Find at least 3 good things in your staff today – and tell them

Encouragement goes along way. We know that but seldom do we make the time to wander around and meet our staff at their workstation, which is the place they perform their good work. They want us to see, hear, and understand exactly what they are doing, and show pride in their achievements. We are all proud of our projects and specific attributes we bring and complete at work each day, and who do we most want to share this with – our supervisor.

Seeing and believing that managers know and care about the work we do makes all of it worthwhile. With acknowledgement, we will work late, skip lunch, and of course take on more and more. As humans, positive reinforcement is known to be an all-powerful encourager. Douglas McGregor in his book, “The Human Side of Enterprise” published in 1960 has examined theories on behavior of individuals at work, and formulated “Staff will contribute more to the organization if they are treated as responsible and valued employees”. What we don’t mean, is walking around and expressing gratitude for one’s overall contribution or commitment to the organization. This is way too easy, and only presents as a topical “good job”, and does not get to the core of an employee’s real contribution. Having said that, it is a good start if you are not used to meeting and talking to staff in their work area.

Action: Start by meeting with at least three staff members at their workstations on Monday, ask them what have they accomplished to-date, then find out what they hope to complete by Friday. Take time on Friday to follow-up again. Find the positive items and compliment them on their achievements or progress forward.


Apply creativity to your role…always

Whether it is life, strategic direction for the company, or the next project, my internal questions have always been:
• Do I want to follow in footsteps, or do I want others following mine?
• Does the company pay me to think like others or to create my own thoughts and actions?

Whether intrinsically or extrinsically motivated, creativity is a key component of success and career satisfaction.

“But I’m not creative!” Malarkey. You just haven’t given yourself permission to be creative. Over time, society and self-preservation has taught us to “play it safe” go “by the book” and be “risk-averse”. However, this stifles your natural creativity and limits your potential in all aspects of your life.

The first step in tapping your natural creativity is giving yourself permission to think big and dream.

Giving yourself permission to think big or dream will guide your thoughts and actions toward the reasons you were really hired: starting and completing new projects, shifting directions and planning new initiatives, developing the future of the company. It also allows you to plan the direction your work life will take. That’s the fun about internal brainstorming, no one will tell you why not, or how it cannot be done.

Brainstorming is brainstorming, without being inhibited.

Even though there may be some jobs where creating new boxes may not be encouraged, this should not stop you from integrating this into your routine. Personal growth and development is a process you should always make time for. What a better way than by creating and dreaming to influence and building into you. Thinking big and dreaming can help you and your company, today and in the future.

Most people think their next job movement will be up, of course. But we challenge you to think wide and high, not on the limitations but the possibilities. Think about merging your current or future skills into what will bring you the most experience and self-satisfaction. Motivated employees are always high performers; even if there goals lie outside the current work environment.

Action: Make a list of the skills you have today, then on top of the paper put where you want to get. What’s the perfect job for you; a role you want to challenge yourself to be in the future? Start brainstorming the possibilities and areas to move toward that top future goal. This may involve getting experience outside of your current employer or profession, but don’t forget to think creatively about things you can do within your current setting. Remember that no one is stopping you – except yourself.

This is a great exercise to go through with a mentor. The mentor’s experience can help to identify creative paths to your goal. And, discussing your goal can help you clarify what it is you really want. Who knows, your mentor might already have an opportunity that’s a perfect fit!

Now, repeat this exercise for your team and your organization. Don’t be surprised if there are ideas that apply to all three domains.

Don’t just think outside the box, create new ones

“Just think outside the box” a manager says to a team member.

When was the last time you had your own thought for the company, or even better yet, for yourself?

Thinking outside the box to us means taking a step back and not letting the limitations of the current influence ALL your work.

Another way to look at this is being maximally creative.

Can you step back far enough from your current activities and thoughts to really brainstorm outside the box?

Unfortunately, this can be quite hard for many people to do. We get so caught up in the assumptions and limitations of our day-to-day work that it can be very difficult to get outside this “box”. There is also a significant amount of risk in proposing “outside the box” ideas. Will they be accepted? Rejected? Laughed at?

There is a quote from Robert H Schuller that asks, “What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”

In our opinion the risk and associated fear of failure are both functions of the “box”. As long as your ideas are tied to the current situation, even if they’re outside it, there will be this inherent stress.

Only by breaking from the limitations and assumptions of the current situation can you experience the free-flowing creativity that generates true innovation. Therefore we say:

“Don’t just think outside the box, create new boxes!”


Action: Flipping Assumptions Exercise

One way to create a new box is to brainstorm as if your situation was the exact opposite.

For example:

Issue: We need more revenue
Elements of the current box: 
  1. Our organization is an academic non-profit
  2. There are many layers of bureaucracy to work through for new projects
  3. There is very little money for new-project development
Elements of the opposite box:
  1. Our organization is a for-profit corporation
  2. The structure is flat and streamlined for new projects
  3. There is a healthy project development budget
  • Poll staff for new project ideas
  • Have a new project contest
  • Find new markets/applications for existing products and services


Now you try:

Elements of the current box: 
Elements of the opposite box:


Check out this video about product development company IDEO. They have built a robust process for facilitating creativity and flipping assumptions. In this case they are reinventing the shopping cart.

Video (20min total)

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Coming Soon

Be sure to catch our next post: “Don’t respond to email…yet”

Follow Us

Click the buttons at the right to follow Management Mentor via email and twitter


Welcome to the Management Mentor Blog! We aim to replicate some of the benefits of a mentoring relationship through this vehicle. Here’s what to expect:

  • 3 Categories of content: Organization, Team, Self
  • Practical tips for new supervisors and managers
  • Short posts with actionable recommendations
  • Bi-weekly original posts plus additional posts with updates and links to resources
  • 1-year of new content culminating with a comprehensive eBook by Winter 2013

A key element that makes a great manager is the ability to mentor each and every employee. Every employee should not only be appreciated for their efforts, but should be encouraged to grow and develop their career.

Most employees want to grow, but do not know how to broach the subject with leadership. The misnomer here is that the onus should not be on the employee, but on the manager to take a special interest in staff development. The challenge for the experienced one is to realize how this role fits in their daily work life. If managers think policies, procedures, internal processes, financial stability, etc., is why they are here and what they should spend all their time doing, they are very wrong. Building and growing staff is for the betterment of the organization and the future success for the individual. If this practice gets ingrained into your organization’s culture, watch out! Most everything else falls into place and everyone will want to work for you.

While managers have the burden of responsibility when it comes to mentoring, it is in the employee’s best interest to seek out these opportunities. The benefits of mentoring are well documented and researched. However, the inherent upside of a personal relationship with a successful, experienced individual in your field are obvious. In addition to the rich learning you will garner from this individual, mentors are also ideally positioned to open networking doors, assist with growth projects and recommend (or hire!) you for future jobs.

The Management Mentor is a blog for everyone- those who should be mentoring, and those who should be growing. We invite active participation from readers in the form of comments, emails or even phone calls. The feedback we get from all sides will continue to build skills and experiences in us all. Your positive participation will have immediate results for others. It is amazing what bits of feedback can do.

The Management Mentor.

Stay tuned for our first post and practical tip the week of Jan 23, 2012!