APPRENTICE star and West Ham United FC vice-president Karren Brady answers all your career questions.
Today, she’s helping someone who needs to have a difficult conversation with their boss and someone who is struggling to adjust to their new management role on Zoom.
Q) In my recent review, my boss said that while I was doing well in many ways, she thought my time management could be better.
I find it hard to take criticism so I didn’t say anything at the time, but now I wish I could have stood up for myself.
As far as I can remember, I never missed a deadline, despite being very busy.
I know I should ask for another date to discuss this, but I don’t want to get mad in front of my manager if she criticizes me. What can I do?
Ella, by e-mail
A) It’s very frustrating to be criticized without being given examples and being told how we can improve.
If you don’t have the confidence to raise this issue verbally, write your manager an email thanking them for their comments, but saying there are a few things you would like clarification on.
Explain to her that you think you haven’t missed any deadlines, then you would appreciate a better understanding of what she thinks you are missing, in order to improve that in the future.
In all jobs, we have to have tough conversations. This is obviously something that you find tricky (like a lot of people), so instead of stepping away from it, think of it as an area you can develop.
Difficult conversations can trigger a tremendous amount of stress, which is why some of us avoid such interactions.
Keep the conversation professional, be calm, and don’t get upset.
Take a deep breath when you need to and use phrases like, “I understand you may have come to this conclusion, but I would like to offer a different perspective. ”
Repeat the conversation with a friend to boost your confidence.
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Q) I have just started working as an admissions manager for a university, which is a big step forward for me, and a large part of the team I lead now work from home on a permanent basis.
I find it difficult when I’m not meeting people in person for informal catch-ups, and all of our meetings are conducted by Zoom and are very formally structured.
How can I feel more comfortable and show my team that I have the leadership skills that my role requires?
Laura, by email
A) It’s great that you are motivated and want to excel in your new job.
While it is good to show initiative and want to show leadership, the first thing to do is to understand your role and all your responsibilities.
Try to get to know your team both independently and in a group. Understand what each of them does and how they work together to achieve team goals.
Discover their strengths and areas for development so that, as a manager, you can work with each of them successfully and find out what they need from you.
Make sure everyone understands what they are working towards and why.
Even though your team is now working from home, it’s important to get together in person – relationship building is difficult when everything is done virtually.
Suggest that the group hold a monthly in-person team meeting and also have informal one-on-one talks on these days.
While many people enjoy working from home, the importance of time spent in person is also better understood, so I’m sure they will recognize the benefits as well.
Have a career question Karren needs to answer? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.