Leadership Update is a free monthly newsletter by David A. Weiman, Psy.D. and www.leadershipfirst.com. In it, you’ll find strategies for helping you realize your full professional potential. Please feel free to forward unedited copies of this newsletter.
- Quotable: They Said It
- New Book: Managing Stress
- Leadership: How Open Is Your Door?
- Promotions: How to Spot High Potential Employees
- Diversity: Management Communication Workshop Combines Psychology and Law
- Readers’ Forum: Your Observations
- Subscription Information
Quotable: They Said It
“I have always found that if I move with seventy-five percent or more of the facts that I usually never regret it. It’s the guys who wait to have everything perfect that drive you crazy.” – Lee Iacocca
“Bill Gates is a very rich man today … and do you want to know why? The answer is one word: Versions.” – Dave Barry
LEADERSHIP: HOW OPEN IS YOUR DOOR?
The “open door” policy is a popular one in many corporate cultures. If you’re not familiar with it, an open door policy means that staff can go into a supervisor’s office, usually without an appointment, to discuss anything that’s concerning them.
The typical intent of an open door policy is to ensure that staff members do not feel that there are any barriers to speaking with management. And when the policy works well, it does foster more open communication with supervisors and senior executives. When the policy doesn’t work well, it’s usually because:
- The policy isn’t clear.
- The policy isn’t being followed consistently across the leadership team.
- Some staff members establish a pattern of entering managers’ offices to discuss just about anything, not just important concerns.
- It becomes a method of venting or sharing gossip without identifying real problems or solutions.
If you don’t have an open door policy now, or if you have one that doesn’t seem to work very well, consider the following suggestions:
Make sure the policy is consistent with company values. For example, if honesty and open communication are core values shared at all levels of the company, then an open-door policy is a good fit. If these values aren’t shared, chances are the policy won’t be followed appropriately by those in leadership positions. If there’s an existing problem with communication between staff and management, an open door policy can contribute to an easing of that problem, but it should be just one part of a larger, more comprehensive effort to improve communications.
Get input from leadership and staff. As with almost all policies that affect staff, their input can be helpful in designing an appropriate policy. For an efficient process, consider having a few volunteers represent the entire staff.
Develop a policy that all supervisors can follow. To avoid enacting a policy that is not going to be followed the same way by all supervisors, get universal commitment that it can be enacted and evenly applied. Avoid policies that indicate that doors are “open” all the time. It’s an unrealistic goal, because supervisors need to know that there are times when they can work uninterrupted on critical projects. Some companies have specified time periods during the day when the open door policy is not in effect (to give supervisors a regular period of time when they know they won’t be interrupted) and others use signage or receptionists to let staff know when a supervisor is not available for a meeting. Supervisors should always have the option of rescheduling an impromptu meeting initiated by a staff member, as long as it takes place within a reasonable amount of time.
Put the policy in writing. To ensure that everyone understands the policy, put it in writing. Discuss how to make it work well. Give examples of what it would look like if the policy were not being followed appropriately (e.g., people using the policy to discuss things that aren’t urgent or important, gossip, etc.).
Review the policy. If you enact a new policy or revise an existing one, review it monthly for a few months with supervisors and staff to make sure it’s working well. Reviews twice a year thereafter should be enough.
Open door policies are common, and they can be effective for facilitating communication between staff and supervisors. The ideas above can help you avoid some of the more typical problems that crop up with open door policies.
PROMOTIONS: HOW TO SPOT “HIGH POTENTIAL” EMPLOYEES
Aside from directly achieving goals, one of the most important indicators of how well you’re doing as a leader is how your staff is doing. Are your direct reports performing well? Are they developing new skills? Are they contributing to the success their team, their division and the entire organization?
Identifying and nurturing the talent in your organization is key. So how do you know who has “high potential” for the future? Some firms use a formal assessment program to identify high potential employees. Formal assessments have the advantage of research-based tools and questionnaires that focus on key skills that have been identified as necessary for success in your organization or in corporate life in general. In lieu of a formal assessment, though, here are some things you can evaluate informally. Consider taking out your staff hierarchy list right now, making a grid for comparison and checking off who’s doing what:
- Achievement orientation. High potential staff members are usually goal-oriented. They enjoy receiving new challenges. Often they ask for them! They work hard, and they finish what they start.
- Problem-solving style. High potentials enjoy solving problems. They approach problems with an open mind, and make good use of resources for solving them. They engage others when appropriate, and consider alternatives before making a decision. They don’t necessarily do things the same way you would, but their solutions are effective. When things don’t work out as planned, they can go back to the drawing board and come up with new ideas.
- Working with others. Staff members with a promising future almost always work well with others. They understand the value of collaboration, and they form good cooperative relationships at all levels of the organization. They connect well with others, and they do a good job of connecting others who should work together, also.
- Managing others. If they have direct reports of their own, they manage those staff members well. They listen attentively, assign tasks effectively, don’t put more on others than they can handle, and use their resources efficiently.
- Optimism. High potential staff members respond well in adverse circumstances. They see things in context, tend not to generalize or exaggerate negative events, and take action with the belief that things will work out for the best.
Do you see these qualities in your direct reports? If so, chances are those staff members represent the future of the organization. When you spot high potential employees, it’s important to begin planning with them their future in the organization. High potential employees like to contribute, and when they become bored or feel like they’re not appreciated for their efforts, they may look for other places to apply their talents!
If you want to discuss how to identify high-potential employees in your organization, or what to do once you’ve picked them out, drop me a note or give me a call at (610) 642-3040.
ABOUT DR. WEIMAN
David A. Weiman, Psy.D. is a psychologist who specializes in executive assessment, development and consultation. For information or a confidential consultation, please call 610/642-3040.
333 East Lancaster Avenue, Suite 202
Wynnewood, PA 19096-1929
(610) 642-3040; Fax (610) 642-3041
NEW BOOK: Managing Stress
Numerous sources have referred to chronic overstress and burnout at the executive level as an epidemic. Reports from major health services and surveys in business publications regularly report alarming statistics about the health consequences of chronic stress, and the cost to organizations of stress-related absences, accidents, poor productivity and morale problems.
Stress is part of life. Due to the nature of executive life, however, it happens to be more of an issue as you gain more responsibility. Expectations are higher for your performance, and the consequences of not meeting goals are greater. Not surprisingly, your ability to handle stress will impact how successful you are.
Unfortunately, many executives experience stress regularly over such a long period of time that they may become accustomed to it. So accustomed, in fact, that it may take a serious negative life event – a failed marriage, ruined friendships, a serious alcohol or drug problem, or a heart attack – for the executive to be forced to confront the fact that he or she was overstressed for an extended period of time.
In that sense, stress is like thirst: Experts say that by the time you experience thirst, your body already needed water. By the time you feel overstressed, it’s likely that you were overstressed for quite some time.
So, is stress managing you, or are you managing stress? My new guide for executives, Managing Stress, covers what it is, how to recognize it, and how to manage it effectively. It’s a thorough, concise and practical guide based on my experience as an executive and as a psychologist. For more information or to order your copy, please visit www.leadershipfirst.com.
DIVERSITY: MANAGEMENT COMMUNICATION WORKSHOP COMBINES PSYCHOLOGY & LAW
Diversity workshops usually focus just on the federal laws that protect certain groups and how to avoid being sued for violating those laws. But they haven’t addressed the subtle psychological factors that impact how supervisors communicate with their staffs. Until now.
When your managers are aware of the correct way to instruct, motivate and manage their staffs, your entire organization is strengthened. Dr. Weiman and labor attorney Mignon Groch recently introduced their new workshop, Management Communication in a Diverse Environment, and it’s available to your company. For a PDF file that shows the benefits to your staff of this outstanding presentation, download it here, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reader’s Forum: Your Observations
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