Managing to Manage: Tips for Effective Workplace Leadership

As I was preparing to go on vacation, I sat at my desk going down the lengthy check-list of the things that needed to be done before I left. As the assistant manager of our bank’s busiest branch, I started to feel antsy about leaving. Because I am a workaholic? Because I am a control freak? The answer to both of those questions is “no”. I was nervous because I basically ran the branch, and I wasn’t quite sure how things would get done in my absence. My manager couldn’t seem to pry herself away from online shopping long enough to run the branch with my help, let alone by herself. “I sure wish they would replace her,” I thought as I shut down my computer.
How many people have thought that about their managers? Fortunately, there are a few tips that even the most seasoned manager can glean from.

Listen to your employees. Everyone wants to be heard, and everyone has ideas. People who feel valued produce valuable work. If your company has rigorous standards for their hiring process, then it is safe to assume that those who made it through that process can be a valuable asset. Don’t be blinded by the idea that just because an employee may be new, younger than you, or may not have as much education or experience as you doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have some great ideas.

Resist micro-managing. People work much better when they feel like they are trusted to handle their job. Micro-managing causes more work for you, the manager, and less opportunities for those who are the unfortunate recipients of it. Things do not have to be done the way you have done them in the past. The company ran before you got there, and it will run just fine after you leave. If you have an employee who continually fails to accomplish tasks without your intervention, then let that person go, but do not micro-manage them. It causes nothing but bitterness and dissatisfaction in your employees.

Remember that your employees are not robots. I recently attended a seminar on dealing with different personalities in the workplace. Seeing the distinct groups of different personalities was a real eye-opener for me. As people, we tend to flock towards those with whom our personalities jive. As managers, we do not have the luxury of that choice. Take the time to study and research the different personality types. It would be a great idea to learn the personality types of your employees, and relate to them accordingly. One size doesn’t fit all, especially when it comes to discipline, determining job duties, and assigning work partners.

Construct boundaries. Generally speaking, we all want people to like us. There is nothing wrong with that, except when that desire causes professional boundaries to become unclear. I once worked at a place that had many teenage employees. The manager wanted them to like her so badly that she would never make them do anything they didn’t want to do, and sat back quietly while they played computer games their whole shift. Not only does this promote a lack of respect for the manager’s position, but it also infuriates those employees (like myself) who were hard workers. So save the casualness for after 5:00.

Be generous with praise. Many of you managers possess “type- A” personalities. Your drive and natural leadership abilities have given you a boost up the corporate ladder. However, it is likely that praise and kind or encouraging words do not come easy to you. It is much easier for many of you to discipline an employee in the wrong than to praise an employee on a job well done. Everyone seeks affirmation to some extent, especially when it comes to their work. If encouragement is never given, it is easy for many employees to stop trying so hard. They may start to feel like “What’s the point?” Praise builds confidence, and confidence promotes good work. Everyone wins!

It isn’t easy being a manager. Dealing with different personalities on a daily basis can be tricky. Following these tips can be a big help with what sometimes seems like a daunting task. But I strongly believe that they will be mutually beneficial to both you and your employees.