Calm in the Storm

Practical Strategies for Effective Management

Month: December 2014

How to start your new job: Checklist # 5

Personal and oThe Checklistften Over Looked!

So boring. But you’ll thank me in many years when you discover you’ve maxed out your retirement contributions! Seriously, starting a new job is exciting, even joyous. It is very easy to overlook our personal stuff, especially if promoted from within the organization. So go through the checklist!

 

______How much flexibility do I have for my work hours. Is it possible to work from home if I have a major project?

We’d all love to be able to do this. But you need to know the organization’s policies and your boss’ expectations. You also need to be instantly available if there is an emergency. Heaven help you if you can’t be found!

My assumption here is that you work in a physical office, not a virtual one. In the virtual world the rules are the same tho—check the policies, know your boss’ expectations, and have a protocol for emergencies. You also have an additional problem: without “face time” how do people get to know you? Trust you? You might literally use FaceTime,or Skype, or messaging, but many virtual worlds rely too much in my view on conference calls. So think about this one a bit and discuss it with your colleagues. In the virtual world, the people who keep their jobs during layoffs are the ones who are not invisible.

______Have I updated my withholding (W-4)?

Duh. Higher salary? You’d better review, because you may have higher withholding requirements—or not, depending on your personal circumstances. You may also want to take your salary increase and put a higher percentage to student loan debt, rainy day savings, or charitable giving, or all three. Just because your salary goes up, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend more.

______Have I updated my retirement deductions?

This is another often over-looked no brainer. If you got a 10% raise, you could put more into retirement, or even the whole 10%, if you can keep your current expenses the same. Just be sure you are aware of the tax implications.

______Do I have a mentor (or several of them)?

Some people, especially women managers, think they have failed the whole mentoring thing if they don’t have some super mentor in their lives. But I think you should feel free to have lots of mentors—a network of people whose experiences in life and work give you a place to turn for advice. Some mentors are in your profession, but some you may know from other facets of your life. Look around!

______Are there professional associations that would be helpful to me?

There are few things as satisfying in the world of work as having people in the same field to talk to. You can share problems, strategize, make connections, and have fun with people who get what you are dealing with day to day. Here is a place to start, if you are not familiar with professional associations in your field: http://www.job-hunt.org/associations.shtml   Go to their websites, poke around, ask your friends, ask your boss. Not all of them are equally valuable but some of them are extraordinarily helpful. Give it a try.

 

How to start your new job: Checklist #4

Managing!

Ok, your space and your office is set up. You’ve got all the meetings on your calendar, you have access to data and email, and as new manager, you are ready to go, right? Not quite. There are two more areas that I think you need to check out.

As new manager, you have some homework to do. Who reports to you? Do you know their job titles and functions? Their backgrounds?

So here is the checklist:

______ Is there an organization chart on the company or organization website? What is the “chain of command?”

Yes, you know who your supervisor is, but who does she report to? If you need info from another department or office, who do you ask, and what is the protocol? These are important issues for getting off to a good start—and to avoid embarrassment!

______Are there written office policies for the staff about requesting vacations, calling in sick, etc.?

I once started as a new manager where there were no written office policies. There was also an atmosphere of bullying! One of the staff intimidated others and gave herself preferential vacations. Some staff deliberately took vacation time at the busiest season so that they wouldn’t have to deal with the stress. Needless to say, it took both time and strategic thinking to turn that workplace around, and an important early step was to develop written policies. So find out what they are and understand them completely. If there are none and you need to create them, don’t do it on your own. (I’d be happy to steer you a bit on the best steps for you to take)

______Are they consistent with organization/union/civil service policy?

Few managers are willing to go the extra mile and learn the policies of the larger environment in which they work. The contracts and policies are your friend! Knowing them could save you from a load of grief later. And as a manager, that is also part of your job.

______Do I want to establish drop-in office hours for my direct reports or staff?

Sometimes staff complain that they can’t talk to the boss when they need to. Sometimes it’s simply the quantity of meetings that fill his calendar. And that is a real problem for many in management positions—there are so many meetings that there is no time to do the actual job! (My assistant and I used to joke that a good day was when we could look at the “to-do” list before 4 pm!) Think about whether there is a time when you could allow people just to drop in. Or when you can go wandering around the office and visit with people. Be careful, you don’t want them to think you are spying on them, or don’t trust them to do the job! There is a fine line from being available to being a micromanager. Or you can follow the pattern of one of my best bosses (see below).

______Is it possible for me to eat lunch in the cafeteria (or other common space) on a regular basis?

I know, I know. Despite the advice of doctors, management gurus and our own inner selves, many of us eat lunch at our desks, because it seems like there is no time to do anything else. But if you can carve out a half hour three days a week, and tell your staff that they are welcome to sit down with you, you’ll be amazed and how many people will stop by and eat with you. It is great both for your reputation for accessibility, but also for keeping in touch with what is going on.

______Do I have a copy of emergency protocols? Have I reviewed them?

This is so important. Have you ever had a data breach? An intruder walk in? A staff member with a heart attack? A fire overnight? A power loss? Where are the back up files? (You do have backups, right?)  None of these things may ever happen, but if they do, you’ll be glad you prepared.

­______Have I reviewed recent staff evaluations?

Who are these folks anyway? Staff evaluations of your direct reports are your responsibility, so reading past evaluations will help you get to know them better. Good managers set goals with their staff, so you will be able to  see if your staff have specific goals that they are working on. Reviewing their files will also inform you whether or not evaluations have been done in the past! Too often, although individuals are supposed to be reviewed every year, the reviews get forgotten. They can be challenging and time consuming, especially if you have never written one before. But if, in the first few weeks, you discover that Ms X is a problem or Mr Y is absolooootly terrific, it is nice to know whether that has been reflected in their reviews. This is not the place to discuss how to review an employee or how to deal with a problem person, but you should know what is in the files and compare that with your own observations.

 

Next time, we’ll talk about the final points on the check list!

 

How to start your new job: Checklist # 3

Calendar!!

Ok, so your space is useful and well organized, so now what? You need to get your calendar up and running.  Depending on the complexity of your workplace, you may get  dozens if not hundreds of emails a day, countless phone calls, tweets, IMs ….we are all drinking from a fire hose. Most days we are lucky to get to the to-do list by the end of the day. I think this is why so many of us like to work before or after regular office hours, because the constant interruptions are fewer!

In order to stay ahead –or at least not get blind sided– by the unpredictable, it is a great practice to see if we can predict the predictable.  Every workplace has a few standard projects and meetings that recur every week or month or year. Getting those up on your calendar from the start is extremely helpful.

 

Calendar:

______Do I have all standing meetings on my calendar? Do I need to change any of them?

For example, your predecessor had a weekly staff meeting every Monday at 10.  Put it on the calendar for the coming year, or forever if you like. But maybe that doesn’t work for you because you need some time on Monday to prepare for that meeting.  Before you change it to 2 pm tho, check to see if that conflicts with something else you have to do, like meet with other department heads!  Discuss  it with your staff, but if it is truly your meeting, you get decide what is most useful to you.   Maybe your boss meets with department heads on Tuesdays at 10, no matter what.  Put it on the calendar.   Add Board meetings, end of year celebrations–any gatherings of people that take place on a regular basis, even if only once a year. You can add a calendar alert to give yourself prep time as needed.

­­______Have I scheduled regular one-on-one meetings with my supervisor?

This especially useful if you a working in a new office, or geographical area or in a new industry. Not only will you get to know your supervisor better, and she you, but you’ll be able to get a better sense of mission and goals.  Of course check with your boss first.  And always make sure you have something to discuss.  Don’t waste their time either. You can always cancel the meeting if you have nothing to discuss, but it may be harder to get on the calendar than to get off it.

______Have I scheduled weekly staff meetings?

These have to be real meetings, not just coffee and gossip (although that may have its place too). Each individual should report on what is going on in their area so they can ask for help from each other and from  you if it is needed. This is an important part of cross training and succession planning. If no one knows what anyone else does, what happens when there is an unexpected illness or resignation? I have found that some passive aggressive behavior–say, someone in another department making it hard for your staff member to get needed information–may need to be resolved by a phone call or email from you.

______Do I have a projects due list?

What exactly is your job? Do you have to supervise personnel, do quarterly reports, balance the books?  Do any of these entail annual reviews, monthly one- on- ones with budget numbers, client/patient/customer/student lists, staff reports?  Once you know what your job is, you can move to the next question, which is:

______Are important project dates on the calendar?

Maybe all personnel reviews need to be completed  in July, or on the anniversary of hire. Look them up and get them on the calendar, with some lead time to do the work.  Maybe your budget is always due in March. Schedule time on your calendar to work on it in February. 

Yes, all this is a lot of work when starting a new job. But “front loading” the framework of your day, week, month, quarter and year gives you a scaffold on which to build.

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