Saturday, December 29, 2007

How to Manage

1. Do not read books, listen to audio presentations, watch videos, or attend lectures or seminars on the subject of management. The perpetrators of such material are "consultants," not managers with decades of hands-on experience.

2. Do not hire "consultants," unless you want someone you can blame for sweeping changes in your organization or its personnel structure. Don't do it even then, because you will have wasted money to no avail; you employees won't be fooled by the blame game.

3. Accept the traditional perks of your office, otherwise your employees might doubt your standing (and thus theirs) in the organization. But don't grab new perks for yourself. If you do, your employees (rightly) will think that your perks may (in lean times) cost some of them their jobs. Of course, if you don't mind envious, suspicious, and low-motivated employees, go right ahead and treat yourself to more perks. Better yet, pay lavish sums to have a "consultant" justify your new perks.

4. Do not agonize over decisions. It is better to make a few mistakes -- and correct them as necessary -- than to reveal yourself as an indecisive worrier. Gather the relevant facts, but don't chase down every loose end. Rely on the counsel of persons with relevant experience whose independence of judgment and discretion you trust.

5. Do not befriend any of your employees. Boss-subordinate friendships cause suspicion and resentment among the excluded, and can lead to nothing but trouble when an employee-friend screws up or stops being a friend.

6. Be friendly toward all of your employees. If you have an effective employee whom you can't stand, avoid him. If you can't avoid him, find a (legal) way to fire him. But don't put up with employees whose attitudes and behavior you dislike. Dislike breeds distrust. Distrust breeds bad decisions on your part.

7. Make it abundantly clear that you reward employees only for good performance. Make your standards of performance abundantly clear, through praise, perks, and pay. (See no. 11.)

8. Micro-manage, if that helps you sleep better at night. But accept the fact that your most effective employees will resent your micro-management, require extra compensation to put up with it, and curb their creativity and initiative in the face of it. In other words, try like the devil to avoid micro-managing, but do not go to the opposite extreme of complete hands-off management. Go to the middle ground: clearly stated expectations and prompt, regular feedback. If you are uncomfortable in the middle ground, you shouldn't be a manager; find a job doing something instead of managing it. If you wait too long to drop out of the management game, you'll be locked into it financially and to avoid the appearance of failure. The resulting stress will make you ill, and may kill you.

9. Do not undercut those you have placed in supervisory jobs by criticizing them openly or by implication (e.g., encouraging their subordinates to come through your "open door"). But do keep your ear to the ground; people love to gripe. If you hear of unacceptable behavior, dig into it (discreetly). If the story checks out, act on it, quickly. If a subordinate isn't doing his job, or has done something egregious, talk to him about it and explain what you expect him to do (or not do). If that doesn't fix the problem, find a job that he's better suited for, or help him move on to greener pastures.

10. Be sure that your employees know the bounds of their authority and initiative. Lack of clarity in such matters leads to frustration and poor performance. Give your employees as much leeway as you can, but not so much that they are put in conflict with each other or "empowered" to sabotage your operations or relations with customers.

11. Most importantly, know what you want your organization to accomplish. Be sure that your employees know what it is. Be sure that every part of your organization is aimed toward the same objective. Tie praise, perks,and pay to it.

12. If you have a boss, you have an additional job, which is to be a boss-manager. Your challenge as a boss-manager is to get your boss to observe the eleven preceding rules. You must be subtle but firm in that effort. You cannot expect down-the-line success, but if you fail on too many points, you will be miserable in your job. When you are miserable in your job because of your boss, you have three options: find another job, retire, or put up with your boss if you cannot do either. Nobody promised you a rose garden.

13. There is a fourth option for dealing with a "bad" boss, if the boss is incompetent or has committed an improper act: try to have him fired. But, as the adage goes, "if you strike at the king, you must slay him, lest he rise and seek retribution." If you are going to strike at your "king," you must have your exit plan ready.