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10 Ways To Management Success

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This article originally appeared in the Experts Exchange Newsletter, and is republished here by request.

It never ceases to amaze me the lengths to which people will go.

I've been a member of the workforce since I was about 12. I didn't have to dig ditches, and it wasn't because I had to keep, while shoeless, a family of thirteen from starving in some godforsaken part of the world where "running water" meant a stream about a quarter of a mile away. I did have to learn to load and run a printing press, use a linotype, handle a Speed Graphic and write halfway decently, and my bosses were the same people who took me to Little League practice -- but it was still work.

Since then, I've had a few jobs I couldn't stand -- so I did the best thing I could think of: I quit and found some other way to earn a living. A portion of the past 40+ years was spent in a cubicle; I can't call it a "cube farm", because while almost everyone was in a cubicle, nobody was really expected to spend all day sitting in it. Fortunately, most of my working life has not been in a cubicle; I have actually spent more time managing one kind of business or another, and one of the perks has usually been being allowed to prohibit cubicles.

So while I appreciate a good laugh, I was a little disturbed at an article about staying sane in a cubicle. It's not that I would be all that upset if someone occasionally did some of the things on the list. But neither I nor my bosses pay my employees to respond to the Tweets posted by Ashton Kutcher or their great-aunt Susie in Des Moines, or to wander around the room aimlessly, interrupting the people who are trying to get something constructive done.

What bothers me even more, though, is that the author would feel compelled to write such an article in the first place. I don't blame him -- although perhaps his career choices haven't been particularly wise if he has that many bad experiences -- but I do blame the people who have made the idea of going into the office so miserable that he has to devise ways to keep from -- oh, I don't know -- destroying the coffee machine because someone didn't make a fresh pot. I blame the people he's worked for.

I enjoy management; I've run restaurants, newspapers, construction companies, and half a dozen other different operations involving getting other people to do what someone else wanted done in the manner that was most effective. So, by way of response to my esteemed colleagues at that other site, here are ten ways (with a couple of bonus ones) to keep your employees from having to resort to finding ways to keep their sanity at work.

1. Outwork your employees. If you're not being productive, they're not going to be productive. That doesn't mean, if you're managing the local Denny's, that you have to wait on more tables than your waitresses do; it means that you are always doing something to make their work easier. Making up next week's schedule will wait an hour or two; the line at the front door won't. Robert Heinlein once noted that "progress isn't made by early risers. It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something." If you help your employees do their jobs more easily, they will do them better too.

2. Talk with your customers. Find out from them what you, your employees, and your organization are doing right, and what you could be doing better. They'll keep paying you if they think you actually care about what they need. (It's not a bad idea to talk with your employees too; you'll be surprised what the people who talk to customers all day can tell you about what your customers really think.)

3. Never give an order. People will generally respond to them reasonably quickly -- but the next time a similar situation comes up, they're going to wait for you to give orders again. When someone asks me what to do, I tell them what I would do -- and then tell them to use their best judgment. If I've done my job as a manager, and hired the best people I can find, the best thing I can do is stay out of their way. I'm supposed to "manage;" I'm not supposed to be an impediment.

4. Admit you screwed up. No one has ever been right every time, and the odds are against you being the first. But you look a lot worse to your employees if you try to make excuses than you do if you say "okay, I goofed -- now, how do we fix it?" Even worse than that is saying "we're doing it my way anyway;" that's like bobbling the ground ball and then throwing it over the first baseman's head.

5. Check your ego at the door. The job isn't about you. It isn't about your employees. It's about the people who keep the money flowing through the cash register. You can't force your employees to think about that all the time, but you'll go a long way toward getting people who work for you to think about it if you do.

6. Pay attention. You shouldn't need a scorebook to know who your best people are. You also don't need a scorebook to tell you what their flaws are. If you know what someone's job is (you should -- after all, you're the manager), you don't need to watch his or her every move to tell whether they're doing it or not. Frankly, unless their job requires that they update their Facebook page every day, then either they don't know what their job is (your fault for not telling them) or they do know but don't consider it a priority (your fault for letting them get away with it).

7. Meetings where you're not closing a sale are a waste of time. That doesn't mean they should all be done away with; it does mean that they should be minimized. Results are what matters. If your employees are doing their jobs, then tasks get done on time and under budget. Having a meeting to find out where everyone is takes them away from doing what they're supposed to be doing. Remember -- your employees are looking for you to make decisions, and their job is to provide you with the information you need to make one. You don't need their approval; you just need to make sure you've heard what they have told you.

8. Trust your employees. I wish I had a dime for every time a boss told me he had a great team, but who then spent every waking moment either reading reports from them on what they're doing (or worse, holding meetings to find out) or checking over everything they did. If they're so great, why are you double-checking all their work? If they're not so great, why aren't you teaching them so they're better? Or finding better employees? And how much time have they spent preparing reports on what they've been doing, instead of actually doing it?

9. Respect your employees. You can't say you respect them and then treat them like red-headed stepchildren; for one thing, no one is going to believe you, and if no one believes you, they certainly don't respect you. Nobody gets respect just because they're the boss; they earn it because they respect the people who are supposed to be showing them respect.

10. Communicate. That's usually a code word for telling your employees what you think they need to know -- which is a crock. Communication is a two-way street, which means letting your people have their say, and allowing for the possibility that they might know what they're talking about. So sit back and listen; you don't even have to get in the last word (but saying "thank you" goes a long way).

Bonus 1: Your employees are not your friends. You're their boss. Sooner or later, in every manager's career, there is going to be a time when a decision that is a positive move for the organization is a negative one for a person -- and you're the one who has to make that decision. That doesn't mean you have to be a ruthless cutthroat who can't stand anyone; it does mean that you're not always going to be the most popular kid in school. If you're not up to it, you're in the wrong job.

Bonus 2: Chill. The only time you need to be a "take charge kinda guy (or gal)" is when the situation demands that someone take charge. That's YOUR job. The rest of the time, you can just be yourself. To paraphrase Kipling, take everything you like seriously -- except yourself.
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32 Comments
LVL 58

Expert Comment

by:tigermatt
ericpete,

This is a great article - thanks for re-publishing it here. It gets my "Yes" vote.

tigermatt
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Expert Comment

by:WaterStreet
It got my vote above.

I particularly liked ways 6 and 8 (not needing a scorebook to know who the best people are, why all the reports are needed if the manager says he trusts them)
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Author Comment

by:Eric AKA Netminder
WaterStreet,

Thank you; No. 8 is one of those things that gripes me, too, although No. 7 is a biggie too. I went to work for a company where the department manager decided, after I'd been there for about two weeks, to have a weekly meeting on Tuesdays. The ten of us filed dutifully into a conference room where everyone sat around and told what they were working on; it took about two hours, given that the manager insisted on asking everyone at least one question with a couple of follow-ups.

Two days after the meeting, she came out of her cubbyhole office and by my cube and asked me what I thought of the meeting. I said "well, the next time the boss wants to throw away $600, have him just write me a check." She says, "But we held that meeting for you, so you'd know what everyone does."

I just looked at her and asked "You didn't think I'd ASK them?"

Another thing that didn't make the list -- not because I didn't think about it, but because I wanted to keep the article focused on things managers can actually fix, as opposed to things that seem to be essential characteristics -- is the manager who is paranoid. He keeps information from his employees and co-workers, as if it is saffron and everyone wants to make bouillabaisse behind his back. It's especially galling when there is no reason for NOT sharing it -- except that he can remind everyone else who is the boss.

ep
0
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LVL 13

Expert Comment

by:Dagan Hoover
Great article even if your not a manager. It gives a different perspective, especially to the young ones here(eg me)!
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Author Comment

by:Eric AKA Netminder
ThievingSix,

Thank you; you are very kind. No matter how young you are, you will probably wind up being offered a supervisory position at some point -- and you'll probably consider taking it because it usually means more money or more prestige. Just remember all the things you hated about the managers you have had -- and do exactly the opposite.

ep
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LVL 40

Expert Comment

by:evilrix
ep,

Sweet article, I'm just about to send a link to my boss for his inspection :)

Voted yes above.

-Rx.
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Author Comment

by:Eric AKA Netminder
evilrix,

I know you're one of the Page Editors, so I appreciate your comments, but surely you don't mean Articles101, Computer101 and Netminder... <laughing>

Thank you for the vote; I do appreciate it.

ep
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LVL 7

Expert Comment

by:askb
Nice article. I liked your points.
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Expert Comment

by:Kevin Cross
Great article, ep!
Voted yes above.
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Author Comment

by:Eric AKA Netminder
Thank you, mwvisa1; I appreciate the feedback.

ep
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Expert Comment

by:ValentinoV
It's a great read Eric!  I recognize so many items (luckily from a previous life), everyone who ever becomes manager should be given a framed version to be hung on the office wall in front of him/her :-)

Also, what you stated in following comment is a really valuable tip for beginning managers if you ask me:
"Just remember all the things you hated about the managers you have had -- and do exactly the opposite."

There goes another YES vote!
Valentino.
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Author Comment

by:Eric AKA Netminder
ValentinoV,

Thank you.

One of the things I most appreciated about several of my first jobs was that I saw a lot of good stuff -- and a lot of bad stuff. One situation in particular was a place where, during my first year there, our staff of 40 people turned over at a rate of about one person per day (364 people in 374 days, to be exact) -- in large part because the boss was high strung and demanding, but not a very good trainer.

I got booted upstairs in part because I spent a dinner rush yelling at him; instead of firing me (which he certainly could have justified), he kicked me upstairs, passing over about five other people who had seniority. He handled the book stuff -- ordering, mostly -- and I did personnel and training, and I did essentially everything he didn't do, and didn't do any of the things he had done.

We went from the bottom 10 per cent to the top spot of a 400-store chain in six months, in large part because we stopped doing all the things that caused us turnover. It saved us labor and cut some of our variable costs (less waste) while improving service and thereby increasing sales.

Employees and subordinates are also colleagues. When a manager can identify his goals, then make those goals resonate with his employees' goals, and then enable them to help them reach theirs, he will reach his.

ep
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LVL 38

Expert Comment

by:younghv
So many great points made, but I would love to send "Bonus 2" to a whole lot of folks I've met over the years.

Big ol' yes vote here!
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Expert Comment

by:vinodpaka
thanks for your 10 points
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Author Comment

by:Eric AKA Netminder
You're quite welcome!
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Author Comment

by:Eric AKA Netminder
Thank you all for the honor; it's an unexpected Christmas present.

Best regards,

ep
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Expert Comment

by:JackOfPH
Voted Yes for a wonderful article.
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Expert Comment

by:Loganathan Natarajan
Good Article. Thanks to EE
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Expert Comment

by:Premkumar Yogeswaran
Hi Ericpete,

Voted - yes

Thanks for the wonderful article...!

Cheers,
Prem
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Author Comment

by:Eric AKA Netminder
premglitz,

Thank you; I appreciate the compliment.

ep
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Expert Comment

by:rdivilbiss
Bookmarked, don't want to have to look for things I will read more than once.
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Administrative Comment

by:Netminder
Interesting.

Netminder
Senior Admin
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Author Comment

by:Eric AKA Netminder
rdivilbiss,

That's one of the kindest compliments I've ever had; thank you.

ep
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Expert Comment

by:tw4ds
Good Work!!!  Literally... I will be passing on the wisdom.  Really liked that it resonated on many different levels.  I am glad that I am mature enough now to see both sides.  You emphasize the importance of mutual respect well.

Keep it up and best regards,

-TW
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Author Comment

by:Eric AKA Netminder
tw4ds,

Thank you very much. Respect, I think, is like good karma: the more respect you give to people, the more you're going to get back.

ep
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LVL 38

Expert Comment

by:Jim P.
I plan on never being in management. But I could see this landing on some managers desk without them knowing where it came from.

One thing I would add is if your the manager and an employees salary is greater than yours -- don't worry about it. Managing people is sometimes less important than star employees.
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Author Comment

by:Eric AKA Netminder
Jim,

When I first got into management, there were any number of employees who made more than I did; in fact, because I had been one of the employees when I got booted upstairs, I took a rather significant pay cut. The upside was that five years later, they were going to all be in the same place (or doing the same job elsewhere), whereas I was going to be moving up the ladder and gaining the skills and experience that would make my income and lifestyle significantly better.

So yeah... it takes a while to figure out that working for $3.14/hour for a few years becomes worth it when you wind up working for $31.40/hr -- or even $314.00/hr -- because you've figured out how to keep those people who were making a lot more a few years ago working for you for a lot less than you're making now.

Still, I have rather modest needs and tastes, so the money wasn't really what kept me managing. Personally, I think it's fun.

ep
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LVL 38

Expert Comment

by:younghv
Got the notice of a new comment and just had to read this again.

A whole bunch of people around the planet could save a ton of money by THOROUGHLY understanding this, then just skipping all those management seminars they plan on attending.
Good stuff (redux).
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Author Comment

by:Eric AKA Netminder
Vic,

See item 7. Seminars -- especially those one pays to attend -- are remarkably similar to meetings where nothing really happens. I'd say that Geico has inadvertently summed it up perfectly.

Thanks again,

ep
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Author Comment

by:Eric AKA Netminder
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Expert Comment

by:Maidine Fouad
Great article ! Voted Yes ^^

As a side note the link to the staying sane in a cubicle article , is Dead , i found a existing  copy in the Web archive Machine : here .
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LVL 15

Author Comment

by:Eric AKA Netminder
Fouad,

Thanks for the comment; I've located the republished version at Tech Republic here: http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/10-things/10-ways-to-stay-sane-in-your-cubicle/ -- but don't believe the "PDF download", because it's not there.

ep
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