Guide For New Manager & Leaders

It is common practice to appoint new department or school managers from the ranks of successful teachers or trainers or, in industry, engineers or other “production” positions. Such appointees sometimes have had little or no practical management training. This article can then be an important “gift” to such newly appointed managers. It describes brain-friendly, productive management practice. Good managers are good leaders.

The basic job of a manager is to help those who report to him or her to be successful at accomplishing their missions. Any manager who acts simply as a “boss and evaluator” is not providing members of his or her team with an environment that encourages maximum productivity. The most effective managers lead their team members with clarified goals and systems, sensitive listening, opportunities for involvement in shaping operations, opportunities for professional growth, and non-intrusive monitoring. A major goal is to give team members help when they need it, not to “catch” them at not succeeding. Solid leadership behaviors are a foundation of good management.

Good managers focus on basic needs of team members. Those basic needs are:

1. Belonging, 2. Personal power, 3. Freedom, 4. Fun.

Let us review each of these in turn.

Belonging. Employees can be most productive if they perceive themselves as valued members of a team (department, division, group). A manager-leader can support this perception by:

1. Holding periodic coordination meetings to keep everyone thoroughly informed and to give opportunities for feedback, planning revisions, and cooperative discussions.

2. Advance discussion with the team or an individual member about possible changes in mission, roles, resources, etc.

3. Being conveniently available for discussions of individual ideas or problems.

4. Being willing, where possible, to arrange special working conditions to accommodate temporary personal problems of an individual team member (making loyalty a two-way process).

Personal power. Team members need to be respected and recognized to maintain their enthusiasm. The manager-leader should work to ensure that:

1. Each team member has important tasks that he or she can accomplish.

2. Important accomplishments are rewarded with recognition and, where possible, with broadened responsibility or authority and salary progress.

3. The ideas and suggestions of each team member are carefully considered and where feasible, used.

The above actions show each team member the power of his or her personal effort.

Freedom. The manager-leader should give each team member as much authority and freedom to direct his or her own work as possible within school, company or mission guidelines. Having choices and control over one’s own work processes can be a major motivating factor. Second-guessing and over-direction from a manager are major demotivating factors.

Fun. The best teachers know that student productivity increases with careful use of down time and relaxation periods. The best managers know that balanced opportunities for relaxation, humor, and socializing are an important part of motivating team members.

Now let us review other important factors beyond needs of team members. These include Evaluation, Two Direction Management, Lateral Management and a Special Caution.

Evaluation of team members. Evaluation should be a monitoring and helping process. A manager should accompany any constructive criticism with helping suggestions and/or resources. This does not preclude the right to require that some concern or issue be addressed. It simply fulfills the basic management responsibility for helping people to succeed. Also, be sure to allow evaluatees to appeal or explain evaluation issues; give their explanation sincere consideration.

A manager shows strength and confidence in himself or herself when he or she decides to change an evaluation because an evaluatee makes a good case for such change. Finally, the entire evaluation process is strengthened if a management-by-objective, participatory process is followed. That process is one of the manager and an evaluatee deciding on objectives and desired performance standards in advance, each contributing to the process. Then the later evaluation can be much more objective because standards have been agreed upon in advance.

Two direction management. Previous suggestions have focused on a manager being supportive of his or her members. However, remember the opposite direction. As a manager, another one of your basic tasks is to keep your manager informed – - the no unnecessary surprises principle. That allows your manager to help you and to depend on you. In other words, you are now teaming in two directions – - with your team members and with your manager. Expect this same no-surprise principle from your team members. It helps to tie an organization together.

Lateral management. Whenever possible help and cooperate with your management peers, for example, other department chairpersons. Again, expect this lateral help among your team members and from your team members to those on other teams. If everyone in an organization accepts the basic task of being helpful when possible to anyone else in the organization, the culture of belonging gets even stronger. Organization productivity can go even higher.

A special caution on your manager. Before you take a management position, have a two-way discussion on these suggestions with your prospective manager. If he or she does not agree with some of the basic principles in this article, think carefully before you accept an appointment. For example, if your prospective manager does not plan to give you a significant degree of freedom and authority, you will find it far more difficult to grant such to those who work for you! If your prospective manager does not see evaluation as a helping rather than a do-it-to-you process, it will be more difficult for you to emphasize helping.

If your prospective manager “never changes his evaluations” when such are appealed or explained, he or she is not someone who listens carefully to others; that could leave you treated and evaluated unfairly in a new management position. If you do accept a management role under a manager with beliefs or habits that could undercut your effectiveness, do so with full recognition that such managers tend to blame the results of their brain-unfriendly practices on others; you could become one of those others. Avoid such managers if possible. Certainly do not become that type of manager yourself.

Summary of main points. Here are summary lists of some brain-friendly (good) and brain-unfriendly (bad) management practices. The numbering in each list is related to the other list. Work at using the good practices and avoiding the bad ones.

Brain-friendly/Good Management Practices:

1. Clarify mission and goals.

2. Listen carefully to others.

3. Involve your team members in planning and decision-making in a management system.

4. Provide your team members with professional growth or learning opportunities.

5. Use monitoring data to help your team members succeed.

6. Hold coordination meetings. Keep everyone informed.

7. Be conveniently available for individual discussions.

8. Be willing to arrange temporary special working conditions to help individuals with special personal problems.

9. Define meaningful tasks; recognize and reward progress on same.

10. Consider and use suggestions from team members when feasible.

11. Give team members as much freedom and authority as you can to direct their own work.

12. Support balanced opportunities for breaks, relaxation, socializing, humor, and fun.

13. Emphasize the helping and encouragement aspects of evaluation.

14. Keep your manager supported and informed (no surprises).

15. Promote lateral helping between peers.

16. Evaluate the philosophy of your prospective manager before taking a job as a new manager.

Brain-unfriendly/Bad Management Practices:

1. Assume that team members know their mission and goals.

2. Emphasize telling those who work for you what to do.

3. Emphasize telling those who work for you what to do.

4. Let team members shift for themselves on professional growth.

5. Evaluate at the end of tasks; do not “bother” folks until then.

6. Emphasize memos to tell team members what to do.

7. Restrict your availability for individual meetings.

8. Enforce the same working conditions and rules for everyone at all times.

9. View solid performance as normal and expected, not deserving of specific recognition.

10. Emphasize telling those who work for you what to do.

11. Require team members to do things exactly the way you define.

12. Concentrate on work and production at all times.

13. Use evaluation to “shape-up” others and to tell them what to do.

14. Do not give extra information to your manager; just answer when questions are asked.

15. Keep focused on individuals doing their job and not on them being concerned with others in the organization.

16. Do not be concerned with the habits or beliefs of your prospective manager. You cannot do anything about those.

And now, good luck with the responsibility and the fun of helping others to succeed! Following that theme can make management positions very rewarding.