Friday, August 27, 2010

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine : For Managees

When is the last time you got sick or broke your leg or cut your finger? How long did you wait before you visited a Doctor? One day? One week? A year? Sounds weird, right? You don’t wait to get worse, and rather rush to the Doctor to seek help. But when it comes to your professional sickness (i.e., “weakness” quadrant of your mySWLD matrix - you may call them limitations or shortcomings or areas of improvement), you generally forget to follow this practice. Instead you opt to wait for the appraisal period, scheduled at the end of the year. And in doing so, you end up wasting 52 precious weeks of your professional life. With this article, I would like to put emphasis on you having regular 1:1 (weekly 30 minutes) with your Manager, and discuss how it’d keep you professionally healthy.

I recently asked few people at random how frequently they have 1:1s with their Managers and why. Many of them actually didn’t have any regular 1:1 setup. And they also gave me interesting reasons for not doing so – “My Manager may be very busy, and I don’t want to waste his time”, “I anyways talk to my Manager on daily basis to discuss project status”, “We won’t have anything to discuss if we meet regularly”, “I’m not missing anything by not having regular 1:1”, “I’ve more interesting things to do”, “How would it make any difference to my life”. And the most shocking comment was - “I will come under closer watch and my weaknesses would be more exposed, if we meet regularly. I don’t want to take this risk with someone who controls my organizational growth.”. I sensed two different emotions emerging out of this last comment – Fear of the consequences of exposing one’s weaknesses to his Manager; and Lack of trust between the direct report and his Manager.

Let’s first analyze the lack-of-trust part of the concern…

Have you ever thought what kind of people you interact with on a daily basis? These people would generally fall in one of the following 3 categories:
  1. Those who you know are your well wishers. They have proven this again and again. Your family, your close friends & relatives fall in this category. This is the reliable and trust worthy category. They are caring, they are affectionate, they are appreciative, and they always speak high about you. They generally ignore and unsee your shortcomings. You may have heard your mother saying, “My son is the brightest among all his cousins”; or your wife consoling you on your falling hairs saying, “You have most beautiful hair in this world and I love’em”. You trust them blindly.
  2. Those who you know are NOT your well wishers. They have proven this again and again. Some of your competitors, some of your colleagues, some of your neighbors, some of your cousins, etc. etc. will fall under this category. No matter what you do and how you do it, they will always criticize you. They will always try to find and highlight your limitations. They are jealous of your success. To humiliate you, to demotivate you and to make you fail is their sole mission in life. You never trust them.
  3. The third category is the most rare and precious one. And it is many a times difficult for you to identify people falling in this category. Chances of you wrongly putting them in the second category is usually high. These are the people who actually are your well wishers but they show you “mirror” time to time. They try to show you the Real you. They, when required, will criticize you – but criticize with positive intent. Generally your Teachers, Coaches, Mentors, and Manager fall under this category. They will encourage you, appreciate you, but would also give you timely candid feedback. To keep you going, to improve you in needed areas, to take you to the next level of accomplishments, and to make you successful in achieving your goal is their sole mission in life.
The problem is that sometimes you trust third category people (aka your Manager in this context) but sometimes you don’t. But in reality, it is even more important (and critical) for you to trust them than trusting the first category. These are the people who will show you the vision, help you set your ambitions, and help you achieve them. These are the people who will help you professionally grow, and grow in multi-dimensions. They are your growth catalysts. They help to convert your unutilized potential and abilities into productive output. You need to assume (though I always believe that “When You ASSUME, You make ASS of U and ME”, but in this context I myself am requesting you to assume this) that these people also care about you and that their intentions are pure. Give your Manager a chance, and trust me giving him this chance will open lots of new chances for yourself. Yes, sometimes they are little hard on you, but it’s all for your own good. When you go to a Doctor, he either gives you bitter pills or an injection. But you thankfully accept his treatment (and also pay him heavy fee) because you understand that it will cure your physical sickness. If you have enough trust in your Doctor, why can’t you have trust in your Manager? If you start coupling your Manager’s intent with his actions, the most of the things (perception and trust) will start falling into right place. Unless you couple a Judge’s intent with his action of ordering to execute a hardcore criminal, you won’t find any difference between him and a murderer. So, remember next time when your Manager is giving you candid feedback or forcing you to come out of your comfort zone that he is trying to cure your professional sickness. A noble profession… isn’t it?

Now let’s come to the “I am scared of exposing my weaknesses to my Manager” part of the concern…

When you visit a Doctor (yes I am very fond of Doctors :-)), you tell him your symptoms to help him diagnose your problem. So, if you don’t hide your symptoms of physical sickness from your Doctor, why would you hide symptoms of your professional sickness (i.e., “weakness” quadrant of your mySWLD matrix) from your Manager? When seeking help, it is always helpful to be open and honest with 3 categories (yes, again 3 categories :-)) of professionals – Lawyers, Doctors, and Managers. Unless you really open up in front of them, they won’t be able to use their experience, expertise, tools, and tips & tricks to help you come out of your problem.

So, come out of all your fear zones, and be in regular touch with your Manager thru your regular 1:1s with him. The 1:1 is a powerful platform, where you can discuss anything and everything with your Manager. There are many other forums to discuss project schedules, technical issues and red flags. You might be talking to your Manager on hourly basis. But the purpose and focus of weekly 1:1 is different. It is (should always be) – You, Your development/growth plan, Your myTimeline, Your mySWLD matrix, and, last but not the least, Establishing stronger relationship/bonding between the two of you. The 1:1s are a very structured format for maintaining robust communication with your Manager. When you talk, perhaps you’d get to know some information/facts that will justify few of his past/current actions. Perspectives would become clearer and perceptions would come closer to reality.

And you please don’t worry about wasting weekly 30 minutes of your Manager’s time. They get paid to invest their time in their people. Just think about it - You can get weekly 30 minutes of your Manager fully dedicated to think and discuss about you and just you! This is the most effective way of reducing the turnaround time for taking needed corrective actions to put your career graph line back on track. In most of the cases it will be reduced to just one week (vs. a long wait period of 52 weeks). Yes, I said that your growth is your responsibility. But if you make good use of your 1:1s, you may make your manager co-responsible for your growth. So, reach out to your Manager, setup your weekly 1:1 with him, and make most use of this opportunity and platform.

I will discuss and address other concerns I heard (like, “periodic 1:1s would become boring”, or “there won’t be enough agenda to discuss”, etc.) in my next blogs, "5 Minutes Self Analysis a Day Keeps Professional Diseases Away", and “A Stitch in Time Saves Nine : For Managers” where I would try to help you set agenda for these meetings, and try to make them interesting for you and your Manager…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good Article...
Proactive approach

Sachin Gupta

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