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Managing is a difficult job, but if it’s your job, then you need to become good at it.
Good managers are the strong voice of reason in the winds of chaos, the ones who ease up on the throttle when every instinct tells them to pull it back hard. They know when to say “no” to important requests, to wait, and to live failure on the road to success. Good managers willingly take responsibility for bad decisions and spread credit for good ones.
Think about the best managers you’ve ever had. They most likely had mastered these four behaviors, and executed them without fail:
1. Communicate clear, consistent priorities.
One common factor in every professional job: There’s too much to get done in a 40-hour week. We frequently go home having worked hard but feeling we didn’t get enough done. Stress builds. It is the manager’s responsibility to ensure that every person knows what the most important objectives and responsibilities are so that when employees go home, they know they got the most important things done.
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Too many managers fail to make priority decisions because they fear that to do so is to give employees permission not to complete everything. They abdicate priority decisions to employees without giving them the information to make good ones.
Make priorities clear so they get the most important things done and only the less important is let slide until later.
2. Focus on results, not action.
Most problems have causes that, until identified and addressed, drive ineffective workarounds. In an effort to do something, we often talk to the employee or issue a new policy to stop it from happening again.
Great managers understand that the search for a root cause takes time and thought, and they invest resources in taking meaningful actions that will provide the desired result — eradication of the problem. Mediocre managers insist on immediate action, confusing motion with results.
3. Insist on following process.
In the heat of battle, it can be tempting to violate process in the spirit of “whatever it takes.” But as more exceptions are handled by violating process, the process becomes irrelevant ,and the business suffers.
Great managers know the process and insist on staying within it. If the process needs to be changed, change it. Successful businesses don’t need heroes and people with elephant memories; they need processes that are well defined and followed.
4. Develop people.
If your team is not better next month than it is this month, your business is losing ground and your people are stagnating.
Managers must include developing their teams, with specific objectives for each employee. Respect them by developing their full potential in support of common goals. Build that development into the work, into your questions, and into your growth.
These four behaviors are intertwined but can be identified separately as you work to develop your management skills. Employees make hundreds of decisions every day without the your involvement. Great managers have provided a framework to enhance the likelihood those decisions are good ones.