Monday, 16. August 2010
Every step that you take on the ladder of career development, takes you further away from the coalface and the day-to-day interactions that shape the company you work for. When I was just starting out as a junior manager faced with that daunting task of managing employees for the first time, I was given a piece of advice by my then Managing Director, which I have never forgotten.
He told me to never forget what it is like being on the other side of the door. When I asked him what he meant he explained that as you develop as a manager, you gain knowledge and therefore an element of power, and sometimes you forget how this can affect other people. A lot of managers forget how curious they were before they knew what happened in the meetings that go on behind closed doors. His example taught me to be aware that an unscheduled management meeting can worry employees, that a harmless comment can set the rumour mill running and that a seemingly small problem to you can be very big to one of your employees.
The multi-faceted requirements of being a modern manager mean that it’s very easy to become absorbed by the things that you are dealing with. Building on his advice, I have always tried to make sure that I take time out and “walk the floor”. Talking to your employees will give you a very good indication of the health of your company – you may not like what they say, but listen and encourage all your managers to do the same. Try and remove sources of worry for people, be open about the purpose of meetings and if you have to have a crisis meeting – try and do it off-site. There’s nothing worse for employees than seeing a stream of worried looking managers coming out of a meeting room – think how you would have felt if you were the onlooker to this scene – when you were on the other side of the door. As business leaders we all have to deal with confidential and worrying issues at times, as well as difficult situations. There are also times when we have to take actions that affect our employees, but the way that we handle them can make a huge difference to all concerned.
Most businesses are hugely reliant on inputs from the people that work there. All too often we recognise the input that we ourselves put in, but don’t recognise that actually we’re part of a team. High performing teams know what their aims are and recognise the effects that individual actions have on the overall team output. Learn to recognise how you work as Manager and then more importantly, put yourself on the other side of the door and think about how the way that you work affects your employees. You may think that you’re approachable, but are you really? If you dare to challenge yourself to find out, I think that you, like me, will be surprised by what you find…