Management and Human Relations – Bridging the Gap

ABSTRACT:

The first three months are difficult for new managers. There are some ways to make the transition easier.

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Someone Else’s Recruits – Part I

Management is not an easy job. After more than 20 years in management, I can tell you that it does not matter whether you are working with a corporate team, non-profit team or small company, you are still dealing with a variety of backgrounds and personalities – and you are often dealing with someone else’s recruits. These factors can present quite the challenge to even the most seasoned manager, but if you are a greenhorn walking into such a situation you have your work cut out for you.

Take a moment and look at the situation through your new employees’ eyes. Perhaps they feel that they have an established team and view you as bullying your way into the group and taking over, stripping them of their empowerment. Or, you may be coming in on the heels of a beloved leader and the team may view you as someone who wants to come in, take over and take the old manager’s place. While you do need to maintain some sort of order, it is vital that you get your team on your side.

If you are one of “those” types of managers who comes cowboying into the management arena, heady with power, out to take control of the position, employees and everything else that goes with it you are doomed for failure. That is the biggest mistake that a new manager can make.

Like it or not, as a manager you need those employees, especially those who have “been around” and who know the lay of the land. An existing staff can be invaluable in helping you settle into your new position. Remember, you are an outsider. You are coming in to an existing team. The team members have likely supported each other through tough times on the job and celebrated the highs together. For you to come barreling in, attempting to “take over” (whether you mean to or not, that is how you will be perceived, mark my words) will do nothing but make you appear hostile, like the enemy.

While your first inclination may be to “straighten up” the existing problems, your primary focus should be on building a cohesive team. Many inexperienced managers blast into their new positions, making numerous changes and demands. This management model is known as the “Command and Control” method. Although this may be the easy way and the quickest, it is not the best and certainly not the most efficient. Additionally, it just plain does not work, especially if you want a team that works. Your employees, your team should be considered before the bottom line. If you have happy employees who feel valued and empowered, your bottom line will not suffer in the least. Happy employees mean happy customers and happy customers spend more money. However, if your employees are disgruntled and feel as if they are pawns in your power trip, you just might find yourself running your business alone and incurring the tremendous expense of hiring and training new employees – again and again and again.

Your first order of business as a new manager should not be to fix all the wrongs in the company. You have humans working with you and it is your job to get them on your side first. If you can’t get your team on your side, you will be facing tremendous challenges as a manager. I won’t say that you will fail or you won’t stay in your position long, but I will say that if you don’t connect with your team, your new position will be much more difficult.

Don’t try to do everything at once. Take your time, remember to breathe and your transition into you new management position will go smoother. It is important for you listen to your employees and let them know that you value them, their contributions and their hard work. As their manager, you must take the position of team leader but don’t take their power from them. An effective, productive team is empowered and inspired. Keep an employee bulletin board where you post encouraging messages and quotes, reward hard work with recognition (a gold star can go a long way!) and don’t be afraid to ask for another perspective. You are not expected to know everything and have all the answers. To approach your new position with such an attitude is a turn off and will likely land you on the outs with the rest of the team.

A good leader leads by following. They don’t ask their employees to do anything that they would not do themselves and they are open to suggestions from their employees. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know everything and that you don’t have all the answers. Work with your employees, inspire and motivate them by working with them, not over them and you will find your management transition to be much smoother.

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The Care and Feeding of your Creative

Graphic by KROMKRATHOG at freedigitalphotos.net
Graphic by KROMKRATHOG at freedigitalphotos.net

Creatives don’t have the best reputation. I know, I am one. Fortunately, I was blessed with a logical brain that keeps me pretty grounded. I can’t always say the same for my emotionally driven, creative, kindred spirits though. Some can be real characters and make working with them quite interesting to say the least.

Regardless of the flavor of your creative, there are some fairly universal truths regarding their care and feeding. Whether you are managing just one creative or a whole team of them, these tips will help you keep them on track, productive, and fully utilizing that creative bone.

Tell them what you want then back away.

Micromanagement is not effective when working with creatives, they just don’t respond well to it at all. Your creative will respond best when you hand them a project, provide a creative brief, and turn them loose on it. If they have questions they will ask but as long as you have given them some idea of what you want the finished product to look like they will usually run with it.

Channel the Passion

Creatives tend to have a heavy emotional investment in their work. This is great because they are taking ownership and you can rest assured that because they care so deeply about the project they will give it their all. On the other hand, it is very easy for them to take off in a completely different direction that may not be exactly appropriate for your business. A heavy hand won’t work here so don’t stifle the passion or try to control the creativity. Instead, gently channel it, guide it, direct it back onto the path that will get you the results you need.

Leave the Door Open for Collaboration – and Trust your Creative

A creative’s job is to be, well, creative. Loosen the reins a little, give them their head so they can run. Yeah, the bit is still in their mouth, but go along for the ride and see what wondrous paths they take you down. You may know what you want, but the creative knows how to get there. It is a perfect mix. You give them your vision and let them run. Leave the door open for collaboration so you can work together. Make them feel comfortable offering suggestions for changes or additions. Most of all, trust your creative.

Put them on diverse teams.

Diverse teams are great for boosting creativity but it seems that perspective taking actually kicks it up a notch. While diversity brings a variety of perspectives to the table, perspective taking allows for the proper integration of those perspectives, leading to creative synergy. When they are pulling from various backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints, the environment is far more conducive to creativity than pursuing a single thought or idea in a group that lacks diversity.

But give them room to work alone too.

There are times when a creative personality just needs to be alone. If they are working in a shared workspace or a benching layout make sure that you provide them with a place to retreat and work alone. If they are working in a virtual workspace, give them their space if they need it. Some creatives like to hole up and hammer out a project in solitude while others thrive on collaboration. Know your creative! Don’t forego your own needs, but try to maintain some flexibility in the process.

Leave room for flexible deadlines.

Some deadlines are non-negotiable and we creatives recognize and respect that. However, some deadlines do have some room for play. There will be times when your creative gets “in the zone” and may require more time. It may be an idea for a new direction or a better way of completing the project. Whatever the case, give them a little room to run and be willing to extend some deadlines just a bit.

Present challenges and maybe even a little healthy competition.

A creative’s mind is always working. They tend to get bored easily if they don’t have enough challenging projects. I know that if I don’t have a good mix that includes intellectually challenging projects I struggle with the more hum drum work that is my bread and butter. Ask for their opinion on various aspects of the project. Even if you don’t use their suggestions you are still keeping them stimulated – but who knows, they may present something to you that blows the roof off of your project. Introducing some healthy competition helps feed that fire as well and it keeps them interested.

As long as businesses are trying to entice customers and make sales, there will be creatives involved in the process. As long as people are reading books, viewing art, and listening to music creatives will have something to do. Working with a creative does not have to be a feared or dreaded event. We’re just like everyone else – except we dream in color.