Managing People - Part 1
In my 11 year working career I've been a manager and I've been managed by others. I've learned a great deal about managing people from the following three experiences:
1) Having a really bad manager
2) Having a few really good managers
3) My experience in Sales
Today, I will discuss my experience and lessons learned from having a really bad manager.
My experience with my bad manager was from 1995-1997. I was young at the time 24-26 years old. I won't use the real name of this person so we'll use the name Jane.
I was working in a hotel which was a very hectic environment. There were a few important lessons I learned from this manager which I will share. I will also include some brief examples of these lessons.
Lesson 1: Watch how you speak to people.
It is said that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is tonality, and only 7% is the actual words we use. The significance of this is that it's not what we say that is important but how we say it. Though there are many examples I can use from my experience with Jane I will pick one. Like I wrote earlier I was fairly young but I was a manager myself. I was in a situation where there was an emergency and I was called into the hotel at 1AM in the morning. I went to the hotel and did my job and went home around 4am. I wanted to get a few hours of sleep before starting another 12 hour work day so I left a voice mail for Jane and told her what happened. When I arrived back at work at 8AM she called me in the office to discuss the problem. I had scheduled one person for vacation and another person called out sick, creating the emergency. I had expected her to thank me for going above and beyond the call of duty, but instead she lashed out at me for not managing the situation effectively. She said that it was my responsiblity to make sure that I am notified as soon as someone calls out sick to make other arrangements. She was correct in saying that. However, the way she said it you would think that I just commited a terrible crime and should be publicly humiliated. In addition, it was in the presence of two of my peers which made it even worse, but when I mentioned that I came in at 1am and got the job done it was like I was speaking in an alien dialect.
How should she have handled it? I would have said something like this (in a supportive tone of voice)
Barry, I want to thank you for coming in last night and taking care of the problem. It shows a lot of dedication on your part. Let's discuss how we can prevent this from happening again. What do we need to do to make sure that you are notified of any problems right away so that you don't have to come to work in the middle of the night?
Lesson 2: Treat people equally
This may seem obvious enough but we all know that not everybody is treated equally all the time for reasons that may not be intentional. The problem is when it becomes obvious to everyone around you that you are playing favorites.
My experience was at the time of our yearly reviews. I had gotten promoted six months earlier and was given a small $2,000 raise. I was told by Jane at my review that I wouldn't be getting another pay raise because I had gotten one six months earlier at my promotion. I accepted that and it made sense to me. The next day I found out that another colleague of mine who was promoted the same time as me did get a raise. To my fault, I never confronted Jane about this and the experience left me bitter and resentful and turned out to be the last straw that led to me finding a new job.
How should she have handled it? Either give both of us a raise or none of us. If I wasn't getting a raise because of my performance, she should have been honest and it should have been reflected in my review.
Lesson 3: You shouldn't be in the business of managing people if you don't like people.
Seems reasonable but not always the case. Have you ever had a manager that had a really hard time telling someone they did a good job. Jane was like this. When she would say good job it gave you the impression that someone was drilling holes in her teeth at the same time. It pained her to pay someone a compliment.
Lesson 4: Don't retain people if they are unwilling or unable to do the job that is required.
As bad as she was she did have one positive managerial trait. As a manager you are judged by the work your people do and if you have somebody not doing their work it is a bad reflection on you. I had been in this situation a few times where an employee was excessively absent or disappeared on the job and it was making my job almost impossible. After several futile attempts to change their ways Jane basically said you've done what you could, you've given them more than enough chances it's time to terminate their employment. Getting rid of a union employee was a long process, but she took the lead and made all of the right arguments. This was one area where I have to say I did learn a positive lesson.
Next Posting - read what I learned from my good managers