Everyone is afraid of 2012.
I managed large teams for over 20 years in corporate and have been coaching C-Level clients for 14 more. During this time, I've probably run into every scenario a manager can experience. Here are my top 30 hacks to make you a better leader (in no special order): 1. Motivate people, don't command them. It's a lot harder, but you will like the results a lot more.
2. Identify your key employees and reward them so they know they're valued. Don't worry about losing poor talent.
3. Translate upper management's vague directives into things your team can understand and take action on.
4. Never bullshit your staff. If something requires secrecy for the good of the company, just be clear on 'I cannot discuss that’.
5. When things go well, don't tout yourself to upper management, tout your team. You'll get the credit as well.
6. Don't worry about losing poor talent. In addition, the best thing you can do for your best people is to get rid of the worst people.
7. Remove any obstacles in the way of them accomplishing their tasks.
8. Elevate the individual and team as a whole when someone does great work. Let them take the limelight.
9. When someone on my team screws up, be the responsible "buck stops here" person as the manager. Act as the umbrella to ensure the wrath of senior management does not rain down from above, and it's your responsibility to discipline them after you catch shit from on high. In addition to that, any discipline effort should be an opportunity to learn from mistakes. Help them to help themselves when they need to recover from a mistake.
10. Don’t be their friend. It's not worth it. You are no longer "One of the guys/girls" You can have fun, don't be a jerk, but you will never be one of them again. Don't try to be. Be cool, but not that cool, otherwise you will get walked on.
11. The more you make your employees feel like they're working with you, and not for you, the smoother the sailing. That being said, make sure boundaries are clear.
12. Make sure each area is covered in the case of a family emergency or vacations and have them matrix-train their co-workers in their respective responsibilities.
13. It's better to be a just, unkind manager than a kind, unjust one, in more ways than you can imagine.
14. Always remain calm. The way you react to and handle situations will have a profound and lasting effect on your staff.
15. Criticize in private, praise in public. Praise often, punish seldom.
16. Never promise something you cannot deliver on.
17. Learn everyone’s first names.
18. Figure out the intricacies of discipline and HR at your organization. Be careful how you treat different cultures and people with different (dis)abilities. A fellow supervisor hired a woman without really verifying her abilities and background. When it became apparent that she didn't know anything, and could not produce any useful code, the supervisor started the whole termination procedure: Tell the employee she's at risk of being fired, start a test period - she has to do this exact work by this date, etc. At the end, the supervisor told the employee she had failed and would be fired shortly. The employee cried and wailed. It turns out the supervisor had missed one of the steps in the termination procedure, so he had to start it AGAIN. Any serious disciplinary action has to be absolutely by-the-book. Get help and a buddy in HR.
19. Learn to listen. Especially to the new hires. And the quiet ones.
20. Be loyal to your employees and they will be ten times loyal right back.
21. Have a few bucks squirreled away so those that really, REALLY need it can get a lunch.
22. Don't go nuts when one rule is broken.
23. Command respect, do not demand respect.
24. Learn to delegate. It creates some frustration in the short term, but saves you huge amounts of time and makes people feel more important in the long term.
25. Be an advocate for your good workers.
26. Get everyone comfortable chairs. Trust me.
27. Create an environment that people want to work in. I find people work harder and are more motivated if they're happy. Don't micromanage, treat people with respect, and create a sense of joining a team rather than a top-down approach.
28. Always be fair. Everyone talks to each other and compares the slightest things whether you like it or not. If you have favorites or treat someone differently, eventually people will find out. This will definitely effect how they see you.
29. Create an open door policy. My favorite policy is that I never mind when people ask questions about the situation or what they need to do. I'd rather someone mess up rather than doing noting. Of course, I'd rather someone ask me questions so they can figure out how to do things on their own, effectively, and efficiently too. Similarly, this also helps with building respect, creating a sense of team, and having more motivated and happy people.
30. MOST IMPORTANT: Take care of your people and they'll take care of you.
I’ve been making a list over the past six months of commandments about work. I get requests all the time to bundle them up into a post.
In 2013, I will be highlighting many old and new companies who embrace 21st century progress and run their businesses differently from the old guard who are quickly dying off. My first is John Neeman Tools. They are a small crew of craftsmen from Latvia who use their heritage of craftsmanship handed down through many generations to design and create woodworking tools. Their process, their method and mission, keeps these traditions and crafts alive and well. In this high-tech age, their traditional craftsmanship is flourishing.
John Neeman Tools is founded by Jacob - a carpenter with love for traditional woodworking and his friend – a village bladesmith. This bond has created a premier company.
They use their hands to produce tools that will live on, to tell their story in the hands of the craftsmen after us. Each tool they make is born with energy and personality – a love and care that will be felt daily by each craftsman, a resonance from the heart of the tool.
Towering factories and belching chimneys are not their game. All of their tools are made in our small traditional workshops using equally traditional methods and techniques. Their focus is on uniqueness and quality, not quantity. They want to help people to remember how to use their hands, to relate their own human energy to their tools – to achieve the true joy of creating something from humble beginnings.
You can learn more about John Neeman Tools and their products here.
I didn't expect to write this post. But my last post, 5 Powerful Lessons From My Vacation, garnered so many comments with suggestions of other powerful lessons . . . I just had to do a Part Two!
I took 10 days off over the past week for a much needed vacation for me and my family. We made our way down to Maryland's eastern shore (to a family farm) and then made our way to visit Washington DC. Even though I was relaxing, I had a lot of time during our travels to think about what I learned during my vacation:
1. I disconnected from my practice.
I came back to 500+ emails — but I made sure prior to my vacation, to let all of my clients, colleagues and friends know I'd be gone and if they really needed to reach me, to call. No one called. The time away from email was energizing. Knowing every day that I could just get up and go for a swim, or a walk, or just sit and read gave me real clarity and focus.
It gave me the permission to clear out the cobwebs and focus on what really important — personally and professionally.
2. I watched people.
My disconnection allowed me to watch and engage people from all walks of life. It allowed me to see really bad service and really exceptional service during my time on the road. It
I walked around with a new sense of wonder — engaging people and asking them questions — how's your day going, what's it like to work here, do they ever see anyone famous, etc. It's amazing how animated people get when they someone takes a sincere interest in their life.
3. I built deeper connections with the people I love.
One of the most important things I did was to spend time with my family — my wife and two sons (ages 11 and 16). We had a lot of fun relaxing at the farm and then sightseeing in DC. My two favorites — seeing my 16 year old son act as tour guide while we were in DC (I was so proud) and my 11 year old son have so much fun cutting down bamboo at the farm (he is a dedicated Mythbusters fan and will tackle any project with aplomb).
In addition, I spent quality time with my life partner. She and I have known each other for over 33 years (married 22) and still learn new aspects of one another every day. This vacation grew us closer together.
4. I had time to learn.
I spent a portion of my time reading and enjoying books. I also engaged with my older brother, his wife and sons and learned a host of new things about the world around me. We didn't talk business — we talked more about the world and philosophy in general. When was the last time you did that?
5. I recharged my batteries.
Let me state — I was not 'powered-down' and in need of energy. I was okay — I was moving along just fine over the past eight months. But it's like hooking you up to a powerful energy source (as in The Avengers movie, during the fight between Iron Man and Thor - Thor hit Iron Man with a huge bolt of lightning - and suddenly, Iron Man's energy potential shot upwards of 400%).
It really got my mind working in higher gears and began to build up a reserve of energy to take me through the end of 2012. I am full of ideas and direction — stay tuned!
If you haven't gone on vacation — GO. You can afford the time away from work.