The best way--the only way, really--to manage employees is to teach them to manage themselves.

Employees who know how to manage themselves are not only your best employees, but are also the ones most satisfied in their work.

I'm sure you've seen this in practice in your business: your best performers are those who take initiative, who follow through on everything they say they will do, who bring you solutions, not just problems, and who do more than what's required.

They're the ones you don't have to micromanage.

They're the ones you don't have to worry about.

In short, you trust them.

If only all of your employees were just like these!

The fact is, you can teach people to become just this kind of employee. I don't mean the kind who blindly follow your directives. I mean the kind who understand the rationale behind your directives and contribute every day to the short-term and long-term goals of your organization.

Here are nine specific things you, as a manager and/or business owner, can do to bring out the best in every one of your people:

  1. Make sure they understand the big picture of what your company stands for. This is probably the single most important way to give employees the sense of meaning and purpose that elevates their performance and their attitude.
  2. Embody a systems point of view in all your business operations. Create systems that produce predictable results and show people that any frustration or difficulty is not a "people problem"; rather it's the result of something that's missing from the system.
  3. Provide ongoing opportunities for your employees to contribute to improving and innovating your products, services, and the systems that deliver them. When people have a stake in the systems they are using, they take ownership and pride in them.
  4. Explain the reasons behind what the company is doing and what you are asking your employees to do. Employees' performance improves when they have a broader context for the activities of your business unit and their own role in it.
  5. Involve employees in the planning, evaluating, decision making, and problem solving related to their individual objectives and the objectives of their business unit. This not only enhances employees' self-concept, it also shows employees that you value their input.
  6. Take advantage of the unique backgrounds and experiences your employees bring to the table. This allows employees to use the full range of their talents, and adds to the talent pool and knowledge base of your organization as a whole.
  7. Pinpoint the relevance of what you are saying to what employees need to do with that information. Sometimes managerial communication gets "lost in translation." Take the extra time to be sure employees know how to transfer information into the specifics of what they need to do.
  8. Find out your employees' intrinsic motivators and build these into your management system. Get to know what's important to each individual (for example, recognition, helping others, learning new skills, creating new things) and make sure they can get this at work.
  9. Surround yourself with people who are "better" than you. By this I mean get your ego out of the way and appreciate employees who bring skills, knowledge and experience that you don't have.

Remember that the best managers are those who give ordinary employees the tools, resources and systems to produce extraordinary results and, moreover, who allow each employee to rise to his or her own highest level of achievement and fulfillment.

If you can look in the mirror and truly say that your employees are shining beyond all expectations and, in doing so, your company is growing and evolving to exceed your customers' expectations, then you are a Manager in the highest sense of the word.