Managing Up–Managing Your Relationship with Your Boss

Being in Human Resources for over 14 years, I have a few opinions, which is no surprise for anyone that knows me well. However, professionally, I do try to keep my opinions to myself or at least attempt the coaching approach of self discovery.  I posted a blog about this topic previously:

One of my most important and strategic roles is encouragement of a mentoring relationship between managers and staff, help individuals find common ground and influence the engagement process.  One situation that surfaces regularly is managing the “boss”; at times, we all are frustrated because we did not know about something that affected our work.  By taking ownership, the employee takes control, asks more questions, and engages in conversation about what is going on within the organization, not just what is affecting the employee’s job.  A manager directs employees, projects, & responsibilities/priorities & most executives would agree that managers also own the development of tomorrow’s leaders through employee development.  With all of the other responsibilities, development tends to fall to the bottom of the priority list, not because the manager does not want to challenge his/her staff, but there is not time to introduce a new skill or project to an employee with a full-plate of tasks and responsibilities.  For the employee, owning the relationship drives engagement & if the employee feels a sense of control over their destiny, there is less chance of becoming overwhelmed.  When an employee learns a new skill or has success on a project or with a team, results are felt by the manager and the employee & executives take note.

Ideally, a regular, semi-formal status update with two-way communication produces the best results.  A status update is not a formal performance review, which will be another topic for another time.  However, the use the agenda or notes can be a starting place for a more formalized recap of performance.  Typically a status update is a conversation about how things are going, what the employee is working on and where he/she needs help or guidance.  Normally, most people consider a status more about telling their boss about what they are doing, not finding out how to help the manager.  Many managers are managing both employee expectations & tightening of budget dollars over the last 18 months, those items are challenging in any economic environment.  If managers are open to on-the-job development, the employee has an opportunity to lead a project or be exposured to a new project for which you have no experience.  A “win” for everyone–employee, manager & the company!  Outside training and seminars are valuable, but true skill building comes with experience and practice of those skills.  

Discussing future goals is somewhat of a slippery slope.  What if there is great satisfaction in the current role and no interest in moving up long-term? Want a different role?  Want the manager’s role?  Will he/she be a threatened?  Reflection of those requests are extremely important.  On the flip side, he/she may be open to exposure to new skills or projects.  Managers that avoided potential turnover are looked upon extremely positively by senior executives and the team may become more productive, profitable, flexible, & efficient with these development opportunities.  

Don’t let that risk be a missed opportunity.   Occasionally a manager has information about the employee’s future with the organization that the employee is unaware of or has not discussed with him/her.  Maybe the manager is looking for an opportunity to move up (or out) and needs to “train” his/her replacement before assuming this new role.

The outcome is usually worth risk.   Being prepared to ask for feedback (honest, maybe even a little brutal) and act upon it—that in my opinion is the toughest part for both managers and employees.  

We own it.  Manage proactively.  Our manager. Our network.  Our career.  Our development.  Our mistakes.  Our rewards.  Our success.

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Budget Friendly Mini-Makeover

It’s spring and before I get outside to start working on my garden, there are a few shopping details that I need to complete with Bellacor’s help.  Shopping at Bellacor has allowed me to discover inexpensive ways to spruce-up my living space without breaking the bank.   If it’s lighting or home décor, Bellacor has it. 

First priority starts by spending thirty minutes to de-clutter and ensure that what is left in the room, belongs.  Not an easy process for the individual that holds onto everything, because someday, I may need it.  With two preschool aged boys coming home with miscellaneous class papers and assignments, the task of remaining uncluttered is an on-going challenge.  Storage solutions are key.                               

After de-cluttering and finding a home for possessions that do not belong in the space, I take a quick inventory of what I can reuse.  Since the budget does not allow for a new piece of furniture and with a slipcover that I already own, I add: 2 funky pillows, a new throw, two lamps, and a couple of other inexpensive, classic accessories; I am finished.  With the ability to add & freshen features and touches to my living space, it becomes new again.

Salem Red Throw                                                  Red Striped Vase                                 

Mercury Chrome Table Lamp         

Sun Frame                          Nari 6 Mesh Accent Bowl – Red          

Pocket Vase Havana Rectangular Baskets, Set of Three        Set of Two Plush Living Daphne Jet set Black Silk Pillow

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Yard revisited

As the spring arrives, I note the amount of weeds growing out numbers the grass at least 2 to 1…what should I do?  I don’t have lots of extra time for lawn work and less money to water grass (or in this case, weeds).   The first three summers I lived in this house, I spent weekends working on flower beds around the house.  I planted flowers and bushes and mulched, mulched, mulched.  Then I got married and had two babies within 16 months.  With no sleep and absolutely no energy to weed, much less continue to keep up the pace that I started, the yard has been neglected.  Fast forward six years with a little more sleep, I have more energy to devote to the yard.  The kids are playing in the sandbox or riding their bikes in the driveway and I have a few minutes to enjoy evening and maybe do some of that much neglected yardwork.

Over the weekend, I decided that I would try some hardwood mulch in an area that a cottonwood tree was removed nine years ago.  No grass ever took hold there.  I found a great deal on bagged mulch at my local big box store.  So, thirty-four bags later, I am seventy percent done with that one bed.  Keep in mind the dimensions are 60 feet by 8 feet.  No small task, let me tell you.  I made 4 trips to that store and loaded as much as I could at one time in the mini-van.  Yes, I was on a first name basis with the guy that helped me load all those bags into the van.  The “flower bed” looks great, if I do say so myself.  I don’t think my neighbors are going to really appreciate the mulch.  They have grass all the way to that foundation of their house.  He is retired and she does not like bushes for landscaping.  He has time to mow and apparently the money to water all that grass with our sandy soil; that water bill must cost a fortune every summer.

Phase two of this project will be to mulch the remaining part of my front yard that is full of weeds, create a raised bed of sorts filled with black dirt and topped with sod.  This grassy area is going to be approximately 400 square feet.  Much more manageable and should be more maintenance free once I have the sod/grass is  established.  In the fall or when there are sales, I will buy some bushes here and there and plant within all of that glorious mulch.  If I don’t get that done before next spring, it will still look better than it does right now.

Phase three will be completed after (someone without naming names) gets their crap out of my backyard.  Mulching again will be the name of the project with similar plans for a grass area without too much work for upkeep.  More bushes planted along the other neighbor’s property line.  They have some various contraptions build with PVC, half-dozen raised vegetable beds and other “interesting stuff” for their pickle making projects.  It’s rather an eye sore.  Although I cannot really complain, due to the “someone without naming names” lack of care for the yard in the last few years.  It will be interesting to see if the kids continue to dump sand out of their sandbox onto mulch or if they will stop doing that once it is not surrounded by weeds and some grass.

Why is it that grass grows best where you don’t want it, but not so much where you do want it?  I never understood that concept.  More details as the project progresses. 

After the yard in the fall will be a main floor bathroom redo, new carpet in bedrooms, new kitchen counter tops and painting.  I will be busy when the kids are with their dad.  It will be fun.  I have not done these types of projects for too long with the project house.

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Embrace Life Balance

Is this an oxymoron?  For some people, there is no way to have it both ways.  For others, a balance of some sort is achieved.  Even if balance is achieved, you will find yourself making decisions about which comes first.  I hope I would always choose my family.  I think it is a bit of chicken and the egg for me.  If I did not have the kids, I would not need as much balance.  Don’t get me wrong, I would definitely have a life outside of my career.  As a newly single mom, if I do not have my career (AKA salary/benefits), how can I take care of the kids?  How do others find this balance?  Is it easier for men versus women?  Do more experienced or mature individuals in the workplace find it easier to balance?  As children grow, do new responsibilities increase for eldercare? 

Recently I started to prepare a framework about what Embracing Life Balance for my business.  Embracing Life Balance is part of our Cultural Values Statement.  Our senior leadership wants employees and managers to start a dialogue about what that means to them, to their team and to the company.  I have not been a fan of creating a policy or procedure that is so mired with details that it does not allow flexibility.  To ask someone to go through hoops to have that flexibility or to keep the flexibility is not creating a value for the business or the individual.  If an individual needs short-term or once in a while type of accomodations, this type of arrangement can be resolved without a formalize proposal.

In my humble opinion, that framework should be a starting point for an individual and his/her manager:

  • Is the employee a good candidate for this type of arrangement?  Do they have the discipline to work from home?
  • Is the job a good fit for a flexible arrangement?  Are there other things the person could be doing?
  • What is the daycare arrangement for the time they dedicate to their job?
  • When the employee is not in the office, who covers work?  
  • How is the plan communicated to the team and others that interact on a regular basis with this individual?
  • Does the employee have a track record for excellent performance?
  • What work will be completed?  When?
  • What equipment is needed, will the company provide that equipment?
  • Are the hours the job is performed flexible?

In many cases, the employee probably has a pretty good start on how the job can be performed using this flexible schedule.  Many times I have seen:

  • 4-10 hour days, 1 day off
  • 5-9 hour days and 1/2 day off every week (for non-exempt employees) and for exempt employees 1 day off every other week.
  • Work from home, if telecommuting works for the type of job
  • Leave of absence without losing seniority
  • Job sharing
  • Part-time hours
  • Part-time work week
  • Early start/late start

As part of this process, a business needs to review business practices such as meeting times & communication methods.  Typically, when a business sets-up these type of arrangements it makes sense to choose blocks of time for most meetings to occur, such as 9am to 3 pm.  There are times that meetings cannot be contained to these times, so there needs to be flexibility on both sides to make the process work smoothly. 

Benefits to companies usually are:

  • Blocks of time that no meetings occur.  Employees and managers can focus on projects and tasks
  • Retaining high performing employees and attracting new employees
  • Engagement of current employees
  • Higher productivity
  • Lower levels of pre-absenteeism

From the Department of Labor’s website, there are a number of good resources on this topic including one that outlines a manager’s tips guide for creating a flexible workplace.  The information is below include a manager’s process and considerations while creating a flexible schedule:

Create a business proposal.  Design a process.  Employee describes how work is accomplished, productivity improvement, and the impact  on various aspects of the business.

Establish a review process. Some requests will not be implemented due to the nature of a job, staffing needs, customer/client constraints, or employee performance. If the proposed arrangement is unworkable for business reasons, brainstorm with the employee and consider other options.  Communicate clearly about why this option is not available to the employee.

Consider an employee’s performance.  If an employee is not self-directed or highly dependent, they may not be eligible for off-site work arrangements. However, keep in mind that there will be some situations when flexibility is exactly how an employee resolves a personal issue  affecting their job performance.

Involve the team.  Prior to approving an arrangement, ask the employee to share his or her proposal with team members.  Gather feedback, understand roadblock, resolve potential issues, realize that additional roadblocks may arise as part of this process no one considered.  Create solutions.

Clearly outline expectations.  Prior to starting a flex schedule the manager and employee need to be on the same page for expectations, not limited to work accomplished, communication, and attendance at meetings.  Focus on results — not face time.

Conduct frequent reviews.  Establish measurements and review the success of the arrangement at regular intervals.  There should not be an understanding that this is a “permanant arrangement”.  Business needs and personal needs change over time.  Flexibility on both sides is extremely important.

For employees there are some great tips here as well on the Department of Labor’s web site.  

  • What type(s) of flexible work arrangement(s)?  How what period of time? What hours and days and location?   Are there specific hours and days that you must be present at work in order to accomplish your job responsibilities? Does your proposed flexible option accommodate these?
  • Can all current job responsibilities while be completed during this work schedule? What adjustments, if any, will you need to make to accomplish your work?
  • How will you continue to meet deadlines and be available for critical situations that may arise on the job?
  • What are the anticipated benefits and challenges?   How does this impact internal and external customers, employees (if you are a supervisor/manager), co-workers, manager, and the company?
  • Does this arrangement allow you to accomplish your career goals? If yes, how? If no, have you considered adjusting your goals?
  • How & when assessment for the effectiveness of your arrangement?
  • If you supervise a team of employees, ensuring availablility for employee needs? How will you manage differently if you are on a flexible schedule?
  • How will your communications with your team, co-workers, managers, and customers differ once you are on a flexible schedule?

I have seen great successes with this type of arrangement and I have seen failure for this type of program.  The most important elements for a long-term successful program comes down to communication and senior leadership’s support of life balance flexibility and arrangements.

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Why Should Employers Have Employee Assistance Programs?

Employee Assistance Programs have been part of employer’s benefit packages for over 20 years.   EAP’s are some of the most under-utilized benefits on an employer’s benefit program.  However, when they are used, the employee is able to deal with the issues that are challenging their abilities to maintain positive performance management.  EAP’s can be and should be used to offer services beyond the typical mental health issues that employees face today.  They should offer refers for childcare, eldercare, housing, legal assistance outside the employment relationship with the employer), financial counseling & many others.  Typically the employer makes a reference to the EAP for issues that are interfering with the employees ability to do their job–drug abuse, acohol abuse, mental health issues, the list goes on. 

I have seen employees utilize these programs and truly regain their work/life balance and have a high level of confidence in the employer’s ability to help them deal with their life outside of work.  As much as we wish we could check our lives at the door when we enter our workplace each morning, this is just not feasable for most people.

In prior lives, a Fortune 500 company that I worked for also had a EAP program that was used for management to deal with those issues, such as drug & acohol abuse and determine if a mandory referral was necessary.  Obviously, this is not something that can be done in every state or even in every situation, but the resource to discuss what the options are and what is available to help the “whole” person, not just the “work-life” person.

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LED Lighting Options

LED lighting has been around since the 1960s, but only recently been used in residential settings.  There are both pros and cons to LED usage, just as there are pros and cons with other choices in residential lighting. 

 

LED lighting is a great option for single directional lighting, such as task, reading or under cabinet lighting.  There are options for outdoor, using waterproof fixtures.  Since there is little heat from the bulb; no bugs are attracted to the light.  With these types of usage, LED lighting is more heat resistant than fluorescents or incandescent lighting.  Obviously, the biggest advantage is the low consumption of energy.

 

Below is a chandelier using a modern touch to a traditional incandescent type lighting need.  This type of chandelier is a great value if the lighting is frequently on or turned off and on regularly.  The wattage of the lighting would use approximately 90% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs.

 copenhaven-brushed-nickel-4-light-led-chandelier

Copenhaven Brushed Nickel Fo…

 

The fixture on the left would be best used in a hallway or stairway.  It is battery operated, so no additional wiring is needed on this fixture.   The fixture on the right is an under cabinet lighting is a great option for any kitchen by adding more lighting for completion of kitchen related tasks. 

  battery-powered-led-conical-frosted-marbleized-wall-sconce

                             white-recessed-surface-mount-led-warm-white-light-set-of-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Battery Powered LED Conical …             White Recessed/Surface Mount…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another use of LED lighting that has become more affordable recently is seasonal lighting, LED lighting for Christmas trees or outdoor warm-weather lighting.  These types of seasonal lighting needs will becomes more cost-effect as more options are available for more manufactures.                     

75-ft-marshall-spruce-medium-artificial-tree-with-clear-led-lights7.5 Foot Marshall Spruce Med…             Vintage Park LED Deck Light

 

The biggest challenge with LED lighting is the expense retrofitting existing fixtures.  Another challenge is ensuring you buy a fixture that can utilize replaceable bulbs; otherwise, you will have to replace the entire fixture when the bulbs have reached the end of their lifespan.

 

The lifespan of a LED bulb is probably one of the greatest benefits of an LED fixture, which is approximately 50,000 hours.  The other is that the bulbs do not contain mercury, so no special handling needs to be implemented to dispose of the product, once the lifetime of the bulb ends. 

 

For more information about LED lighting, please visit:

http://www.toolbase.org/Technology-Inventory/Electrical-Electronics/white-LED-lighting

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Self Discovery Coaching

One of the best lessons I learned early in my career was self-discovery as a method of coaching.  Working as an assistant manager in retail setting, I went through a on-the-job training process with my store manager.  Thanks Terri!

 

Self discovery is a method of asking questions to have the other party clarify why they made that decision or to provide insight as to why he/she believes that his/her opinion is the correct way to proceed.

 

Asking why and how, enables me to gain insight on the other person’s decision making process.  I would guess that 95% of the time, the other individual does not even realize why I am asking so many questions.  I am interested in why they have a specific opinion or why they decided to proceed in a certain way.  I want to understand—which I guess is the bottom line.  If I understand, even if I don’t agree with the decision, at least I have the insight and we can talk through why I might not agree with a decision or course of action.  I can coach the individual that provides feedback on what my expectations are and why.  This process helps in the following ways:


  • Empowerment
  • Self awareness
  • Accountability
  • Buy-in
  • Self awareness
  • Self-esteem


This method allows you to develop a greater understanding of why people behave in certain ways.  Self-discovery allows you as the manager to modify your communication skills and behaviors to enhance the individuals around you.  This management method gives you tools to understand what motivates and drives those individuals.

 

How do you use self-discovery?  It really is asking questions about the thought process or decision making process. 

N

ext time you are frustrated with someone, ask some questions…why?  How did you decide?  What was your expected outcome?  What was the outcome?  Why? 

 

Would you do it the same way again?  Why, why not?  What did you learn?

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Lighting Lesson

I recently was given a quick lesson from a lighting expert at Bellacor.com. I want to replace a lighting fixture over our kitchen table. Regardless, my husband and I differ on what we should place in this space. Granted, it is not a large space and unfortunately, the ceiling is only eight foot and the light fixture was originally placed in the middle of the space, without consideration of the cabinetry that was place in the kitchen after the electrical work was completed. So our kitchen table sits slightly off center. Which for me being 5”3”, is not a problem, however, it is for my husband, who stands at 6’2”.

Measuring correctly for a new chandelier. This is only a guideline and there are other factors to consider, such as ceiling height, scale of the furniture, or is there other large pieces of furniture in the room etc.

Option 1

Round table – chandelier should be approximately 1/2 the width of the table

Rectangle table – take 1/2 the width of the table and add 5″.

Example: table is 42 ” wide x 72″ long. The fixture should be 21″ + 5″ = 26″ chandelier

Option 2

This works best when the dining room is confined by walls. When the room is a combo diningroom/livingroom, you will have to make imaginary walls. This also is the best option to use when someone does not have a table yet (obviously).

Take the room width + the room length and that is your approximate chandelier size.

Example: the room measures 12′ x 12′, your chandelier would be approx. 22″

So keeping in mind our lesson from our lighting expert, you be the judge of our choices. By the way, our table measures 60” and our room is approximately 10’ x 10’.

Here are a couple of options that I like:

What I like about this ceiling fan is that it has an unusual light fixture. Most ceiling fans require either a light kit (another choice) or a light fixture that points the light bulb down.

Antique Bronze Five Light Chandelier

Antique Bronze Five Light Chandelier

Bellacor #3747701

Bellacor #3747701

Therefore, if I do not win on the ceiling fan option, my other choice is a light that has a touch of mission/art deco with a contemporary flair. Based on option 1, the fan is slightly too big, however, the second option fits right into the suggested width.

You be the judge. Please let me know your thoughts.

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Behavior Based Interviews

When you are looking for a job…who isn’t in this market. You have done your research, you have utilized your network and now you have an interview. How do you prepare for an interview?

First, let’s talk about what an interview is and is not.  What do you want to present as a full package to your audience?

  1. An interview is dialogue between a candidate and representatives of a company.
  2. The company is selling to you the benefits of working at the organization & you are selling your skills and abilities.
  3. This is not a time to brag about something unrelated to the job.
  4. Rambling on and on how your current company/boss will be “lost without you”.

The basics:

  1. Find out as much as you can about the company, people you will be meeting, ect.
  2. Have 5-8 relevant questions prepared and be ready to jot down a couple more that come to you as you speak with each individual.  Do not ask about salary or benefits during the first interview. If it comes up, great, but that should not be a question that you ask during the initial interview process. This interview is, after all, you selling why you should be considered for this opportunity.
  3. Be prepared to describe your skills, sell your abilities. How is this done? If you meet with individuals that have been trained in Behavior Based Interviewing, they will be looking at your skills based on the job description for the position and asking how your previous experience prepare you for this type of role.
  4. Answer questions about items that you highlighted on your resume. What are your accomplishments on the job in the last 5 years? How do they relate to this current opportunity?
  5. What is your role in the accomplishment, what actions did you have in this accomplishment, what were the results of that accomplishment?
  6. Read the body language of the individuals you are meeting. Are they engaged in the interview? Leaning forward to anticipate your responses. Are they making eye contact? You can tell by these clues if you need to change up how you are answering their questions, if you are on the right track.

Follow-up:

  1. With a thank you: either hand written or an email stating that you are very interested in the opportunity and highlight the items that you bring to the table.  State why quickly and to the point.
  2. Follow-up in 5 business days as to the status with an email or phone call, unless the individuals indicate that the process will be longer than 5 business days. If this is the case, follow-up a couple days after the indicated date.
  3. Continue your search; even if you think that you have the job
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