The Management Rulebook
Rules I live by
Being a Manager carries many obligations. Here is a short list of 6 items that are at the top of my Management Rulebook. If you are interested in developing as a leader in the workplace the rules below are critical for success.
The Management Rulebook #1
Be honest, even when it’s hard
There is a multitude of Management literature on having difficult conversations. Much of it will help with planning and execution. Little of it will assist with making you feel better about it. The difficult conversation is aptly named, it is not easy to do, even when you have decades of experience having them. If you would like to read some more about having difficult conversations, can I suggest you start with your local Industrial Relations specialist body? Like this one on the Australian Fair Work Ombudsman website.
My golden rule here is: be honest. Not brutal or too soft. I try to stay empathetic, it’s hard to hear bad stuff about ourselves, even if we know it’s true.
I once had a colleague (OK it was me). I was an inexperienced manager, and I needed to tell a longstanding member of staff that they had been unsuccessful in attaining a promotion. One of the primary reasons that he did not win the role was that he was disdainful to the point of rudeness towards staff with less experience than he had. He created disharmony in his teams, though he was technically excellent and very experienced. Instead of being honest, I faffed around and failed to tell him the real reason he missed out.
I am sure that he left me feeling pissed off and confused. 3 months later a similar position came up in another team. He applied and received the same result. I did this fellow a complete disservice by not having an honest conversation with him first time round. He may have left my office pissed off, but he would not have left confused. He also could have used the feedback to make change and be more competitive the next round of promotions.
The Management Rulebook #2
Provide as much information as you can
Being in Management means that you have to consider how, what and when to communicate. Sometimes things are highly sensitive. Occasionally it is not appropriate to share particular pieces of information. For example: If you have to give a staff member a warning for poor behaviour in the workplace it is not appropriate to send an email and let the rest of the department know. We don’t publically tar and feather in the modern workplace.
However, I have found that far too many managers hold on to information that is neither sensitive nor inappropriate to share. The most common reason for this is, not that the boss is being nefarious or that they are playing a game of “information is power”, rather they are busy. Make information sharing a priority and it goes a long way to dispel workplace rumour, relieve uncertainty and create trust.
The Management Rulebook #3
Make providing positive feedback a habit
Put it in your calendar if needs be. Make giving positive feedback something that you do as a matter of habit rather than an ad-hoc activity. Include it in weekly meetings. If you can’t find something to praise about your staff at least once a week then perhaps it is you, rather than them who is not doing the good job. Check your management rulebook.
The Management Rulebook #4
Don’t let the title confuse you, without your staff you aren’t managing anything
It is true that the most challenging part of Management is managing and leading staff. We humans are a tricky lot and no two of us are the same. But don’t be fooled; the reason that you get the title Manager next to your name is because you have to manage staff. Those staff and their success are key to your success. It is what they do that ensures you meet target, achieve team goals and support the company.
Some managers can at times become confused about their role in the bigger scheme of things. Some even believe that they could do it all, with or without their staff. I have no idea how these folks get ahead. At the end of the day, it is important to not let your title be anything more than it is, permission to manage others for success.
The Management Rulebook #5
A bad decision is better than no decision at all
This is a controversial point in the Management Rulebook. I say that a bad decision is better than no decision at all. Better for staff and better for the organisation. Why do I advocate bad decision making? Well, I believe that uncertainty breeds stagnation and kills creativity. Additionally, it can create all sorts of unintended consequences for staff who have a stake in the outcome of a decision. In the absence of any information the human brain has an amazing ability to think up catastrophic outcomes. The result can be that staff become disengaged. Some may leave because they have convinced themselves that they might lose their job, even though that was never in management’s mind.
Once a decision is made it can be managed, even if it turns out not to be the right one. At least you have momentum to make things happen. Without a decision you just have a giant, gaping hole. I am not advocating recklessness, but I am saying to use your judgement, make the decision and deal with the consequences.
The Management Rulebook #6
Be truthful about what you are not good at
There is a basket load of things that I am not particularly good at. I am terrible at small talk and at professional networking events. I don’t proof-read particularly well. I struggle to maintain focus in longer meetings, I often try to write emails while someone is in my office trying to discuss an issue with me. I am also terrible at sales.
These are things I know about myself. Once someone has worked with me for a while they will know it about me as well. Pretending to the folks around you that you don’t have any weaknesses makes about as much sense as a bicycle for a fish. In fact, the smarter thing to do is to acknowledge that you aren’t so good in particular areas and find people for your team that are. You can learn from them while making sure that your team doesn’t suffer due to your shortcomings.
You are not particularly relatable if you run around pretending like you are perfect at everything. In fact, you will just be seen as a bit of a fraud. Much better to acknowledge things and find complimenting team members to create a robust team.
6 Management Rulebook Rules
So, there are 6 rules that I live by as a manager. Do you have any to add to the list? Do you disagree with any? What do you think?
If you are new to Leadership, click here for my post on Basic Rules for anyone new to leadership.