Resources for Managers


In Motivate Teams, Maximize Success (Chronicle Books, 2004) author Michael West provides the reasons for teamwork, ways to build teams and ideas for managing teams in both good times and bad. West looks at the potential benefits of teams, such as responsiveness (because teams can make decisions quickly and avoid long chains of command) and increased productivity.

And for employees, teams can reduce stress and increase commitment. But West points out that not all tasks are suited to teams. One of the book's many exercises—usable as question-and-answer sessions for managers or whole teams—helps readers determine whether specific tasks really require teams. Among the highlights of the book are key questions for job interviews for team positions, learning how to foster a "team identity," dealing with troubled teams and moving an entire organization toward team-based work.

How would you react if an employee wore the same suit and tie to work every day? What if he wanted his dog to have the same level of benefits as his child? This sort of weird behavior is becoming more prevalent in the workplace-and that's not necessarily a bad thing, according to author John Putzier in Weirdos in the Workplace (Financial Times Prentice Hall, 2004). Although weird behavior can be annoying, it also can be a natural byproduct of high performance, which is why American society and businesses alike encourage and reward individuality. According to Putzier, weirdos typically are low in self-monitoring behavior and see themselves as having significant control over their lives and the lives of others. These traits allow them to think outside the box without worrying how others will view their ideas and to take responsibility for themselves and their actions. This sort of outlook often leads to innovation, which benefits the organization. But not all weirdos are good for business. Through a series of actual case studies, Putzier demonstrates how to differentiate between good weirdos and bad weirdos, as well as how to deal with weird behavior that serves only to annoy. Putzier also identifies the needs of high performers and offers ideas on how organizations can satisfy those needs.

Journalist Ann Crittenden calls it a revelation: The advice she saw in management books sounded just like what she read in the parenting books that she used in coping with her new son.

Then a seminar with the latest hot management guru confirmed her suspicions. He emphasized publicly that generals and military strategists were his sources but admitted to Crittenden that much of what he taught came from child psychologists. In If You've Raised Kids, You Can Manage Anything (Gotham Books, 2004), Crittenden says it's time to admit that parenting skills apply to the workplace. Her book, based largely on interviews with parents, argues that people become better managers because they are parents, not in spite of it. The book plumbs how many management tips come straight from parenting:

  • Let them think it was their idea.
  • Encourage the talents that are there, rather than trying to make people something they're not.
  • Let people make their own mistakes so they can learn.
  • Give positive reinforcement to motivate people.

The Team Impact Report, from SHL Inc., consists of team assessments designed to help HR professionals and line managers develop stronger and more effective work teams. The computer-based tool can identify team strengths and development needs and can chart an effective course to enhanced team performance. It also can be used to quickly and effectively identify individuals who have the potential to enhance overall team performance and then evaluate their impact on team performance.

In Managing to Stay Out of Court (Society for Human Resource Management and Berrett-Koehler, 2005), Jathan Janove, a practicing attorney, outlines eight "sins" of management and how they lead to legal woes:

  • Avoiding dealing with problem employees and situations. Managers balk at confronting employees, perhaps because the employees have filed grievances in the past. Or the company might resist responding to clear warning signs, as did a firm whose departments, encouraged to compete, grew so antagonistic that managers ended up in a violent confrontation.
  • Disrespecting employees. A senior executive axed in a reorganization was dispatched according to standard procedure: Security personnel walked him out the door. The humiliating march so angered the executive that he broke into the firm's computers, wreaking $20 million in damage.
  • Rationalization. Some common rationalizations that could start legal troubles: "We're laying you off, not firing you" could mask a performance-related firing. "We're terminating you because you're employed-at-will" invites employees to speculate about exactly why they were fired.
  • Misguided benevolence. The objects of benevolence might end up angry with benefactors.
  • Inconsistency. This emerges if management treats one employee differently from another; treats employees differently from what documented policies require; lets documents conflict with each other; or treats one person in different ways over time. Managers need to note whether the employee is in a protected class and has been treated differently from people in other classes.
  • Letting employees speculate. "Suspicions are always worse than reality," Janove says, such as when manufacturing employees convinced themselves that investors touring the plant were spies for a robot-making firm out to replace them.
  • Letting your managerial perspective dominate communications with employees. Managers who frame everything as "Here's what I would do" or who turn discussion into a cross-examination are guilty.
  • Maintaining a "front-of-the-nose perspective," or dealing only with what's right in front of them.
Janove also describes how to keep a legally safe management journal, recording facts of meetings and actions. An appendix provides checklists to help you determine whether you're a sinner or on the road to virtue.

Author Florence Stone lays out detailed considerations for anyone who is considering becoming a mentor, who already mentors someone or who is responsible for implementing a formal mentoring program for individuals or teams in The Mentoring Advantage (Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2004). Stone starts with basics, including a checklist to help readers decide whether they are cut out to be a mentor. She looks at mentors' characteristics and at common mentoring errors, from giving too much help to pushing the mentored person's career too hard. Mentors must prepare for three stages of the mentoring relationship, starting with a honeymoon, followed by increased responsibility for the mentored person and ending with that person's independence. Stone focuses on both the initial meeting and the relationship's end. A chapter guides mentors through problems such as giving a mentee advice about his or her personal life, sticking with a mentee whom you dislike or feeling like you're competing with your mentee.

Tools for Team Leadership (Davies-Black Publishing, 2004) by Gregory Huszczo is aimed at individuals or whole teams and managers who are thinking of creating teams. Included are tools such as focus group questionnaires, checklists of responsibilities, exercises for teams, chapter reviews and pithy "commandments" to improve teams. A section on creating teams breaks down team types and stages of team development, from formation through disbanding. Huszczo also provides detailed help on selecting team members, such as determining who will choose them, how to notify the chosen members and what ground rules apply, as well as how to structure an initial team meeting. Another chapter lays out how to create a team charter that expresses why the team exists and how it should operate.

Terms of Use: © 2005 Society for Human Resource Management. Members of SHRM are authorized to distribute copies, excerpts or e-mails of this information for educational purposes internally within their organizations. No other republication or external use is allowed without permission of SHRM. The information is not intended to serve as a substitute for legal advice.

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