Category Archives: Management

Marissa Mayer wants that face time!

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer Demands Telecommuters Report To The Office

Marissa Marissa Marissa. Really?

I can understand recommending that employees come into the office once or twice a week to take advantage of face time with colleagues to build camaraderie and ideation with drive-by conversations in the hall or active brainstorming sessions, but to require people to come back to the office all week? I think she’s nuts. She is going to be giving up efficiencies and lowering morale. Like most things in life, either extreme is probably not a good idea.

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Daily Prompt: Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

You need to make a major change in your life. Do you make it all at once, cold turkey style, or incrementally? 

Today’s Daily Post suggestion asks about making changes. What I come across more often in the business world are executives unwilling to make changes, even when a freight train at top speed is headed right in the direction of their business.

Why is this? So many of my clients are early-stage, venture-backed firms. They’ve sold a story to the Board, to their investors, and the money is earmarked for X, Y, and Z. Being infused with cash is a great way to kick up a lot of dust and start maniacally doing a bunch of stuff. My favorite? Go out and hire a bunch of sales reps. Sell, sell, sell!

I often cringe at this, as it can be a premature move in the medical technology arena I work in, where medical insurance companies won’t cover or pay for a new product at first, resulting in doctors and patients giving you a lot of grief about it, negatively impacting sales. I always say, go ahead and invest in ensuring insurance companies will cover the product first, then hire your broader field teams.

All too often, sales and marketing groups go nuts with an influx of cash, and suddenly, it’s two years later, sales have plateaued (and not anywhere near the promised targets), the Board and investors are asking tough questions, and executives are throwing every solution they can at the issues their field is reporting in order to “turn it around.” Except it’s not real change.

Real change means you have the courage to revisit the root of the issues and diagnose the true problems, separate from the symptoms, appropriately.

Real change means you can explain why there needs to be a course correction, rather than recommending tactics to remove the symptoms (which will probably get your through the next quarter, but is unlikely to get you through the next year).

Real change means you can show how the current path may likely lead to more wasted cash and perhaps an eventual layoff, but refocusing funding to address root issues – even if it takes longer – will benefit the product and the company over the long term.

It’s not easy. After all, today’s businesses are conditioned to look at the next quarter, not the next 2 years. To have to tell investors that a course correction is necessary requires admitting that the first course was wrong. Yikes! Who wants to do that? (… can you hear that freight train whistling in the distance??)

I could go on to quote hordes of leadership advisers and gurus here, but I prefer to close these thoughts on real change with Coco Chanel: “Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” Whether you make the change cold turkey or incrementally, I’d like to see more executives having the courage to enact real change in the first place!

 

Mentoring others: Gee, I should take some of my own great advice.

I have a very promising mid-level manager who was recently promoted and struggling with trying to oversee more initiatives at the 30,000 foot level when what she knows how to do confidently is work at the 30 foot level. Trying to get into the weeds for all of these initiatives is wearing her down, and she’s finding herself not as effective in management as she should be.

I advised that she use her knowledge of what it takes to be successful at the 30 foot level and guide staff to execute on that rather than executing on it herself. It’s a mix of telling people, “Here is what I want you to do,” and if needed, “Here is how you should approach it,” and most importantly, “Here is how we will know it worked.” She’s got the first and second things down pat. It’s the third thing she’s never done before. She never thought about measuring her successes in the weeds; her managers did that!

So how do you take someone new to management and teach them how to effectively measure the success of a project or program, and whether teams are being effective? She answered by starting where she is most comfortable – in the weeds. She said if people do X, Y, and Z (which is what she always did), we can say it’s successful. But checking off the tactical items on a list doesn’t necessarily mean success. It definitely means you’re doing work, but not necessarily being successful at it.

We eventually got to the point where she discovered starting at the client’s business objectives, and how the project or program is designed to meet those objectives, is the way to go. If she starts there, she can define a series of outcomes that she (and the client) want, and measure what the team does relative to those outcomes. If the team has really good direction from her, then she doesn’t need to be in the weeds doing the work – they can run with it, and she can measure it and make course corrections if needed.

* * * * *

That was an awesome and productive conversation with her. And I realized that in my maternity leave transition planning at work, I haven’t done enough effective management of the plan – I’ve been developing the plan from bottom up rather than top down. I am starting where I am most comfortable and familiar – my own version of being in the weeds, outlining who does what when – when I really should be starting at the client’s objectives and defining project team structure and metrics for success during my leave that will give others direction on an approach rather than dictating do’s and don’ts. Arming them with the right approach to a client’s set of service needs will help them be more flexible, responsive, and confident, and hopefully help avoid panic when a situation comes up that we couldn’t have predicted, or one that I didn’t explicitly outline.

I have great staff that are very good at taking my advice. Me – not so great at it, but I should start!

Maternity leave planning in 3 (easy? hah!) steps

I’m 30 weeks pregnant, which means its countdown time! Not just until the baby comes, but more urgently, countdown until I have to leave the job and cross my fingers that the maternity leave planning actually worked.

How do you plan for maternity leave?

headscratch

#1, you have to inventory what you do and who you do it for, and get past the shock value of how freaking long that list is.

#2, you have to say who is going to have to pick up the slack, and get past the guilt of abandoning coworkers to scrounge up extra time and energy to fill in your gap.

#3, you prepare your clients well in advance to let them know that a plan is in place, and get past the hand-wringing that will undoubtedly come with stress and worry and imagining all the things that could go wrong.

See? Easy.

* * * * *

I work at a small firm, which means: (a) there aren’t a whole lot of bodies to pick up the slack, and (b) our margins are smaller, meaning we can’t just go out and hire a bunch of FTEs or temps to do the gap-filling (like you can do a hire-a-veep for 3 months anyway).

I need to come up with The Plan. I’ve never done this before. What is The Plan supposed to look like? Well, having been on the other end of people going out on parental leave with poor planning, I know what I don’t want.

  1. I don’t want to leave people without the background knowledge and materials to do the work well, and I don’t want to leave them without resources to find help or answers when they come across something they don’t know.
  2. I don’t want clients to feel like there’s a vacuum of knowledge or personnel support once I leave.
  3. I don’t want junior people to feel like they’ll be taking a step back in professional development once I get back, after they’ve stepped up and gained great experience by filling in for me.

So The Plan needs to address:

  • Carving out sufficient time to train others and collect materials and resources for them, and communicating the professional development opportunities available to junior staff through this process. (But adequate support and advisors have to be there for that to be successful.)
  • Presenting clients with the new project teams and doing calls and work together over the next two months to get clients comfortable and giving them a level of confidence that others at the firm can do the work reliably. (Ahhhh, but that last word is the key, isn’t it?)
  • Having a vision for what project teams and roles/responsibilities will be when I return. (What I call “the black box” since I have no idea what that vision is.)

And TA-DA!! A successful maternity leave plan. P’shaw, piece of cake!