Management Essentials (Part 1) (Woody's View)
Excellent Corporate Smiles; We're all so Happy!
I learned Management largely the old-fashioned way, to quote some commercial "I earned it". Before I get into this I'd like to give you a little background because I'm speaking from experience and not just quoting some text book, or "Management for Idiots", or "Why all Managers Suck", or whatever they teach these days. I never had any real aspirations to be a manager. I just fell into it a couple times in 2 of my careers. I'll just give you the short version for now and possibly go into it in more depth in the future, if there's any interest.
I've worked since I was in 6th grade; as a paperboy then. My first real job was as a cook in a little fast-food joint (not a chain, but privately owned)... which I loved!! After a couple years there while working my way through college, my boss (who was great), encouraged me to apply at a much more upscale restaurant. I did and was hired as a prep-cook. This was a relatively small chain of 22 full service restaurant/bars, open 24/7/365. They sat 300+ customers and were very popular. Everything from soups to chili to specials and entree's was homemade. Nothing served was out of a can or pre-prepared. I REALLY loved (and still love) cooking, it just felt, and feels, right for me somehow. I loved the work, the people, and everything about it.
My Dad was a college professor so I grew up around rather 'stiff', elite people. But, these were real people. Raw people. Nothing like the people you meet (and that I met later) in corporations or classic business settings (all dressed up and putting on their fake 'confidence' face for another day at the office). If these people got mad they were right in your face yelling at you, if you really upset them they might just punch your lights out. It was totally different than the corporate world that I experienced later.
In the corporate world everything is fake. If you brutally humiliate someone in a meeting, or completely infuriate someone, they just smile that corporate smile as if nothing happened, then stab you in back the first chance they get. I guess that's what PC (Political Correctness) intends. Suppress your normal urges and feelings, be completely dishonest, pretend that you feel differently than you really feel, and just lie to everyone... so nobody will get upset. Nothing is any different than before the PC movement and sensitivity... it's just more insidious and being packed below the emotional surface in people, who eventually explode. In my opinion people are better off to "let it all hang out" and deal with it straight up at the time.... but I stray from the point.
In the restaurant business (at least at that time, in 70's), they'd at least freak out and yell at you, and maybe stab you in the back, literally, in the parking lot. It's a whole different world now. So, being one to wear my emotions on my sleeve, in the restaurant business I fit right in... not so much in the corporate world later on where I was actually formally banned from speaking to other groups and departments. I felt way more comfortable at that time than I'd ever felt around people before.
Anyway, over the next four years I rapidly advanced from prep-cook, to cook, to lead dinner chef, to lead morning chef, and finally to Kitchen Manager, 100% in charge of all the hiring, firing, ordering, inventory, cooking... everything in the kitchen. I wasn't seeking that position, but money's money, I'd get paid more for something I liked doing anyway, so I took it. Over the next few years I further advanced to night-manager and finally to manager in sole charge of my own restaurant. Over those several years I learned a TON about people and effective Management that I believe applies in any management situation. So, here's some of what I learned...
Management 101, Only One Thing Matters...
The best definition of management I've ever heard is from my former boss in the restaurant: "Management is getting things done through others". So, what does that mean. The two key parts are "getting things done", and "through others". In my mind the goal is whatever you want to get done, whether it's cleaning a kitchen, making daily specials, successfully serving a busy shift, etc. Later in life, in my second go-round as a manager, it would be rewriting and replacing the software for the entire order entry system for the largest food catalog company in the U.S....but it's the same deal, just a different goal and type of employees.
In both cases, and in EVERY management case, there is only one thing that matters and that is your employees. Your employees are that which will make you succeed or fail.... period. If your employees don't care, or don't want to work for you, or are mad at you, or don't respect you, or feel like you're a jerk or a bitch, or aren't comfortable in their working environment, or feel hamstrung by corporate policies like fixed shifts (I could list dozens of other reasons), YOU'RE SCREWED. Seriously, are you going to do all that work? It's so obvious it's laughable. Why so many managers don't get it, I'll never understand.... It's your PEOPLE, stupid.
Maybe I was just lucky, or happened to have a good day early on in my restaurant management career, but that was really obvious almost from the start. So, my personal management philosophy and approach was and is real simple, and it works (my track record bore it out). I'll just list the main points here, then go into each of them in detail in "Management (Part 2)".
1) Be honest, straightforward, and upfront with your employees. Never BS or lie to them or they won't trust you. Whether it's good or bad news, give it to them straight.
2) You can't have a single management style, you have to adapt your style to each employee, based on their needs and what best motivates each of them.
3) Talk, observe, and listen to your employees carefully. If you don't know and understand where they're coming from, you can't effectively use them.
4) Assign tasks to each employee based on what you learned in Step 3. In other words, what they're good at, what they like, and what they want to do... whenever possible.
5) Stand up for your employees in front of other management, execs, or anyone else. Always take the hit and responsibility for an employees mistake and make sure they know you're covering them. In return, they'll cover you when needed and develop a deeper sense of loyalty to you.
6) Clearly define any and all tasks so there is no ambiguity or question of what you're requiring of them, what is expected, and how long it should take. If you can't clearly define it, it shouldn't be assigned because you're not doing your job effectively.
Well, I'll dig into these in depth in part 2, as well as some tips and thoughts I picked up along the way. There may be a part 3 if it seems like too much to cover in 2 parts.
Update March 16, 2011
Update: As I get into this more deeply, I believe there will be more like 6 or 8 parts, one for each main point listed at the end of Part 1, and possibly some additional ones and thoughts and memories come to mind. It's been several years since I last managed and just the process of writing about it seems to be bringing back floods of thoughts and memories that I'd like to document and might be of use to others.