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June 9, 2014 Biz Books

Seven ways to become a better manager

“Management” by Brian Tracy (AMAMCOM, $9.95).

Manager (n.): A person of authority who gets things done by working with and through others. Effective managers focus on results, not process and activity. Their value involves helping others increase their productivity. They continually ask: “Could there be a better way?”

Tracy highlights the seven vital functions of an effective manager:

1. “Make plans.” “Think on paper” by writing down the chronological steps that need to be taken to reach goals. Think about obstacles you may encounter, too.

2. “Get organized.” Before taking action, discuss the plan with people involved in its execution. You need buy-in; you also need input to ensure you haven't overlooked something.

3. “Find the best people.” Don't settle for good. Find the best people for the job. “Dehire” those not capable or unwilling to do excellent work.

4. “Learn to delegate.” You can't maximize your productivity and that of your staff by micromanaging. You need to leverage their talent to leverage yours.

5. “Keep on top of the work.” Start by being clear about expectations, milestones and timelines. Have regularly-scheduled follow-up. If problems surface, make sure those involved loop you in quickly.

6. “Keep people informed.” With business priorities constantly shifting, your staff needs to know what's going on. Your boss also needs to know what's happening; so do those in other areas affected by your team's work. Use feedback to feed-forward.

7. “Set clear standards.” “If you can't measure it, you can't manage it.”

Key takeaway: Managers committed to the seven functions make better decisions.

• • •

“Emily Post's The Etiquette Advantage in Business, 3rd Edition” by Peter Post with Anna Post, Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning (William Morrow, $30.)

In today's workplace, manners still matter and civility still counts. In a rush to empty the inbox, we often forget that interactions with people are the most important thing to manage. Those interactions shape “Brand You.” How you do what you do affects what you can expect from others in return.

There are three governing principles tying manners and civility to the business of building relationships: 1. Consideration (assessing how a situation affects those involved). 2. Respect (identifying the effects of possible actions on others). 3. Honesty (being sincere, truthful and transparent). Ethics are also intertwined with these three principles, because “all unethical behaviors can be defined as inconsiderate, disrespectful, and dishonest.” Without manners, civility and ethics there can be no trust and respect.

“Success in building relationships starts with how you communicate.” Think about a situation where there's a marked difference of opinion. When stating your case, be mindful of the three principles — think before you speak. Be prepared to listen because there may be other perspectives for which you didn't account. Be professional; don't let personality cloud the issue and your judgment.

As the conversation continues, think about its outcome. That outcome doesn't have to have a winner and a loser. It does have to take into account that a constructive working relationship must be maintained.

In today's cubicle farm office layouts, communication often speaks volumes when it shouldn't. Your cubicle isn't soundproof. The louder you talk, the greater the distraction to your coworkers. The authors suggest placing “quiet please” reminders in your cube — especially close to the phone. Phone etiquette also discourages the use of a speakerphone because it makes the conversation very public. If you want to listen to the radio or your iPod, use headphones or earbuds.

Take care when having meetings in your cubicle. Two is company; three means book a conference room.

The book is an ideal gift for graduates entering the work world because it gives them a heads up on how to deal with situations they'll encounter on a daily basis. 

Jim Pawlak is a nationally syndicated book reviewer.

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