How to Manage Well in Hard Times—Build Three Key Skills
Erika Andersen, Founder/Partner
Q: What does it take be a happy manager in a bad economy?
A: It takes three things: strategic thinking, emotional intelligence, and a passion for helping people do their best work, even in the face of diminished resources.
It would be impossible for me to agree with her more. In fact, I agree with her so much that I’ve written three books that cover these subjects in one way or another. So I thought I’d offer some tools and ideas from them for building your skills in these three areas:
Strategic thinking. I wrote a book about this topic a couple of years ago, called Being Strategic, and—surprise, surprise—I think it’s a really good resource for being able to think more strategically. In the book I offer a definition for being strategic: Consistently making the core directional choices that will best move you toward your hoped-for future.
In order to be able to do that, you have to 1) decide the challenge you’re trying to address, 2) get clear on your current reality relative to the challenge, 3) determine your “hoped-for future,” the future in which your challenge has been addressed, 4) identify the obstacles to it, and 5) make those core directional choices (strategies) that will take you from where you are to your hoped-for future. Nearly any problem, challenge, or hope can be approached this way. An even simpler way of making this approach an ongoing habit of thought and action: turn it into five questions. What’s our challenge? “What is” now? Where do we want to go? What’s in the way? What’s the path?
In addition to this approach, we’ve seen there are three mental skills that can really help you think and act strategically. I explained them in this post.
Emotional intelligence. One of the best tools I know to increase your emotional intelligence is to learn the Social Style model. You can find out more about it here or in another book I wrote, Growing Great Employees (chapter 6 is all about this model). One reason I’m such a fan of the Social Style model is that it helps people develop four of the five characteristics of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-mastery, other-awareness, and relationship mastery.
Self-awareness means having an accurate self-perception; seeing yourself as others see you and being aware of your own motivations, intentions, strengths and weaknesses. Self-mastery means being able to control your impulses and your habits so that you can behave differently if that will work better for you in a given situation. Other-awareness is the corollary of self-awareness: it means having a neutral and accurate perception of others, vs. simply seeing them through your own lens. And finally, relationship mastery means being able to apply your self-awareness, self-mastery and other-awareness to creating excellent relationships with a wide variety of people. We’ve been using the SOCIAL STYLE Model for over 20 years, and it’s a really effective tool for building all of the above.
Passion for helping people do their best work. This one’s a bit harder to develop, but I do have some support for you. I’ve just written a new book—Leading So People Will Follow—that focuses on the six attributes people want to see in their leaders before they’ll completely commit. Two of these attributes are Passion and Generosity. When leaders are both passionate and generous, they’re deeply committed to supporting their people’s success. One thing that can support both passion and generosity is developing the skill of managing your self-talk. (Most of what gets in our way as leaders is what’s happening inside our own heads—how we talk to ourselves about others, ourselves, and our circumstances.) I feel so strongly about the usefulness of managing your self-talk that I put it into a bonus chapter at the end of the new book. But here’s a post I wrote about self-talk a few months ago that might be helpful, too.
I hope you find these references and links useful—and if you know of others, please share them with us in the comments section. Thanks in anticipation…