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How to hire your own manager: Questions to help you tie the knot

How to hire your own manager: Questions to help you tie the knot

Ever work for a manager that, shall we say, didn’t really work with you?

Ever wish you had the chance to find a better one?

Fully 31% of people quit their jobs because they didn’t like the manager they had to report to everyday. When you consider that it costs a company an average of 100-150% of that person’s salary that quits, you’re talking about a lot of money leaving a company because of a bad boss.

What if you could change that?

In past months, we’ve talked about managing down, but there’s another level to this – managing up. Having your boss “work” for you. No, it doesn’t mean that he (or she) is boss in name only, but it does mean that you have the ability to influence (aka lead) your manager to help make you a better employee (we could say person, but I don’t want to go TOO far).

When talking to a former employee of mine, Anita Miller, on a recent visit to Washington DC, she shared a few practices that she has used. She’s currently in a rotational program and has some flexibility in selection of the teams that she work for during that rotation.  She is looking for managers that will help push her (in the right direction) as well as help her forward her career. It’s not just about her – it’s important to be a strong part of a small team, and she’s ready (and willing!) to do that as well.

When “interviewing” potential managers for her next rotation, she tends to ask 3 questions:

  • What do you do over the weekend?

Short, simple and to the point. It gets the manager to open up a bit, and you get a bit of insight in their “other” life (Remember when you first ran into your school teacher in the grocery story?? They have an outside life? What!?). Another point, Miller says, is that it helps clarify workload and hours expectations. If the person laughs and says “Well, I spend my time here, of course! Where else?” – you know you may have a problem

  • What are your career aspirations?

You want to follow someone who’s moving. Somewhere. They could have a protean career (a career that follows a pattern of interests and opportunities, not ladders. Look it up, it could describe you) – or they could want to be CEO by the time they are 40. If they don’t have goals, or “haven’t thought about them much” – then that’s probably a good indication they won’t be thinking about yours, says Miller. It doesn’t mean you will be stuck; you can do it alone, but do you want to fight an uphill battle?

  • What are some of the challenges your team is facing?

Again, it seems like an easy question – but all too often, managers can disengage themselves from the day to day – especially if they have a lot of requirements and deadlines looming from those above them. Are you ok with someone who is disconnected from their team? In Miller’s experience, frustration can set in when a manager doesn’t understand what you really do. Recommendations for promotion or even annual reviews could suffer if their knowledge with what you really do (for them AND the company) don’t align.

How do you use these? Simple. Next time  you apply for a job (and I know you’re out there, because about 33% of the US population will do so) or when you’re looking for what’s next – think of these questions or others that really get to the meat of who you are – and more important – who they are. Because – you know as well as I do – having a great manager is the beginning of a great job.

Are there more questions you could ask? Probably. In fact – I bet you have one in your head right now. These questions don’t answer everything about a manager’s style, but they’re a start. What would you ask a manager (the one you have now, if you could, or the next one) – if you could interview them? Share your response questions here

Original Post: March 2016

You’re a leader, you just don’t know it.

You’re a leader, you just don’t know it.

Last week, I had the chance to present to a large group of front line and new managers. In addition, a number of HR leaders and managers of those groups attended my presentation called “How not to Suck as a Manager”. Besides the catchy title that some said they signed up for the title alone (no joke! I mean, wouldn’t you?) , we spent an hour talking about several topics on improving as a manager.

The best part? I didn’t teach them anything they didn’t already know.

Well… ok. That’s not true. If it were, then why was I there yapping, and why were they there, paying me to yap?  But the baseline is true. What I say is not rocket science…but guess what? Leading isn’t rocket science either. The secret?

You have what it takes to be a leader.

…. You just don’t know it.  Have you experienced the benefits of a great or amazing manager? How did that make you feel? How much more engaged or productive were you? Have you ever had the unfortunate chance to work for someone who was less than stellar… or, better put – sucked as a manager? Didn’t even try? What did they do? Or not do? Did they even know you had a dog and that you love project work, even though you’re in accounting? Or that you’d love the opportunity to cross train – you’d even work extra hours – if only they’d ask?

Last week, Chloe Andrews from CCS Construction Staffing, commented on the session, “I learned things I knew, but I didn’t act upon”. We talked about some of the things that front line managers really want (communication, feedback and training, not necessarily in that order) – again NOT rocket science.

Why the heck is it so hard?

1- Because we don’t realize what we have

You’ve got at least 20 years of experience right now. No? How many times have you interacted with someone? Gotten someone to do something else? Followed up on a promise? Even by the time you graduate from high school (with about 15 years of experience, let’s say) – you’ve done a lot of it. What worked? What didn’t? Use your knowledge. Leading is getting folks to do what you want them to do – and have THEM want to do it.

2- Because we don’t know what’s important

Another attendee mentioned at the session we “touched base on topics that we [managers] sometimes assume is known but [realizing] there is a definite positive impact by stating it aloud”. You are inundated with information all day long. And those frickin’ Smartphones aren’t helping. What’s good information? How can you use it to benefit yourself and your team?

When you find yourself in a “new” leadership situation, start by asking yourself these simple question, “What does this look like? How is it similar to what I’ve experienced in the past?”. You may realize you have the answer, you just need a different perspective… your own.

3- Because we think we’re alone in our problems


Bet you can answer this one now. You are most definitely NOT alone. In fact, you are surrounded. There are many people like you. One participant noted with a bit of relief (and potentially joyful glee) – “I’m not alone [in the way I’m] feeling that I’m not prepared for management”. There are others out there that have been there or are going through it now. Asking for advice is not weakness. It’s strength.

Reach out. Do not pass go or collect $200. Do it now. You could be shocked (or just a little gleeful!) for the results.


Bottom line. You have the experiences. You’re not alone. You just haven’t put all the pieces together – yet. Confidence is a big factor, and we’ll talk about that too… But just realizing that by trying to be a better leader…. you already are.

Why do New and Front Line Managers (NFL-M) matter?

Why do New and Front Line Managers (NFL-M) matter?

What’s so important about new and front line managers, anyway?  They are just a bunch of people that were promoted into positions of authority because they either a) did something right b) we needed the spot filled, and there was no one else c) got tired of their complaining. Right?

New and Front Line Managers (NFL-M) are the heart of any organization. Big or small. Don’t believe me? Think about your company. Think about how many of them there are. And then think if they disappeared tomorrow. Yeah. Like, walked out, were all hit by a bus, fell off the planet (that last one is my personal favorite). Your middle managers and executives would walk in, ready to be strategic; ready to tell their front line folks exactly what to do (strategically) – and let those other managers take the time to figure out how the heck to get it done.  Right? But wait… there’s no one to do it.

Could the middle managers do it? Perhaps. But it may have been a while. They may have been corporate folks that have never been out in the field. The front line employees will know in about two minutes (strike that, about 2 seconds) that these corporate managers have never seen the inside of their field office. They may have been in the field, but have forgotten. Yup, it happens.

Being a front line manager (with direct reports that are NOT managers) or a new manager (typically also a front line manager, but with less than five years of experience) is one of THE HARDEST roles to have. Why? Because you have not one but TWO groups to please. Make happy. Check the box.  You have the managers – the senior team we just talked about… and you have the employees. Your bread and butter. The ones that you are now responsible for – their success, their development, their next career steps. If you’re lucky, you may have realized that they make you something greater than you are. If not, you may be wondering how you’re going to survive with these people that want to see you gone and/or take your job at the first opportunity.

Some newsletters take their time in drawing you in and pushing something on you that they want you to see, want you to relate to you. This one isn’t in that group.  You’re subscribing to this newsletter because you’re in that group of managers that are the first group of managers – you see what your team is, and want to help it be everything it can be. That also means everything YOU can be as a manager. You’re not alone. In fact, you’re part of 95% of new and frontline managers that are not ready for the job (Lesko, 2015).

In upcoming months, we’ll talk about the areas to help you improve – one month at a time, step by step. Training. Development. Timing, Feedback. Just a few.

If you want to jumpstart this process and be a better manager now – because you know you don’t have the time to waste – good for you. Good for your employees. Email Ashley@squarepegsolutions.org  to get started. We have both a webinar and in-class session starting soon. It’s based on current research and actual stories – the best of both worlds – and it won’t suck. In fact, that’s the name of it. How Not to SUCK as a New Manager.

So let’s get started.