Be the World's Best Manager...Or the World's Worst
There are Two Types of Managers
There are only two types of managers: those who deserve to be, and those who are self-deluded. What manager does not want to shine? To produce successful results? To be thought of as a born leader? To have the approval of his higher-ups? Managers are human beings, they have feelings, too, yet, it is evident to all who serve under them that no two managers are created equal. Some make you want to do your best for them, while others make you want to do your best to find a job elsewhere. Why can’t all managers be wonderful to work for? Because, sadly, many of them simply do not care, and compounding this is the fact that too many of them never take the time to introspect and ask themselves, “Am I a good manager?” Sounds like over-simplification, but, this is by far the most important question a manager can ask themselves. Thinking oneself to be a good manager without genuine introspection is deliberate blindness and is one of the leading causes for financial stagnation. If you ask most managers how they rate with their companies, they will probably tell you that they are great! The sad truth is that most managers are legends in their own minds, and because their staff will never have the nerve to tell them what they really think, this self-delusion is an intrusive and destructive cancer that is never cured. When managers fail to look at ways to become better at management skills, satisfaction with the status quo costs their businesses countless dollars. If only there were a mirror that each manager had to pass before and gaze into each morning as they arrived at the office, and that mirror would tell them the plain, unvarnished truth about how they are perceived by their staff, perhaps more managers would work on improving how they interact with their staff. But, there is no magic mirror on the wall. Far too many managerial executives delude themselves into thinking that they are doing the best for their companies by just showing up and acting managerial. Such nonsense is why some companies are left in the dust while others soar. If you are satisfied with where things are and how much progress your company is making, then read no further; this article is most definitely not for you (although your staff may enjoy reading it). But, if you are a visionary, and if you want your company to reach its highest potential, then keep reading. I just may have something that will help you improve.
How Did You Become a Manager?
How did you become a manager? You got the job, you’re a manager now, but ask yourself, honestly, how did you become a manager? Then ask yourself this tough question - “Why do I deserve this job?” A brief list of reasons some have achieved the rank of manager would include:
- My father owned the company
- I put in more time than anybody else
- I had seniority
- I knew how to network
- And the most sure-to-get-you-talked-about-behind-your-back, “brown nosing” and “butt kissing.”
In the rarified realms of “How It Should Be,” the most qualified managers attained their positions through the same process in which a doctor becomes a doctor—with lots of specialized training. And one graduates to manager status when one has completed the proper training and is truly qualified. What does it mean to be truly qualified? Here are the three important integers in the equation:
Knows the material to do the job + Has the people skills to get the job done = A Great Manager
If you are serious about being an above average manager, then read that line, “I am a great manager, because I know the material to do the job, and I have the people skills to get the job done.” Both halves of this equation are equally important!
Being a manager is like getting a pile of gold to the shore that is on the other side of a wide river filled with swift currents. Two things are needed: a boat and an oar. The manager is the oar, the boat is the staff. Without the boat, that gold is going nowhere. And the gold? Well, that is the company’s success.
Think of this, and never forget it. Your staff is your first line of defense in the march to success. So, why, then, would you go to war with your staff? Don’t think you are doing that? Pay attention.
Daily Battling Your Staff
Many years ago, I was invited to save an upscale restaurant from closing. It had fallen onto hard times from mismanagement. When I came on board in October, it was only open on weekends and was doomed to soon close its doors for the last time, yet, by the end of November, I had it open seven days a week and the books showing a profit. One of the things I initially observed was a constant battle between the owner and the staff. He looked for ways to catch them in infractions so that he could penalize them, and they constantly looked for ways to violate his rules. This was counter-productive. The very first thing I did was to make him agree that from then on, he would not discipline the staff. If he had a problem with any one of them, he was to come and complain to me. Likewise, I told the staff that they were not to complain to the owner. If they had a problem, they were to come complain to me. In short order, they stopped hating each other. The staff no longer walked on egg shells waiting to be reprimanded the minute the owner laid eyes on them, and the owner, feeling less stressed, began to enjoy his restaurant more and became more amiable toward the staff. This peace brought about greater productivity from the staff. Instead of punishments and reprimands, I looked for things they did correctly and handed out lots of praise, and because they craved that praise, the staff went out of their way to earn more of it. Everything they did to excel, I made a point of shining a glowing light of praise on it. And I put them in charge of things, gave them more responsibilities, thus, more opportunities to show their greatness. And they did! Now, instead of pushing them to get their jobs done, they were always ahead of me getting it done. They would come gushing to me, “Look what I did!” They made me proud, and I made them proud. And because they did work that made them proud, the restaurant benefitted greatly, because the patrons saw the obvious difference in the place. Here is the point: there is never an excuse for yelling at staff. If you have to yell at them, you are at fault! Period! Yelling at them means that you do not know what you are doing. Why are you yelling at them? What did you assume? Did you assume that they know what you know? Did you assume that they understand all of your dreams and aspirations for this company? Are you yelling at someone, because they did not do what you thought they were supposed to do? ARE YOU SURE THAT YOU TAUGHT THEM? ARE YOU SURE THAT THEY KNOW WHAT YOU EXPECTED? AND IF YOU HAD TO YELL AT THEM, I ASK YOU ONCE AGAIN, WHY? WHERE WAS YOUR PROCESS? I’m not yelling...
Three important keys:
- What is your process for training your employees?
- How are you sure that they know what you want them to know?
- Why are you yelling? Yelling is your fault!
You see, with the proper process in place: 1.) Your staff knows what you want. 2.) They will want to do what you want. 3.) They will mirror you in such ways that success is guaranteed. So, if they are not doing these three things, YOU caused the problem, not them. I can hear the reaction, “No!” followed by “blah, blah, blah.” Push your weak ego back inside where it belongs and listen! You hired them! Think about that long and hard. You thought they were competent enough to hire. So, break the “lazy chain,” which includes such wonderfully valuable and self-excluding phrases as, “They should already know this stuff,” and train them properly in “The Process.” What is The Process? Here it is:
1.) Teach your staff what the company stands for, what it produces and where you want it to be in the next five to twenty years. When your staff understands your vision, they share your vision.
2.) Provide a system of training so that each member of your staff is properly skilled to do their job fully and well. DO NOT assume anything. Organize the training the same as any school would. If you are too busy to organize proper training, then you don’t deserve success.
3.) The same respect and courtesy that you show your customers is the same way that you should treat your staff. Give your staff a reason to be proud to work there.
4.) If putting in years with your company is a grind, you have created a thankless prison, and your staff are inmates. Whether they ever tell you to your face, they long for the day when they are free of you and your company. You can change that, if you truly care. Show your staff the great future they will have, if they stay with your company.
5.) I don’t care how you do it, but spend a portion of your day thinking of ways to reward your employees. If you do that successfully, they will never want to leave you. Make it a joy to work for your company.
6.) Some procedures can be confusing at first, so keep an eye out for when a staff member needs a refresher on any given task, and patiently, PATIENTLY, guide them through it. Train with patience, not with haste.
That is The Process. And if you have sincerely, not perfunctorily, but sincerely given true diligence to each of these points, then the rewards will be obvious. And I remind you, there is no reason to yell at anyone, ever, because, as I often say, “The student does not fail, the teacher does.” Who are you yelling at? The answer is simple—you are yelling at yourself. Why? You taught them! Furthermore, they did not let YOU down? No, YOU let THEM down. You missed one of the steps in the process. So, when tempted to yell at someone, ask yourself, “Where did I fail that person? What do I need to do to bring them up to speed?” This is difficult at first, because ego gets in the way. It is never our fault, it is theirs, but once we learn to get past this pitfall, and learn to realize the value of putting that loss-causing boulder of self-pride off to the side of the road, we realize that facing the solution means stripping away delusions that get in the way. True leaders do not blame their subordinates, because they know two things: they trained those subordinates, and those subordinates are still learning.
Get Your Staff to Like You
Think you are done? If you have already successfully established The Process in your workplace, you might be. But, there is still more that I think you should examine. Let’s take a look at one of the worst and most immature things a manager can do. Topping the list for bad behaviors by new managers is feeling that they must start showing everyone that they have authority, that they are “above” everyone else, and they must order people around every chance they get so that the “underlings” know the pecking order. Such immaturity, ordering people to do anything simply so that you can show that you have authority, does nothing beneficial for your inter-relationships with the staff and has a devastating effect on their morale. If you engage in this conduct, do you ever forget how it felt to have such actions used on you? It is de-humanizing, degrading and demoralizing! In fact, this immature abuse of power has just the exact opposite effect of what you wished for. You had hoped for more respect, but you just bought yourself a boatload of contempt. Oh, you won't see it, because they value their jobs, but behind your back, you have a new title, and it begins with a capital “A.” Don’t get angry at them. You gave yourself that name. You created it, you wrote it, and you stuck it right up there on your lapel. Do you honestly think that they would ever call you that if they liked you? “Well, I am not out to win a popularity contest?”, you might say. No, and, with that attitude, thank God you aren’t trying to, either. My mother used to say that you win more bees with honey than you do with vinegar. Never forget that wise stratagem. Get your staff to like you. Absolutely! Let me repeat that. GET YOUR STAFF TO LIKE YOU! Forget everything you have ever heard about not being friends with your staff. That is bunko. When people like you, they go out of their way to please you. When they hate you, they go out of their way to avoid you. Which would you honestly prefer? You can be liked AND productive at the same time, and those who think otherwise are following and perpetuating a self-defeating and counterproductive myth.
Let Your Staff Shine
Let your staff shine. You may have someone working for you who has a higher education, or any other of a number of situations that make you feel inferior. Never let the advantages of your staff’s personal lives cause you to lower yourself to such pettiness as belittling them. Jealousy is like a skunk - it smells. Managers who feel threatened by the knowledge or skill set of their subordinates show themselves to be unworthy of being followed. When you compete with your staff to show them your superiority, you lose every time. You may have the last word now, because they cannot talk back, but you are forcing your staff to reconsider working for you. Keep it up. You only get so many strikes before they are out...out the door and looking for another place to work. Instead of competing with your staff, invite their input, let them shine. After all, they chose to work for you, and if they admire you enough to give you their employment, then you should be honored that they bring their skill sets to honor you. They are not going to take over your job, so don’t feel threatened. Some of the best inventions in industry came from staff members who put it in the suggestion box. Which ship is easiest to row, one with one oar, or one with one hundred oars? No brainer. Don’t be a one-oar ship. Remember what a Chinese Kung Fu master once said to me when I remarked about the possibility of his students surpassing his skill level. He looked at me incredulously and said, “Why should they be limited by my limitations?” Don’t limit your company’s potential because no one is allowed past your abilities level. A team of strong horses can pull your wagon, because you know that you cannot.
If it does not originate from the manager, it can’t be any good. What does this error in thinking that is born out of ego and weakness do for stifling innovation and success? If all you ever do is ignore the wonderful people who are working for you, and tell them daily how they have failed, point out their mistakes, and tell them how they should do it, a.k.a., how you would do it, you become as entertaining as a boring preacher who is bored with himself, his sermons and his job. Take the load off. Stop being ego-driven to the point of thinking you are the only one who can figure out what is good for this company, and that anything that did not originate with you cannot have any value. Take the example of the tree. One leaf is not the tree, one branch is not the tree, a piece of bark is not the tree, nor is a root the tree, yet without all of them, there is no tree. Some are bigger, some are smaller, but all are working together, and the end result is a vibrant tree. You are not the tree, you are part of the tree...and without the other parts, you die.
Take the time to allow the staff to show what they know. Ask them how they would solve a problem. Remember the fable of the lion and the mouse. In two instances, the mouse showed its usefulness. It pulled a thorn from the paw of the lion, something the lion could not do with its huge claws and teeth, and another time, the tiny mouse saved the lion’s life by gnawing the ropes of a net that had entrapped the mighty lion. The moral of the story was that even the seemingly low and insignificant have value. I often remind people that no one is a zero, that God made no mistakes, and that we all have value. Give your staff a chance at least once a week to talk freely and openly. One company I used to work for many years ago had a room called “The Bull Pen,” and we went in there on a regular basis to have what we called our “Bull Sessions.” Trust me, if your weak ego cannot stand to hear what the staff thinks, then you will not hear what they think...but, if you are not conducting them, the staff will still be having them, even if it is at some restaurant after work where you can’t catch them. And this is unhealthy. And you are to blame. Poor management leads the staff to have to find a way out. Sometimes, it is commiserating and helping each other to cope with your antics, other times it is sharing information on their latest job search. Everybody knows what a pressure cooker is, and anyone who has used one in the preparation of canned goods knows that a wise cook keeps a sharp eye on the heat under that cooker and the pressure valve on the top of it. Too much heat, too much pressure for the little release valve, and there is an explosion. For a company, that explosion is costly.
Encouragement or Discouragement
Encouragement or discouragement - Do your actions encourage participation? Ego-maniacs only want to hear their own voices. Their egos are too weak to allow anyone else to suggest that there might be another way to try doing something. After all, didn’t they invent the light bulb? Didn’t they invent the automobile? Didn’t they invent the polio vaccine? Oh wait, those were all different people, weren’t they? Yes, different heads, different brains, different inventions, and those companies who don’t allow for other brains to help end up losing those brains as they take their inventions elsewhere. Albert Einstein was originally thought to be mentally inferior and slow by a headmaster at his childhood school, because Einstein meticulously thought things through a longer matrix than the average person. That headmaster famously said that Albert Einstein would never amount to much. Imagine all the Albert Einsteins who have to get past the egos of other people in order to make their contributions. And just as Germany lost Albert Einstein to America, you can drive your best potential right out the door...all because they are not permitted to shine for fear that they will outshine you.
Do your actions encourage loyalty? - Your staff are not indentured slaves. They have come to work for you for various reasons, and you need to always, always, keep one thing in mind - they can leave. Every employee has a tipping point, that is, there is a limit to how much of the negative category they will take before they see the positive category as minor and the negative category as major. The scale tips beyond the point of no return, and they are gone. To keep good employees, the positives of working for you should far outweigh the negatives. Here is the simple method for employee retention: Reward Instead of Punish. Remember what I said about winning more bees with honey than you do with vinegar. Yes, it requires some thought, some innovation, but that means getting out of your “cave” mentality and creating new paradigms of company processes. Sometimes, instead of cracking down for infractions of company rules, examine where YOU went wrong. Why are there infractions? Are you rewarding, or are you punishing? Here is an example of cave thinking versus innovative thinking. You have an employee who routinely comes in five minutes late. I am going to tell you right here and now that that five minutes of missed time on the company clock does absolutely NOTHING negative to your bottom line. I know all of the arguments, including, “Well, if you allow five minutes, they will take a half-hour, and where do we draw the line?” Time clocks are out of touch with thinking outside of the cave, and if you are locked to that time clock for how you measure the value of your employee, you probably weren’t too good at Math in school. But, giving that you want your staff there at a set time, then what is the honey for coming in early, and what is the vinegar for coming in late? How about free coffee and donuts served from one half hour before starting time, and they are removed at exactly five till the hour? How about a bonus to the winner of the most minutes early each week, or month? Why is punishment the only tool? Punishment is the only tool, because those who engage in this activity are cave dwellers who hate anyone who looks outside of the cave. It’s too difficult to look outside of the cave, because it means work. It means getting out of a rut, a comfortable rut, so they just stick with the “same ole same ole.”
Even a pet dog will try to bite you if you keep kicking it. If all you do is think of ways to catch your employees doing something wrong, the war will never end, and the loss of loyalty will be fatal. When enough management personnel keep the routine going, always showing up and doing everything the same way it has always been done, then their competitors will put them out of business. Every time I read about a major company downsizing, closing stores, laying off work force, I cringe, because it means that no one in that company dared to get out of the cave, and the outsiders innovated and put them where they ended up, losing out. Punish your staff, and they will produce less; reward them, and they will sacrifice for you.
I remember a restaurant that I frequented many years ago, and they were famous for their incredible pies and cakes. Unsurpassed, these desserts were legendary, and they were all made on the premises by a worker who was exceptionally skilled in the culinary arts. But, one day, I noticed that the cakes were not the same. Instead of the incredible desserts that I normally had set before me there, the cake that day was dry, the icing stiff, and the entire look was pathetic. I found that they pastry chef had been fired for being late too often. Here’s the irony, that pastry chef always got all of the desserts made, regardless of when he got there, but because the owner of the restaurant valued a mark on a time card higher than the desserts on his customers’ plates, he fired the source of his fame. The restaurant was never the same, and as people learned that the legendary desserts were permanently gone, so went the business. I don’t know why that chef was late, or how often he was late, but what was worth more, his time on the clock, or what he produced for the company? Throw out the line that he could have produced more cakes and pies if he had put in more hours, because he produced the quota all the time, regardless of when he got there. But, standing on a rule carved in cement, the owner said that he was willing to fire him, rather than try another approach. What should have been done was to give the chef a quota of pies and cakes to be made each day, and a deadline for having them done. There should never have been an extra demand that he punch a time-clock.
Sadly, too many managers are merely products of old thinking that was handed down by people who got their jobs by any method other than going through specialized training for it. Innovation creates and succeeds, lack thereof suffocates and fails. Those who innovate will surpass you, and if you are afraid to lead, then you need to get behind someone who is not afraid to.
Silence from the staff does NOT mean approval of the way you run things. It merely means acquiescence. True, only management has a full idea of where all the wheels and gears are that run things, but when you feel threatened by input from your staff, and you stifle any and all suggestions, novel ideas and useful inventions go elsewhere. Do you think groundbreaking inventions come from stifling all but your own brain from being permitted to think? Tell your workers that all they are permitted to do is row the oar, and if you are ever incapacitated, your ship will have no one to direct it, because you made all of them incapable of doing anything more than rowing. Someone once wisely said that a ship is only as good as the absence of its captain. And if you think that your job security depends on keeping your staff from ever knowing how to run things, you are wrong. The only thing you are doing is making your life more miserable, because you have to constantly demand instead of allow. Demanding that the sailors mindlessly row to the cadence of your barking, instead of allowing them to joyfully take their stations with full knowledge of their duties and the value of their contributions to arriving at the ship’s destination, means that you will always be working overtime.
Do your actions encourage growth? - “Same ole same ole” is not the same as “Tried and true.” Cave dwellers don’t drive cars, so if all you ever do is maintain the status quo, all you will have is the cave that you built, while your competitors leave their caves and advance to driving cars. You are either leading, or you are following. If your company has competition, you can rest assured that your competitors are not trying to find ways to keep doing things the same way that you have been. No, absolutely not. They are trying to find ways to beat your methods, to improve on what you do, and market that new company. When Henry Ford made the mistake of thinking that no one would ever need anything improved on the Model T, he lost greatly as other manufacturers looked at trends, looked at changes, looked at innovations and most importantly of all, they looked past their caves and saw a new world outside of their caves...and they went for it. A rut can be comfortable, because there are no challenges. You can come to work every day, and you can unlock the door and go through the motions, and no alarms go off. It’s a great day. Nothing changes...and nothing challenges. And your competitors are so far ahead of you, that by the time you wake up, they will have you going out of business. When I look at major companies “downsizing” and closing large numbers of stores, I ask myself why they were so stuck in the “cave-thinking” that they could not see any of this coming. But here is the simple reason: management did not want to be bothered by people who were looking outside of their comfortable caves. No, this is how it was always done, and this will always work. No refresh button, no listening to new ideas, stifle all attempts by the underlings to think outside of the daily, carved-in-stone, same ole same ole, and with the passing of time, I see the former titans of commerce being replaced by the new upstarts. So, don’t encourage your staff to give you their brightest and best. Have a morning meeting every morning and stand up there and tell them how they know nothing, and you know it all. A captive audience is not a willing audience. Take away the requirement to attend, and how many would you have? And if every meeting is merely a rehash of the same thing you said in the last meeting, and the meeting before that, and the meeting before that, do you honestly think your audience can’t wait to get there? What if you went to a church where the preacher preached the same sermon each and every Sunday. How long would you attend? Ah, but you are required by the owners to have these regular meetings, and that is your excuse for not thinking outside of the cave? That is your reason to get up there each and every time and say the same thing again and again? Tell your staff that you are going to have a voluntary meeting, and that they are all invited. Tell them that you are going to stand up there and go over the same material you did the last time, and the last time, and the time before that, and see how many show up. Tell them, instead, that you are going to be asking for their opinion and advice, and see how many show up. I will bet on the larger attendance being in the meeting where they get to shine.
Do your actions encourage invention? - The famous evangelist, Billy Graham, once made a comment intending to show that the end of time had come, and he said that everything that was possible to invent had been invented, there would be nothing more. We had reached the end. He could not conceive of anything being invented now, because we had the car, the phone, the radio, the television and more. What else could man possibly come up with that could top these things? That was back in the Sixties, and we all know that we have come forward from that era with huge advances in science and technology. I need not elaborate, but the point is, if we had taken Billy Graham’s word for it, we would have all just stood still and done nothing. All of the scientific breakthroughs that came to be since he uttered those incorrect words would not have been, and the same goes for any hope you have for your company’s innovative future, if you are nothing more than an egotistical blockade. Encourage your staff to think, to invent, to innovate, and give them a chance to showcase their thoughts. However you do this, be it a one-day-a-week meeting in which “they” control the floor and not you, or just a suggestion box, do it, and don’t stand in the way of your company zooming up the charts. I am reminded of a man years ago who worked for a major chemical company. Today, he is a billionaire and head of his own chemical company. Why he left his parent company is seemingly simple, yet underneath all of the speculation as to why he would leave them, could it be that he was not rewarded sufficiently to stay, and that those in management blindly overlooked his potential to contribute?
Don't Sabotage Your Company Daily
Reducing your workers to children - What is it about your ego that requires you to treat your workers as inferior to yourself? Do you have a problem with your own self-worth? A manager is respected when he is respectable of others. A manager is silently despised when he treats his staff as beneath him. Don’t become someone who is always waiting to pounce. Instead, always be looking for ways to praise.
Here is the equation you should keep paramount in your mind: a well-trained and loyal employee contributes to the value of your company the same as interest on a money fund does annually - it grows larger with each passing year. Essentially, to over-simplify, a ten-year employee is worth more than the combination of five new-hires with only a few months under their belts. Look at it this way, what runs better, a company that has to start from the bottom each and every day, or one that has been running and growing each and every year of its existence? Easy right? Then why sabotage your company daily?
Leadership is management. Your workers, your staff, they either follow you because they believe in you, or because they don’t have another job lined up elsewhere. Keep ignoring that fact, and they will look elsewhere for employment. Your workers are captive only as long as the equation that keeps them there remains in your favor. That equation is this: what makes me want to stay here/what makes me want to leave here. It is that simple, and each day, you, the manager make that equation tilt one way or the other. Your indifference to the needs of your employees can be all it takes to tilt that equation in the wrong direction. And if you do not have some empathy for your employees, then you are no better off than Dr. Frankenstein. Think not? And just how many new hires have you dealt with this year? No one leaves a company that they are happy working for.
Repeat after me: “No one leaves a company that they are happy working for.”