Sunday, December 17, 2006

Effective Management: Keys To Being A Successful Leader

The ability to bring people together to accomplish a task is a difficult talent to master. It takes a combination of acquired skills and experience to guarantee the success of anyone in a leadership role. An incompetent manager can have a devastating impact on an organization. A leader with the knowledge, experience and insight necessary to ensure a high performing and profitable organization is hard to come by. In a recent Gallup survey, it was found that 25% of U.S. employees would fire their boss if they could. With one out of four managers failing, it is easy to see how ineffective management decreases employee performance and increases customer dissatisfaction resulting in a negative affect on the organization’s bottom-line.

The art of effective management rarely presents as an inbred gift. An effective manager must be an innovative leader who exhibits creativity, enthusiasm, confidence and an innate respect and good will toward every individual within the organization. The manager has to be willing to embrace new concepts and reconsider old practices in order to unleash the potential of the team. To be an effective manager, one is required to learn and utilize four basic management tools: coaching, feedback, counseling and discipline.

Coaching is the ongoing, informal training that confirms when an employee is doing well and identifies potential areas of opportunity. There are five essential keys to the coaching process.
• Listening with sensitivity and consideration to hear what is really happening should be your primary objective. In the coaching function, learn to use the power of silence. An effective manager seeks first to understand, then to be understood. This allows employees to know that you value their opinions and keep their interests, priorities and goals in mind. Actively listening to your employees builds trust and lets them know that you respect them as a “whole” person. Employees will be more open and will more readily clue you in to valuable information you may not otherwise be privy to.

• Language that demonstrates the ability to create new realities with precise types of speech is necessary to clearly disseminate your message with the highest likelihood of retention. Communicating effectively with appropriate language, pitch, tone and volume is the best way to articulate company goals and objectives.

• Attitude greatly impacts your ability to produce results. Approaching employees with a caring attitude aids in the employees being receptive and open to communication. An abusive, hostile or even disinterested attitude directly impacts the emotional health and productivity of employees. A manager who displays a positive attitude in every message reinforces the employee’s belief in his or her own value to the organization.

• Self-Development is the process by which managers continue to strengthen their own skill set through continued training and value-added experiences. By being a model of excellence, productivity and fulfillment, an effective manager demonstrates the acceptable behaviors that set the tone for a climate of responsibility.

• Leadership involves developing a clear vision and strong message, which must then be successfully communicated to the team. Your expectation of employees and their expectations of themselves are the primary factors in how well employees perform in the workplace. Set achievable goals and share them with your employees so that they know what is expected of them. Delegate the workload and set realistic deadlines. This will provide invaluable training to employees and save on hours of unnecessary work. Utilize a time management system that is simple, organized and efficient to track completion of tasks. Being able to hold employees accountable is a vital function of the coaching role.
• Feedback provides specific information that lets employees know how well they are performing. Feedback can be positive or corrective. It builds employee beliefs in their capabilities and provides them with insight into how they can improve their production. Corrective feedback should only be given in private. Feedback should always start positive and end positive. Never solely identify what the employee is not doing or is doing wrong. Employees need to have their confidence reinforced through praise and appreciation. Feedback is a two-way communication device. Allow employees to respond to your message so they know that they are included in their own development. One of the top complaints employers receive in regards to employee dissatisfaction is poor to non-existent feedback and recognition. Opening the lines of communication allows you to stay tuned in to your employees so you can be proactive in resolving situations before they escalate. Ask SMART questions (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound) to identify fears, problem areas or opportunities.

• Counseling is a tool that shows employees what they need to improve their performance. Point out issues in the employee's work in a calm, non-accusatory manner. Ask them what you can do to help. Work with the employee to develop concrete goals and a timeline for resolving the matter. If the problem is personal versus job-related, be empathetic and offer a flexible solution to help create a synergized work/life balance. Remember, you are not a therapist. Refer employees to the proper support groups if necessary. Counseling measures help to reduce turnover, prevent disciplinary action and shows that you are committed to your employee’s success.

• Discipline is a necessary evil to help employees follow company rules. Disciplinary action should be taken as a last-resort effort when previous coaching, feedback and counseling attempts have failed. The primary goal of discipline is not to punish your employees but rather to help guide them back to satisfactory job performance. Focus solely on performance remains fair and impartial. Although it is recommended to dole out discipline as soon after the misbehavior as possible, it is equally important to make sure that you have all the facts before you act. Improperly or unfairly holding an employee accountable for an action without adequate investigation can lead to lowered employee morale, loss of respect and possible lawsuits.

Effective management is more than just implementing policies and procedures. It means getting the most out of all of your employees, helping them to perform at their best individually, cooperatively and in groups. Managing your team effectively and efficiently requires the willingness to learn a variety of leadership skills. An effective manager must be able to coach, provide feedback, counsel and be comfortable in disciplining team members. By developing your management skills you will appreciate colossal benefits in increased productivity, decreased stress and increased confidence in both yourself as an effective leader, as well as in the employees on your team.

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