Expert Tips On Time, Task And Employee Management

Interview With Cameron Morrissey
Management plays an important role in the success of any type of business, whether its online or offline. An excellent manager knows how to lead his team and generate desired results. However, management is tricky, since it is not just about managing yourself, but the entire team. It is more of a “one for all and all for one” concept. Apart from people management, there are other points a manager should consider before taking up a managerial position. To discuss these points, I interviewed Cameron Morrissey, who is the author of The Manager’s Diary: Thinking Outside the Cubicle. Cameron has been a manager for more than 20 years and his tips and guidelines would be extremely helpful to novice and experienced managers alike. Cameron is also a blogger and he shares his experiences in his blog The Manager’s Diary.

1) Please tell us more about yourself?

Cameron: Well, I am the author of The Manager’s Diary: Thinking Outside the Cubicle which has been published on six continents (and I’m just waiting for a Barnes & Noble to open in Antarctica so we can knock off the last one). My career has spanned over 20 years and includes management positions in a broad range of organizations from Fortune 500 companies and government entities to small companies. This wide range of experience provides inspiration for my Blog, Facebook, and Twitter content, with over 400,000 subscribers.

2) What are the salient points which acts as protocols for a manager?

Cameron: Wow, seems like a broad question, but I think we can boil it down to the following: Your role as a manager is to get the best out of your people in alignment with the mission of the company. How you do that is where the “art” of management comes into play. While the specific methods may vary from organization to organization, and often even department to department, they should address the following areas:

  • Goal setting and monitoring
  • Employee feedback (both upstream and downstream)
  • Employee development
  • Continuous process improvement

Notice that half of the above points relate directly to the employee and the other two relate indirectly to the employee. A successful manager works THROUGH his/her people to achieve the mission of the company. Protocols are great, but will only be effective to the point you involve/serve your team.

3) What would be your tips for managing employees?

Cameron: I’ve been asked this over and over again, and the advice I always give on managing people is to communicate WAAAAAAYYY more than you think is necessary. You simply cannot communicate too much, I’ve never seen a manager who needed to dial back the quantity of their communication. The reason is that communication brings about clarity:

  • Clarity of goals
  • Clarity of duties
  • Clarity of outcomes
  • Clarity of vision
  • Clarity of perspective
  • Clarity of purpose
  • Clarity of results

So many managers do all of the right things, yet their output is marginalized due to miscommunications or misunderstandings. Now many of us think we communicate enough, and communicate clearly, but my observations are that there still is a clarity gap that needs to be filled. By “over-communicating” you are erring on the side of getting to that clarity.

4) How to resolve difference of opinion in a team?

Cameron: Well we could be talking about two things, personal differences or professional differences. Personal differences or conflicts between team members are always tough. What I try to do is to bring them both in and listen to both sides (sometimes together, sometimes separately depending on the issue). Then I try to facilitate the understanding of where each side was coming from. Nine times out of ten, it is a simple misunderstanding and once you get involved to mediate it quickly dissipates. The key is to acknowledge both sides, clear away the misinterpretations of the issue and its motivation, and chart a course for moving forward.

Professional differences are more fun, at least they are for me. If you set an environment where everyone is working towards the same goal, then conflict of ideas/opinions becomes a positive thing. I love being passionate about my work and seeing others be just as passionate. When that occurs there will be some “loud discussions”, but there should also be smiles, handshakes, and pats on the back when it’s over. There are two keys to getting the most out of professional differences of opinion once that culture is set. First, focus on the ISSUE not the person making the argument. Second, someone has to be empowered to make a decision RIGHT THERE and everyone must agree to leave differences in the meeting room and set to work on the decided course with full backing. Passionately discussing your opinion is an empowering act that you want to be able to foster within your team.

5) What are the processes which are required for managing tasks?

Cameron: As much as there is a whole industry devoted to this, I don’t think there are any true mysteries to the core issue. It all comes down to deadlines and priorities. If you know what the priority of your tasks are and what deadlines you are under you can ensure you are matching your time to meet both. When they conflict, you need to seek the direction of your boss or make the hard decision yourself, sometimes priority trumps deadline, and sometimes deadlines are set in stone.

6) What are the most common mistakes made by novice managers?

Cameron: By FAR the most common mistake is not delegating. Novice managers have ascended through the ranks by producing good work themselves, which is completely different than producing work THROUGH people. Therefore they have a tendency to take every issue they come across and run with it personally, thus burning themselves out and leaving no time to actually manage. This leads to complete failure if not addressed.

How I have dealt with this in the past is to explain to new managers that they need to select a “wingman” from amongst their team for every project/issue that comes across their desk, because invariably they will get pulled away for an emergency and if they don’t have someone to take over, the project/issue will be left to wait, and over time they just pile up. This is my way of giving them a practical reason and practical direction for what they will subconsciously feel is “not doing their job”. This has worked really well in the past and leads right into their second lesson which is empowering their team so they don’t address the issue at all.

7) How to handle stress on a day to day basis?

Cameron: That’s one of the best questions to ask in this day and age! While I’m sure every generation has a claim to being the most stressed out, I think we may have the technological trump card. I find the biggest thing is to carve out time every day to unplug from your smartphone. The reason is that the “always on” nature of culture today leaves no time to recover. Giving yourself a break gives you a chance to recover from the irate customer you just dealt with, the delays in production, and all of the other things you’ve been saddled with. Think of it from a Sports perspective; If there were no time-outs, half-times or off-seasons, how well would they perform? There are plenty of times when you can pull away and nobody will fault you: Going to the gym, dinner with the family, hiking, biking, sleeping, etc. Carve out time AROUND these events for even more impact.

I’ll go ahead and tackle the next one and that is lunch. Take it AWAY from your desk. If you are under a real time crunch then keep it to a half hour, but I find it essential to break away in the middle of the day, reflect, and then come back strong for the second half (to use the sports analogy again).

8) What would be your tips for time management?

Cameron: Time management is all about priorities. Too much of our time is spent on the minutiae of the job and not tackling the BIG things. I mean, when was the last time you had an hour alone to strategize the coming quarter? When I walk in the office in the morning there are one or two things I expect to finish every day. These are the first things I start working on and I don’t usually deal with anything else that isn’t a true emergency until the afternoon or late morning (depending on what those two things are). I realized ages ago that I was having too many of those “I didn’t do a single thing I had planned to do today” sorts of days, and this is the method I use. If all else fails with the day, I know I will have done two things I had planned to. A couple of tips to keep the minutiae and non-emergencies from breaking your stride:

  • Close your door: Not always Politically Correct, but it creates a natural filter for things. If it’s a real emergency, they’ll knock or come in.
  • Ask people to call/come back: 30 minutes will rarely kill anyone.
  • Shut off e-mail pop-ups: For those who can’t help themselves from jumping into things. Again, just until you have your priority list is done.
  • Schedule it on your calendar: That way you won’t get a meeting scheduled on your time. Again, most times they can select another.

You have far more flexibility in dealing the day to day stuff that comes up than you think. Let me drive the point home: When you’re at lunch or in a meeting, what happens to all of those things? They wait 30-60 minutes, that’s what. I guess the basic principle is to actively manage your time otherwise your time will manage you.

9) What is the importance of receiving feedback from employees?

Cameron: To put it candidly, we as managers don’t know nearly as much as we think we do. I know, I know, that’s a tough pill for all of us to swallow. Our staff has a wealth of knowledge on what is working and what isn’t, both from a customer perspective and from a company perspective. If you aren’t tapping into that, you’re not going to be remotely as effective as you should be. So while we focus a lot of our energy on directing feedback to our staff to ensure that they understand expectations and goals (and that is very important), it’s the feedback from them that will help us make a determination as to whether those expectations and goals are realistic, or even worthwhile.

10) Is there anything you wish to add about management?

Cameron: Management is difficult but not complex. Anyone who tells you managing is complex is either selling you something or making an excuse for their own poor performance. Communicate with and respect your staff, give them the support and tools to be better, and keep your actions aligned with the goals of the organization. Again, I didn’t say it was going to be easy, but it doesn’t need to be drowned in complexity. Other than that, I’d just like to thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today!

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