As we carefree, flower-children types age, we find ourselves in increasingly responsible positions at our workplace – often against our will and much to our chagrin. This can cause stress and panic because we of the free-love-peace-and-brotherhood-of-all era find it very difficult to take charge, control the work lives of others, give orders, be corporate.
I’ve worked for a lot of different managers, and tried a bit of management myself (and didn’t like it much) so of course I feel completely qualified to be dishing out advice to those who now, reluctantly, find themselves in management positions and want to know how to be effective manager types. The best thing of all, of course, is to avoid management positions. The added money is never worth the joy it sucks out of your life.
However, if you absolutely must manage:
- Ignore all the management manuals, books and motivational speaker advice. These people only care about making money by preying on your insecurities. They don’t care about you and making your working life easier and better. I do. Overall your instincts will be your best guide – much like parenthood. The “experts” are all very interesting, but they’re not living in your shoes.
- Don’t fret about your staff. No matter how kindly they may feel about you, and no matter what you do, a part of them will always resent you for being their financial and hierarchal superior. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.
- Your main focus should be on getting the job done you are in charge of getting done. Every decision you make should be in support of that.
- Your staff will not be entirely comfortable having you for a friend. Do not try to be their friend. Do not follow them to lunch or coffee breaks. They want to be alone to bitch about you.
- To show you’re still part of the team, however, and not just an overlord, host a pot-luck lunch at your house occasionally or take them off somewhere for a “team building session” that drags on for the rest of the afternoon. You pay for something to make it a real treat, but not everything
- People love to be asked their opinions. Get your staff in one at a time periodically to ask them their opinions on: a) how they feel about their job/how things are going, b) anything they think they could be doing/would like to be doing that they’re not, c)what makes them want to come to work in the mornings and/or is there anything that could be implemented around the office to make them want to come to work in the mornings, c) any ideas they may have to improve productivity, bottom line or whatever it is you’re supposed to be accomplishing.
- Bosses are invariably really good talkers. They have to be because they give lots of presentations, chair meetings, convince people of stuff, double-talk their way into and out of trouble. Beef up those public speaking skills so you can make short shrift of your peers and competitors. Then shut-up when dealing with your staff. Let them talk. There is nothing worse than a boss you calls you in to ask your opinion on something and then goes on to give you his for the entire meeting.
- Implement some of the ideas and changes your staff suggest. Not all of them – you don’t want to be a pushover – just the ones that makes sense. Talk without action is demoralizing.
- Pay people what they’re worth and if you’re not in control wages, give those who particularly deserve it added privileges – something that means something to them. (perhaps a free day off, work on a project that excites them, a new chair/desk/keyboard/office. This shows that you appreciate those that give a little extra to the job. By the same token, show that you notice the slackers by not giving them a raise, a free day off, new office furniture, etc. Equality is all well and good, but it sucks as a motivator.
- Lead by example. Very important. Think of what you would consider your ideal employee and then be that person. Your staff will look to you (perhaps subconsciously) on how to dress, deport themselves around the office, when and how they clock in and out, how much attention to detail they give their work, how they treat and talk about clients; how they treat and talk about their co-workers, and so on and so forth.
All the best in your future endeavours and please be aware that my resume is current and always available for consideration.