6 Go-To Rules for Effective Management

Sebastian Gogola

By SEBASTIAN GOGOLA

6 Rules To Help Guide Effective Management

“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”
– Colin Powell

When using the terms manager & leader interchangeably please remember that I consider both as one, equally important. Where a leader ‘Manages Things, Leads People.’ 

1

Keep The Team Motivated

While interviewing a candidate for a Customer Success Manager role, we asked the potential hire what he could bring to the team, making members feel enabled and motivated in their roles. He paused and after much silence replied; “you know, I am trying to think of the best answer and to be honest I would have to ask them first.” This was a fair response. This is the concept behind the Platinum Rule where unlike the Golden Rule, its focus is to “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” 

An effective leader will understand their team members and what drives them. By having consistent 1:1s with people, managers will gain better insights if processes need to be improved, training is needed, schedules need to be rearranged, overall people’s motivation levels and what is affecting them.

My favorite tool in measuring these levels is the Performance Analysis Quadrant (PAQ). It works by asking two simple questions:

– Does the employee have adequate job knowledge?

– Does the employee have the appropriate attitude to perform the job?

Using the tool below, hover over the flipboxes to see appropriate solutions if performance is an issue. 

Motiv­ation

Quadrant A
If the employee has sufficient job knowledge but has an improper attitude, this may be classed as a motiva­tional problem. The conseq­uences (reward and punish­ment) of the person's behavior will have to be adjusted. This is not always bad as the employee just might not realize the conseq­uence of his or her actions.

Selec­tion

Quadrant C
If the employee lacks both job knowledge and a favorable attitude, then that person may be improperly placed in the position. This may imply a problem with employee selection or promotion, and suggests that a transfer or discharge be consid­ered.
Sebastian Gogola

Resou­rce­ / Pr­oce­ss

Quadrant B
If the employee has both job knowledge and a favorable attitude, but perfor­mance is unsati­sfa­ctory, then the problem may be out of control of the employee, such as a lack of resources or time, the task needs process improv­ement, or the workst­ation is not ergono­mically designed.

Training and or Coaching

Quadrant D
If the employee has sufficient job knowledge but has an improper attitude, this may be classed as a motiva­tional problem. The conseq­uences (reward and punish­ment) of the person's behavior will have to be adjusted. This is not always bad as the employee just might not realize the conseq­uence of his or her actions.

“Personally I am very fond of strawberries, but I have found that fish prefer worms. So when I went fishing, I thought about what they wanted. I didn’t bait the hook with strawberries. Rather, I dangled a worm in front of the fish.” – Dale Carnegie

It is important to understand what the team member needs to perform their tasks, not what we think they need. If a member falls into the C Quadrant, lacking motivation then training will be pointless. It will be time to conduct a Performance Improvement Program (PIP).

Lead the Knowledge Base

While completing a Service Strategies course to become a Certified Support Manager, I was introduced to something known as the ‘Smart-Talk Trap’. This is where people know too much but do too little. Sadly, we see colleagues say intelligent things, inspire new ideas and then are rewarded leaving the rest to figure out the implementation. The reality is that such behavior will leave others no longer listening or wasting time implementing such changes. To avoid the smart talk trap, effective leaders need to close the knowing-doing gap. Meaning, if you want others to do something, you must spend a lot of time doing it yourself. As a Support Manager, I recall staying late to close out the remaining helpdesk ticket folders to keep with our response time objective. The next morning, I spoke with the team about the importance of service level agreements. If a new feature to the product was being released I made sure to learn how it worked first. Then create a training process demonstrating the integration to team members who in turn would train their peers. To close the gap, leaders need to know how to do the work framing questions with ‘How’, not just ‘Why’.

Personally, I feel to close the knowing-doing gap the leader needs to check their own motivational levels and not procrastinate. I am not saying to avoid delegating tasks, but understand the work you are delegating. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, organizations that overcome the Knowing-Doing Gap share 5 characteristicshaving leaders that…

1. Know how and do the work.

When I first became a Support Manager I needed to understand the product’s technologies we supported to our customers. This included:

  • Powershell, Python, Bash scripting supporting integrations with REST API
  • Understanding UEM, EMM, MDM technologies

To close my own knowledge gap specifically towards Web APIs I took a course in Building Web APIs From Scratch. After learning Javascript, Node.js, Express.js, etc. I felt confident in my own ability to support internal & external customers.

2. Use plain language and explain simple concepts

If you work in the Tech Industry then this is a must. Often times you will be articulating low-level methodologies in high level concepts. If you cannot explain it to kindergartener then you do not know it well enough. I have had my own challenges untangling the alphabet soup of three-letter acronyms, abbreviations and arrays of jargon in this ever evolving world of technology. Keep it simple!
 

3. Ask “How”, not just “Why”

Instead of adding water to a sea of criticism by telling others ‘why something will not work’, frame the question to ‘how will we get this to work’. Asking for suggestions will open the door to genuine problem solving.

4. Keep a strong structure to close the loop

Talk is good if it offers direction and focus. The goal in avoiding the smart talk trap is to have action items with concrete deadlines. If you are backing your words with results then people will take you serious. Don’t be afraid to make decisions and implement them.

5. Learn through trial and error

Experience is always the best teacher. Had I not been thrown into the water with my first management position then you would not be reading this blog. No one can train an individual for every circumstance that arises. In order to learn one must go through it.

Measure Everything!

At one point or another in our careers we have all heard the famous quote:

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

– Peter Drucker

and while there may be added value whose success cannot be measured, the quote holds true. How can one measure how successful they are with no controls to measure against?

For example, 

If you are providing a service and need to know how many customers would refer your product to another individual, could you provide a NPS score?

As team members seek incentivised performance reviews to gauge areas of improvement are metrics in place?

When proposing new software components could a cost / benefit analysis be performed to calculate the return on investment (ROI) broken down for the next 5 years?

If you can’t measure them, then you can’t possibly manage or improve them, as if they do not exist.

How do you measure the below business aspects?

  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Performance Measurement, Metrics & Retention
  • Operations Productivity
  • Financial Management

Remember the ‘Why’ in What You Do…

In Simon Sinek’s book, ‘Start With Why’, there are fundamental questions asked that I think every organization and its employees need to ask… Why am I here? Why does the organization exist? Why do I do what I do each day? Using great examples such as Apple or the Wright Brothers, Simon makes the point that asking why and understanding the beliefs of a company will inspire team members far better than any monetary reward.

It is vital that a leader live and instill a winning culture encompassing values, mindsets and behaviors that create an environment conducive to success. 

Manage Things, Lead People

Management and leaderships skills are needed at organizational & personal levels, but when people are asked if they would rather be managed or led, most would choose the latter. Bad managers will try to manipulate and good leaders will persuade. Leaders manage processes, trainings and technology without micromanaging members as ‘human resources’.

Don’t Take Yourself So God Damn Serious!

There will be days of mental exhaustion from our competitive business industry obsessed with measurement. To avoid falling into a negative downward spiral one must always remind themselves of rule number 6, and not take themselves too serious! 

By shifting our mindset we allow our analytical minds to get out of our own way. I recall the best advice I received was from a former colleague when discussing the prior meeting’s newly proposed targets. He reminded me it is just noise, lead the team to success and everything else will follow. Too often in meetings the smart talk trap can sneak in when discussing numbers and the plethora of ideas to improve them rush in with inflated senses of importance. 

The best leaders are smart enough to act like they are in charge but wise enough not to let their power go to their heads.

Below is a video of Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, teacher, speaker, and best-selling author speak on rule number 6.