“What successful managers have”

Dear Andrea:

I manage 26 people and up until now, had a pretty good track record. I’ve only been in my present position one year, but I have had way too much turnover with the folks who report to me and they just aren’t acting the way I had expected. I’m willing to take some of the blame, but I don’t know if people will tell me what they think. How do I find out what’s really going on?
–Worried manager

Dear Worried manager:

You get major points for being open to the possibility that you’re part of the problem. If people aren’t responding to you, odds are good that how you communicate, treat others and come across, are all part of the issue. Looking deep into yourself is the first step.
Most of the time you hear about what good managers should do. But I’m suggesting you first look at how you “are.” In David Maister’s book, Practice What You Preach (The Free Press), he offers a list of what successful managers must be, according to a survey of workers from around the world.
The list includes such characteristics as: apolitical, accessible all the time, articulate about what you stand for, comfortable with allowing others to get credit, good at reading people’s character and skill level, sensitive to personal issues, smart but human, unquestionably honest, disciplined about standards, yet open to reasons why they may not be met.
One way to discover how you’re doing in this arena, is to rate yourself on the entire list. Then, suggests, Maister, hold one-on-one meetings or small group sessions with your people (or give a survey if a meeting is too awkward) and have candid discussions about the contradictions that may exist between how you see yourself and others see you.
If you’re open to the meeting idea, I suggest you have someone else facilitate this. My experience is that people are more candid in one-on-one or group meetings with someone outside the business and who knows how to create a safe environment in which to speak up. You may not even want to be there, in which case, you can hear the feedback later.
Next, evaluate what you believe. Your mind-set is what’s behind everything and Maister’s list of what the most successful managers hold dear includes the belief that:

It takes emotional courage to be a good and improving manager.

Ethics is the bedrock you start from.

First give respect and you will get it.

It’s not about the work; it’s about relationships, stupid!

Development of people precedes and has a greater priority than profits.

It’s more fun to work in groups.

Now, ask your people if they believe you believe these types of things. He also suggests you rate yourself and have others rate you on whether you do the things that successful managers do, which include:

Acting as if not trying is the only sin.

Allowing people to exercise their own judgment.

Doing your own photocopying when necessary and washing your own cup.

Facilitating, not dictating.

Remembering what people tell you.

Speaking regularly about your vision and philosophy so people know where you stand.

Most people wait until a problem is so big they can’t ignore it. It sounds as if you’re willing to address this before it gets out of hand. Asking people what they think will give you invaluable insight into you, how you’re being and contributing to the situation. That will also take courage–another characteristic of a good manager.

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Talking about workin’ for a living with WGRR hosts Janeen Coyle and Chris O’Brien.