Your Business Blogger was recently asked by a small business owner to evaluate a manager’s management skill set. The manager was being overwhelmed. And he is not alone.
If you are like most managers, you feel you could be doing better. Much better.
As you set out to plan, organize, lead and control, how can you get the results you want?
The most common complaint I hear from managers is on time management.
But there may be something even more important on which a manager should focus.
We all want military-like discipline as we run our business units.
The Army has the perfect definition for discipline. It has two components. Most would be familiar with the first part:
1) Prompt obedience to orders.
But it’s the second part that managers really need from subordinates:
2) Initiation of appropriate action in the absence of orders.
Most often, we think prompt obedience will get the manager more time. Efficiency.
But what most managers really need is initiative from their team. More effectiveness.
This is a review of the basics to get more discipline in your business. Following are 10 tips to remember as you knock about your office:
Think of your desk as a pyramid with the apex pointing up. Paper does not rest on your desk, nor your boss’s desk. Paper is never allowed in horizontal file piles. Whenever a memo or an email attachment comes to you, it will slide off — back to whoever carried it in. Using your OPT-in management skills. It will have your signature on it, an action to be taken (by someone else), filed or destroyed (by someone else). You will not let it rest on your desk as you think about it because you use your…
If an action comes to you from a subordinate, it should only require a decision. If you cannot make a decision immediately, direct your staff to return later with more detail. Open your calendar and you both set an appointment.
Do not say, “I’ll think about it.” This puts the action on your desk and nothing, of course, is on your desk. And nothing should be on your mind, except making your tee time.
Here’s the sign of a real professional manager: Say those same words, “I’ll think about it,” and have the subordinate to return later with the action item. The seasoned manager knows that most any decision will be OBE, overcome by events and become irrelevant.
But use this as a learning experience. You synchronize calendars with your subordinate and ink in a return time for him to brief you. Again. If some thought is necessary, your direct report does the thinking. (Because you ask all the right questions.)
Your staff develops options, and returns with suggested courses of actions and recommendations. You do not have to have all the answers all the time. And nobody needs to know this. With a fully staffed, staff recommendation you can use your…
Which you will use to get the resources your staff needs to accomplish the project. Like magic.
Your voice and your charming personality will be needed to secure the extra budget needed to move the enterprise to the next level — with the ideas bubbling up from the cubicle farm down the hall. If you are not getting the responses or the initiative you need, you will use…
4) Shoe leather
Management by walking around made the rounds a few years ago and is still useful if you need to plant your boot on a backside. Or to deliver an atta-boy in real life. The most effective persuasion is done face-to-face. Toe to toe. Walk over and overwhelm in person.
And to memorialize your praise, you will use your…
5) Fountain Pen
A hand-written note, black ink, heavy card stock, delivered by snail mail. Or lugged over by your lackey. Your cursive writing will almost balance your cursive yelling.
Neutron Jack Welsh was hated by many of those he fired (and his first two wives, I think). But loved by those who received his hand-written notes. GE knows how to train.
The single biggest reason people quit jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated. They may feel they do not measure up with your…
Your standards and measurements should be open and transparent. A subordinate should never be surprised by personnel evaluations.
Other measures may be more objective.
It is often difficult to measure precisely a forecast, a budget, a winner. The good manager will include a margin to exploit delightful opportunities or a cushion if blind-sided with setbacks. Keep 20% of any budget up your sleeve. Of your well-tailored…
Your appearance should mirror the leaders in your industry. Not your staff. You must be seen to be different.
In America we have a common mis-belief: We are all equal in the eyes of the law; but we are not equal to each other.
Understand snobbery. (Just like when Your Business Blogger was a ghost-writer for a former Presidential candidate…)
A white hardhat, custom made shirts (yes, French cuffs and no pocket). You no longer carry a lunch pale, you carry a…
8 ) Briefcase
This is your tool box. Which is nothing more than a bag to carry cables, adapters and chargers.
As you advance up the food-chain, you will carry less and less. Fewer and fewer ‘tools.’ You will lose the briefcase/sample case, then car keys, then house keys, then cash. I’m not talking senior moments or divorce.
As a professional manager you are not burdened with earthly possessions or a load bearing equipment harness. You will get lighter and lighter. Until, like the President of the United States, or an MLB player you carry nothing at all.
Do not carry papers in your briefcase. You get paid for your wisdom in making decisions. Not schlepping around pulp.
Does the CEO of Enron Exxon lug a briefcase? Or does he have a sherpa to do the heavy lifting?
Watch your lower-level employees to see if get it by carrying a bag that is exactly like thier immediate boss’s. Imitation and flattery and discreet sucking-up is necessary for the smooth functioning of the machinery of a small business. And to hit your tee time.
However, just like a big-time CEO, you won’t always be caught red-handed empty-handed. Like an out-of-town-consultant, you will always be carrying your…
With a detailed dossier on everyone you know. (Translation: CRM) And noting every time you send them a thank you card. (Using the fountain pen, natch.)
With a separate contact database for your Christmas card list. The typical congressman has 1500 names of his closest friends on his yearly season’s greeting snail mail card. Set a goal of 200 names for your yearly mass mailing. This will complement your more frequent emails from your…
A typical span of control is 10. An Army squad. A football team. (The President’s Cabinet is a bit unwieldy at 14.) You do not need to control every action of every individual in your organization.
Just your 10 direct reports. That’s all.
Follow-up and pestering supervision these days is easier with email. Remember with any incoming email, reply ASAP even if you have no substance — do let the sender know his message was received and acknowledged. Your email inbox must be treated the same manner as your desk. They both are pyramids where everything slides off.
You will notice one office accoutrement not listed above: A clock.
Forget Time Management
This was not an exercise in time management.
The above ten tips will get most small business owners more discretionary time. More time to simply think and to dispense wisdom.
Initiation of appropriate action by your team will free-up time. True discipline will give you those moments to reflect, per chance to dream.
The clock will now become your friend.