01 Dec 2017

You’re a New Manager. What now?

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How to be a Good Manager and Supervisor and How to DelegateFor 33 years, I was a manager of technical teams. First as a VP of consulting (two different companies), and then as the Director of Computer Operations for Trader Joe’s Company. I learned in the school of hard knocks what to do and what not to do.

The most important fact is if you are a manager needs to BE a manager. That means you lead your team, you support them, you get the resources they need to get their jobs done, and you set the boundaries. You must have authority or you cannot manage effectively, and you must be the boss. You must temper that with kindness and understanding, but never to the detriment of your company.

The first time is the easiest time to correct behavior. If you let it slide, you’ve set a precedent. The more you let things slide, the worse it will get.

Lessons Learned About Being A Manager

So for all he managers out there, here are a few lessons I learned, in no particular order.

  • Correct problems as soon as they occur by confronting the employ causing the problem. Don’t wait.
  • Be a leader, not a follower.
  • Don’t be a victim.
  • Build a consensus, but you make the decision. The right decision takes precedence over consensus.
  • Don’t push work up the organization board.
  • Be a business manager not just a supervisor.
  • Manage in all directions on the org board. Manage your boss, manage your peers and manage your team. How do you manage your boss? You give them the information they need to make the right decision.
  • Set the standard for your team. Come in on time and leave on time. Keep your desk clean, and don’t do personal things at work. Dress appropriately and be efficient. Your team will emulate you because you set the standard.
  • Praise in public. Criticize in private.
  • Do not work late. Do not ask your team to work late. Actively discourage working late. If a member of your team cannot complete their job during a normal workday, find out why and fix the problem.
  • Focus on production. Each team member needs to understand what they produce, how they do it, how much they should do, and what they need to produce it. Whether that be applications or answered calls or whatever. Base your reviews and appraisals on production and behavior.
  • The definition of “doing your job” is producing what needs to be produced in the agreed upon timeframe.
  • Never appraise based on attitude. Who cares as long as they are producing?
  • Appraise on behavior and production.
  • Promote based on production and behavior.
  • Ensure each member of your team has a career path that is clearly defined and attainable. Support them with training, coaching and mentoring to achieve promotions.
  • Compensate fairly. Fight for compensation for your team.
  • Don’t demand overtime without pay from salaried employees. Once you start depending on overtime, it’s hard to back off. Schedules start to take that into account and it becomes a never ending cycle.
  • Minimize meetings. Keep them short, have an agenda, stick to the agenda, and make them fast. Meetings are one of the biggest time wasters in business.
  • ALL decisions in meetings get recorded in writing and sent to all attendees.
  • Don’t allow cell phones in meetings. Have everyone leave them in a basket or shelf outside before coming in. That includes you.
  • Make sure your entire team, from receptionist through manager, is trained on computer security, harassment laws, and so on.
  • Never ever never never never engage in office romance. Even if you are married to a co-worker (in that case, keep it out of the office).
  • Keep your personal life out of the office.
  • Never come to work intoxicated. Don’t drink at lunch.
  • Always manage fairly.
  • Learn to delegate authority and responsibility. You have to do them both at the same time. Don’t ever delegate responsibility without authority. For example, if you delegate checking quality to a team member, then give them the authority to deal with it if the quality is lacking.
  • If you are a manager and you have to ask permission from anyone to hire (if it’s in your budget) or fire, then you are not a manager. Yes, you may have to involve your boss or HR, but you should have the final say.
  • Do NOT ever be afraid to fire someone. If they need to be fired, and your case is well documented, fire them. Don’t give notice, and escort them after you’ve fired them, no matter who they are. The second you fire someone, they no longer work for the company.
  • Make sure you don’t have a “single point of failure”. That’s where you have only one person who can do something or who knows something.
  • Manage what’s important. If it’s not important that your team be at work at 9am, then don’t make a ridiculous rule that they must be the office at 9am.
  • If you make a rule, enforce it.
  • If you are not willing to fire someone if they break a rule (after a few warnings), then don’t make the rule. So if you have determined your team needs to start working at 9am for good reason (maybe they answer help desk calls), and then one team member comes in at 9:30am (without permission), you start the cycle: talk with them a few times, oral warning, written warning, suspension or fire depending on your company policy.
  • If you make rules that you don’t enforce, you might as well not make rules. You just look stupid.
  • Make sure you follow all company policies. First read them and understand them. Make sure your team understands them.
  • ALL the goals of your team must align with the goals of your company. It’s silly to work towards goals that are not aimed in the same direction as the company is going. (There are exceptions to this rule).
  • Be 100% ethical. If it’s not clearly right, it’s wrong.
  • If you catch anyone doing something wrong, take steps to handle it (if the person works for you) or report it to the right people. If you see someone engaging in harassing behavior, for example, report it to HR immediately in writing. Don’t talk to anyone (the harasser or the harassed) – just report it. Your job is not to fix it – it is to report it.
  • Remember, to treat everyone fairly. Do not base any decision on race, sexual orientation, sex, or anything else EXCEPT productivity and behavior.
  • If one of your team members has a personal problem, be there for them.
  • Fight for your team.
  • Fight for training budget. Get your team trained at company expense regularly. Each team member should put together their own training plan, with the appropriate coaching from you.
  • One bad apple, an employee who is undermining other employees or you or the company, can destroy everything you’re doing. Find them. Identify the behavior. Then get them to fix it or fire them.
  • Back up all computer data. Audit your backups. Ensure your team follows backup procedures. Regular backups should be kept offsite. If this is the responsibility of IT, audit the backups at least once a month.
  • Never wait until a performance review to correct poor production or behavior. Do it immediately.
  • If you are going to fire someone, do it in private. If you can, get someone to attend as a witness. Keep your firing short and to the point.

This one is critical: Reward those who produce. Do not reward those who don’t produce. Most managers make the mistake of spending an incredible amount of time trying to correct a “bad” employee. Don’t do that. Spend your time and energy on the ones who produce.

When you have a poorly performing employee, make them figure out how to correct their problem. If you figure out the solution, they have successfully made it YOUR problem. No. It’s their problem. This goes double for performance reviews – let the team member come up with the plan and implement it, and make them do it quickly.

For example: Your programs have been flagged by quality assurance as buggy multiple times. Here are the reports from QA. Study them. Give me a plan by tomorrow (or whatever) on how you are going to correct this issue.” Once they have a plan, they have to do it – no slacking.

I hope you will find some value in these lessons. Good luck.

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