Over the years, I've worked with dozens of managers and interviewed hundreds more. As I consider how they approach their jobs and how they characterize their successes, I've noticed they tend to adhere to the following rules:
1. Manage individuals, not numbers
Conventional business thinking is that what's important is slicing and dicing the numbers, putting the numbers into graphs, and talking about where the numbers are and where they ought to be.
However, numbers are the result of how well you manage people, not how well you manage numbers. The only way to get better numbers (regardless of your measurements scheme) is to improve the performance of the individuals who work for you.
2. Adapt your management style to the individual
Despite the popularity of the phrase, in fact it's impossible to "manage people." You can only manage individuals. Since everyone is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all management style.
Therefore, as you explain exactly what you want from each employee, actively solicit the employee's suggestions and ideas about how you can get the best possible work from that person.
3. Adopt simple and relevant metrics
While your main focus needs to be individuals rather than numbers, you still need a way to measure how well those individuals are doing. Complex measurement schemes, with multiple metrics, inevitably create confusion among employees and managers alike.
Ideally what's being measured should be simple enough for every employee to understand at a glance, and relate as closely as possible to the behaviors that you're trying to encourage. If the work doesn't affect the metrics, metrics are a waste of time.
4. Set a single priority per individual
I recently received an email from someone whose boss assigned multiple tasks and insisted that each was a "huge priority." That boss was an idiot, because if everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.
The entire concept of a priority is that one thing is more important than everything else. Giving your employees multiple priorities is foisting on them the responsibility of deciding what's really important. That's your job.
5. Keep your temper
When you explode at an employee, or make a cutting or hurtful remark, it creates a wound that never heals completely and that festers with secret resentment. You don't have to be perfect, but your employees are not your punching bags.
Employees despise bosses who are so emotionally weak they have to dump their anger and frustration onto others. By contrast, employees deeply appreciate a boss who remains calm in a crisis.
6. Measure yourself by your weakest employee
Managers often use their top performers as a measure of how successful they are as leaders. However, while you may have a top performer on your team, that success is more likely to reflect their drive and ability rather than anything you brought to the table.
Measure your management ability on the basis of how you handle your worst performers. It's those employees who define the lowest level of performance you're willing to tolerate, and how much you expect the other employees to compensate for your low standards.
7. Be generous
Being generous is not just about money; it's also about how you treat people. Smart bosses know their real job is to
- Fix the failures before they happen
- Publicize the wins employees achieve
- Take the heat when things go wrong
Money is what employees expect from their jobs, not their bosses. Employees want bosses to be generous with information, time, praise, and the coaching that teaches employees how to do their jobs better.
8. Don't be a know-it-all
Many bosses wrongly believe their job is to be the expert and know all the answers. However, when managers provide all the answers, they rob their employees of the opportunity to think and grow.
While experience has value, people can't learn when wisdom is presented on a platter or forced down their throats. Employees respect bosses who admit they don't know everything and ask questions that help spark an employee's own creativity.
9. Don't play favorites
Since you're human, you're going to like some of your employees better than others. Even so, you must not let these personal preferences become an excuse for treating those you like differently from those you don't.
Playing a favorite demoralizes the other employees, because they know that their best work won't count for as much. In addition, playing a favorite creates a lot of hostility toward the favorite. If you remember from school, the teacher's pet usually got clobbered in the playground.
10. Give loyalty to get loyalty
As a boss, you want your employees to watch out for your interests, help you be successful, and not leave you in the lurch the second they find a better job. In other words, you want some loyalty.
Loyalty, however, must be earned. You can only expect employees to be loyal to you if you're willing to first be loyal to them. That means watching out for their interests, helping them be successful, and keeping them on board even if you can hire someone else for less.
11. Be transparent
Some bosses play their cards close to the chest and never let employees in on the decision-making process. By contrast, smart bosses know that decisions are more successful when those tasked with their implementation are involved from the start.
A boss who disappears into their office, makes a decision, and then emerges with a set of commands leaves the impression that the decision is arbitrary. Even if they don't like a decision, employees far prefer to understand the workings of the boss's mind and exactly why that decision was made.
12. Make decisions quickly
Some bosses are so risk-averse that they require mountains of information before making any important decision. Smart bosses, on the other hand, understand there's a point (and it usually comes fairly quickly) at which additional information merely muddies the waters.
Obsessing about (and second-guessing) your decision-making is always a waste of time. You're better off making a good-enough decision than waiting for an imaginary perfect decision to emerge from a real-world situation.
- MANAGE individuals, not numbers.
- ADAPT your style to each person.
- MEASURE what's truly relevant.
- ONLY one priority per person.
- STAY even-tempered.
- TAKE responsibility for your low performers.
- SHARE your thoughts and ideas.
- ASK questions rather than providing answers.
- TREAT everyone as equally as possible.
- DON'T expect more than you're willing to give.
- EXPLAIN the reasoning behind your decisions.
- DON'T delay; decide now!
Republished by permission from my book Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts That You Need to Know