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How can you deal with your micromanaging boss without quitting your job?


ManagementStyleDon’t get me wrong. Micromanagement is also a style of management, and sometimes it is needed to manage some employees, but it doesn’t work in 80% of the professional environment these days. What will you do, if your Manager is a Micro-manager? How will you handle that situation?

I got the idea of writing this blog from a conversation that I overheard in the café. The conversation goes something like this…………..

  • Mr. X: What happened to you? You don’t look so good.
  • Mr. Y: Don’t ask? Tough times at work.
  • Mr. X: Tough times? I heard you even got promoted few months back. What happened all of a sudden?
  • Mr. Y: That’s the problem. My new manager is a Micromanager. He keeps tabs on me. I can’t even go to the men’s room without informing him. I feel I am in some kind of a prison. Do you know any other jobs that I can apply for?
  • Mr. X: I am sorry to hear about your situation. You know what? There is this Project Manager Job that recently opened up in my firm, and I think you would be a better fit for it. Let me pull some strings and I will get back to you.

Let’s assume that Mr. Y was right, and his manager was at fault here. What would have he done? In this blog, I will provide few pointers to effectively deal with your Micromanager.

Talk to him about it: I am a huge believer of second chances. And that is the reason why, I would recommend you to directly talk with your manager about this (preferably in your one-on-one session). Some managers are micro-managers by nature, and if you don’t point out that this style of management annoys you, then he will never know about it, and might not change his style of management. At least by having this conversation, you are giving him a chance to change.

Decide a fixed time for rounds: Most of the micromanagers like to make 5-6 rounds a day to check up on their employees. Obviously, you might not be able to change their behavior overnight, but you can definitely work with them to agree upon some fixed timings for their rounds. In this way, they don’t feel like they are losing their control over you, and at the same time you get some fixed time of their visits, so that you can prepare yourselves.

Establish your SMART goals: There are very few managers, who are micromanagers by nature. Most of the other managers use the micro-managing approach because they want to continuously monitor your performance. What if…… you take a proactive action about it, and work with your manager to establish your SMART goals? In this way, your manager will have an established method through which he can measure your performance. Thus, he won’t need to visit your cubical 24×7.

I hope these tips will help you to better manage your micro-managing Boss. Feel free to comment on my blog, if you have any other ideas to deal with your micro-managing Boss. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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Manager’s Guide: How can I make it easier for a new hire to transition in my group? (Part 2)


classic-booksIn my last blog post, I have discussed few ways through which you can make your new hire understand your company’s goals and objectives. In this blog, I will provide you some tips on how you can make your new hire acquainted to your team culture and communication channels.

Talk about the rules: After you have explained your strategic objectives and work culture, now it’s time for you to explain her about your expectations. Some of the managers leave it unsaid. But I prefer to talk to all of my employees about the performance expectations. In this way, they can specifically know what they have signed up for, and you can avoid having performance improvement talks later. You can start this conversation by establishing clear goals and priorities for her; and then you can progress towards expected employee’s behavior, your feedback process, and how her work will be evaluated. Don’t forget to outline the path through which you will help her to be successful.

The Team: Providing an understanding of the team’s roles and responsibilities is very key to the new hire’s success. This will make sure that she doesn’t step on someone’s foot, and she can know who is ultimately responsible and who has the decision making authority. During this discussion, you should explain her how your team supports company’s goals and objectives. This will give her the overall picture of your team, and where it fits in to the organization. And yeah! Don’t forget to discuss the procedures & norms under which your team operates. For example: Our team follows an agile development process, where each engineer is paired with one another team member for the development of a particular feature. Last but not the least, identify the people who can help her during her first few months in the company, and how they prefer to communicate.

Communication: Being a software development manager for years, I have seen various managers failed to provide this information to their employees. As a result, you have a new geeky employee who got herself acquainted to only e-mails, and you have to wait for her e-mail response for feedback. Thus, I would advise you to have these conversations beforehand. Convey to your new employee how you would prefer to be communicated, and what should be the frequency of those communications. For example: I expect an e-mail response within 1-2 hours. In case of a blocking issue, I want you to call me up instead of waiting for me to reply to your e-mail. And yeah! Explain how your employees prefer to communicate with themselves.

I hope these tips will help you to become a better manager by providing a clear direction for your newly hired employee. In the next blog post, I will be discussing about how to familiarize your new hire with the growth opportunities within your organization.

Let me know, if you have any other ideas through which you can help your employees to easily transition to your company. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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Why can’t your business have any ethical standards?


Have you ever thought why big company’s CEO can cash in on millions of dollars in bonuses and still remain untouchable by Federal Government? Have you ever thought why media always talks about ethical issues, and nothing ever happens to those people? Recently, I was watching a documentary on how big companies are moving their IPs (intellectual properties) to Ireland, and paying only 15% taxes there instead of paying 35% tax in United States. Then I asked myself a question….. Is this legal? ……The answer came out to be…. “YES”. They are not doing anything wrong legally. So, government in United States can’t do anything about this. This raised an another question in my mind….. Is it ethical? ….. And surprisingly the answer came out to be as “YES”. And here is why……

Basics of business: Have you ever saw the definition of business? If you have then you know what I am talking about. In defining a business, ethics don’t play in to the picture at all. Sole purpose of a business is to increase the value for its stakeholders. Thus, can you blame those businesses, who are taking advantage of the lower tax policies in Ireland to increase their net income? It might be morally wrong for those businesses to show all of their profit in Ireland, while they get their 50-70% profit from United States, but you can’t do anything about that. As more and more countries loosen their tax policies to attract foreign businesses, there would always be some companies who want to move there to increase their net profit by paying lower taxes there.

Definition of ethics: In my opinion, definition of ethics is very subjective. I don’t think that you can have a clear defined ethical standards globally. Whenever you try to define ethics, it doesn’t remain ethics anymore. It becomes a law or a rule. For example: If you think that it’s not an ethical practice for people to do insider trading on the basis of the insider information, and if you want to change that then you might want to change the law which punishes those people. Unless you put that law in practice, you will always find immoral people, who will be using their insider knowledge to make huge bucks for themselves. At the end, ethics shrink down to morals and personal belief of that particular individual, who is running that business. Because there is nothing clearly defined in the books, which will prevent this person from taking unethical decisions.

Subjective nature: As I mentioned earlier, ethics basically shrinks down to morals and beliefs of the person who is handling that business. Thus, ethics tend to be very subjective in nature. And there are various other factors that affects the core definition of ethics. For example: It would be considered unethical for an employer to hire a kid, who is only 15 years old. But in some countries, some government encourages companies to hire younger people, so that they can support their family, while getting the invaluable professional training for their future. Thus, you can’t exactly define what is ethical and what is not, when your business is global and you yourself can’t define what is considered ethical.

Though I have my tight morals, beliefs, and ethical standards; I don’t think that a business, as an entity, can have any kind of ethical standards. Of course, business can have rules and policies under which it can operate, but there can’t be any ethical standards that it can abide to. I hope you liked my argument in this blog. Please feel free to discuss your view points on the same. I am always curious to hear different perspective from different people. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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How to deal with a poor performer in your team?


Have you ever encountered a situation where you had to have a difficult conversation with your employees? Or have you ever put any employee on a Performance Improvement plan? It is very unfortunate that some of the Managers try to avoid those situations. Instead of having appropriate conversation with their employees, they try to avoid those situations. Well, I am not a master of these conversations by any means, but I have few tips through which you can handle this situation well.

Verbal discussion: Let say, you have a poor performer in your team. And despite of your numerous efforts to improve his performance, he didn’t improve. In this situation, I would advise you to have a personal discussion with him, if you haven’t done that already. This one-on-one discussion will give you an opportunity to explain your concern about his performance, while it will give him an opportunity to explain his side of the story. The purpose of this meeting should be to let him know about your concerns, so that he can correct those behaviors.

Document your concerns: After you had your verbal discussion, you should always make sure to document those communications via e-mails or memos. This will help you not only in any legal proceedings that might arise in the future but it will also help you to reiterate your point. Your e-mail should contain summary of your discussion reinforcing your message and the place where this discussion took place. It’s a good idea to let the employee know that they will be receiving a follow up email after the meeting. Explain that it is to ensure each party is on the same page regarding discussion points. This can circumvent the perception that you are using the email for “tracking” purposes only.

Follow-up discussion: You should never have a discussion with someone, and then not follow up with that. I would advise you to schedule a follow-up meeting regarding your verbal discussion as soon as you send the follow-up e-mail. Of course this meeting might not happen within 1-2 months, but it’s always a good practice to keep a checkpoint on these kind of discussions to make sure that you don’t forget it. And yeah! Make sure to have a specific agenda for this meeting. For example: specific projects that he might be working on, his performance improvement within last month, action plan to success, time frame for improvement, etc. Don’t forget to include all the consequences clearly and visibly in this meeting request. This will ensure that your employee is aware of all the consequences before you decide to take any action.

I hope these tips will help to become a better manager and effectively deal with your poor performers. Let me know, if you have any other ideas through which you can effectively deal with your poor performing employee. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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How to reexamine your project estimates without any major changes to the project?


ProofReadHave you ever been in a situation, where you had to revisit your estimations and adjust them accordingly? I have. Few months ago, I have created a roadmap for some of my projects. However, I didn’t have the time to perform a detailed effort/cost analysis for those projects.  Thus, I estimated those projects at very high level, and thought of validating those estimates once the actual project starts. Yesterday, I ended up creating a WBS (work break down structure) for one of the projects, and I found that it might go 60% over our allocated budget. That type of increase will either not be funded at all, or the additional funding will probably require another approved project to be cancelled. Thus, I reassessed my estimations. With this blog, I would like to share my experience through which you can reassess your estimations.

Verify your estimates: Before digging up deep and cutting unnecessary costs, you should verify your estimates. I mostly use Microsoft Project or Microsoft Excel for estimating my projects. If you are using these tools, then I would recommend you to recheck all of your formulae. You should also keep an eye on your resource rates and non-labor costs. Make sure, they are reasonably accurate. If you are convinced that your math is accurate, then you might want to apply another estimating technique to see if you can get down the project cost without making any major changes to the project.

Find other alternatives: Once you are done verifying your estimates, you should then find other less expensive alternatives for all of your resources. For example: if you are counting on contract labor resources, you should see whether they could be replaced with company’s employees. Or if you are proposing new software/hardware as a part of your project, you should see whether your company already has something that will work for you. Or find out opportunities of automation, so that you can reduce the overall cost of the project without compromising on functionalities. And yeah! Make sure to take help from other experienced people in the company. Sometimes, they might come up with the solutions that you might not have thought about.

Negotiate scope of the project: Let’s say, you have tried your best to eliminate any unnecessary costs, but your project is still going over budget. What would you do then? Don’t panic. You can negotiate the scope of your project with your stakeholders. You can talk with your stakeholders, and find out activities/tasks that you can eliminate without majorly affecting project’s deliverables. I would recommend you to start this process by looking at the priority list first. If you recommend to eliminate lower priority items from the project, then your stakeholders are more likely to be in favor of your decision. You might want to defer some low priority tasks/activities, before you can get more funding. This will ensure that you can deliver similar level of functionality without compromising on quality.

I hope these tips will help you to adjust your project estimates properly. Let me know, if you have any other ideas through which you can better adjust your estimates in the project. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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How to demonstrate your value to your new Manager?


Have you ever felt that your Manager doesn’t know your value in the team? Have you ever been in a situation, where you think that you are exceeding your goals, while your performance review says something else? If you ask me, these are very common situations in professional world. I only manage 10-12 people at this time, but it becomes harder to provide personal attention to everyone in the team. So, imagine if you were to manager more than 20 people. It becomes next to impossible to provide personal attention to everyone.

I guess, my colleague (let’s call her Mrs. X) encountered a similar situation. Mrs. X came to me the other day, and told me that her new manager rated her performance really badly. I saw her past performance reviews, and they were all saying that she was above average employee in all of them. So, what happened so suddenly? Well, in her case…..she got a new Manager just few months back. And he might not have knew her potential yet.

If you were Mrs. X, what would you have done? Before I hear your answers, I would like to share my advice that I have given to her.

Meet with your Manager: If I were Mrs. X, I would have met with my Manager immediately and I would have discussed my performance review with him directly. If possible, ask your Manager if your Ex-Manager can be in this meeting too. If he allows your Ex-Manager to be in the meeting, then you can strengthen your case by getting his feedback to make your case even stronger. Make sure to give some background to your Ex-Manager before he comes to this meeting, so that he can come prepared.

Prepare your case before the meeting: Please don’t show up in that meeting without any preparation. This will look really bad on your side. So, please do a favor to yourself and prepare your case.

  • Make a list of all the accomplishments that you have done this year.
  • Highlight some of the biggest achievements that you have accomplished during the year.
  • Make sure to take your older performance reviews from HR and bring it to the meeting.
  • Jot down few points explaining why you think that you are above average employee.

Suggest some possible solutions: You can’t be right all the time. Let’s say, there is a huge conflict between your perception and his perception of your work. In this situation, rather than getting mad at your Boss, you should try to suggest some solutions. This will demonstrate to your Manager that he can trust you on taking initiative and understanding his point of view. You can start your conversation by saying “What I can do is…….we can work together to create some SMART goals for me, and let’s monitor my performance through that. In that way, we will both have shared accountability, and I will have some measurable outcome against which I can measure my performance. Also, we can arrange one-on-one periodically to go over my performance, so that we can track my progress in a better way.”

I hope these tips will help you to prove yourself in front of your new Manager. Let me know, if you have any other ideas through which you can demonstrate your value to your new Manager. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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Practical solutions to reduce time barriers between your Virtual Teams


DifferentTimeZonesI have seen various virtual teams that fails to accomplish their mission due to lack of communication. Virtual teams have many challenges like culture differences, language barriers, lack of personal touch, etc. But the ‘time difference’ is one of the most important challenge that a virtual team faces. As a part of my existing job, I manage various individuals from 3 completely different locations. And I have faced similar situations while managing these individuals. Through my experience, I have developed few practical solutions to resolve these challenges, and I would like to share those tips through this blog.

Define rigid working hours: I am neither a micromanager nor I believe in monitoring my people. But sometimes it is very crucial for a team to follow a strict schedule. Asynchronous communication channels like SMS and e-mails will only resolve few issues. But if you are working in a fast paced environment like me (Agile or Scrum approach), then it becomes very difficult to communicate through these asynchronous channels of communications. This approach makes it possible for me to meet with each and every individual at least 2 times a week (through video conference). From past few months, my team in China comes early every 2 days during the week and my team in USA stays late for those 2 days. This arrangement makes it easier to work with these people and it also helped me to increase my team morale.

Establish rules for e-mail communications: In the past, I have been in various situations when I will get an e-mail from my China team at around midnight in my time zone, and I won’t have any opportunity to reply to them until the day after. Thus, if you are working in a virtual team then you should be establishing few rules for your e-mail communications. For example: Tell your remote team in China to notify you regarding any urgent issues/concerns before midnight your time. Obviously, they will not be able to identify all the issues every time before you go to sleep, they might encounter few problems after you go to sleep. In that case, make sure that you always task them with some kind of other work, which is independent from that particular task. This will give them something to work on, before you can actually resolve their problem. This approach had helped me tremendously to increase the productivity of my team.

Make information go public: In most of the cases, people depend on each other for the information. Most of the professionals will take an educated decision in a given situation, if they were provided with the appropriate information. I made most of my information public in such a way that my team can have access to that information all the time. For example: during every meeting, I take meeting notes and prepare a list of action items. I started putting that information to our SharePoint site. This helped my team to have a baseline information and having the right information in their possession. This approach has reduced long chain of e-mails to get the same information that they would have got otherwise.

I hope, these tips will help you to reduce various time and communication related challenges with your virtual teams. Please feel free to comment on my blog, if you have any other suggestions for improving efficiency of your virtual teams. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 

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