Saturday, January 6, 2007

The Good Manager, etc, etc, ...

More Constructive, Less Destructive: Happy 2007. As a direct result of me wading too much through in the negative comments on InsideMS, I have been feeling the need to start the year focused on positive changes:

  • How do you call out the people (especially good managers) doing a great job to ensure they are successful?
  • How do you succeed at Microsoft by navigating the culture and systems to get the best job done for our customers & shareholders?
  • What waste do we have that we can eliminate to be more effective?
  • What new initiatives are succeeding and which ones should we pull the plug on sooner than later, where later usually means we're out a billion or more dollars?

Now, sure, if something bad happens I'll put my jesters hat on and snark away, musing accountability and such. But I want to at least start the year focusing on win-win, especially given that we finally have Vista behind us and the company is in the middle of change.

The Good Manager: as most Microsofties will tell you, Microsoft has bad managers. Usually poor schleps who were great individual contributors and found themselves, either through organizational need or career-advancement want, in a management position that just isn't a good fit for them. While the front-line folks aren't exactly grabbing the torches and pitchforks to mob the hallways looking for violators of work-place dignity and work-life-balance, there does seem to be a general consensus that we're overburden with a significant number of bad managers. And right now, I am worried that becoming a manager is going to become a dumber and dumber decision if it becomes the monster all the villagers want to kill. Usually, this killing is by ever increasing inane process and mandatory training.

So let's say you either fire the bad managers or get them back on the team-member individual-contributor track (or sprinkle them with pixie dust to make them good managers). What good have you done to prevent future bad managers? Is the next generation of managers going to be any better?

If you've got a good manager, you've got to shout it to the world. You've got to do your best to promote this manager and ensure this is the model of success you want to see spreading. When your manager does something great or important to your team, do you tell them? Most likely, no one else is going to. You appreciate knowing when you do something great, eh? Now, I know, you can wallow in the cynical mindset and say this is just kissing up and brown-nosing, but brief, effective feedback of what is working is good to hear. Positive feedback for positive change.

When I've let my managers (or up the chain) know in the past that they've done something well or positive for the team / product (or have done something to me that was really revelatory about how to execute exceptionally well), they really want to hear more and know why I feel that way and how it could be even more effective.

I think about the manager feedback coming up for the mid-year discussion. This is important stuff. If you have a good manager and want them to be successful and a model, don't just fill out the feedback clicking all the high-marks, but also fill in the text feedback as to why the manager has done such a good job, especially relating this to the competencies. This is how I do my best to ensure my great managers are on the leadership track. When good managers succeed, they provide an example of what it takes.

Be sure to include the alias of your manager in your written feedback versus pronouns lost in the roll-ups (because the roll-ups are read by the people who really count).

And while folks balk at providing tough, critical feedback for their bad manager out of fear of retribution, take time to replace the outright negative with giving constructive feedback on the key competencies that you see the manager needing to grow in. Again, with the manager's alias. This might make it clear that the manager is underperforming if there's a gap in performance over expectation and doesn't cloud your feedback with any sour-grapes. Keep the zingers for here or InsideMS.

Other ideas for growing and supporting the good managers and squeezing out - for good, as much as possible - the bad?

Other random going ons...

Five Things I Hate About You: Oh, Ms. Foley, no you didn't. One of the cool kids tagged me and my startled mental reaction was akin to spurting milk out mid-sip. OMG, P0N1ES! Sorry, though, I'm going to have to go with Mr. Macleod here. Dit and 'to. But I swear to you this promise: if Steven Sinofsky follows up with his five in public, so will I. In the meantime, I'm left pondering how it is that one of my five candidates to share overlaps with Frank Shaw so perfectly... in the other direction.

Zune: man, people went crazy and pressed the pause-button on civility when ripping into that poor Zune player. For some reason, it reminds me of the frenzy the press went over Howard Dean and that little scream. Anti-zune-yness even made Engadget and Gizmodo into overly biased Microsoft haters. I didn't buy a Zune, as much as I had intended. I got a little Sansa that does the job for me. When Zune adds sync over Wi-Fi and brings out a flash-based unit, I'll give it a hard look again. In the meantime, I think a positive-because-it's-so-negative result of Zune is that it added fire to the DRM debate, and whether we should start regretting how much of a DRM darling we've become. It's a complex situation, which I think we are unfortunately making more entangled than less.

Office Live: in the last post, a couple of commenters really ripped into Office Live for just plain not working well at all. I haven't used Office Live, and I realize the success of Office Live is pretty important to our future and for gaining share among small businesses. Joe Wilcox splashed some additional cold water Office Live's way: Why I Killed Office Live. Et tu, Joe? A comment from Richard on that page:

My experience has been very much the same. Advertised functionality missing. Programs to integrate that dont work. Customer Service people who send you to other customer service people.

The concept is fantastic. I had high hopes. I WANT it to work. To have a pivate and pulic network and share information across them is a great asset.

Perhaps Microsoft should give it to someone else to develop then buy it back later.

Sounds like the parts that aren't working are really sabotaging an otherwise great initiative. Hopefully those parts can be fixed quickly and Office Live will be praised rather than buried.

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