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How Not to be a Terrible Manager

Are you the most effective manager you can be? Do you unleash the most productivity from your workforce?

I finally got around to reading and article I ripped out of Harbard Business Review from March of last year: it was shuffled from my inbox to a “To Read” file and back a dozen times. Boy am I smacking my forehead now, as the piece, “The Power of Small Wins” contained some of the best management advice I’ve come across.

The core idea of the piece revolves around increasing employee productivity, and you do this by being in synch with motivation. Unfortunately, even the most well-intentioned of us don’t really understand what motivates employees to perform at their highest level.

Theresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer, who spent more than 10 years conducting research in employee motivation, sum up their findings by saying:

What motivates people on a day to day basis is the sense that they are making progress.

And in a virtuous cycle, the more progress they make, the more satisfied they are. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true: obstructions, toxins, and problems de-motivate people.

So your goal, as a manager, is to create the virtuous cycle where people feel they are making progress.

The authors discuss the making-people-happy stuff, but let’s cut to the chase and talk about things to avoid doing, because, as the authors point out, “negative events can have a more powerful impact than positive ones.” So let’s start with the no-no’s before you cause your new associate to run screaming from your firm.

1) Make sure you allow autonomy in your subordinate’s work.

Instead of micromanaging every move, set a clear strategic goal and respect how your personnel goes about achieving it.

2) Don’t ask subordinates about their work unless you are prepared to help with a challenge.

As a manager, you should be there to help remove obstacles. Otherwise, when you’re badgering for status updates, you are seen as interfering and micromanaging another’s work.

3) Dont assign blame when problems arise.

Mistakes are mistakes and are in the past, and blaming helps no one. Instead, keep your cool like Brady in the pocket and work with your team to figure out how to come up with a solution to the issue.

4) If you have information you can share with a subordinate, don’t hoard it.

Share it. Otherwise you risk the employee feeling “infantilized” and sapping their motivation. If you know something and your employee knows you know something, you’re disrespecting that person.

5) Don’t ignore peoples’ suggestions or ideas.

When people offer up ideas or suggestions, it’s with the best interest of the project at hand. Not acknowledging or listening is a big no-no. When people feel that theirs suggestions are ignored, their motivation and mood flag.

6) Do not frequently or abruptly reassign people’s work.

I once worked for a guy who constantly chnaged his mind. It was dispiriting. In constanitly changing priorities, you destroy an employee’s sense of ownership of their work. A sense of ownership of one’s work is critical and represents a deep seated human need for most people, which, according to the authors, is to engage in something meaningful.

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