Can You Really Manage Employees Smarter?

There are many theories and practices that talk about what employees want and why. There are equally as many theories and practices that discuss how managers are supposed to manage to bring out the best in their employees. Much of the discussion fails to address how a manager, once he learns the latest theory or practice, is supposed to incorporate the use of this knowledge into his daily tasks and roles.A manager usually has his own tasks and functions to perform – in addition to directing staff. These tasks and functions can consume a majority of his time, often as much as 80% of his time, leaving only 20% to manage. As I have reviewed a number of theories and practices on management I have found they can work – if the manager has 50% or more of his time available to implement.By my count if a manager works 80% of the day on his own tasks and 50% on managing his employees he has just worked at 130% of capacity. Hmmm, did the employees go home after 8 hours? Did he have enough time to “manage?” Did he sacrifice his own tasks in order to manage effectively?I have to confess – I have been a manager of other employees for over 30 years, working in a variety of businesses with a variety of unskilled, skilled, professional, blue-collar, white-collar, and technical employees. I have used a variety of management techniques over these years with my fellow employees. I want to share what I have found to work the best with each of these differing groups of employees.Some time ago I reviewed research by Cornell University’s Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies. The Cornell research validated the benefit of businesses using formal processes and procedures and professional standards to help create workforce alignment. As a result of this research and my own prior experience, I developed a management approach called “managing smart.”It certainly becomes easier to manage employees if there are clear processes and procedures as well as standards that are evenly applied to all employees. I have found that if employees understand where the business is going and how they can participate in helping the business to get there, it becomes easier for them to contribute.What has often been a challenge in every business setting in which I worked was that managers, often believing that they knew what to do (why else would they be managers?) thought it was appropriate to tell employees what to do in each and every situation. If employees failed to follow directions or instructions managers instituted penalties for the failure to perform.I must admit I was caught in this approach for a little bit of time – until I learned the power of coaching and learned how to apply this to the management of my fellow employees. Learning how to be the “manager as coach” while managing smart is quite simple, actually, although it does take time to understand several important elements.Let’s review some of these elements. We know that every person has a unique combination of skills, talents, motivations, and behavioral preferences. For instance it is quite easy for some people to relate to others, to accept change, or to pay attention to detail. For others it is important to acquire knowledge, seek balance and harmony, or have a competitive edge. And for yet others, it is natural to evaluate others, to handle rejection, to use common sense, or to have an understanding attitude.To grasp the ease of learning the manager as coach approach I believe that you need to understand what your own skills, talents, motivations, and behavioral preferences are. Once you do, you can understand how to use these to develop a management environment in which you can thrive. Once you understand your own skills, talents, motivations, and behavioral preferences it is a natural progression to want to understand the same elements in your employees and coworkers.We make a number of assumptions about each others perspectives and motivations. Sometimes we are right and sometimes we may be wrong – and the consequences of misreading another person’s perspective in a business setting can be quite costly.I work with managers to help them understand how they can manage their employees by understanding each employee’s unique set of skills, talents, motivations, and behavioral preferences and then developing a management approach that encourages employees to perform their work tasks and functions by taking ownership and control of those tasks and functions and to perform at a higher level of authenticity.As the executive coach I have used this approach to empower my clients with a more complete sense of ownership and control of their business. Teaching these clients my coaching techniques to use with their employees may seem a bit like giving the store away. I would disagree. If I am serving my clients to best of my ability it is incumbent on me to help their businesses become more profitable and productive.Any time a business wants to improve its financial performance it certainly helps if they can place a value on that improvement. If that value is known it is much easier for me to focus the managers on the benefits of learning a “manager as coach” approach to managing smarter. When owners and their managers understand the number of variables that can be quantified using diagnostic profiles it is much easier to help them to quantify not only that financial value but also the individual and collective talents, motivations, and behavioral preferences of their managers and staff. Interesting stuff for a “manager as coach.”

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