Ten Commandments for Managing People

The most valuable asset any company has today is not its facilities. It’s not the inventory in the warehouse or on the production line. It’s not the healthy bottom line the company achieved last year. It’s people.

It’s this asset that is difficult to find, difficult to retain and difficult to manage. But if you manage the asset properly it can produce exceptional results for your company—and for you.

Following are some simple guidelines you can follow to manage people more effectively, more easily and with better results. Think of them as your 10 Commandments to better management.

  1. Don’t get into a rut thinking there’s only one right way to do a job.
    Judge by results rather than how the task was accomplished.

  2. Don’t expect everyone to be the same. Don’t look for clones of yourself.
    Aggressively look for people who have the values you respect most, but don’t expect them to be the same as ours. Surrounding yourself with people who think and perform like you may be a boost to the ego, but diversity, and even chaos, can produce a more well rounded organization and a multi-dimensional, multi-faceted firm people want to associate and deal with.
  3. Don’t give a lot of criticism.
    Very few people take criticism well. If the only input they receive from you are critical they’ll soon stop trying to excel. Expect people to do well. When they do praise them for their efforts and their performance. Soon you’ll have them producing results even beyond their own level of expectation.
  4. Don’t isolate yourself.
    You’re the manager. You can’t be effective at the job behind closed doors. You can’t do it by hiding behind voice mail, memos or e-mail. Make yourself available to them. Be accessible when they want your ideas, input and thoughts.
  5. Don’t wait until the project is completed to give your feedback.
    It doesn’t mean you have to constantly look over the individual’s shoulder or check on what the team is doing, but check in periodically. Get a snapshot update. Make certain the individual(s) is on the same wavelength as the company or organization and its goals/objectives.
  6. Don’t expect your staff to perform poorly.
    Expect people to be equal to the task. Expect them to perform in an outstanding manner and to produce the target results. You’ll be surprised what happens when you believe they are competent. Most of the time trusting in their ability to deliver will produce the desired results.
  7. Don’t forget to tell staff members about your expectations, priorities and deadlines.
    There are very few clairvoyants in the world. People don’t know if you don’t communicate. Spell out the entire task. Setting goals, priorities and deadlines in your mind is not the same as telling people.
  8. Don’t do performance appraisals only once a year.
    In most organizations an annual appraisal is required by the firm’s HR guidelines. Forget the guidelines. Evaluate performance informally on a regular basis. Talk to employees about what they’re doing, the problems they are experiencing and areas they need to focus on improving. Managing people is a lot like driving a car. You don’t back out of your garage and do nothing until you pull into your office parking lot. You get from point A to point B successfully and safely by making a continuing series of minor adjustments based on evaluation of the situation at hand. The same is true of managing people.
  9. Don’t be an autocratic leader.
    In yesterday’s assembly lines performance was mediocre, at best, because people were told to punch in, do a specific job and punch out at the end of the day. Very quickly they settled into that mode producing very little value to the organization. When people were told to make the job their own the change in attitude and results were spectacular. Ask employees for their inputs. Ask them for their suggestions. Find out their concerns and difficulties. You’ll be pleasantly surprised that most people want to do not just a good job but a great job.
  10. Don’t push people to their limit. Don’t expect them to function well over a long period without ample resources.
    People can give 150 percent when necessary and produce outstanding results. But even the best and the most dedicated individual—yourself included—can’t do it on a consistent day-in, day-out basis. After extended periods the mind shuts down, the body shuts down. People also don’t perform well in a vacuum. They need information and input. Sometimes they need extra hands and minds. Give them the extra time, extra information, extra people they need to do the job properly.

About the Author
G.A. "Andy" Marken is president of Marken Communications, Inc., Santa Barbara, California. He may be reached at marken@cerf.net.

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