Published on: August 10, 2010by Michael Sansolo
The best part of having a column like this is I pretty much get to say what I want. Sometimes, people listen. That can be the hard part.
Last week I wrote about looking at your own management style from both sides. That is, consider how you liked to be managed earlier in your career vs. how you manage now. My suggestion was this: make a list of the best and worst traits you experienced and remember to use the best list far more than the worst. And someone wrote and asked for my personal list.
It was shockingly easy to write, which makes me feel worse about never doing this before, but I guess that’s inspiration also. Here goes:
The best managers gave feedback often and straight. Now, I had a job that made such feedback easy. The process of writing and editing is constant and a good editor will always tell you why they are changing your prose in hopes that you won’t make the same mistake twice. Thanks to really good editors I think I became a better speller, writer, interviewer and more. Their feedback educated, inspired and helped.
Of course, I also had managers whose feedback was strange, impossible to understand, random and completely indefensible. (I’m betting this translates to your experience too.) Good editors changed my writing to make it better; bad editors changed it to show they were doing something. Good managers taught; bad manager confused. Good managers knew that positive feedback is incredibly important and needs to come more often than the negative. The bad never figured this out.
My best managers knew how to inspire me by explaining the importance of the job and my role. By doing so they got me to try harder. My best managers set lofty goals, challenging me to improve, learn and grow. They seemed to find a way to push me and, better yet, get me to push myself. And they made an entire team try harder by aiming for that goal, not by thinking others had to lose for me to win.
The best managers I had led with fairness toward the entire team, even though we all required somewhat different handling. The rules were simple and straightforward and everyone knew them. Even the stars were held to the same standards of basic behavior. Lastly, my best managers supported my goals to get ahead. They viewed my success as a reflection of their coaching and applauded a promotion, even if it meant I was leaving their team.
And, sadly, it wasn’t always that way.
In addition to useless or negative feedback, my worst managers tended to micro-manage, making it harder for me to do my own work and always leaving me wondering if they had enough to do. The tactic made me feel useless and incompetent. Training is important and feedback matters, but there’s an ocean between that and micro-managing.
Poor managers played favorites and it was always obvious. The rules somehow seemed different for everyone on the team. These managers let both the stars and the slackers get away with murder. The former seemed to get by on past accomplishments and the latter never seemed to do enough work. And in both cases, all it did was cause the rest of us to count the minutes until we were out of there.
Worst of all, poor managers depressed rather an inspired. Their words were too often negative, unhelpful and confusing.
Reflecting on all this, I know I can’t say I navigated my management list the right way each time. One thing I tried to do was learn from my staff. For instance, I learned a ton about how to do better, more informative and fact-based employee evaluations from Ernie Monschein, a long-time member of my staff at FMI. He’s an independent management consultant now and he challenged me to write this article.
By doing so, he kept me learning.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . His new book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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