Principles of Being an Effective Manager

by Wheatman, Debra Friday, November 06, 2009
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Being a successful manager that is respected and well liked has more to do with common sense than people think. An effective manager also contributes to the organization’s success. Here is some information to help you develop or hone your style to facilitate a strong internal presence and enhance your likelihood for success:

Presence: Do people run for cover when you walk into a room? Your body language plays a very important role in contributing to your effectiveness (or lack thereof). Your posture, ability to make eye contact when speaking to people, sitting and standing tall are all signs of leadership and communicate to your audience that you are interested in what they have to say. When shaking hands give a firm shake to demonstrate confidence and self-assuredness. Finally – smile. A smile can do wonders. It makes you much more approachable and displays a positive presence.

Be a good communicator: Nobody likes surprises unless it’s for a birthday or a promotion. In an office environment surprises are often synonymous with stress and not enough time to meet a (surprise!) deadline. Being at the center of a cadre of flying monkeys trying to complete a project that fell out of the sky is never fun and will not make you a popular or effective manager. Set realistic expectations when making commitments so that you plan accordingly and allow your team enough time to deliver. Ensure that you communicate the goals clearly; provide written and verbal instructions – if it’s written down people cannot claim that they did not know about a deliverable. In an ideal world, you could build your own team from scratch – however the more realistic scenario is that you will have to fill functional roles defined by someone else. Fill you roles based on matching skills to roles as best as possible. Sometimes significant retraining might be in order. A good manager recognizes that all people are different and will play to individual strengths within a team environment to ensure success. Maintain an organized approach through regular (but brief) meetings to ensure deliverables are being met. Offer praise and feedback for a job well done. You can even offer small ‘prizes’ when milestones are met. This will keep your team engaged and create a little bit of healthy competition. Some managers have instituted an “open door” policy. Sometimes this works – sometimes not so much. YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). Something that is all too often forgotten is that a good manager serves as a conduit for communications from senior leadership.

Harmony and Respect: There is an old adage – “treat others as you expect to be treated.” This is doubly so in a hierarchical business relationship. Make sure you are respectful of your team’s time and space. Don’t make a habit of calling employees after hours or emailing them repeatedly at 4:00am (as one of my former bosses did.) I never understood why she was awake at that hour; and I certainly didn’t enjoy getting up to review multiple redundant, rambling emails regarding things that certainly could have waited until a more normal hour. In other words, leave work at the office. Contacting employees during the weekend or when they are on vacation breeds resentment. Unless there is a real work emergency, let your employees have well deserved downtime from office pressures. If you respect their time, when you really need them they will “bring it.”

Feedback and Credit: Make sure you give credit when and where it is due. If someone on the team came up with a great idea, saved time and / or money don’t try to steal their fame. That type of action will make you very unpopular and set a tone that you are untrustworthy. An untrustworthy manager will not have the support of his team, which will hamper productivity and success. Give constructive feedback to help your staff and remember to offer praise when it is justified.

Self Assessment: It’s not all about the staff. As a manager you should also be evaluating your own performance to ensure your performance is up to standard. Maintain an open door policy so your staff feels comfortable coming to you with issues. Interact with people – don’t remain in your office all day with the door closed. People will begin to wonder what plan is being hatched in there. Keep your employees informed so they can be part of solutions. Accept responsibility for your actions and the actions of your team. Everyone makes mistakes, and you need to own up to errors if and when they happen. Improvement is ongoing so you should be open minded and willing to learn from others.

Being a strong manager is an amalgamation of a variety of characteristics. Lead by example and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Demonstrate that you are committed to overall team development. Serve as a role model for your employees; gain their trust and respect, and you will no doubt reap the rewards of a staff that trusts you and remains engaged.