Five Ideas for Becoming a More Effective Manager

By Heather Baldwin

Sales rep and sales manager – no two jobs could be more different when it comes to the people factor. Salespeople generally operate and measure success as individuals; managers must measure success by the accomplishments of the people they supervise. “Fortunately, working with others and getting them to give you their best can be just as rewarding as your individual work once you get the hang of it,” says Bo Dietl, author of Business Lunchatations (Penguin, 2005) and head of Bo Dietl & Assoc., one of the largest international companies specializing in corporate investigations and security. Here, says Dietl, are five tips that will help you manage and guide your people more effectively.

1. Don’t be overly critical. Sure, it’s part of your job to keep your people on the right track, and that involves pointing out errors. But some managers aren’t happy and don’t feel they’re doing their job unless they’re pointing out errors, telling people where they went wrong and why they could do better. You’re the boss because you probably have more knowledge and experience than most of the people you supervise. Make sure you use that knowledge to guide and teach, not to nitpick and show people how dumb they are compared to you.

2. Let them fail. Mediocre managers think it’s a black eye on their record when an employee goofs. Successful managers “know that best way for their people to learn and grow is through experience, and that means taking chances and making errors,” says Dietl. When you can, let your people try new skills without a supervisor looking over their shoulders.

3. Be available. Few things damage employee motivation more than management inattention. That’s especially true when an employee has worked hard on a project and he or she wants you to see the results, but the information remains stuck in your in box under piles of paper. “Although you’ve got a lot to do, give your attention first to approving and reviewing projects in progress,” says Dietl. That means inviting employees to sit down when they stop to ask questions or discuss projects. If you’re pressed for time, it means setting up an appointment for later in the day and keeping it. Employees will appreciate and respond to your interest in them.

4. Improve the workplace. Ask what tools your people feel they need to better do their jobs. Find out if there’s anything about their office space that’s uncomfortable or unpleasant. “By providing the right equipment or work space,” says Dietl, “you can achieve enormous increases in output with a minimal investment.”

5. Have a personal interest in people. Just as you want your sales reps to get to know their customers, managers must get to know their people, including their problems, family life, health and hobbies. Ask how your rep’s son did in his Little League game the night before or how his wife is feeling after her bout with the flu. Don’t know about these things? Get into the habit of taking a few minutes a day to say hello and chat with your team members. Often it’s the little things, such as giving someone an afternoon off when you know his son is leaving for college the next morning, that have the biggest effect on loyalty.