Are you a manager? Are you a good manager, or are you just failing upwards like most people?
If, for example, you are a top sales person and your company promotes you to a management role, they are, on the one hand, losing your expertise and, on the other, chucking you into untested waters as far as your skill sets are concerned. This happens, it is often the wrong thing to do and there’s definitely a theorem named after this bad practice (the Peter Principle I think), but that’s for another day.
So today, you find yourself as a manager; how can you make the most of it?
Start by spreading a bit of praise. We don’t work just for the money, we want to be appreciated. Don’t do it all the time, obviously, or it becomes meaningless, but certainly don’t leave it till the annual review. Maybe pick something specific someone has done and let others hear you pay the compliments. This is definitely important for more junior employees, who may feel unsure about their status or worth.
A manager is responsible for setting the tone at work, so think about the type of atmosphere you would like to work in and if that does not include swearing and anger, don’t swear or get angry. You need to be relaxed and open, to communicate and give regular feedback. If you belittle one employee, they are unlikely to get respect from the others either.
Unfortunately, the buck stops with you, unless you are in government, in which place you can blame the cabinet. If someone in your team makes a mistake, it needs to be fixed and it might be your instructions that were to blame, perhaps you asked the wrong person to do something. You and they both need to learn the lessons from the mistake.
January is the time to set out your priorities for the year, so make them and communicate them as well as you can. You need to be sure what the priorities are or no-one else will have a clue what you, as a team, are aiming for. Unclear objectives can lead to a lot of wasted effort.
Don’t talk in jargon. All businesses have their own jargon but an overreliance on it shows you have nothing clear to say. In his essay ‘Politics and the English Language’, George Orwell wrote: “If you are sending an email to all-staff, never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.”
Well he would have if he worked in a modern office.
Often the last thing you feel like doing is listen to your staff, but it is crucial. They are dealing with your customers, your suppliers and dealing with any bureaucracy you have in place. You need their feedback, otherwise you are operating in a vacuum. You probably hired them for their skills and expertise, so trust it. if you don’t, you have hired the wrong people. Sack them or leave yourself. Only sole traders need to rely on themselves entirely.
Meetings, meetings, meetings. What a conundrum these can be.
In a nutshell, keep them short.
It is a fact that 80% of the time of 80% of the people in a meeting is wasted.
Consider the following carefully: what is the purpose of the meeting? If it is to update people on the progress of a project, send an email, or have one-on-one chats with people, and only hold a big meeting with all staff if you have big news, like an acquisition or redundancies.
No-one likes team-building exercises anymore; a complete waste of people’s time. Instead, I recommend a weekly or monthly after-work or lunchtime drinks on a Friday. Stick your card behind the bar and let people get to know each other. Once people start to leave, grab your card, make your excuses and let the people remaining get on with it. Attendance shouldn’t be mandatory, but it should be encouraged.
If your business has an attractive product or concept, these recommendations can do your company little or no harm, they are just suggestions on ways to make your company or team a nicer place to work; which is a pretty decent goal.