3/1/2005 | 6 MINUTE READ

On the Management Side: Effective Managers Do These Things

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The complexities of modern business cannot be reduced to a few glib formulas.


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The complexities of modern business cannot be reduced to a few glib formulas. Yet there are certain principles of sound management that can and should be emphasized in your day-to-day efforts. Here are seven of them.

Communicate. Before a problem can be solved, it must be defined. This requires good communications—up and down the line. Speed this process by holding regular management meetings that put problems on the table for all to see, understand and analyze. Make "reporting by exception" a habit so that important matters are not blurred by low-priority discussions. And never hide a major problem within a seemingly routine report. If the problem is serious, get it to the decision-making level as fast as possible.

Question. Some managers consider company policies and practices inviolable. They’re mistaken. A company’s policies and practices should constantly be tested in the marketplace and in the daily interaction among employees. When a situation is obviously out of line, "policy" should never be a refuge for inaction. The "book" is full of rules that supplanted others and may, in turn, be due for revision. None of them is so sacred that it cannot be questioned.

Plan. To manage without plans is to manage by crisis. There is nothing academic about planning ahead. Just ask the manager who has neglected the habit.

Delegate. You develop people by challeng-ing them with responsibility. The manager who denies his people a substantive role in solving problems and moving projects ahead is cheating them and the company. In the long run, he is damaging his own career progress by failing to train a successor.

Anticipate. As a manager, you must understand and welcome change. No company, and no job within a company, that remains the same can be thought of as a success. The very moment you feel you have mastered every nuance of your position is the moment to question whether you haven’t outgrown it. With this attitude, you can instill the feeling in people that change is to be welcomed, even sought out.

Pinpoint priorities. We’re all busy. To be effective, we must search out the priorities and act on them. What do we do today? What decision should be made first? What do we communicate down? Up? We must be organized to weed out the routine. And concentrate on the important things—in order of their importance.

Set high standards. Any reputation for excellence has been shaped by sustained performance over the years. Each time you are content with merely "going through the motions," you risk damaging that reputation. The best that is in you must be tapped every day. A manager sets the standards for his people. Unless they are high, the potential of those who work for him may be stunted, perhaps permanently.

Look beyond your company. By joining outside organizations, a manager broadens his interests and his knowledge. He gets to know himself better and the depth and range of his personality. Whether it’s in civic or professional activities, the community gets to know him as a responsible, concerned citizen who also works for the ABC Company. The association does the firm no harm. And the public-spirited manager, by his example, may well instill similar attitudes in his people.

Ten Manager "Failure Factors"
When major companies were polled to pinpoint the reasons for letting certain managers go, the most often cited reasons were the following. If you suspect that you may be guilty of any, it’s not too late to resolve to improve.

  1. Lack of planning ability—time utilization—poor work habits.
  2. Lack of industriousness, drive.
  3. Lack of resourcefulness.
  4. Lack of vision
  5. Lack of self-development.
  6. Lack of self-confidence, enthusiasm. Too easily discouraged.
  7. Lack of ambition, desire to succeed.
  8. Lack of communication skills.
  9. Slow, uncreative thinking.
  10. Emotional instability—jealousy, anger, suspicion of others.

Ways to Improve Employee Morale

  1. Demonstrate to your people that you are genuinely interested in them and would be glad to have their ideas on how working conditions might be improved.
  2. Treat your people as individuals; never deal with them as impersonal variables in a working unit.
  3. Accept the fact that others may not see things as you do.
  4. Respect differences of opinion.
  5. Insofar as possible, explain manage-ment actions.
  6. Provide information and guidance on matters affecting employees’ security.
  7. Make reasonable efforts to keep jobs interesting by occasionally adding new responsibilities, new challenges, or new authority.
  8. Express appreciation publicly for jobs well done.
  9. Keep your people up-to-date on all business matters affecting them and quell rumors with correct information.
  10. Be fair.

How To Get Noticed
"Modesty," someone once said, "is a fine jewel, but many who wear it die beggars." It’s true. People who get ahead today have mastered—among other things—the deli-cate art of calling attention to themselves.

Need some publicity yourself? Here are four techniques that frequently work.

Speak Up. Information has a way of "per-colating" up and outwards. In your day-to-day contacts, you undoubtedly talk to some people who, in turn, pass along part of what you say in their day-to-day contacts. Since you never can tell where this "chain of talk" will end, forge as many links as possible. Got an idea you’d like to call to the attention of higher-ups? Without going into details (after all, you want the credit), mention it to your colleagues. Sooner or later, Mr. (or Ms.) Right will hear about it. Opportunities for sowing this conversational seed: during coffee breaks…lunch…traveling to and from work…on the job.

Get Yourself Talked About. This technique is as old as gossip and as new as tomorrow’s headlines. By becoming the subject of others’ conversations, you create in effect a corps of publicity agents for yourself. Talk to the "influentials" in your life, those people who can help you get noticed. They will vary according to your needs, but generally will include community leaders, your superiors, people who know your superiors, customers or clients and so on. Have an idea for a civic project? Talk it over with your local banker.

Got a pet peeve? Tell the editor of your hometown newspaper. Know how to increase good will for your company? Tell your boss. Things get around.

Write. To newspapers. To magazines in your field. To associations. There are literally hundreds of occasions for sitting down at a computer; to pass along news or ideas…ask for information or advice (thereby transforming the recipient into an "expert")...seek an appointment to discuss some matter of mutual advantage…go on record as approving or disapproving some contemplated course of action...take a "survey"...comment on trends in your profession or industry.

Participate. By taking part in various activities, you will soon become a familiar figure in those circles interested in what you are doing. Get in on company, industry or professional projects—trade shows publicity campaigns, conventions. Be a joiner—you can often meet otherwise unreachable people in civic, fraternal and veteran organizations. Volunteer your services—as a Boy Scout leader, an unpaid fireman, member of a charity drive, head of a church bazaar.

Oscar Wilde said it. You remember it: "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about!"

How To Be Decisive
No matter what your position, you must choose between alternative courses of action hundreds of times each year. Reluctance to make a choice sabotages action and, therefore, achievement. To acquire the habit of decisiveness, follow these rules:

Decide the small things promptly. By getting them out of the way, you give yourself more time to think through the things that really count.
Select your choices firmly. It will put iron into your resolve.
Abandon all alternatives. Once your mind is made up, forget the other possibilities. They are history. "What could have been" thinking is unproductive.
Act upon your decision. Nothing really happens until you do something. So if you truly want to be decisive, you must carry out your decision through action. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. J. P. Morgan once defined a successful man as "a fellow who is right fifty-one times out of one hundred." Right or wrong, come to a decision promptly after weighing all pertinent factors. Whichever it is, it is almost always better than no decision at all.