I’ve worked at a half dozen different companies in my career so far, filling a variety of different roles and holding different levels of seniority. But looking back those companies and jobs in the abstract, it’s surprising how many elements in common they have. One particular element that I’ve seen again and again is a failure of management to actually manage.
I wonder how many of your reading have experienced or have friends who have had to suffer a bad manager. Maybe they micro-manage (a common complaint that I hear), or perhaps they bring their personal life to work and let it affect how they treat people. Are they convinced they have a better understanding of the subject than they actually do, or do they simply fail to recognize the unreasonable expectations they are placing on their employees.
It is this behavior, not poor pay or office politics which is the biggest cause of low morale in the work place. That low morale reduces productivity, causes employee turnover (which further reduces productivity) and is generally counter-productive for the company. And yet it is being caused by the people who are being paid specifically to make things run efficiently.
Employers aren’t completely oblivious to this of course, but their solutions frequently miss the point. The occasional free meal might perk people up for a day or two but it addresses the symptoms not the disease. Corporate “team-building” exercises and “frank exchanges” between employees and management won’t change anything if the management team can’t accept where the fault actually lies.
And it primarily lies with poor management. A good manager is not a drill sergeant. A company is not the army. Good management isn’t even difficult. Actually it’s easier than bad management because you have people actively helping you.
The principles of good management don’t change whether you’re a low level manager like myself or the CEO of a major corporation. Follow these simple steps and your employees will be happier. Happy employees make you more money.
Principles of Good Management:
- Listen To Your Staff
Companies employ people, not robots. So treat them like people. I know you’re busy. You have a dozen things to do and only time for half of them. Doesn’t matter. If one of your team comes to you, make the time to talk to them. Even if it’s not directly work related. Employees that believe you are interested in what they have to say and care about their lives will work much harder than those who are simply there to pick up the money. I know, I’ve been both types.
- Your Job Is To Facilitate Your Staff
You’re a manager. That means you’re not supposed to be doing the job (most of the time) you’re supposed to be arranging so the people who work for you can do the job. So tell them what you need them to do and when you need it done by. Then get out the way! Unless their behavior is unprofessional or they fail to get the assigned work done, there’s no need to stress over exactly how they choose to perform the task. If they need your help they will ask for it. See principle #1.
- Know That You’re Not Always Right
I have a running joke with my team that I’m “always right”. It’s funny because I’m right quite a lot, but I’m also wrong every day. I know it and they know it. If you can acknowledge your mistakes then your team will speak up and prevent you from making most of them. If you can’t, they’ll stay quiet.
- Trust Your Staff
There’s no need to keep checking up on an employee if they’re getting their job done. Hovering over their shoulder will just stress them (once again lowering productivity). If they’re not getting their job done you can attempt to educate them and if that doesn’t work. You have the wrong employee.
- It’s Not Personal, It’s Business
Employees will get job offers and may wish to move to another company. It’s not personal. Don’t make it personal. Do your best to keep them, but failing that help them to leave on good terms. If you have to give someone a warning, don’t take it easy on them because you’re worried they may not like what you’re saying. It’s not personal.
Conversely keep your personal life away from work. It’s not your staff’s fault that you just had a huge argument with your wife. Don’t take it out on them.
- Explain, Educate, Inform
You hold your position because you have a level of expertise in your field. Don’t hoard that knowledge. Spread it around. When you make decisions, explain why. Every step of the way tell people your reasoning. Next time they may be able to apply the same process without having to take up your time. If you don’t explain people are liable to think that your decisions are little more than random whims.
And that’s it. Follow those principles and you’ll end up with a team of enthusiastic, capable and motivated people who are not only getting the work done, but actively helping you to manage them.
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