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A Letter to a Manager

April 25, 2011

Dear Mr/Ms Manager –

Happy springtime and I hope you’re having a super week.  I realize it’s a busy time of year for you, but I trust you’ll indulge me and read this quick note that I’ve jotted down and sent to you about managing people.

Now no doubt you’ve attended some training courses/classes on how to effectively manage people.  And even if you never have, it’s pretty easy to find tips and resources ANYWHERE.  Go ahead –  google “tips for managers” or something similar and you’ll find more info than you can possibly devour in a few sittings.

Naturally, as I sat down to write this letter to you, it was initially pretty tempting to compile a list; call it the “Top 6 Tips for Managers” and watch the web traffic to my little corner of the interwebz pick up.

So I started off by making a list for you:

  • Embrace diversity amongst your staff and (pretty please?) don’t merely surround yourself with people who are ‘just like you.’
  • Encourage fresh, new and different perspectives.
  • Have real conversations with your staff and provide feedback, feedback and more feedback.
  • Praise in public.
  • Criticize in private.
  • Believe in the abilities of your employees and trust them to do the right thing until they prove otherwise.

And I like my list.  I believe every single one of those tips is valid, important and something that you need to write on a piece of paper and tape to the wall over your desk.  Maybe you can even embroider these words of wisdom on pillows which can then adorn that plush comfy couch you have in your fancy corner office.

But then I got to thinking about tips and lists and pithy sayings. Is it possible for one to merely refer to a guidebook or handbook or roster of rules and ideas and effectively manage people?  Isn’t that, perhaps, what’s gotten so many failed-managers in trouble?  They’ve been placed in a leadership position and imagine that what got them to that position will carry them onward to success in their new role as a manager of people.  They assume that tossing off bon mots like “I recognize a job well done and reward my staff as individuals” will demonstrate their grasp of this important aspect of their professional responsibilities.  And they begin to believe their own hype and figure they’ve ‘earned’ the rights and privileges that go along with the fancy title, embossed business cards on better-quality paper stock, extra weeks of vacation and a much more fluid  workday schedule.

So I decided that I would toss aside my list and provide you with one important concept:

* * * * * * * * * *

Set the Example

* * * * * * * * * *

For I believe this is the most important lesson you can learn.  You’re always on display and your employees will look to you determine how they should behave, how they  should work and what the tone of their interactions should be with others.   Are you following the rules you expect others to follow?  Are you gossiping or indulging in rumor-spreading? Are YOU complaining about the direction or goals of the company/business unit? Are your actions speaking louder than your words?  What is the example you want to set?

Thanks so much for reading this letter.  I wish you all the best and expect that you’ll have many years of management success.



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