9 Tips for Management Success

Skills Necessary to Be an Effective Boss

Would you like to improve on your management skills? Whether you are a business owner, an executive, mid level manager, or beginning supervisor you can develop your skills which will increase the productivity of many of the people who report to you. Though simple in concept, these skills may require practice and dedication to master, unless you are a “natural” manager. (Even “natural” managers can improve their skills, and if you are a “natural,” you already know that you can be even more effective.)

Working with people requires interpersonal skills that can come more easily to some people than others. Especially if you have been promoted because you have great technical skills and experience, you will want to avoid becoming a victim to the “Peter Principle.” The definition of the Peter Principle is as follows…

“The theory that employees within an organization will advance to their highest level of competence and then be promoted to and remain at a level at which they are incompetent.”

[Author Laurence Johnston Peter (1919-1990).]

The level of incompetence suggests that people will rise to a level of management that they are untrained to do with success. Managing other employees with skill and competence is often the level that proves most difficult.
To become a successful manager requires certain awareness and then specific skills at communicating, motivating, time management, effective delegation, training, hiring winners, personnel evaluation (or appraisal), self-awareness, and healthy self-confidence. You can neglect any of these qualities/skills and still get by as an average or poor manager or you can confront the personal challenges and develop into a good boss and successful manager. Good, to great, interpersonal skills will help a lot but not everyone has these skills when are getting started in managing.

To become skillful, you first have to realize that may not be perfect and that you would be willing to make positive changes to some deeply held beliefs or habit patterns. Sometimes we have to “unlearn” habits or techniques that we have used, or seen used by our parents, teachers, ex-bosses, or mentors. As an example, have you ever seen a frustrated parent or manager yelling emotionally in an upsetting moment. There may even have been violence or intimidation expressed and you realize that in the modern world of work, this is not acceptable as a motivating or guiding management concept. These explosions of emotion may work once or twice, in the “short term,” but will not work effectively for long term success. “Explosions” tend to damage relationships and may require too much time and energy to repair, which can be very difficult to do if your employment has been terminated.
There can be frustrations in interpersonal interactions, however, but appropriate managing in these difficult situations is what sets the great managers apart from less prepared, less successful managers.

1. Your personal motivation to be open to change and the desire to become a great manager is essential.

2. Self-awareness regarding your strengths, and more importantly, your challenges (your flaws/weaknesses) is very important. It is best to know, and understand, your own style of communication, your own motivations, and the difference in the styles and motivations of the members of your team so that you can communicate with, and then motivate, all team members most effectively.

3. Your abilities to communicate can be developed and enhanced to allow you to manage more effectively. Especially important is the ability to listen and the patience to really understand what you are hearing from your communication partner. (Do not rush to respond. Show respect and draw your partner out until you can clearly re-state what they are attempting to communicate.)

4. Negotiate a fair resolution, where possible. Rally your communication partners allegiance to your mutually agreed upon solution. Set a reasonable and verifiable timeline for accomplishment of the goal or project. “Clearly prioritize” the efforts of the project, the team, and each individual’s role in the project.

5. Offer support (and mentoring) along the way, without micro-managing along the way. Positive feedback and, most importantly, plenty of positive recognition (and celebration) for positive movement and ultimately for success will be worth your time and effort.

6. Show respect and try to see your partner’s point of view without overtly judging. Good delegation tolerates solutions that may follow a different path than you might have chosen. Though taking responsibility for their decisions and actions can be a very important step by your employee and should be discussed in the planning (job description) phase of the delegation process. (It is best, where possible, to allow for creativity by your team members.) Find ways to get your people to “fall in love” with your project, and hopefully, your company by allowing creative input into the project development process.

7. Clarity is important and should include the “big picture” of what is desired for long term success of your organization and how all of your individual team members will fill the necessary roles to accomplish the objectives of the project at hand. (Everyone needs to know their roles and their value to the project.)

8. Honor and acknowledge as many individuals, and of course the team, as often and as much as possible. This is especially true when deadlines are tight, team work is good, and creative solutions are developed. Rewards and acknowledgment do not always have to be in financial rewards (though team members who are high “Utilitarians” will require appropriate remunerations or other forms of compensation for their successful work.) Not everyone is motivated, solely, by money. This is where knowing your people will work as a successful retention strategy. Be creative in providing recognition and rewards.

9. You need to really care! Care about your team. Care about the project. Care about the company/organization, if at all possible. Your team will know if you do not “really care” and they will treat the project in the same way they see (or feel) their manager’s level of commitment.

If you find that you require clarification on any of these tips or could benefit from coaching to enhance your skills then find the best coach, trainer, or mentor to get you to the level you require. Do not think that you have to “re-invent the wheel” or figure it all out on your own, get feedback and assistance. Recognizing where you require assistance is the most important step you can make toward your eventual success. People who do not know how to ask for help are often the ones who do not reach their full potential. If your organization does not support you in your quest for improvement then consider doing this for yourself and possibly exploring other more supportive and empowering organizations.

Many managers have great technical: training, experience or skills, but have not been coached or mentored as managers. If you are looking for coaching or management development, please consider the Professional Management Coaching Program for manager skills training.

L. John Mason, Ph.D. is the author of the best selling “Guide to Stress Reduction.” Since 1977, he has offered Success & Executive Coaching and Training.

Please visit the Stress Education Center’s website at www.dstress.com for articles on Stress, Stress Management, Coaching, and Training, free newsletter signup, and learn about the new telecourses that are available. If you would like information or a targeted proposal for training or coaching, please contact us at (360) 593-3833.

If you are looking to promote your training or coaching career, please investigate the Professional Stress Management Training and Certification Program at www.dstress.com for a secondary source of income or as career path.

Dealing with Angry or Anxious Clients

Every situation is unique because the people involved are different. With that said, this blog can offer a basic introduction on strategies that may assist you when you are confronted by anxious or angry clients or customers (consumers.) The event that brought these people into confrontation with you is important to understand and needs to be worked into your solution.

For example, image that you are being confronted by an “upset” consumer who wants to acquire iodine pills to prevent thyroid cancer after a nuclear release in Japan has blown over to your region. The national government has limited the supply of these pills because the government wants the pills to go to the regions where it will be needed most, due to limitations on the supply. The media has whipped up the levels of anxiety and many people are not thinking clearly, impulsively wanting the medication that may not be needed for their specific demographic. You have access to the medication but are not allowed to release it unless your customer meets certain criteria which has been established by some far away governmental agency. What do you do in this situation where you have very little control but are on the front line for taking the “heat” for this media whipped frenzy???

It is good to start by understanding why people react the way that they do in a crisis situation. People often perceive themselves in mortal danger. Their flight-fight response is triggered by the fear created by half truths the media passes off as news. When this panicked response begins, the rational parts of our brains often “shut down” or at least, takes a reduced decision making position subservient to the more primitive part of the brain where the automatic survival mechanisms are centered. This primitive part of the brain, also called the “reptilian brain” because it is related to primitive reptilian responses from millions of years ago is more dominant in certain stressful situations when we require quick reactions to survive. The basic emotions that are expressed when we are stressed are ANGER, FEAR (anxious), Sadness, and, perhaps surprisingly, Joy! These are the 4 basic emotions and these emotions have primitive origins. So, people who are stressed often reduce their abilities to think, problem solve, and communicate, and go into a reactive mood where fear or anger are close to the surface and are demonstrated. Knowing this, you must begin to identify who is angry or fearful and why. Why are they not understanding the full picture? Probably because they do not have all the information and they can not problem solve well due to the stress/anxiety they are processing.

If you have time, the following list offers some of the best ways to handle this situation in order of how you might proceed:

1. Ask questions regarding their base of knowledge and, more importantly, their feelings (fears, anger, anxiety). What is their history of this situation? Often they are trying to protect a loved one and they feel powerless to control a difficult situation. Consider their source of news or mis-information but do not confront them about this in the early stages.

2. Calm them down. Re-state their concerns by repeating back what you have heard and ask them to correct any of YOUR mis-understandings about their specific situation. Know what you are dealing with AND show the respect of listening to their fears/concerns. Offer them ways to comfort themselves in this difficult situation.

3. Get them information about their concern so they can make an informed decision. When they ask questions, give them more information, as patiently as possible. Do not expect a “rational response.” Keep your emotions (frustration) in check, as best you can, to help defuse the panicked response. (I was reminded that in difficult situations people will “go shopping” for the “answer that they want to hear,” so consistent answers or policy descriptions will save you a lot of grief… This requires training for the people who have jobs communicating with the public.)

4. Negotiate a solution that helps to solve their emotional response. Provide time lines, as best you can. Be as honest as you can be, based on the information you have.

5. Honesty and compassion, when sincere, are 2 of your best tools. Brutal honesty, though, is not called for in a stressful situation. Good bedside manner will often get you farther, faster. Reflecting their concerns back to them in a different way will help them to feel heard and may save you time in the long run by helping to establish a positive rapport (or connection.)

6. Always, apologize to them for the situation even if you are not the cause of the problem, and if you are the cause, apologize most sincerely. People would like to feel that their response was correct, even when it is not.

7. If you have not done so already, take GOOD care of yourself. Calm down! Do not get “sucked in” to crazy emotionally driven behavior by your own lack of a solid emotional foundation.

8. If all else fails, say sincerely to yourself, “This to shall pass…” TRY to not get stuck in the “drama” (anxious feelings and reactions) because this will not do you, or anyone else, any good. When the dilemma has subsided, and you feel “out of the line of fire,” do what emergency responders do… make a bad or twisted joke about the difficult situation. This will help to take away its emotional power and can begin the process of your crisis de-briefing.

Good luck. Please take good care of yourself, preventively. Contact the Stress Education Center for coaching or organizational training to assist with managing this process at www.dstress.com.