Happy New Year everyone. I thought I'd kick off 2008 by discussing the 3 rules I live by when it comes to managing people. These are rules that I have using during my management career, that have worked well for me, and consider to be battle tested. Not that I consider them complete. Far from it. I'm not sure if anyone's noticed, but we people tend to be more...messy...than the machines we take care of. We have things like emotions, desires, likes, and dislikes. We feel ambition, boredom, joy, anger, sadness, resentment, affection. None of these things have been successfully translated into binary code. The heart of the matter is that successfully managing people takes more than any single algorithm we've yet devised. So what hope do my 3 rules have? Well, quite a bit, actually, because I don't mean these to be the be all end all. There's no such thing. What these are, are guidelines that address most of the daily issues that come with managing others of our wonderfully confusing species. I promise that if you follow and implement these 3 rules well, you will be ahead of most of the managers out there, and your people will know it. Enough buildup, here there are. 1. Make sure your people have everything they need to do their job well. This isn't you playing Santa Claus, but it is you playing supply sergeant. By hell or high water, you have to get them what they need to do the job, and do it right. This includes

  • Proper training
  • Proper tools
  • Properly defined job responsibilities and core mission for the team.
  • Well documented processes and procedures
  • Adequate and proper motivation
  • Trust in you as their manager (and yes, they absolutely need this in order to do the job well. It's not optional.)
  • Appreciation/Morale

This is the rule you should start with. The next rule, no less important, goes in a different direction. 2. Get everything that impedes your people from doing their job, out of the way. Think offensive tackle for a running back. You've got 11 bad guys barreling hard to take down your little buddy. It's time for you to clear a path. Things you need to look out for include

  • Old processes and procedures that are no longer needed
  • Non-productive meetings
  • Work that is not related to the core mission of your team. (When your team doesn't have the resources for it.)
  • Lack of communication from other teams.
  • Unrealistic expectations from either customers or other management.

I find this is the area most of us managers really have issues with. It's not glamorous, or fun work. It's easier to ignore. Slogging through this stuff takes lots of time and energy. I know it leaves me drained. But, it needs to be done. Offensive tackle isn't a glory position anyway. =) 3. Make sure your people are doing their job well, and make sure they know you're making sure. Once you've got the first two reasonably down, it's time for some accountability. The key here is defining "job well done" in a way that can be objectively measured and inspected. Your people should know

  • What is being measured
  • Why it's being measured
  • That you expect them to uphold a certain level of performance
  • You will be regularly inspecting for that level of performance
  • What steps you will take if that performance level is not met
  • What is offered if they exceed that performance level (this ties in with rule one).

Well, there they are, the 3 rules. Pretty straightforward eh? I probably couldn't package these up into a CD-ROM training course and sell them on late-night infomercials (though stranger things have happened.) Nope, too simple, not enough fluff. But these do work. I have used them to guide my performance as a manager over and over again through the last several years, and I have to say the feedback from the people I manage has been pretty positive. I think, even if they're not complete, that I'm on the right track. I hope they're useful to you as well. Here's to a great new year HDS

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