Category Archives: Journey into leadership

Journey into leadership: Performance appraisals

New leaderThis post is part of a series that follows A.M. Starkin, a young manager taking his first major steps into leadership. Starkin writes here to share his experiences and to get input from others, so please share with him your thoughts and ideas.

Two weeks ago I asked this: Should I keep believing in my unpopular deputy? Will I be able to sell anything? Never tried. And will my operations manager finally begin taking initiative?

With regards to the first there were quite a lot of comments in response, and I think once I made it clear how reliable the words about my deputy’s cheating were, people agreed with me that I should stay on the track of coaching her instead of firing her.

Today was the day were we did the yearly performance appraisal – through a rigid and elaborate procedure. She had clearly prepared an efficient and versatile defense, bringing papers to prove this and that. I began by telling her in some detail what a great person I find her to be and that I thought she could go far with her skill set if she developed this and that trait.

I think I managed to keep her listening – and talking honestly – for two hours, which is not bad! I was expecting to have to fight in order to keep her defenses down, which didn’t seem necessary. There’s a lot to absorb, because among suggested ways to develop, objectives for 2007 and a lot of scores and grades, there was some honest feedback about her disloyalty and her very varying morale.

It ended up a very constructive dialogue, where we agreed on a lot of things she need to work on, and I think it cleared up something for me:
If I plan on doubling activities in here within 12 months, I need her to do much more. And as mentioned I have only 1 day per week to give.
So, I more or less decided – as a result of our discussion -to stop managing emails, financials, etc etc for at least a couple of months, so that I can focus on giving my deputy and our ops manager the skills they need to work on our strategy independently.

I plan on spending my weekly day here:
1) Doing a meeting to get a feel of what is happening and give people a chance to discuss
2) Meeting with each manager (have 3 in total) to go through their action plans and coach them to deliver.
3) Be really happy and an example of how positive it is possible to be in the face of all the hardships we have.

– and that’s it!

Let’s see how that works out.

With regards to my ops manager – he is definitely a firework of initiative and ideas, but he has begun to do what I tell him. Let’s see!

And sales? I won’t have time – but I have the green light to hire a salesperson.

Yes!

More in a couple of weeks – I simply HAVE to go skiing now!

AM Starkin

Previous posts by A.M. Starkin.

Journey into leadership: Tough decisions

New leaderThis post is part of a series that follows A.M. Starkin, a young manager taking his first major steps into leadership. Starkin writes here to share his experiences and to get input from others, so please share with him your thoughts and ideas.

If you have forgotten me completely – or if this is the first post of mine you read, I have recently been given my first profit/loss responsibility – in the task of turning a round a badly managed, loss-giving, small company with low morale. You can find the back story here.

I started by giving away my authority to each individual employee – a thing which paid off very well on the motivation scale – and I was and am still hoping for the rest to follow. My personal problem is time constraints – I am allowed only 1 day per week on this task as I have plenty of other priorities.

The whole of December I did not post – here is what happened:
I usually don’t agree with people who make the manager’s job difficult. I tend to believe that managing is only difficult if you are an authoritarian control-freak, because in that case you more or less have to do all the thinking of your whole team – which is really difficult.

Normally I think the really difficult thing in a manager’s job is everything that does not pertain to being a people manager, but which pertains to business mechanics, operational processes, building client relations etc.

But December has been tough. Luckily I just began following some martial arts training which gives me quite a morale and energy boost – otherwise this post would have featured a worn out Starkin ready to be thrown on the scrap heap. The manager is often an employee himself, and this employee here became sick and tired of working for other than myself.

My boss disallowed me more time for the small company I am trying to save – the subject of this series – and I felt so unable to help, since most of the urgencies I simply have to leave as they are with the time I have available. It might be a wise decision for some greater good, but having to leave a house burning because I am trying to build another is a strange feeling.

+ I tried to get help from the mother company on HR, Finance and legal issues but got nothing but trouble out of that.

And our new malfunctioning IT system created a vicious spiral of frustration which made our recent success seem vanished. [insert ad-lib whining here].

Then I remembered: This is the environment in which I have to create my successes! To me that is a golden thought when motivation is low. Last month definitely showed me that a manager has to manage himself too and take some important inner decisions in order to stay motivated about his job.

January began with two things:
Number one: A nice graph showing me that we modestly surpassed our budget, with our sales surging the last few months of the year. I would like to think that it is due to what we did during the fall.

In order to make that curve keep rising I need to begin doing some manual sales myself – as mentioned before our corporate sales will not deliver. I don’t have any time though, so luckily I have been able to hire a trainee from this month, and time will show whether she is woman enough to run fast enough to help me there.

Number two: A report that my deputy reported sick while I was away on holiday – a report which implied that she was cheating. As you might recall, she has been strongly disloyal but greatly improving since last. My superiors are regularly asking me whether we should fire her.

This will be my call, and there is both business and ego at stake here: I have invested a lot of time in her and seen results, so I want to keep believing that I am doing the right thing by coaching her. But I seem to be the only person on the planet who believe in her, and how much can my credibility afford to suffer here?

A third thing I need to work with is my ops manager. After we recently took a session to define his job, he has been holding my hand tightly, and I have been pushing him to gradually begin taking decisions, analyzing and coming up with new ideas. I am sure and certain that he has the potential, but he is simply brought up in the company with a handicapping respect for authorities.

I will have a meeting with him this week to see how far he has advanced a plan we made to trim the workflow a little, use our systems in a better way, etc.

So: Should I keep believing in my unpopular deputy? Will I be able to sell anything? Never tried. And will my operations manager finally begin taking initiative?

This is what I am looking forward to finding out after my well-deserved Christmas vacation. Do you have some advice for me? Write a comment here.

AM Starkin

Previous posts by A.M. Starkin.

Journey into leadership: Success!

New leaderThis post is part of a series that follows A.M. Starkin, a young manager taking his first major steps into leadership. Starkin writes here to share his experiences and to get input from others, so please share with him your thoughts and ideas.

There have been some nice successes since last: Our youngest team member has been the most reluctant to buy in to the new deal, and has been looking for work everywhere in our area. Yesterday I heard that because of the way the ambience in the office is developing she has decided to stop looking and start staying. Nice!!

My deputy is taking a lot of initiative. The huge file handling backlog she has been blaming on the system, the management, the company, etc. This week she activated her “out of office”-assistant and decided to get rid of the backlog herself, thus giving the operations team the time they need to reorganize and enable themselves to stop accumulating backlog. I first thought that I would have done it differently, but 2 seconds later I thought: Well, thats excellent! It sends powerful signals about her making a choice about getting busy winning or getting busy quitting.

She has also delegated the task that pertains to her core competence to a colleague, so that she has time to learn her new, self-chosen responsibilities. Learning for everyone, progress….happiness!
Continue reading Journey into leadership: Success!

Journey into leadership: Bullet points!

New leaderThis post is part of a series that follows A.M. Starkin, a young manager taking his first major steps into leadership. Starkin writes here to share his experiences and to get input from others, so please share with him your thoughts and ideas.

This will be the Great Starkin Bulletpoint Post – I simply want to say too much.

By the way, as mentioned in a comment, I am HAPPY to see people wanting to think and comment on what I am writing here. My primary reason for posting is to let thoughts on practical leadership evolve and mutate, so the more the better! So far it’s mostly all about helping me, and that is totally completely outstandingly fantastic! Each comment makes me think, and I should probably feed a lot more back if I had the time.
Continue reading Journey into leadership: Bullet points!

Journey into leadership: Two interesting days

New leaderThis post is part of a series that follows A.M. Starkin, a young manager taking his first major steps into leadership. Starkin writes here to share his experiences and to get input from others, so please share with him your thoughts and ideas.

Dear me! – and dear anyone. Let me pick out two significant days since my last post that are really significant.

Thursday last week, 9:15 in the morning – everyone comes in systematically late.

My ops manager/deputy pulls me aside and says that she has had enough of this place, and that she is only waiting for a better salary offer to leave. And that I might as well begin thinking of hiring because two others are going to leave real soon.
Continue reading Journey into leadership: Two interesting days

Journey into leadership: Introduction

New leaderThis post is part of a series that follows A.M. Starkin, a young manager taking his first major steps into leadership. Starkin writes here to share his experiences and to get input from others, so please share with him your thoughts and ideas. This post is the first in the series.

Hi, I am a young manager who has very recently got his first Profit-and-Loss responsibility in a large corporation where I have to turn around a small and loss-giving company rather quickly.

Would it be interesting and inspiring if I shared my thoughts and experiences with you on this task?

A lot of us – statistically at least – work for big corporations that may or may not share our points of view and our ethics. We all have the choice whether we want to make the best of it, quit or just stay passive. How do you make a difference if you are just a pawn in a chess game with 100.000 pieces?

That is what I want to explore and share with anyone, and that is why I agreed with Alexander to post those thoughts and experiences on his site, which is read and contributed to by a lot of inspiring people, who at least have in common that employees are real people, not “human resources”.
Continue reading Journey into leadership: Introduction

Announcing: Journey into leadership

New leaderI’m totally excited about announcing the newest feature on the site: Journey into leadership.

I was contacted by A.M. Starkin, a young manager who recently got his first profit-and-loss leadership position of a small company. He must turn this company around from loss to profits and must do so quickly.

He believes that happiness at work is a major part of the solution, but is also a part of a larger organization that may not always share these beliefs.

Starkin will be chronicling his journey, thoughts, ideas and questions about once a week, but not on a fixed schedule.

This is real life, as it happens. Not a business case, edited after the fact. Not an anecdote from a “friend of a friend”. This is a real person in a very real situation, and I’m totally jazzed about following his journey and about seeing how the readers of this blog, as a community, can help Starkin.

You can see all the posts about Starkin’s journey into leadership here.