Malhar Lakshman
Malhar Lakshman

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Articles
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Sun 20 November 2022
All successful managers have some form of personality trait or talent that predisposes them for leadership. Some of them may have attained this skillset through years of education and training, while others may have been naturally gifted with this, but at the end of the day, one factor holds true. These talents can be categorized into a Goleman Style

            Daniel Goleman is an American author, psychologist, and journalist, best known for writing a book in 1995 called Emotional Intelligence.  Some of the topics in this book aren’t necessarily ones that pertain to managers, but they can still get value out of reading it. However, the main point of interest from this work is that of the descriptions of Leadership styles, more commonly known as the Goleman Styles. 

            Each Goleman Style has both good values and bad values associated with them, and Dr. Goleman has recommended that the most effective leaders make use of all six of these styles. The styles are as follows:

1.     Commanding Leadership
2.     Visionary Leadership
3.     Democratic Leadership
4.     Coaching Leadership
5.     Affiliative Leadership
6.     Pacesetting Leadership

Overviews of the Goleman Styles

Each of the Goleman Styles has been studied by psychologists and business leaders to determine their flaws and benefits. For more information about the stories, I recommend reading the book Emotional Intelligence. While some of the concepts in this book may not hold true today as a result of further research, the leadership styles are still known to be true. 

1)     Commanding Leadership can also be known as Authoritarianism or Directive Leadership and is most often viewed as a negative method of leadership. In this style, the leader is responsible for making all the business process decisions. Leaders must exert tight control over their workplace and workforce and have a very clear goal in mind with what to work with. This is especially effective within workforces where employees are low-skilled or inexperienced, as well as in situations in which a leader might be called upon to make quick decisions. Commanding Leadership can also ruin direct-report engagement, since no one other than a leader will generally have any input on decision-making. Therefore, it is often passed up on in favor of different styles. 
2)     Visionary Leadership is largely dependent on a leader having a final goal in mind. This leader can then go on to inspire their direct reports and harness their participation and goal setting to accomplish this goal. Examples of these leaders include Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. While this form of leadership can completely allow for a corporate overhaul, it has a major flaw in terms of short-term problems. An example of this can be seen in Gandhi’s journey to free India from British Imperialism. While he was able to accomplish his goal in 1947, his marches were often divisive, prioritizing men over women, and Hindus over Muslims, along with upholding the Caste System, which are all problems that plague India to this day.
3)     Democratic Leadership completely enables all members of a team to participate in the decision-making progress. Any member can come in with an idea and can determine whether or not the idea is worth going forth with by using a consensus amongst other members, along with a final ruling by a leader. Democratic Leadership is particularly useful at getting team member involvement and retaining staff, but has a flaw in its speed, often taking time to come up with decisions. This can be dangerous when quick decisions are required to be made. 
4)     Coaching Leadership is all about Service Leadership. In this rarer form of leadership, a leader’s primary responsibility and first priority is to coach team members to develop and improve over time. This can dramatically assist in retention and engagement and creates a more skilled workforce. However, coaching can often prove to be very difficult, and does not provide an immediate result. This form of leadership is highly synergistic with AIM Insights and the AIM Insights People Leader Certification.
5)     Affiliative Leadership solely targets the feelings of direct reports. The main goal of this is to make everyone “feel good.” This is especially useful in situations where a pool of individuals are in disagreement. HR professionals are often highly adept at Affiliative Leadership and patching relationships between people. This relies on having a strong moral compass and a strong desire to avoid tension. One fatal flaw with this form of leadership is that these leaders are often avoidant of conflict and have trouble making difficult decisions that may cause someone to suffer. In business, there are sometimes difficult conversations that are well-needed, such as talking to underperforming employees. Affiliative Leaders may not necessarily be the best at addressing this.
6)     Pacesetting Leaders are similar to Commanding Leaders in which they are both the primary driver of the workforce. The concept of the Pacesetting Leader is similar to that of a Pacesetter in a marathon. These individuals serve as an example and the epitome of the statement “do as I do.” Pacesetting leaders are often highly motivated, are good at clearly communicating tasks, and are talented at setting trends. These leaders have expectations of their subordinates and know exactly how much work they can do without failure. This style of leadership can also stress direct reports and does not allow for much feedback or engagement. Therefore, it has another similarity with Commanding Leadership in that it is poorly regarded by direct reports.

Understanding what situation to exercise each type of leadership is a benchmark of a talented leader. While Commanding and Pacesetting Leaderships aren’t to be used at all times, they have certain benefits in certain scenarios. The individual fallings and strengths in each style can allow for a balanced leadership style, and overall make a better leadership experience as well. Goleman Styles aren’t a panacea by any means, but they can come together to truly make a leader. 

Fri 4 November 2022
Physical health has been at the forefront of management programs and labor laws for quite some time.  Recently, many individuals in the workforce have been prioritizing their mental health and also choosing to resign from their jobs, especially during the time of the COVID-19 Pandemic. This occurred so frequently that University College London’s Professor Anthony Klotz termed this  phenomenon as “The Great Resignation.” 

            The Great Resignation is generally agreed to have started in early 2021, and as of November 2022 is still ongoing. The prioritization of mental health and consequent behaviors have also left managers in unique quandaries. Employees are more likely to resign, take more time off, schedule for more flexibility, or look for a new job. This primarily affects the age groups between 20 to 45, according to the Harvard Business Review. Consequently, this has the potential to affect managers severely, given that their workforce is primarily comprised of individuals within this age group, as stated by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. So how does a manager assist with their staff’s mental health, while also being a successful leader?

How a manager can assist with Mental Health

            A question that many managers ask themselves every day is “What is my purpose?” At the end of the day, the goal of a manager is to support and unify their staff towards a common role. While most managers are successful in attaining the latter, they often struggle with supporting their staff in terms of mental health. Here are some general suggestions for what a manager can do to help with this.

·       Be Approachable: Many managers have their own offices or workspaces, and as such, despite their attempts to remain close, they end up being further than anyone else. Institute an office hours policy and make yourself available to your employees during certain time periods.
·       Be Relatable: One of the great things for managers about the Great Resignation and pandemic is that it has made discussing mental health problems much more commonplace. Being honest about your own challenges can help employees recognize your priorities. Creating a company culture that is open to having dialogue about this can differentiate a business, and have several other benefits, such as  staff unification, better policy changes, and enhance the mental connection employees have with the business. This can improve retention and create a phenomenon known as affective commitment
·       Overcommunicate: According to Qualtrics,  “employees who felt their managers were not good at communicating have been 23% more likely than others to experience mental health declines.” Do not be afraid to provide clarifying details, and keep teams informed about organizational changes or updates. Be open during Employee 1:1s as well, and create a culture of checking in on fellow employees. It’s always been hard to read individuals, and with more remote workers than ever before, this problem is exacerbated.  
·       Recognize when someone isn’t doing well:  Different people react differently to pressure and added responsibilities. This is known as worker stress; while it manifests uniquely amongst individuals, there are some common signs and behaviors indicative of stress. 
a.      Reclusive Behavior- This does not include introverted behavior, but rather the contrast between this and previous behavior
b.     Change in  Body Language- This once again, does not necessarily mean introverted behavior,  but rather withdrawn activity, slumps, and similar posture.
c.      Personality Clashes- When someone is in distress or dealing with trauma, they may lash out at other people, or attempt to withhold their grief. 
d.     Change in Productivity- Trauma survivors tend to have harsh changes within how much work they can accomplish.

 

What should a manager do after discovering mental health problems?

            Once a manager has been made aware of someone struggling, it is up to them to deal with it in a compassionate and efficient way. No two individuals are the same, and as such, it is generally difficult to come up with a panacea for every single person.  Have 1:1s to attempt to determine the source of the problem, and if necessary, utilize performance improvement plans to help reduce stress on the employee. At the end of the day, while the work is important, a mindset that all managers must retain is that the employee’s well-being comes first. Moving responsibilities elsewhere, offering time off, and similar actions may appear to hurt the company in the short-term, but will create a sense of corporate loyalty, and also win over the employee. Even more importantly, it helps make the employee feel better, and keeps them healthy. 

 How can a manager prevent Mental health issues?

            Mental health issues will manifest themselves regardless of whatever a manager does. However, in a 2019 report done by SAP, the most desired mental health resources were a more open and accepting culture, clearer information about where to go or whom to ask for support, and training. 

            Many psychologists would say that common stressors are what eventually lead into mental health crises. Modifying these stressors ahead of time can really help with these problems. For example, looking into rules regarding leave and communication and modifying them to be clearer or more generous for direct reports can make a difference. Being direct with them can also help, especially when talking about how certain actions benefit them. 

In March of 2020, Katherine Maher, who serves as the CEO of Wikimedia sent an email company-wide to talk about how to mitigate stress. The key phrase here was “if you need to dial back, that’s okay.” There is a reason that Wikimedia is so well regarded by its employees. A company culture such as this is worth its weight in gold. While this email was written at the forefront of COVID-19, much of what was stated in it can still be applied today.

Mental health is a tricky field to operate around, especially when managers need to be as successful as they can be to ensure the continuance and prosperity of their business. However, if a manager properly prioritizes this, it can allow the company to benefit even more than if mental health hadn’t been prioritized.

For those struggling with mental health, dialing 211 can help with any crisis or questions related to this. It’s entirely okay to not be doing well, and getting help is the first step to solving this crisis.

Wed 12 October 2022
Business Innovation is defined as an organization’s process for introducing new ideas, workflows, methodologies, services, or products. The primary objective for business innovation is to maximize revenue, while also working for brand perception. 

            Companies such as McKinsey and Accenture deeply value innovation, with both citing over 80% of their executives believing their future success to be dependent on innovation. However, a growing concern among executive leaders is that not enough people are defining innovation as a strategic priority.  So the key question for managers is “How can managers propose and then continue to implement new ideas?” 

Proposing your Ideas 

            When proposing an idea, it is important to sketch out what problem this idea will address. This is a concept drawn from Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen’s Jobs to be Done Theory, which talks about creating a product to fill a need. While your idea may not necessarily be filling a consumer’s need, it could be benefitting the business in some capacity. 

            An idea doesn’t necessarily have to be new either. The Yellow Taxi concept in New York City has been around since 1907. However, many consumers raised concerns about the scarcity of the taxi, as well as prices. Consequently, in 2012, Garrett Camp, Travis Kalanick, and Ryan Graves created UberX, which raised millions of dollars within the year, and has become a ubiquitous name in the transportation industry. 

            After finding a target problem to fix, managers can then think about how they want to fix this problem. The four most common aspects to consider when attempting to solve a problem in terms of business innovation include the delivery process, location, costs, and participant experience.

·       The delivery process includes how a product or service is delivered, which includes a timeline of when it is delivered. It also can refer to how convenient the process is for either the clients or the vendors.
·       The Location describes where a product or service is offered. 
·       Cost often makes a significant difference in company expenditures. Determining how to offer a product or service and differentiating it from other companies with a lower price can improve company efficiency.
·       Participant or Customer Experience is one process that may not necessarily drive up profits but is worth its weight in gold for a different reason. If direct reports are happier with a process due to its lack of stress or lack of difficulty, it puts the company in a much better light in terms of recruiting.  

Once managers have come up with the idea and planned it, they then have to consider the rigors of implementing this idea. However, the implementation of an idea within the business innovation process can often prove to be as challenging if not more so than the planning phase. 

Implementing the Idea 

            In 1991, consultant Geoffrey Moore published Crossing the Chasm, a book that gave many high-tech startups a marketing blueprint to give their product the initial traction needed to reach the majority of the market, and not dying in the “Chasm”, a term coined for the gap in time between the early adopters and the majority, 

            An idea in the workplace will work very similarly to the technology adoption life cycle. This cycle can get very confusing, but at its core, it is a bell curve distribution.

            Think about when the iPhone was first released. Did it instantly make it throughout the market? No, since everyone loved their Blackberries and Nokia Phones. It took a while for it to make its way into the population. An idea behaves in a very similar method as well. Some people within the workplace will instantly gravitate to the idea and acclimate to it quickly. However, there are other employees who may take longer to warm to the idea. These are often employees who have been in a position for longer periods of time or have more experience within the field. 

Encouraging the Adoption of an Idea

            Clear communication with direct reports after proposing an idea will give managers- and the idea- a lot more support.  There are a few key actions that managers should take during this process as well to help improve reception.

1)     Post throughout the workplace and online- disseminating information in clearly written correspondence will inform everyone about the change in policy. Explain what actions the business will be taking to implement the changes, and also set goals that have to do with this policy, such as trying to fully convert to the new policy within a certain timeline. As always, your goals should be SMART goals.
2)     Explain why these changes were made.  Being open with your employees about what prompted management to make these changes can help them empathize and potentially recognize how management is trying to help them. For example, explaining that a change in policy will make a task about twice as fast as before will definitely appeal to them. 
3)     Provide a way for employees to raise concerns about the implementation of an idea. It is completely okay for an idea to be changed following concerns from employees. It is also entirely possible that an idea may not necessarily be completely perfect for a workforce.
4)     Offer training sessions to help supplement postings of the new policy, especially if it’s a massive procedural change. Employees need to be fully informed in order to properly follow policy. 
5)     Review the changes periodically with employees in 1:1s and use quality rating systems to both evaluate and be evaluated on how well the change has worked for your employees. AIM Insights can assist a business in this by integrating with HRIS software and allowing employees to both be reviewed and to give feedback.

Change can be scary, but can make a big difference in how a company functions, as well as how well they do. Don’t be afraid to make this change.               

Thu 6 October 2022
In a workplace setting, a manager is often viewed as the figurehead of the team, and sometimes even the company. The energy a manager gives is often reciprocated by their staff. A manager serves in a position similar to a quarterback for a football team. Not only are they often calling the shots for the business but are also responsible for setting the tone of the workplace. Managers are also the first tier when delivering employee engagement. As the adage goes ‘People don’t quit jobs. They quit bosses.’

               Employee motivation is defined as the way that a company fosters the daily amount of enthusiasm, energy level, commitment, and amount of creativity an employee brings to the table each day.  This can make a very large difference in employee retention and productivity rates. According to TeamStage and Gallop, motivated employees are 87% less likely to leave their company. At the same time, 81% of employees are thinking about quitting their jobs for better offers. Retaining employees can be hard enough while also striving to motivate them. These issues are often compounded when a company isn’t doing very well.

                Many employees feel engaged in their work based on their company’s success. The better a company does, the more motivation they have for their company mindset. Conversely, if a company is doing poorly, some employees may not be as interested in the company. As a result, they are not only more likely to leave, but also to not have the same standards for their work. So the key question is, “how does a manager engage employees without the company success to assist in engagement?”

Motivating Your Employees- The Platinum Rule

               Regardless of company success, managers have many ways to still continue to engage their employees. In 1996, Troy Alessandra and Michael O’Connor published a book known as “The Platinum Rule.” This rule differs from the Golden Rule of “Treat others as you want to be treated” and instead flips it to “Treat others how THEY want to be treated.” The reasoning for this is that not everyone will want to be treated the same way. Imagine this scenario:

               Manager A has two direct reports, B and C. Manager A is a former direct report that received a promotion and much public recognition for a hard-working attitude and success. She enjoyed the recognition and was looking for a promotion, so her rewards were very fitting. B and C have both been working very hard, and A would like to reward them in the same way that she had been. While C welcomed the attention, B started to pull away from everyone, and loathed the additional responsibilities of management.

               The Platinum Rule states that individuals should treat others the way that they want to be treated and ignores the fatal flaw of the Golden Rule. Not every individual wants to be treated the same way as you do. In the same way that direct reports have Work Orientation, they also have different preferences. A good manager should be able to see how an employee likes to be acknowledged and rewarded, and then act accordingly. This also gives direct reports a feeling of being recognized and valued. According to ApolloTechnical, a site specializing in HR Studies, “91% of HR Professionals believe that recognition and reward make employees more likely to stay.”
        

Utilizing The Platinum Rule

Getting to know employees as a manager and being open to communication can completely change how they feel about their occupation. While the Platinum Rule makes sense in theory, here are some ways that it can be utilized within the workplace.

1)      Talk about communication preferences – Everyone has a different method of preferred communication, while some may view it differently than others. Some people personally prefer to minimize communication to professional discussions, while some of professionals prefer to send memes and personal items in work group chats. Regardless, by opening that communication channel, we are able to use our Slack professionally, and they have added their own channel just to joke around, which others can mute. 
2)      Learn about your Employees - Using a good 1:1 can completely change a coworker dynamic for the better. Understanding what motivates them, what their goals are, what type of support they need, and what they enjoy working with can allow you as a manager to then tailor work for them that they will get the most enjoyment out of. It also opens the door for you to create better incentive programs for them.

Company Incentives

               A company not necessarily doing so well doesn’t always mean that managers can’t afford to help provide incentives for their employees. Not every incentive needs to be financial. While it is important to financially benefit employees, there are other ways to incentivize them without breaking the bank.

·        Casual Friday- In a Five Day work week, with about 50 to 60 hours a week, most people are tired and want nothing more than to relax by the time a weekend comes around. Removing or easing a corporate dress code can allow them to be as comfortable as possible while still being productive. In addition to this, managers should try to make tasks distributed over the course of the week, with more tasks toward the front of the week, allowing direct reports to ease into the weekend.
·        Time off and longer breaks- Time off can be worth its money in gold- especially around holidays. Employees coming back from time off are often much more motivated to work, and are more likely to stay on with a team.
·        Sponsoring education- This may be more expensive, and not necessarily available for every company. However, allowing opportunities for employees to receive higher education can completely change their life, and allow them to be a better worker.

Just because a company isn’t doing well at one point in time doesn’t mean that it won’t get better for them. However, losing a motivated employee base can mean a death sentence for a company. Appeal to the staff, and get to know how they are motivated, and follow up with them. It will make a massive difference. 

Tue 27 September 2022
When a company has a direct report that isn’t necessarily meeting expectations, its managers generally take action. This is not an unreasonable process, since a direct report that isn’t performing can cause complications for the rest of the team members. One of the most frequent actions taken by a manager, or potentially even Human Resources, is what is known as a Performance Improvement Plan, or a PIP. 

               The main goal of a Performance Improvement Plan is to correct an employee’s issues that management has grievances with. At least, that’s how they are perceived on paper. In actuality, PIPs are often used as a way to either remove responsibilities from a direct report or as a way to force an employee to quit of their own volition, thereby attempting to negate the need for unemployment. According to Lawyer Mike Carey, a Connecticut-based employment law attorney, only 5% to 10% of employees stay with a company after starting a PIP. 

               In many workplaces, leaders view a PIP as a “gateway” to getting that person off the team.

What else is wrong with a PIP?

               There are several problems with PIPs:

·        PIPs provide no formal legal protection- Employees under a PIP can still choose to go to litigation for wrongful termination or a hostile work environment. 
·        PIPs often cause additional work for team members- PIPs often mean that employees have reduced responsibilities to display improvement and competence, which often means that their removed responsibilities are passed along to their peers.
·        PIPs require a large amount of maintenance and supervision- A properly set up PIP with a responsible and empathetic manager requires near-constant communication and monitoring, which not only burns time but also can be overwhelming for the employee.

Can a PIP be beneficial?

               The modern-day definition of the Performance Improvement Plan, as stated above, is not sustainable, and overall, just doesn’t benefit employees or employers in any way.  However, a modified format of this plan can work but will be strongly dependent on how willing a manager is to assist the employee. 

How to determine if a PIP is appropriate to use

               The first step of a PIP should be to determine if it is even a good idea to implement or attempt to start. 

1)      Is termination the end goal? Or is the employee too good of a potential asset to consider terminating? Depending on a manager’s answers to these questions, a PIP may not be appropriate. The goal of a Performance Improvement Plan is to Improve employee performance, not intimidate them out of a position. If a manager is already dead-set on terminating an employee, it is better to do so than to attempt to not only patch this relationship and try to repair preconceived opinions. 
2)      Certain issues are better handled with a formal structured plan, while others will not benefit from that. If a direct report is having trouble with meeting deadlines, or similar performance issues, a performance improvement plan will be a good option. However, if they are encountering disciplinary issues, such as fighting with other staff, or insubordination, an improvement plan would not be the best option.
3)      Empathy can go a long way in regard to staff not necessarily meeting expectations. If a manager notices that one of their direct reports undergoes a sudden change in attitude, while also displaying signs of anxiety or depression, it may be best to have a 1:1 with them. Employees have personal lives as well, and issues can easily trickle over from the personal to professional realms. Managers should use this 1:1 to see if there are any underlying factors or circumstances that may have caused this decrease in quality from their subordinates.

Setting up a Performance Improvement Plan

               When setting up a performance improvement plan, a manager should be straight to the point with their direct reports. This conversation should include the following aspects:

·        Who- This refers to not only who will be undergoing this performance improvement plan, but also to whom they will report, as well as a contact for them within Human Resources.
·        What- This will include information such as what a performance improvement plan is since most direct reports will have a different outlook on PIPs in comparison to management.
·        Why- This will generally entail an explanation as to why the employee is being forced to undergo this PIP.  This explanation should include quantitative data, such as how often work was handed in after a deadline or a percentage of tasks that they have done that were deemed incomplete or lacking.
·        How- This would include what would be known as the “Terms and Conditions.” This will be further expanded on, but in short, the Terms and Conditions include what an employee will be required to do as part of their improvement plan. In addition to this, the terms should explicitly go into detail about what will happen if further expectations aren’t met. This is most often termination. While termination is not the desired outcome of a PIP, it is still a potential outcome, and often an option after this process.

The Terms of a Performance Improvement Plan

               The goal of a PIP is once again, to improve an employee’s performance, and help them either learn new skills or rectify previously known misconstructions. Therefore, a set of goals should be set for this employee to attempt. Similar to the goals that a manager should have, these should all be SMART Goals. As a note of reference, SMART Goals are designated as Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

·        Specific allows a manager to put more explicit details on their goals, such as what they may pertain to.
·        Measurable means that there is a quantitative element to the goal
·        Attainable means that these goals are actually possible to do
·        Relevant refers to how the goal relates to company goals and mindsets
·        Time-Bound means that there is a chronological element to the goal

Here are some examples of goals that can be proposed to prospective PIP targets.

·        Employee A must have a task competition rate of at least 75% over the next three weeks
·        Employee F must conclude 85% of their training modules within the next 2 weeks
·        Employee must increase their customer conversion rate to at least 5 customers per week by the start of next month. 

One great way to measure and track these goals you are measuring with an employee you have put on a performance improvement plan is with AIM Insights.

With this advice, a manager should be able to start, create, and implement a PIP. These can be difficult to follow through with but will help not only the company but also the employee. 

 

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