Author: Chris Boggs
Employees are your greatest expense, but they are also your most valuable asset. The loss of great or even just a "good" employee has a tremendous effect on the agency.
A lot of "experts" postulate that good employees don't quit jobs, they quit bosses. I don't fully or always agree with that philosophy. Your employees may love you, but they may not like some of the inconsistencies they feel exist in the agency, or the lack of structure in their work. In essence, you may not manage them the way THEY need to be managed. Two truisms of management are:
- You can't necessarily manage people the way you like to be managed. Personally, I like to be left alone. Tell me what you want done and when you need it done and then let me do my job. It would be a mistake for me to treat another employee that way if he or she needs and wants constant contact, feedback and confirmation); and
- You can't manage everyone the same way. If you manage a person that doesn't require much oversight and a person who craves (and even needs) constant attention the same way, you're going to drive one of them nuts – and they will leave.
So, the employee may like you personally, they just don't like how they are managed.
As a manager, you have to lead on an individualized basis. Don't misunderstand, there must be "corporate" rules, but each person must be guided differently towards compliance with those group or "corporate" rules.
Following are 11 "rules" or guidelines around the goal of successful management. Each rule contains nuances not detailed here, but that doesn't diminish their usefulness:
- Hire smart, ethical, positive, and customer-centric people. All four characteristics are required, three out of four isn't good enough. If any one of these four is lacking, you are hiring a future problem.
- Teach your employees the history of the agency. This gives them a sense of place and pride that they are now part of the story. To misquote Walt Whitman and Dead Poets Society, everyone wants to contribute a verse. When your employees know the history, they are excited because they are contributing a verse to the agency's story.
- Create a picture of what you want the agency to accomplish. If you have a vision, the employees need to see the vision, and maybe it will become their vision. When your vision becomes your employee's vision, the agency is guaranteed to reach its goals.
- Create a clear vision of what you want that person to accomplish. Everyone wants to know their place and how they contribute. Remember, "I need to feel needed." Again, the right employees (back to Rule 1.) want to contribute a verse to your company; help them do that by explaining their place in the agency and your goal for that position (and even them personally).
- Give them the tools, or access to the tools, necessary to accomplish the vision you have cast for the agency and them personally.
- Be available. Always be there if needed; but balance accessibility with the need for them to learn and do their job. It's too easy and sometimes expedient to just do it for them. If you do that, they don't learn anything; and you won't get your own job done. But the worst part about not letting the employee do his or her own work, there is no sense of accomplishment or contribution.
- GET OUT OF THE WAY! – While remembering rule 6 (Be available), let them work.
- STAY out of the way! Yes, you must manage each employee according to their style, but in doing that, don't get in the way of their personal accomplishments.
- If you think about getting in the way and imposing your will, think, "Is it worth losing this employee just to get my own way?" Of course, don't let them do anything that will get the agency in regulatory, contractual or financial trouble, that's not what I mean. There are still standards that must be followed; I'm talking about style. They may interact and work differently than you, but unless their style disrupts operations – let them work.
- Praise great results! Notice I said GREAT results. Don't praise someone for just doing their job – praise when they do a great job. When I sold my first policy I was very happy, the agency manager said, "Congratulations on doing your job." He saw no reason to praise me just because I did what I was hired to do. When you overly praise people for simply doing their job, your praise become worthless. It's the "everybody gets a trophy" syndrome. Save praise for extraordinary work. When you do praise, praise in public.
- Know how and when to discipline. If you are afraid to have the "tough" conversations, your staff will run all over you. It's your agency, you can't be afraid to lead; and sometimes that means disciplining people and even cutting people loose, as harsh as that sounds. But if you did a good job with rule #1, it's less likely you will ever have to do this. But remember, even though you praise in public, you discipline in private.
Management is about leadership, not power. Leaders cast the vision, lead by example, and make tough decisions when necessary. You set the course for your agency's success, and your employees are a key to that success – this requires you to manage them well.
Last Updated: August 4, 2017