Tower Dec 2013Because I’m not a summer person, I prefer Tower, Minnesota at -24F (yes, that’s a screenshot from my phone) to NYC at 92F.

It’s not just the heat.

It’s the pace.   It could feel great when I had a Job.

As an employee of Anne Inc., when my clients slow down, my business does too.  And that can be a bit boring!

A few summers back, I decided to stop fighting, and embrace summer.

So for a few years now, I’ve had summer projects.

They’re a little experimental, around creating experiential learning exercises to  help people to explore people management.

One year it was a book club.  Another, open office hours.  Last year, an out-of-the-box artistic exploration.   Over time, I’ve added service, like free coaching/consulting for not-for-profit execs, or donating proceeds to charity.

To shape this year’s project, I reached out to a Brain Trust of clients and other startup denizens.

I asked them to tell me about their biggest management challenges.  Their views on topics I thought could create good group discussions.   And who they’d like to learn with.

Everyone was interested in better ways to give feedback.  Setting goals came in at a strong second.

Some wanted to talk about how to work with an employee whose performance isn’t up to par.

These are universal experiences at work!   Whether you work at NASA or at McDonald’s.

Here’s what one person said*:

…I think I would definitely be interested in attending the sessions above…but I think I would get most use out of them if I could go to them *when* I am experiencing that issue, or just before.

It would be really awesome if these were a quarterly series that you knew about and knew you could drop in or something.  I am SURE I will need a lot of guidance on how to fire someone, but I don’t think learning about it now will help me that much…

This person is looking for Just In Time management learning!   (More on that notion in another post.)

With many great disciplines — athletics, musicianship, programming — it’s obvious that learning is progressive.   And that the discipline hangs on a structure:  rules, best practices, conventions.

Some day, you’ll have to fire someone.   It’s gonna suck.   (It will suck the 20th time, too.)

With management, structure makes it possible to do the hard things well.

And I’m talking about having meaningful goals, and a process for giving feedback.   If you’re going to be even good, these practices come first.

Structure doesn’t make hard things easier; it makes them clearer.

And learning is progressive.

A “how to let someone go” discussion group is best for people who have had the “goals” and “feedback” seminars.

I digress, somewhat.

Thank you, Brain Trust.  You’ve put me on a good path to this year’s summer project.

Two lunchtime discussions:  July 25th, on setting meaningful goals; and August 15th, on giving effective feedback.

It’s a package deal, because it’s progressive, and to cement the learning.   Questions?  Throw me a comment.

Or, you can sign up here.