Time Management: The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s.

It involves using a timer to block out time for individual tasks and focusing only on that task until the timer goes.

It gets its unique name from the tomato kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a student to time his blocks of time!

The process is simple and easy to use.

This guide will break down the steps involved in creating your own Pomodoros, as well as when you may want to apply this technique!

The Pomodoro Technique can help everyone working at any level. Fundamentally it involves you working on something consistently and taking regular breaks.

 

The Pomodoro Technique – Explained

Here is how the Pomodoro Technique works step by step.

1. Choose the task that you need to complete next.
2. Set your timer for a block of time (often called a ‘Pomodoro’). This can be any length of time but many people use 25 minutes.
3. Work on the task to the exclusion of everything else until the timer rings. This means that you don’t answer the phone if it rings or reply to texts.
4. Take a short break – often people use 5 minutes for the break. Again when you are relaxing this is 100% relaxing so not checking emails / surfing the web etc.

That’s it. You can do this for any task! Creating this balance of work and relaxation consistently throughout your day ensures you work to your fullest potential and don’t burn out. The common conception is that you spend less time working, but you actually spend more time working well.

Many people report that they feel they achieve more in 8 pomodoros (so 5 hours in total) than they would do in a normal, scattered 8 hour workday.

Photo of clocks

 

The Pomodoro Technique – Applied

For an example, say you need to get on top of your emails.

You set aside a 25-minute block to sort them out. If you haven’t finished them you would then take a break and start another pomodoro until you are caught up on your emails.

Many people also choose to batch pomodoros together.

A widely used schedule is that after four pomodoros you schedule a longer break of perhaps 30 minutes. This means that four pomodoros constitute a 2 1/2 hour block.

If you implement the pomodoro technique I would recommend carrying out an audit of your time (see this article on auditing your time for full details) before you do so. That way you will have a good idea of how effectively you are currently using your time to compare against.

Everyone is different and everyone has different demands on their time during a typical workday and so the exact implementation of this technique needs to be personalised.

Best of luck with finding the optimum setup for your time management!

 

As we discussed in yesterday’s List Making vs Prioritisation article, time management isn’t easy. However The OHIO Method can help you master it.

In fact, the reason that many of us struggle with it is that it goes against our natural tendency to avoid difficult decisions and hard things.

Today we’re going to look at focusing on just one thing at a time – which is a big theme in our time management courses. This is something that is getting ever more difficult.

The OHIO Method is the best way to get things done and manage your time effectively. The differences are most obvious when you are working on a larger, more difficult project that requires concentration but it applies just as much to small tasks. Effective multi-tasking is a myth.

When you are answering texts, writing emails and working on a project all at the same time it is cognitively demanding and you feel highly engaged and busy but you are actually just kidding yourself!

Studies show that you’re not producing your highest quality work and that you’re actually taking longer to produce it than if you dealt with each thing sequentially.

Interestingly, they show that there isn’t really such a thing as multi-tasking! What you are actually doing is repeatedly moving between tasks and single-tasking. However, by changing your focus repeatedly you kid yourself that you’re actually doing more than one thing at the same time.

Each time you change your focus it takes time and energy to pick up a new task. All you are actually doing is frittering your time and energy away by needlessly changing tasks repeatedly.

So – how do you train yourself to do the unnatural thing and focus on one thing at a time?

In this article, we’re going to look at The OHIO Method which you can use to help build your single-tasking muscle and make better use of your time.

Hourglass

 

The OHIO Method – Explained

OHIO is an Acronym that stands for Only Handle It Once.

The premise of this idea is that once you pick up a task or piece of work you can’t put it down until you’ve either completed it or taken it as far as you possibly can.

Obviously, if the task is large you need to set a sensible but demanding target for what it is possible to accomplish in one day.

This one is hard but, inevitably, that is what makes it such a good time management technique.

If you commit to it – and I recommend that you do – it means that you never pick up a task half-heartedly ‘just to have a look’.

Because you are committing to take the task to its conclusion when you pick it up, it forces you to think about the time you have available and what your priorities are BEFORE you start.

It also forces you to be decisive about something once you have picked it up.

 

The OHIO Method – Applied

The power of The OHIO Method usually comes with smaller administrative tasks especially. You have now committed yourself to not procrastinating on whatever task you have picked up (see this article for more on avoiding procrastination).

If you are going to do something you have to essentially be:

  1. Intentional about it
  2. Aggressively pushing it to a conclusion.

By forcing you to drive something to a conclusion it also frees up your mental space for other things. You no longer need to remember to come back to a half-finished task in the future.

We have all looked at an email or text and thought ‘Oh I just need to have a think about that I’m not sure I’ll come back to it tomorrow’ and then found it in our inbox two weeks later forgotten. We never quite get back to the email and it gets forgotten.

Usually, this is not because it truly needs more thought but because there is something uncomfortable about it that we’d rather avoid facing.

Next time you open your emails try it. Force yourself to fully deal with each email that you open.

You’ll probably find that in most cases the tricky ones you would have left will take a couple of minutes thought but that’s it. And by sending the reply you’ve now dealt with it and moved on.

If this sounds extreme or difficult to implement we’ll now look at a less strict form of OHIO which many people find works very well for making sure they learn to use their time efficiently.

 

Photo Credits: Maria and Aphiwat chuangchoem

Many new line managers struggle with performance reviews when they are first promoted.

Now that you are a line manager it is a fundamental part of the HR responsibilities that come with your role to monitor, review and manage the performance of your team. It’s also something that you’ve probably got no experience of.

Many people find their first line management role the biggest challenge of their career. If you are applying for a line management role you should be clear about the skills that you have and those that you will need to develop.

Done well a good performance review will be a very positive experience for both the line manager and team member.

Both will leave clear on where they stand, what goals the other has for them and with a clear route to, and plan for achieving those goals.

A poor performance review will leave both parties dissatisfied.

The manager will be left frustrated that they haven’t clearly communicated their points to their team member, and concerned that goals for the future won’t be achieved.

The team member will be left feeling that it was an arbitrary and unfair process. They will be demotivated and probably considering whether they want to remain with the organisation at all.

Let’s take a look at how to do a performance review the right way in the event that you don’t have access to some specific training.

Woman performing perfomance reviews online

 

1. Think Like A Coach Not A Reviewer

For reviews to work well you need to keep things positive and upbeat.

Think and act like a coach rather than an evaluator you set the right tone throughout.

A coach is there to review performance but always with a focus on improving and maximising performance. Feedback and criticism with this focus will come with the right tone and emphasis to be accepted and understood.

They will also be part of a two-way process with the coach listening carefully to what the other person has to say.

Also, remember that the best coaches communicate their points across using stories and gently influence rather having to use direct instructions.

An evaluator simply points out faults and strengths. There is no thought as to how useful and constructive this feedback will be and how to best phrase it. This is a receipe for a bad outcome.

 

2. Planning

Performance reviews need to be planned carefully and in advance. It is not something to do unprepared.

You need to start planning and diarising performance reviews early and stick to those plans. You also need to block out preparation time for reviews and time to review and document them afterwards.

Performance reviews are an important part of your role and you need to allocate time accordingly.

 

3. Communication

It is important that your team understands how and when you will be running reviews. Schedule them well in advance.

This gives your team time to prepare for the review and also shows them that this is something that you’re taking seriously.

Manager communicating with employee

 

4. Frequency

Think about how often you should do a performance review. Once per year is not enough.

The right frequency will be different in different organisations and with different levels of staff, but make sure that you don’t leave too long between reviews.

Regular reviews mean that issues are aired while they are still relatively minor and avoids them building up for too long.

 

5. Duration

Allow plenty of time for performance reviews. You don’t know what someone will want to raise. If they raise a difficult topic the last thing you want to do is to have to cut the discussion short.

Allocating an hour shows that this is something you take seriously and gives plenty of time for discussion. Many managers will allocate 90 minutes just to be sure.

 

6. Documentation

Your organisation will probably have review forms. Complete these early and send them to the team member in question comfortably in advance.

It’s not fair to ‘ambush’ them with a completed document at the last minute or in the review itself.

Let them have time to review the document and you’ll have a much more constructive conversation.

Manager performing in person performance reviews

 

7. Clarity Of Purpose

A performance review is important enough to have its own meeting. Don’t try to combine performance reviews with other meetings.

Many people make the mistake of combining performance and compensation reviews. If at all possible avoid this.

 

8. Be Clear And Specific

You need to watch your language during a performance review. The team member will be listening carefully and analysing it so speak clearly and deliberately (see this article for examples of good phrases to use in a performance review).

Vague comments and reviews of someone’s performance don’t work, especially when criticising. You need to give clear specific examples to back up your points.

For example, if you were receiving a poor review which of these two phrases would you rather hear.

‘Your reports aren’t good enough’ OR
‘Your last 3 reports have contained an unacceptable number of spelling errors and the layout has not made it easy for me to follow.’

Clearly the second.

It makes clear the issues that you need to address and that the criticism has a real basis in fact. It also allows you to refute the criticism if you feel it is unwarranted as you can discuss the specific points raised.

The first comment leaves you completely unclear what aspect of the reports wasn’t good enough.

 

9. Keep Notes Throughout The Year

Memories are fickle things. In order to give the type of clear specific feedback we mentioned above, you will need to start keeping notes.

Although you may think that you’ll remember things in the moment, you’ll probably find when you come to write a performance review later that you won’t.

You’ll have a number of them to write and remembering good examples of the type of behaviour that you want to discuss will prove to be very difficult.

Keeping notes also avoids having a bias to their most recent performance as that is where you can most clearly recall examples for discussion.

 

10. Produce Notes Of The Meeting

At the end of the meeting, it’s critical that both participants agree on an action plan and that a note of the meeting is then produced to formalise this along with a record of what was discussed.

This gives you both a permanent record of what was discussed and agreed.

It also gives you somewhere to start when discussing performance next with that particular team member.

Manager performing group performance review

 

11. Focus on Behaviours and Results Not Traits

A behaviour is something that someone does. A result is something that some causes to happen.

Both of these are good things to discuss and evaluate as they are observable and / or measurable and they are under the team member’s control.

On the other hand, a trait is something internal to the person and almost impossible to evaluate in a fair and clear way. Examples include motiviation, conscientiousness, leadership etc.

These are all things that you will probably want to discuss but it is much better to do so at the level of specific behaviours. A trait if too vague and nebulous a concept.

If you want to discuss conscientiousness with someone, it is much better to discuss it at the level of behaviours and outcomes that demonstrate their conscientiousness ( for example, timekeeping, record keeping etc) rather than discussing conscientiousness as a whole.

 

12. Look To The Future

Inevitably you will spend the majority of your time discussing the past.

However, as we said above you need to think and act like a coach, not an evaluator.

In that role, you would be discussing the past so that you can discuss how the lessons and points that come from that discussion can be applied to the person’s career and personal development in the future.

Where and how can they improve in the future? What can you do to help facilitate these development goals?

So make sure that you also spend some time discussing future plans for the team member’s personal development. As ever try to make these SMART (see the Establishing Goals section of this article for more details on SMART objective setting)

 

13. Two Way Dialogue

A performance review isn’t just a chance for you to give your opinions and to evaluate your performance.

The best performance reviews are an open, honest discussion of how things have gone, what has gone well, what has gone poorly and how things can be improved for the future.

You need to get your team member talking and to open up. If not you’ll never get to the bottom of any issues and problems that they’re having.

Asking them to review their own performance can be a good way to get them talking early in the review. Many people also find that this can be quite revealing.

It is often the case that your best performers will rate themselves more poorly than you do. They’ll be focused on where they can improve and the mistakes that they’ve made. This leads naturally to a discussion of where they can improve and how you can help assist with that. It also leads to a positive discussion about the difference between your view and theirs.

Conversely, your poor performers will rate themselves more highly than you do. This then provides a natural opening to discuss the gap between your view and theirs.

 

Now that you have a team to manage it might be time to enrol on our London based course for new Line Managers!

As a new manager you need to ensure that you are building a relationship with your team members and staying current with how they’re getting on. Without understanding how your team is doing and feeling you can’t manage them and you certainly won’t be able to influence their behaviour as you would ultimately hope to be able to.

As ever, to get the most out of a one to one check-in meeting, or catch up as some people call them, you need to spend a little time thinking and planning for it.

This article is going to walk you through the different stages of running a one-to-one meeting so that you can get off to the best start.

Although this looks time-consuming, and it probably will be to start with, before too long it will become second nature and just take you 10-15 minutes.

Many of the line management skills that you’ll need to master will feel like this.

Management

 

The First Meeting

  • Scene Setting

Before you start having team one-to-ones it is advisable to let people know what you are expecting. This will hopefully mean that they will come to the meetings prepared.

At this early stage it can feel difficult to take the initiative like this, especially if you have been promoted from within the team, but calling a meeting without letting people know it’s purpose will just cause confusion. If you are struggling to feel confident doing this it is likely that you are suffering Imposter syndrome as many people do.

It is useful to explain:

1. The Purpose Of The Meetings:

‘This is to talk about whatever is highest on your agenda. It could be a big project you’re working on, equally it could be an issue with a fellow team member or your development plan. It’s up to you, it’s your time during which we can talk about whatever is most important to you.

2. The Schedule For, And Duration Of, The Meetings:

‘I’d like to have a check-in each month. Let’s try and find a regular day to do it and stick to it as much as we can. I’ll set aside an hour each month to make sure that we have plenty of time. It doesn’t need to take an hour if we don’t need it but the time will be there in case we do.’

Business Meeting

 

Before Each Meeting

Focus

Remind yourself that the focus of this meeting is your team member. This is their time to raise whatever issues they would like to discuss.

That doesn’t mean that you won’t have some items that you’d like to discuss. It just means that its primary purpose is to understand how they are getting on and feel about work. You should only raise your items once they have had plenty of time to cover everything that they’d like to cover unless your items come up naturally during the conversation.

Since the team member is the focus of the meeting they should be doing the majority of the speaking. If you are speaking more than 20% of the time you’re talking too much.

Timing

As per the above, you need to follow through and schedule the meetings for an hour.

This tells your team member that they are important and so you are making a significant chunk of time for them. It also means that they won’t worry about bringing up difficult topics.

Allocating a limited amount of time will encourage them to only bring up straightforward issues. They will be concerned that if they start discussing a difficult issue the conversation will get cut short.

If you really do have to cancel the meeting make sure to reschedule it the same day. Again, this is about showing the employee that this is a priority for you.

Agenda

Some people don’t like agendas and feel that they constrict the conversation.

In general, we believe that agendas are useful checklists. We wouldn’t advocate for detailed agendas so much as a list of key areas to tick off as you work through them.

It means that if the conversation is short you can still be confident that you covered all of the key areas, and if it gets cut short it because it runs long you know what you didn’t cover.

Perhaps try both and see what works best for you.

 

During The Meeting

Where

The meetings should be relaxed and informal. Try to find a relaxed informal environment to match.

Your office will work fine if it provides privacy but much better to use a canteen if you have one, or local cafe.

Getting out of your office will mean that you are much more likely to be free from interruptions.

Encourage And Guide With Questions

As mentioned earlier if you are speaking more than 20% of the time you’re probably doing something wrong.

If you want to guide the conversation in a certain direction, or find that it is flagging, ask open-ended questions to get your team member talking about the area you would like to learn more about.

If you struggle with questions this article has a very useful list.

Review Previous Meeting Actions

Below we talk about the need to take 5 minutes to make notes of your meetings and the action items that are agreed upon during them.

It is good practice to review the notes at the start of the next meeting and see how they have progressed. If they should have been completed but haven’t, discuss why not and what can be done to ‘unblock’ them.

This will also help to give your meetings a sense of progress and purpose. You need to avoid one to one’s that end up feeling like a chore where the same stale ground is covered each month. This will lead your team to disengage from the process and make it a waste of everyone’s time.

Key Areas To Cover

As we mentioned earlier we believe in having a high-level agenda for a one-to-one. It doesn’t constrain the conversation but helps guide it and ensure things don’t get missed.

Below we have listed the areas that we believe should be covered in all one-to-ones and also included the types of questions that you should think about using to get your team member to open up:

1. Individual feeling about work

This covers their motivation and enthusiasm for work

‘How are you finding your work?’
‘What parts of your role do you find most & least energising and enjoyable?’
‘What do you find most motivating?’

2. Individual projects and progress

This covers their key current projects and ones that are on the short-term horizon.

‘Is there anything that’s blocking your progress?’
‘Is there anything I could do to make things easier for you?’
‘Do you have all of the right equipment and support to complete these projects?’
‘What projects would you like to most work on next?’.

3. Individual personal development

This is looking at their career from a longer-term perspective.

‘Do you find your role challenging?’
‘Is there anyone on the team that you would like more time with to help you learn?’
‘Have you reviewed your development plan recently, are you on track with it?’
‘Is there any training or coaching that you would find useful?’.

4. Team spirit and happiness at work

This is trying to understand how they feel about the team and also how they think that the team currently feels about work

‘How do you feel the team is working together at the moment?’
‘Who do you find easiest to work with?’
‘How do you think that the team could work better?’
‘Is there anyone you find tricky to deal with in the team?’

5. Manager capability

This is actively soliciting feedback on how you are performing.

‘Is there anything I could do to make your work easier and simpler?’
‘Is there anything where you would like more involvement and support from me?’
‘Do you find my management style helpful?’

Although this can be difficult it is a really great way to build rapport with your team. The fact that you’re open to criticism and looking to improve will show that you’re eager to improve and open

Listen Actively

To really understand what you are being told you’ll need to listen closely and actively participate in the conversation to encourage your team members.

Classic active listening techniques that work really well if they are not overused include:

    • Asking clarifying questions
    • Acknowledging their feels if they express any
    • Paraphrasing what they’ve said to be check that you’ve understood them.

By showing respect for your team’s needs and opinions you will also help to build a stronger relationship with your team.

Listen

 

End Of The Meeting

At the end of the meeting, you should wrap up by reviewing the key points that were raised, any decisions that were made and the key action points.

 

After The Meeting

It is critical that after the meeting you take 5 minutes to review and make notes of the conversation and action points. You must then make sure that the action points are covered off before the next meeting.

This then gives you a record of your conversations for the future and also gives you an action list to focus on before the next one-to-one.

 

Photos by Andrea Piacquadio and fauxels.

You’ve finally got that promotion and are about to become a manager.

Inevitably, you start thinking a lot about what makes a good boss and how you will run your team as a new manager.

A key thing to remember is: ‘Your first day matters.’

That doesn’t mean that if it doesn’t go well you’re doomed. It just means that your first day, in particular, and your first few weeks are when your people are looking at you most intently to try to understand what kind of leader you will be.

Will you be open, straightforward and respectful, as they hope? Or will you be political and unsupportive?

Why not plan for, and take advantage of, this window by going out of your way to set their expectations clearly?

Although the temptation may be to ‘settle into’ your role and take your time, this would be wasting this valuable time.

 

Becoming A Manager

Becoming a manager requires a big perspective shift. Up to this point in your career, your success has been a result of your work. From now on your success is going to be a result of your team’s work.

Making sure that your team is working smoothly and focused on the right goals is the work of a career. Given that line management requires you to master a number of new skills many people look for training around the time that they step up to a management role to try to make the career transition to manager go as smoothly as possible.

The work of your first few weeks in a role is to ensure that you start to get to know your team, that they start to get to know you and that you establish clear, open lines of communication.

If you can do that you are off to a great start as a new manager.

Which begs the question: How do I do all that?!

We’ve put together this expert survival guide for new managers. Read on for fourthings to do first.

1) Bring Your Team Together

If you can, schedule a meeting with your new team on your first day, or at least within your first week. Plan this carefully but resist the temptation to use this meeting to drill into your vision for the year ahead, or streamline operations; instead, make it all about your team, try and use some storytelling skills.

This first meeting should reflect the working environment you’re aiming for. It should establish your intentions, especially when it comes to team culture and getting people to work together effectively. Share why you’re excited to work with this team — and make it clear that your key focus is to provide help and support.

Take the opportunity to address any changes in relationships here as well. Being transparent will encourage trust right from the start.

For example, if you’ve been promoted to manage a team that you were previously a part of, you can make it clear that you are available to talk through any issues this hierarchy shift might bring up for people.

2) Then Get to Know Them More Personally

Make it clear that you’re interested in every person on your team, at every level.

You might not have time to meet everyone one-to-one straight away, but put those coffee meetings in the diary — even if it means scheduling weeks in advance. People will understand that you’re valued but see that they are a priority because you’re scheduling the meetings.

Then use those meetings to get to know the unique qualities of each team member.

According to the Harvard Business Review, there are three things you must know about someone in order to manage them well: their strengths, how to trigger those strengths, and their learning style.

Personal insight and positive relationships with the people you manage will enable you to get the most from your team. You’ll be able to create space for everyone to contribute confidently and do their best work.

Be sure to be in listening mode when you have these meetings. They are all about getting to know your team. They are not about you selling your vision for the team.

3) Be Very Clear About Your Team Culture

Getting really clear on the team culture you want to cultivate and communicating that to your team is very powerful if you then uphold that culture.

The company’s broader values will feed into this, but becoming a manager gives you a powerful opportunity to set the culture of your team.

How do you want the working environment to feel for your team? Write it all out and then be sure that your behaviour is aligned with it.

Be an example of the culture that you want to create.

If you want transparency? Be transparent.

If you want team members to trust each other? Be trustworthy.

If you want to eradicate gossip? Don’t gossip.

4) Find A Mentor

Your new role is all about your team but managing them is up to you. You need to remember to build your skills as you settle into your new role.

Many people report their first management role as the most stressful career transition that they made.

Accept up front that it is going to be difficult and that you will make mistakes as you have much to learn.

Also, remember that it is a career transition that has been made by millions before you.

Although it’s not easy, management is something many others in your organization have learned before you. They have been through the same transition.

Try to make sure that you don’t make this transition unsupported by finding a mentor to advise you.

Seek out senior figures who have made this transition before and start building relationships.

It doesn’t really matter whether they work for the same firm as you, or in a completely different walk of life, so long as they have good experience of managing people.

They will support you through tough times and encourage you to stretch yourself more when things are going well.

Being assertive means being confident and self-assured while being respectful of others.

It is a great trait. It means that you are direct when communicating your wants and needs. Voicing your thoughts and opinions without being aggressive or overbearing will make sure that you are heard and still be viewed as a team player.

If you find that you struggle with being assertive below we’ve laid out three ‘starter’ behaviours to get you started.

As with many things in life, once you get started and see the benefits you’ll probably find that being assertive becomes increasingly easy and natural. It’s getting started that is the most difficult bit.

 

3 Ways To Say No

‘No’ is a powerful and direct word.

Often people that are shy or passive find it difficult to say ‘No’ to a request and end up feeling put upon and stressed as they reluctantly take on another task.

If you find the thought of saying ‘No’ to someone think about other less direct ways to communicate the same thing.

Ultimately hopefully you’ll have the confidence to start saying ‘No’ but don’t try to run before you can walk.

1) “Let me think about it and come back to you.”

This strategy is really about winning you time. By saying this you allow yourself time to think about things and respond at a time and in a way of your choosing.

If your default in the moment is to feel nervous and say ‘Yes’ this is a great one. You’re not saying ‘No’ all you are doing is winning yourself the time to reflect calmly.

If you decide that you’d like to say ‘No’ you can then plan how you will do that.

2) “It sounds like a great idea I’d love to but I won’t be able to start it until ….”

This answer avoids being a direct ‘No’ but in effect is one.

By saying that their request will have to wait until you have cleared your other projects you’re protecting your time and priorities.

If the person is happy to wait then that’s great it takes the pressure off you. If they aren’t happy to wait then they will find someone else.

Either outcome is a good outcome and you haven’t had to say ‘No’ only that they will need to wait.

3) “That sounds great I could help you out with …..”

This is another way of avoiding saying ‘No’.

If someone requests something that you can’t do then you can offer to help with the part of the task that you’re best suited to.

Obviously, by implication, you’re saying ‘No’ but you’re also responding helpfully. It means that you can cherry-pick the part of the task that you will be responsible for.

If they’re looking for someone to take on the whole task they’ll need to find someone to complete the task but that’s now not on your shoulders.

 

Why assertiveness matters

Assertiveness is a trait of confident people.

Assertive people believe that their needs and wants are just as important (no more or less) as those of other people. They are happy to speak about their and other people’s wants in a relaxed fashion without seeing it as a threat or a big issue. To them, it is simply an ordinary conversation.

Being assertive is a big advantage in the workplace. Assertive people are viewed as easy to work with, and for, as good communicators and as competent.

People like them because of the clarity and openness that comes from speaking with them. They feel that they know where they stand.

Even if you disagree with someone on a subject, if they are assertive they will be able to discuss the subject calmly and clearly and not let it cloud the relationship more generally. Assertive people find difficult conversations relatively easy.

They also feel that assertive people are very competent as they are confident about stating what they need.

Given all of the advantages lets take a look at 3 ways to get started by looking at 3 ways of saying no to a request.

 

You’ll Be Viewed As MORE Competent

It is worth repeating that assertive people are actually viewed as more competent than passive people.

The great fear behind many people’s struggle to say ‘No’ is that they worry that people won’t like or respect them if they say ‘No’.

Ironically this lack of confidence leads to exactly what they fear, people viewing them less positively. People come away from someone saying a calm and respectful ‘No’ with a more positive view of the person denying the request.

Practice makes perfect

The above a just simple start on your road to becoming more assertive.

With practice, it will become much easier and more instinctive but while you are building the habit you should start small and build up.

 

Further reading:

HBR: People Who Seem Confident Are Viewed As More Compentent
High-Performance Lifestyle: How To Say No
Positive Psychology: The Quick Guide to Assertiveness: Become Direct, Firm and Positive
Manuel J. Smith: When I say no, I feel Guilty: How to Cope – using the Skills of Systematic Assertive Therapy
Claude Steiner: The Other Side of Power

While being assertive is seen as a strong trait in a line manager, there are other skills you’ll need to work on to find a balance.

To be a successful manager you will need to be able to lead your team confidently and assertively.

Being confident and assertive is something that comes with experience but you can get ahead of the game by taking an assertiveness training course ensuring you know the best techniques to use in given situations.

Empathy is a significant trait that will show your new team that you care about their ideas. By listening to them you will gain their trust and create a positive working environment.

But it is not just your team that needs you to be assertive, sometimes you will need to report up to senior managers.

In this case, being assertive doesn’t stop at listening but being listened to as well.

To make yourself heard you’ll benefit from learning some techniques in how to be assertive and how to do it positively.

 

Assertiveness Techniques

Being assertive may come naturally to you, or it may take time while you’re still finding your feet as a manager.

There are some techniques that will help you start to build your assertiveness and become more confident in your own decision making:

1) It’s what you say AND how you say it.

Choosing your words wisely is only the start.

When learning to communicate in an assertive fashion, be mindful of the language you use, face to face and electronically.

Be professional and clear about your expectations.

2) Think about your body language.

Your posture says a lot about you and what kind of message you are conveying.

Signify your point with gestures where needed and make eye contact with the person you’re talking to. They will feel confident in you and what you are saying.

3) Always come prepared.

Assertiveness doesn’t mean that you know all of the answers. It does mean that you have the confidence to talk about and ask questions on the subject where you don’t have much knowledge.

It also means that you have the confidence to not hide from topics you don’t understand so you do and do your research so that you know the right questions to ask.

4) Show humility.

Even though you may know a subject inside and out, there may be other people who can contribute and have new or different viewpoints.

Allowing someone to share their viewpoint shows you value their viewpoint and are interested in their opinions.

 

Bossy Vs Assertive

If you only focus on how assertive you want to be, you can easily forget the other skills that helped you get to your new position.

Being assertive doesn’t mean pushing your ideas for the sake of it, or just because you can.

It can come across as bossy and dismissive if you don’t communicate your intentions well.

With your new team in mind, there will be opportunities to delegate tasks, set goals and monitor performance.

Read these tips on how to make sure you represent yourself as a confident leader and not a bossy one.

 

Stay Calm And Focused On Key Goals

To avoid coming across as aggressive it is important not to be defensive.

By focussing on the end goal while being open to ideas, people will be more likely to contribute. Your likability is what will win your team over, rather than aggression.

 

Know When To Say “No”

A lot of the time, your job as a manager will be to make decisions and have the final sign off on tasks.

But it is important not to dismiss ideas from others just because you can.

Equally, this doesn’t mean saying “Yes” to everyone.

You need to say ‘No’ in the right way so that your team knows that you value their opinion and encourage them to come to you with other ideas in the future. This means taking the time to listen to their idea and asking some questions to be sure that you really understand what it is and why they think it is a good idea before saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

 

Learn to listen properly

Most of the time when we listen, we are already thinking of a response before the other person has finished talking. Without jumping in, let them share their ideas and show assertiveness by concentrating the ones you like and offering an action plan.

Being assertive means being confident in your decisions. It is possible to demonstrate authority and confidence without coming across as bossy. Indeed, in showing that you are open to new ideas you are actually demonstrating that you are secure and confident in. your position.

 

Positive Assertiveness

Being a new manager, you will find your days are full of new challenges.

But how do you make sure this positivity stays by the time the excitement wears off?

It isn’t uncommon for managers to start to feel the strains associated with leading teams and having results-driven tasks and when they do they begin to feel less positive and become less patient.

By defining your positive assertiveness at an early stage, you set the tone for an ongoing positive work environment.

Confidence is the number one challenge you will face in being an assertive manager. Too much can come across as pushy, too little can come across as passive.

Think of this as an example:

You have delegated a task to a senior member of your team and the deadline is approaching.

 

Passive Communicator

Not wanting to confront the team member as they appear to be under a lot of pressure, you avoid asking how it is going.

If they then come to you at the last minute saying that they won’t hit the deadline you either agree to the extension with questioning it and why they are late or respond passive-aggressively by ignoring them for the next few days.

 

Aggressive Communicator

You chase them up repeatedly to emphasise that the deadline is approaching and that they have had plenty of time to complete the task or ask for help or an extension.

You see they are under pressure, but you are too, and the job needs doing, so no excuses despite leaving them somewhat bruised by these encounters.

 

Assertive Communicator

In setting the task, you were clear in your communication and anticipated potential hurdles.

You have checked in periodically and can see before the deadline that they are struggling.

Before the deadline, you have a quick chat to remind them that the deadline is important and also to see if there is any help that you can offer to help them to hit the deadline.

Being assertive and having the confidence to speak up doesn’t mean you have to push people to their limits.

In growing your own confidence, maintain positive relationships and make sure your team knows they can come to you for help.

When it comes to deadlines, show positive assertiveness by driving the end goal forward as a team and staying focused on the end goals.

 

 

One of the biggest shocks that new line managers face is the amount of HR the role involves.

In this article, we’ll explore how and why line managers work with HR as part of their role.

What Is HR?

HR is responsible for all aspects of people management throughout an organisation.

It has responsibility for:

  • Recruitment & selection.
  • Performance management.
  • Succession planning.
  • Compensation and benefits.
  • Human Resources Information Systems.
  • HR data and analytics.

For full details see this article: 10 Things HR Departments Do To Help Their Employees Succeed

 

Where Does Line Management Overlap With HR?

A line manager has direct responsibility for everyone in their team. Our article – What Is A Line Manager? – covers this in more detail.

This part of the role of a line manager is often the steepest learning curve for new line managers.

They will be involved whenever HR gets involved with one of their team. This could be an individual-specific issue, or when HR are rolling out a new policy or procedure, that needs communicating to everyone in the business.

Line managers know their team better than anyone else and so are best placed to work with HR to reach the best outcome.

Knowing this effective line managers build good relationships with their HR department.

They know that they will need to work closely with HR day-to-day across a number of areas. In addition, they know that if they have issues with an employee, HR will be able to offer valuable help and advice in sorting the problem out.

Let’s take a closer look at the areas where HR and line managers overlap.

 

6 Areas Line Managers Get Involved in HR

 

1. Identifying training needs

Line managers are responsible for their team’s performance.

Consequently, they are ideally positioned to identify any skill gaps that an individual on their team might have.

If they identify a significant skill gap, the line manager will need to work with HR to resolve it.

Filling the skill gap may require sending them on a course or a structured mentoring programme. Either way working with your HR department is likely to achieve the best result.

2. Appraisals

A company’s appraisal process will be established by HR. However, it is implemented by line managers – see this guide to running performance reviews for more details.

Line managers are best placed to carry out performance reviews because they have the closest working relationship with their team members.

They can offer the most insightful comments on performance and attitude and ensure that the appraisal is as fair and detailed as possible.

Once an appraisal is completed, it will need to be registered with HR. If any issues are identified, then the line manager may work with HR to resolve them.

3. Recruitment

Line managers take an active part in interviewing new hires for their team, as they will manage the new hire day-to-day once hired.

Usually, HR is responsible for producing job specifications, running job adverts and carrying out an initial screen of applicants.

However, once HR has built a list of potential candidates, they will then work with line managers to interview candidates and choose someone for the role.

While no-one is perfect obviously in order for a manager to decide who their prefered candidate is they will need to have a list of the qualities that they look for in all of their team members.

4. Salary recommendations

Line managers work hand in hand with HR where salary is involved.

One of the annual appraisal process outputs will be recommendations regarding an individual’s pay and whether they should receive a pay rise.

As HR is responsible for managing a company’s salary structure and payroll, this obviously has to be done in conjunction with them.

5. Relaying corporate news

Line managers act as the liaison between the company and the employee.

They are often used to relay information – good or bad – to their teams.

If the information is HR related, line managers will work with HR to ensure that announcements are handled appropriately and carried out at the right time.

If a team member has issues with the announcement, their line manager will be responsible for liaising with HR to address the problems.

6. Supporting well-being

Line managers are responsible for ensuring the well-being of their team.

This responsibility ranges from small tasks like rearranging an employee’s workload if they are struggling, to more important tasks like ensuring that employees have the appropriate safety equipment.

If an employee has a severe well-being issue (for example suffering from stress caused by an excessive workload), then the matter would need to be reported to HR so that you can find a combined solution.

The ability to listen clearly to team members to understand what is going on is another skill that new line managers need to learn – see this article on listening skills for line managers for more details.

 

2 Areas Of HR Line Managers Should Not Get Involved In

Being a line manager means working closely with your HR department. As we’ve seen, the roles overlap in a number of areas.

However, as a line manager, you need to make sure you don’t overstep the mark and start taking on tasks your HR department is responsible for.

Let’s look at a couple of the areas where you could get yourself in trouble as a line manager.

 

1. Making policies and procedures

Line managers are responsible for implementing policies and procedures. They do not create policies and procedures.

Companies are hierarchical.

Line managers are responsible for implementing the corporate guidelines and policies they are given by HR. They should not be creating policies and procedures.

The Human Resources department is staffed by professionals who specialise in employment administration and legislation.

They will have an overarching human capital strategy for the business. The procedures and policies will fit within that strategy.

If you start creating procedures without a complete understanding of that strategy, you will cause all sorts of legal and practical problems.

2. Creating contracts

Line managers play an important role in the recruitment process for new employees, as we’ve seen.

Employment contracts require specialist knowledge of employment law. This knowledge will reside in your HR department, and this is why they are responsible for creating new employment contracts.

Of course, if you will manage the individual concerned, you should have input into the contract, but the responsibility for creating the contract should be left to your HR department.

 

Conclusion

HR professionals and line managers need to work together to get the best out of employees and meet their company’s goals.

As a line manager, you need to understand where your responsibilities stop, and HR’s responsibilities start.

Hopefully, this article has helped you understand where that line is.

If you have a concern, the best thing you can do is take some time to develop a good relationship with your HR department.

That way, if you’re not sure, you can easily pick up the phone to them.

 

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Line managers play an essential role in the efficient running of all businesses.

They provide guidance and motivation to staff and ensure that the company operates smoothly.

For anyone with ambitions to work their way up to the senior levels of management, it is a crucial step.

The role allows you to show your leadership skills and gives you direct exposure to senior management.

This article explains everything you need to lean about Line management and provides a few tips to make sure that your application is as strong as possible.

 

What is line management?

Put simply, line management is an employment structure in which someone has direct responsibility for an employee or group of employees.

Usually, a line manager will, in turn, report to their superior, giving the organisation a clear chain of command.

An effective line manager operates as the link between the decision-makers at the top of the company and front-line workers.

A large part of their job is to ensure that the company’s objectives are communicated to front line staff while communicating any staff issues back up the chain of command.

For a fuller explanation see our article: What Is A Line Manager?

 

Are you ready to be a line manager?

Before you apply for a line management position, you should take the time to understand exactly what it involves.

Line management comes with a wide variety of responsibilities. This is both the appeal and the challenge of the role.

Being promoted to line manager isn’t as simple as being highly competent in your current job – the role requires a new set of skills.

You should set aside some time to think through your strengths and weaknesses before applying for a role.

We look at what the role requires in more detail below.

The biggest change people find when stepping into a line management role is that they are no longer responsible for their own success.

A line manager’s success depends on their team performing well.

This means that communicating clearly and confidently with your team is key.

If you have shown – both to yourself and to your superiors – that you can communicate clearly and confidently with colleagues and gain their trust, then you probably are ready to be promoted to line manager.

 

 

Responsibilities of a line manager

Line managers have a number of responsibilities that front-line work does not. Many people find the transition to line manager the most challenging of their career.

As a line manager, you are likely to have the following duties:

1. Monitoring staff and business performance

You will have oversight of the daily operation of your team, both as a collective and as individuals.

Maintaining your team’s productivity is your primary responsibility.

That starts with ensuring you are on top of all of your team’s performance data so that you can see who is meeting expectations and who is not.

The amount of interaction with the HR department is often one of the largest surprises to new line managers.

2. Setting Goals

Line managers set the goals for the company’s employees and communicate what’s expected of them.

You will need to provide clear, attainable targets for your team and then help them to achieve them.

This may involve using your expertise to educate a new member of staff or encouraging a less confident employee that they are competent and valued.

Each employee is different, and you will need strong interpersonal skills to understand how to get the best out of each member of your team.

See this article for more detail on delegation and objective setting

3. Aiding staff development

Line managers are responsible for the coaching and career development of their team members.

They need to monitor staff development needs and pro-actively work with staff members to address them.

This could be mentoring, internal or external training.

Staff who feel that they are learning and growing tend to be highly engaged, so this is a great way to develop individual morale.

4. Allocating work

Line managers are in charge of delegating workloads, and it is important that tasks are distributed fairly.

An overworked team member is likely to feel stressed and unhappy, which could affect team morale – a good line manager will oversee workloads to ensure that nobody has an unreasonable volume of work and reallocate work where appropriate.

5. Organising rotas

As a line manager, you will be expected to oversee the drawing up of rotas that are fair and meet the needs of your team and the business.

6. Overseeing staff wellbeing

A happy team is a productive team. As a line manager, it will be your responsibility to look after your staff’s wellbeing.

This may be anything from noticing an increase in absence to recognising a change in someone’s behaviour.

Your duty is to spot the signs that an employee is struggling and take appropriate steps to resolve the situation.

Inevitably when you have a group of human beings working together at some point you will get conflict. Learning to manage conflict within your team is another crucial skill that you will need to develop.

7. Providing a link between employees and HR

Line managers bridge the gap between their team and human resources.

Day-to-day HR issues are dealt with by line managers supported by HR.

For example, if HR initiates a new policy, it will be your duty as line manager to ensure your employees understand it and act upon it.

 

 

Skills Required Of A Line Manager

As a line manager, you will have a long and varied list of duties, and you’ll need to build up the skills to match them:

1. Communication

Your success as a line manager is likely to hinge on your ability to communicate clearly and effectively.

Whether you’re providing a sympathetic ear or undertaking formal performance reviews, as a line manager, you will need to be able to interact with your team members in a variety of ways.

Every day as a line manager is likely to present new challenges, big and small. You will need to master communicating clearly.

2. Leadership

Strong leadership is essential in a line management role, and you will need to gain the trust and respect of your team to ensure they follow your example.

A good line manager must be decisive and strong-willed. If you believe that your methods are best for business, it’s key that you show authority in your decision-making and trust your judgement.

Your employees will look to you for instruction, so you will need to show a willingness to be proactive. A good leader can anticipate potential problems, plan ahead and think creatively about ways to improve the business.

3. Empathy

The era of managers being cold and unapproachable is long gone; in the modern world, your staff will look to you for support when they are struggling.

An ability to show empathy is important to ensure that your team is happy and productive at work. Knowing that their line manager cares about their wellbeing makes employees feel valued, which improves morale and performance.

4. Organisation & Delegation

As we have seen, a line manager role comes with a host of daily responsibilities. The ability to organise yourself and your work is vital.

You will need to be able to prioritise and delegate work.

Effective delegation will save you time and also offer your team the chance to develop their skills and build their confidence.

 

Writing a covering letter

Once you have decided that you wish to apply for a line manager position, you will need to make your application as attractive as possible.

This starts with your covering letter – a short note attached to your CV that emphasises your suitability for the specific role you are applying for.

A good covering letter needs to catch the attention of your prospective employer and help you stand out from the other applicants.

Whereas your CV provides a factual account of your education and career history, your covering letter is an opportunity to let them know who you are and highlight your key strengths.

A cover letter is more personal than a CV and allows you to highlight the reasons they should ask you for an interview.

A covering letter should emphasise why you would make a good addition to their team and your reasons for applying.

The key to a good covering letter is brevity. Your letter should be no longer than one page in length but needs to provide as much detail as possible that shows you in a positive light.

Address your covering letter to the hiring manager and show that you have researched the company and the role.

Pick a couple of the strongest points about your skills and motivation and very briefly highlight them.

The aim of this is to ensure that you make the first cut. A good covering letter will never get you the job, but a bad one will make ensure that you don’t get it.

The video below possibly takes brevity too far but offers some really great tips.

 

Writing a CV

While your covering letter allows prospective employers to learn about you as a person, your CV is a more objective summary of your life.

It should summarise your personal details, your academic achievements and, most importantly, your career history.

The first thing to consider is presentation. A poorly designed CV puts you at a disadvantage before it’s even been read. Make sure your CV looks professional.

Put your personal information at the top of your CV.

This acts as an introduction to your application and makes it easy for your employer to find your contact details.

Next, you should provide a brief personal statement. This should explain who you are and why you are right for the position.

This paragraph acts as a condensed version of your covering letter, so make every word count.

You will also need to provide a detailed history of the jobs you have held, starting with the most recent.

You should include the name of the company you worked for, your position, the start and end dates of each role and your responsibilities.

Make sure that you emphasise the areas in which you excelled in each role. Where possible, use facts and figures to back up your claims.

Saying ‘Increased sales by 57% over 12 months” is far more impactful than “Increased sales in first 12 months”.

If there are any gaps in your employment history, acknowledge and explain them as best you can.

It is also important to include brief details of your education. Again do this in reverse chronological order, so start with the most recent academic achievement.

Remember to keep your CV short. It should be no more than two sides of A4.

Conclusion

As we have seen, line management roles require a wide array of skills.

If you are passionate about your line of work and want to progress up the career ladder, then the first step is a line manager position.

Hopefully, you now know what is required and how to go about finding a role – good luck!

While remote working offers proven benefits, the lack of face-to-face interaction makes it more difficult to foster a positive working environment. 

Virtual team building provides an effective method of turning a remote team into a cohesive unit that communicates and collaborates effectively

This article will tell you everything you need to know about virtual team building and offer a few tips on team building activities to help make your business more productive.

 

What is team building? 

Team building describes the ongoing process of increasing your workforce’s efficiency by encouraging employees to communicate and co-operate with one another.

Placing a group of employees in a situation where they must work as a team allows them to bond to pursue a common goal. Building strong relationships between team members helps create a positive working environment.

There are numerous established team-building methods, from specifically designed activities and events to informal get-togethers where employees can learn more about each other. 

Each activity offers a proven route towards a happier, more motivated and more productive virtual team while encouraging employees’ professional development.

 

Why is team building important? 

A harmonious work environment is vital to running a successful company, with a recent study showing a direct link between employee happiness and productivity. With that in mind, a manager must do everything they can to ensure their team is happy at work.

Team building has many benefits. Not only does it lead to improved relationships between employees, but it can also enhance individual skills such as leadership and planning. 

Successful team building can also lead to a more motivated workforce – and it is easy to see how a tight-knit, motivated, and highly skilled team will deliver better results for your company. 

By encouraging your employees to communicate effectively, develop trust in one another and work together as a team, you will foster a positive atmosphere that should increase your company’s productivity. These are all things that are all big challenges in a virtual world

A particular challenge is integrating new people into a team. Icebreakers are a great way to introduce them and start the process. However, you will need to think of other ways to build on this and help them develop meaningful relationships with other team members.

To summarise, team building offers several critical advantages to your company:

  • Improves communication
  • Boosts team morale
  • Encourages greater teamwork
  • Increases motivation
  • Promotes a happy working environment

How is virtual team building different? 

Historically, the concept of team building has focused on face-to-face communication, building relationships through social interaction either within the workplace or at an outdoor event. 

The recent increase in remote working means team building is more important than ever, but managing a virtual team provides a unique challenge. After all, how can your team bond effectively if employees are rarely in the same room? 

Virtual team building operates entirely online, using remote team building activities to improve your employees’ communication skills and encourage greater teamwork. These events can be anything from structured activities to develop skills to casual chats over video conferencing software. 

Through the implementation of these strategies, employers can ensure that team morale stays high. This, in turn, will lead to a more efficient and successful business.

 

Five virtual team building activities 

Having established what virtual team building events can offer and why they are important, you should consider what type of activity would suit your business. 

There are many virtual team building activities available, each with its own unique set of benefits. 

Here are a few popular options that you may wish to consider:

 

1. Virtual team social

The after-work social on a Friday night has long been considered a team-building staple, but it isn’t for everyone. Prior engagements, childcare responsibilities or even the onset of a worldwide pandemic can make an evening in the pub impossible.

A virtual team social provides a more convenient opportunity to socialise with workmates away from the stresses of the job, allowing colleagues to get to know each other better. 

Whether colleagues enjoy the fun, competitive atmosphere provided by virtual team building games or just want to meet for a casual chat, virtual team events offer an easy way for employees to bond and build team morale.

The remote host invites employees to a virtual room where they can interact via video (or audio if they prefer), helping to foster a positive, collaborative environment.

 

2. Virtual escape room

One of the most popular in-person team-building exercises is the escape room. In an escape room, you solve a series of clues to unlock the door of the room in which you’re trapped.

Escape rooms require problem-solving skills, communication and teamwork, making them an ideal option for team building – and they translate to the virtual world seamlessly

Virtual escape rooms take place through video conferencing. They split your employees into competing teams and introduce them to a fictional setting that they must ‘escape’ from. 

Teams must complete their escape as quickly as possible, with puzzles designed to encourage cooperation between players in a fun but challenging way. 

By working as a team focused on a shared goal, players develop interpersonal skills that transfer to the workplace.

 

3. Virtual club

One good way to build morale and help employees understand each other better is to set up a virtual club. 

Book clubs have always proven popular, but virtual clubs can just as easily be based around movies or even television programmes – the key is finding a subject that everyone is interested in discussing. 

Discussion of shared interests is an effective way of increasing trust and rapport between colleagues. It can also help to boost team morale by allowing people to engage with their passions in a social setting and learn more about their colleagues.

Any activity that encourages team members to collaborate will offer spillover benefits during work. You will find that people will naturally become more collaborative at work as well.

 

4. Virtual quiz

Hosting a quiz as part of a virtual team social is a particularly effective way of encouraging collaboration between colleagues while also providing a fun setting that will boost morale. 

While in-person quizzes can be great fun, some people find the competitive element intimidating, particularly when prizes are available. 

A virtual quiz’s more relaxed environment can help bring quieter staff members out of their shell. 

You can even create bespoke quizzes based on people’s interests, helping everyone feel like they are part of the team.

 

5. Virtual murder mystery

Murder mysteries provide an excellent platform for team building. They allow colleagues to interact socially and do so in a fun, competitive context that encourages teamwork and lateral thinking. 

Virtual murder mysteries work in a similar way to their real-world equivalents. 

The remote host sets the scene, explaining that a murder has taken place and providing you with a series of clues. 

While working in teams, employees are encouraged to collaborate and discuss their thoughts to solve the case.

Virtual team games of this type have been shown to improve communication and inspire greater creativity in employees, leading to a more efficient, productive business.

Conclusion

Keeping your team happy and motivated is essential to running a successful business, and, as we have seen, team-building exercises have a proven positive effect on office morale. 

Remote working poses a challenge to your business, but it also brings new opportunities. The flexibility it provides allows everyone in your team to engage with virtual team building activities – you just need to find the right one that suits your team’s needs.

With such a wide range of virtual team events, games, and activities at your fingertips, the opportunity to increase your team’s motivation, morale, and cohesion is at your fingertips.

 

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