How to Be a Better Manager
In contrast with times past, modern organizations in the information age are no longer run by having a few people who think and many people who merely follow orders. Today, the successful organization requires a higher degree of personal responsibility and creativity by every individual in the organization. Unfortunately, older styles of management, which were adequate in past eras, no longer produce the most profitable results.
If you are a manager, it is important for you to realize that how you interact with subordinates affects every aspect of your organization. In part, this is because you are a role model. In a whole variety of ways, your behavior translates into the culture of your work place. Managers and supervisors below you follow your example of management style. The atmosphere you create affects how workers interact with each other.
A few suggestions for better management and a healthier organization:
1. Ensure that your people have ready access to all of the information they need to perform their job. In addition, make them aware of how their work fits into the big picture, i.e., how their work contributes to the wider goals and progress of the organization.
2. Avoid micromanaging. Too much direction, too many reporting requirements, and too many meetings stifle autonomy and creativity and waste time that the worker could use productively.
3. Plan and budget for creativity. If possible, follow the 80 per cent rule. The routine work that is a necessary part of every job should not take up more than 80 per cent of the employees' time. The balance of their time should allow them time to think, to develop new ideas, and to figure out ways to perform their work more efficiently. 3M Corporation has followed this policy for many years (they call it bootlegging time). Among the new products that resulted from this bootlegged time are the optical disk and Post-it notes.
4. Encourage your people to grow and expand their abilities. Give them projects which challenge them to go slightly beyond their present capabilities.
5. When you talk to your people, show that you are also listening. Face the person with whom you are talking. Make good eye contact. Give appropriate feedback. Maintain a tone of respect. Avoid any temptation to be condescending or sarcastic.
6. If one of your people has made a mistake or engaged in unacceptable behavior, avoid blaming. Describe the behavior, point out its consequences, communicate how the situation could have been handled differently, and emphasize what can be learned from the experience to avoid problems in the future.
7. Provide opportunities for personal initiative. Encourage people to volunteer ideas and expand the range of their work.
8. Be sure that your workers understand what they are responsible for in the tasks that you assign to them. Make your expectations clear. Ask them to explain to you their understanding of what you have requested.
9. Find out what your people like to do most. Where possible, assign them tasks that they will enjoy and where they can do their best work.
10. Elicit feedback from your workers regarding what they need from you to make their jobs easier, more efficient, and more satisfying.
11. If someone or several of your people have done a particularly good job, express your appropriate appreciation publicly. This is particularly important when extra effort such as unpaid overtime was required.
12. Create an organization with high ethical standards. Always be truthful with your people and expect the same from them. Avoid manipulative behavior.
Recommended reading: Branden, Nathaniel. Self-Esteem at work: How Confident People Make Powerful Companies. Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1998.
Dr. Stephen Lloyd at the Center for Conscious Living has worked as an individual contributor, as a manager, and as a consultant in industrial companies, private businesses, and research organizations.