Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tips for Effectively Managing Employees

Entrepreneurs often find themselves thrown into the new roles of Employer and Manager, often for the first time in their lives. Bogged down by the other pressing tasks involved in running a business, many entrepreneurs do not give the role of Manager the proper focus that it requires. The reality is that poor management can destroy your business. Today I offer you a mini crash course on what I believe are the most important tips for being a good manager.

When I graduated from college and entered corporate America I asked my brother for some advice and this was his response: “Treat everyone, from the lowest man on the totem pole to the CEO, with respect. You never know who is going to be your boss some day.” I took that advice to heart and found that it served me well in my early days in the plants and then later as I became a manager.

On a practical note, what does it mean to respect your employees? It means understanding that your employees are individuals and taking the time to get to know them on a personal level, letting them know that they are important as human beings. It means that you understand that your employees are people with a variety of learning styles. As a good manager, it is your job to learn how to identify those learning styles and adapt your message to meet those styles. It means that you understand that your employees are thinking people capable of adding great value to your organization if you allow them the freedom to do so. It means the simple things, like showing up and working side by side with them when there is a problem, speaking politely with your employees even if you have an issue to resolve, being willing to pitch in and do the very jobs that you are asking your employees to do when times get tough, and following the same rules that you ask them to follow. If you don’t want your employees to leave early, for example, then don’t leave early yourself. Showing respect to your employees is the fastest route to gaining your employees respect as their leader.

In addition to respecting your employees, clear and complete communication with your employees is a must. By this I mean face to face communication giving your employees a chance to ask for clarification, as well as consistent reiteration with written communication. Communication requires a two-way exchange of information. Murphy’s law states that “if anything can be misunderstood, it will be misunderstood.” Clearly communicating your mission, objectives, and how it affects your employees is an important step in motivating your employees.

Finally, my favorite book on management is a book by Roger E. Allen, Winnie-the-Pooh on Management, given to me by my mother when I was promoted to my first managerial job. Despite all of the management seminars that I have attended and management books that I have read, I still go back to this book for the basics:

“A good leader will always try to make the project that she wants worked on seem to be exciting…That is really part of motivating individuals. Everyone will try to do a better job when they feel that the project is exciting and significant. By being part of something that is important, individuals will feel that they are important—everyone likes to feel that way.”

“Encourage and praise those who are working with (you)…living up to the good opinion that someone we respect has of us is a strong reason to do a good job.”

“(A good leader) treats individuals as individuals…He gives credit to others…An effective leader’s goal is to make his people look good.”
“(Give your employee) an important task to do—many managers delegate only unimportant or minor tasks, which is unfair to those they manage…(Don’t) tell him how to do it… let him decide how to accomplish the task …giving subordinates a chance to learn and develop their own skills and abilities… A manager has to learn that when she delegates, those she delegates to may make mistakes…By making mistakes you learn how to do things right, and you are not afraid to try new things. Delegation…allows managers to multiply their efforts.”

After all, multiplying our efforts is the whole reason for hiring employees to begin with.

Please share your tips on being a good manager in your small business.

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