Increase your business acumen

How well do you understand your company's business?  For many roles, it isn't critical to know the ins and outs of the business model, marketing strategy, sales targets, etc., and you can get by without really understanding the larger context you're operating in.  However, if you want to be able to ensure your team's viability in the short term and advance your career in the long term, it's worth your while to brush up a little on what you don't know.  Understanding the business can help you in your career even if you don't plan to stay at this type of organization or even in this particular industry.  Having worked at a startup, federal and state government agencies, higher education, management consulting, and international development. I can attest to the commonalities across industries and company size.  

Improve Your Delegation By Not Answering Questions

Some management pitfalls reflect a lack of skill, but this one ironically occurs more frequently the more experienced and skilled the manager is.  The problem?  Answering employee questions.  But wait, isn't that the job of a manager - to help employees carry out their work and give them the information they need to be successful?  Well, yes....and the way in which you do it matters a lot.  

3 Types of Meetings All Managers Need

Everyone hates meetings, so why and how do we end up with so many on our calendars?  The truth is that what everyone hates are unproductive meetings.  The format itself is not the problem.  In fact, there are certain things that are best handled with live, person-to-person communication, and meetings can help a team accelerate in a way that a chain of 20 e-mails just can't.  

They key isn't to get fewer meetings on your calendar, but to get more out of the necessary meetings you have.  (And maybe decline those that you really, really don't need to be involved in, so that you have more time for these.)  

Here's a list of the meetings that absolutely need to be on your calendar (even if it means missing other things), and how to make the most of them. 

How to Be a Fair Manager

What does it mean to be a fair manager?  When you have only two direct reports who are relatively equal in job responsibilities and performance level, you don't have to worry about it as much.  As soon as you're dealing with different roles or different performance levels, though, things start to get complicated quickly.  Here are some guiding principles to help you navigate when you need to treat people on your team differently but still want to be fair to all of them.

Should You Connect With Your Direct Reports On Social Media?

As a manager, it's important that you maintain a certain amount of distance from your direct reports.  This is not because you're better than them or anything like that.  It's that you now have a great deal of influence over their livelihood and short-term career prospects, and that creates a power imbalance between you that prevents you from interacting like equals.  The following guidelines can help you to avoid some of the more common social media issues that come up in the workplace.

How Much To Tell Your Employees: Balancing Openness & Appropriateness

Finding the balance between transparency and filtering information is something that even senior executives struggle with.   It could be turf squabbles between your boss and their peers, it could be a possible merger or office move, or it could be financial information about how the organization is doing.  What should you share with employees, and what should you withhold or filter?  Here are a few guidelines that can help you decide what makes the most sense for a particular situation.

The Truth About Innovation: Why Front-Line Managers Play a Key Role

"Innovation" is one of those terms that's been so overused that it has lost its meaning somewhat.  Every organization seems to want to proclaim itself as innovative, yet employees spend most of their time battling red tape rather than coming up with groundbreaking ideas.  When a CEO talks about innovation, it usually means something big, ground-breaking, possibly disrupting an entire industry.  It doesn't seem like something that could apply for a manager leading a small team.  However, managers often have the opportunity to innovate in ways that really matter for an organization.  

Developing Effective Goals for Your Team and Yourself

Setting and achieving goals is a crucial part of the manager's role.  In some ways, your team's goals are your goals, since your job as a manager is to make it possible for your team to get the intended results.  However, using the team goals as your personal performance goals is probably not sufficient for guiding your daily activities, and you may need to break the goals down to make them more useful for your employees.   And ideally, your goals should be much more focused on enabling your employees and not very much on actually producing anything.  Situations aren't often ideal, though, so it's important to know how to frame goals in the most useful way for yourself and for your team.