5 Management Lessons from a Failed App Experiment

5 Management Lessons from a Failed App Experiment

Meditation and mindfulness practice is on the rise in organizations to promote wellness and balance, and I was ready to jump on board. So, I committed that I would try meditating, and guess what, there’s an app for that! A quick search through iTunes of the word “meditation” brought up 97 apps. I chose the first (free) one that popped up.

The app allowed me to choose a short 10-minute meditation to practice with a voice and bells guiding me along the way – quietly encouraging me to let go of the thoughts cluttering my brain and breathe deeply. Sounds pretty simple?

Well….I failed miserably at it. I made all sorts of mistakes along the way – I tried using the app on my commute to work (bad idea with people sneezing and talking around me). I tried, and got distracted by email. I tried and got distracted by Netflix – you catch my drift.

And finally, I allowed myself to recognize I had failed. And I’m all about lessons learned (like maybe first time at meditation shouldn’t be on a moving train with throngs of people). Here’s what I bottom-lined for myself:

Live human interaction and well delivered feedback are essential for success (in pretty much everything…)

Humans are complex beings with personalities and needs, and in today’s fast paced world, where, according to an IDC Research report, 80% of people check their smartphones within 15 minutes of waking up – we seem to think technology can solve for everything. Can it?

Just like my meditation app didn’t turn me into a mindfulness guru, a bad manager with a great app, still might be a crappy manager.

So, here’s what I learned about Management…
Lesson #1:

Management is a conversation

Just like mindfulness requires connection between body, mind and heart, management requires quality person to person connectivity. We know the traditional performance review is being thrown out in favour of more frequent feedback and simplified processes for Managers and Employees. Why? Because employees want to know how they’re doing, what they’re doing well, what they can improve on, in the moment – not 6 months or a year from now. And they don’t want to know for the sake of knowing – they want it to be meaningful which means the Manager needs to be equipped with the skills to have the conversation in the first place.
Lesson #2:

Management requires skills (and they can be learned!)

While there are apps for everything, organizations that employ technology but don’t provide training to their Management teams will not be as successful as their competitors who are investing in their people first.

A recent Gallup poll tells us that bad management costs between $450-$550B per year and costs in productivity too – poorly managed teams are 55% less productive and 44% less effective than their better managed counterparts. Teaching people how to have development, coaching and even difficult conversations is essential to motivation, employee engagement, and ultimately, organizational results.

Lesson #3:

Management takes courage

Can courage be taught? I’m going to go out on a limb and say “yes”. The key to courage is figuring out what limits us emotionally from taking risks, or what’s called, our limiting beliefs.

Once we have awareness of them then we are better equipped to embrace risk – like challenging the status quo that everyone around the table knows isn’t working. So, not knowing how to have a difficult conversation – the mechanics, what to say, when, where, allow us to play a game of avoidance.

When we understand how to have that conversation, the task at hand seems more manageable and we can flex our courage muscles. There’s risk involved in practicing anything new we learn, and the more we practice, the better we get.

As Winston Churchill once said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

Lesson #4:

Management can be messy

Managers often start as individual contributors. They get promoted to lead teams without the people management know-how that’s needed. The results can be messy for everyone. The path to becoming a great Manager is paved with lots of stops and starts and failures and successes along the way.

As a Manager, you have to be ready with a vision, and a plan to make it happen, all while keeping people motivated along the way. Finding your groove takes time, and knowing when to speak up and when to stay quiet isn’t always obvious.

Taking credit for success is easy, accountability for failure – much harder. And there’s good reasons why – no one likes to fail. And while the fear of failure can be a powerful motivator, it can also be an obstacle. Trying and failing is better than not trying at all.

Lesson #5:

Management takes practice

If there was a clear pathway from point A to point B in everything in life, we would all probably be millionaires. We know that’s not the case and there are numerous winding roads from which to choose.

Pick a path and move forward – make sure you’re ready to jump in with eyes wide open, get ready to fail a little bit and then pick yourself back up and continue down the same path, or pick a new one.

Once you have the skills, you have to use them frequently. And take risks, regularly. Got an app or software? This is the right time to use it – to help you with creating the good habits, and the discipline required to keep active all those great people skills you now have.

Final thoughts

Organizations need to invest in their Leader-Managers to grow them from incredible technical experts to exceptional people leaders. Team engagement and achievement is not a one and done activity, it takes courage and practice.

Once you’ve got that piece sorted out – a technology pairing allows resilience to be built through day in and day out practical application to get teams focused, motivated and getting the right things done. There’s no one right way to manage – different situations require different approaches.

Ultimately, figuring out the right approach for the right situation will get you the outcome you’re looking for – whether that’s turning a solid employee into a rock star, or finding a way to relax a meandering brain.