How to Be a Much More Effective Manager

Originally published in Bottom Line Personal 9/1/00. Reprinted by permission.

The best companies, the best departments, and the best staffs are those where everyone feels comfortable and confident in their decisions. They are free from fear of retribution or humiliation.


  • Set a standard of personal integrity. Keep your promises, and honor your commitments. Deal with everyone fairly, and support this behavior in others. Give your people the pride of working for a moral company.
  • Find out the central interests of your people. Give people opportunities to do what they enjoy most and do best. Build on people’s strengths.
  • Give assignments that stimulate personal and professional growth. Stretch your people by assigning tasks and projects slightly beyond their known capabilities.
  • Give your people opportunities to practice self-responsibility. Give them space to take the initiative, volunteer ideas, attempt new tasks, expand their range and make mistakes.
  • Challenge the seniority tradition. Promote on the basis of merit. The recognition of ability is one of the great inspirers of self-respect and enthusiasm for the organization.
  • Show that it is safe to make a mistake. Let people feel free to say “I don’t know, but I will find out.” To evoke fear of error or ignorance is to invite deception, inhibition and an end to creativity.


  • Show that it is safe to disagree with you. Convey respect for differences of opinion. Do not punish dissent.
  • Important: Disagreement does not have to be disagreeable.
  • Make eye contact and listen actively. Offer appropriate feedback, and give the speaker the experience of being heard.
  • Never permit conflicts of personalities. Keep encounters about work task-centered, not ego-centered. The focus needs to be on reality – “What is the situation? What does the work require? What needs to be done?”
  • Provide reasons for rules and guidelines when they are not self-evident. Explain why you cannot accommodate certain requests. Don’t merely hand down orders.


  • When an employee does superior work or makes an excellent decision, invite him/her to explore how it happened. Do not limit yourself to praise. By asking appropriate questions, you help raise the person’s consciousness about what made the achievement possible and thereby increase the likelihood that others like it will occur in the future.
  • Provide clear and unequivocal performance standards. Let people understand your non-negotiable expectations regarding the quality of work.
  • Praise in public, but correct in private. Acknowledge achievement in the hearing of as many people as possible but let a person absorb corrections in the safety of privacy.
  • Convey in every way possible that you are not interested in blaming – you are interested in solutions. When we look for solutions, we grow in self-esteem. When we blame or make excuses, we weaken self-esteem.
  • Take personal responsibility for creating a culture of self-esteem. Subordinates are unlikely to sustain the kind of behavior you want if they do not see it exemplified by higher-ups. Great managers are not the ones who come up with brilliant solutions, but those who see to it that their staffs come up with brilliant solutions.
  • Avoid over-directing, over-observing and over-reporting. Excessive “managing” is the enemy of autonomy and creativity.