It was once thought that good management was somewhat like taking command in a field of battle. The manager would bark out his orders, and they would be followed unquestioningly. If employees grumbled, they generally grumbled to themselves. In today’s workplace, however, management by intimidation is no longer the way to get employees to be productive. Rather, a manger needs, among other things, to be sensitive to employees and to know what gets them moving and motivated. Doing this, rather than ordering around, can help boost productivity and improve morale.
First of all, a good manager needs to assume that everyone in the workplace is there because they want to be there (otherwise they’d be elsewhere). As such, the manager should treat employees as though they are there willingly. The good manager also needs to assume that everyone is there to do a good job – there are few people in the workplace who want to intentionally screw up a job (meaning that mistakes should be considered as learned opportunities, rather than a reason for a chewing out – we’ll deal with constructive criticism later on in this paper).
Beyond that, however, the good manager needs to know why employees are at the particular job they’re doing. For some, it’s the money. For others, it’s the job security. Some people are there because they sincerely like the jobs they’re doing and can’t think of anything they’d rather do. It’s up to a good manager to know all of these things and to use them when trying to encourage higher production from the workforce. In addition, a good manager needs to know basic skills.
These include human resources skills (we’ll examine this a little later in this paper); administrative skills to carry out work routines and to plan ahead for progress (Cribbin, 2002). Finally, a manger knows him or herself (Cribbin, 2002). He or she knows his/her assets and works hard to use them (Cribbin, 2002). The good manager is also aware of his/her limitations, and works hard to overcome them (Cribbin, 2002). The good manager, in a sense, is always looking for ways to improve and never assumes that things are perfect the way they currently are (Cribbin, 2002).
Bill Gates, who founded Microsoft Corporation in the 1980s, wrote an article at one point for the New York Times entitled “What Makes a Good Manager” (Gates, 2002). Gates notes in his article that there isn’t a magic formula toward success, but there are a few things that help managers become outstanding in their fields – one of these is to create a productive environment (Gates, 2002). This can mean different things to different people, Gates writes, in that sometimes productivity involves giving people their own offices, or sometimes it involves moving everyone into an open space (Gates, 2002).
Again, though, this goes back to the adage of “know your employee. ” Good mangers must have sound values, including the willingness to train employees to do the job better than the manager can (Gates, 2002). The problem with this, is a manager, in a sense, ends up training his or her replacement (Gates, 2002). But most smart managers aren’t threatened or worried by increasing the responsibility of employees – it gives them more time to tackle new or undone tasks (Gates, 2002).
One competency a manager must have to be a successful one is an ability to communicate clearly with his or her employees (Gates, 2002). For one thing, the manager must define success and how employees can measure achievements (Gates, 2002). Gates notes in his column that in setting goals, these should be realistic as well, and should be set by the “people who do the work” rather than the managers who aren’t in the trenches (Gates, 2002).
Joan Lloyd, in her article, “Good Bosses Keep their Ears, Eyes and Mind Open,” note that setting expectations is probably one of the most valuable skills a manager an offer (Lloyd, 2002). But instead of telling people how they should get their work done, managers should discuss outcomes with people, and help employees visualize and explain what an end result of a project should look like, and why (Lloyd, 2002). Another skill a manager needs to have is a liking for people (Gates, 2002). “If you don’t genuinely enjoy interacting with people, it will be hard to manage them well,” Gates writes (Gates, 2002).