Become a More Effective Manager – Three Counter-Intuitive Steps
In the world of planning and strategy, there is a truism that too much planning, too much detail, too much analysis, leads to inaction, to a loss of opportunity. Along the same line of observation, in the world of learning to becoming a more effective manager, there can be too much study, too much thinking, too much integration of the many many skills and aptitudes required to become more effective. In both strategy and management skills action is almost always preferable to another round of study. Action bumps you up against the real world and provides the real basis for improving skills and results.
But, that still leaves us with the nagging question as a manager, especially for rookie managers and supervisors, how do I get started?
Based on many years of personal work as a manager and many years coaching managers, here are three steps you can take that will get you into action and guarantee striking results. These results will come in your personal effectiveness and in of the results of the organization you manage. Remember, by results, I am referring to the three meanings Drucker defined: (1) direct business results (usually measured in $s); (2) improved organizational culture (values); and (3) development of people.((1))
1. Stop Answering Questions
If most managers could listen to themselves, the proverbial fly on the wall, for just a few hours, they would discover that they are chronically enabling dependency all around them and undermining whatever formal delegation systems are in place. How is this happening? Just listen and you will hear a stream of questions coming at them followed by answers in response. You are enabling the following the reflexive pattern: ask the expert and be rewarded with answers. Ask the boss, get an answer, and be safe from responsibility for the answers.
If you want to get people to take responsibility and be involved in the business, you can’t go on answering all these questions. They will just go on asking whether they need to or not. And, you are spending an enormous amount of your time, your most valuable resource, to answering all of these questions.
What should a manager do to break this pattern? Continue readingFootnotes:
- see Chapter 2 – What Can I Contribute? in his book The Effective Executive [↩]
Attracting, selecting, training and mentoring, and pruning human resources are among the most important tasks a manager confronts. Almost everyone agrees that, at the top level of organizations, managers need to be devoting a significant portion of their time addressing the people needs of the firm. Without the right people in the right positions, no strategy, no matter how clever, can succeed.
To be truly successful in meeting these responsibilities, a manager must embrace an all important management rule: “If an employee is working below expected or required performance it is always the manager’s fault.”
The first place to look is at the manager. After all, the manager hired or selected the person. The manager defines the work, provides tools, training, and all other resources required for the job. The manager is responsible for the success of every person they supervise.
An important effect of this rule is that it prevents you from entering the whinny land of thinking, or worse, saying: “Why doesn’t Joseph pay more attention to detail?” “Mirabelle keeps making the same errors over and over in these quotes.” “Walt just doesn’t get the big picture of where this project is going and he is heading down the wrong track, for the umpteenth time.”
Embrace your responsibilities and powers to make your personnel successful.
- Make sure that you really have well thought out and planned jobs.
- Are job definitions focused on results?
- Are the task definitions actionable?
- Do the skills listed actually match up with the results you want to achieve?
- Have you provided the training required?
- Do your personnel understand where the company is going strategically and is it clear how the results of their jobs connect with these strategies?
- Have you acted promptly to provide feedback and take corrective action to support performance?
- Do you have a company culture that embraces, supports, and demands full participation by everyone?
Selection and promoting personnel are management tasks with a high error factor. Every manager needs to acknowledge that their judgments are not always perfect, nor even close to perfect, in selection and promotion. So, faced with a weak performance from a new hire or newly promoted person, managers must ask the question early, “Did I make a mistake here?” If you come to that conclusion you need to act promptly to correct the error.
The central point is that you selected your personnel, you set the conditions and environment of their work, your provide the tools and training, you set the expectations, the results required. If you are not getting top performance from your personnel, look to the basics, look to your own responsibilities as a manager first. After all, if you are really holding yourself accountable for these responsibilities, you will achieve equal or better performance from everyone in your organization.
The miraculous practice of not answering subordinates’ questions. A counter-intuitive strategy for high performance, yours and theirs.
The podcast is 6 minutes 34 seconds long.