In my first full year of leading a team, I’ve had my fair share of ups, downs, lefts and rights. My transition from worker-bee to boss-lady hasn’t been the smoothest. After taking some time to reflect on my journey, I reached a “Eureka!” moment about management. I’m going to share it with all of you in hopes that it will help you reach your own “Eureka” moment a little sooner.
After a year of flailing under the harsh glare of the management spotlight, I realized that my problem was shockingly simple. The biggest mistake I was making as a manger was:
I assumed that everyone else was as good an employee as I was.
My high school biology teacher used to say that “to assume is to make an ass out of you and me.” I assumed that since I was a good employee everyone else must be one too. I just couldn’t understand why some people would turn in projects riddled with typos or come unprepared to meetings. Where was their sense of pride in their work? Didn’t they feel satisfaction in a job well done?
For example, a friend of mine works for a large game testing company where the turnover is extremely high and the qualifications for employment are very low. People there are being terminated on a regular basis. In one instance, an employee was let go for bringing a pornographic DVD to the office and watching it on his work computer. Another employee was fired for sleeping on the job and in his “exit interview” started screaming at the HR rep to show him where exactly in his contract it said he couldn’t nap at his desk. The rep pointed the “at will” clause in the contract and sent him on his way.
While I realize that it’s impossible to create a policy that will account for all unacceptable work behaviors, I do think that, as a manager, people look to you to set expectations and lead by example. You may be thinking that anyone with some common sense would know how to act appropriately at the office (Bringing porn to work? Really?) but the reality is that everyone’s definition of “appropriate” is different.
That is why these are the most important things you can do as a manager to make sure your team is happy, healthy and productive:
- Set expectations of behavior early – this could include office hours, dress code, etc.
- Create and communicate deliverables – set firm deadlines for projects and enforce them.
- Give praise for meeting expectations – this could be as simple as saying “great work!” Discourage poor performance – follow-up when someone fails to meet expectations and address any issues right away.
- Be willing to listen – sometimes expectations can be too high for some people. Solicit feedback and consider adjusting if necessary.
But what if you already do all these things and your employees still don’t perform? By establishing a minimum level of performance, your employees can either choose to float to the surface or sink to the bottom. If you have a sinker weighing you down, it might be time for that person to consider finding another pond to swim in.