Rules for Managers
This is not Red River
This is not Red River:
Years ago I was goaded into watching the John Wayne movie Red River. During that time in my life I was a Casino Cage Supervisor with the Hilton’s entertainment division. I had a crew of 11-20 cashiers that I was responsible for every night as well as the balancing of 2-40 million dollars. These people came from various places, subscribed to different religions, and had very different personalities. At times they were at odds with each other while handling customers.Simple tasks could quickly become riddled with personality clashes and personal issues.
Watching Red River one scene has stuck in my head, the scene where John Wayne orders his men to drive the cattle across a raging river. A few of the men refuse to cross the river and John Wayne shoots them. It was such an unexpected thing for John to do even though he was pretty angry. Needless to say the remaining men drove those cattle across the river. In management we often feel like John Wayne, trying to get something done while our employees insist they cannot (will not) do what is needed to get across that river.
The question becomes; how do you get people to stand together toward the common goal? How do you take people with nothing in common and drive them to excellence? Some people might think the key to motivating employees is money. While money does motivate on some level, money does not gain loyalty or cooperation. In many cases pay without the accolades to back the money is ineffective. Employees want to know they are appreciated, and yet not all employees are happy with a random pat on the back. The maze of personalities can be difficult for employers to navigate. Hopefully after this journey you will have a better understanding of people and how move them to success.
Rule 1. Know your employees.
We live in a culturally diversified country. Each of your employees was raised differently. Some were raised by single parents, others by their grandparents; some were raised in traditional homes. All of them were given a set of values to live by, not all of them were given good values. The employees you do not know are dealing with death, illness, and serious family issues. As a manager it seemed that certain people transcended chaos, while others never had a problem. The truth is that every person is only as reliable as their circumstances. Every one of your employees has problems.
Mary may be late because she can not afford a newer car and she keeps having problems, Bill may be distracted because his wife is dying of cancer. Getting to know your employees helps you to make an educated decision about them in a pinch. Knowing your employees does not mean hanging out with them on the weekend or becoming personally involved in their problems. It means when Bill seems to be having trouble getting stuff done, you stop and discuss it with him. You are running a business and things have to get done. It is better to transfer work when an employee is having a tough time, then to have something done incorrectly amidst personal distractions.
Sudden changes in performance should be viewed with careful objectivity. If a person has been a good, loyal and valuable employee for five years one issue is probably not enough to fire that person. Knowing circumstances will help managers to make the best decision for both the company and the employee. That may mean that Bob takes a leave of absence while to handle take care of his wife. Always remember that every employee you have working for you is sacrificing their time with family to be at work. Do not think that is a small sacrifice. Know your employees.
Rule 2. Trust is relative to best interests.
Trusting another person is relative to if that person has your best interests at heart (this is true in relationships as well). Most people trust their mothers because, we all know mom wants the best for us. Whether or not the rest of the world has our best interests at heart is up for debate. In cut throat work environments sometimes alliances are formed. More often then not when people feel the need to group and gang up it is through a threat (usually the threat of being fired). Nothing is less productive in the workplace then the threat of termination. Employees under the constant threat of termination will either cause discord with other employees or make huge mistakes because they are nervous. People make honest mistakes. When a person makes an honest mistake it should be treated as such.
One of my first management jobs was working for Payless Shoe Source. At that time managers worked six days a week with Sunday as their only day off. I had a five person crew and even though I was a new manager, I had been with the company for three years. There was an employee working for me who was habitually late. After several counseling sessions, I had to take disciplinary action with the employee. During that discussion the employee accused me of charging personal phone calls to the company phone.
When I grilled her about this accusation, I discovered that someone was calling the store on Sundays and asking members of my staff to accept the charges for long distance calls. After an investigation the true culprit was revealed. It was another manager’s daughter that was charging calls to my store. My district manager was ready to fire me for this offense and in fact he was certain I was the one at fault until they caught the other manager’s daughter. If the district manager had taken the time to get to know me, he would have known that I would never charge calls to the company phone.
To be able to trust an employee as an employer requires an employer to create an environment of honesty where an open door policy is observed. If an employee can not go to their boss about an issue then productivity will be compromised. Ground floor employees have important information about what customers say and think. Without trust the people in your organization will create an atmosphere of dog eat dog which is counterproductive.
Who took my stapler?
Employers like to believe that employees are stealing, wasting time, and using company resources for personal gain. The truth is that they are doing those very things. Did you flinch? Ask yourself this; do you have an employee who is always at work? By that I mean do you have employees who never call in, never have appointments, never have personal problems that cause them to be out of the office?
Those employees have centered their life around their job. They are reliable and dedicated and they are using some of your company resources to accomplish work and personal goals. I know you are probably seeing dollar signs maybe you are even thinking that it is wrong for them to call the electric company or talk to their child’s teacher, but in reality these employees are saving you money. That’s right, they are saving you money.
Payroll is any businesses the highest expense. Somewhere in your staff there is a person who abuses privileges. That person takes every opportunity they can get to be out of the office. That person is the one who thinks hair and nail appointments are an emergency and that it is necessary to take the entire day off for a 20 minute office visit. The funny thing is that most employers do not seem upset by that person’s lack of dedication, yet the same employer will provide written documentation of an employee who took a call from their child’s teacher. If you are that manger, stop. Life is what we do when we are not working. People do not work because they want to (usually), they work because they are supporting themselves and others. When was the last time you were at home and thought “I can’t wait to get to work”. Never? Well your employees do not do that either.
If you want an employee to trust you, trust them. This does not mean there will not be people who give you the “I would sell my mom for a buck” vibe. Those people are different. It means that you know the employee and you trust them to do what is best for the company. Do your employees come to you? If not then they do not trust you. Everyday situations happen that you should know about. If you are not constantly communicating then chances are you are missing valuable information.
Rule 3. Do what is best for the company and the employees.
Truly great managers know how to create a win/win situation. By keeping company goals in mind and still having empathy for employees lives a manager can balance a team. People who are tied to their jobs eventually burn out. Often they lose their family in the pursuit of a career. How many times can a person get called into work from a date with their spouse before that spouse finds someone else to date? A personal life is the motivation for showing up to a dead end job every day. Good managers create a work place that is tolerable if not enjoyable.
Rule 4. People want to accomplish something.
Most people want to accomplish something in life. When people are given solid attainable goals and then rewarded for attaining those goals, you will see greater results from your employees. The sense of accomplishment and support will keep good employees in place.
Rule 5. Be fair -even with the employees you don't like
Not everyone you work with is your type of person. There are people who take the job too serious, those who don't take it serious enough, there are slackers, and lets face it, some of the people you work with are jerks. As a manager you have to treat everyone the same. You are shrugging and saying maybe?
I worked Graveyard(night shift) for over 10 years in the Casino Cage. During that time I had one of the most stable staffs that place had ever seen. Cashiers were transferring from other shifts to be a part of my team and that had never happened before. It was because I was fair and cashiers who had been treated unfairly wanted a better supervisor.
Rule 6. Team effort = team win
Consider for a moment that every team that every wins a game does so from a team effort. When you foster the team effort with employees they discuss possibilities amongst themselves, they collaborate and your end result is better. In my opinion employers who do not foster a team attitude do so out of fear and should not be in management. Your team is your most expensive and greatest company asset.
Rule 7. What it means when you fail
The business world hates failure. In the business world if you fail, you are nothing. Yet great inspiration and ideas can come from failure. Often failure means you were brave enough to try , not that you were not good enough to succeed. Making the distinction between a brave move and something completely stupid is very important. Trying something different means you were searching for new options in a situation that is currently not working. My motto is "If its already broke, lets try something else, because we are not going to make it worse".
Employees that are willing to go out on a limb are a rare breed. Most people will just follow and be content to let the failure be the managers. If you have brave employees, give them a little space. Allow people to make mistakes and learn.
Rule 8. Leverage your talent
Most managers know their employee's job, but are they aware of what other talents and skills that employee possesses?
Her is what I mean:
I mentored an employee who eventually completed her paralegal degree. The owner of our company was paying an outside source to review contracts and handle legal jargon when he had a paralegal working for him. He could have saved hundreds of dollars and did not. I worked under that same employer with a degree toward marketing and he never utilized those skills.
In the economy today it is important to leverage the talent you have in your staff. That also means training employees on new things all the time. The "its not my job" mentality should not be a factor. Cross training employees gives you a stronger staff. Maybe you will not use Bob from accounting as an intake specialist but, if he knows the job it could help in a pinch.
The greatest discovery of the Milgram experiment was that people thrive on change. If a person does the same thing day in day out, they are not going to thrive. Change pushes people to be more, to learn and to grow.
The point is this is not Red River, you cannot shoot people when they do not perform. Finding productive ways to manage your employees is paramount especially in today's economy. We have fewer employees handling more than ever before. Managing those employees is key to running a successful business.