The difference between managing people well and poorly is really one simple perception: good managers understand that people are not only willing to work, but want to be on the team and contribute to its goals.
That attitude more than any other characteristic or ability defines the world’s inspirational and effective managers. They treat their people like willing, capable, and valuable team members, and they help them get involved and contribute.
When the manager has the right attitude, employees not only give their best efforts but love their work (and their manager).
New employees are excited about their jobs. They’re eager to learn their parts, hone their knowledge and skills, make their contributions, and become valuable team members.
We don’t create that motivation; employees have it on their first day. Our role is simply not to kill it.
We explain the objectives to them, assure that they get the necessary training and tools, provide ongoing information and feedback, and recognize and respect their efforts and contributions. When we do that well, their enthusiasm and commitment build with their abilities, and they’re able to play increasingly important roles.
Motivated employees take pride in what they accomplish. They’re constantly on the lookout for ways to do their work faster and better. They feel their responsibilities are important and they fight to achieve the goals they share with us and their co-workers.
An unmotivated employee doesn’t care whether the work gets done. He does only what he has to do to avoid reprimand and looks for ways to reduce his workload. If his attitude gets bad enough, he can even direct his efforts to sabotage of management and the company—sometimes for amusement, but often as revenge for respect he feels he’s been denied or injustices he feels he’s suffered.
We like people who like us. We agree with their taste, bask in their admiration, and enjoy being with them. We understand and empathize with them, like to see them happy, and welcome opportunities to help them.
We dislike people who don’t like us. Their failure to understand and appreciate our abilities, knowledge, interests, and accomplishments makes them unworthy of our friendship. Time with them is unpleasant so we try to avoid them. We have no inclination to help them; better to see them fail—and sometimes we can help them fail.
There is something to respect in everyone. If we have trouble finding it, we can let them help us. “Tell me about yourself,” is a reliable beginning.
Showing respect in managing people is simple and inexpensive—phrasing communication politely, taking the time to listen and understand their viewpoints, recognizing their abilities and contributions, offering a word of appreciation, etc.
When employees disappoint, badgering and scolding seldom accomplish desired results; usually they backfire into bad attitude, poor self-image, and rebellion. Better to reinforce positive behaviors and think of less desirable behaviors as temporary and uncharacteristic.
Our people like us when we have high opinions of them and they’re proud when they live up to our expectations.
Attitude and tone emanate from the top. They filter down gradually and often imperceptibly, but their ultimate effect is undeniable: people treat others as they are treated.
If we’re tough, cold, rule-bound, and uncaring in managing people, our customers will get the same treatment. And our employees will believe they have done exactly as we expect—indeed as we would have done ourselves.
Despite the popular misconception, a manager’s role isn’t telling his employees what to do. If he has chosen good people, trained them sufficiently, and explained the objectives clearly, the employees know what’s to be done. They need only the opportunity to do it.
Managing people is simply removing obstacles. He ensures that employees have sufficient information, effective tools, efficient and reliable systems, appropriate materials, and accurate feedback.
It costs nothing but a little time to tell a co-worker he’s done a good job. Yet it can improve his attitude and enthusiasm for a day, a week—sometimes a lifetime.
Recognizing him for a special achievement, an unusual ability, or an important role in the company boosts his pride and inspires him to contribute more. There are many opportunities for such recognition: in meetings, in memos or newsletters, while making introductions, or just during casual conversation.
Giving him a title that recognizes his special responsibilities or abilities creates recurring opportunities for him to be proud of his work; it reinforces his value to the company and gives him clout in dealing with customers and vendors.
Old school management holds that the manager is the great repository of information and knows the most about every job. He was made manager because he has experience and proven abilities. His job now is to ensure that the people “under him” do their jobs the way he knows they should be done.
Perhaps that worked in factories in the early days of industrialization but today it’s outdated, ineffective, and offensive.
A great conductor can’t play every instrument in the orchestra, and often none of them as well as the musicians he conducts. But he can organize and guide them into a coordinated performance and an interpretation of the music the audience will appreciate and enjoy.
A smart manager doesn’t expect to be better at every job than the people who are doing them daily. His goal is to attract and train people who can do their jobs well—and if they do them better than he could, it’s a tribute to his management.
Acknowledging people’s experience and skills by asking their opinions and advice encourages pride in their work and increases their commitment. And it leads to better solutions, since no one understands a problem as well as those who deal with it directly.
The strongest guidance we give in managing people is through example. When it clashes with what we preach, our actions are presumed our real values and our words, past and future, lose their credence.
If we tell our people it’s important to be on time, we also must arrive on time (preferably early), stay within our allotted time for lunch, and work to or past our scheduled ending times. If we encourage accurate and timely paperwork, we must maintain our own records impeccably and according to the systems we’ve established. When we preach reasonable margins and suggesting add-ons, we should minimize our own discounting and habitually show the extra products.
When our words and actions match, the combination is a powerful illustration and endorsement of not only our processes but our credibility.
A poor relationship with the manager is the impetus for leaving a job more often than working conditions, pay, better opportunity, or any of the other often cited reasons, regardless of what the employee says.
In most cases the cause for quitting is a confrontation that indicates a lack of respect for the employee, his work, or his motives. A manager’s short burst of anger or frustration leaves lasting scars.
Most employees would rather find other work than risk continuing conflict—even when they otherwise enjoy the job.