Have you prepared your people for success? If not, why not? If the purpose of management is to equip your people with that which they need in order to succeed, you need to provide them the tools that will help them relate to you.
In Soldier: The life of Colin Powell, Karen DeYoung provided Powell’s “How to Survive as My Aide–Or, What Not to Do” list. The list was originally provided to William Smullan after he became Chairman Powell’s communications aide and press spokesman.
This type of tool is invaluable because it creates standards and expectations. Here are Powell’s rules:
—Don’t ever hesitate to ask me what to do if uncertain.
—Don’t ever sign my name.
—Never use your money on my behalf.
—Avoid “The General Wants” syndrome—unless I really do.
—Provide feedback but be tactful to those who ask—talks between you and me are private and confidential. Alma (my wife) has nothing to do with the office.
—Never keep anybody waiting on the phone. Call back.
—I like meetings generally uninterrupted. I ask a lot of questions. I like questions and challenges.
—I like to remain enormously accessible. I like to do things with people.
—I will develop ways of getting to know what’s happening.
—Don’t accept speaking engagements without my knowledge.
—Keep track of whom I have seen.
—I tend to get moody, preoccupied. I will snap but that clears the air.
—Be punctual, don’t waste my time.
—I prefer written information rather than oral.Writing tends to discipline.
—I like to do paperwork—and I do a lot.
—NEVER, NEVER permit illegal or stupid actions.
—No surprises.Bad news doesn’t get any better with time.
—If there is a problem brewing, I want to know of it early—heads up as soon as possible—I don’t like to be blindsided.
—Speak precisely—I often fudge for a purpose. Don’t over-interpret what I say.
—Don’t rush into decisions—make them timely and correct.
—I like excellent correspondence—no split infinitives. (pp. 187-188)
Know Yourself and Help Your People Know You Too.
Powell’s rules are not absolute. There is no one size fits all system, but the idea of providing this kind of guidance is brilliant.
What is the secret of getting your people to perform for you? The secret is simple. Set expectations for your people to follow. Be clear and help them help you.
Were I to write a list, it would look something like this:
-I believe that you know more about your job than I do and I expect YOU to come up with solutions.
-You are a professional. I trust YOUR judgment. Use it.
-You will never get in trouble for speaking your mind. Do not keep your opinions from me.
-I want to talk, but put it in writing first. I make decisions when we talk. The writing clarifies thinking and creates a record.
-I hate paperwork but I want you to leave a paper trail for documentation.
-If there is a conflict between two rules, we do no harm to our students (as in baseball, the tie goes to the runner).
-I only measure productivity. I do not measure time in your seat. Just be accessible by phone or email.
-Anticipate what needs to be done. Do not wait to be told.
-Free me from day-to-day administration so I can focus on moving forward.
-Everyone is entitled to an off day once in a while.
I had not previously created a written list, but I am working on one now. I believe that the administrators with whom I work would recognize and even say similar things about how I operate if they were asked.
On my first day on the job, I distinctly remember saying “You will never get in trouble for speaking your mind. Do not keep your opinions from me.” Over time, they have learned how much I hate paperwork and that I only measure productivity. To their credit, they have adjusted to the way that I operate.
While some ways of operating are better than others, there is no one best way to lead. My list is not the right list. It is customized to me. It may not work for you.
What Is On Your List?
Do you have a list? If you manage anyone, you probably should. Maybe it is time you developed a list.
[If you read this far, you probably do care about leading your people well. See my Top 10 Leadership Books.]
So what is on your list? What is on your Boss’s list. I would like to hear your thoughts.
-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.
December 26, 2012
Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University