Cheat Sheet

Managing All-in-One For Dummies

From Managing All-in-One For Dummies by Consumer Dummies

As a business manager, you must be prepared to make tough decisions and set positive examples for your employees every day. No matter what size team you manage, you must keep calm; be methodical when resolving problems and managing employee issues; connect proactively with other leaders in your organization; and rely on your employees to help you get the job done. Along the way, you should demonstrate key leadership qualities in everything you do.

6 Strategies for Managing Conflict on the Job

Disagreements and differences are inevitable within a work team or organization. As a manager, your challenge is to lead team members by modeling and helping them learn new behaviors that resolve conflicts and maintain respectful working relationships in the process. Some great benefits can emerge from conflicts: creativity, richer solutions, and stronger teamwork, for example.

To reap benefits that stem from workplace conflict, don your leadership hat and put these constructive behaviors into practice:

  • Stay in control. Venting your frustration, spewing your anger, or throwing sarcastic barbs shows only that you're out of control and prevents you from inviting the cooperation of others.

  • Be direct, factual, and sincere. You have to express your concern or problem clearly and constructively so that others understand where you're coming from. Get to the point, state the facts as you know them, and speak with candor and respect.

  • Go to the source. A conflict is best resolved by addressing it face-to-face with the other party. Telling a third party or communicating by e-mail cannot replace the person-to-person conversation that's required for conflict resolution to work.

  • Get into problem-solving. So you have a conflict with another team member. Big deal! And you've worked out a solution with the other team member? Oh, now, that is the big deal. That a difference or disagreement exists between two or more people isn't newsworthy. The actions that are taken to hammer out a solution are worth others' attention.

  • Actively listen. Active listening is about showing that you care and working to understand what someone else truly means. When you become a great listener, you become a great communicator.

  • Assume that the other person means well. When you assume that the other person means well, you don't have to worry that someone's out to get you. You're free to deal with the actions and issues at hand.

5 Steps for Managing Employee Performance Problems

As a manager dealing with employee discipline, your primary concern is correcting unacceptable performance. You always want to help your good workers become even better, but your first concern has to be to identify employees who aren't working up to standard and to correct their shortcomings on the job.

The following disciplinary steps are listed in order of least to most severe. Always use the least severe step that results in the behavior you want. If that step doesn't do the trick, move down the list to the next step.

  1. Verbal counseling

    A typical manager verbally counsels a variety of employees in any given day. Verbal counseling can range from a simple, spontaneous correction performed in the hallway ("Marge, you need to let me know when our clients call with a service problem.") to a more formal, sit-down meeting in your office ("Sam, I'm concerned that you don't understand the importance of checking the correct address prior to shipping orders. Let's discuss what steps you can take to correct this problem and your plan to implement them."). Note: You usually don't document verbal counseling in your employees' files.

  2. Written counseling

    Written counseling formalizes the counseling process by documenting your employee's performance shortcomings in a memo. Written counseling is presented to the employee in one-on-one sessions in the supervisor's office. After the employee has an opportunity to read the document, verbal discussions regarding the employee's plan to improve performance ensue. This documentation becomes a part of your employee's personnel file.

  3. Negative performance evaluation

    If verbal and written counseling fail to improve your employee's performance, the situation warrants a negative performance evaluation. Because performance evaluations are generally given only annually in many organizations, if at all, they're not usually useful for dealing with acute situations.

  4. Demotion

    Repeated negative performance evaluations or particularly serious performance shortcomings may warrant demoting your employee to a lower rung on the organizational ladder. Often, but not always, the pay of demoted employees is also reduced at the same time, making for a very unhappy employee.

    Before you resort to demotion, first try to find a position at an equivalent level that the employee can handle. This step may help improve your employee's motivation and self-confidence and result in a "win" for both the employee and the organization.

  5. Termination

    When all else fails, termination is the ultimate form of discipline for employees who are performing unsatisfactorily. In these days of wrongful termination lawsuits and high-dollar judgments, you must document employees' performance shortcomings well and support them with the facts.

6 Ways to Build Effective Cross-Group or Interdepartmental Communication

How you build relationships and interact with staff and managers from other groups greatly affects the cooperation you get from them when you need it. Effective communication plays a large part in developing an assertive, respectful approach to working relationships.

Build strong interdepartmental communication with these strategies:

  • Make sharing information a normal practice. If you have information that someone may need, take the initiative and pass it on. When you're a good information source, people find you a valuable manager to work with.

  • Listen and find out about other groups' needs. Be attentive to others' concerns instead of focusing solely on your own.

  • Talk about the greater good when working on issues. The greater good is the organization, project goals, and customer needs. When the greater good becomes the focus, the discussion moves away from "your way versus my way" to what we need to accomplish together to make something happen that benefits us all.

  • Bring closure to discussions. Listen actively to clarify points. Ask about next steps. Recap action items, and even write them up and distribute the notes so that everyone remembers what was agreed to. This way, you prevent misunderstandings and rehashing of old issues.

  • Show gratitude. Showing sincere appreciation and recognition can go a long way in building bridges of understanding and cooperation.

  • Resolve problems with peers person to person. When concerns arise, as they often do when you're coordinating and working on issues with other managers, take the initiative to go to the other manager and start the dialogue. When you go to other leaders directly to constructively settle differences and solve problems, you build credibility and command respect — key ingredients for eliciting cooperation from others.

7 Questions to Consider before Delegating Tasks to Employees

When you know which aspects of a project you want to delegate, you must determine to whom you will delegate. Which person will be good for which assignment? Here are some important questions to ask before initiating a delegating effort:

  • Where does the assignment best fit functionally within your group?

  • Who has capacity in terms of time and workload?

  • Who has the interest?

  • Who has the skill and experience level best for the job?

  • Whose capabilities do you need to expand to fill coverage gaps in the group's day-to-day operations?

  • Who is in need of new or different challenges?

  • To whom do you want to give an opportunity for growth?

Notice that one of the factors not listed is "Who has the best track record?" Sometimes managers have a tendency to delegate mostly to their reliable performers. As a result, they don't distribute the workload evenly among all the staff in the group. This practice has an effect of punishing the good employees. It may create resentment among the star employees who wonder why they have to carry the workload for others in the group, as well as among other employees who feel passed over for the most challenging and growth-oriented work. Push yourself as a manager to develop and challenge everyone in your group.

4 Essential Leadership Traits

Business will continue to transform in the foreseeable future, but great leadership remains steadfast, like a sturdy rock standing up to the storms of change. Numerous traits of great leaders have remained the same over the years and are still highly valued. The following sections discuss essential leadership traits.

Optimism

Great leaders always see the future as a wonderful place. They may encounter much adversity and hard work on the way to achieving their goals, but leaders always look forward to the future optimistically. This optimism becomes a glow that radiates from all great leaders and touches the employees who come into contact with them.

People want to feel good about themselves and their futures, and they want to work for winners. Workers thus naturally flock to people who are optimistic instead of pessimistic. Who wants to work for someone who simply spouts doom and gloom about the future of a business? Negative managers only demotivate their employees and coworkers, inspiring them to spend more time polishing their resumes than improving their organizations.

Be an optimist. Let your excitement rub off on the people around you.

Confidence

Confident leaders make for confident followers, which is why organizations led by confident leaders are unstoppable. An organization's employees mirror the behavior of their leaders. When leaders are tentative and unsure of themselves, so are workers (and the bottom-line results of the organization). When leaders display self-confidence, workers follow suit, and the results can be astounding.

Be a confident leader. Your example and vision inspire your employees to perform their best and give them more confidence in their abilities.

Integrity

Integrity is the trait that employees most want from their leaders. When an organization's leaders conduct themselves with integrity, the organization can make a very real and positive difference in the lives of its employees, its customers, and others who come in contact with it. Employees then develop even more positive feelings about the organization.

Most workers devote a third (or more) of their waking hours to their jobs. Whether the organization makes light fixtures, disposes of radioactive waste, develops virtual reality software, or delivers pizzas, people want to be part of an organization that makes a positive difference in people's lives.

Decisiveness

Great leaders make decisions. However, not every decision is created equal. Some decisions have little impact on the company and its employees and customers. These decisions can and should be made quickly. Other decisions are strategic and have a great, long-term impact on the company and its employees and customers. These decisions require much deliberation and information gathering and analysis and should never be made in a shoot-from-the-hip fashion. Yet other decisions lie somewhere in between these two extremes.

Match your decision-making style to the nature of the decision to be made. When you have the information you need to make a quality decision, make it. Don't waffle or equivocate. Making decisions is one of your key jobs as a manager.

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