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Management Tips
April 21, 2004
Management Tips April 2004

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To maximize your effectiveness as a manager, always be aware of the top two needs of those under your leadership. One of them is their need to know exactly what’s expected of them and the other is to know how they’re doing.

Nothing is more demotivating to followers than having to guess what their leader wants them to do.

Overall group goals and strategic plans are useful guidelines, but individuals make the best use of their time and talents when they are told precisely what they are expected to accomplish - i.e., given a detailed definition of the parameters of their responsibilities and the authority that goes with them.

Managers who offer only negative feedback on individual performance create doubt and confusion in the ranks; instead, there should be a clear focus on the objectives to be achieved and the methods employed to reach them.

Of equal importance is letting people know how they’re measuring up to your expectations.

This requires much more than quarterly or even monthly reviews. The ideal method is to provide positive reinforcement and recognition whenever proper performance or improvement is observed, or constructive criticism when things go wrong.

They’re entitled to know both things - and it’s your responsibility to see that they do!



Try this at a future sales meeting:

Instead of you heaping kudos on a team member who accomplished something outstanding, tell the group that he or she has a Willie (or Wanda) Wonderful story to tell (using their real names of course, and invite them to tell it.

This gives them an opportunity to toot their own horns (and PLEASE don't think people hate to do that). It also allows you to prod them for (flattering) details and tell the group why you're so proud of what they did.

Showering praise can be somewhat paternalistic, but letting them shower themselves not only provides food for thought by other team members, but also boosts the self-esteem of the achiever.


An ancient Chinese proverb reads: "Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I only might remember; involve me and I'll understand.


Maslow's classic "hierarchy" of human needs is usually depicted as a pyramid. At its base are listed the basic physiological requirements for survival, such as food, air and water. Unless and until these have been met, nothing else really matters.

Next in importance is the need to be safe from physical harm, which rises to the top when basic requirements have been met.

The people you manage will, for the most part, have had these first two requirements satisfied, but until that 'comfort level' has been reached, you can forget about motivating them to higher plateaus of achievement.

The next stratum on the pyramid is social in nature - a desire to belong - to feel that they are legitimate members of the team, a critical step toward reaching their maximum potential.

Next comes the ego factor - a need to have their talents and achievements recognized and appreciated. Again, motivation will only be effected after the lower levels have been reached.

Maslow called the top of the pyramid "self actualization," an ideal state in which the individual has acquired a positive self-image and is thus able to give, share and make a difference in the lives of others.

Your challenge as a manager is to determine, at any given moment, where each associate is located on the pyramid, recognizing that they tend to either rise or fall on its structure, depending on the current situation.

If you try to appeal to them at a lower level than where they are, their response will be indifference and inaction.

If you make the mistake of trying to communicate to them at a higher level than the one they currently occupy, they'll tune you out completely. People who are focused on survival have no time for visions of Camelot. Save that stuff until after they feel secure about food, shelter, safety, and a sense that they belong, reinforced by a positive self-image.

It's impossible for them to appreciate even the brightest stars when they can see nothing but clouds overhead!

By the same token, don't attempt to excite them with pony rides when they're riding high on a white charger!

Sorry if this seems a bit complicated, but we never said management was easy, did we?


"Career nights" are hard to beat as recruiting tools, in terms of convenience and economy.

Once the boilerplate agenda has been worked out and handout material standardized, little-to-no preparation is required.

A regular time can be set each week and publicized with envelope stuffers, lobby signs, small classified ads and personal invitations.

If nobody shows, the seminar leader can simply fill the time with routine work. Meanwhile, nothing has been disrupted and a critical obligation of management has been met.

Also, there's always next week!


According to CEO Magazine, chances are your plate is overfilled if:

1. You schedule more activities than can fit into the work day.

2. You don't control your own schedule.

3. You frequently show up late at meetings or leave early.

4. You don't have quiet time each day to think about long-term strategies.

5. You don't have time for social events with no business objective.

6. You don't have time to exercise at least four times a week.

Our "take" on this is that any of these situations can happen at times to busy people, but if they happen all the time, it's time to go back to the planning board.

Doing things and getting things done can be two entirely different things!


It started in "Li'l Abner," Al Capp's long-running comic strip (1934-77), wherein Big Barnsmell, Lonesome Polecat and Hairless Joe brewed their "Kickapoo Joy Juice, a bootleg concoction that smelled so awful that it could only be produced at their "Skonk Works," far away from the town of Dogpatch.

During World War II, a group Lockheed Aircraft engineers, led by Kelly Johnson, worked on a super-secret project that created the P-80 jet fighter from scratch in less than five months, without the overt supervision of the company or government, so as to avoid red tape and conventional restraints.

They broke all the rules, but also all the records in developing a badly needed fighter plane.

Because their makeshift plant was near a smelly plastics factory (and to cover the furtive operation), it was called the "Skunk Works," and the name stuck.

Today, Lockheed Martin (and other organizations) use the term to describe small groups of experts who drop out of the company's mainstream operations to tackle experimental projects unhampered by bureaucracy, conventional thinking or stifling regulations.

Although tacit control is maintained by top management, strategic and tactical planning takes place "in the works."

The same approach has proven successful within small operating groups faced with problems that resist conventional handling.

Although requiring a lot of revision and downsizing, Kelly Johnson's "14 Rules Of Management, accessible at http://www.hi.is/~joner/eaps/cs_kellx.htm are a stimulating study for progressive managers even today.

Faced with a daunting problem, you might consider not only thinking "out of the box," but having a meeting of creative minds at the Skunk Works!


"A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours." (Milton Berle)


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