Articles about "Change management"


And you thought the AP ruckus was just about style

Read Poynter’s Storify of reactions to the AP Stylebook “over”/”more than” revision, and you get a quick class in change management, especially about the emotional impact of change.

I’ve always taught leaders that change involves two key challenges: learning and letting go.

This time, for legions of teachers, editors, and grammar fans, it’s about unlearning. It’s about changing a standard of quality. And that is truly painful. It’s like telling people that effective immediately, the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard is as melodious as a harp.

For word nerds (a term I use with great affection), it’s also about letting go of a part of their expert identity. Those who’ve made a commitment to studying language, memorizing its rules, and protecting its integrity have been correcting and coaching others for years — either as vocation or avocation. They’ve righteously talked or tussled with writers about “more than” and “over” — citing the AP Stylebook as the argument settler. Now the argument is over. Wrong is now right. On this one, everyone’s now the expert.

Expertise is a powerful commodity. In fact, research says that competence and mastery are potent intrinsic motivators. (Watch Daniel Pink’s video — it’s had nearly 12 million views.)

Human beings love to do what they do well. When you tell people their mastery doesn’t matter  — even if it’s just letting go of a lone, longstanding grammar point — you see the reaction. Twitter erupts in lamentations from the experts. There’s also laughter from those who’ve been on the receiving end of “over”/”more than” copy edits, as they’ve miraculously become more competent. What a lesson in the emotions that accompany change.

It doesn’t help that this change simply happened. When change is imposed, resistance rises. When people feel they are part of the process, they adapt more quickly.  Even if they don’t get a vote,  people at least want a voice — a chance for input and insight.

When they don’t get that voice before change occurs, they can get plenty loud afterward. The torrent of comments on Twitter and elsewhere proves that point. It’s creative, clever, rebellious, passionate — and I love it. It’s what wordsmiths do best when challenged by change; they craft their own narratives around it.

I also love the idea that individuals and organizations are talking about what they’ll do next. Will they adapt the AP style? Reject it? Why?  With what process? With whose input?

Imagine that: Another exercise in managing change. Learning. Letting go. Look what the AP started. Read more

A speedometer with needle racing to Improvement, past the words problem, planning and process, symbolizing the need to implement change to improve a situation._Depositphotos

Managers, make ‘we can be better’ more than empty words

So today I’m thinking about Casey Stengel and Jesus.

Why? Well, in my life, it’s the time of year for two really important six-week seasons: spring training and Lent.

Both are times devoted to preparation. Both are opportunities for fresh starts. And both give those who take part a chance to make an important change — whether it be their batting stance or their approach to life.

Spring training is the time when major league baseball players gather in the warm climes of Florida and Arizona to prepare for another summer on the diamond. Lent, which Christians observe in preparation for Easter, recalls the 40 days Jesus prayed and fasted in the desert prior to beginning his public life of teaching and good works.

Yes, the two seasons have very different goals: One aims to produce a winning baseball team and the other to transform lives. But both spring training and Lent begin with an important belief: We can be better than we are.

Better players than we are, better people than we are.

It strikes me that in successful organizations, one of the manager’s most important roles involves insisting upon that same belief — reminding everyone that no matter how good we’ve become, “we can be better than we are.”

The best managers, though, go further. Instead of just asking people to work harder or longer, they enable people to improve by doing something, by changing something, by creating an environment in which improvement can occur.

But let’s take this one step at a time. Let’s begin by acknowledging something we all know to be true: We can be better than we are.

Stengel’s way

Casey Stengel, one of the most successful managers in the history of baseball, is responsible for one of my favorite quotes about management:

“The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided.”

I’m not sure how many members of the New York Yankees hated Stengel during the 12 years he was their manager. But they sure played well. His Yanks won 10 American League pennants and 7 World Series — an amazing run.

But even with all that success, Stengel apparently never lost sight of the need to get better.

“If we’re going to win the pennant,” Casey once said (in classic Stengalese), “we’ve got to start thinking we’re not as good as we think we are.”

At the time Stengel said this, the Yankees were in the midst of winning an unprecedented five consecutive World Series. Yet he still understood the need to improve — and to convince his players that they could.

Like Stengel, great baseball managers know that in order for “we can be better” to be more than just words, they need to do something, make a change that will require discipline of themselves and their players. It might involve taking extra batting practice, a new dedication to fundamentals, greater willingness to selflessly hit behind runners, learning a new pitch.

But what about newsroom managers? What can you do differently that would help each member of your staff do better work?

Three quick ideas:

  • Inventory your staff’s interests and skills. Too often, what managers know about their staffs is limited to what they now cover or did in the past. What other skills do they have? What are their hobbies? What languages do they speak? What do they read? What music do they listen to? What volunteer work do they do? What organizations do they belong to? What did they study in college? Back at the Inquirer, one of my colleagues, a general assignment reporter,  had an encyclopedic knowledge of the Civil War. Another, who worked in business, knew a lot about explosives. Another Metro reporter had an extensive knowledge of movies. It’s possible that in your midst is an expert in an area that could deepen your coverage — or, just as importantly, enrich your staff’s conversations about stories. Find out who’s working for you — and then put those talents to work on behalf of improving your journalism.
  • Assess your staff’s journalism chops. Before you can get better, you need an honest assessment of your current performance. For maximum impact, assess from the top: Who are your best writers? Your best interviewers? Your best visual journalists? Your best audio editors? Who really understands multimedia storytelling? Now, who needs help in these areas? Armed with this assessment, you can initiate a variety of efforts to improve individual skills, like one-on-one mentoring and staff-wide brown bag lunches. You can help individual desks identify specific craft areas that need improvement (maybe your court reporters need to know more about legal proceedings) and get them together with staffers who have had that experience. If the newsroom completely lacks skill in a certain area, look to the community to help. It’s in their best interest to assist, and maybe all you have to do is ask.
  • Reestablish the value of revision. Not only is a lot of content posted to the Web with only one — or no — edit, the downsizing of our editing staffs has made the idea of revising first drafts an opportunity for nostalgia. “Get it right the first time” might be a formula for success in the efficiency expert’s world, but it rarely leads to excellent journalism. Good storytelling and headline writing has always benefited from revision, and you can reestablish that as a priority. Maybe you don’t have enough staffers to guarantee multiple reads. You do have the option of moving first draft deadlines up 15 minutes to allow for an editor to read through the first draft and send it back for changes. Deadlines involve a system, and systems can be changed to facilitate your priorities. When we create systems that endorse the idea of first-draft journalism, it’s hard for the staff to take us seriously when we say, “we can be better.”

Meaningful changes

As a child being raised Catholic by the nuns in Baltimore, I learned that Lent was a time of prayer and self-denial (I gave up Coca-Cola or candy), intended to help me confront my sinfulness and prepare for the joy of Easter Sunday.

Adults traditionally have observed Lent by fasting between meals and abstaining from meat on certain days. Many go to daily Mass and attend confession more frequently.

Increasingly, though, a conversation is emerging about making Lent a time for making important changes in our lives. Father Dennis O’Donnell, who operates an orphanage in Honduras, says we are being called “to a change of heart — metanoia — more than a change of diet.”

As I think about newsroom leaders who, after years of reducing their capacity, still aspire to meaningfully serve their communities, this idea more of meaningful, substantive change rings true. Yes, the changes we discussed above will require discipline — the kind required of the Lenten observer to abstain from meat.

But meaningful changes — the ones that can transform a newsroom’s aspirations and belief in its capacity to do important work — will require courage, too.

Here are three ideas:

  • Own something. Face it. You can’t cover everything you once did. Heck, you already don’t cover everything you once did. So why not ask this question: What do I cover that helps the people of my community live better lives? What issues do I help them understand sufficiently to actively take part in their self-government? And how could I cover these in a way that no one else can? Whether it’s reform of your community’s schools, the operations of city government or the impact of immigration, your newsroom can own an issue in a way no one else does—and your community will benefit.
  • Take a chance. Everyone talks about the need to take risks, but few actually take any. Encourage staffers to present you with thoughtful, reasoned — but ambitious — ideas and let them go for it. Maybe you have to do one big idea at a time. But in too many newsrooms, the norm has become “if I can’t get it done today, I don’t do it.” We are becoming prisoners of the need to fill the book or get the show on the air. Production is winning over journalism impact and public service. The stories that mean the most to our communities are the ones they can’t get anywhere else. Take a risk. Go for it.
  • Let me try something new. I once worked for a paper where the politics writer covered the Phillies. The tennis writer was assigned to Moscow. The sports editor became city editor. In a time of diminished resources, why not encourage people to explore new subjects? Start by asking your staff what areas they’d like to cover if the opportunity opened up. But don’t forget that many people simply don’t believe they’re capable of certain jobs. Our job as managers is to identify the hidden talents — to see in people potential they don’t even see in themselves. A newsroom where anything is possible is fun to work in. Make yours fun.

We can be better than we are. Read more

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Journal Register Company’s open newsroom a sign of transition to ‘digital first’

The Register Citizen in Torrington, Conn., made headlines a few months ago when it moved into a new building and invited readers in for coffee and free Wi-Fi. Beyond community outreach, the building and “open newsroom” represent a transformative effort by the Journal Register Company to put digital first.

For Matt DeRienzo, the paper’s publisher, “digital first” means “de-emphasizing the time and expense of the print edition, which is increasingly becoming irrelevant.”

The goal is not to eliminate print, he said, but to develop a business model that enables journalists to re-engage with their communities and produce local journalism that is “not dependent on print to survive.”

So while the Wi-Fi may have gotten the attention, the move to a new building has enabled The Register-Citizen to rent its new office space and put the old building on the market. That results in less time and expense maintaining the property and better working conditions for the staff.

Jonathan Cooper, vice president of content for the Journal Register Company, was an editor in Torrington a decade ago. He said the old space was “not an inviting structure” for journalists or community members.

Now readers can drop in to use a computer, do research in the newspaper’s archives, attend a budget meeting or take a class. Around Valentine’s Day the paper hosted an online chat, presented by a local resident, on how to write a love letter.

The paper’s goal, DeRienzo stressed, is to pursue its mission of community engagement while operating a viable business. That requires examining every assumption, every staff position and every expense through a digital-reader-first lens.

DeRienzo told me that none of these efforts is new or even unique to the company. But the frenetic pace and scale of experimentation is. For example:

  • The three daily papers and the “couple of dozen” weeklies in DeRienzo’s division of the Journal Register Company all print at a single press in New Haven, about 40 minutes south of Torrington.
  • Layout and design for his weekly newspapers will soon be handled by a centralized desk, freeing their editors to focus more on content and community.
  • Of the 70 to 80 JRC employees he oversees, soon all but two will be directly involved in producing news or selling advertising to support it. Of the two, one handles human resources and administrative duties, and the other manages print circulation.
  • The company launched an “Idea Lab” last summer made up of selected staffers that are charged with, as CEO John Paton wrote at the time, “experimenting with the latest technology and tools to help our company think differently about what we do and how we do it.”
  • In another well-documented experiment called the “Ben Franklin project,” the chain’s daily newspapers published on July 4, 2010, using nothing but free tools available on the Internet.
  • In Philadelphia, the company is planning to launch a hyperlocal “online news portal” that will aggregate coverage from local bloggers and partner with Yahoo to provide targeted advertising.

Cooper does not expect all of these initiatives to succeed. But what they all have in common is a radical, sometimes painful, attempt to restructure the practice and cost of local journalism.

“Reduced costs” is often code for “smaller staffs” — and the company has cut staff in recent years. But Cooper and DeRienzo have the same response to those concerns: the goal is finding a way to support local journalism.

“If we can create a sustainable business model,” Cooper said, “we can make a difference in our community.”

DeRienzo spoke extensively about moving away from a print-first mentality, but he said that doesn’t mean the company wants to close newspapers. Instead it represents his belief that the long-term health of local journalism requires that digital platforms take precedence.

Cooper said that this transition from print-first to digital-first must be handled one challenge at a time. Working with newsrooms he likes to ask, “What is the leading obstacle to you doing your job on a daily basis?”

A clunky content management system might be an immediate problem, but it is a long-term project. Cooper said he is more interested in short-term, affordable tasks that often get overlooked in newsrooms but can make journalists’ lives easier.

Such a change could be connecting two staffers for peer-to-peer training or finding a free, online tool to accomplish a reporting task. The list differs for every person and newsroom, Cooper said, but the goal is to show that “improvement is possible” and to “make life better for your team.”

The Register-Citizen moved out of its old building in order to focus on digital platforms and community engagement. That move represents the company’s answer to the question of how newspapers can best serve local communities.

DeRienzo expressed choice this way: “What is core to what you are doing? Is it the bricks and mortar?” Or, he suggested, is it the journalism? Read more


USA Today’s “Radical Restructuring” Means End of Newsroom Integration, Universal Desk

Eight weeks ago, USA Today announced some impending layoffs and promised what Publisher Dave Hunke called a “pretty radical” restructuring. Now some of the changes are rolling out, and they are indeed big ones.
In essence, USA Today is disassembling its universal desk and a five-year effort at newsroom integration. That worked well as an interim step, Hunke told me over lunch Wednesday, but needs to be replaced with “editing hubs by platform.”
Hunke said the company won’t be able to take advantage of mobile and tablet opportunities unless offerings are designed and edited to match the unique characteristics and markets in both booming new-media device categories.
In addition, USA Today has eliminated several managing editor jobs and will be organizing around “15 distinct content areas,” Hunke said, like travel, personal finance and personal technology. Each will have its own top editor and a dedicated general manager to develop so-called “vertical” advertising and other revenue opportunities.
Hunke presented the outline of the plan to 1,500 USA Today staff members Tuesday and in remarks at the opening session of the Associated Press Managing Editors association at Poynter on Wednesday afternoon.
The big advantage of the new approach, Hunke said, is that USA Today will be able to focus on growth opportunities both by platform and subject matter. Absent such basic change, USA Today would “continue to scrape and move” material from print and its website to mobile and tablet platforms, where they are a clumsy fit at best.
Hunke offered two big qualifiers: The restructuring builds on earlier USA Today new media efforts and will phase in briskly but not instantaneously. He also thinks all this can be done with minimal damage to the print newspaper, which will continue to provide the biggest share of revenues (though little of the growth) for years to come.
Some examples of the coming changes have been announced in recent weeks and months:
Part of the lengthy internal research that led to the changes, Hunke said, was a conclusion that USA Today and other newspapers may have gotten off track trying to woo young audiences or women with a something-for-everyone approach. He has concluded that the print edition should now mainly target an older, general news audience, who favor a traditional presentation.
By contrast, Hunke said, early data on digital tablet buyers indicate that they skew 10 to 15 years younger than the typical print reader. That suggests both a different style of presentation and a different content mix.
Hunke conceded (as did AP President Tom Curley in a separate interview) that a lucrative advertising model for mobile hasn’t emerged yet. Hunke added, “Apple has some stunning prototypes for what they call iAds, but few people have even seen any of them yet.”
The extreme makeover in progress at USA Today is second in a series for Hunke. He was the architect of Gannett’s plan to reduce home delivery of the two Detroit papers, which were on a course to lose money indefinitely and were being chewed up by huge, fixed manufacturing and distribution costs. The plan ramped up digital development and headed off further deep cuts in editorial.
While he moved on to USA Today before the execution phase, Hunke said that careful preparation and consultation with advertisers allowed the papers to retain 93 percent of that business for the three days on which broadsheets are still published and delivered.
USA Today’s circumstances are not as dire, he said, but again this plan involves “moving our capital around” from the traditional manufacturing model to big investments in new platforms and topic-based businesses.
Most of the industry trails USA Today and others by years in the integration of print, website and other digital ventures. If some of the pioneers are moving on to something else, their “explorations,” as Hunke put it, will be carefully watched. Read more

What Great Bosses Know about Face Time & Feedback

Great bosses know that most important thing they do is help others succeed.

That’s why feedback from the boss and face time with the boss are so important. Your feedback lets employees know where they stand, how they’re valued and where they can grow. Face time provides them your focused attention, a chance to be heard, and an opportunity to pick your brain.

Here’s the best part: Properly done, feedback and face time are priceless — yet they cost you nothing. That remarkable investment equation is well-known to top managers. But even the best know they have to be vigilant about maintaining a high-quality connection with staff or they’ll allow other daily duties to crowd it out.

To keep you focused on feedback, here are six things every manager needs to know:

1. There’s a feedback gap. Mind it, then mend it.
Employees want more feedback from bosses than they receive. It’s been documented in newsrooms. Call it a “feedback gap,” as one recent survey does. I know from first-hand experience, reading thousands of evaluations of managers attending our Poynter programs, that staffers regularly yearn for more and better information from their bosses about their performance.

2. If people say they don’t get enough face time with you, that complaint is probably a compliment.
The more you’re respected, the more staffers crave quality time with you. (If you doubt that, think back to the worst boss you ever worked for, when your goal was to minimize contact!) But guidance is golden when it comes from a great boss. One researcher calls this “source credibility” and says it is a key factor in an employee’s positive response to feedback. So, if staffers say they need more from you, don’t get defensive, get generous.

3. Feedback is directly connected to motivation.
Competence, progress and purpose are powerful intrinsic motivators. People want to do more of what they’re good at, what they’ve mastered and what’s meaningful. Employees rely on you to identify their gaps, their growth — and their “go-to” status on your team when they’ve achieved it. They want to know their work makes something or someone better, that it does some good. It’s not sappy or silly for a boss to remind them about purpose; your feedback is fuel for their internal engines.

4. Not all feedback is created equal.
It takes practice to get good at feedback. It needs to be specific, not vague; consistent, not irregular; individualized, not generic. Even praise can fall flat if it comes with strings attached, seems insincere or incomplete. I once watched a manager sigh as she read written feedback from her boss. To every question about her skills, he had written just one word: “excellent.” There was space for explanation, details, documentation. He offered none, and it disappointed her. His feedback was efficient, but could have been so much more effective.

5. The value of feedback rises in times of change.
Change can be exciting but also unsettling. People want to know how they fit in an evolving environment. They may lack confidence or cling to an old competence. Your communication skills need to be at their best, applied liberally and strategically. I always teach that when you’re managing change, information is currency — and feedback is like a personal check.

6. Feedback works best when it’s part of the culture.
Imagine a workplace where everyone can say, “I have a good sense of how I’m doing and how I fit into the big picture here.” Imagine an organization where annual evaluations contain no surprises — good or bad — because they’re simply a recap of ongoing conversations between bosses and employees. Imagine a place where encouragement is common and customized — and criticism is a lever, not a hammer. It happens when feedback is built into the organization’s culture, and there’s a shared assumption that it’s every employee’s right and every boss’s duty to do it right.

You may not run the company, but you can influence the culture. Be a role model with your own team. Try doubling your feedback and improving the quantity and quality of your face time.

Then let me know what happens. I’m eager to hear YOUR feedback.

Let’s wrap up our “tour de face” with a couple of contrarian questions: Can’t we overdo this feedback thing? Aren’t there some employees who appreciate a boss who just says, “If you don’t hear from me, assume you’re doing a good job” and then stays out of their way?

I’ll answer in today’s podcast: “What Great Bosses Know about Face Time and Feedback.”

Poynter’s “What Great Bosses Know” podcast is sponsored by The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. Poynter’s leadership and management expert Jill Geisler shares practical information on leadership and management that’s valuable for bosses in newsrooms and all walks of life.

You can subscribe to this podcast via RSS or to any of our podcasts on iTunes U.
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What Great Bosses Know about Bedtime Reading

I’m sometimes asked to suggest worthwhile books for bosses. I’m pretty picky about my favorites. They need to be practical, helpful, grounded in solid research and well-written. After all, managers have so little spare time these days, that when they curl up with a book, it’s probably bedtime — or sick bedtime — reading.

Here’s hoping you are healthy and have a little time to spare. I’m suggesting four books I’ve enjoyed reading recently — and think you might, too.

For bosses managing change (and who isn’t?)

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

The Heath brothers, Chip and Dan, build on the solid foundation of change management expert John Kotter, whose book, “The Heart of Change,” emphasizes the key role of emotion in change. The Heaths look at the challenge of balancing head and heart in all sorts of situations, from personal to business. They use real-life examples and research to back up their recommendations on setting clear direction, finding quick wins and keeping people moving in the right direction.

For managers who want to be smarter about motivation

Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us

Daniel Pink rounds up some of the best thinking on motivation and shows why money isn’t a magical motivator. Make no mistake, as Kenneth Thomas also makes clear in “Intrinsic Motivation at Work,” money isn’t unimportant. Thomas and Pink agree that poor pay drags people down, but when the issue of money is taken off the table, the real drivers of performance and engagement come from within people. It’s the manager’s job to help rev up the internal engines Pink identifies: autonomy, mastery and purpose. For a fun slice of the book’s message, check out the creative video produced from Pink’s talk at London’s Royal Society for the Arts:

For bosses who don’t want to be jerks

Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best … and Learn from the Worst

Stanford’s Robert Sutton says he got so much reader feedback from his last book, “The No Asshole Rule,” that he turned their horror stories into a guide for bosses who want to do things right. Make no mistake — this isn’t a workplace etiquette book. Sutton teaches how to be a very strong leader, but he parses the difference between a smart boss and a wise one. He balances an emphasis on empathy and compassion with direct advice like “cut loose the real losers” and “protect yourself from the energy suckers.”

For supervisors who want a better understanding of how they, their employees and their customers make decisions of all kinds

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

Every manager has to be a psychologist from time to time, and they can use a coach like Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke. His entertaining case studies on how people make decisions — sometimes foolishly — and why, can help bosses with everything from motivation, to negotiation, to doing a better job in their own judgment calls. (Note: He has a newer book, “The Upside of Irrationality,” but it’s still on my “To Read” list.)

As a bonus, let me point you to something so creative I just had to share it. Graphic artist Patrick Garvin of the Florida-Times Union wanted to do something to support some colleagues who were recent victims of the economy. So he adapted a column I wrote last year, “Ten Reasons You Should Hire a Journalist.” Garvin gave it new life with his illustrations. Click this link and see for yourself.

Bookstore shelves feature plenty of business books. (And one more soon, I hope, as I’m working on one based on these columns and my teaching.) But what’s the best strategy for choosing books and implementing what you learn in the workplace? I’ll share my advice in today’s podcast: “What Great Bosses Know about Bedtime Reading.”

Poynter’s “What Great Bosses Know” podcast is sponsored by The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. Poynter’s leadership and management expert Jill Geisler shares practical information on leadership and management that’s valuable for bosses in newsrooms and all walks of life.

You can subscribe to this podcast via RSS or to any of our podcasts on iTunes U. Read more


What Great Bosses Know about Managing Amid Cutbacks

It’s a challenging time to be a boss. You’re managing change and most likely doing so with a smaller budget and fewer people on your team. The workloads are heavier and the paychecks lighter. The demand for quality, innovation and productivity remains as high as ever — and it falls to you to lead the way.

You can do it. I don’t minimize the degree of difficulty for a moment. But I know from working with hundreds of managers that this tough economy is producing some great bosses. They are people who draw on the best skills of management and leadership as they deal with products and people. They’ve developed strategies that ensure their teams aren’t just surviving, but thriving.

What are some best practices for managing after cutbacks? Let me share eight things great bosses do in the face of diminished resources:

1. Prioritize and plan
The idea of “doing more with less” may not be pure fantasy, but even reality has its limits. Managers need to take a triage approach to workloads — ranking tasks by importance, determining what’s critically important and what might be dropped. Help your downsized staff by making planning a priority so they’re not further strained by last-minute demands.

2. Scrutinize work flow
Take a good look at your production systems. Does the work flow still make sense? Imagine you’re an outsider with no bias in favor of “the way we do things around here.” What questions would you ask? What would you challenge?

3. Upgrade staff
The best thing you can do for your employees is help them build their skills. You’re the agent that can make them more valuable to your organization — or to wherever their career may take them. Cross-train. Even if you have no training budget, you have internal experts who can share knowledge. Yes, some staffers resist change, but I’ve heard from plenty of employees who value their new knowledge.

4. Communicate
It doesn’t cost you a dime to keep people in the loop. The tougher times are, the more people are apt to be suspicious and fearful and the more your communication matters. Stay connected. Double your feedback. Think of information as currency. Share the wealth.

5. Encourage
You are contagious. Your genuine optimism and energy set the tone for the team. If you need proof, consider this feedback written about a manager in one of my workshops: “Most of the people who work for her are old-timers, so the cement around our ankles hardened long ago. But as change happens, [her] grace and encouragement helps us to accept change and embrace it.”

6. Network
This isn’t the time to hunker down with your team and see life as “us against the world.” You need every friend you can make in the organization. Be generous with favors so colleagues will help you out in return. Get creative about collaboration that helps you smooth over one another’s tough times.

7. Get business-savvy
Understand the big picture of your organization, not just your slice of it. Get smart about strategy, budgets, forecasts and metrics. It will help you make the best business case for ideas you want to promote and resources you hope to score.

8. Manage up
Smart managers know how to keep their team, its accomplishments and needs on their bosses’ radar. When they come to their bosses with problems, they’re armed with potential solutions — and the solutions aren’t simply self-serving. They are ideas steeped in tips six and seven — good for others and good for business.

When you succeed as a leader in times like this, you know you’ve earned the title of “great boss.” But there’s one more thing you’ll need to keep in mind — another area you must not neglect, even in the toughest of economic times. I’ll share that in today’s podcast, “What Great Bosses Know about Managing amid Cutbacks.”

Poynter’s “What Great Bosses Know” podcast is sponsored by The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. Poynter’s leadership and management expert Jill Geisler shares practical information on leadership and management that’s valuable for bosses in newsrooms and all walks of life.

You can subscribe to this podcast via RSS or to any of our podcasts on iTunes U. Read more


What Great Bosses Know about Personalities: From Hard Liners to Soft Touches

Imagine that two bosses are discussing their respective views on managing teams. Eavesdrop with me, and think about which boss sounds more like you:

Boss 1: “I don’t expect that people on staff have to like each other, but I want them to respect each other.”
Boss 2: “I’d be disappointed if we couldn’t achieve both.”

The conversation continues:

Boss 1: I’m tough but I’m fair with people.
Boss 2: I’m a people person but I can be tough when it matters.

Then they say:

Boss 1: People deserve recognition for exceptional performance, not for doing what’s expected of them.
Boss 2: I’m big on praising people, including for everyday work.

Which boss are you? If you picked 1, your personality preference probably leans toward what the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator calls “Thinking.” If 2, your preference favors “Feeling.”

Here’s a good summary of both types from the book, “The Art of SpeedReading People“:

“For Thinkers, logic rules. When making a decision, it’s as if they take a step back and analyze the situation logically and impersonally, asking themselves ‘Does this make sense? What are the pros and cons? What are the ramifications of the decision?’ For Feelers, the process is just the opposite. They take a step forward, injecting themselves into the equation, and ask: “How do I feel about this? How will it affect me and others? Is this the right thing to do? What are my personal values telling me to do?’”

I like those descriptions because in reading them, you can see a pretty good argument for diversity. A management team with nothing but Thinkers could build an efficient but ice-cold workplace. A team with nothing but Feelers could sacrifice standards just to keep people smiling.

When I work with managers, I point out the strengths of their personality type as well as the blind spots.

Thinkers set up objective standards and measurements. They can set aside emotion to determine what’s best for the greatest number of people. They’re unafraid to point out problems and offer critiques. Staffers, even those who would prefer a warmer type of boss and more tactful feedback, say they appreciate knowing where they stand.

The challenge comes when Thinkers are too focused on the product and not the people, when their candor comes across as cruelty, and when they miss opportunities to build engagement and motivation because they see that as “touchy-feely stuff.” Thinkers often benefit from learning to be better coaches and studying up on emotional intelligence.

Feelers value relationships. They can help people deal with the emotion that comes with change, a constant these days. During planning and decision-making, they’re likely to send out early warnings to employees who will react especially positively or negatively. When giving feedback to staff, they’ll usually start with “what worked” then move to “what needs work,” believing praise tempers the pain of criticism.

The challenge for Feelers comes when they’re more focused on harmony than quality, when their efforts to please make them appear weak or wishy-washy, and when team members feel they don’t hold underperformers accountable. Feelers often benefit from learning how to deal with difficult people and tough conversations.

I tell bosses of all types that learning about your personality preferences helps explain you, but it doesn’t excuse you. You are capable of adapting. Just take the information and build on it; leverage your strengths and fill your gaps.

Know when the most logical thing a Thinker can do is to try a little tenderness, and the kindest thing a Feeler can do is to toughen up.

There’s a trend I’ve seen lately in our management programs when it comes to Thinking and Feeling, and how people see themselves. I’ll share that in today’s podcast: What Great Bosses Know about Personalities: From Hard Liners to Soft Touches:

Poynter’s “What Great Bosses Know” podcast is sponsored by The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. Poynter’s leadership and management expert Jill Geisler shares practical information on leadership and management that’s valuable for bosses in newsrooms and all walks of life.

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What Great Bosses Know about Decision-Making

The best reason to involve others in decisions is a simple one: buy in. A line in a classic management book, “Getting to Yes,” says it well:

“Give them a stake in the outcome by making sure they participate in the process.”

Makes sense. I believe in it. More often than not it’s the best way to go. But it’s not the only way. Every decision is different. Even bosses who pride themselves on inclusiveness and employee empowerment need to know when it’s time to go it alone.

Let’s look at the boss’s decision-making options:

  • Command: I decide.
  • Delegated: I decide who decides.
  • Consultative: I ask for input, then I decide.
  • Democratic: I put it to a team vote. Majority rules.
  • Consensus: The team and I choose an option that everyone can live with, even if some aren’t crazy about it.

The trick for the person at the top is knowing which style is best for which situation. Psychologist Daniel Levi, in his book “Group Dynamics for Teams,” reports:

“In general, decision-making techniques that include group discussion and participation lead to higher quality decisions; this is especially true if the problems are complex or unstructured, or if leaders do not have enough information to make good decisions.”

But we know from experience that group decisions — both democratic and consensus — can have drawbacks as well.

  • The process can be time-consuming and delay a decision.
  • The process can distract people from other work. (Can you say “death by meetings?”)
  • The participants may bring more opinion and bias than expertise to the table.
  • The information involved is sensitive; confidentiality might be compromised.

In the face of those challenges, the leader might opt for taking more control of the final decision by using the consultative or command options. The consultative — asking the counsel of others — can be both speedy and effective when it’s done well. The command option — going it totally alone — should be handled with care.

Here are some questions bosses should ask themselves when deciding whether to bypass the group decision-making process:

  • How important is this decision — high-stakes, high-risk, highly sensitive, short window of opportunity?
  • Do I have the expertise and information to make this decision alone?
  • If I ask colleagues for input, how will I make clear that their role is advisory only?
  • How will I inform people of my decision and how I got there?
  • How will I manage any negative fallout from those who must implement it but felt excluded from the process?

That last one is really important. When you know you’ve taken the command approach for good reason, you don’t need to be defensive, but you do need to be proactive. Anticipate the anxiety or disappointment it might initially cause, especially among your deputies who are accustomed being involved and in charge.

You’ll need them to deliver the message about your decision to other staffers in a positive way, even though they may not have had a voice or a vote in it. How you communicate with them will set the tone for how they spread the word to others.

There’s one more question you should ask yourself before making that “executive decision”, and it has to do with your management style. I’ll share it in today’s podcast: “What Great Bosses Know about Decision-Making.”

Poynter’s “What Great Bosses Know” podcast is sponsored by The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. You can download a complete series of these podcasts free on iTunes U. Poynter’s leadership and management expert Jill Geisler shares practical information on leadership and management that’s valuable for bosses in newsrooms and all walks of life. Read more


What Great Bosses Know about Leaving a Legacy

I usually find ideas for this column in the everyday lives of leaders and organizations — their joys and challenges. Today, the inspiration comes from sorrow, from the passing of a newswoman with a remarkable understanding of leadership.

Cancer took Kira Lisa Warren on July 23rd. Not without a real fight from her, mind you. She was only 54, with a wonderful family and an abundance of friends. Many of those friends were people whose careers she helped shape during the years she led a number of newsrooms in Ohio.

Reading their tributes to her in several obituaries inspired this leadership column and its simple question: Whatever your role, whatever your field, what will your legacy be as a leader?

I got to know Lisa a few years ago. The award-winning editor applied for a Poynter program that focused on helping innovative leaders teach others how to succeed in managing change. As I read over the applications for this competitive fellowship, Lisa’s stood out. So much so, that we rejected her as a participant. She was overqualified to be a student. We invited her to be guest faculty for the project instead.

She loved the idea and mentioned, almost in passing, that she was undergoing cancer treatment. During her week of Poynter teaching in March 2009, only the wig or scarves she wore, and some medically-induced puffiness, betrayed her health challenge. She was a tireless coach and mentor. She inspired us then, just her loss inspires this column.

Lisa would be both embarrassed and pleased to know I’m challenging managers in any field to aspire to a track record like hers. Take any one of her leadership qualities and ask yourself, could this be my legacy as well?

Innovation: Will you be known for breaking new ground in your industry, just as Lisa pioneered daily webcasts and Spanish-language Web coverage of local news in Southwest Ohio? She told me she did it all in spite of a shoestring budget, just as she developed training opportunities in new media for her teams.

Respect from staff: When asked about the best boss they ever worked for, will people think of you immediately? Will they say what a former employee of Lisa’s did in this obit on

“Former Cincinnati Post journalist Barry Horstman, now an Enquirer reporter, called Mrs. Warren the editor of choice for every reporter at the Post.

” ‘She was so highly respected that, when I was in management at the Post, I actually saw reporters time the release of their stories to the city desk so that they were sure Lisa would get it, as opposed to another editor,’ Horstman said.”

Effectiveness: When asked about managers who get results, will other leaders say what a colleague of hers did in the’s tribute:

” ‘In my 30 years of experience with newspapers large and small, Lisa’s ability to drive initiatives was virtually unequalled,’ said former Cox Southwest Group publisher Ann Hoffman. ‘She had an eye for talent and talent gravitated to her. Lisa’s creativity, work ethic, passion for news and commitment to community service earned her the admiration and respect of her staff, her peers and the communities her papers serve.’ “

Courage: Faced with a horrific challenge, would you think of turning your experience into help for others? Lisa used her writing skills and the power of the press to share advice to other cancer patients, even though it meant revealing details of her own painful odyssey in the newspaper. Her words were gritty and real, her advice practical and personal. Leader that she was, Lisa Warren also made certain they were inspirational.

“Never give up, never give up, never give up. At 2 a.m., when the chemo is killing everything inside you and you are in a hot fog of pain, resignation can be very seductive. You are tired, scared and sick, and the chemicals coursing through your veins also affect your emotions. But you must push through. Like soldiers facing a major battle, like Sully looking at the Hudson River from the window of his descending plane, like millions of people daily facing major illness, you can’t run away. Hold onto your faith, your friends, your will to live. Never give up.”

Now that you know a little of Lisa Warren’s legacy of leadership, let me ask you on her behalf: What will yours be?

We’ll talk more about making a mark that matters in today’s podcast: “What Great Bosses Know about Leaving a Legacy.”

Poynter’s “What Great Bosses Know” podcast is sponsored by The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. You can download a complete series of these podcasts free on iTunes U. Poynter’s leadership and management expert Jill Geisler shares practical information on leadership and management that’s valuable for bosses in newsrooms and all walks of life. Read more