Management Skills – Create Your Masterpiece

You may have heard the term “create your masterpiece” in relation to life goals and personal development. I believe it applies to your management development as well. If you follow this Blog, you know that taking personal responsibility for your own professional development is a core principle.

How does one go about this development?

This is where I suggest the analogy about creating your own masterpiece. You could call it a Development Plan, a Goal Plan, whatever, but let’s use “Creating My Own Masterpiece” for professional development. This may sound basic at first but it is powerful as a concept. Let’s get this on track. If you are expecting your company or someone else to come along with just the right career long training and development plan, then think again. Most corporate programs are aimed at corporate objectives. Training departments come across the latest “quick fix” program currently in vogue. In the 12 years I spent with one large corporation, there were at least 6 such programs. I guess each succeeding one was the next best thing?

It’s all about you. You are the Artist responsible for creating your own professional development Masterpiece. It may will take you an entire career. It will take great effort. It will take planning and modifications over time but in the end you can create your professional life masterpiece. Why not? The more science looks into the human genome and studies the neurology of how the brain works, the more amazing the human being becomes. At some point in our evolution, homo-sapiens change how the brain processes energy that allowed us to develop a brain many times bigger than our body size warranted. The significance here is that every one of us has the makings of being a master piece. We can accomplish great things. Achieve results beyond our current expectations. But here’s the rub, no one is going to do it for you.

So, let’s at least get started in the right direction. Here is your “Visualization” exercise. Let’s see our entire professional development program as being applied to a large canvas. Picture a 4 x 4 foot painters canvas. Now you are going to start laying out all the key things you want to accomplish and particularly all the training and development needs you have now. More can be added in the future. I remember in my 5 hour Humanities Class in college, looking at all the sketches the Michelangelo did before he ever started painting on the canvas.

Next, actually take out a piece of paper, better yet, get a large piece of wrapping paper about 4 x 4 feet and tape it to a wall. Divide your Visual Canvas into at least 16 – 20 sections. With a pencil, lightly divide it into 16 – 20 squares, just to give us a framework. As a starting point, jot down at least the following items in the top of any box (except for the 4 center boxes).

The 4 Center boxes are reserved for your 4 most important career goals. Your ultimate accomplishments. These will be added as your career unfolds.

Project Planning
Delegation Skills
Communication skills
Strategic Planning Skills
Networking Skills
People Skills
Mentoring Skills
Time Management Skills
Leadership Skills
Stress Management skills

Leave the last few Blank as you will find other management skill development goals as your career unfolds.

For each of these boxes, pencil in the next most needed “skill/knowledge” development you feel you could use as a next step. That’s it. This is where you start. Once you have a “skill development” goal in each box you simply start with the most important and find a way to acquire it. It may be a training program at work or at a local university. The Chamber or Commerce may offer classes. Go on-line and Google the specific skill (skill/training). As you accomplish one skill objective, take a colored marker and “paint” it in a section of the that box (leave room in each box for more). You can draw a picture depicting the skill or scroll out a description. Use a lot of colors to really have fun with it.

Now you have started painting your unique Career Development Masterpiece. Believe me the power of this process is terrific. Don’t assume for one minute that this is not both fun and career changing. It is. You must take responsibility for this development. You have all the capacity that is needed for growth, development, change and achievement. Why would anyone settle for less?

Why You Can’t Improve Your Money Management Skills

At first you might think you’re improving. But for the sake of comparison, let’s consider putting that same time and effort into practicing the piano. Would your skill level in each be comparable after practicing these tasks for a few hours every week, say, over a few months’ time? Maybe.

Let’s extend that time period to a year. What would you be accomplishing on the piano now compared to your money management efforts? What about five years down the road? By this point you could easily be performing wonders on stage with that piano.

How’s your money management skill and productivity level doing? Are you still tracking that loose change on your mobile app after every cup of coffee you buy? At this point you may realize that no matter how many more years of time and effort you put into “practicing” money management, your skill level and productivity will never comparatively improve.

There’s only one reason your personal money management proficiency and productivity stalled long ago but your piano playing skills continue to soar higher.

Figuratively and literally speaking, when first learning to play the piano (like learning money management), you have to first map out where all the notes are on the keyboard (where all the money is in your life), to gain an understanding of what’s before you before you can begin to play your first two-finger tune (actually start making money management decisions). But here, is where your money management skills get left behind and your piano playing skills break out.

Without a second thought, when playing that piano the second time, you’d take for granted the fact that all the notes on the keyboard were in the same place they were the first time. So quite naturally, with “practice” (doing the same thing over and over-an important distinction), you’re able remember the position of the notes and move on to the next level and practice managing those notes into the true skill-building part of actually playing a song.

In contrast, when managing your money the second time, you have to first figure out where all your notes are again (timeframes, income, expenditures, balances…) because they’ve all changed position since the last time you “practiced”. It’s at this point you might realize, the only thing you’re practicing, is finding notes.

The reality is, if you keep managing your money this way, you’ll have an entirely new keyboard arrangement (financial picture) in front of you every single time. So in essence, you’re starting over every single time. This is the reason you can’t improve your money management skills to the same degree you can improve your piano playing skills.

Let’s turn this concept around, and now ask yourself, after five years, how good you would be at playing that same simple song on that piano, if every time you sat down to play it, you had to first figure out where all the notes were? Maybe you recognized that problem early on so you decided to employ the latest high-tech note-finding software. But how’s your skill level at actually playing that song? Improving? How about five years from now?

You’d might come to realize that no matter how well you mastered your note-finding abilities, your performance threshold has never really gotten off the ground-and will never get off the ground, because your understanding, knowledge and wisdom of the keyboard (your financial picture) will always be limited because it’s never the same.

But now consider what might happen to the whole concept of money management if your money (timeframes, income, expenditures, balances…) stayed in the exact same position you left them the last time…and the time before that. To get a real good idea of what that experience might be like, just consider what happens to a musician as his skill level grows at playing that piano.

Consider for a fact that it doesn’t take long for a musician to stop thinking about the notes on the keyboard entirely (can you imagine?). The musician’s initial time and effort to “account” for the notes (pun definitely intended) has naturally advanced to the organization and management of the notes (song playing/money management). With time, through simple repetition and memory, his song playing grows more intricate and precise, while the ease and effort at playing them becomes more elementary. His knowledge of the keyboard has moved into a completely intuitive state (invisible?) and he’s now operating at a level of mastery, accomplishing so much more with only the slightest of effort.

Thousands of people, performing a thousand different activities, are reaching mastery level everyday. If you’re already investing time in managing your money, there’s only one reason you can’t reach mastery level…you’re mistaking note-finding for money management.

Lee Roesner is the creator of the MoneySlinger™; Speed-Budgeting™ Personal Finance System. A unique personal and family budgeting system that eliminates cash flow variability resulting in easier and faster money management efforts.

A Comprehensive Look At The Time Management Skills Needed To Improve Focus

Finding and using strong time management skills only helps people to achieve focus, is an improvement in motivation and results in goal achievement. Personal time management skills are essential for individuals who are effective in their personal, business and relationship lives. Using time management skills well enable anyone to function exceptionally, even under intense pressure.

By integrating time management with focus, motivation and mindset, any individual can become a powerhouse within an organization or within their own families. Mastering these skills helps an individual to take control of their work load and say goodbye to stress.

At the heart of any time management program is an important shift in your own paradigm: you must concentrate on getting results and not on being busy. Most of us spend our days in a frenzy of activity but don’t achieve very much because what we are focused on is the activity and not on the results. The 80/20 rule sums this up nicely. It means that 80% of unfocused effort generates only 20% of the overall results. This means that the remaining 80% of results are achieved with only 20% of the effort.

That ratio is not always 80:20 but the broad pattern remains the same. When an individual applies time management skills they can optimize their efforts, ensure concentration and focus the energy in order to reap high payoffs in their tasks. This also means that it may require less time and energy in order to achieve the results you already set as a goal.

Here are some simple and practical techniques that will help you eliminate some common time wasters and focus on some of the most important short-term activities.

Once you understand that you must focus on the results and not on the task of being busy you must then prioritize your results in order to understand which ones should be addressed first. These priorities can be in business, relationships, homeownership and even childrearing. There are excellent tools to help you figure out what is most important in your life, but, if you are able to focus sufficiently you should be able to bring to mind the most important goals in your relationship with your spouse, significant other or children as well as your desires at work and for recreational play.

Using that list you should then prioritize which results under each of the categories is most important to you. These are the results for which you will strive are just. Your next step is to also identified the things that are in your way, war the reasons why you procrastinate. Some of these reasons may be time management skills while others could be psychological obstacles hidden in your personality. Depending upon your own personal situation you may have difficulty saying no, delegating responsibilities to others were making time management decisions for yourself.

The psychological component of time management must be dealt with in order for you to achieve significant positive results in your desire to reach your goals.

After determining why you procrastinate and what your priority list is, you also may want to find out how you spend your time currently. This can help you identify times during your day when your time management skills are at their least or tasks which can be totally eliminated from your daily list.

Other effective aids which can help you in your time management skills are to create a simple “to do” list. This helps you identify a few items which must be accomplished every day and helps you to stay focused during the day. You may also create a list that goes further in time and has specific tasks related to each goal.

Individuals who struggle with time management should always keep daily and weekly planners. In this way they can write down meetings, classes and appointments in chronological order which creates a visual schedule. These schedules should be checked the night before and first thing in the morning in order to be prepared for the day.

A long-term planner can help individuals to plan ahead for specific lectures, papers, business tasks or personal goals in order to remind the individual about the dates as well is help to constructively plan their time in order to achieve the goal.

Remember that developing time management skills as a journey or a process and not something that happens overnight. You develop the time management skills you possess right now over a period of years not months, or days, but years. You can change and improve your time management skills but only with patience and understanding for yourself and the particular challenges that you face on a daily basis.

Effective Delegation – Management Skills For Plateau Protection

Let’s face it, these are difficult economic times in the job market and for getting promoted within your organization. Budgets are tight. There are hiring freezes and lay-offs. Advancement within your organization seems a distant possibility. For those that are getting laid off, this is a terrible time.

So what are you doing about it?

The most important thing in any of these tough circumstances will be to pay attention to your management skills. Among the most important of these will be effective delegation and people management. A serious effort to improve your skills and effectiveness will reduce the chance of losing your ground and increase your chances for advancement. Companies and businesses seek results, now more than ever. Take a close look at what the organizations needs are for their management teams.

Ability to execute. Managers are charged with getting things accomplished through others. Leading and managing a team to execute assignments and projects. This has not changed. Most managers do not focus on their management skill improvement in this critical area.

Team building skills. A manager who excels at building a stronger more capable business unit will always be sought after and rise to the top. A candid assessment of the manager’s interpersonal skills such as communication and relationship building id needed in all situations.

Project management skills. The ability to plan and execute projects and assignments is a core competency. Yet managers spend so little time thinking about how to get better at planning the work they are managing. Putting effective project action plans together, even for basic team assignments, really boosts execution and results.

Managers and leaders can not stand still and continue to assume they have these important areas down pat. That kind of “head in the sand” approach can derail a career for sure. What makes a great manager? Taking action and getting things executed. So, why not take action on paying attention to your own development and focusing on continuous management skill development? This starts with making periodic assessments of your skills and setting new professional development objectives. Here, are three things any manager can do to set themselves on a positive course.

Take some time to complete a “self-assessment” of your management skills. Being totally candid, what areas are you falling short in related to getting business unit results? Ask yourself, “if I were a senior manager, looking at my progress and the results of my business unit, what constructive suggestions would be made?

Seek feedback from key members of your team or peers in the organization. The strongest managers seek and accept constructive feedback. Everyone has one or more “management blind-spots.” Things you can not see clearly about your-self, your skills and your performance. Don’t be blind-sided by your blind-spots. Have the courage and maturity to ask how you can get better.

Learn to delegate effectively. It is a premier skill for top performers. Most managers are really rather average at delegating work effectively, but most think they are good at it. You can learn more about the management skills for effective delegation and improve upon them quickly. They are at the heart of superior execution and building high-performance business units.

The benefits of paying attention to your professional skills are worth every effort. Upper management will start to see your focus and dedication. The effectiveness of your team’s ability to execute will increase and will be noticed. If you are seeking a new position, the time and effort you can demonstrate you have invested in your own development will separate you from the competition. Your business unit will feel the positive effects of your skill development and be will be motivated to perform at higher levels. If you were hiring someone or considering a manager for advancement, wouldn’t you take notice of the consistent self-development efforts and increase in skill? Of course, you would and that’s why you must take action to get better.

Empathy: A Key Management Skill?

Many years ago I worked in an organisation that was very task focused (to say the least). Whenever we tried to introduce some training or new processes that weren’t task related (e.g. interpersonal skills or management skills training, communication strategies) they would be dismissed by the majority of the workforce with the mantra ‘it’s too pink and fluffy’

I guess, at first glance, empathy as a management skill could be seen as a little bit ‘pink and fluffy’. After all, isn’t empathy what therapists, psychotherapists and counsellors use? Isn’t it a step too far so say it’s one of the key management skills?

I’d say no – based on this definition of ‘empathy’ within a management skills context:

The ability to understand someone else’s point of view, thoughts, preferences and feelings

My view of empathy is that it’s not just about feelings – about being able to ‘feel your pain’. It’s about having a real understanding and insight into your employee’s mindset. It’s about getting to know your employees in some depth in order to understand what ‘makes them tick.’

Management Skills: Empathy – What’s the point?

The simple principle is the better we know an employee the more effectively we can manage them. We know that very few people respond well to the ‘sheep dip’ approach to management. What most employees respond very well to is a manager who takes the time to get to know them as an individual. A manager who can see the world – at least some of the time – from their point of view.

So, how do we develop the management skills of empathy? Here are three ideas:

Empathy Management Skills #1. Recognise, accept and appreciate differences

It’s difficult to be empathetic unless we recognise, accept and appreciate that people in the workplace are different. For example, many of us have very different ways of:

· Organising ourselves and our work – from people with a high preference for structure to those who prefer a high level of flexibility

· Relating to others – from people who are highly extroverted to those who highly introverted

· Gathering and using information – from people who prefer a practical approach to those who prefer the more creative approach

· Making decisions – from people who like to use an analytical approach to those who prefer to base decisions on personal beliefs

The reality is we find it much easier to empathise with people who have similar preferences to us. More of a challenge is when there are real differences. Let’s take a quick example:

Manager A likes to use a flexible, extroverted, practical and analytical approach to work

Employee B likes a structured, introverted, creative and belief driven approach

Can you see the challenge for Manager A? Can you see the frustrations that might arise if this manager doesn’t make some attempt to understand, recognise and accept their employee’s point of view, thoughts, preferences and feelings – to empathise?

Management skills: Staring to build empathy

Here are two questions the manager could use as a start point to building empathy

· What would it be like to have a preference for a structured, introverted, creative and belief driven approach?

· What might it be like for this employee to work for a manager like me -with all my (different) preferences?

These questions are simply about developing a curiosity about our employees (because curiosity is fundamental to empathy)

Empathy Management Skills #2. Ask questions

So here’s a pretty obvious idea. If you want to better understand your employees – their point of view, thoughts, preferences and feelings – why not ask them some focused questions. You could use the work preferences I’ve outlined above. For example

How to do you prefer to organise your work? Do you prefer a structured or more flexible approach? Can you think of any ways we could improve this for you – to more closely fit your preferences?

Or, as a simpler approach, you could ask what I call the ‘golden question’

Is there anything I could do; more off, less off or differently to improve your job satisfaction?

Can you see how this question could get you some real insights into your employee’s preferences particularly around how they prefer to be managed? Can you see how effective this question could be in building empathy?

Empathy Management Skills #3. Listening

One of the key management skills, in any context, is the ability to listen. When seeking to demonstrate empathy it’s vital. However many of us don’t find it easy to listen well – particularly when we’re listening to someone with very different views, thoughts, preferences and feelings! If we want to be empathetic, we need to put aside our own thoughts, ideas and preferences so that we can really listen to the thoughts, ideas and preferences of our employees

Management Skills: Empathy – A Summary

Developing empathy with our employees is a great way of building relationships. It demonstrates that we are interested and respect the individualism and diversity of people and that’s why it’s such a key management skill .