retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

It’s hardly news that bad managers can make life miserable for their employees. What is news it that apparently the worst keep figuring out new ways to do just that.

There were a couple of interesting articles this weekend that helped reinforce the importance of good managers. First, there was a special section of the Washington Post profiling the best places to work in the Capital region. One article detailed what conditions make employees most content. As many previous surveys have shown, compensation was low on the list, trailing far behind workplace atmosphere and nurturing managers.

The flip side of that second point was laid out in a story in the New York Times about the impact bad bosses have on the health of their staffers. Consider one small example: stressful workplaces increase the risk of cardiovascular events in workers by 38 percent.

Managers at all levels need understand both the incredible impact they have on the lives of their subordinates and the incredible difference small improvements can make. Open communication, sharing credit and not shifting blame are small but significant steps any manager can make and the results can be powerful.

(An easy to follow compilation of these behaviors can be found in “Mapping Management Practices that Drive Performance,” a study done a few years back by the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America. The study can be found here.)

But sometimes seeing the negative can help show a great deal. The Times article included some of the rude behaviors subordinates see most from bosses, including: interrupting people, being judgmental of those who are different, show little interest in others’ opinions or never saying please or thank you. That last one would seem be an easy place to start if anyone is looking for some simple self-improvement.

Worse yet, there was a list of negative behaviors people admit they use themselves, including: hibernating in e-gadgets, using jargon that confuses others, not listening and taking others for granted. Perhaps not surprisingly, pretty much everyone admitted to using please and thank you less than they should.

Wisconsin retailer Dave Skogen made a number of points about management styles in the session he and I recently did at the FMI Future Leaders program. Skogen, an outspoken proponent of servant leadership through which bosses strive to lift up subordinates, talked about the difference of management and leadership.

Managing, he said, is easy compared to leading. Too many managers focus on tasks, whereas leadership requires a broader view, greater responsibility and risk taking. They’re all points worth considering.

I bet Skogen would agree with the power of good management as the building block of future leadership. Good managers build success by building their teams and getting them to succeed. Great leaders take that to an entirely different level.

Maybe we could start at an even more basic level by accepting that good management relies on some key behaviors, especially valuing and building a team. Sure, that’s not easy, but the reverse is a path to endless problems.

Maybe it’s time to start saying please and thank you.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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