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Enhancing Effectiveness at Work and with Your Life

Tools to Make You More Effective

Enhancing effectiveness revolves around listening to employees, providing timely quality feedback, providing resources needed by the employee and giving employees a chance to shine. Several models are presented to allow an employee and the firm to enhance effectiveness including the tips from Stephen Covey’s book, management by wandering around, and the Pareto rule.

EffectiveWhen business executives of firms with revenues of less than $100M—in both Minneapolis and Atlanta—were asked what three things were most important to them for their managers and employees, they identified enhancing effectiveness, time management, and communication.  QuickRead has featured a number of articles focused on time management and communication.  This article is different.  This article focuses on enhancing effective communication and empowering staff.  It is also one of the chapters from Michael Gregory’s[i] book The Servant Manager: 203 tips from the best places to work in America.  This article introduces some of the concepts from this book and a corresponding video series.


Managers and leaders need to have an attitude to serve others.  They need to be servant-managers and place the needs of their employees over their own.  They also need to be there to facilitate, help, and educate team members.  Managers are evaluated not on the work they produce, but by the work that their team produces.  This should motivate managers to help their employees do the best they can and to consistently work to enhance skills within their teams.  Bringing this type of attitude to work every day really makes a difference.  This does not happen overnight; it has to be cultivated.  This is a trait of uncommon leaders.  Sometimes leaders need to help their managers with these issues, which in turn will help themselves and their team’s performance.


This means the leader must have a sense of urgency and purpose that can be clearly articulated to others using effective communication skills.  There has to be a vision of where the company and employees are going and what it will take for all to get there.  The leader must also have a strong client focus.  The leader has to be flexible to adapt to customer and other stakeholder needs.  The leader has to be creative and actively listen to gain a good understanding of those stakeholder needs.  Listening is key.  Many managers and leaders see their role as problem solvers.  Effective leaders and managers ask others what they think they should do and work with their employees and team members to help each other develop best solutions.  Experienced, successful leaders and managers are not problem solvers, but solution providers that help others coming to them with questions to solve problems going forward.  This all begins with listening.


The organization has to be willing to invest in its people on, not only the bottom line skills, but the behavioral skills too.  A best practice learned from others is to have a mentor for everyone.  Good mentors should be chosen outside of their chain of command.  These mentors can be an excellent sounding board for any issues the mentee has.


For an individual operating alone or for a small firm, this may be peers in other firms, associates from professional networks, friends, or family members.  For a larger firm, these may very well be not only peers, associates, friends, and family members, but also others in leadership positions outside of their chain of command.


Leaders should give and team members should expect to receive timely quality feedback.  The best places to work:


  • Provide timely quality feedback (often weekly and recognize employees for a specific positive contribution);
  • Provide the resources employees need to get the job done; and
  • Give employees a chance to shine.


With busy schedules and wider spans of control, managers may find it difficult to provide timely quality feedback weekly (that is the goal).  Could this be delegated to team leads?  Technical leaders?  Delegation is another issue and requires good clear communication by the delegator to the delegatee.  The key is timely quality feedback to allow the employee to improve and reinforce what the employee is doing right.  In The Servant-Manager book, I offer six specific tips on how to properly delegate and to accept delegation as the delegatee to ensure good communication.


When providing resources to employees, employees need to get the job done with the resources the employee needs.  This means from the employees perspective.  What technical support as well as encouraging support might be needed?  This may vary by individual and so should be structured to each individual.  In addition, it is important not to micromanage.  Remember, this is from the employee’s perspective.  Generational differences also need to be considered since we are all shaped by the experiences of our generation and we need to consider the experiences of others shaped by their generational experiences[ii].


This may raise the issue of having an individual development plan[iii].  An individual development plan identifies actions to take to prepare the individual potentially for another position with enhanced skill demands or to simply enhance skills going forward.  The key is developing the employees strengths for a win-win scenario.


When the employee comes with a question, ask the employee, “What do you think we should do?”  Ask the employee to always come with at least one solution when raising an issue.


Give employees a chance to shine.  Think of this in terms of making the employee feel important and valued in front of the group or a wider audience.  As a front line manager this may involve making a presentation in front of the group, sharing a best practice, congratulating the employee, and recognizing the employee.  What makes sense with your group?  For second level managers and teams, this may involve exploring wider needs and seeing if a cross functional team may be needed and, if needed, selecting the best employees for these action teams.  These activities may last for longer periods of time and involve a detailed action plan.  Team members should be recognized for their individual and team efforts.  With corresponding recognition, rewards, and advancement by team participants, employees will see the results and want to be on such teams.


Often new managers have to turn everything they thought they knew on its head.  They are not evaluated by how hard they work, how well they did in school, or how good they were technically, but rather they are evaluated on how well their team performs.  They cannot push a rope.  They can only pull a rope.  They can’t teach an eagle to swim or a fish to fly, but they can draw upon the strengths of the team to make the team perform at the highest level possible.  A chain is only as strong as its weakest link’s ability to leverage strengths.  Therefore everyone needs to make sure the weakest link is as strong as possible.  Those leaders that state, “I don’t expect anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do” have missed the boat.  Maybe everyone can’t do everything as good as the former top technician in the group (who is now the manager).  Good technical skills are needed by front line managers; but the real key is in coaching the team and developing the team to perform at its highest level.


Leaders are evaluated on their leadership skills, meeting business metrics, exceeding customer satisfaction, addressing employee satisfaction, and development of staff and self.  This includes both hard and soft skills.  Building relationships builds trust.  Clear delegation by the delegator and a clear understanding by the delegatee regarding skills, training, responsibility, and authority are key.  Listening effectively to understand is another key.  Both the delegator and the delegate need to want to listen.  Interactive lessons on listening are critical to this process.


There are many lessons that tie into this process, including communication skills, issue resolution skills, and fostering trust.  Ninety percent of managers believe they are good communicators, whereas only thirty percent of employees think managers are good communicators.  This is a clear disconnect.  Common mistakes by managers often include a mistaken attitude towards power, one way communication, halfway delegation, and micromanaging.


So with all of this setting the stage, how can you improve your effectiveness?


  • Look for and sell opportunities for yourself and your team;
  • Read and apply The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey[iv];
  • Hope for the best, but plan for the worst;
  • Manage by wandering around and developing relationships, ask what others are doing, and ask what you can do to help them;
  • Follow the Pareto “80-20” rule and focus on the twenty percent that give you eighty percent of your results etc.;
  • Develop the strengths in yourself and others; and
  • Surround yourself with positive people and avoid negative people that pull you down.


That’s it in a nutshell.  By developing competent subordinates that feel empowered by the way they have been treated, the organization can go from being another competitor in the field to performing at an exceptional level.  Whether you are the manager or the subordinate, do all you can to help your organization perform at as high a level as possible and you will obtain success.


These concepts are presented, and more fully explored in a video of mine that contains practical commentary, to help viewers explore how one can enhance effectiveness.  Whether this is new to you or you are an expert, you are sure to learn some ideas to help you improve your effectiveness in our increasingly diverse world.  This and other tax topic and leadership videos are available at www.mikegeg.com

[i] Michael Gregory worked for the IRS for 28 years as a specialist through executive level.  Twice he was nominated by his employees and received the honor of IRS civil servant of the year in his career; both as a front line manager and a territory manager.  In 2011, he founded Michael Gregory Consulting, LLC.  His web page is www.mikegreg.com offering his videos and books.  He can also be reached at (651) 633-5311.

[ii] http://www.wmfc.org/uploads/GenerationalDifferencesChart.pdf 9-21-2015

[iii] http://hr.commerce.gov/s/groups/public/@doc/@cfoasa/@ohrm/documents/content/dev01_006607.pdf 9-21-2015

[iv] https://www.stephencovey.com/7habits/7habits.php

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