While this can be confusing, one of the keys to being an effective manager is to have an approach and philosophy that you believe in and follow so your staff knows what to expect, how to behave, and how to succeed in the workplace. The worst thing a manager can be is inconsistent. Workers get frustrated if the rules change or of they believe that they are being treated unfairly as compared to their co-workers.
I will go one step further and suggest that every business needs to establish a management philosophy that it expects all its supervisors and managers to follow. This eliminates the inconsistencies not only by one manager, but across the entire business.
What follows is my copyrighted take on the ideal management philosophy for a business. These rules can be used as is, modified, expanded, or contracted as you see fit.
- Ensure that there are common goals between management and staff. One way to accomplish this is by defining desired outcomes for the unit/business and measuring the unit's or business' success towards accomplishing those outcomes on a regular basis.
- Explain why. Many supervisors just tell their staff what to do. However, informing them why tasks are done a particular way, or why certain behaviors are required goes a long way towards eliminating worker/supervisor friction, ensuring that the tasks and behaviors are actually done correctly, and that improvements in the workplace occur through suggestions from workers who are performing those tasks on a regular basis.
- Be results oriented. Many workplaces value time over results. However, unless a job function is time-based (e.g. customer service phone representative), reward the results of someone's work more than their face time on the job. A worker who works a normal work day but produces high quality output and new ideas is more valuable than the worker who spends more hours at work but produces lower quality work and has fewer new ideas.
- Promote balance. Many workplaces want their employee's top priority to be their job; over family, over enjoying life, and maybe even over life itself. In my opinion this leads to employee burn-out and many employees eventually working on “auto-pilot”. The best employees are employees who have a balanced life. Whether they balance work with family, playing softball, donating their time to a not for profit, or going to the movies is irrelevant. When an employee has balance and works for a business that promotes balance, when that business needs him/her to go through a period of time where work comes first, they will do it and be effective.
- Demand the best. Don't accept workers being just okay. Remind them that they weren't hired to do a so-so job. They were hired and are being paid to do a good job.
- Hold workers accountable. Your workers are adults so treat them as adults. Don't act like an enabling parent. Don't accept excuses, don't allow them to slide through, don't allow them to point fingers. You'd be surprised how holding workers accountable results in good workers performing at their best and feeling fulfilled at work; and bad workers (probably performing a lot worse than you realize) quitting or starting to look for work elsewhere.
- Reward properly. This means both rewarding the right people and rewarding them appropriately (no big reward for a small accomplish). This includes verbal praise as well as tangible rewards such as raises and bonuses. Nothing disrupts the smooth operation and effectiveness of a workplace more than the wrong workers getting the recognition and rewards. Therefore, you need to be aware not only of the actual performance of your staff, but their perceptions of who are the best workers. Then you need to take steps to ensure that their perceptions coincide with your employees' actual performance by communicating what you value.
- Encourage creativity. Not everyone is creative. Therefore, creativity needs to be part of “going above and beyond” not part of the expected work product unless a person's job is a creative position (e.g. writing advertising copy). That means that creative employees may not be creative on the job since it isn't part of their standard job functions. So encourage creativity by always responding positively to creative suggestions (unless they are clearly ridiculous) and reward useful creativity with excellent rewards.
- Provide ongoing feedback. Don't leave your employees waiting for their annual review to know how well they are performing on the job. Also, don't wait for them to ask how they are doing. Provide ongoing feedback; positive feedback to your top employees (but also include areas where they can improve) and constructive feedback for others (don't just let them know they need to improve, but give them steps to take to help them improve their performances). Also let your employees know that they really need to worry when they are receiving no feedback from you. For the under-performing employee, lack of feedback on their performance means you do not think that employee can improve, so you aren't wasting your time talking to him/her about his/her job performance. This is also a good way to send a message to employees you would like to look for work elsewhere.
- Build an effective team. All managers obviously promote teamwork. However, there are some who build teams of workers who all have skills and knowledge that overlap their own, but at a lower level. Other managers build teams with workers with skills and knowledge that compliment their skills and knowledge. You would be surprised how many take the first approach since they either are intimidated by employees that know more than them in a specific area, or they do not have confidence that they can make good management decisions on topics that they are not knowledgeable on. However, that is not the way to build an effective team. Build your team with employees that have skills and knowledge that you do not possess, and have confidence in your ability to think logically and make solid management decisions.