Keys to Managing People
The effective manager’s guide to getting it done.
A manager’s primary job is to control the work environment to successfully achieve a goal or objective. Even more to the point is a time honored definition of management as, “getting work done through others”. So, from the broad concept of management in general; projects, budgets, people, risk, equipment, and even time (among others), today we will restrict ourselves to managing people.
Indeed, the human component is very often the most valuable of all assets and resources to which a manager has access. As well it should be. Trained, dedicated, committed and motivated staff are able to do more with less, achieve positive results in the face of adversity, get done what has to be done, and, simply put, deliver the goods.
As an extreme example, I know a fellow who was a helicopter pilot at the height of the Viet Nam war. When asked what his job was, he modestly responded, “I was a delivery boy”. When pressed further as to what he delivered, he said simply, “Ordinance”. He was a decorated pilot of one of America’s most effective gunships, the AH-1 Cobra. Doing the toughest jobs under the toughest circumstances, and getting it done, every time.
The fellow above is a manager’s dream.
We have all had good bosses and bad bosses Rather than focus on all of the possible bad traits of the miserable boss ( often referred to as “boss” spelled backward, a double S.O.B), let’s look at the good, effective boss. We will view this from two perspectives, first, “What are the attributes of a good boss?” and second, “What does a good boss do?”
(The pronoun of “he” is used to represent both genders.)
Attributes of a Good Boss:
1) Honest. There is no substitute for honesty. When someone lies, they devalue the person to whom they are lying. Simply saying, that they are not worth the effort to tell the truth to. Dishonesty always destroys trust. Once trust is broken, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to re-establish.
2) Courageous. A boss must be able to make a decision, based as it always is, on imperfect knowledge. Then stand behind that decision. He must also have the intestinal fortitude to re-evaluate as new information presents.
3) Level-headed. He needs to be a clear thinker who can reliably weigh all the issues before him. He needs to be able to take advice.
4) Good under pressure. A good boss effectively does his job regardless of the turmoil and clamor, and in spite of the magnitude of the problem.
5) Recognizes his staff as the most important resource. A good boss is keenly aware that his people are his primary asset and are deserving of the absolute best he can provide them.
6) Fair. Everyone should be able to expect evenhanded, just and impartial treatment.
What a Good Boss Does:
1) Treats everyone with dignity and honesty. Every worker at every level is fully entitled to self-affirming treatment. Even discipline, when necessary, is corrective, not punitive and never embarrassing.
2) A good boss has the right to require work to be done. This is accomplished without malice, spite, or anything other than clear assignment of the task to be completed.
3) A good boss knocks down environmental obstacles. He protects his staff and agency and advances their causes before his superiors. By removing impediments and barriers, the boss creates the conditions for the workers to excel.
4) A good boss keeps confidences. In essence, a boss can say; Yes, no, I don’t know, or I know but can’t say. Upholding a trust, every time, is a critical component of management.
5) A good boss always provides a clear definition of , “a job well done”. A worker is far more likely to succeed if they know what success entails. Management’s expectations should be spelled out and reasonably attainable.
6) A good boss takes the blame and gives the glory. Since management is getting work done through others, nothing looks better for a boss than the success of his subordinates.
7) A good boss sets clear goals and evaluates the success in achieving them. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Everyone reports. A good boss must understand the effectiveness of his workgroup in accomplishing their work.
8) A good boss is committed to employee development and training. Seeking the best from and for his staff, a good boss recognizes the advantages of continuing education and skill development. This is so even if the employee’s burgeoning abilities lead to promotion.
9) A good boss lets his staff do their job. This engenders trust and confidence. Besides, every time a boss does his subordinates work , he proves what a good technician he is and what a lousy manager he is. (See #6 above.)
10) A good boss understands his staff and their goals. There is little sadder than taking a fine technician who is happy with their job and moving them (against their will) into a management position. At this point you have lost the fine and happy technician and gotten a person who is uncommitted and untrained for management. (Think of the superb classroom teacher who suddenly finds himself as an administrative Dean.) Being good at a job does not automatically confer an ability to manage.
So, there you have it, Management 101 in a five minute read. Think about your own bosses and what they did that made you feel good, motivated and appreciated. Now, think about the other ones. The good boss will be more successful, more broadly successful, and successful longer, than the alternative.
If you are, or want to be, a boss, strive to be the one you always wished you had.