Effective managers know their employees

score Question:
I've been running my own business for about two years and during that time I've been trying to develop a management style that gets what I want done, does not stifle the employee and yet provides opportunity for growth of both company and employee. After reading numerous stories about poor employers, I'm not sure if I'm doing it right.

I think what you're asking is what makes a good manager different from an average one, right? I've had a number of managers during my career; both good and bad. I've noticed a few characteristics consistently emerge when I worked with good managers. Their methods are not new or trendy, but they seem to work in developing an excellent staff for maximum performance.

  • Set clear expectations. Good managers don't tell people how to get the work done; they discuss outcomes with the employees and take the time to make sure the employee can visualize as well as articulate what the end result should look like and why.

    They do this in several ways. Sometimes it's conveyed in a formal session, such as team planning or annual goal-setting meetings. Other times, it's in informal conversation about how to handle a specific problem. In any event, employees must know what is expected, have room to execute the details in a way that meshes with their style and makes the most sense to them.

  • Find each person's unique talents. A lot of energy is spent teaching managers how to discipline and coach poor performance. It's a pity. If more time was spent focusing on how to discover each person's unique talents, workplaces would be infinitely more productive and employees would have more job satisfaction.

    Good managers watch their employees to see what they do best. They talk to their employees about what brings them the most joy at work, and then they seek out ways to leverage the employee's talents.

    A good manager is always looking to shift responsibilities to those people who are best suited for the work.

  • Recognize their efforts at least weekly. The quickest way to snuff out motivation and creativity at work is to ignore it. Sure you're busy, but so is everyone else. And it's in your best interests to pay attention to the good work your staff does and to say and do something about it. Good managers notice little things. They write notes, say thank you, flatter staff in front of customers and mean it.
  • Get to know your employees and show that you care about them. Good managers know that their employees could work somewhere else but choose to contribute their time, talents and energies to work with them. Take personal interest in your employees; don't pry, but listen to their stories about their families and hobbies so that you have a better appreciation for the whole person. Employees who feel they are truly part of a caring team are more committed to doing good work and staying on the job for a longer time.
  • Be open and truthful. Don't mince words, yet be aware of their feelings. It's a fine line to walk. Be clear and direct about what you see that is good, or if it's something you don't understand, drill down until you do. Communication is the bedrock on which your success is built. If you notice performance is slipping, don't wait long to say something about it.

    If there is a problem, employees need to be able to share that information and discuss it with you for possible solutions.

Bill Bryan is a counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives. SCORE offers counseling, workshops and seminars on small business operations. You can reach Bryan through SCORE, 515 N Court St. 815-962-0122, for information and appointments.

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