Tag Archives: Management

I did it! Maternity leave, here I come.

I managed to comfortably set my team up for success while I’m gone.

  • Everyone knows their roles and responsibilities while I’m away.
  • I’ve distributed transition memos and have done transition calls with clients and project teams.
  • I set expectations about what I want to see when I get back.
  • I made my team’s needs primary in the transition.

One important factor in the success of this transition was to have a half day team retreat a few weeks before I was scheduled to take off. The idea was to have a safe environment off site in a fun, neutral environment in which people could communicate concerns and anxieties, and set ourselves up in the remaining weeks to address them. The retreat was facilitated by two outsiders, which was hugely important.

And it’s not like we didn’t have fun while we were at it. I made sure we had a luxurious breakfast (banana pancakes!), and we started off by talking about what we’re excited for and looking forward to in the next year, both personally and professionally.

Perhaps the biggest concept in motivating people to embrace this time rather than fear it was the potential upside for their own professional development and careers, certainly within the company, but I acknowledged, even beyond. That thing you always wanted to try your hand at? Well, now is the time.

I’m not saying it isn’t going to be rocky, but if there’s one thing I wanted my team to do more than anything else was to collaborate, cooperate, and coordinate. Rely on each other. I said that when I get back after a few months, I will be in a different role, so no one should expect things to go back to the way they were. Take this time to really show your stuff!

And the effect was immediate. The last few weeks have been characterized more by my team members practically tripping over each other in ideas, volunteerism, and excitement, than my dictating how anything should be. I’ve been mostly a silent party on client conference calls, in team meetings, and in email chains as I watch my staff step up in huge ways. I step in here and there to provide some tips and redirect where necessary, but for the most part, I think they cringe more at what they feel are larger mistakes than I believe they are in the big scheme of things. That’s a welcome sign of their taking personal accountability for their work.

Because we spent many weeks prepping clients, by the time I left, they were comfortable with my team members taking larger and larger roles and eventually felt comfortable as I transitioned out of the calls and meetings altogether.

My last few days on the job ended up being leisurely half days… no one needed me to do anything! My email volume plummeted, and I when I asked, I heard no concerns from clients. I was… bored. (Gasp!) My final “act” was to report to my business unit that we are way ahead of forecast and working more efficiently than we ever have before.¬†How many execs can say any of those things in their last few days before taking a few months off? I’m so proud of my team! It truly is a gift.

 

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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!