Friday, July 29, 2005

Are You A Dominator or an Encourager?

I bet you've seen them or have worked for them - the 'manager' who is dictatorial - he or she manages by dictum - they know everything (just ask them) and dominate by telling everyone what to do and how to do it. There is little room for any alternative views - and suggesting improvements meets with stony silence or worse, a transfer to another department (or company). That manager is a Dominator.

Managing people isn't about that - it's about getting everyone on the same page. Working for a Dominator reduces morale and ultimately, employees are going to leave. It's ironic - in a time where executives consider employee retention the number one critical issue facing their businesses,they still allow Dominators to manage their employees.

Don't be a Dominator. Be an Encourager.

It's really tempting to tell your employees how to do every little thing. "That's the way I want it done," is a common refrain.

But at what cost? You hired these employees because they brought something to the table - their job history, their education and/or their personality. Let them use that!

Here's a formula to long-term success as a manager.

Allowing employees to collaborate and giving them freedom (within parameters) to complete their tasks using their talents (and a minimum input from you) = happy employees.

Happy employees will stay with you.

If you have happy employees, they will worker harder, find more ways of succeeding and help you succeed.

Don't take just my word for it - look at what the Wharton School of Business says.

Find out what your employees what - give it to them - and reap the rewards of long-term success.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Working To Live, Or Living To Work?

A friend sent me an article published in last month's Christian Science Monitor, which details the number of hours people are working in today's business society. One of the things that most struck me were these comments:

"In a January study...half of white collar workers state they work over 40 hours a week. Three-quarters of those in that group do some work on weekends because of an increased work load. 42% of all workers say they work more hours than 5 years ago."

The days of working 9 to 5 ended in the 1950's. I don't have figures to back it up, but I'm willing to bet that the number of one-income families was around 75% in the 1950's, and less than 20% today.

People are working harder for less. That becomes a management issue - your issue - if you aren't cognizant of that fact. So - how do you manage this issue?

1. Recognize people are working harder, and make sure your employees know that you appreciate their efforts. I used to work for a top executive. On Friday evenings, around 6pm, he'd make an appearance in our work area, see me there and say, "Take the rest of the weekend off." We'd both laugh, but I appreciated him knowing I was working as hard as I could.
2. Frequently get feedback from them - what can you do, if anything, to alleviate some of their workload? Short of doing their work for them, there are ways to remove obstacles that they will appreciate.
3. Make sure your priorities are straight - that means the people who work for you. It's easy to get caught up in the everyday management duties and forget you have people working hard. Watch them - give them feedback on how to be more efficient in their job.
4. I had a boss who told every new employee the same thing: "We want our employees to have a great personal life - because if their personal life is great, then their work live will also be great." He wanted his team to work as hard as possible between 7:30 and 5 - and then go home whenever possible to ensure that great personal life.

Are you following these guidelines in an era where people are desperately trying to work to live, and not just living to work?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Management Lessons - From Playing Poker?

Like millions of people, I enjoy playing poker. It's become incredibly popular lately; but I'm someone who's been playing it with friends since almost childhood. So after years of playing poker, and years of being a manager, I've learned quite a bit about both subjects and - believe it or not - there are several things that both have in common. What are they? Here are some answers:

You must play the cards you're dealt.
Unless you are lucky enough to be able to hire everyone on your team from scratch, managers are almost always going to inherit existing employees. That means you're going to have to work with them, and make decisions on whether you can work with them (ante up), counsel them out (fold), or simply bide your time until a better candidate comes along (wait for the next hand). You can't just walk away because you don't like your cards, or your employees. You have to work with what you have.

Be aware of the people around you.
It's not enough that you have good cards; you have to pay attention to the people around you. In poker - it's watching the reckless player; the player who's 'tight'; the player who tries to push everyone around - and then adjust your game to those players. It's the same in management. You learn just as much by watching and listening as you do from speaking. Find out what each employee is like, then adjust your style to fit. Not every employee responds to the same type of management style. Some want lots of attention; others want to do their job and be left alone. Do you know what your employees need from you? (Notice that it's not beware of others; it's be aware of others.

It's about timing.
Life, management, and poker are all about timing. When is the right time to back off, to be aggressive, or to gamble? The key to success is to know when the timing is right, and then to make the right decision. That takes wisdom, experience (and yes, a little bit of luck). Have you ever watched a big poker tournament on television? The great players seem to have a sixth sense of when to make their move, or when to fold. Great managers have the same sense.

Are We Having Fun Yet?
Unless you're a professional poker player, most people play poker for the same reasons they work: to make money, to make an impact, and to have fun. Many people go into management for the first two reasons, and forget the third. Whatever it is you do, make sure to have fun. Otherwise, why do it? Don't spend your life (or the lives of your employees) not having a good time; life is too short.

You Are Not Always Going To Win.
Just as the greatest poker players don't win every tournament or every hand, have no illusion: managers aren't always going to make the right decision. The key to success in management is to be able to both make a decision, and then be flexible enough to change is the decision isn't working. Give me anyday a manager who's willing to make a decision. Indecisiveness is a disease that cripples many people who are indeed paid just to make those decisions. Of course, like anything, we need to learn from those decisions (both good and bad) - in both management, and when playing poker.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Principles of Managing People

I'll be talking about different stories that have influenced my management career on this blog. But first, it's important for you to know what my principles of management are:

There is more stress in the workplace than ever before. People believe they're working harder for lower quality of life than their parents. In this information age, workers are also more aware of what's going on in the world. People work to live, they do not live to work. This isn't a judgment or complaint; it's a fact. It's a fact that managers must realize every day when creating their own management style. Successful managers discover what their team wants and needs, then develop a style to fit the needs of their team, and themselves.

The characteristics of great managers of people:
  • They have established Core Values
  • They are able to clearly set and deliver on expectations
  • They are world-class communicators
  • They inspect what they expect
  • They are able to instill passion in those around them
  • They take ownership and responsibility
  • They treat people around them well
  • They are innovative and unafraid to take risks
  • They adapt to change
  • They commit to their success
  • They plan and expect to succeed