Concepts for Effective Leaders and Managers
By Leo Sun
Most people are natural followers most of their lives. They wait for instructions and expect leaders to tell them what to do. However, once a follower suddenly becomes a leader, then the perspective changes so quickly that few are able to cope effectively. As a result, the stereotypical horrible bosses emerge out of magnified personality disorders—the bully, the wimp, the mouthpiece, and the psycho. We’ve all seen these with our managers at one point or another. If you find yourself suddenly placed in a management position, what are the basic concepts of management that you should master, if you wish to avoid being labeled as one of the above?
As a manager, you should never expect your subordinates to perform tasks that you are unwilling to do by yourself. If you are asking for your employees to take Saturday shifts, work several Saturdays as well to show that you’re not placing yourself above them or the company. If upper management hands down mandates that you don’t personally agree with, you should never show your personal dissatisfaction to your staff, which will encourage your subordinates to behave in the same negative manner. Rather, learn to spin negative news to make the glass appear half full rather than half empty. You should realize that all your employees will mirror your attitude and behavior to some degree, as you are the model of “acceptable behavior” in the workplace.
Consistency is key to successful management. As a manager, when you set the rules, they can’t be broken—not even by your top employees or by yourself. Punishing your favorite employees or yourself for rule violations sends a loud, clear message—no one is exempt, and the rules are final.
Enough talk of military style strictness. Positive reinforcement is also a valuable tool in successful management. Ben Franklin famously stated, “Tart words make no friends; a spoonful of honey will catch more flies than a gallon of vinegar.” While you need to discipline employees for underperforming, you should also reward and compliment them when they impress you. Positive behavior needs nurturing, and letting them taste honey is far more effective than force feeding them vinegar.
The popular Yes Sandwich—in which a manager leads with a compliment, sandwiches in the negative comment, then closes with a second compliment—is a popular example of Franklin's philosophy. While the request for improvement was received, the employee doesn't feel insulted in the process.
The Perp Walk
However, we can't always afford to be nice. There are some employees that Yes Sandwiches are repeatedly wasted on. In these cases, the Perp Walk, popularized by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is a good way to fire troublesome employees and make a strong point at the same time. Giuliani believed in publicly humiliating criminals, by parading them in front of the media for photo ops. This lack of subtlety sent a clear message—that no one was immune to the long arm of the law. Famed director Orson Welles would also fire one employee at random on the first day of shooting in a public and humiliating way to send a message to his other employees—if they wanted to keep their jobs, they'd better respect his decisions.
As a manager, publicly fire poor employees, in full view of the staff. Never mince words or discuss it behind closed doors, or tell the other employees that they left for "health reasons." Firing an employee is never good for the company, but if it's necessary, you can at least use the firing to motivate your employees to stay on task.
Evolve as a Leader
Being all of these—the office patriarch, the good cop, and the bad cop all at the same time—is never easy. That's why there are endless books written on successful office management. Don't be rigid, but stand your ground and evolve your management style through trial and error. No one ever said it was going to be easy.
Leo Sun is long-time market follower and finance writer. He regularly contributes to BusinessDictionary as well as the InvestorGuide Stock of the Day analysis.
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