manager got kicked out of her job due to appalling management of the team. And within a matter of a few days everything changed.

People within the team, who only about a week ago were praising the team manager, changed their opinions about her as well. Now that she wasn’t there, it was easy to say that what she was doing wasn’t right.

So, what was all that suffering for? What did my colleague get in return for giving up her life for this team manager?

NOTHING!

That’s how it felt for her. And that’s how it felt for the people around her.

It felt like we got swept away in the manager’s craziness and when she got booted out I’m sure everyone in the team had a “why the hell did I listen to her” moment.

I know from personal experience that you want to be the best you can be at work and try to achieve this by doing everything they ask you to do. You become a “Yes” person. However, leaders are the ones you want to follow and not all managers are leaders nor should they be followed.

Louis David Marquet in his book “Turn Your Ship Around” talks about how the job of a leader is to take care of their employees.

And he recommends doing this by “giving them every available tool and advantage to achieve their aims in life, beyond the specifics of the job¹.” By “being zealously dedicated in improving the lives of your people².”

Do you notice that he mentions that words “life” and “lives”?

We’re people, let’s not forget this.
 
Before we simply make the decision to follow our managers maybe we should ask the question – are they worth following? Do they even care about me? Or, is it really all about them?

My year 11 teacher in high school said to me once, “Mimoza, if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.”

I think it’s safe to say that everyone in the team learnt this lesson after this particular experience.

If you liked this blog post, please share it!

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever followed a manager so much that afterwards you thought “What was I thinking?” If you have a minute, tell me about it.

For more on 10 Years and 9 Jobs subscribe today! Want to know how it all started? Click here!

See you next week.

Mimoza

¹Louis David Marquet, “Turn Your Ship Around”, (2015), p.135.
²Louis David Marquet, “Turn Your Ship Around”, (2015), p.136.

 

How to know when systems don’t work (Blog #10)

Whiteboard with sticky notes

I was listening to Tim Ferriss’ book “The 4-Hour Workweek” on Audible the other day.

Have you heard of him?

Well, he’s pretty freakin amazing. You should check him out. Other than gaining a wealth of information he’s so funny. The way he tells his story will crack you up. Just the way he became a Chinese Kickboxing Champion had me laughing for days. Trust me it’s worth a read.

Anyway, in this book Tim Ferriss is all about finding ways to automate systems. He also talks about delegation. But he strongly recommends fixing the work system through elimination (getting rid of crap that you don’t need and doesn’t work) and automation¹.

And only then, if required, introducing people into the process as adding people into a crappy system won’t make the system any better².

This really hit home with me, which is why I decided to talk about the topic of systems in this week’s blog. I know I mentioned last week that I was going to talk about why managers should leave the important stuff to their employees and, although, I do cover this a bit in this week’s blog, I’ll aim to go into more detail about it another time. But for now, let’s take a look at systems.

As I mentioned, Tim Ferriss’ approach really hit home with me. Especially, with one of my jobs, where I saw countless managers come and go. And did anything change as a result of them being there?

No.

Not the everyday system that myself and everyone else had to endure.

High Turnover – especially with managers

A new manager would come in and they’d still be new when you got that email notifying you that they left yesterday. Yep, sent off to “Siberia” somewhere. I tell you, the approach they took in giving you the news reminded me of Russian history and how they deal with their criminals.

Despite this, with every new manager that came in there’d always be some hope that something would change. It was one of the reasons why I ended up staying as long as I did. “There’s a new manager, maybe something will change?” “There’s a new CEO, surely something will change.”

But it never did.

And all you heard was people asking the same question over and over again, “There have been so many changes in management, why is it still the same?”

In fact, you could almost say that about 90% of management had changed and yet it was still the same for me and others like me which involved about 90% of the employees.

Why?

Because the system didn’t change. Even though we had managers come and go we still operated under the same bad system.

A good example of this was the agonising approval process that we had. This alone would add days if not weeks or months onto the time it took to get something completed and too bad if you nearly made it to the end and someone made a change. You had to let all of the approvers know again.

But no matter how many managers came and went there was nothing that was done about this demotivating approval process.

Seth Godin in Seth’s Blog post “Fixing the buffet line” talks about the importance of checking. But mentions the importance of adding a system that allows you to do the work properly then and there, so we don’t over exhaust the checking phase to the point where days or weeks are used up in the process³. And the piece of work ends up getting checked 10 times.

You’d hear comments like, “Why does it take marketing forever to do something?”

And it did.

To produce one piece of work it took weeks and sometimes months. The system demotivated you as you knew no matter how hard you tried factors that were outside your control would take up a lot of time. It was embarrassing.

Hiring externally didn’t help

What didn’t help was the fact that managers were always hired externally. In other words, internal promotions didn’t happen.

We had managers that were completely new to the company come in with no idea of the day-to-day problems that their employees faced. It’d always start with the new managers being quite determined to make a difference, but over time, as with the rest of us, they’d give in to the system around them and just do what they needed to do to get the job done. Or they’d come into their role with a big picture plan, but not address the issues that needed addressing straight away.

I experienced a classic example of this with our new team manager when he was instructing us to ask for a full marketing brief if an employee from another department wanted about four lines of copy on something. The team member he was telling this to, felt uncomfortable doing this. And you couldn’t blame her. It felt ridiculous to make this request. And when it feels ridiculous, it usually is.

Although, the team manager meant well (I think), it was easy for him to give out these instructions as he wasn’t the one that had to action them.

Too much time spent on recording work instead of doing it

And the only solution that managers could come up with to deal with this bad system was to add more and more job recording tasks.

What do I mean?

Well, just before I left, our team manager asked everyone within the team to write down every single task they had to complete from October to March. This was the team manager’s solution in trying to control the amount of unpredicted work that came to our team.

So, you might be thinking “OK. It doesn’t sound that bad.”

But this was on top of other job recording tasks that we already did that included:

  • The annual marketing report.
  • The individual annual review – which we all did and had a list of our jobs, KPI’s etc. for the year.
  • The daily workflow program – that was updated daily with current jobs and future jobs.
  • The whiteboard – which was updated daily with daily/weekly tasks.

So, when adding on top of all this, another list outlining all the jobs from October to March, you were left scratching your head thinking “What the hell? Aren’t we doubling up? How many times are we going to do this?”

I’m very confident is saying that the marketing plan should’ve had all this covered.

When so much emphasis is spent on recording jobs as oppose to doing them, it’s a clear sign that there are major issues with the system. And here the team were already complaining about the amount of work they had and now they had to spend more time on recording the work they did instead of doing the work.

Does this only sound crazy to me?

Have you experienced anything like it? What other crazy requests have you experienced as a result of a bad system?

If you liked this blog post please share it!

For more on 10 Years and 9 Jobs subscribe today! To know how it all started click here!

¹Tim Ferriss, The 4-hour workweek, (2007).
²Tim Ferriss, The 4-hour workweek, (2007).
³Seth Godin, Seth’s Blog post “Fixing the buffet line”, (11.01.17).

3 signs that you’re a corporate dinosaur (Blog #9)

dinosaur looking at you

It was a normal marketing team meeting when someone spoke up about a problem that was constantly experienced within the team.

Workload and deadlines.

A newer member of the team pointed out that 80% of their jobs were made up of work that wasn’t recorded and that wasn’t on their to-do list at the start of the week. Which is why it was so hard to determine suitable deadlines that could actually be met.

She mentioned herself that even when generous deadlines were provided it was always as if in the last two days the work was done in a rush.

Always in a rush.

She couldn’t believe how after more than a couple of months at the job she still wasn’t able to find her feet.

This was something that we all experienced.

The system was a mess. Unexpected work continuously came your way and the approval process was agonising to say the least.

So, how were we going to solve this problem?

I started to get a bit excited.

But I can tell you the excitement got nipped in the bud very quickly with the team manager’s response.

Are you ready for this?

Our “team leader” proposed that we put in place a system of accepting work from other departments that is so tedious that simply starting that process would put them off giving us work and then push them to do it themselves.

The team’s reaction based on facial expressions and body language:
“WHAT??? Did I hear what I think I heard? Aren’t we the marketing team? I’m a bit confused. We want them to do their own marketing work?”

What I couldn’t believe is that he literally explained it in that way and was very confident in his idea as if we were privileged to be exposed to such brilliance.

Two of the managers in the team spoke up, but very softly … “No no, that’s not what we want…” They didn’t even finish the sentence and lost confidence when the team manager started nodding his head implying that it was what we wanted.

The team manager went on to say something along the lines of “We need to push back and that’s how we push back.”

He was adamant that this was the best solution. Our brilliant leader thought that in order to help his team out he needed to make it harder for the other teams to work with us.

This meeting was made up of 11 people. 5 of which were managers. It also went for 2 hours. That was 22 hours of company time (11 people x 2 hours). And if you were to combine all the years of work experience we had amongst us, there was easily 100 years of work experience combined if not more.

What was discussed?

Problems. Workload, deadlines, timelines and other related issues. None of these problems were new problems we all knew about them and talked about them several times before.

What was the solution after 22 hours?

We were going to implement a system that would make other employees within the company squirm at the thought of giving us work.

Out of 11 people, 5 of which were managers, only one manager mentioned culture. And her words were, “There definitely are some culture issues here.” That was it.

If this wasn’t bad enough, I couldn’t believe it when our team manager finished the 2-hour meeting by saying, “This has been a very good meeting. Vey good. Thank you all.”

He continued to say these words around us after the meeting.

He even sent us an email to say these words in writing.

He truly thought that he had accomplished something here.

Other than giving me material for an absolutely kick-ass blog post, I’d say he failed as a manager and as a leader big time!

I’d even say that we failed as a team even with the 5 managers.

Maybe we needed more managers? LOL – NOT!

So, why is it that such a senior level position is given to a person that has no idea about work culture? Why is it given to a corporate dinosaur?

Yep, that’s what I call them – corporate dinosaurs. And I can safely say I’ve come across way too many in my time.

3 signs that you’re a corporate dinosaur

Sign No. 1 – In an attempt to fix problems you add to them by introducing systems that make life harder for those in your team and those outside your team.

And you can’t get a better example than the one I’ve told you about above. I was actually involved in setting up that tedious system of which other departments had to undertake when sending us work. It was a joke.

Why were we using it? Because this system was something the company had. So, why spend money on something else if we’ve already got it?

Too bad that it only complicated things even more by adding about another 20 extra steps to an overly agonising approval process. I thank god that I left in the middle of it all. I truly mean this.

A word of advice – if a system makes your employees squirm, especially the ones that it’s supposed to help, don’t use it! Even if it’s free.

Sign No. 2 – You still believe your customers are the most important thing.

It was another marketing meeting but this time the CEO joined us in his attempt to improve work culture.

We gave him an overview of what we were working on and he gave us an overview of what he was working on.

All I heard was “members, members, members. Did I mention members?”

The focus was on the members, we got it.

What about the employees?

The CEO was well aware of work culture issues from recent surveys being completed and almost a whole department reducing to half its size in a matter of weeks and he openly acknowledged that “Yes, we do have work culture issues.” But that was pretty much it.

He mentioned in this meeting the importance of “respectful relationships” and that we needed to be respectful to each other.

Great point.

Except respect is a feeling that develops over time and not an instruction that we follow. That’s the thing.

Were any relationship building initiatives put in place? None whatsoever.

So what’s going to change? NOTHING!

The most important asset of any company are the employees first and foremost. This is the only way to ensure that customers will get treated how they should.

Sign No. 3 – You use the words “effective and immediately”

Any instruction or information that came to me that involved the words “effective and immediately”, even if it was perfectly reasonable, caused me to have an instant reaction where I’d imagine telling that person to shove it where the sun don’t shine.

Do you speak to your family or friends like that?

Of course not.

They would tell you where to go.

So, why do it with your team members regardless of position?

Simon Sinek, is a firm believer of treating employees like people¹. That’s what we are.

Why would you say the words “effective and immediately” when you could say something along the lines of… “Starting from today we will use…” or “We now have blah blah blah and we no longer need to blah blah blah.”

So unless, you want to sound like a robot from “The Terminator” ditch “effective and immediately”.

If you liked this blog post please share it!

What else would you add to the list? Tell me about the experience you’ve had with corporate dinosaurs in your life.

For more on 10 Years and 9 Jobs subscribe today! To know how it all started click here!

Next week …why managers should leave the important stuff to their employees.

See you then.

Mimoza

¹Simon Sinek, “Leaders Eat Last”, (2012).

The 4 most useless questions I’ve been asked in job interviews (Blog #8)

interview in action 2

It’s an ordinary day at work, when I overhear my manager and the HR manager decide that it’s time to notify the person that’s been successful in getting the new job in our team with the good news.

As I listened to this news, I remember my manager squealing with excitement about this new person. I mean she was smiling so hard her eyes were squinting.

She was saying something along the lines of “I’m really excited about this person coming on board” and how “She’s reeeeeeally good” in a low deep voice as if to really mean to say that she’s found the next marketing star of Australia.

As I was looking at her I remember thinking, “Why is she so excited?” Happy I could understand, but why excited? Anyway, I thought whatever, I guess I’ll see for myself next week.

It was amazing how this new person, who my manager was squealing about at first with excitement, very quickly started to annoy her and proved to be completely different to what my manager expected.

Not only could my manager not stand her, but this person basically needed to be babysat.

Am I exaggerating? See for yourself.

• Only a couple of weeks into her new job she got that drunk at the Christmas party that the next working day she was pulled aside by HR for a serious talk and had to write multiple apology letters to the people she offended at the party. I remember my manager saying that she felt really embarrassed by her behaviour and that she literally felt as though she had to stay there the whole time to monitor her. Yeah, not exactly the kind of person you want to have in your team.

• She had to be pulled aside about how she dressed at work and how she reacted to certain things on more than one occasion.

• She had to be told to pick up her rubbish off the floor. Need I continue?

And we’re talking about someone who was close to 30. Really, there was no excuse.

How is it that my manager got it so wrong?

Was the interview process short or rushed?

God no.

In these corporate companies the interview process is never short. In fact, they make it bigger than Ben-Hur.

It went on for a few weeks and my manager, the HR manager and the department manager were all involved in the interviews. I believe there was even a test of some sort involved. That’s why by the end of it, it was like they found this “perfect” person that was going to change the world. NOT. Maybe just the way the Christmas parties would be remembered.

You know what I think the mistake was?

They focused on the wrong thing.

I’ve seen it a million times where the person doing the hiring is that focused on finding a person with the right skill set that the candidate’s character gets overlooked completely. Yes, she had what was needed. But her character didn’t fit the manager, team or the company, etc. Problems emerged one after the other.

So what happens when the manager solely focuses on skill set? They can ask questions that are useless in determining if the person is right for the job or not.

The 4 most useless questions I’ve been asked in job interviews:

No. 1 – Can you give me an summary of your background/work experience?

And so I would start with… “After completing year 12 I went on to study at uni bla bla bla….” Don’t worry, I wasn’t going to bore you with the detail. It bored them enough.

I remember as I’d start to give an overview of my background the interviewer would take a deep breath that would scream, “I’m bored and I’m not really going to listen to this. But I’ll ask the question as that’s what I’m meant to do.”

Completely useless and a waste of time. They already know the answer. It was all on my resume which they read prior to calling me up for the interview.

Get specific.

No. 2 – Are you willing to do a Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint test?

Early on in my career my answer would be “Yes”. About three to four years into my career it was “No”.

I never saw any logic in these tests.

When asked the question of how good I was at these programs I’d think, “What do you think? I have two university degrees and a few years’ experience.”

“What? Do you think I’ve been hand writing everything all this time?”

How do you get through two university degrees without knowing Word, Excel and PowerPoint in this age?

And how do any of these questions determine the type of person I am?

Whoops, I forgot that’s not important.

And what did these tests prove?

If something wasn’t done how they thought you should do it, as if you couldn’t do it another way. Or google it, or ask the person next to you, whatever. It proved nothing.

The last time I was asked this question was in late 2010. I was unemployed and so my instant reaction when called up for a job interview was to say “Yes” to the test. After doing so I thought, “This is bullshit!” And any manager that asks for something like this is a manager I don’t want to work for. So, I called up and withdrew my interest in the job.

Yes, I had moments of doubt where I thought “Oh my god, I’m unemployed why did I do that?” By that feeling in my gut didn’t let me go ahead with it – I just thought that is freakin ridiculous.

No. 3 – What are the 4 P’s of marketing? (After completing a masters degree in marketing).

Every time I think about it, it still makes me laugh.

I remember a university lecturer telling me about a friend of his that would put him down as a marketing lecturer and tell him that there was nothing he could teach him about marketing as he knew the 4 P’s.

Really? The 4 P’s of marketing.

I should’ve said something like, pianos, pyjamas, piñatas and potatoes.

Given that he made me laugh I should’ve returned the favour.

No. 4 – What subjects did you study in your masters degree in marketing? (After 10 years of completing my degree).

Let me tell you how it works.

When you have freshly completed your degree and you have zero to little work experience, you hang onto your uni degree like there’s no tomorrow.

What do I mean?

You use it like a trophy in your interviews, trying to come up with creative ways to make it look like you’re prepared for the workforce. Even though uni doesn’t provide you with practical experience it’s theory based. When it comes to practical experience you’re pretty much starting from scratch when you finish.

If you’re referring to your uni degree, regardless masters, honours, whatever, after 10 years of work experience – you need to get a life.

If the manager/interviewer is asking about the subjects you studied at uni after 10 years of work experience – I’d say they don’t know what they’re talking about – get out of there!

When it happened to me, it completely put me off. I lost interest in working with that manager then and there. I thought this is an absolute joke. I gave her an overall run through the topics covered and she looked a bit confused. I guess it disappointed her that I didn’t remember the full title of all the subjects after 10 years.

So what questions should be asked? What should the focus be?

Simon Sinek once said, “Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them¹.”

Imagine if this was the focus what the questions would be? Do you think your typing speed would be questioned?

There’s a chapter in Sinek’s “Leaders Eat Last” that highlights the importance of integrity in managers and people in general. He raises the question: “Would I want to be in a foxhole with you²?” to really uncover how employees feel about their managers.

But I think managers/interviewers could use this question when hiring someone as well. And if they did, do you think they would worry about what subjects you did at uni 10 years ago?

Or even Sinek’s quote: “Letting someone into an organisation is like adopting a child³.”

If they thought about it this way, do you think they would worry about the 4 P’s of marketing when the person has a masters degree in the field?

What do you think?

Are there any interview questions that you’ve been asked that you’d like to add to the list? The ones that crack you up every time they come to mind. I’d love to hear about it.

Or, if you’ve been the interviewer, what’s your approach been? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

For more on 10 Years and 9 Jobs subscribe today! For more on how it all started click here.

Next week I’ll be talking about corporate dinosaurs and how to know if you’re one of them.

Speak to you then.

Mimoza

 

¹Simon Sinek, “Leaders Eat Last”, (2012).
²Simon Sinek, “Leaders Eat Last”, (2012), p.154.
³Simon Sinek, “Leaders Eat Last”, (2012), p.23.

4 HR culture building activities that don’t work (Blog #7)

human resources

If someone asked you whose responsibility it was to maintain a healthy work culture, what do you think you’d say?

My guess is that you’d probably say it fell under Human Resources (HR). I think most people would.

You know when I told a work colleague at job #9 about my interest in work culture and how important I thought it was, she said to me, “Maybe you should think about working in HR.” I remember saying, “God no! Why would I want to do that?”

Basically, I felt no connection with what I was talking about and HR.

Yeah I know, HR is supposed to be there to take care of the employees. But I can’t say I’ve felt that. In fact, I’ve found them to be distant and not in touch with the reality of what people go through.

I’ve been witness to some crazy experiences. To the point where you were made to feel guilty to want to leave on time and where staying back two to three hours every night became a norm. And it still wasn’t enough. This situation resulted in employees resigning to no job and others leaving the team. And only when about half the team left within a couple of weeks was something actually done about it.

But was this too late?

How was it that it got that far?

The whole company could see what was happening. I think the mere fact that when an employee resigns to no new job, that should raise red flags. Not to mention employees working endless overtime, crying in the toilets, people looking absolutely miserable and unhealthy. Everyone saw it.

I remember coming home one night a couple of hours late, my brother, who happened to be there, asked me if I was working for the Pharaoh of Egypt (lol). He thought what I was going through was comparable to the backbreaking scenes from the “Ten Commandments”. To this day it still makes me laugh.

Now it’s fair to ask, did people go to HR with these problems? Well, they did and they didn’t.

Why didn’t they all go? Well, I don’t know about you, but this whole system of going to HR when you have a problem with your manager just doesn’t sit well with me. It never has. I always thought that if things got that bad where you can’t sort them out with your manager then you may as well call it quits.

The simple thought of doing something like that made you feel like a backstabber. Like you were going against your manager and against your team.

People are very reluctant to do it.

And from what I’ve witnessed, people tend to take these actions when they’re absolutely at their last straw. When they simply don’t care about what happens anymore, even if they lose their job.

And how would this make your manager feel?

You’re never going to be in their good books again. Even if some agreement is made, things like this are remembered. Trust goes down the toilet and so does the relationship. And the focus is once again placed on protecting yourself. Employees protecting themselves from their managers and managers protecting themselves from their employees.

And don’t forget, HR is in the same position as everyone else in the company. It’s not like they have more power than the CEO when it comes to dealing with managers.

It’s for these reasons why I believe that HR is quite powerless in making a difference to company culture. Through my experiences they’ve had little to no impact in inspiring change or making a positive difference in this area.

Now, I’m not saying that they didn’t have the right intentions. But activities that they put in place failed to have the right effect, if any.

4 HR culture building activities that don’t work:

1.       The online culture survey and meetings that followed

Now, I’ve been through this process twice and twice at the same job.

What difference did it make? None whatsoever.

So both times, yes people were honest as it was anonymous. And both times it came back that the culture of the company was shocking. In the more recent survey, it was especially shocking in the team I was in.

Now, I know there were good intentions behind this, but I have to say I don’t think the survey was needed. I’d say it was obvious how bad the culture was both times. Time and money could’ve be saved

And both times, following the survey, a meeting was organised.

First time-round we sat around a table with our manager. The person doing most of the talking was the HR person. With everyone else, there were far and few comments in between.

What changed afterwards? Nothing.

Simply acknowledging feelings, thoughts and opinions made no difference. The same type of work culture continued. No real initiative came out of it. When it was time to have the second survey you heard comments like, “This was done a couple of years ago and nothing was done with it.”

I wasn’t there for the meeting that took place after the second survey, but a comment from one of my teammates summed it up for me – “Mimoza, it was an absolute waste of time. I’M NOT GOING TO SAY WHAT I REALLY THINK IN FRONT OF MY MANAGER!”

Need I say more?

2.       The awards and the trophies

The years of service award

A decision was made to acknowledge the employees that had been there 5, 10 and 15 years during a staff catch-up.

And so the CEO started to call the names off the list. Now, I know that there were good intentions behind this as well, but it felt so impersonal, like these employees weren’t people they were numbers being called out one after the other.

It meant nothing to the people getting it. It meant nothing to the people around them.

And I wouldn’t be surprised if many walked away feeling down about how long they’d been there.

There was no relationship between the person giving the award and the employees getting it. They were strangers to each other. I doubt the CEO was very familiar with what they did in the company, let alone about anything outside of work.

The intention may have been good, but the delivery was bad.

Awards for good work

I remember a colleague that got this award once and her reaction to the whole situation was something like this.

As we were at the staff party, it came time to give the awards and she said something along the lines of, “I really hope I don’t get called up.” She did. She got the award, stayed for a bit longer, handed it to one of her teammates to leave on her desk and got out of the party as soon as she could.

I think it’s safe to say it didn’t mean anything to her.

My point… it made no difference to how she felt about her job. Bigger picture… no difference to company culture.

3.       The annual review

It’d be that time of the year and I’d think “Oh crap. Here we go again.” So, you’d fill it in with the relevant stuff and alter it so it worked with what you needed to put in to get it done.

Did I feel more advantaged by having it as an employee? No.

Why?

It meant nothing to me. Just another tedious job to do, so HR could tick it off its list. It made no difference to my performance or how I felt about the overall job.

Did this process bring me closer to my manager? No.
Why? Because for them it was also more paperwork that they had to do and you both just did what you needed to do to get it done. Care factor – 0.

One of the most common reactions that I saw is how people were surprised with some of the comments they received from their manager. Their reactions; “Why didn’t they tell me about this earlier?”

I guess it’s important to wait for the annual review and not communication things as you go – NOT! (lol)

4.       Getting rid of offices

In some places where I worked they somehow believed that this act alone could improve the work culture. My experience showed me that it can’t.

In job #8 where the culture was ideal, if all the managers had offices it would’ve made a difference. Why? Because the relationship was developed in a way that you felt comfortable approaching them no matter what. Office or no office.

However, in one of my other jobs, I worked right next to one of my managers and I never felt comfortable in approaching her. And the relationship never changed despite being there over two years. Her sitting next to me made no difference. In fact, I’d secretly hope that I’d somehow be moved.

 

So when looking at the role of HR I have to ask…why are they there for us?

Why do we need protection?

Why is a department set up to protect us from our managers? Are we focusing on the wrong area?

Instead of setting up a culture where we need to protect ourselves from our manager and vice versa, how about we focus on developing a culture where that’s not needed?

What do you think? How valuable have you found HR to be where you work? Do you feel safer because they’re there?

Are there any activities that they’ve put in place that you think have made a difference? Tell me about it.

For more on 10 Years and 9 Jobs subscribe today! For more on how it all started click here.

Next week… it’s all about hiring someone and what happens afterwards.

See you then.

Mimoza

3 signs that true leadership exists in your company (Blog #6)

teams of employees

You know when I talk about work culture that the ultimate experience I had is job #8. But if you’re just joining me, feel free to click here to get the whole story.

It was hard at first to describe what I had. It was easy to say how great it was. But when it came down to describing why, people never got the right picture. It was almost like I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

Why?

Because it wasn’t just one big reason why it was so good. It was a combination of a lot things that made it great. A lot of things that made you feel like you belonged. You were part of the team. And a very important part of the team.

Today I’m going to talk about 3 signs that will definitely tell you that true leadership exists in your company. You can consider this as Part 2 to my second blog post – What loving your job looks like (Part 1) – No protection need.

1. You’re the one in control

If there was one feeling I hated the most at work it was that feeling of being confused.

“Am I doing the right thing?”

“Is this what the manager wants?”

But at job #8 that feeling didn’t exist. I knew exactly what I needed to do. Never did I feel more in sync with my managers.

Why?

Because all I needed to do was ask myself:

Am I happy with this?

Do I like it?

What else would I do?

Am I satisfied with the effort I put into it?

If the answer was ‘yes’ to all these questions, then I was more than confident to present my end result to my mangers, the CEO, the company, whomever.

Sure. There’d be that initial meeting with my manager about this is what we need to do, outlining the objective and the timeframe, etc. But after that point it was up to me.

There was no need to try and read my manager’s thoughts on what he’d want me to do. From the start my managers and the CEO made it clear to me – it was my job to determine what the end result would be.

And, if I could honestly put my hand on my heart and say I was proud of the end result, there was never any fear that this wouldn’t meet the objective we outlined together.

I’m not saying that little changes weren’t made here and there. But that look, when your managers eye balls are about to pop out of their head wouldn’t happen. They didn’t go into it with a fixed idea of what I was going to produce.

I was in charge. I was in control.

And you know what the funny thing was?

Never had I had a more demanding role with so much responsibility. It was tough. But there was no stress. That’s the thing.

And a big part of this was because of the control I had. Nothing would happen unless I wanted it to. I determined the outcome.

In Simon Sinek’s book “Leaders Eat Last” he talks about studies that have proven that the ones that experience the most amount of stress at work are the people in the lower positions¹. Not the manager. Not the ones in the higher up positions.

Why? Because they have the control. It’s the ones that don’t have the control that get stressed out². It isn’t linked to workload or responsibility; it’s linked to lack of control³.

And it was unbelievable the amount of confidence that came with it. If I could do this, then it felt like there was nothing that I couldn’t do. Never did I feel more fulfilled in my role.

And within a very short space of time the tables turned. I called the meetings and I outlined what we needed to do. And nothing made my manger happier as it gave him time to do his job.

I became a leader.

2. Meetings happen only when they need to – no time
wasted

In almost every other place that I’ve worked in, it was standard protocol to have one of those meetings where the whole team sits around the table and tells everyone what they’re working on. Basically, you’d get an overview of what everyone’s to-do list was.

I don’t know about you, but I never really found them that useful. They were boring, slow, people would digress and a lot of time would be wasted.

And who would really pay attention through the whole meeting? Not me.

Why? Because I knew I wouldn’t have anything to do with what they were talking about. So why worry about it.

Going through people’s to-do lists and listening to them ask questions that you don’t need to hear is a waste of time.

And I know in saying this you may be thinking that you need to have those meetings so you know what your team mates are working on.

Yeah sure, so an overview of the project is good. This you don’t need every week. Unless it specifically affects you. Because I can tell you now, when someone comes to your team to ask about this project you’re still going to say “I’m not the one working on it. It’s best that you speak to John.”

That overview that you get once a week doesn’t seem to do much.  Am I wrong?

Or it could be a case where you think it might relate to something you’re working on. In this case you call a meeting with the person that is working on it. Your whole team isn’t needed.

And so often we think “It’s only an hour a week.” Well, when there are five people in the meeting one hour turns into five hours (1 hr x 5 people). Not exactly a small amount of time.

It amazed me at job #8 how there were no unnecessary meetings. Those weekly team meetings didn’t exist. Every meeting we had had a specific purpose where at the end of the meeting a decision was made that was put into action ASAP. And they were called only when needed.

Yeah, when there was some new news a meeting would be called and we’d get together. But this didn’t happen every week. It happened when it needed to happen.

And for that reason they were never boring, never a waste of time and very productive.

3. Things are kept simple – no insurance policies required!

It was 2011 and in job #8 when it came to any training and development it was all about social media. Despite the training, I still hadn’t put any of it to action. Towards the end of the year my CEO, who sat behind me, turned around and said to me, “Mimoza, just start.”

My response, “I can’t. I still haven’t outlined the social media manual for the company about how we’ll use it and who will use it. And there’s the content plan, etc, etc.”

After all that he still said, “Mimoza, just start.”

At the time I didn’t think much of it. But the fact that as the CEO he kept it simple and didn’t complicate things was a rare thing in the corporate world. He was interested in progress over perfection. And as a true leader he had the guts to act outside the norm of what most people in his position would do.

In my other positions most mangers would ask for an “insurance policy” on actions we wanted to take. Now, I’m using the term “insurance policy” loosely, but when you read the example that I experienced at job #5 you’ll see that I’m not far off.

Job #5 and at the time the emphasis was more on email marketing. I came across Campaign Monitor that’s virtually very similar to Mail Chimp. A perfectly harmless, very cost efficient, online email distribution system. After I fully investigated the system and provided my manager with all the answers she still didn’t feel comfortable using it and organised an external provider to review the system. They provided something like a 10-page review on what they thought about it. Their overall view was that it was perfectly harmless to use.

What a waste of time and money. She didn’t have the guts to try an online email distribution system that costs next to nothing without fully covering herself.

And we see examples of this type of behaviour every day. For example when managers don’t make a decision until they go through a lengthy and time consuming approval process, where they get 10 other signatures and proof of who to blame if something goes wrong.

Obviously, they’re not feeling safe in their environment. And the price we pay is a lot of time and money wasted on unnecessary actions. Do you still think that work culture doesn’t directly affect the success of a company?

Can you relate to this? How many times have you seen an insurance policy in action where you work?

For more on 10 Years and 9 Jobs subscribe today! For more about how it all started click here.

Next week… its about human resources… and what difference they’ve made to work culture.

See you then.

Mimoza

¹Simon Sinek, “Leaders Eat Last”, (2016), p. 29.
²Simon Sinek, “Leaders Eat Last”, (2016), p. 29.
³Simon Sinek, “Leaders Eat Last”, (2016), p. 29.

 

4 signs your company is plagued with micromanagement (Blog #5)

confused employee

Do you ever have those moments at work where you don’t know what the hell your manager wants you to do?

When asking that question my mind goes back to 2008 when I was in job #5. And the amount of times I didn’t know what the hell my manager wanted me to do was countless.

I mean, even when I felt as though I had a good idea of what she wanted, sometimes it’d still be wrong and she’d be looking at me dazed as to why I did what I did. And when I tried to clarify things by asking more questions I’d be quickly cut off with her saying “I don’t understand where the confusion is.”

But the thing was, there was confusion and a lot of it.

Her instructions to me were that inconsistent that on my last week there I was literally told off for producing an email template that apparently was nothing along the lines of what we discussed. She then involved another colleague to work with me on the job. We put forth some similar email templates and the manager ended up choosing the one I produced that apparently was completely off the mark.

No apology. No sorry for the confusion. No nothing.

Why do cases like this happen?

From all my years of experiences it’s become apparent to me that it’s all because of one reason.

They don’t know what they want.

But why is it that they don’t know what they want?

Why is it common for there to be confusion around what the manager wants and what the employee produces?

This can come down to a lot of little things. But the main reason, that I’ve seen with my own eyes time and time again, is because of micromanagement.

A very fixed approach is outlined in the manager’s head about how to get the job done, which is all about how they would do it. This level of detail isn’t communicated, which leaves you, as the employee, trying to tap into your mind reading skills to get the job done.

You’ve got them…right?

It can look something like this.

Your manager has just given you a task to do. You’ve asked a few questions and given your manager the “OK”. However, you’re still a bit confused. Why? Because you know what your manager has said, but you also know what they like and don’t like from past tasks and what they’ve asked you to do contradicts what they’ve told you not to do in the past. It probably also contradicts what the process involved will allow you to do. And by asking anymore questions you’re afraid it will make you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Micromanagement leaves managers looking like they don’t know what they want because in their attempt to try and control everything they get it wrong.

And of course they would, how could they not?

There is so much room for error when you try and control all the steps you have to do as well as the five people in your team. You forget what you said. You get it mixed up with other things you have on your plate.

And when the manager gets it wrong, it’s so easy for them to hide behind their employees and pass blame. “I’m the manager. I can’t get things wrong. Why? Because I’m manager.”

And worst of all it doesn’t help the employees in anyway.

It stops them from thinking for themselves. From taking responsibility for the task – “This was the manager’s decision not mine. I simply did what I was told.” In other words, “I don’t care if it’s right or wrong, I did what I was told.”

And what happens? They lose interest in the task and start to not care. Guess what happens to quality and productivity? It goes down and down fast.

And at the end of it all, you have a manager that looks extremely unhappy, unhealthy and feeling as though they have to do everything themselves.

In “Together is better” Simon Sinek provides a simple explanation why this tends to be the approach managers take. And when you think about why managers become managers it’s not surprising.

What managers have proven is that they can do their job better than the people under them, which is why they got promoted¹. Mangers are rarely taught how to lead. So they try and manage the situation by aiming to get their employees to do their work how they would². Bad move!

“This is one of the hardest lessons to learn when we get promoted to a position of leadership – that we are no longer responsible for doing the job, we are now responsible for the people who do the job.” (Simon Sinek, Together is better, (2015) pp. 137).

4 signs your company is plagued
with micromanagement

1.      Your manager feels as though they can’t be away from work for even a day. And even when they finally manage to take one day off they continue to check their emails and make themselves available on the phone.

At job #8 my CEO went on holiday to France for 6 weeks. There was no commotion before leaving. No chaos while he was overseas. Business ran as usual. No one panicked. Everyone went about their jobs as usual. The fact that he wasn’t there wasn’t a concern  in anyway.

A break where you’re available on the phone or via email is a bullshit break.

People need to recharge their batteries. How can it be logical that a person would need to be there 24 /7 to the point where even their health starts to get affected. No job is worth killing yourself over. Trust me. You could be made redundant in the blink of an eye and you’re left with a package, the cab charge they give you to go home with and the thought in your head saying “Why did I do that to myself?”

If as a manager you feel as though you can’t take a complete break, then you need to reassess things. Make it so you can.

2.      No one in the team knows the answers except for that manager. Or people give you different answers to the same question, but most are really hesitant and ask you to check with that manager anyway.

You see, by this point, people within the team have lost interest, don’t care and don’t want to take responsible for something they can never get clarity on.

It’s also by this point that you have a manager that gets pissed off every time some approaches them.

3.      There is little to no focus on employee development. Basically, your manager is not interested in investing in you. The focus is placed on themselves.

What does this say? They have no clue about leading. And it can look something like this.

At one of my jobs, I was there for over two years and not once during that time did I go to a marketing seminar. When I did ask about some training I was interested in, it was politely declined.

One of my managers, on the other hand, went to marketing seminars in the US. Other than a 10-minute overview of what she found most interesting, we never got any insight into what she heard or learnt. Everything was kept with her and all we heard was how she was going to put some of it to action.

People are the ones that get the results – so why wouldn’t you invest in them³?

4.      Your manager outsources all the important work so they can maintain a firm control over it. Even though there is a whole team there and people within that team would love to get their hands on some of those jobs. Call it ambition.

It can look like this.

An example from one of my jobs. The manager makes the decision that the team is not equip to outline a social media plan as we need an “expert”. The manager doesn’t even consider giving someone within the team a shot, they’ve already made their mind up that we need to contact an “expert”.

So an “expert” is contacted and a decent amount of money is spent. The end result, the manger still isn’t happy with what is produced and the plan that the expert outlines isn’t used.

This is also a clear case of when the manager doesn’t know what they want.

Can you relate to any of this? Is it something that you’ve seen a lot of? Is there anything else that you’d add to this list?

If you know someone that is going through this now, please share it with them.

For more on 10 Years and 9 Jobs subscribe today! To read more about how it all started click here!

Next week it’s all about what it looks like when micromanagement doesn’t exist.

See you then.

Mimoza

¹Simon Sinek, Together is better, (2015) pp. 136-137
²Simon Sinek, Together is better, (2015) p. 137
³Ken Blanchard & Spencer Johnson, The One Minute Manager, (2003) p. 64