October 14, 2011
In charge: How to be a good manager
Houston management consultant Craig Wasserman has been counseling rising executives since 1975 on how they can become better managers.
Wasserman and his business partner recently wrote “The Invisible Spotlight: Why Managers Can’t Hide.” He calls it “the book your employees want you to read.”
Here are edited excerpts from a recent conversion with Wasserman:
Q: What makes a good manager?
A: Good managers know their impact -- particularly the impact that they’re having on their employees.
Some don’t realize they’re discussed at dinner every night. The significant other says “How was work today, dear?”
The next words out of the employee’s mouth are about the manager: Bob was in a meeting all day and he didn’t leave anyone in charge. Bob left somebody in charge who was really a pain. He complimented me. He didn’t compliment me.
The better managers are continually sensitive to how they’re being perceived and the words that they use.
National Boss Day trivia
Origins: According to Hallmark Cards, the holiday was first registered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1958 by Patricia Bays Haroski, who wanted to honor her boss.
The date: Celebrated each year on -- or on the workday closest to -- Oct. 16, the birthday of Haroski’s boss, who was also her father.
Fun fact: Hallmark offers Boss Day cards that play EMF’s “Unbelievable” and Bachman Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business” upon opening.
They are under an invisible spotlight. They are watched continuously: when they come, where they go, who they’re with, what they say, whom they compliment, how they react to your work when you hand it in, do they get back to you quickly?
Q: It’s often said that people work for their managers rather than for their companies. Do managers realize that?
A: No. A manager is trying to please his boss. All those same things he’s thinking of his own boss: what does he think about me, why didn’t he ask me to this meeting, did he misinterpret what I said, is he happy with my work?
Many managers don’t realize there is a ripple effect. They don’t appreciate that with the position comes not only more money, a bigger office and prestige, but also a responsibility to make the relationships work.
Q: What can managers do to make relationships with subordinates work better?
A: They can be very clear. Managers -- like most of us -- try to avoid moments of discomfort. When you are a manager, you don’t have the luxury of avoiding moments of discomfort -- you have the responsibility of orchestrating them.
Be timely. If you have an issue, tell them quickly. If you have a compliment, tell them when it occurs. Speak in words they can “see.”
Don’t say to them, “Good job.” Say to them, “That was a great question you asked in the meeting. I know that it took some guts and I appreciate it.”
Be specific. Don’t say, “You have a bad attitude.” Say, “I noticed when I told everyone we have to come in on Saturday that you slumped in your seat, rolled your eyes and sighed. Is that a problem?”
Q: Why is that so hard to do?
A: Nobody likes tension. But managers have to come to realize that tension strengthens a relationship.
I may tell you one day I was disappointed you were late with a project. You say there were a lot of reasons you were late. I say, “I know, but you didn’t keep me informed and that caused me to have problems.”
The next day I engage you on purpose. “How are you doing? I have a meeting this week. I’d like you sit in and I’d like to get your ideas.”
My job is to make this relationship work. There will be times where I correct you and times where I engage you. That way the employees always know where they stand.
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