This is going to be an article giving 14 lessons on leadership and management; my next article will give 14 more lessons on the same topic. I mention this piece for SEO's sake, because bloggers are supposed to mention what the topic's going to be in the opening paragraph.

I don't do that often; I'll admit that I don't always follow the rules when it comes to blogging. I'm doing it this time because I want to talk about a momentous occasion for me and exclaim "Hooray for me"! This is my 1,400th article on Mitch's Blog; let me take a moment for myself. 🙂

I started this blog in February of 2005, although if you decided to go back that far to check out the early posts you'll see they were dated April 2006. It's not quite a fascinating tale but there's a reason for it, and if you're interested you can check out this post I wrote in 2012, which was my 1,000th post on this blog, that explains it all.

What I often do on legacy posts is address something specific and try to match the number in some way with the anniversary. In this case, I wanted to only talk about 14 things that leaders and/or managers needed to know if they wanted to be good leaders for their employees. So I went to an old presentation I did for an organization and tried to select only 14 things to talk about. I ended up having 29 things I wanted to talk about instead, and I decided to break it into 2 different articles.

I eliminated one more point to bring both articles to the magical 14 number. So for article #1,400 you get 14 articles, and I start the next 100 with 14 more; you're welcome! lol This isn't going to get too deep, which will allow me to dig deeper into some of these topics at a later date. Let's get started.

1. Different people have different ways they got into management.

This isn't a leadership tip as much as a look at the genesis of how we end up with people in leadership positions. Some have been leaders all their lives. Some got there because they were good at the job they were doing. Some got there because of their educational background, or previous work experience.

You need to know this because you're probably one of those people in a leadership position if you're reading this article and the topic interests you. In its own way it explains why we have a major lack of good leaders. Overwhelmingly people aren't promoted into these positions because they're great leaders of others; they got there via circumstance. I think there would be more good leaders if those doing the hiring would take a look at my manager evaluation module; yes, that's a plug!

2. A manager will be most successful if he or she can get others to buy into their concept, whether they totally agree with it or not.

Tumisu via Pixabay

If you agree with my definition of leadership, which is “Leadership is the ability to get other people to agree with you and help you achieve your goal”, then you'll notice I didn't say everyone has to agree with what you want to do 100%. It's rare that type of thing is going to happen unless you have a very small staff and you're also close friends with all of them... even that's not a guarantee.

The best you can hope to achieve is getting the majority to believe in you and also believe in their abilities to help you pull it off. If it's moving forward, the naysayers will come around; if not, you can always realign the situation to make things better. The smartest thing to do... that's next!

3. A good manager will allow the people who actually do the job to help make some of the decisions, or at least get to have their say in the decision.

I've had a lot of great ideas over the years. Yet, when I worked with a lot of other people I found that those ideas were improved when I asked others to share their opinion on what I came up with. At some point many leaders at a director level aren't doing the actual daily work, so it only makes sense to ask the people who are going to do the work what their opinion is on your ideas.

Years ago I wrote about this topic using the example of the first episode of Undercover Boss. Without asking others their opinion on big things, you could end up with a royal mess. It's less likely to happen with more and better feedback from those with timely knowledge.

4. A good leader realized who's in charge, and needs to be ready to make the unpopular decision

If you're a good leader, you'll build up a good rapport with your employees that has a lot of mutual give and take. Eventually there will be a time when no matter what anyone else says or believes you have to make a decision that they might not like. Sometimes it's out of your control if upper management gets into it, but that might not always be the case.

If you accept the position you have to accept the responsibilities it brings to the job. As long as you make sure your decision isn't personal, and if you've built up a track record of cooperation and respect, you'll be fine and you won't lose respect.

5. A good manager has already thought out the reasons, pro and con, for every decision

I heard a lot of bad ideas from peers over the years. When I get the chance I'll usually ask one of two questions: why do you want to do that; how are you going to do it? Many times I don't get an explanation; it was an idea that popped into someone's head and they didn't flesh it out.

If you're the leader, you can't go into a meeting without having some idea regarding both of those questions. Good leaders will know what they want to do and have at least a general idea of how they want to do it. Meetings go better when the leader can present an idea along with the possibilities for things to go bad or work well. Even if you miss something, a full presentation will show you've given it some thought instead of throwing spaghetti on a wall to see if it's cooked well enough.

6. A good manager will be able to make a decision within the appropriate period of time

Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

If you're anything like me, you hate having to continuously go back to someone and ask if they've decided what they want to do. As a consultant, it's a big part of my life, having to follow up on presentations and proposals to see whether or not I'm going to have a new client.

This works differently in the workplace. A major sign of weakness is having a leader who can't make a decision in the appropriate time. No one's asking leaders to make snap decisions without taking time to think about it, but taking 3 months to think about something that could have been started 12 weeks earlier is not only maddening but it's incompetent.

7. There are no universal words to use in every situation, because every situation is different

In the movie The Natural, a baseball team is playing horribly early in the movie so the manager has brought in a psychologist to help the team think more positively. In between every loss the same guy shows up and says the same thing: "Losing is a disease..."

Most of the time when we talk about diversity we're talking about people. Sometimes diversity needs to be related to situations and how they affect people differently.

8. A bad decision is better than no decision at all; sometimes

Too many people are afraid to make a mistake to the point where they don't do anything at all. If the world worked where you could ignore things and they'd get better that would be a good strategy. Unfortunately, that's not how things work at all. When you don't have an option, you have to make decisions, no matter what. Get as much information as you can before making it and you lessen the possibility that you'll make a bad decision.

With that said, sometimes not making a decision is a good decision. Doing something without logic or purpose often leads to bad decisions. Years ago I talked about having a CFO who, at a different hospital, decided to move an entire department's desks around. His purpose was to shake everyone up, figuring it would stimulate their work effort. Instead, performance declined because it didn't serve a purpose; he never told the employees why he did it.

9. Conflicts are inevitable; how you get out of them determines how successful you will be

Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

I'm not everyone's cup of tea; then again, neither is everyone else my cup of tea. I've worked with a lot of people over the years, and I'd be a saint and a liar if I said I liked them all. Sometimes I got into conflict with those folks, but I also got into conflicts with people I actually did like. It was never comfortable, but differences of opinion happen.

When it comes to work, the only real way to get out of conflicts is to never go into any situation making things personal. Even when it comes to people you might not like, if the company is involved you have to work with everyone, even people you may not care for. Business is business; you need to put yourself above that. If the other person can't, call them on it without getting personal. If you're put in a position of leadership, you can't allow personalities and distractions to get in the way of accomplishing your responsibilities.

10. People who are treated as adults will work better for you than people you treat as children

No one wants to be treated like a child... not even children. Children don't get the option because they're children; adults aren't anywhere close to children, even if you think they act that way sometimes.

When you treat people like adults, it means a host of different things. One, you don't condescend to them. Two, you don't always tell them what to do if they have a process. Three, you don't hover over them to make sure their doing their work. Four, you allow them to make most decisions on their own.

If you've done proper training, if you've laid out the overall expectations of both the department and employees in general, and you have both manuals and policies they can refer back to, then leave them alone and let them do their work. While I'm at it, if you have a "no personal phone calls" policy in place... kill it!

11. Reality check; people have kids, and work is not the only life people live

This is one reason why I said to kill your no personal phone calls policy. We're living in a different day and age, and it's a work policy that's always been horrible.

This is a time where family is important, and any leader or employer who doesn't understand that will fail. Here's some things to stop doing off hours on a consistent basis: stop calling people at home; stop sending people texts when they're not in the office; stop contacting people when they're on vacation. Let your employees have a personal life; if you need more work done either hire more people or find another way to get things done. If it's really important all bets are off; if it's not, leave people alone!

12. Change for change's sake is never good; at the same time, doing things "because we've always done it this way" is bad

changing seasons

I touched upon the first part of this lesson at #8; the second part is as meaningful as the first. I don't think I've ever been in any office or organization where I haven't heard the phrase "we've always done it this way." If everything's going fine, it's an acceptable statement; if not, changes need to be made.

The hardest thing I've seen about this one is that employees are allowed to get used to the status quo, even when the status quo doesn't work all that well. Sometimes leaders know it doesn't work, but they're either scared or too lazy to do something about it.

Never be afraid to change things when you're not getting the results you want. If your employees are used to you always trying to make improvements, you'll never deal with "we've always done it this way".

13. Employees need to know what the ultimate goals are

Do you as a manager or director know what the ultimate goals are? Do you really know what your department's goals are? Do you think the top person in the company actually knows what the ultimate goals are?

Overwhelmingly I find that most people have no real clue what the ultimate goals are. Almost every person who does what I used to do in health care will say "our goal is to bring in the money." That sounds correct, since they were in billing, but it's not. The ultimate goal is to bring in enough money to keep the organization viable so it can pay its bills, it's employees, buy new equipment and pay for training and help the organization grow.

If you or your employees have a narrow view and scope of what the ultimate goals are, you done know why the work you do is important. If the people at the top don't know, your organization's going to flounder and you'll be looking for a new job along with everyone else. Slogans and motto's are nice, but they're inefficient. Make sure everyone knows what the ultimate goals are, even if they're only for your department. If you're unsure whether or not they know, ask them.

14. Employees need to know before reviews how they're doing

Almost every company does a yearly employee review. Have you ever thought about how inefficient that is? How well do you remember what each employee has done throughout the year? For that matter, do you think they know whether they've done good or bad work throughout the year?

If you're only doing a yearly review, you're doing a disservice to your employees and your department. At the least you should be doing reviews every 3 months; at your best, once a month. Employees need to know often if they're on the right path or falling off. Leaders need to document good or bad things when they happen so they'll have something to evaluate periodically. Waiting a year is too long to keep someone on who's not doing well, and it's too long to not figure out who your best employees are so you can help make them better, even possibly future leaders.

Isn't it amazing how long 14 short tips can be when we're talking about leaders and leadership? Are you ready for 14 more when I write the second half? Trust me, it's coming soon. Until then, enjoy #1,400!