Session Descriptions

Here’s a more detailed description of the focus and topics of each session of Humans At WorkSM. These details will make more sense to you if you’ve read the Program Overview first.

The Tools and Materials page lists the specific books, tools, models and concepts included in the curriculum.

Please make sure you understand the terms of the Creative Commons license before you make your decisions.


Session 1: What is managing?

A day-long exploration of the behavior and core values of good managers that leads to each participant developing a personal vision of themselves as great managers.

    Topics

  • What is the manager’s job?
    Defining the manager’s role.
  • What makes a good manager?
    Analyzing our experiences of good and bad managers to understand the underlying behaviors and values.
  • Understanding the web model of organizations.
    Why your standard organizational chart does not reflect the reality of how work gets done.
  • The difference between authority and influence.
    It’s not enough to “be in charge.”
  • Establishing, prioritizing and maintaining key business relationships and mapping your relationship network.
    No manager can be successful without building the right relationships.
  • Your personal vision of great management.
    Put your stake in the ground.

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Session 2: Effective communication

The first of two days focused exclusively on communication — the most important part of a manager’s daily job. This session examines how human communication works, how it can break down, and techniques that all managers can use to communicate clearly and effectively.

    Topics

  • “Words and meaning” project.
    How semantic differences influence communication.
  • Communication behavior of good managers.
    Analyzing our personal experiences of effective and ineffective (or destructive) communication by managers to identify the underlying behaviors and values.
  • Mirror neurons.
    How the brain assigns meaning to what it sees and hears.
  • The Interpersonal Gap.
    A model of how communication often fails between people.
  • The Ladder of Assumption.
    A model of how assumptions complicate communication.
  • Satir modes and leveling behavior.
    Common defensive communication behaviors that people revert to in times of stress, and leveling behavior as a key tool for managers.
  • Effective listening.
    You cannot be a successful manager without learning to listen.

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Session 3: Deliver clear messages

This session emphasizes the practical application of the communication concepts learned in Session 2. We identify common types of business communication, break down the elements of an effective message, describe a process for planning and delivering effective messages, and practice specific techniques to communicate clearly both verbally and in writing.

    Topics

  • Using plain language.
    Being clear starts with saying what you mean. Good managers don’t hide behind corporate-speak.
  • The human/business interaction model.
    A model to remind managers they are communicating with human beings.
  • Guidelines for face-to-face, telephone and email communication.
    When, why and how to use these communication media.
  • Elements of a clear and effective message.
    Be specific about the topic, goal, audience, headline and key information of your message.
  • How to deliver your message clearly and effectively in person or in writing
    Includes techniques for opening and closing conversations, and how to structure your content for maximum clarity.

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Session 4: Priorities, decisions and meetings

We now apply the fundamentals of good management — core values, relationship-centered behavior, and effective communication skills — to the most important daily activities of all managers. We begin in this session with establishing accountabilities and managing shifting priorities. We examine a model and detailed process for making and communicating decisions. We end with pointers on structuring and running productive meetings.

    Topics

  • What is your team accountable for?
    These accountabilities are your team’s job, and the measure of your team’s business success.
  • What are your priorities as a manager?
    A model for identifying your priorities and staying focused. Managers must respond to daily crises, competing demands, and everyday bumps without losing sight of longer-term goals.
  • Making and communicating effective decisions.
    When and how to make directive, consultative and collaborative decisions. An effective working definition of consensus. Communicating the decision.
  • Running effective meetings.
    Planning, preparing, running, and following up on meetings, with facilitation techniques and tips.
  • Brainstorming and group decision-making.
    Discussion and practice in facilitating brainstorming and group decision-making using multi-voting and a decision matrix.

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Session 5: Building a great team

In this session, managers learn the fundamental skills of putting team structure into place, and building a productive and supportive team culture. The focus is on clearly-articulated agreements among all team members about the team’s overall accountabilities and priorities, each team member’s role and responsibilities, and how team members work together.

    Topics

  • What makes an effective team?
    Analysis of the basic elements — the building blocks of team structure and team culture — that make the team and its members successful.
  • Team structure.
    An in-depth look at the key organizational elements that all teams should have in place, including roles and responsibilities, evaluation criteria, information flow, decision-making, key processes, and regular team meetings.
  • Create a great team culture
    A healthy and productive team culture springs from your management style, clear boundaries, and clearly-defined ground rules for all team members and managers. It’s also important to have consistent and fair processes for handling mistakes, resolving disagreements, and expressing concerns.
  • Create and maintain team agreements
    Clear, specific agreements about basic structure and culture are the foundation of an effective team. We’ll review a detailed process for agreements, including the specific agreements you need and how to go about creating them with your team.

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Session 6: Keeping the team strong

This session addresses some of the most important — and most intimidating — moments in management, including hiring, motivation, concerns, reviews, and termination. Our emphasis is on practical techniques and clear process to help managers handle these responsibilities.

    Topics

  • Do you have the right people on your team?
    The importance of diversity of thinking and diversity of workplace skills and strengths.
  • Behavior-based interviewing
    We review and practice a detailed process for preparing, interviewing and evaluating candidates based on their real-life experience in previous jobs.
  • Onboarding
    integrating new hires smoothly into the team, including preparation, first day activities, a comprehensive training plan, and 90-day goals.
  • Keep team members growing and motivated
    Strategies for employee development, cross-training, and rewards and recognition.
  • Dealing with performance concerns
    How to structure and conduct conversations about performance issues with clarity, focus on solutions, and respect for dignity, including setting 30-day goals for improvement.
  • Termination
    If it’s necessary to separate someone from the team, good managers do it cleanly, respectfully, and with full attention to company process and legal considerations. We’ll look at a process for documenting a termination case and conducting a termination meeting.
  • Performance and salary reviews
    Process and communication strategies for preparing and conducting performance and salary reviews.

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Session 7: Conflict and change

Conflict and change are a fundamental part of business and of human relationships. We’ll spend most of the session looking at effective strategies for managing business conflict and personal conflict in the workplace. We also begin a discussion on managing change that concludes in the final session.

    Topics

  • Difficult conversations
    It’s a manager’s responsibility to step up to difficult conversations. We examine the elements and dynamics of these often-intimidating situations as a basis for the remaining work of the session.
  • Office politics
    Why office politics are here to stay, and how to participate effectively and with integrity.
  • Effective business conflict
    Conflict is an essential characteristic of a successful business. We develop a working definition of effective business conflict and look at key concepts for keeping business conflict productive and results-oriented.
  • “I language” model
    We review and practice this model that is useful for both business and interpersonal conflict.
  • Overview of managing change
    Change is a constant in business. We discuss change as a process composed of stages, and define a basic approach to managing those stages.

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Session 8: Bringing it all together

We end the program with change as our focus because managing change is one of a manager’s most common tasks, and because it is here that all your human-management skills come together. On some level, everything a manager does is “managing change,” because even if the business is running steady, the people who do the work of the business may not be. Managers must deal with the changes in people, not just the changes in business.

In this session, we also discuss strategies for managers to build a community of practice in their company, through which they can continue to support each other and develop their skills further.

Finally, we revisit each manager’s personal vision of themselves as a great manager of human beings.

    Topics

  • Managing transitions
    We dig deeper into strategies for managing change by managing the key transitions of the change process.
  • Building a community of practice
    The group develops a plan for establishing and maintaining a community of practice in their company.
  • Your personal vision of great management
    Each manager shares their specific vision of themselves as a great manager.

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After the Program

Each manager receives a 45-minute personal coaching session one to three months after completing the program.

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Before You Download

Please be sure you understand the terms of the Creative Commons License.

View the Creative Commons License

Program PDF Documents

Agendas and detailed teaching notes for each session. They'll give you an in-depth look at the program and can serve as the starting point for customization


A complete list of program reading materials and a full set of basic handouts.


How to deliver the program yourself.


Document versions of the Program Overview and Session Descriptions.