Management Methods

BY TED POLLOCK, MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT

THREE CHEERS FOR ENTHUSIASM

Meetings are often a habit rather than a necessity, rooted in some almost forgotten past event. If you hold meetings yourself, it might save time and energy if you assessed their value with the help of these questions. Is the purpose of the meeting:

  • to receive reports from all or most of the participants?
  • to reach a group decision or judgment?
  • to tackle some mutual problem?

    If the purpose of your meeting is any of these, it’s probably warranted. But double-check the rationale behind it by seriously considering the question, “Is this meeting necessary?”

    IS THIS MEETING NECESSARY?

    The difference between the star performer and the so-so employee is frequently plain old enthusiasm-an effervescent, bouncily optimistic approach to the job at hand. Things simply tend to get done more expeditiously when they’re done with gusto.

    Yet employees frequently lack this quality. They may be the victims of routine, unable to see the challenge of the job at hand, or just have other things on their minds.

    When that’s the case, the responsibility devolves on management. Even though it is fashionable today to play down the manager’s role as enthusiasm builder, the fact remains that the bosses who get the best out of their people are invariably the ones who have learned how to light a fire under them. This is not to suggest that a manager should work up to some artificial frenzy, or deliver a continuous stream of pep talks when assigning work. But something worth being excited about ought to be shared with workers.

    When launching a new project: At the time a new assignment is undertaken, a manager has to communicate objectives, facts and instructions. This can also include something additional-an inspirational boost that indicates, “I think we can pull it off, and when we do, it will be a real accomplishment.”

    • When a long-term project is sagging: There are times when a job has gone on for so long that it has gone sour or become routine. People have been so close to the project that they’ve lost sight of its importance and their progress. A manager can lift flagging employee spirits by making a point of voicing faith in the project and confidence in the way it is being handled.
    • When things are going well: Success merits cheers. If a manager plays it cool after a particular goal has been achieved, employees may understandably conclude that hard work and success do not mean very much.
    • When things are not going well: When events break badly, there is not much cause for enthusiasm. Little will be lost, however, and much may be gained by finding something good to zero in on. A manager can always voice hope and confidence that things will improve. Naturally, all employees won’t be turned on by such a message, but some will. So why not try to reach them and give them a boost?
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Management Methods

Give your people self-confidence

Show employees that you believe in their ability to do a job and, usually, they will move heaven and earth not to let you down.

Not everyone has native initiative, to be sure. But it’s a quality that a wise manager will cultivate in his people for two very good reasons. First, it helps employees live up to their true potential. Second, it helps the manager get more done with less personal wear and tear.

It’s best to start with those who show promise; then work your way down. In picking candidates for improvement, look for those who have demonstrated interest in their work and the skills to perform well. They should, of course, already be familiar with the routine aspects of their jobs.

Give them jobs with detailed instructions. Fear of failure is often the main hurdle to be surmounted. That’s why step-by-step instructions can go a long way toward strengthening initiative. With enough guidance to get them through their jobs without a hitch, employees will experience the satisfaction of successful performance. In the process, they will gain confidence in their abilities. So make sure your instructions are clear, logical, and understood. Be patient. That’s crucial. It’s important that they be successful on their own, so don’t do their jobs for them, but advise them on details, if necessary. Give them your explicit instructions for a number of jobs, until you feel that they are ready for less guidance.

Then give them assignments with only general instructions. Outline only the essentials of their assignments and let them work out the details. Check with them from time to time, especially during the first two or three such jobs, but don’t give them any more help than they need. Watch for signs of timidity or panic. You may be going too fast. If you are, back up and return to detailed instructions. Then try again. Don’t be discouraged. Confidence is a difficult quality to instill in another because it must come from within. All you can really do is help people prove themselves to themselves.

Only describe the goal; omit the details. Once employees have graduated from step two, try simply identifying a goal and turning them loose to reach it: “Why don’t you look into the possibility of consolidating those reports?” “See what you can come up with on clearing that bottleneck in shipping.”

If suggestions like these result in productive action by employees, you’ll know your efforts haven’t been in vain. You’ve helped develop confident workers.

How’s Your People Sense?

Every good manager appreciates that his success derives from the performance of his people. Consequently, it’s second nature to be concerned about their feelings. Check on your own people sense with this brief quiz.

  • Before making a decision affecting your people, do you consider their problems, aspirations, ambitions?
  • Do your people consider you receptive to new ideas?
  • Do you keep them informed on new developments, new policies and the like that might affect them?
  • Do you show respect for their know-ledge and, on occasion, defer to their expertise?
  • Do you give them reasonable deadlines?
  • Do you explain the why behind assignments?
  • Do you broaden their responsibilities as much as their performance merits?
  • Do you give your people enough to do (too little work, like too much, can wreck morale)?
  • Do you practice showing respect for the individual, no matter what the job or status of the individual?
  • What have you done lately to make your people proud of the work they do?