Dave Prouhet, a smart and enterprising small business advisor who blogs from his site at Business Advice Daily, has an interesting post, today, in which he lists several of the lessons he has learned in his career as a manager and consultant. Moreover, he has asked several others, including me, both to contribute their own thoughts in this area, and then to invite some others in. Dave and a colleague, Aaron Potts, will monitor the flow of offerings, and then, when it has run its course, consolidate and post them as a single article.
I’ve always been struck by how few of these I seem to have, but I’ll give it a go, anyway:
- Perhaps you’ve had the luxury of picking your own goal, or perhaps you’ve been assigned one. It doesn’t matter. Examine it, understand it, make it yours. Keep it alive by both appreciating what makes it stand out from the background environment, and how that environment affects it. Then stick to it.
- As a manager, pick a team, or accept the cards you’re dealt. But understand that they are your team, and they are how you will accomplish your current and future goals. Treasure and develop them, and support their efforts to achieve your (joint) goals.
- Remember that your first responsibility is to goal accomplishment, but your second responsibility is to your staff. This is a close second. It should be so close that many people will not be able to see the difference, but you should always be aware of it. It is a military axiom that you will do neither your mission nor your troops any favors by putting the welfare of the latter ahead of accomplishment of the former; if you do, you’re likely to lose both.
- Forget being a leader. I mean that. As soon as you think the accomplishment of your goals, your staff’s success, your organization – even your career – is about you, guess what you’ve done: You’ve put yourself ahead of the mission; it won’t be long before you lose both.
- What you are is a manager. Don’t let anyone tell you there is anything superior to that. Indeed, don’t tell yourself that being a manager is superior to anything else. We all have our place in the traces, even – especially – owners. If we have some influence over where that is, so much the better. But just take yours and help others with theirs. And do it without being a jerk about it.
- The more capability you develop in those who report to you, the more capability you have at your disposal. If you aren’t developing your juniors, you are constraining your own ability to do your own job. Don’t worry about losing them to new assignments or jobs, or the time you’ve invested in them; it will be repaid if only by the atmosphere you have created in your organization. You can take this one to the bank.
- The greatest incentive you can give employees to be loyal and productive is to give them meaningful work to do and to hold everyone to high standards in doing it. People get up in the morning eager to engage in the day’s work because it is worthwhile, they understand their part in the larger endeavor, and their contributions are recognized – HR department benefits of all sorts are available anywhere – reward in one’s work is all too rare.
- Remember the four Ps: Praise in Public, Punish in Private. The first part is not merely courteous – it’s quite powerful. The second part is common decency. How often have you seen either in your managers?
- Prioritize your discretionary activities, determine what you can reasonably and productively do in the elective time available to you (you’ll be amazed to learn how little that is) – and, certainly, do those things in that order of precedence, but more importantly: don’t do the tasks that didn’t fall into that category. This takes discipline, but if you don’t develop it, you will have great difficulty developing true effectiveness as a manager.
- Remember that it’s not about you. It is not about your superhuman capabilities, your saintly character, your indomitable will. It is about what assets you can effectively bring to bear on accomplishment of your goals, whether those arise in you or are within the scope of your management.
This is hardly a comprehensive list of what I’ve learned in my work life, but it is what came to mind when asked, and there’s often something suggestive in that – I’ll leave any assessments regarding what that might be to you. In the meanwhile, as I mentioned above, Dave also suggested that those of us who respond nominate some others to publish their own lists. What I would like to do, rather, is ask those of you who read this who have your own blogs to post your ideas on them; just please do link to this post so I’ll know you’ve done that. Of course, there are others among you who have considerable experience as managers and advisors, and if you would like to offer your life-lessons in management, you can email them to me and I will post them with (or without, as you wish) attribution.
Do let me know your thoughts – the problem is that we tend to consider the guidelines we use to be commonplace or self-evident, but they can often strike others as genuine epiphanies. Please do share them. I look forward to hearing your ideas about what has helped guide you successfully through all of your successful careers.
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