Congratulations on the promotion. You’re going to be a great boss. We’re going to love working for you. And the company will thrive…
You don’t look like you’re believing me.
All right…you’ve got me. I’m just trying to make you feel better. That doesn’t mean you’re going to be a bad boss. Look, I’ve been in your shoes — and your office. It’s not easy. That’s why I’m back in the trenches. You can do better, though, with a few management tips. I’m about to share the most important management advice I learned in my time as a manager.
Money is important — but not everything.
Yes, money is good and necessary. We often will work harder for more money. But we don’t always succeed. Perhaps it’s the narrowing of focus that gets in the way. Sales commissions work because the money is a handy way of keeping score. Sales reps own their accounts. Those contracts are achievements. Take away that ownership but keep the money incentive and see what happens.
Daniel Pink offers a pretty good example of this in practice. He cites Australian software company Atlassian. A few times each year, employees get 24 hours to work on whatever they want as long as it has nothing to do with the projects that are part of their jobs. Then they present it to the company. They call them “Fedex Days” because you have to deliver overnight.
Give me something to be proud of.
You really want to keep me happy? Let me be proud of my work. That means I have to be able to use my skills to succeed. Let me work on projects that are my ideas. Don’t assign those ideas to other people.
And stop micromanaging. What you’re doing is telling me that you don’t trust me to do my job right.
I want something I can own. At the end of the day I want to point at something and say, “I did that.” I’m much happier saying that than, “My boss told me to do that.”
I understand that I can’t do everything I want to do. If I didn’t, I would be on my own as a freelancer. You need me to do work aligned with the goals and mission of the company.
But I can’t do it all — even though you want to squeeze every ounce of productivity out of me that you can.
Be clear about what you want me to do first and what can wait. This sets clear goals which leads to a standard of productivity. Then we’ll know how I’m doing my job.
Try to catch me doing something right.
If you look to catch your employees doing something right — and acknowledge it publicly — you’re going to have an extremely motivated workforce.
It’s also one of the hardest things to do. When we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, we are pretty much on auto-pilot. You can forget about us. And you will because there is so much competing for your attention. It’s when we do something wrong that you really take notice. It’d be great for you to notice the good with the (hopefully, rare) bad.
It’s like exercise. Very few of us do as much as we should. But anything we do helps. Take small steps. Look for ways to recognize good work and make it a habit. Very small compliments and acknowledgments are subtle and help us feel like we work in a positive environment.
It’s a learning process.
A former boss told me that management is about making mistakes. The good managers learn from those mistakes and don’t make them again. Therefore, he looks to hire managers who have learned a lot from mistakes.
That means you shouldn’t be afraid to apologize and accept responsibility. This encourages us to trust you and accept your efforts to make it right.
Please don’t expect to be perfect. I know there are people below and above you on the corporate ladder who seem to expect perfection. That makes it tough. But it’s the managers who show that they learn from mistakes who are forgiven.
No one is irreplaceable.
You can’t let any employee hold the company hostage. Yes, it’s good to value good employees. But you can’t let them get what they want when they threaten to quit. Then you are no longer in control.
Sooner or later you’re going to lose every employee. We’re going to quit, retire or succumb to health issues (again, a hopefully rare occurrence). There is nothing you can do about it. To be less drastic, there will also be temporary losses called…vacations.
You should encourage us to move on to greener pastures. Be the boss who helps workers get promoted or find better opportunities. That will mean you’ll lose someone. But more people will want to work for you because you can help them improve their careers.
Once you accept this, you need to do something about it. That means having a backup plan for every job. Cross train everyone. Someone needs to be ready to step into a vacancy. And you need to know what tasks can’t be done while you’re down a worker — whether they’re gone for vacation, illness or for good.
Maybe the substitute isn’t a permanent replacement. But you can survive losing a valued worker. There’s a chance when you do that it becomes an opportunity to reward another valued worker.
You have a boss, too.
About now you’re tempted to forward this missive to your supervisor. But maybe that person isn’t as enlightened as you. So, you’re vulnerable to whatever mismanagement exists at the next level.
One of your most important jobs is to manage the dynamics between upper management and us. So if you’re getting conflicting priorities and negative feedback, chances are we will as well. I would prefer you to act as a gateway to that and spare us that misery. But it’s hard to do that. Some of it has to be passed along.
And if you contain it all, we don’t know what’s going on. We may blame you for strategic reversals or consider you to be two-faced when reality doesn’t match what you tell us. You have to decide if this how you want to live your life. This can be a major source of stress. If you can’t accept what your boss wants you to do, then you need to move on.
This is true for all of us. But it’s more important that you are good with it because your problems at work affect how we do our jobs, too.
We’re not your enemies. We want you to succeed. That means our jobs will be secure, we can be happy, and we will do good work. So let’s get to work.
By the way…can I have Friday off?
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