I received a couple of really good articles this week on managing people. I’ll admit this is an area in which I’m not particularly adept – perhaps because it’s so much work. I should be better at it because I’ve had the good fortune to work for some of the best bosses in the world, and also probably the worst.
The best bosses I’ve had realized that part of their job was to help me do mine better, and they took the time to help me understand their vision, direction and goals. They also cleared obstacles out of my way and gave me the opportunity to succeed, by providing support and constructive criticism. In the end, they didn’t create a job, but a purpose. It was a lot of fun going to work!
I also had a boss who was all about ego – his. He looked at my role as merely helping him achieve his career goals, or simply making him look better. He took pride in saying he gave his employees autonomy, but, in actuality, he didn’t want to be burdened working with them on a daily basis. He was gifted at what he did, but what he enjoyed and did had a very limited scope. Everything else he passed along to the employees, but without providing the vision or authority to act in a proactive way. You weren’t supposed to think, merely execute. He expected you to achieve results, but you had no say in how to go about achieving those results.
Obviously, a person thrives under the good bosses, and quickly begins looking for a new job under the other. Both articles I read this week talked about helping employees understand the operation’s goals, and giving them a higher purpose, of empowering them so they can succeed and enjoy what they do.
Looking back, I think my management style has suffered for a couple of reasons. My primary problem is that, while employees help you achieve far more than you ever could alone, I’ve never reduced my individual workload to allow for the responsibility and time required to manage others. As a result, I sometimes felt that managing my employees was keeping me from doing what I saw as important.
Secondly, my communication skills could use some work. I have a tendency to assume too much and then get frustrated when my ineffective communication leads to a lack of clarity.
Without providing employees with sufficient direction, feedback or praise, or allowing them the leeway that will inspire them, you can’t expect them to care as much about the business as you do. Of course, you need to have realistic expectations. After all, employees don’t typically have an ownership stake, or benefit from the business as you do. Still, I know lots of people who truly love the company they work for, and give the kind of effort and commitment every day that you’d expect from the owner of the business.
We’ve all had coaches, supervisors, or colleagues who only provided negative feedback; after awhile, you’re more concerned about avoiding the negative feedback than doing something positive. Everyone loves positive feedback, and good coaches and bosses praise great effort and good results. But good coaches also identify weaknesses and provide you with the tools to overcome them.
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The coach analogy is the best for me, as a good coach is consumed with making his team better, with giving them the system, a unified vision and the individual tools they need to succeed. I actually have had the opportunity to be a coach and loved it.
Unfortunately, in my work life, I’ve been more in the position of being a player/coach than just a player or a coach. And, because my role as a player required so much time, I haven’t spent the time necessary to be a good coach.
The management articles I read this week taught me that it’s time to put the ball in some other people’s hands, and spend more time on the sidelines focusing on helping them to succeed.
What are your suggestions for being a better manager and motivator of employees? And what are the biggest challenges you face in managing and motivating employees? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
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