I’ve been in some form of management for a long time now – since around 1994. While I don’t think I’m the greatest manager on earth – you’d have to ask previous colleagues of mine about that – I do think that I’ve learned a thing or two.
I get really fed up of seeing ‘Howto’ guides and management manuals that do nothing more than give a bunch of platitudes and little else. So, for want of a better place to do it, I’m going to put down some of my top tips for what I shall call my ‘No Bullshit Guide to Management’.
My first top tip is, don’t bullshit. Ever. People will know. Particularly, the people who work for you and with you will know. This extends to the way you speak to people. No one will be impressed by your astonishing grasp of management speak – though they may be astonished at how impressed you are with it. Note that I’m going to avoid the use of stupid management speak words like ‘facilitate’ or ’empower’. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. If you can’t say things simply and in clear language, don’t be surprised when things go wrong. If you bullshit, expect to be bullshitted (is that even a word? I guess it’s better than the sort of self aggrandizing nonsense that some managers make up).
Thus endeth the first lesson.
Secondly, don’t patronize or micro-manage. Often, the people working under you will know your job well enough to do it themselves, and they certainly know their own. If you don’t want them to tell you how to do your job (they usually will anyway – or at least, they’ll tell all their colleagues how you should be doing your job – or how they should!), then learn to help them to do their job effectively rather than telling them how to do it. Oh, and actually, it’s not a bad idea to show that you don’t mind if they do tell you how to do your job.There’s nothing particularly special about being a manager. Sadly, big companies in particular suffer for the lack of managers who understand that their role is to help, rather than hinder.
Understanding how people communicate with you is a big part of management. Some people are just unable to express themselves well in stressful situations – i.e. when you are hovering over them or sat in your office. Offer an alternative time or place if things are getting heated or if people start to close down
Don’t turn into a colossal asshole just because you have some power. Having your manager in your title simply means you’ve been given responsibility and can probably handle the extra work involved. It’s not an excuse to become Ming the Merciless and abuse the inferior little creeps working for you. If you do, you are abusing the responsibility you have been given, and you’re not going to be able to do your job well. Bad managers produce bad working environments and people get pissed off and either sabotage your projects or leave.
Learn from your mistakes, and more importantly, the mistakes of your managers. I have learnt a tremendous amount from other managers, good and bad. One trait of good managers is that they know when they are wrong, they take the responsibility and they work to fix it. One trait of bad managers is to pass the buck and blame others for mistakes.
Keep meetings short. No one wants to hear you drone on about how great this project is going to be or how the latest company incentive is going to add so much to productivity. Give praise where it’s due, say what needs to be said, and get out.
Satisfying your staff is often more important than satisfying your managers.
Be open. Listen. Collaborate. Wear sunscreen. Over and out.