Reframe Challenges to Cope with Uncertainty

Havard Management Tip of the Day - Fri, 05/29/2020 - 08:00

We are all dealing with unprecedented — and seemingly endless — uncertainty right now. While you may not have as much clarity as you’d like, you can avoid feeling disoriented by developing your “uncertainty capability” and reframing your outlook on the unknown. Some common reframes include:

  • Learning. Ask yourself what you can learn from the situation rather than automatically viewing it as a setback.
  • Games. Remember that you win some and lose some.
  • Gratitude. Recognize what you already have and are thankful for.
  • Randomness. A lot of life is random. What happens to you isn’t always your doing.

Without a clear end to the pandemic in sight, it’s important that we develop and sustain a healthy relationship with the things we can’t know and can’t control. These shifts in how you think about uncertainty will help you build resilience and a positive outlook.

This tip is adapted from “You’re Not Powerless in the Face of Uncertainty,” by Nathan Furr

Categories: Management

Keep Your Reader Front of Mind in Your Writing

Havard Management Tip of the Day - Thu, 05/28/2020 - 08:00

Strong professional writing is an essential skill for anyone who wants to get ahead. One of the best ways to improve your writing is to focus on what the reader needs to know, rather than on what you want to say. Make it easier for them by placing the most important information first. Respect their time by keeping your communications brief. Are your sentences four lines long? Cut them down. Always write for an intelligent novice — a smart reader, who isn’t necessarily an expert on whatever topic you’re writing about. To do that, avoid acronyms and jargon: You don’t want your reader to lose focus by having to step away to look something up. They might not come back. Putting yourself in your reader’s shoes will ensure that they better understand — and maybe even look forward to — your writing.

This tip is adapted from “4 Quick Tips to Improve Your Business Writing,” by Lauren Brodsky

Categories: Management

Make Your Virtual Meetings More Interactive

Havard Management Tip of the Day - Wed, 05/27/2020 - 08:00

While you may not all be in the same room, your virtual meeting can still be engaging and interactive. One big advantage is that a virtual setting can lower the bar for participation, so you have an opportunity to glean thoughts and insights from people who ordinarily might not speak up in person. You might use a polling function as a warm-up for discussion and an early opportunity to engage people. You can also encourage attendees to use the chat function, so they can comment in real time. Invite them to participate in the discussion, rather than just talking at them. For example, you might say: “Anita just wrote a great point — and it seems Juan had a similar thought. Do either of you want to go into a bit more detail?” If your chosen platform offers virtual break-out rooms, use them liberally. You might divide people into smaller groups to discuss ideas amongst themselves. You can join these rooms yourself if you wish, the same way you’d roam around the room during a live meeting. Finally, when you’re ready, you can bring everyone back to the larger group with a click of the mouse. You have the tools to recreate the vibrancy of an in-person meeting, so take advantage of them virtually.

This tip is adapted from “Virtual Meetings Don’t Have to Be a Bore,” by Andy Molinsky

Categories: Management

Invest in Talent Now

Havard Management Tip of the Day - Tue, 05/26/2020 - 19:06

As strange as it may seem, the current crisis may be a great time to hire top talent. There are an unprecedented number of people looking for work. If your company has the resources to hire, set up a task force to source potential candidates who may now be looking for work or open to a change. Ask your colleagues whether there are any vendors, advisors, clients, or previous job candidates that they’ve been keeping an eye on, then check in with those people to gauge their current job status. Interview and check references virtually with the same rigor you would in person. Once you’re convinced that you have the opportunity to bring in someone who’s a good fit, learn what motivates them. It’s not always pay — sometimes people are looking for a flexible arrangement or a high level of purpose or autonomy. Arrange to have your candidate speak to senior leaders who can share their vision for the organization and describe the value they hope to build with the new hire. Investing in talent now will help you lay the groundwork for future growth.

This tip is adapted from “Now Is an Unprecedented Opportunity to Hire Great Talent,” by Claudio Fernández-Aráoz

Categories: Management

Leave on Good Terms After Being Laid Off

Havard Management Tip of the Day - Tue, 05/26/2020 - 19:04

Losing your job can be incredibly painful, but it’s in your best interest to handle the difficult situation as gracefully as possible. So do your best to keep negative emotions in check. You want your colleagues to remember your generosity and integrity, so they can be your advocates and support network as you figure out what’s next. Identify the people whom you want to tell directly — mentors, former bosses, friends, clients — and thank them for their support. Sharing the news personally demonstrates how much you value the relationship. Next, develop a plan with your boss to pass along your work, knowledge, and relationships to other colleagues — who will likely remember that you set them up for success. Finally, write a short goodbye note to your team emphasizing what you’re proud of and grateful for. Keep it brief and share your contact information. While it may be hard to mask your frustration, ultimately, your goal is to make the most of this challenging situation to ensure you’ll have a cohort of allies who will be happy to support and advocate for you as you navigate your next steps.

This tip is adapted from “You’re Not Powerless in the Face of a Layoff,” by David Lancefield and Dorie Clark

Categories: Management

How to Manage Someone Related to a Company VIP

Havard Management Tip of the Day - Fri, 05/22/2020 - 08:00

It can be really daunting when you get assigned a direct report who’s related to a top executive at your company. In theory, your team member’s relationships shouldn’t affect how you work together — but in reality, you need to navigate the situation carefully to avoid perceptions that you’re favoring the employee or being unduly harsh to prove you’re not biased. Start by being as open as you can with your direct report about any concerns you might have, and invite them to do the same. They might be experiencing their own problems, such as team members who walk on eggshells or want favors from them. Building this trust will help you develop an authentic relationship. Next, be sure that you use objective performance measures and clearly communicate how you will assess success. This clarity will benefit everyone on the team. And finally, keep in mind that others, from your boss to your team members, may want to tell you how to work with this person based on their own self-interest. While you should listen to their feedback with respect and openness, you don’t necessarily need their approval. Following these strategies will help you become an effective, confident boss while successfully navigating a politically sensitive situation.

This tip is adapted from “How to Manage Someone Who’s Related to the Boss,” by Nihar Chhaya

Categories: Management

Adapt Your Leadership Style to the Situation at Hand

Havard Management Tip of the Day - Thu, 05/21/2020 - 08:00

There isn’t a uniform leadership style that works for everyone all the time. You may need to adjust your style based on the people you’re managing, the context in which you’re leading, or the external pressures you’re under. Some situations call for a more directive style, while others call for a more open-ended approach. Sometimes you need to stick to the plan, while at other times it’s best to adapt on the fly. To navigate this, develop a portfolio of micro-behaviors that you can employ depending on the situation at hand. Start by understanding your natural tendencies. What’s your default leadership style? What’s your comfort zone? If you’re not sure, get feedback from others. Then learn, adjust, and practice. Formal coaching can help — whether it’s by another person or even an AI coaching bot. Finally, work on your emotional intelligence and contextual awareness skills. This can be tricky, but if you’re wondering which style is right for a given moment, trust the people around you to give you feedback. Developing the dexterity to move between different leadership styles is extremely challenging, but it can be achieved, with focused efforts.

This tip is adapted from “Every Leader Needs to Navigate These 7 Tensions,” by Jennifer Jordan, Michael Wade, and Elizabeth Teracino

Categories: Management

Stop Your Mind from Imagining the Worst-Case Scenario

Havard Management Tip of the Day - Thu, 05/21/2020 - 00:15

When you feel anxious about losing things that are dear to you, your mind may imagine the worst. To calm yourself, return to the present. Start simple. Name five things in the room: There’s a computer, a chair, a picture of the dog, an old rug, and a coffee mug. Breathe. Realize that in the present moment, this room is your reality. In this moment, you’re OK. Use your senses, think about how these objects feel. The desk is hard. Feel the breath come into your nose. The goal is to find balance in your thoughts. If you feel a negative image taking shape, make yourself think of a positive one. Let go of what you can’t control. And be compassionate and patient with yourself and others. Being generous in your thinking can help brush aside some of your negative thoughts.

This tip is adapted from “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief,” by Scott Berinato

Categories: Management

Spark Your Own Creativity

Havard Management Tip of the Day - Thu, 05/21/2020 - 00:14

When our daily routines are geared toward barreling through a to-do list, it can be hard to set the right conditions for creativity. Fortunately, there is a time-tested approach — that’s also quite simple — for generating creative ideas. First, gather raw materials in your area of interest. This could mean anything from articles you’ve been meaning to read to the browser tabs you’ve left open on your computer. Then, spend time digesting the material — and looking for connections. Fill in small index card with notes, as if you’re trying to solve a puzzle. Shuffle between the physical cards looking for patterns and themes. Then — and this is the most important part — do nothing. Find a way to disengage your mind to allow unconscious processing, whether that’s by taking a walk, listening to music, watching a movie, or even taking a shower. This may not feel like tangible work, but clearing some headspace will make room for the ideas to come.

This tip is adapted from “Don’t Let Your Obsession with Productivity Kill Your Creativity,” by Bruce Daisley

Categories: Management

Are Your Virtual Meetings Inclusive?

Havard Management Tip of the Day - Thu, 05/21/2020 - 00:13

With more of us meeting our colleagues by phone or videoconference than ever before, it’s important that everyone feels connected and included. If you’re leading a meeting, start by setting ground rules. Ask everyone to turn off the notifications on their phones and to resist the temptation to multitask. Rather than going straight to your agenda items, spend the first five to seven minutes of the meeting checking in with people. Ask everyone, “How are you all doing?,” and make sure everyone has an opportunity to answer. Start with whomever is the newest or most junior, or the person who usually speaks the least. And you should open up as well, so that you’re modeling the behavior. When you’re wrapping up the meeting, follow up with an email or instant message to ensure that people have heard you and that they’re OK with the outcome. You should have multiple touchpoints through various media to continue the trail of conversation.

This tip is adapted from “15 Questions About Remote Work, Answered,” by Tsedal Neeley

Categories: Management

Make Sure Your Remote Team Communicates Sensitive Information Safely

Havard Management Tip of the Day - Thu, 05/21/2020 - 00:12

With more and more employees working remotely, leaders need to set clear guidelines around how to communicate sensitive company information. Remind employees to use even more care than they would if they were in the office. Make clear that personal email should not be used for any company business, and that employees need to keep track of what they are printing at home. If a printed document would be subject to shredding in the office, take care to do the same from home — or refrain from printing it in the first place. And of course, ask your employees to use company-issued devices when working; using personal devices creates problems around document preservation and increases risk. Finally, be sure you have up-to-date emergency contacts for all employees — a cell phone number or another way to contact them outside of company systems. This way, should your company fall victim to a cyber attack, you’ll be able to communicate with everyone. Taking these steps will help ensure your team’s security while it adjusts to the virtual work environment.

This tip is adapted from “Will Coronavirus Lead to More Cyber Attacks?” by Brenda R. Sharton

Categories: Management

Check the Tone of Your Message Before Hitting Send

Havard Management Tip of the Day - Thu, 05/21/2020 - 00:11

When teams are working remotely and stress levels are high, it’s all too easy to miscommunicate. Even well-intentioned messages can be misconstrued. So how do you avoid sending a Slack message or email that could be interpreted as passive-aggressive? One option is to use an emoji, which can go a long way in signaling tone, meaning, and emotion. But be careful — too many emojis could undermine your professionalism. Consider your audience before sending a slew of smileys. As a rule of thumb, try sticking to one emoji per message — unless it’s the very first time you’re communicating with someone, in which case, you might leave them out altogether. Also, be sure to spend a few minutes proofreading your message for typos, which are a not-so-subtle signal that you were in a rush or heightened emotional state when you hit send. Finally, read your message aloud to ensure that it’s clear and conveys the right tone. You don’t want to make a colleague unnecessarily anxious by saying, “Let’s talk,” when you mean something more like, “These are good suggestions, let’s discuss how to work them into the draft.” Putting a little more thought into the tone of your digital communication will make you the kind of colleague people look forward to working with.

This tip is adapted from “10 Digital Miscommunications — and How to Avoid Them,” by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy

Categories: Management

Break Up Your Day with Chores When Working from Home

Havard Management Tip of the Day - Thu, 05/21/2020 - 00:09

When you’re working from home, you may find yourself feeling distracted by your looming personal responsibilities. You don’t have to push aside nagging thoughts such as, “I really should put in a load of laundry,” or, “Isn’t it time to walk the dog?” — you can use these impulses to your advantage. Physical chores may provide welcome relief after hours of video conferences and thought work, and you can build them into your schedule. For example, if you’re having trouble starting a slide deck, decide ahead of time that you’ll walk the dog as soon as you get the first three slides done. Weaving these responsibilities into your workday can help you feel more productive both personally and professionally, leaving you feeling more refreshed and energized for the days ahead.

This tip is adapted from “Is It Even Possible to Focus on Anything Right Now?” by Maura Thomas

Categories: Management

Be Transparent and Reassuring in Times of Uncertainty

Havard Management Tip of the Day - Thu, 05/21/2020 - 00:03

As the pandemic continues to disrupt business as usual, managers must grapple with overwhelming uncertainty about the future. But even when you don’t have all the information, you should be transparent with your team whenever possible. Think about your employees’ perspective, and consider what you would want to hear if you were in their shoes. Allay their anxiety as much as you can — and be honest about what you don’t know. You might say something like: “I wish I could tell you exactly what’s going to happen. We’re giving you updates as soon as we can.” At the same time, don’t sugarcoat bad news. You may be tempted to gloss over information that won’t be well received, but that won’t help anyone. Affirm the your team’s capabilities, and use positive, inspiring language to motivate them. Acknowledge that there will be hard times ahead, but also say something like: “I believe in each and every one of your abilities — and I believe even more so in our joint capabilities. We can get through this together.”

This tip is adapted from “How to Talk to Your Team When the Future Is Uncertain,” by Rebecca Knight

Categories: Management

Focus Your Writing with These 3 Tips

Havard Management Tip of the Day - Thu, 05/21/2020 - 00:01

Writing under deadline pressure is always a challenge, but all that last-minute tinkering ultimately won’t help much if your larger message isn’t clear. Replacing the word “purchase” with “buy” would be like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Instead, take a step back and follow these three tips. First, ask yourself: Do I get right to the point? You need to lead with your central message to focus your reader’s attention. Give enough detail to contextualize your main point and cut the rest. Second, make sure your topic sentences — the first lines of each paragraph — give the reader a sense of what’s coming. These lines shouldn’t just be descriptive (I met with the client at his office in Boston), they need to communicate the most important information (My meeting with the client focused primarily on plans for future growth). Third, use active voice, not passive voice, whenever possible. Jack made a mistake is better than A mistake was made — unless, of course, you don’t want to tell on Jack. If you use these three strategies during the writing process, you shouldn’t need to do as much last-minute tinkering in the future.

This tip is adapted from “3 Ways to Make Your Writing Clearer,” by Jane Rosenzweig

Categories: Management

Leaders, Don’t Just Respond to the Moment — Plan for the Future

Havard Management Tip of the Day - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 23:59

When you’re in the midst of a crisis, it can be hard to think past your short-term response. But, as a leader, your primary focus needs to be on the long term. After all, it’s your job to lead your people into the best possible future. To be able to do that, you need to delegate. Trust your people to handle the immediate response, and provide them with support and guidance to make tough decisions. Your time should be dedicated to planning for the future. You need to anticipate the obstacles that will arise in the next weeks, months, and even years, and set a course for your organization accordingly. If you can focus on what lies ahead, rather than what’s happening now, you’re more likely to emerge from the crisis stronger than before.

This tip is adapted from “Are You Leading Through the Crisis … or Managing the Response?” by Eric J. McNulty and Leonard Marcus

Categories: Management

Design Your Meeting Agenda Around Questions

Havard Management Tip of the Day - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 23:58

A good agenda is the first step to any successful meeting. If you want to make the best use of everyone’s time, turn your bullet points into questions that drive to the outcomes you’re looking for. For example, instead of a general topic like “Budget Problems,” try a specific question like, “How will we reduce our spending by $100,000 by the end of the fiscal year”? Or replace an item like “Strategic Planning” with a challenge like, “What is the key market threat we need to be aware of, how could it affect us, and what can we do to anticipate?” Preparing these questions before the meeting will make it easier to determine who should be there and how much time you’ll really need. Ultimately, a questions-based approach to your agenda can bring focus, engagement, and better performance to your meetings. And if you can’t think of questions to ask, maybe you don’t need that meeting after all!

This tip is adapted from “How to Create the Perfect Meeting Agenda,” by Steven G. Rogelberg

Categories: Management

How to Answer Tough Questions About the Crisis

Havard Management Tip of the Day - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 23:57

In these times, leaders and managers are often being called upon to answer especially difficult questions that you may not know how to answer. But that doesn’t mean you can’t provide a helpful and honest response. For example, if someone asks you about the future of the company, avoid a canned answer like, “I assure you we’re doing everything in our power to weather this storm,” which could come off as dismissive. Instead, listen for what’s behind the question. People under stress are often unable to communicate as clearly as they’d like. You can acknowledge the question that was asked, but say something like: “I suspect some of these questions are rooted in concerns about job stability and how a recession could impact the company. Let me tell you how we’re beginning to think about these things.” Don’t take it personally if people’s questions come off as angry or frustrated. Think about the stress that they’re under, and show compassion. Even if you can’t alleviate the uncertainty of the moment, you can still provide a sense of solidarity and stability that will go a long way.

This tip is adapted from “How to Answer an Unanswerable Question,” by Ron Carucci

Categories: Management

Reach Out to Those Casual Friends You Miss

Havard Management Tip of the Day - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 23:33

On an average day, we interact between 11 and 16 times with casual acquaintances — think your favorite barista or the colleague that you always see at the microwave in the break room. Now that we live in an era of social distancing, these once-common interactions have disappeared, and we no longer have physical reminders that we are part of a wider social network. Reaching out to show someone that you’re thinking of them will make you both feel a bit closer during this challenging time. First, think of the right way to reach out — is it a text, a phone call, an email, a Facebook message? What will put the least amount of pressure on the recipient? If you don’t get a response, don’t take it personally. Think about this interaction as similar to smiling at a colleague in the hallway: Sometimes you might stop and chat, and sometimes you might not. Instead of expecting a reply, enjoy the knowledge that your message is likely to deliver a little hit of happiness for the recipient. Set an expectation for a short and simple conversation — it will help avoid the feeling that socializing is another item on your to-do list. And if you do end up talking, share something about yourself — maybe a photo of your pet or child doing something funny — to help build positive rapport. It may feel awkward at first, but reaching out to an acquaintance will create a spark of joy for both of you while you’re out of each other’s sight.

This tip is adapted from “Why You Miss Those Casual Friends So Much,” by Gillian Sandstrom and Ashley Whillans

Categories: Management

Be Extra Nice to Your Colleagues Right Now

Havard Management Tip of the Day - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 23:31

When you’re under constant stress, it’s not always easy to be patient and understanding with your coworkers. But being judgmental doesn’t help anyone. How can you find — and demonstrate — empathy for your colleagues when you’re emotionally depleted? First, accept that we’re all coping with the coronavirus crisis differently. For example, you may find it helpful to pay close attention to the news, for example, while a colleague prefers to limit the amount of information they take in. Also, be generous in your interpretations of others when they send a terse email or look grumpy on a video call. It’s more than likely that their mood has nothing to do with you or work. Do your part by being honest about what you’re feeling at the moment and clearly communicating your needs. And remember that your coworkers are likely suffering in ways that you don’t see or necessarily understand. Don’t try to compare suffering. Instead, lean into compassion, empathy, and kindness.

This tip is adapted from “What Your Coworkers Need Right Now Is Compassion,” by Amy Gallo

Categories: Management
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