Author Topic: Mustachian's have advice on management?  (Read 525 times)

fpjeepy

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Mustachian's have advice on management?
« on: March 19, 2020, 07:17:47 PM »
I'm looking for some reading to help me put some words to my thoughts. Can anyone recommend any reading on management? I apologize if this should be posted in off-topic, but I don't have enough posts to post there yet.

In short, I have some employees that I manage that are good at listening to what I ask them to do and can properly cruise through small hiccups or open-ended problems. Others are more self-proclaimed "artists" or poor man's Martha Stewarts. Hypothetical example, the task was drill a whole through a wall and run a wire through it. Employee A is done in 15 mins and asks for another task. Employee B spends 15 mins thinking about it then wants to discuss options with me. What size hole? Where look best? Can we protect the wire from the edges of the plywood? Should we consider heavier wire?

My last job called this mind f@$^ing. Is there a more eloquent name?

I want to encourage them, but I want them to recognize that their desire to put their own spin on everything is rooted in their own ego, not in them wanting to be a good detail-oriented employee.

Personally I hate being treated like I need to be a better robot. So I don't want to treat them that way, but we get paid to complete things, how can I incentivize them for that to be their priority? How can I give them an outlet for their creativity?

mozar

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Re: Mustachian's have advice on management?
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2020, 09:28:20 PM »
Have you tried telling them directly that it's more important to do things quickly? A lot of management books just teach you how to be direct.
IMO that second person seems like they're in the wrong job if you call being detail oriented mind fucking.

Systems101

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Re: Mustachian's have advice on management?
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2020, 09:39:14 PM »
Can anyone recommend any reading on management?
(snip)
I want to encourage them, but I want them to recognize that their desire to put their own spin on everything is rooted in their own ego, not in them wanting to be a good detail-oriented employee.

Why do you say it's ego?  Is that an assumption?

Can you distinguish "ego" or "outlet for creativity" from "terrified to get something wrong"?  What markers would you use to distinguish those underlying thoughts?

It sounds to me like you aren't communicating with your staff sufficiently... and while I have but a few lines you posted here, those lines lack sufficient evidence for me to say the problem isn't you (at least in their mind).  Have you ever (nicely) played the "5 whys" game starting with why they asked the question they asked?   You may find they feel you haven't clearly articulated the task, so they ask questions due to the uncertainty that they feel emanates from you.  Are you hostile when a mistake is made?  (because they may be trying to avoid THAT punishment because it's worse than the "I'm acting too slow" punishment).  The "mind f******" comment seems like it comes from management that doesn't know how to actually manage and inspire people, so I wouldn't be using their world view as a role model.  YMMV.

I would recommend a number of things:
  • Go read about Situational Leadership.  You don't have to take the classes, just read enough on the web to get the general gist.  Then think about how you need to treat each employee, because they are likely in different levels of maturity/need.
  • Go read about DISC.  Again, probably no need for a class, but get familiar what each of the letters mean and what that means for how folks will act (and expect you to act).  This is a communication style model.  Conscientious folks may want a checklist written down even if others will ignore it.  Dominants will want to know "why" it needs to be done (but not "how"), so if they don't have the full picture, you will get pushback (but those questions may be "how" questions because you are communicating in details rather than the big picture, so they will question in your frame and boundary test with small, sometimes pointed, questions.
  • Go read "Finnegan's Way: The Secret Power of Doing Things Badly" for an interesting perspective on producing action to overcome fear.
  • Go read "Turn the Ship Around!".  This gets into what it takes to lead with intent (hint: Lots of communication & training) and raises some points about empowerment (or actually not empowerment).  It would mean you don't communicate "put a hole here and run a wire through it", you actually articulate clearly the end goal, and they do what is necessary to get there, including, if necessary, a hole in the wall with a wire run through it.

This is not to say you will agree with all of these things... you probably won't.  But they do give some interesting perspectives.  There probably other things I'd recommend after that, but those give you some key - and diverse - starting points

fpjeepy

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Re: Mustachian's have advice on management?
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2020, 07:05:33 AM »
 I guess the problem in my situation is 95% of the time no creativity is needed. We build boats. The naval architect designs them with the client, the owner of the company, the interior designer and the head engineer. By the time it gets to me as a manager of construction everything has been figured out. Our task is to build things as fast as we can. I get frustrated when these creative types want to make design changes because that is not our job. Giving feedback to the people designing that would make things go faster next time might be a useful exercise, but nothing needs to change on this one.

I say ego, because there is no reason for the decision other than it was their idea.

Example:
The guys pull fillets of glue between panels before covering with fiberglass. They use a small plastic tool called a fillet puller. They didn't have any so I was explaining to one of my employees how to make some more for them. I described a parallelogram with the two diagonal acute angles having a radius corner. The employee asked, "Can I make it a trapezoid instead and put the two acute angles on the same side?" I asked why and he said "I think it will be better" which means I don't have a reason other than it's my idea.  I said sure because it doesn't matter really, and I don't want to stomp on their creativity when I don't have to.

Sometimes I will test them. There will be two ways to do something. "My way" and "their way" I'll explain why I have done it this way in the past, and let them defend their position. And then I'll let them choose which options to go with, even though I have made it clear which is the better option, but they will still choose their idea because "I still think this way is better"

I am sure I could be better at communicating. Everyone can. But I'm also working 70 hours a week trying to complete my own tasks.

I will definitely read the books you are suggesting. Thank you for that.

The question I'm hoping to answer is, How do I channel their creativity? I want them to creatively come up with solutions that make things go faster rather than creatively try to make changes to the design. Or do I just tell them this job is not a good fit for them, and they need to find a different place for them to be creative?

Sibley

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Re: Mustachian's have advice on management?
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2020, 08:29:09 AM »
Askamanager.org will have lots of posts in the archives that will help you.

fpjeepy

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Re: Mustachian's have advice on management?
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2020, 09:32:10 AM »
Askamanager.org will have lots of posts in the archives that will help you.
Thank you

Laura33

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Re: Mustachian's have advice on management?
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2020, 10:07:08 AM »
Why don't you just tell them that directly -- that the priority right now is getting the job done quickly?  Then just repeat every time.  Them:  "Hey boss, can I try XYZ?"  You:  "if it will make the job faster."  Them: "Why that way, why can't we do it this way?"  You: "Because it's faster this way.  But if you think you can do it faster that way, then do it."  Then monitor/track how quickly they are working, and reward the ones who really are doing it more quickly, and criticize the ones who are slow.

I am sensing not just frustration but disdain for those employees who are asking a bunch of different questions and not quite getting your message -- in particular, the idea that this is all about their ego implies that they are behaving this way on purpose, even though they know it annoys you.  I think you need some more knowledge about how people process and communicate, because I will bet you almost any amount of money that these guys are asking these questions and behaving this way because that's how their minds work.  And if you want to be a good manager, you need to communicate with them in a way that they can hear it -- meet them where they are, instead of expecting them to be you.  And that starts with finding a way to put aside your disdain for the way their minds work and start trying to figure out what their drivers are and then how you can appeal to that.

Believe me, I get the frustration.  I am a fast thinker and fast mover.  Bullet points are my favorite thing in the world, because I can grasp the concept easily enough and don't need to spend time having it all explained to me.  Basically, I see my area of work as sort of a superstructure -- I know how it all fits together, so I need only enough data to figure out where this particular issue fits within that superstructure.  OTOH, I used to work with this associate who was just constitutionally unable to give me bullet points -- it was always 5-page memos, going into this in-depth analysis on what to me was obvious and/or irrelevant minutiae.  Drove me batshit.  But I finally figured out that she was a ground-up thinker:  she didn't have a superstructure like I did; for every new project, she had to look at each individual brick, and then put them together, one on top of the other, to build up a wall to get to the conclusion.  And if she tried to skip any of the steps, then that would make holes in the wall, and the whole thing would be at risk of falling down until she plugged those holes. 

My getting frustrated and impatient with her was not helping.  In fact, it made the situation worse, because she became more self-conscious about the level of detail, but then also became more worried about being wrong if she moved quickly and left holes.  I needed to accept that this was how she processed, and then help her learn to keep that processing from interfering with my doing that job.  She's never going to be the person who can just whip out bullet points in 10 minutes -- she needs an hour to write it up.  But she could learn to take that writeup and then distill it down into bullet points before presenting it to me. 

One of the biggest management flaws out there -- or, indeed, human flaws -- is to assume that everyone thinks like you.  And it's such a normal assumption, right?  Because you have only one data point, so why wouldn't you assume that others think that way too?  But the flip side of that is that when people don't respond the way you expect them to, you assume that they must be doing so on purpose -- that they're either stupid and can't comprehend it, or that they get it but are being intentionally obtuse for some reason of their own.  And that is tremendously damaging to any kind of relationship. 

So if you want to manage these guys effectively, why don't you start from assuming that they're behaving this way because that's how their brains work?  That they can't just sit down and do X until they understand it, or have evaluated all the ways of doing it, or whatever?  Then work to meet them where they are.  If you know this is a guy who needs to understand how his job fits into the big picture, take an extra two minutes and explain that to him.  If you know that guy likes to question how things are done, then direct that creativity towards a target that meshes with your priorities (speed).  Etc.

fpjeepy

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Re: Mustachian's have advice on management?
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2020, 11:14:50 AM »
Why don't you just tell them that directly -- that the priority right now is getting the job done quickly?  Then just repeat every time.  Them:  "Hey boss, can I try XYZ?"  You:  "if it will make the job faster."  Them: "Why that way, why can't we do it this way?"  You: "Because it's faster this way.  But if you think you can do it faster that way, then do it."  Then monitor/track how quickly they are working, and reward the ones who really are doing it more quickly, and criticize the ones who are slow.
This is simple, and I do this, but I can work on doing it more often and better.

I am sensing not just frustration but disdain for those employees who are asking a bunch of different questions and not quite getting your message -- in particular, the idea that this is all about their ego implies that they are behaving this way on purpose, even though they know it annoys you.  I think you need some more knowledge about how people process and communicate, because I will bet you almost any amount of money that these guys are asking these questions and behaving this way because that's how their minds work.  And if you want to be a good manager, you need to communicate with them in a way that they can hear it -- meet them where they are, instead of expecting them to be you.  And that starts with finding a way to put aside your disdain for the way their minds work and start trying to figure out what their drivers are and then how you can appeal to that.

I would not say that I find these employees unworthy of respect. I like these employees. That is why I am here. I want to help them become better employees. I know for me personally, this was a maturing process that I had to go through and I watched coworkers also mature or fail to do so and be let go. I am a creative type myself. I loved putting my own trademark on things. It gave me some ownership of the final product that was delivered. But I learned that it was my ego that drove this, and it was selfish for me to waste my boss's money to pay me to put my own flair on things that provided no benefit to the end-user or the company I worked for. I learned that I could be creative in a different way by coming up with ways to do my job faster or produce a better product, or use less material, etc. This was a creative outlet for me, but I was saying my boss money rather than spending it.


Laura33

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Re: Mustachian's have advice on management?
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2020, 03:12:32 PM »
I am a creative type myself. I loved putting my own trademark on things. It gave me some ownership of the final product that was delivered. But I learned that it was my ego that drove this, and it was selfish for me to waste my boss's money to pay me to put my own flair on things that provided no benefit to the end-user or the company I worked for. I learned that I could be creative in a different way by coming up with ways to do my job faster or produce a better product, or use less material, etc. This was a creative outlet for me, but I was saying my boss money rather than spending it.

This is really useful backstory.  And it is also a good place to remember that everyone doesn't think like you.  Just because in your case it was ego-driven doesn't mean that is what is driving your employees.  Spend some time trying to figure out what motivates them to act the way they do, and what might appeal to them to persuade them to use their talents for good. 

You remind me a little bit of me and my DD -- in some ways, she was so like me that I wanted to "save" her from making the same mistakes I did.  That totally did NOT work -- we're talking serious crash and burn -- and so finally I had to accept that she was one of those hard-headed kids who needed to learn for herself through her own mistakes, and all I could do was try to keep her generally on course.  Maybe these guys get under your skin because they remind you of yourself before you had your come-to-Jesus moment?  If so, maybe a little more emotional distance might help.  Remember, it's not your job to "fix" them; it's your job to lay out the expectations clearly, give them opportunities/support to learn and improve, give them honest feedback (both good and bad), and then to reward them when they do well and let them go if they can't get to where you need them to be.  IOW, your job is the process, not the end result.  I suspect if you just focus on repeating the same mantra -- it's all about speed, show me how this makes things faster/more efficient and I'm 100% behind you, oops that took too long please pick up the pace, etc. -- and make sure that their incentives are aligned with the behavior you want to see, then the employees who you'll want to keep will eventually get there.

PS:  also great to praise their creativity and initiative right before redirecting them to use those powers to speed-the-f-up!