I am 32 years old and have worked as a computer programmer for ten years. Recently, I was hired for a managerial position with another firm. I look forward to the job but am uneasy about being the manager. I feel confident in my work skills, but not as confident about my managerial skills. (I applied for a job with a new company as a technical worker, and they offered me the management job.) I will be supervising six people. Would you consider writing about the "essentials of management?" I'm sure you have written about this before, but I never thought it would affect me. I know there are golden rules of management that I am unaware of, and I don't want one of the people I will be supervising to write a letter to you about me!
I doubt you will get a letter written about you as long as you continue to be eager and open to learning about how to manage people. I suspect it's the ones who think they know it all and aren't introspective about their skills who get letters written about them.
Perhaps the best guide to managing others is to think about how you would like to be managed. I'll give my version of the basics. But make no mistake--just because they are the "basics" doesn't mean that they are easy; and just because they are common sense doesn't mean that they are very common.
1. People want to know the goal and your expectations.
Too many managers just hire people, put them in a job and then never tell them anything more about the mission of the business or future goals of the organization. No matter what kind of organization I work with, employees at all levels express a keen interest in wanting to know where the organization is going and how they fit in. Talk about the mission and goals during staff meetings, when decisions are made, when praising someone or when people are hired. In other words, all the time.
2. Treat your employees with the same respect you would show to the CEO.
If you deeply believe this key principle, you will listen closely to what they suggest and follow up on your promises to them. You will value their contributions and tell them so. If they disagree with you, you will be open to their point of view.
3. Find out what their career goals are and make every attempt to help them grow and succeed in their jobs.
If you challenge them with interesting work and let them try out their ideas, you will see your employees get excited about their jobs and become motivated to get better results. This doesn't just mean a once-a- year career chat. It means seeing yourself as a full-time mentor to your employees.
4. Communicate with them as adults--honestly and straightforwardly.
When you share the good news, the bad news, what you do know and what you don't know, they will learn that they can rely on you to give it to them straight. This ties right back into having respect for them. This means giving them feedback that is clear and immediate, yet tactful. It also means saying, "I was hoping you could all help me solve this problem because I really don't know what to do."
5. Care about your employees as complete individuals.
Find out about their children, discover what their hobbies are, pay attention to their trials and triumphs outside of work. I'm not suggesting that you become their best friend--it can be a mistake to get too chummy--but taking the time to know what makes your employees tick will help you know how to create a bond that will make people feel like committing to you and to the enterprise.
6. Build their confidence and self-esteem.
No matter how old we get, these two things are at the core of who we are as people. One of the best ways to create willingness to try something new or do something extra is to reinforce and recognize the behaviors we want. One of the biggest complaints I hear is, "I always hear about it when I do the wrong thing, but no one never notices when I do something right." Positive encouragement is a tremendous tool to shape behavior and build confidence.
7. When making decisions, strive for outcomes that have a three-way balance: they are good for the organization/customer, good for the team and good for the individual employee.
Managers get themselves into trouble when these areas become out of balance. For instance, if they take only the employee's side and can't see the organization's perspective, they will be well liked but ineffective. If they take only the organization's perspective and fail to consider the employee's needs and views, they will lose employee commitment.
I know there are many more "golden rules," but these have always been the ones I have used the most and seem to work the best.
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