Management Tips From the Managed

Consider these five ideas to break out of a rut and become the best manager you can be.

I have a confession: I don't aspire to become an executive. I have managed no employees, and I intend to keep it that way.

I do, however, have years of work and life experience, as well as a fair amount of common sense. My theory is that management is about people, not about principles, best practices, or business rules. Hire good people, respect them, listen to them and treat them well, and they'll do a good job.

Simplistic? Maybe. But you have to admit it makes sense. You know what doesn't make sense? Power trips. Rudeness. Disrespect. Marginalization.Treating people badly but still expecting them to do good work and be loyal employees.

In that spirit, I offer these five management tips from a nonmanager:

1. Care about your (management) job. I haven't taken a business course, but I know all about the Peter Principle: "In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence." Look around your organization, or at yourself, for that matter. How many managers were promoted not because of their expertise at managing employees but because they had mastered previous, nonsupervisory roles? How many, upon becoming a supervisor, have taken an active interest in becoming the best managers they can be? And how many are just happy for the bump in salary and stature and (in today's job market) to have a job, period? Here's the thing: Even if your role as manager isn't the primary role you've trained for, the people you supervise expect and deserve to be managed with professionalism and inspiration.

2. Involve your staff. Is your organization still set up in such a way that only a select few have a seat at the table or a voice in a dialogue? You need to change that. Chances are you've got some really brilliant minds on your staff. Unless you give those people a chance to shine and to feel like their opinions and skills matter, you will lose them.

3. Praise liberally. The economy may be slowly improving, but it's still likely to be rough going for a while. Chances are, your staff has already been asked to make do with less: salary and benefit freezes or reductions, fewer chances to travel, and fewer professional development activities. You may not be able to give your employees raises or other things that cost money, but praise and recognition cost you nothing and mean a lot to employees. Really.

4. Be flexible. Don't just spout policy; remember that you're in a position to change policy. Next time an employee asks something of you that is currently "not done," don't just dismiss him with "sorry, the policy says no." Instead, take it to the next level and see if maybe that policy is due to be revised. Worst case scenario: the policy stays the same, but your employee feels that you went to bat for her and respects and appreciates you for it.

5. Don't be complacent. The world and the way we do business in it are changing in ways some of us never dreamed. Are you making sure your skills are keeping pace with this change? If you lost your job today, would you be the best candidate for an equivalent position at another organization? Make sure you experiment with new tools, like Twitter and LinkedIn—even if they don't change your life, they give you the chance to build new skills. You could also consider a reverse mentoring relationship where a less-experienced employee gives you the benefit of his or her perspective.

Maggie McGary is social media and community specialist for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in Rockville, Maryland. Email: [email protected]