Well, of course that depends on who you ask. There have been volumes of books written on the subject going almost back to the beginnings of recorded civilization. Some people think it’s a skill you’re either born with or not. Some believe it’s a set of precisely defined traits that can be learned. The truth is that great management is both an art and a science. There are definitely certain basic rules and absolutes, but how to execute them, and when, is a skill that takes years to master.
I’ve been a manager for a long time. I’ve been fortunate to have really good mentors and role models. I’ve taken very effective training courses in management. Nevertheless, I must admit that I think I’ve learned the most from the worst bosses I’ve had. Unfortunately, most people who attain positions of leadership are often thrust into their first roles without any training whatsoever. They do the best they can, and some are lucky enough to turn out great, but most are generally pretty bad.
Since you’re reading this article, then you’re probably waiting for me to cut to the chase and tell you the answers. I wish I could say that I had all of them. I continue to learn and hone my skills on a daily basis. That disclaimer being issued, I’ll share just some of the small nuggets of wisdom I’ve picked up on over the years. Not all of them are original ideas of mine, and I can’t recall where I’ve heard them, but it’s my blog so I’ll take credit for everything.
I’ll begin by imparting my general idea of what the purpose of a manager is: The manager selects the appropriate people to perform the appropriate job. The manager clearly communicates to their employees what the goals, methods, and available resources of their position requires. The manager clearly communicates to their employees what performance metrics will be used to assess the quality of their job performance. The manager reviews performance and adjust duties as needed. The manager helps their employees achieve their goals when assistance is required.
Pretty easy? Yes?
Easier said than done, that is. Those are all very basic concepts, but not surprisingly, foreign ideas to many people currently employed as managers. Some might think more along the lines that the manager makes sure people get to work on time and don’t leave early. The manager watches over people to make sure they’re diligent in their work. The manager tells you what to do. These ideas might be fine in a few select industries (like sweatshops and call centers), but most people don’t reach their peak performance potential being managed in that way.
If you begin with the basic purpose of a manager that I explained above, you can layer on a few of my time-proven tactics to practice along the way.
- Great managers are, above all, great communicators
- Great managers praise in public, and praise at every opportunity, but reprimand in private.
- Great managers create compensation and bonus plans that are directly tied to job and team performance
- Great managers do not flaunt their personal wealth to their lower-paid subordinates
- Great managers do not need to micromanage. They pick the right people for the job and then give them the power to do it
- Great managers assign duties to their people that permit them to exercise their strengths and let them flourish, instead of forcing them to improve on their weaknesses
- Great managers set reasonable and attainable goals for their staff to pursue
- Great managers are patient. They know haste makes waste and that some things take time.
- Great managers focus when they listen to people and are still polite when in a rush.
- Great managers mentor their staff and teach them how to be leaders themselves.
- Great managers are organized and know how to delegate – hence they remain calm and rarely frantic.
- Great managers constantly reflect to seek improvement in themselves, their work, and in their staff
I could go on and on with little tidbits like this, but I think I’ve given you enough to work on. If you’re still reading this article, then you already have the most important quality a great manager can possess – the desire to improve your management skills.