Each weekday, in our Management Tip of the Day newsletter, HBR offers daily tips to help you better manage your teams — and yourselves — through this period of profound change and uncertainty. Here are 10 of our favorite tips from 2022.
Promote Inclusive Language in Your Organization
Words matter, and, unfortunately, the modern-day professional vocabulary is littered with exclusionary terms. To create a truly inclusive culture, take a hard look at how people in your company are using language. For example, make sure recruiters and hiring managers pay careful attention to language they use when drafting job descriptions so they’re not inadvertently deterring candidates of color, women, people with disabilities, or older job candidates. Terms like “hacker” or “ninja” are not only hard for many people to identify with, they’re also unnecessary because you can use alternatives like “programmer” or “software engineer” that are neutral and more widely understood. You might also generate a list of words and phrases that are forbidden in product development, marketing, and external communications. These might include terms like “the elderly,” “man-hours,” and “crazy,” among others. It can also be helpful to create a company guide to inclusive language. This can outline practical, accessible tips and tools that can be put into immediate action — and it shouldn’t be a static manual. Make sure you also allow for input and co-creation across the organization.
This tip is adapted from “How to Make Your Organization’s Language More Inclusive,” by Odessa S. Hamilton et al.
Build a Team Culture That Honors Quiet Time
Life is noisier and more distracting than ever. As a manager, how can you build a team culture that truly honors quiet time? Start by deliberately talking about it. Begin an open dialogue with your team in which each member has an opportunity to answer the following questions:
- In what ways do I create noise that negatively impacts others? The best starting point is to have everyone check-in with themselves. Encourage people to question whether any given habit is necessary or if it’s really just an unexamined impulse — a default that needs to be reset.
- What noisy habits bother me most? This isn’t an opportunity to point fingers but ask people to be honest about what most disrupts their day.
- How can I help others find the quiet time they need? This is an opportunity for everyone to step up and to commit to group norms such as “no email Fridays” or “no meeting Wednesdays.”
This tip is adapted from “How to Build a Culture That Honors Quiet Time,” by Justin Zorn and Leigh Marz
Get More Comfortable with Failure
We’ve all been there: You make a new year’s resolution and … it doesn’t stick. Why? It’s often because we don’t allow ourselves to be bad at it at first. We fail a few times and then decide to give up. But adopting any new habit is going to feel clunky at first. The key to taking on something new is to get more comfortable with failure. Here’s how. Start by immunizing yourself against big letdowns by trying out experiments that allow you to fail in tiny ways. For example, if your goal is to write every day, start by committing to one short paragraph each morning. If you don’t like what you write, no big deal! It’s just a paragraph. Write another one tomorrow. Next, make your goal known to others before your self-doubt creeps in and you chicken out. This layer of accountability will help you actually follow through on your goal — no matter how bad you are at it the first time. And finally, keep a log of your efforts. Over time you’ll notice how far you’ve come. Rather than focusing on the small, inevitable failures, you can appreciate your overall progress.
This tip is adapted from “To Build New Habits, Get Comfortable Failing,” by Sabina Nawaz
Build Luck into Your Career
Every success story involves some amount of luck. And contrary to popular belief, serendipity isn’t entirely out of our control. Here are two ways to build luck into your career. First, actively practice “serendipitous networking” — connecting with others for the sake of getting to know them, their perspectives, and their stories. Should you find yourself drawn to their story or experience, dig deeper. Ask them questions about how they discovered their passion, what they’ve learned, and what they like or dislike about their role or industry. Their insights might spur a new sense of motivation or a vision that could lead you to your next career move. Second, look at big changes in your life through a prism of possibility rather than fear. Yes, changes that feel out of our control can be scary but try to see them as opportunities. What can you learn? How can you capitalize on the disruption? It can pay off down the road to go with the flow and trust that new opportunities will arise with time.
This tip is adapted from “Your Career Needs a Little Luck. Here’s How to Cultivate It.” by Thomas Roulet and Ben Laker
Improve How You Recognize Your Team
Showing recognition — when done well — has huge payoffs, boosting employee morale, productivity, performance, and retention. To get better at giving recognition, you want to focus on both the substance of the recognition and the manner and context in which you deliver it. To improve the substance, start by being specific. Describe to your employee what they did and the impact it had on you, the team, the organization, or your customers. While recognizing outcomes is valuable, it’s also important to recognize the positive actions that led to the outcome. To improve the delivery of your recognition, consider the employee you’re recognizing. Would they rather receive kudos in public or in private; verbally or via handwritten card? Tailor your delivery method to your employee’s personality. Whatever method you choose, be timely. The sooner you give the recognition after the behavior, the higher the perceived value.
This tip is adapted from “Do You Tell Your Employees You Appreciate Them?” by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman
Don’t Follow Your Passion
When it comes to career advice, the adage to “follow your passion” isn’t all that useful, and it can be misleading. If you’re looking to find a career that will matter to you, don’t just think about the things that come naturally to you, the things you love to do, or the things you’ve always excelled at. Instead, consider the activities that you return to time and time again — despite the fact that they are hard for you, or maybe even painful. Think of this approach as “following your blisters.” These probably aren’t the activities you’re the best at (yet) — they’re the ones that challenge you, frustrate you, and attract you all at once. Maybe it’s writing. Maybe it’s data analysis. Maybe it’s managing people. Whatever it is, if you follow your blisters, you’ll never be bored, and you’ll always be learning. And eventually, you’ll earn the calluses of an expert.
This tip is adapted from “What You Should Follow Instead of Your Passion,” by Dan Cable
How to Move Forward After Being Laid Off
Losing a job is hard. If you’ve recently been laid off, here’s how you can move forward with confidence and patience. First, understand that it’s not personal. People are laid off for many reasons, most of which are rarely about the performance of individual employees and completely out of your control. Don’t make looking for a job your only job. To protect yourself from burnout, decide which part of your day you’ll dedicate to your job hunt and how you’ll go about it. Next, be honest with people. Don’t be afraid to share your story. You’ll be amazed by how quickly people offer to support you, which is critical to keeping you in the right frame of mind, especially in the earliest days after a layoff. Finally, be patient. It can take six months or longer to find a job, and the timeline varies by industry. Stay open to new opportunities while you wait for a big win. Temping or freelancing in the meantime keeps you gainfully employed, occupied, and also helps you expand your network.
This tip is adapted from “What to Do When You’re Laid Off During a Recession,” by Marisa Bryan
How to Own Your DEI Blunder
Sometimes your efforts to be inclusive and call out injustice will backfire, accidentally causing harm to others. Perhaps you use language that some find offensive or problematic, you neglect to name all of the groups that are suffering the injustice, or you make some other misstep you don’t recognize until someone brings it to your intention. What should you do? Start by owning the mistake. Listen and respond to what you hear, and take responsibility for what you said or did — or didn’t do. Don’t try to immediately fix it or explain it away. Acknowledge your responsibility, apologize, and commit to doing better in the future. Next, demonstrate genuine curiosity in better understanding the nature of your misstep. Ask questions about your word choices, and use this as an opportunity to better understand another culture or point of view. As a manager, you can create a regular dialogue on a variety of DEI topics to build a climate of psychological safety. You might even host AMAs or book guest speakers to give employees the opportunity to learn and share their own experiences and ideas. Throughout the process, lead by example. The more actively you demonstrate engagement with these issues, the more your team will follow suit. The path to creating and sustaining an inclusive culture will never be free of obstacles or mistakes. So own them and persist.
This tip is adapted from “When Your Efforts to Be Inclusive Misfire,” by Daisy Auger-Dominguez
Balancing Performance Pressure with Compassion for Your Team
Many middle managers are feeling torn right now between performance demands from leadership and calls for compassion from their employees. What can you do if you’re feeling stuck in the middle? To start, work with executives to change the dialogue around performance. Help them understand the needs of frontline employees, bringing data to the table about how many people are experiencing hardships. At the same time, empower your employees. Remember that compassion doesn’t mean you have to fix all their problems for them. Help them see their challenges in a new light, and facilitate connections they need to build and broaden their networks of support. Finally, don’t forget to take care of yourself. No manager will be able to effectively help their employees if they’re also burned out.
This tip is adapted from “Managers Are Trapped in a Performance-Compassion Dilemma,” by Heidi K. Gardner and Mark Mortensen
Structure Your Writing Around One Core Idea
There’s a simple framework that can help you sharpen your writing by presenting your argument in a clear, concise, and engaging way. It’s called the “one idea” rule. In short, every component of a successful piece of writing (a pitch, report, presentation, or even an email) should express only one central idea. To identify what that is, ask yourself the following questions: What do I know about this topic? What inspires me about this topic? What can I say that will be interesting or surprising to others? Use these questions to narrow down your angle. Next, find evidence (facts, anecdotes, data) that may be useful or surprising to others, and that supports the point you want to make. Also, take note of any evidence that counters your argument. If you’re able to call out and address counterpoints before the reader discovers them, you’ll strengthen your main idea. Only include information that’s relevant. Anything else will just be distracting. If all of your examples are obviously related to the main topic, then it will be relatively easy to take the next step: ordering them into a story outline with a beginning, middle, and end.
This tip is adapted from “A (Very) Simple Way to Improve Your Writing,” by Mark Rennella
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