Successful Supervisor Part 53 – Getting Management Buy-in

November 18, 2017

In this article I will discuss one of the most vexing problems facing professionals of all kinds, including supervisors. Supervisors are often faced with the dilemma of getting full buy-in for an initiative that they know will advance the organization.

A typical complaint might sound like this, “I know bringing in this training would pay huge dividends for my operation, but I cannot get their attention long enough to make my case. If I turn up the volume, then I am accused of getting emotional, which lowers my chance of getting what is obviously needed.”

Let’s explore the root causes of this problem and suggest some potential antidotes. Note: this problem is so pervasive that fully resolving it may not be possible.

Why isn’t Top Management Listening to Your Ideas?

There are likely numerous answers to your question. Let me suggest a few of the more common causes of managers failing to get behind initiatives that are proposed at lower levels.

1. Isolation and Preoccupation

Many top managers work in a kind of bubble where they interface with the managers who report directly to them but have a lot less contact with people lower in the organization.

Their days, and nights, are full of thought patterns relative to how they can keep the ship moving in the right direction, so they appear to be very preoccupied with details and hard to reach for different ideas.

When they are at work, every minute in every meeting is often spoken for. A new initiative might feel threatening to them as if it might cause some distraction from their primary agenda. Trying to get a new idea or initiative on the agenda, no matter how brilliantly conceived, will require some creative thinking.

One tip that can help is to always focus in on the benefits that will accrue from your idea before describing the steps that need to be accomplished. If your idea will reduce an organizational problem, be sure to stress this first to get the attention of the top brass.

2. Working Through Layers

Often the supervisor or person with a great idea has to work through a layer or two of other managers in order to get air time on the agenda at the top. These other layers have been put in place primarily to allow the senior leaders time to work on their agenda.

It is common for a manager to come back from the top level meeting and explain that even though she had gotten your idea on the agenda, it never surfaced at the meeting because there were more urgent topics to resolve.

The tip here is to find a way to get your idea exposed to the top leader yourself. If you count on your boss or her boss to take your case to the top, you have less chance of success.

Your agenda will get watered down significantly as it moves through the layers. Rather than allow another person to pitch your idea, explore creative ways to get before the decision makers yourself.

This technique can be tricky because your boss has to justify her role as well. You might suggest a route to the top with an approach like this: “I really want to present the idea to Mr. Big myself this time. Would you be willing to tee up the conversation and arrange a lunch meeting for the three of us?”

3. Chain of Command Issues

The well intended professional may not have enough recognition at the top of the organization to gain share of mind. The supervisor may have a wonderful idea, but the top leader will never know it because he assumes her direct boss is the one who should pass judgment on the idea.

The tip here is to get a chance to surface your idea at a meeting where both your direct boss and the top leader are there together. Ask for the support of your boss ahead of time, so when you surface the idea she can provide immediate support in front of the top layer.

That approach has three benefits: 1) the top layer hears your idea in the way you describe it, 2) the senior person knows you have done your homework, and 3) you have an opportunity to make your boss look good in front of the senior leaders.

4. Insufficient Credibility

The top leaders may not be adequately aware of your prowess in terms of seeing and executing innovative opportunities for the organization. If this is the case, you need to start small and generate several small successes.

It also helps to volunteer for leadership roles in furthering the causes already being pushed from the top. Be strategic because credibility is earned over time, but the equity can be destroyed by a single misstep.

5. Not Invented Here

NIH thinking permeates the mind of people at all levels. If you are three levels below me in the organization and you come up with a magic solution to all my problems, what force makes me want to displace the solutions that are coming out of my head to give your solution a try?

The top leaders may fear that the changes you advocate will lead to loss of control or some side effect that will cause extra effort or cost to unscramble. To fight this problem, you need to present the idea as simple, logical, and bullet proof (low risk).

It also will add to your credibility if you have thought through some potential problems and have solutions to offer if these might arise. When you present a balanced and thoroughly investigated idea, it lowers the risk.

Some Other Tips

I will suggest some ideas here, but recognize that individual differences will make them successful or not depending on the circumstances. Maybe the best advice is to build a reputation for excellence and innovation in the areas you control. A track record of excellence is your best calling card.

1. Don’t Appear to be Overly Anxious or Disgruntled

If you lose your cool out of frustration, then not only will you not get approval for your project, but you will damage all future proposals. Always remain respectful and helpful. Keep stressing the benefits and remind superiors that we are all on the same team.

In some circumstances, you can even ask for a “favor” to allow your idea to be executed. This approach shows that you really care about the organization and have the initiative to bring up solid solutions. One good technique to accomplish this is to suggest a “pilot program” that can demonstrate the benefits with a lower risk.

2. Always be a Team Player

Seek out allies and friends at all levels. Make sure you are doing more than your share of the work and be generous with your praise for others. If people genuinely like you they will go to bat for you in many ways.

Also, foster good relationships with the administrative helpers of people higher in the organization. These people have more power than is sometimes realized by people lower in the organization. For one thing, they control the time agenda of the people in power, so if they like you it means you can get more access.

In addition, the administrative assistant is privy to discussions that go on when you are not around. If the person likes you, he or she will tip you off if you are coming on too strong or in some other way hurting your own agenda.

3. If You Get Approval, Make Sure to Express Appreciation and Report Results

Work is really a series of initiatives, so you do yourself a favor by praising the big boss if you are granted the opportunity to show how your idea will help. Do this in writing (not texting or email). Make sure to report back the fine results of the implemented idea with expressions of further gratitude.

Basically, you want to develop a groove or pattern of successful implementation of ideas. This pattern will make future proposals have a higher chance of success and will often lead to eventual promotions for you.

Gaining and maintaining a reputation that causes senior leaders to be eager to hear your ideas is a daunting task, but it is possible to accomplish through the application of excellent political skills.

Selling your ideas is an ultimate test of your professional capability. Study the ideas above and add more to your repertoire through your own experiences.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Planting a Seed of Trust in the First 10 Seconds

July 6, 2015

Investment concept, close up of female hand holding stack of golLast summer I attended a “Speed Networking” event at my local Chamber of Commerce. It was one of those affairs where you meet a series of new people but only get to talk with each one for three minutes.

I met over 20 people that morning and paid attention to how well they did at making a first impression of being trustworthy. Most people did OK, but there was one young man who I thought totally blew everyone else away with his ability to connect with me instantly.

By his body language, he was able to convey that he was totally interested in meeting me in a way the others were unable to do. It was like the way a puppy can look at you and compel you to take him home.

At the moment we met, this young man let me know I was the most important person in the world to him at that time.

Before we even shook hands he had me convinced that he was special. When we did shake hands instead of saying how nice it was to meet him, I said

“Congratulations! You are going to be a very wealthy man.”

He had an amazing gift of connecting and planting a seed of trust in just a few seconds.

In his book, “Blink,” Malcolm Gladwell described how human beings have an amazing ability to size each other up in a heartbeat. Malcolm called the phenomenon “thin slices,” for the ability to gather huge amounts of data about another person in a second.

He suggested we make a first impression in about three seconds. I say we can stretch it out all the way to 10 seconds, but the exact duration isn’t important.

The point is that we can form a relationship that can point toward trust with another person in a remarkably short time.

Anyone can learn how to plant a seed of trust when first meeting people, and it will result in their relationship progressing at 10 times the rate that it otherwise would.

Exercise for you: Today, as you meet new people, pay attention to their body language. For example, eye contact is extremely important, even before the handshake.

Make sure you show them how important they are and how anxious you are to meet them.

Your posture is also important to send the message of a sincere individual. A slight head tilt is often a good sign because it can indicate a desire to listen carefully. Good posture also shows respect for the other individual.

The magic is in the body language and what is going on in your subconscious mind. What you are thinking comes through automatically on the inaudible channel. Last summer I made a brief (10 minute) video about the techniques for Trust Across America: Trust Around the World.

You can plant seeds of trust with people very quickly once you learn to project the right attitude. Trust comes from the heart, and people often have the ability to read what is going on in your mind.

I believe the first 10 seconds when meeting someone new can be golden opportunity if handled well.

This concept can have a huge impact on your success in life because your relationships will progress much faster toward mature trusting relationships.

 

The preceding was derived from an episode in “Building Trust,” a 30 part video series by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.” To view three short (3 minutes each) examples at no cost go to http://www.avanoo.com/first3/517


Tips to Avoid Being Micromanaged

December 14, 2013

Stop doing thatMost of us have been in a situation where we have felt micromanaged. We were given something to do, but then badgered about exactly how to do it. This happens more in low trust groups, and it often creates a further degradation in trust.

We usually fault the manager for this problem because he or she is the one barking out the minute and detailed orders on how to do the job.

I have a theory on micromanagement. It is not entirely the fault of the leader who is intrusive into the workings of employees. I believe the employees are at least partly to blame in many cases.

Reason: I used to work for a leader who was known as the king of all micromanagers. He basically tried to run everything by telling people exactly how to accomplish their tasks. He was an excellent leader otherwise, but people always dinged him on being way too intrusive.

I learned about his reputation before ever going to work for him. During my first few weeks, I went way overboard in my preparation.

I would anticipate any potential question he might have and be prepared with data to support my conclusions. When he would suggest something to try, I usually could say, “it has already been done.”

I would communicate my plans to him every day (including weekends) and ask lots of questions about what was wanted.

He never had an opportunity to get to me because I always got to him first.

After a while, he basically left me alone and did not micromanage me very much for the next 25 years. We got along great, while he continued to micromanage others.

This experience led me to create a list of six tips you can use to reduce the tendency for a boss to micromanage you. Granted, this will not be 100% effective in all cases, but these steps can really help reduce the problem to a manageable level. Note: I will use the male pronoun here for simplification, but the same concepts would apply for both genders.

1. Try to anticipate what the manager will suggest

Work to understand the point of view of the manager, and figure out the suggested methods so when he says, “Do it this way,” often you can say, “That’s exactly how I am doing it. Or you might say, I tried doing it that way, but it created too much scrap, so I am now doing it a better way.

2. Be sure you are clear on the expectations

Often the manager has been somewhat vague on the precise deliverable. Before going off to do a task, take that extra time to verify what the boss really wants in the end. If it is a long or complex set of activities, see if you can get some sub-goals that you can deliver along the way.

3. Get to the boss before he gets to you

This technique really helps when you have a voice mail or text connection with the boss. Get familiar with the timing of communications and preempt the instructions with a note of your own. For example, if the boss has a habit of catching up on his micromanaging tasks during the lunch hour, simply provide an update to him at about 11 a.m. every day.

4. If the boss is getting intrusive, surprise him

It stops a micromanager dead in his tracks when he tries to tell you how to do step 3 and you tell him you are already on step 8. Step 3 was done yesterday, and the results were supplied to him in his e-mail inbox. The boss is blown away that you made so much progress.

5. Seek to build a trusting relationship with the micromanager

If the boss really trusts you, it means there will be less worry on his part that you will do things incorrectly. That means you are left alone to do things your way.

6. Call him on it

The boss needs to understand that for you to be empowered and give your best effort to the organization, you need to be free to use your own initiative. I knew one employee who brought a set of handcuffs into the office. Whenever his boss would try to micromanage him, he would just get out the cuffs and slip them on. The message was loud and clear, “if you want me to do this well, don’t tie my hands.”

My rule of thumb on micromanaging is that credibility and communication allow you to manage things as you see fit. Lack of credibility and communication often lead to being micromanaged.


6 Tips to Avoid Being Micromanaged

December 18, 2011

Most of us have been in a situation where we have felt micromanaged. We were given something to do, but then badgered about exactly how to do it. This happens more in low trust groups, and it often creates a further degradation in trust. We usually fault the manager for this problem because he or she is the one barking out the minute and detailed orders on how to do the job.

I have a theory on micromanagement. It is not entirely the fault of the leader who is intrusive into the workings of employees. I believe the employees are at least partly to blame in many cases. Reason: I used to work for a leader who was known as the king of all micromanagers. He basically tried to run everything by telling people exactly how to accomplish their tasks. He was an excellent leader otherwise, but people always dinged him on being way too intrusive.

I learned about his reputation before ever going to work for him. During my first few weeks, I went way overboard in my preparation. I would anticipate any potential question he might have and be prepared with data to support my conclusions. When he would suggest something to try, I usually could say, “it has already been done.” I would communicate my plans to him every day (including weekends) and ask lots of questions about what was wanted. He never had an opportunity to get to me because I always got to him first. After a while, he basically left me alone and did not micromanage me very much for the next 25 years. We got along great, while he continued to micromanage others.

This experience led me to create a list of six tips you can use to reduce the tendency for a boss to micromanage you. Granted, this will not be 100% effective in all cases, but these steps can really help reduce the problem to a manageable level. Note: I will use the male pronoun here for simplification, but the same concepts would apply for both genders.

1. Try to anticipate what the manager will suggest

Work to understand the point of view of the manager, and figure out the suggested methods so when he says, “Do it this way,” often you can say, “That’s exactly how I am doing it. Or you might say, I tried doing it that way, but it created too much scrap, so I am now doing it a better way.

2. Be sure you are clear on the expectations

Often the manager has been somewhat vague on the precise deliverable. Before going off to do a task, take that extra time to verify what the boss really wants in the end. If it is a long or complex set of activities, see if you can get some sub-goals that you can deliver along the way.

3. Get to the boss before he gets to you

This technique really helps when you have a voice mail or text connection with the boss. Get familiar with the timing of communications and preempt the instructions with a note of your own. For example, if the boss has a habit of catching up on his micromanaging tasks during the lunch hour, simply provide an update to him at about 11 a.m. every day.

4. If the boss is getting intrusive, surprise him

It stops a micromanager dead in his tracks when he tries to tell you how to do step 3 and you tell him you are already on step 8. Step 3 was done yesterday, and the results were supplied to him in his e-mail inbox. The boss is blown away that you made so much progress.

5. Seek to build a trusting relationship with the micromanager

If the boss really trusts you, it means there will be less worry on his part that you will do things incorrectly. That means you are left alone to do things your way.

6. Call him on it

The boss needs to understand that for you to be empowered and give your best effort to the organization, you need to be free to use your own initiative. I knew one employee who brought a set of handcuffs into the office. Whenever his boss would try to micromanage him, he would just get out the cuffs and slip them on. The message was loud and clear, “if you want me to do this well, don’t tie my hands.”

My rule of thumb on micromanaging is that credibility and communication allow you to manage things as you see fit. Lack of credibility and communication often lead to being micromanaged.


Leaders Teaching Leadership

January 9, 2011

I have seen many corporate training applications where top leaders believe stronger leadership is needed throughout the organization’s ranks. They ask the Training Department to develop a leadership development program. Training mangers are not allowed to “staff up” to do the actual training, so they look outside for the faculty to teach various leadership courses. This could be a mistake, because it overlooks the cadre of potential teachers already on the payroll.

For the senior leaders in an organization, the level of involvement in actually helping to train more junior leaders runs the gamut from zero, as described above, to actually doing all of the teaching themselves. Classroom time spent by a senior leader is a sliding scale; what works well in one instance would be a problem in another case. A good benchmark is if the senior leaders do 20% to 40% of the teaching. It is up to the individual leader, along with the development staff or outside consultant, to determine the optimum level of involvement.

I believe higher involvement by senior leaders often leads to better outcomes assuming the top leaders have the credibility and skill to do a good job of teaching lower level leaders. If there are problems at the senior level, then training dollars would be better spent there to make top leaders capable of being credible teachers as opposed to trying to “fix” the lower levels of management with outside canned leadership training.

If you are a leader, you need to make a conscious decision about how much time and effort you will put into the job of training underlings yourself. If you are a training director or consultant, you will need to decide how much you should encourage the senior leader to be involved. There are numerous personal, organizational, and practical factors that go into these decisions.

For example, if the senior leader is cloistered in financial meetings all the time, and the human side of the work is delegated to operations people, having this person do instruction would likely be a poor choice. If the organization is in the middle of a survival crisis or a merger, the top leader may be unable to spare any time for development of underlings. Perhaps the senior leader is just a lousy leader, and it would be foolhardy to have this person teach others how to screw up. Conversely, the senior leader may be outstanding and consider training the next generation of leaders to be his or her highest calling.

Let’s assume the top leadership has built high trust and has the capability to teach leadership in an engaging manner. Under those conditions, there are several advantages to having leadership classes taught by senior leaders:

1. Shows right priority. If the top brass preach that nothing is more important than having great leaders at every level, then they ought to show that with action and their time rather than give lip service to executive development.

2. People pay more attention. If your boss is in front of the classroom, not only does it send a very strong signal about the importance of the training, people listen better because the boss is putting sweat equity into the equation. It is called leading by example.

3. The best way to learn something well is to teach it. If leaders take the time to organize their thoughts about key leadership concepts, they will be more likely to practice the habits themselves.

4. The content is more applicable. The case examples and materials used to teach the lessons are directly applicable to the particular situation managers are facing every day on the job. They are not hypothetical examples brought in by an outside trainer who does not even understand the local jargon.

5. Training your own leaders is uplifting. Taking a personal interest in the development of up-and-coming leaders helps the top brass assess capabilities better and forms a kind of mentoring spirit that is healthy. The caveat here is to avoid being overbearing or intrusive. Young leaders need to experiment with different ideas in safety, so the mentor needs to establish ground rules that ensure a safe learning environment.

6. Control your own destiny. When leaders develop the course content, it will be laser-focused on the local need. If an outside trainer is teaching leadership, it will be less potent and potentially less effective.

7. Those actually in the trench are better at teaching trench warfare. Great leaders have the instincts and knowledge of how to apply concepts in a pragmatic way on the job. Trainers who have not sat in the leader’s chair do not have the in-depth understanding of the realities. They describe the textbook answers that often fall flat in the real world.

These seven reasons are why it is helpful to have leaders be the teachers of leadership. I acquired this tendency myself as I learned that teaching leadership and trust was one of the most important parts of my job as a Division Manager of a large corporation. I gave the activity roughly 30% of my calendar time, and I am convinced it was the best use of my time.

I grant that many leaders would not have the patience or skills required to be good at teaching leadership. Frankly, many leaders do not have the ability to practice what they preach, so their teachings might ring hollow to stronger underlings. This is where the Development staff needs to focus energy. The top leaders need coaching on how to participate in the hands-on work of teaching leadership in their organization. There is plenty of work for consultants to drive this conversion, but once leaders get the idea and have the skills, it is best for them to take their place in front of the classroom.

Several organizations have taken up the banner of having leaders teach leadership. Becton Dickinson is one group that practices this well. There is a good book on this concept by Ed Betof, if you are interested. The title is Leaders as Teachers. It describes the journey at Becton Dickinson and the incredibly positive impact the practice has had on the organization. However, you do not need to read a book on how to practice having leaders as teachers, just advocate it and start doing it. If that seems unlikely in your situation, it may mean that the top leaders in your organization need some remedial leadership training themselves. Spend your training dollars there first.


Leadergrow Trust Model

June 13, 2010

 

Here is a short description of the Leadergrow Trust Model followed by a graphic showing how the elements work together.

The Leadergrow model of building trust focuses on three dimensions: 

Table Stakes – These items are intuitive and must be fully in play if a leader is to have a chance of building an environment of trust.  They are called “table stakes” after the phenomenon in poker where a player must have a level of investment to even be in the game.  Leaders who cannot meet the minimum standards of honesty and integrity should get out of the leadership game and hit the showers. 

Enabling Actions – These items are important ingredients to building an environment of trust.  The Leadergrow model lists 10 examples. In the real world there are numerous additional items that constitute enabling actions. Having these items in play helps foster the right kind of culture where trust can grow and endure. The more these elements are present, the greater the ability for the leader to withstand trust withdrawals that happen as a result of ill advised decisions or unfortunate circumstances. 

The Heart of Trust – Reinforcing Candor is what makes the Leadergrow model unique.  Other models on trust discuss this element as a part of “honesty,” one of the table stakes.  In the Leadergrow model reinforcing candor takes center stage because the concept goes far beyond honesty. It is the magic that most leaders find difficult to accomplish, but if done well, it makes a huge difference in trust.  Reinforcing Candor is the ability to make people glad they brought up an observation of a leader’s inconsistency. In most organizations, people are punished in some way for bringing forward a problem with the leader’s actions. Where the highest levels of trust are present, the leader has the ability to set aside his or her ego and reinforce the person who challenges an action. Doing so creates a large trust deposit and allows for future trust building exchanges.  Without this critical element, the table stakes and enabling actions are not sufficient because candor is extinguished. People hide their true feelings and do not feel empowered to challenge the leader, hence real trust is hard to maintain regardless of the effort to do so. Leaders who consistently reinforce candor build an environment were trust continually grows and deepens.