As an Account Director, I truly believe I have the best job at OGK.
Not only does each day present new and different challenges from the day before (boredom is never an issue), but I have the opportunity to interact and engage with every individual in the company: designers, developers, writers, animators, illustrators, SEO, studios, new business development, executives, etc.
I also get to meet or speak with the many clients whose accounts I manage.
That’s a lot of personalities and responsibilities, for sure; but the beauty of life (which certainly includes the time spent at work, since we spend about 40% of our lives there) is the people we meet and the relationships we make.
That’s the way I see it, anyway. But I also realize that’s not the case for everybody, which is perfectly fine. Keep in mind, however, that management is very much a relationship business, so it definitely helps if you enjoy that aspect of it. If you don’t, you better fake it well, but most folks will see through that pretty quickly.
I don’t want to overcomplicate what it takes to be an effective manager or go off on some self-important tangent, especially since a manager is only as successful as those he or she surrounds him or herself with. I don’t want to oversimplify the process either because to enjoy sustainable success, a certain skillset is needed.
Whether you’re managing people, projects, or even your own time, here are five traits that managers typically must possess and that are not all that difficult (for the most part) to develop.
The five ogK’s of effective management
One of the greatest threats to success is lack of communication. It is important that all involved are aware of their responsibilities and what is expected of them at all times. This helps ensure that everybody is on the same page and moving in the same direction.
As a manager, it is your role to define the objective and clearly communicate that mission and process with your team. It is essential that each participant understands their role. This not only makes their jobs easier, but also makes it possible to properly evaluate performance and infuse accountability.
Accessibility and honesty are key to any communication system as well. A strong leader must make him or herself available to his or her co-workers. The old adage that almost all managers say is, “My door is always open.” That’s great, but do others feel comfortable walking through it? The lines of communication must be open in all directions — from the top down, from the bottom up, and laterally.
Complaints, however, should only travel up. It would be foolish and naive to assume that gossip doesn’t take place in the workplace, but the more comfortable others are to speak freely with management, the less likely they are to engage in such behavior.
Understand that others may not always like or agree with what you are saying, but if the message is truthful, consistent and in the best of interest of the project, company, etc., then it should be conveyed without regret or hesitation.
Also, never forget that your title, salary or office size doesn’t make you any better (or worse) than those around you.
Be sure to distribute both praise and corrective criticism when necessary. If you take the time to point out performance when it does not meet expectations — with the motive always being to initiate improvement, not to insult or demean — then you should be as equally vocal when expectations are exceeded.
Lastly, face-to-face communication is still the best approach. Even in a world with e-mail, texting, social media, etc., the best way to establish, maintain and grow relationships is through personal interaction. It also happens to be the best way to ensure things get done quickly and without confusion.
To successfully manage others, you must treat them with compassion. Your co-workers are real people with genuine feelings, emotions, concerns, etc. In other words, they have real lives and to expect them to turn that off the moment they walk through the door may be ideal, but it is unrealistic and unfair.
Treat those around you like the good men and women that they are, not only personally but professionally. Always be mindful of what you are asking of them, and be realistic in your demands and expectations. This does not mean difficult tasks should be avoided — absolutely not. But it does mean all factors should be considered and that all resources needed to succeed are available.
You must recognize that all individuals are unique and have different motivators and pain points. The mentality that everyone must simply do what they are told because it’s their job may sound simple enough and, sure, there’s validity to that argument. However, this approach will also lead to poor morale, inferior production and, more than likely, frequent turnover. None of these are conducive to success.
Being compassionate toward those in your organization is key to earning — and maintaining — their respect, which is absolutely necessary for achieving sustained periods of prosperity.
You simply cannot manage if you don’t have confidence in yourself and those around you. You must believe in your abilities, their abilities, and also in the processes you implement.
As a manager, you must be willing to make difficult decisions. Trust your instincts and judgement, and never be too proud or stubborn to solicit the advice and input of others in your organization. Involving others in the decision-making process or even daily operations is not a sign of weakness or lack of confidence. Quite the opposite. It is a sign of confidence and security.
The ultimate decision must be made by you, but it should always be reached after considering all possible information and insights. Keep in mind that who is right pales in comparison to what is right.
This indicates that a manager has confidence in the individuals around him, which not only helps create and maintain healthy morale, but such empowerment also encourages growth, initiative and motivation among those in your company.
Simply put, you cannot expect others to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself. They must also know that you believe in them.
Do not, however, allow your confidence to become arrogance. The importance of humility cannot be overstated. Don’t tell or remind others how great you are. If it’s true, it will be evident.
No matter what your role is within a company, there will be good moments and bad moments. That’s just a part of life in general, and there’s no avoiding it.
When you’re in a management position, those situations are often amplified.
When things go well (for example, a client is extremely happy with a project you completed or a result they achieved) you may receive endless praise, hearing them tell you how great you are and how they couldn’t have done it without you.
When things aren’t going well, they will certainly let you know their thoughts about that, too — loudly!
These circumstances don’t only apply to clients. In fact, you’ll encounter these scenarios with co-workers within your company as well. Probably more so than with clients, as a matter of fact.
Regardless of the situation or validity of the comments, you must remain professional and maintain your composure. Human nature suggests we fight back when attacked, but you must rise above that tendency, remain calm and work toward a solution.
As stated earlier, being in management means being in the relationship business. Well, it also means being in the solutions business.
Even when being praised, it is important to keep your composure. Granted, the emotions are different, but don’t suddenly start believing everything you hear and lose sight of what it takes to maintain that level of quality or service. The standard isn’t to have success once, otherwise it wouldn’t be “the standard.”
Celebrate the “wins,” yes, but be sure to share the “victory” with all who helped secure it. Again, you’re only as good as those around you.
To manage effectively, others have to be able to depend on you. They cannot do that if you have a volatile temperament.
Do your best to keep your composure at all times, understanding that it isn’t always easy. It is were easy, everybody would do it! They can’t. Can you?
Remember, things are never as good as they seem and they’re never as bad as they seem.
5. Kommon Sense
Last but not least, common sense is a key component to effective management. You’d like to think it’s the easiest of the traits listed to attain — after all, it has common in the name — but it oftentimes seems to be the hardest.
Understanding that few things are as easy as they sound, don’t overcomplicate every situation by overthinking it. If it makes sense, it makes sense.
Being able to navigate through clutter and chaos in order to make decisions is atop the list of requirements for a strong manager. How quickly can you process information and turn it into an action plan?
Every individual with decision-making authority will make decisions that turn out to be wrong. The objective is to minimize those errors and improve your odds of making the right decisions. Common sense goes a long way in accomplishing this goal.
Working toward effective management
I don’t write this with the notion that I have mastered all — or any — of these skills. I haven’t. I have made plenty of mistakes along the way, and still do. In fact, I have developed a bit of a reputation for being a good apologizer. Well, you don’t do that without a lot of practice, if you know what I mean. I still learn every day from my peers, including Cris, who stresses the importance of efficiency in the workplace and helps each of her co-workers grow every day with positive reenforcement.
I do write this, however, with the benefit of experience. I have had the fortune and, at times, misfortune, of working for several different managers. You learn a lot from each — the good, the bad and the ugly — keeping what works and eliminating what doesn’t.
While a comprehensive list of what it takes to be an effective manager would be far more involved than what is stated above, this is a pretty solid overview of the basics. If you can incorporate these into your routine, you should have a good shot at success.
Lastly, remember to be yourself. You cannot manage or lead if you pretend to be something or someone that you are not.
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