Christiaan Lam – over de dagelijkse avonturen van een mobiele manager
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Het mini-medewerker gesprek (en de micro variant)

stopwatch.jpgVandaag sprak ik een aantal medewerkers op één van onze kantoren. Een ‘standaard’ medewerkergesprek bestaat natuurlijk niet, maar goed, je informeert zo in het algemeen wel naar zaken als opdracht, techniek, team, reistijd en meer. [Read more →]

March 6, 2009   No Comments

Phases of Competence: Phase I, Phase II, Phase III

Three stagesAs the proverb goes, all things come in threes. And such is it with the stages of competence. It is an easy tool for determining what kind of approach you should take towards an employee, how much of an active and deterministic role you should play in his life.

Phase I
This is the ‘me’ phase. This phase can happen when there’s a lot going on in your life, when under stress, in fear, in pain, or otherwise preoccupied with yourself. Learning wallclimbing (or anything that is new or fearful) is a fine example, where you are just doing what your instructor (coach, manager, etc) tells you, not knowing why or minding your surroundings, but just obeing. And such can it be with one of your employees who is just starting and does not yet know his new world (most Young Professionals for example), has made a career switch, or is otherwise consciously or unconsciously depending on you to take decisions for him.
Phase II
Phase II is the ‘we’ phase. As you conquer your fears, start learning new skills or are climbing from the wall, you are more aware of your surroundings and your influence towards it. Though still dependant on coach for cadres, you have the ability to execute your (newfound) skill.
Phase III
Phase III is the ‘you’ phase, where you have truly mastered your art and are capable of controlling it, where others depend on you for guidance and direction. You are the coach, able to help those who need it.

I can, for example, recognise the aboves phases in my own career. When I started as a sales manager and again later as a unitmanager, I began with heavy focus towards the core business (and the new skillsets it required) and only later started seeing connections, the bigger picture. Only then did I start thinking of ways to influence my environment as a whole and not just my own customers or just my own unit.

In essence, using the theory of the three stages of competence, it is important to recognise when somebody is in Phase I. People then rely wholly on you and sometimes give over control of (parts of) their career and life to you. And especially at such time it is more important then ever to have the integrity to make the right decision for him or her.

September 17, 2007   No Comments

Life balance triangle

Work, home, hobby: an impossible triangle?When I talk to an employee who is in a certain way feeling his life is unsatisfactory, I usually tell him/her about the triangle of life balance. Though there are of course numerous ways to talk about motivation, satisfaction, fulfillment, and more, this is an easy way of letting people look at their own life and do a quick evaluation of where the itch may be.

The life-balance triangle is actually about making sure there is a balance between the major aspects of your life and about coping with it if one of the three major aspects is deficient. The three aspects are Work, Home and Hobby.

Work Work is important in that is comprises of about 40 hours a week, not counting any other obligations you might have beside that. Included in work is carreer, money, collaegues, work that makes sense, etcetera. In short, it is about being content with the work you do.
Home Home-situation means having a stable place to come from and go to in more than just a physical place. It may or may not include a partner or family, children, a place to call your own, etcetera.
Hobby This includes the things you do for relaxation. Be it either sport, going out, playing computer games, hanging out with friends, whatnot. But it is all about what *you* like.

As a rule of thumb you can say that if one of the three is imperfect, having the other two as a backup will keep you on the road just fine. So if an employee has (for example) some troubles at home, you can do what is in your power as manager to make sure his work is alright and point him/her at the need to find something to relas. Or, if your employee has an assignment he thinks is boring/dull/has no nice collaegues/etc, help him and support him to have a stable home situation and has time to relax (or, in other words, do not put too much extra pressure upon that person).

And yes, I know there are similarities towards Maslow’s pyramid, the “Leary’s Interpersonal Behavior Circle“, and other theories. In later articles I will write about the uses of those in (consultancy) management.

So, if one of your employees is disgruntled about something, asking the right questions might help you find what is going on. And who knows, if you are disgruntled, asking yourself the right questions may do the same for yourself.

September 4, 2007   No Comments

Compliment == harassment?

Yesterday a politician was featured on the news. He apologised for complimenting a female employee on her looks. It might be of course that his tone of voice insinuated more then that, but let’s just say that he indeed meant only to compliment. And he was then berated for it. Personally, I think it is kind of silly. We should compliment more.

I say this because one of the deficiencies of our anglo-american culture is that performing well is the norm and failure is ascribed to external factors usually. Being a well-performing person in a contingent of equally well-performing people (or at the least, not failing people) there is often too little reason to give a compliment. You are, after all, just performing your job for which you get paid, right? And giving compliments then might give people the idea they are performing above the norm and expect something for their exceptional accomplishments. So, we do not compliment and the circle is round; we keep the non-complimenting status quo as it is.

Stubborn as I am, I will of course not comply with the status quo. Taking the example I mentioned in my opening statement, if I think you look good, I will tell you so. That does not mean automatically that I have a crush on you. Really. It doesn’t. It means I see that you have made an effort of your presentation towards the outside world in general or me in specific and that I appreciate that. No more. No less. And seeing it an another (sexually intimidating) way can just as easily be ascribed to either party (both sender and receiver, see more about this subject here).

Of course, you might argue that by complimenting on your looks I am ignoring your professional skills. It does not. Really. It doesn’t. Your outward appearance is, by definition, a reflection of your inner state (and therefore a reflection of your attitude towards your personal presentation). Wearing a suit, a tie, jeans or a sweater or just blatanly not caring at all what you wear: it is all a statement. As Oscar Wilde put it: “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances”.

What also strikes me is that when I actually do make a compliment (or just comment in a positive way) people often feel the need to actually ‘defend’ themselves, explaining to great lengths how they came to a certain point and what they did to achieve whatever it is that deserved that compliment. Believe me, you don’t need to. Really. You don’t. If I want to know why, I will ask you for it.

To prevent further misunderstandings here’s the 3 Commandments Of Complimenting:

    1) do give compliments, whenever something strikes you as positive, nice, goodlooking, or otherwise worthy of a compliment.
    2) keep the compliment simple and straighforward
    3) when you receive a compliment, just take it. Say ‘thank you for the compliment, that is very nice to hear’ with a genuine smile.

I hereby call upon you all to help me break the status quo and just give a compliment today, to anybody that deserves it.

And to be absolutely and utterly unabiguous: complimenting you on your looks does *not* automatically mean I want you in my bed. Really. It doesn’t. If I want you in my bed, I’ll tell you.

August 23, 2007   No Comments

Elevator Pitch

elevator.jpgThis week I joined a couple of my commercial colleagues for lunch. During the ensuing talk one of them (RH) smirked and told me about last weeks carreer-event. A consultant for a certain IT company was interviewed for one minute and could not name a single USP for his company.

Bad consultant, bad!

You (yes you, manager and professional alike) should always have a Elevator Pitch at the ready or at the very least some keywords to describe your company in a (uncanny) pitch. Words such as Clarity, Passion, Fun and Competence (or whatever your company has as most important keywords) should spring to mind immediately. Often, the Elevator Pitch is taught only to (sales) managers or like people, but as the example below shows: be prepared, all of you (especially when walking around on a carreer event!).

Ah well, for those who want it, here’s How Not To Elevator Pitch (.mp3 file in Dutch). And, to be complete, here’s of course also some advise on Pitches.

July 26, 2007   1 Comment

MSN/Skype versus Unified Communications

The new buzz in management-land is Unified Communications, by Microsoft. It promises to deliver A Lot © for Very Little ®. Waiting for the IT department to buy, test, implement, usertest and actually use the required servers, mobile devices, software, hardware and new SOP’s could, just might, take some time and money (more about what’s needed here) . In the meanwhile, just using MSN (or Skype for that matter) delivers at least half the promised functionality at… well, zero costs. I use it daily to communicate with secretaries, personnell, co-workers, managers and whomever else is ‘live’ at a certain time.

There are a few great advantages to using MSN/Skype over, for example, regular e-mail. One is that it is less formal and you know that the recepient has at least received the message (not to mention the ability to send/receive messages even when offline). Also, it is less intrusive then using a phonecall. Further, if used well, people can tell you if they’re busy, out to lunch and whatnot. And, an underused functionality of MSN/Skype, you can add a line about what’s on your mind at that time which is, in the consultancy business (where you meet face-to-face once a month or less) a great way of telling how you’re feeling to the world (since you’re usually not in the same room with your long-term colleagues). Not to mention the plugins that start appearing for MSN to do online banking, passing money around, buy music, and more.

To improve the enterprise functionality, you’d additionally need a company plugin/applet where you can immediately see some details about said person (such as function, phonenumber) or even add an Automatic Friendlist where you get connected to people from your own unit/division, pushed from the companies backend systems.

The main differences between Skype and MSN is that Skype has, in my opinion, superior voice-and-video capabilities, whereas MSN has something very handy: webmessenger, so that even in situations where regular MSN/Skype/ICQ/Google Talk/Yahoo Messenger is blocked, you can still get online.

So, to set the right example, you can usually find me on Skype as: christiaan.lam

Go spread the word.

PS: and quoting one of my employees about Unified Communications Lotus Groupware has been active in this field for years, and Microsoft has a disadvantage in this area, so to pretend UC is something all-new would be passing several companies who have been active in this area for a long time.” Seems it’s again Microsofts PR machine working

July 22, 2007   8 Comments