The costs of poor management are severe and manifest themselves in countless negative ways including demotivated, demoralized staff, high staff turnover, reduced employee productivity, increased employee uncertainty, a client/company disconnect and increased customer complaints. While a plethora of literature exists on the myriad ways managers can up their performance and positively impact and influence their companies and their teams, below we outline ten basic management tips from the pros.
1. Lead don’t manage
Leaders who ‘inspire’ their teams to perform by example and by communicating and eliciting excitement for a common vision, mission and set of values and goals are far more effective over the long run than their more subdued counterparts who ‘manage’ rather than ‘lead’. While managers control, meddle, limit and demoralize, the leaders excite, enthuse and infuse the organisation with their own contagious positive energy, motivation and dedication to professional principles and ideals as well as their solid, passionate and unwavering commitment to the company and the clients. Leaders manage less rather than more and while guiding and overseeing broad strategic issues and communicating closely with their teams, refrain from regularly interfering in the day-to-day tasks and workloads or micromanaging. As people take their cues from the boss, the boss’s principles, tone, work ethic, values, workstyle, energy and motivation will largely influence and determine the corporate culture.
2. Hire the best
A manager’s performance is a direct function of the performance of his team – by definition his role is to achieve a specific output or desired result through his employees and as such there is no substitute for surrounding yourself with the best possible players in the field and grooming them to excel. Confident managers are not afraid to hire Grade A players, they do not fear such employees will downplay their own track record or undermine their profile and abilities. To the contrary, good managers recognize that top performers will lift the whole division and will reflect directly in purely positive terms on their boss. Grade A players are motivated, driven, energetic, innovative, have the right attitude, aptitude, experience, abilities and their enthusiasm and quest for excellence usually sifts through the entire organization infusing it with renewed vigor and competitiveness. Just as excellence is contagious, so is mediocrity and incompetency – good managers are vigilant to never permit mediocrity in the front door and to excise it immediately should it rear its uncompetitive head before it manifests itself further across the organisation to everyone’s detriment.
3. Set clear goals
Setting goals is the first step towards achieving peak performance. These goals must be clear, specific, reasonable and attainable. The team must be able to articulate these goals in no uncertain terms and commit to them. Once the expectations are set, training programs and resource allocation can be tailored around these milestones and performance measured accordingly. A team that cannot articulate the company’s mission and goals and their own is a team destined for failure. A team set unreasonable, unrealistic goals is also set for failure. Good managers understand what is reasonable and attainable and ensure that the teams have the tools, training, infrastructure, resources and know-how necessary to achieve these goals. A good rule is to tell your team “what” needs to be done and “why” and leaving them to determine the “how” based on their best professional judgement and all the resources and know-how made available to them.
4. Listen to your team
A good manager listens to his team, closely monitors the issues they are facing and acts as a sounding board for their concerns, problems and ideas. Good listening starts with being open minded and approachable and involves paying close attention and making an effort to truly understand the issues raised while respecting the different viewpoints, communicating your understanding and offering nuggets of wisdom, direction, guidance or advice where sought for or appropriate. Ask questions where you are unclear about something. Probe. Reiterate key points to make sure you understand correctly. A manager divorced from the unique needs of his team cannot begin to motivate or inspire them toward a common goal. A manager who listens with objectivity, respect and discipline translates into a team that listens, both to each other and to the client and this is often the first step towards a winning, client-oriented service and product line. Good listening need not stop with the team – ideas, feedback and advice can come from anywhere, often from unlikely sources, and a good manager is always receptive to them.
5. Communicate effectively
Effective communication means clear, concise and timely communication and open lines of communication between the manager and his team. This goes beyond effective listening to communicating the mission, goals, standards, values and job expectations, giving ongoing and regular feedback to employees, seeking and acknowledging feedback from the team on decisions that affect them, relaying both positive and negative news in a timely manner, motivating and coaching the team and positively reinforcing employees in both public and private for jobs well done.
6. Respect your team
A good manager is consistently and unwaveringly respectful towards his team in attitude, words and actions. They do not look down on their teams nor do they consider themselves above maintaining a healthy, robust and direct line of communication with them. Good managers never belittle, humiliate, embarrass, threaten or otherwise undermine the integrity of their employees. When they need to criticize they do so professionally, constructively and in private; in public they laud, commend and motivate. Good managers never single out an employee to publicly flog or scream at nor do they create a culture where anger, ranting, raving, blaming, accusing or screaming are acceptable. Autocrats and dictators fail as managers over the long run; respectful leaders win the loyalty and commitment of their teams and succeed.
7. Create a learning culture
Teaching is a high leverage activity – the amount of time you spend training and coaching an employee or group of employees will generate a high return on investment that should with positive ramifications infiltrate many levels of the organisation. While you teach, your own learning and understanding of the subject matter will be enhanced. Make sure your own training and self-education remains uninterrupted as you progress up the career ladder even as you teach and provide training programs for subordinates. In this knowledge-economy age we live in, education, skills, knowledge rapidly become obsolete and it is essential to stay ahead of the productivity and innovation curve through constant training and education. Competitiveness necessitates a highly trained workforce – make sure you allocate key resources including some of your own precious time to the regular and ongoing training and development of employees. Groom them for success and cultivate great future leaders by providing the best training feasible while continuously updating, refining and enhancing your own skills.
8. Delegate Don’t Abdicate
Good managers don’t hire a team then do the job themselves – they delegate then supervise, monitor, inspect and provide feedback. Delegating does not mean a handover then washing your hands clean of the project – delegation without supervision is abdicating! Make sure you set a clear schedule for follow-up and regularly track progress towards agreed goals. Managers who delegate without ensuring their teams receive the proper resources, tools and training are setting their teams up for failure. Similarly, managers who assign responsibilities then rob their subordinates of all decision-making ability and authority while maintaining complex bureaucracy and rigid, archaic policies/procedures are dooming their teams to failure. Finally, managers who meddle, control, micro-manage and routinely take over tasks that veer off-course rather than leaving their subordinates to take charge and see the project through to completion are also inefficiently allocating valuable resources and undermining their subordinates. Employees who are routinely divorced of their responsibilities in such a manager cease to feel accountable and eventually lose motivation.
9. Remove barriers to success
Make sure the policies and procedures in place in your company help rather than hinder peak performance and success. Workplace rules and regulations should be minimized and facilitated to be easy to comprehend and follow rather than a barrier to success. Any rules/procedures, bureaucracies or other boundaries that paralyze, delay and frustrate rather than catalyze the efficient production process should be rethought and wherever possible removed or alternatives found. Workers should be encouraged to constantly innovate and optimize on their work processes and output and work processes should consequently be flexible enough to allow for this constant redefining and innovation. Strive to give employees freedom – the unfettered freedom to create, innovate, improve and exceed all expectations and performance targets.
10. Focus on the Customer
Effective managers realize that the customer is the real boss. Customers through their purchasing decisions hire and fire employees every day and their actions, attitudes and habits ultimately determine the shape, focus and size of the organisation. A boss’s focus on the customer will permeate the organization and create a customer-driven organization where everyone realizes that they work for and are ultimately paid by the customer. All positions in an effective organisation should be geared towards either getting or keeping a customer. The successful manager will take responsibility for training the employees in the fine art and science of getting and keeping customers while removing all corporate and procedural barriers that fetter these activities.