©2008-, mrkent.com

Whether you are faced with handling the basic principles of personnel management, human resources management, behavioral management, conflict management, time management, project management, and even classroom management, this web tutorial can help you find some answers to the questions you may have about how to deal with people and improve employee performance.

You have most likely arrived at this management page for one of two reasons: You have a desire to become a manager, or, you are already working in a management position and want to improve upon your techniques of dealing with people.

So, lets begin by looking at the definition of the word, manager. Webster's Dictionary provides the following:

A person who directs a team or athlete.

That doesn't seem to be a very lengthy definition. But there is one key word that needs to be recognized above the others, and that is the word, directs. The definition does not say anything about being the boss, or bossy, or domineering, or overbearing, or heavy-handed, or forceful, or authoritarian, or demanding, or controlling, or dictatorial, or . . . need we continue?

Before we continue, you need to understand that MrKent is NOT anti-management. In fact, the results of aptitude tests he has taken have always indicated that he is generally pro-management. This has by and large been proven throughout his life by the positions he has held: He spent many years as a classroom teacher. He next became the manager of a radio station. He went from there to become the Chief Administrator of a boys' boarding school. And from there he moved on to become the Director of Instruction of a career training institution.

In the process he was able to learn though experience what does and what does not make a good manager. This page is his attempt to help you become the best leader of others that you can be.

Now that we have an idea what a good manager is NOT, lets look at the hierarchy of management:
  1. Owner
  2. CEO
  3. Supervisor
  4. Manager
  5. Lead
  6. Associate
Not all businesses are set up strictly in this order but this is a generally common picture of how the management tree is set up. The Owner is sometimes also the CEO, and Supervisor, and Manager, and Lead - and maybe even the Associate. Especially if we are speaking of a small company. But most companies are large enough to be able to break down the duties into an order very similar to that shown here.

Now we must ask ourselves, “Is the Lead person a manager?” The answer is “Yes!” How about the Owner, or CEO? Is that person a manager? Again, the answer is “Yes!” Remember the definition? A manager is someone who DIRECTS others! And that pretty much includes everyone on the above list.

So, no matter where you fall in that list, it is a good bet that you would probably like to move up to the next level at some time in the future. Reading the following material can help you do just that.

We begin by discussing what it means to direct others. A good starting point would be to think back to a time when you watched an old western movie. Do you remember the part where the stage coach is pulling into town? The teamster (that's the driver) is sitting up above the team of horses holding a set of reins in his hands. He whistles and shouts at the team as well as pulling on the reins in order to get them to go in the direction he desires. The team seems to do exactly what the teamster is directing them to do.

That's a pretty good picture of what we call Effective Management Techniques.

We have four or more horses following the direction of one person. But consider what it has taken to make all of this work together smoothly. There are a couple of very important requirements that need to have already taken place. First, you can't just take any old horse and hook it up with this team and expect it to know what to do. Each horse needs to be well trained for the position it takes in the team. Also, each horse must want to follow the directions of the teamster. Without training and motivation the teamster is helpless to accomplish his goal of making that stage coach travel down the road. Without training and motivation the teamster can end up looking quite foolish.

The associates that work under your management position need to have the same to ingredients if you want them to perform in such a way that you accomplish the goals you desire without looking quite foolish.

The above illustration is a pretty accurate definition of the word manager. That is to say, a GOOD manager. I'm sure we have all had the experience of working under managers that seemed to lack the ability to make us want to follow his or her direction.

When MrKent was in college he worked at a very fancy ship restaurant. People paid a lot of money to eat there and they usually left very large tips. There was live musical entertainment every night of the week and going to work was a pleasure - except for one thing: There was a manager who we will call Ruby. She was in charge of the waiters and bus boys. Under high-pressure situations (usually on Friday and Saturday nights) Ruby's personality weaknesses became evident. She would become short-tempered. She would begin telling people what to do instead of asking in a polite manner. She also had the habit of giving you an assignment, then, giving you another before you had finished the first, and then, scolding you later when she discovered that you had not finished the first.

You could always count on Ruby to be yelling at everyone under her leadership before the evening was over. Week after week it seemed to get worse and worse as the pressure continued to build and the contention between Ruby and the crew steadily increased. Finally, the group met after work one night and decided that the next time Ruby became violent they would all walk out and never come back. Without fail, she stayed true-to-form the next Saturday evening. In the middle of the dinner hour, at the peak time of the evening, all of the waiters and bus-boys walked off the job. No one knows what ever happened to Ruby.

In another situation MrKent worked part-time at a Wal-Mart store in the hardware department after his retirement. During the four years of employment there he had the opportunity to watch as several (want-to-be) assistant managers crossed his path. Some really understood what the job of a manager really requires. Many others seemed to be blinded by their own selfish desire to climb the ladder of success. But there was one assistant manager (we'll call him William) who knew exactly what it took to make his associates want to follow his direction. And today he holds the top management position of a very successful Wal-Mart store. William climbed the ladder of success the easy way. His followers helped him get there.

So, how does a GOOD manager get folks to want to follow his or her direction?

The answer to that is simply finding out what people need and then trying to meet that need.

One of the most basic needs that drives people to find a job is the need for $$$. But the need for money is met on the employee's first day of work. So the manager doesn't generally need to be concerned about meeting an employee's financial needs. At least not on a daily basis.

Another basic need that an employee has is to be appreciated by his or her superiors. A good manager finds many opportunities to meet this basic need.
  • Verbal recognition - “You are doing a find job.” - “Thanks for helping yesterday.” - etc.
  • Pitching in - “I've got a few minutes, let me help you with that.”
  • Written recognition - A short note that says, “You're doing a great job.”
  • Friendly relationship - A smile - a pat on the back - sharing a thought - telling a joke.
Another basic need is that of being treated like a human being. A good manager does NOT flaunt his or her position. Many want-to-be managers think they will lose control of their position if they allow themselves to appear to be on the same level as their employees. The truth is this: You, as a manager, will gain the respect and admiration of your employees by doing all you can to make them feel important.

Trying to make your employees feel inferior to yourself is more likely to arouse their anger and distain toward you. Employees have feelings and an alert manager will do all he can to keep those feelings positive.

If you are not the owner of the business but simply hold a management position you have a great responsibility to your superiors to be sure the employees under you are satisfied. Dissatisfied employees always produce much less than those who are contented with their jobs. Your supervisor has given you the responsibility as a manager to be sure that the employees under you are working at their full potential. When your employees perform well it not only makes your job much easier, it also helps to boost your standing with your supervisor.

If your superiors are happy with the performance of the employees under you, you can also be quite sure that the customers who do business with your company will also be satisfied. When every part of a business is working smoothly and all employees feel they are part of the team, it brings about an attractive representation that seems to delight your customers.

As a manager you can also expect to run into problems from time to time which are difficult to solve. In most cases these problems involve people rather than equipment or products. Non-personnel problems are much easier to tackle than personnel problems. A machine or product can always be fixed or replaced but that is not the case with people.

The most effective way to handle personnel problems is through dialog. Taking time to listen is the most important part of handling personnel issues. We are not talking about listening to the words being spoken. Rather, we are referring to the person speaking these words. Listen to the person. When you sit down as a manager with one of your employees while trying to resolve an issue you need to understand that the whole reason for the meeting is because the employee feels as though their back is against the wall. Or, maybe they feel they are down and can't see any way of getting back up. Whatever the problem, remember that you are dealing with a real, live person who is looking for answers.

Take the time necessary, within reason, to make the employee feel you really do care and are trying to understand their feelings and the problems they face. Once you have heard the issue at hand, then begin to create a dialog that is aimed at a resolution. The best way of resolving an issue is to reach as much of a compromise as is possible in they eyes of the employee. This may or may not always be possible. But you should work toward that goal.

By the way, fewer issues will arise if you have already set up a loose, friendly dialog with each one of your employees. Neglecting their needs or making them feel as though you have no concern for them as a person is much more likely to create problems between you and your employees. It also creates a tension that can generate issues between the workers themselves.

A good manager is always alert and looking to spot trouble in order to begin dealing with it before it has an opportunity to become an issue that needs a great deal of attention.

As a manager you also want to be on the lookout for the positive attributes of your employees. Don't just come to work and do your job and go home. Come to work and keep your eyes open to see if you can spot the positive characteristics possessed by your employees. Look for special talents some might have. This becomes a real plus when placing someone in a position for which they are perfectly suited. It also helps you avoid doing just the opposite. Placing someone in a position for which they are absolutely not suited can become a catastrophe.

Finally, keep your eyes open for that person who casually displays a considerable amount of leadership ability. If there are management or supervisory positions that fall under your management level you will find it much easier to fill those positions with qualified personnel if you already know who can do the job and who cannot. This is very important when needing to replace a manager or supervisor who has either moved up the ladder or who has resigned his or her position.

In the end, you will find it much easier to manage people if you will make it your goal to keep your focus on meeting their needs rather than selling your product or service.