Effective Management Begins With the Managers

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Jan 13, 2017
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Early in my career I was promoted to a regional management position and transferred from Charleston, SC to Boston. I was responsible for all service operations in 15 offices throughout New England, upstate New York, and Northeast Pennsylvania. I was fortunate to have 6 managers among the offices providing support to over 50 employees.

Soon after moving to a suburb of Boston I set out to visit each office, get to know each employee, and assess the management style and ability of my direct reports. Regardless of information I had received from others, I evaluated each of the managers from a blank sheet of paper. I wanted to hear directly from them about their struggles, successes, and perspectives on how to best deliver world class service while developing high performing teams.

It became evident that the former management support was lacking. Each manager was doing what they thought were best practices,  while operating in silos from other locations. Most of the employees in the service locations just came to work each day without thinking about the purpose of the job and how they made a difference within the organization.

It broke my heart that so many hard and caring workers were just going through the motions to get the job done. Within 3 months of assuming my new position, I had replaced 5 of the 6 managers. On the surface, it may seem harsh, but herein lies the lesson and purpose of this post.

I strongly believe that a manager’s primary responsibility is to provide all the tools, resources, support, and encouragement to help each employee under his or her control to be successful and happy. No employee should be surprised when their employment is terminated. None of the managers whose careers I freed were surprised. Here is why.

The expectations were clearly communicated. I spent a great deal of time with each manager discussing what each location needed to accomplish to meet the objectives of the corporation. We reviewed in detail the plan of action they felt was best to meet the goals, what I would do to support their efforts, and how we would measure success. I made sure the what, why, how, and when questions were answered. Everyone agreed to the plan.

Positive and frequent communication was provided. I made a point to visit each location often to review performance, redirect when necessary, and provide continued encouragement and motivation. I asked “What can I do to help” with every face-to-face and phone conversation. There was no doubt that I wanted to be each manager’s advocate for success.

Each manager was held accountable for their performance. I encouraged each manager to treat each location as if it were their own business. I wanted them to feel personally responsible for each employee under their supervision. I would always listen to the reason why things did not get done or why something happened, but each manager was still held accountable for performance or behavior issues for which they had total control.

Consequences for behavior or performance were enforced consistently.  As difficult as it may be, I followed through with what I said would happen. I was consistent. If I said. “If this occurs, then this will happen,” it happened. Of course, I always allowed for extenuating circumstances and I always tried to be fair. But, I always did what I said I would do.

Over the years, I have implemented and coached others to follow this formula for effective talent management. I have always cared deeply about those who fell under my area of responsibility and I want everyone to be successful and happy at work. For me, this formula has always worked. Is it easy? No. But, in the end, the goal is to create high performing teams with highly engaged and inspired employees. That makes it fun for everyone….and it is well worth the effort.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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