Management 101

04. January 2012 All, Career 0

Ever hear of a well-oiled machine? It is a group that functions at optimal levels because each member does his part extremely well with little to no oversight. Usually this happens because the leader has found a way to evoke the best from each person. This is not about squeezing the most out of everyone. It’s about getting a person to understand and realize his desire to reach his highest potential. It’s also about trust and respect.

Here are some steps to building the winning team.

1) Understand each person on your team. This takes time, patience and a genuine interest in connecting with people. If you have none of these things, I’ll give it to you straight – you’re gonna be a terrible manager. It doesn’t mean you won’t achieve your goals, but you will never achieve the greatness of a well-oiled machine. It must be built on trust and interdependence. Getting to know someone is easy. Understanding someone is very difficult. When you know someone’s goals, dreams, and motivators, the sky is the limit on what you can help that person achieve.

2) Show who you are. The complement of getting to know someone is allowing them to get to know you. There should be limits and boundaries to a manager/ employee relationship, but you get to choose those boundaries. You don’t have to share every detail about your life’s pursuits but people respond well to someone who is honest, open, true to his word and leads by example.

3) Come to a shared goal. Or make commitments to one another’s goals. For example, your immediate goal may be to hit record sales this quarter. A team member’s goal may be to achieve a work-life balance that allows him to provide for his family while being home for them as much as possible. If you put your heads together and respect and trust one another, you can find a creative win-win situation.

Ok now go!



Just kidding. That’s not all. If it were that easy, well oiled machines wouldn’t be so hard to come by. Let’s keep going.

4) Build your team. Now things get tricky. As the leader, you need to find a way to get all of those differing personalities and goals and motivators to become a unit. Let the team come together naturally with a little bit of guidance from you. You set the tone for an environment of trust and respect. You encourage each person to be himself and find his place on the team. You show your team how to whistle while you work. And finally, you lay out what the team goals are going to be. Beyond that, you sit back and let the chemistry happen. It will. And when it does, boy the magic starts happening. People start doing happy dances when they achieve things together. Don’t be surprised if your team starts slapping each other on the butt as if they’re NFL players when they reach a goal together. The highs that come from being part of something greater than yourself is unexplainable. It’s why normal, well-mannered people become absolute lunatics when they put on a jersey and sit in the stands. Don’t ask me to explain it. I just recognize it.

5) Be clear about your expectations and hold people accountable. The clearer your expectations, the easier to deliver on them… and the harder to ignore. Be specific. If promptness is important to you, don’t say “I want you to be on time” when you actually mean “I want you to come at least 15 minutes before your shift starts to prepare”. And so on. Be clear what will happen when expectations are not met. And you absolutely must deliver. This is not about instilling fear, it’s about maintaining respect. You never want to be in a situation where your employees start testing how far they can get with you.

Now on the flip side, either give your team members a chance to tell you what they expect from you as a manager or you must be upfront about what you will commit to. And hold yourself accountable. There is nothing, absolutely nothing worse than a boss who is not true to his word. You might as well just post a “numb nuts” sign on your forehead.

6) Celebrate. Reward. Recognize. Appreciate. Formally, informally… however you want to do it. This is the easiest to forget  and probably one of the most critical parts of being a good manager. Some might think “recognition” is a soft word. You won’t think it’s soft when they start quitting because they don’t feel appreciated. You don’t always have to spend money to reward someone. You’re the boss, get creative.

And a few other things to keep in mind:

  • Skill vs. will. I’m not sure who made it up, but I think it’s a great concept. Evaluate where each person is on the “will” (how motivated they are) and “skill” (how talented they are) spectrum. Determine if someone is:
    – High will/high skill (reward/promote!)
    – Low will/high skill (find out what’s the deal)
    – High will/low skill (help, coach, train)
    – Low will/low skill (say goodbye now)
  • Let your top performers fly. Why would you want to limit a very capable person’s abilities by micromanaging him? Provide what that person needs in order to bloom and then sit back and watch it happen.
  • Own up to mistakes. Take ownership. Passing blame means “I don’t know how it happened, I’m incapable of impacting things”. Owning blame means, “I didn’t do it right this time, but I can and will fix it”
  • Know when you shouldn’t be in the public eye. You’re the leader, no one wants to see you cry. Your team needs you to be strong, positive and energetic. If you can’t be that way on a certain day, stay behind closed doors.
  • Assign and delegate responsibilities efficiently. The rule of thumb is the easiest job should go to the least skilled person who can complete that job sufficiently. This frees up more and more skilled team members for more and more difficult jobs.
  • Demand excellence. Period.