Just How Good a Manager Are You?
How well do I manage myself? Unless you are adept at organizing your own time and talents, you can't really do a good job of masterminding others. Every day, prepare a list of things that need to be done and tackle them in order of urgency. Don't worry about a sequence or let anxiety about unfinished items distract you from the business at hand. As you cross off completed items, you get the feeling of accomplishment. At day's end - even if you haven't completed all the listed jobs - you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that you did “first things first.” Then put any unfinished tasks in their proper slot on tomorrow's list.
Am I willing to do as I want others to do? This really is management's golden rule because an executive sets the pace for his staff whether it numbers one or 1,000. Come in on time, shun lengthy lunch hours, do a full day's work each day. Your employees will think twice about doing otherwise, even without the benefit of lectures from you. If you are free-and-easy in your work habits, employees will take the cue and do likewise. Then, when you protest, they're bound to resent your goofing off and laying down the rules you won't follow. Yes, you are the boss, but you have to set a good example.
Am I a good teacher? All good managers are good teachers - but poor ones, never sure their employees have caught on, tend to become nursemaids instead! Are your instructions outlined in step-by-step form, clearly worded? Ask questions to make sure you've been understood. Perhaps most important of all, understand the value of proper training.
Do I level with others? The surest way to win an employee's respect is to be consistently honest with him. Honesty, of course, does not mean brutal frankness or reckless disclosure of secrets. It does mean that you should let your staff know, as soon as you possibly can, about a pending change in policies. Morale plunges when people feel like they're being kept in the dark. Your employees shouldn't find out about major decisions affecting their livelihood from suppliers, competitors or neighborhood scuttlebutt. It also means that you should not withhold unpleasant truths to be popular; if a man has little chance for a promotion or raise at this time, don't foster any false hopes to the contrary. Finally, honesty means keeping all promises and not making those you can't keep.
Do I know when and how to offer criticism? “Criticize in private, praise in public” is a good rule to follow. But just because you give someone the courtesy of private criticism, don't feel entitled to speak as bluntly as you might like. Criticize constructively; mention good points along with flaws, and emphasize how improvement could be achieved. Criticize the individual's performance, not the individual. Never hint that it's the person, not the person's work, which leaves something to be desired. You'll make your point just the same - and without making an enemy.
Do I always give credit where it is due? High on the list of employees' pet peeves is the executive glory grabber who assumes all credit for success. He may not say he did all the major work; he may just sit back and let everyone draw that conclusion. Go out of your way to credit others for the help they give you even if you must labor hard to whip someone's rough work into finished or acceptable form. You won't lose face but you will create priceless good will among those who work with and for you.
Am I helping employees upgrade their jobs? If you can make your employees take on added responsibilities, you have increased their value to the company and there are many ways to upgrade an employee's job. Delegating some of your own chores is only one of them. Invest what you have to modernize your office and your business in general. Consider purchasing the latest equipment and software that can eliminate distastefully menial chores.
Am I too proud to ask for help? Managers who get the optimum performance from their staffs usually have discovered the magic in the simple phrase, “What do you think?” Before you make any decisions, whenever possible, consult those who will be affected. This obviously cannot be done in all instances, but it helps when it can. Even if you don't accept their viewpoint, they'll feel better for knowing it was considered. Encourage assistants to bring you their brainstorms. Many people have perfectly good ideas but won't voice them without being asked, even prodded.
These, of course, are only a few key principles that should be mastered by the executive. But if you can manage to apply them, you'll be giving strong proof that you are indeed a good manager, and worthy of the trust and loyalty of your employees.