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The 5 critical things for effective management

“Managers must share their strategy with the team and let them know exactly what you expect from them.  Encourage them to ask questions and challenge your thinking. Embrace their ideas.  Then, keep on repeating yourself, again and again.  You can never do it enough.”  – Tony Manning

I have managed people in a variety of workplaces for over 20 years and I have learnt that effective management is all about managing 2 things:

  1. Yourself
  2. Your team

Seems simple right?  Well, the truth is it’s far from it. 

The hardest part about being a manager is that it involves managing yourself and growing yourself continually.  The second hardest part about being a manager is that it involves managing people, vastly different people, with vastly different ideas of what they want to do and how they want to be treated.

A manager’s job, very simply, is to manage people and ensure they get their jobs done.   How we do that and how we do that effectively is a huge topic and one that keeps me busy every day.

Today, I want to tell you about the 5 critical things people need to know if they are to be effective, and thereby if you are to be effective as a manager.

They are simple things that when well communicated will increase the effectiveness in your workplace dramatically (and as a bonus reduce conflict.) 

Successful managers communicate these 5 critical things constantly.

  1. What to do:                                                 THE TASK
  2. Why do it:                                               THE REASON
  3. How to do it:                                              THE METHOD
  4. How well to do it:                                    THE STANDARD
  5. How well it is being done:                   FEEDBACK

Let’s have a look at each of these specifically…

  1. What to do:  THE TASK

This item sits at number one of the list of items to be communicated, for obvious reasons.  If people do not know what to do, they will not do it.   No matter how cross you get, how much discipline you dish out, or how much you dock their pay. People will not do the job if they do not know what to do.  

When telling people what to do, remember to make sure the person you are telling to do the job, can carry out that function.  Have the right person for the right job or your frustration levels will be through the roof and your effectiveness will be very low.

For people that carry out tasks regularly, you will not need to give too many details on what is to be done.  But for those that are new, detail must be shared until the person can clearly feedback to you what is required.

Never say “they know what to do, I don’t have to tell them” this is a costly mistake that managers often make.  If each person carried out their work to the right standard, on time, every time, not needing to be told what to do – there would be no need for managers of any kind.  The fact is, people will always need managers, some more than others.   If you have a person who can do their job, well, on time, to the right standard, without much communication – give that person a significant raise or promote them into a responsible position, whatever you do, don’t let them go – they are far too rare and valuable.

Most managers under-communicate by 70%, don’t be caught doing the same.

Say things like “ Hey Joe, I know today is Friday, so I will be expecting the weekly report on my desk by 10:00, is there anything you need clarity on, or how can I help you get that task done on time?” or “Today I need you to make sure the report is in by 15:00, do you have any questions on it”  This gives the task that needs to be done but also opens up the opportunity for any discussion to get clarity or overcome concerns.

  • Why do it:  THE REASON

Once the instruction for the task has been given, we need to share with the person the reason this task needs to be done.  Why it is important that this task is done.  It is important to communicate openly at this step; share the reason the task must be done.

No.  It is not acceptable to just say “because it is part of your job” or “because I have told you to do it”.  The reason gives the person doing the task value in carrying out the task.  Without knowing the value in completing the task the chances of the task being completed on time and completed to the right standard are virtually zero. 

Share with the person the bigger picture of where their task fits in the bigger system, of any people this task will affect if it is not done, of any risks that the company may be exposed to if the task is not done, and of the value, they are adding to the workplace by completing the task.   Sharing this information does not have to be time-consuming or long-winded, but it is crucial to improving the effectiveness of the task being done.

Say “I need you to pack this shelf with these bottles of water in the next 20 minutes, so that every customer that is coming in for their lunch break, will have easy access to the cool water they need.  This will increase our sales and make all of our incentive targets easier to reach this month.”  Remember to always be sincere and honest in your remarks, never make things up – the truth always comes out.

  • How to do it:  THE METHOD

Telling the person what they need to do (THE TASK) is good, telling the person why they are doing the task (THE REASON) is better, but telling the person how to do it (THE METHOD) is crucial to effectiveness.

Now, telling a person how to do a task, is dependent on a few factors.  You do not need to go into detail for people who have been doing the task for several years and nothing much has changed.  You do not want to be too descriptive with people in jobs where creativity is key, provide the guidelines, but allow them to innovate and change the how if necessary.

For the most part simple instructions such as, “Please capture these invoices by 14:00 using the Pastel system and send through to me via email when you are done” give enough information on the method to be used.  This takes for granted that the person already knows how to use the Pastel system and the system has already been set up with the right parameters for the information that must be captured. 

You may need to communicate the how by sharing, who the person should team up with, what research should be done, who they should chat with or learn from, what programme needs to be used, or even what technique needs to be applied.

Communicating THE METHOD well reduces time wasted and frustration in doing the task.

  • How well to do it: THE STANDARD

Most managers will score fairly well on giving people the task to do, moderately on the reason and the method, but extremely poorly on the standard to which it must be done.  And yet, I will often hear managers say, “look at this, look at what a poor job they have done, why can’t they just do this right? They are such a weak employee” etc.  Managers will say all these things, become easily frustrated and blame the person, a lot faster than they will learn to communicate the standard. 

Remember one of the 2 things you need to manage to achieve effective management is yourself.  You need to grow and find more, better ways to communicate the standard before you blame your employee.

You can communicate the standard in a variety of ways:

  • Share and explain the company policies and best practice documents
  • Practice following the policy and best practice document guidelines yourself, people learn what you model
  • Have a clear process and job flow document and share them with the right employees. (These can even be done with photos or pictures for illiterate employees)
  • Show by doing – show the standard by completing the task yourself, with the person
  • Provide ongoing training on areas that can be improved
  • Provide regular feedback on the jobs done
  • Provide incentive/reasons for the job to be completed a specific way

For most of my working life, I have been involved in the hospitality industry.  An industry that requires very high standards, but for the most part employs less skilled and often illiterate employees.  This can make reaching a standard a tough thing to do, especially since it has strict timelines. 

What I often used to do was create a ‘flip file’ for each staff member on their job requirements and the standard they needed to achieve.  So, for instance, a housekeeper would have their file with them, when they opened it, there would be step by step instructions with a photo of each step. 

Making the bed would have each step, a photo for each step and then crucially a final photo of what the bed needed to look like to reach the right standard.  They could compare the photo to their bed and see if they reached the standard.  I would be able to say if they reached the standard or not easily because the photo set the standard.   When I gave each employee their file, I would take the time to do each of the tasks with them, so they were also taught the right standard to achieve. 

This can be used for all levels of employees, you can use screenshots, instead of photos if their job is computer-based.  Figure out how you are going to show the staff what the standard is, not just expect it to be achieved with a bit of luck.

Then actively thank or congratulate them on achieving the standard OFTEN.  You can never appreciate too much (but again, make sure it is sincere).

  • How well it is being done:  FEEDBACK

The most forgotten of all the critical things to communicate.  We often use the excuse of being too busy, for not providing feedback.  Waiting for the annual reviews to take place, where our perception is biased by what happened last week and not what has happened over the entire year.

Feedback is best delivered simply and on time.   When a job is done well and on time, thank the person sincerely and tell them you appreciate it.   If the job is not done well or on time, don’t wait until the last minute, step in as soon as you notice something isn’t going according to plan or instructions.  Ask questions, provide information, LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN, discuss options, go back to communicating the other 4 critical things.  Handling “negative” feedback well and right away, reduces conflict and frustration quickly and gives the chance for things to still be done well and on time. 

Often people get stuck and are too afraid to ask for help or seek clarity, and by asking the question “You seem to not be making progress with this, how can I help?” you free the person to communicate and then find what they need to continue the task.

Give feedback – negative or positive – at the right times, do not wait.   When giving feedback be sure to say things in the right way.  It is often not what we say, but how we say it that causes a great deal of unnecessary damage.

In summary, effective management requires you communicating these 5 critical things on an ongoing basis.  Don’t be afraid to communicate as a manager, learn to do so well and continually.

Download our EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT toolbox talk poster, for a great summary of what we have just shared. 

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