Getting other people to do what needs to be done is a simple, but pretty basic, definition of management. But management certainly isn't simple, at least not the way we Americans approach it.
If you consider the vast sums of money we spend on formal management education - not to mention what's spent on books, software and other tools - one would think that this management mystery should have been solved a long time ago. But we're still looking for those elusive management "secrets" that will transform us and our organizations.
This Don Quixote-like quest for management "Answers" is lucrative for those in the management answer business. In that category I put consultants, who never met a business problem they didn't like or couldn't solve, and authors, who now are culling management advice from the most unlikely sources. For example, if you find the management secrets of Moses, Jesus or Attila the Hun wanting, read the book that reveals the managerial insights of England's Queen Elizabeth I.
While I don't doubt that Lizzie gave the MBA-types of the 16th century a run for their money, her insights probably won't enlighten your boss, help you do your job better or get you a raise. The truth of the matter is - notwithstanding the millions paid to CEOs - there are no secrets to managing. Being a good manager requires reasonable intelligence, common sense, a desire to accomplish something and a bit of brass.
Since I qualify as a management expert (I've reported to managers my entire working life and have been one, too; and I'm displaying brass), let me tell you the five signs of good management. Whether or how good managers are born or made, who knows. But look for these signs that a company has them:
1. The company knows its business. The least convoluted the response to "Just what is it that XYZ Co. does?" the better. If management can't explain what the company does in simple English, it probably doesn't know.
2. The business makes money. Call me old-fashioned, but when a company earns a profit it means that management has at least figured out what people in the real world want and how to produce it for less than the price people are willing to pay.
3. People listen. Good management means that humility is encouraged, and arrogance is discouraged. Salespeople listen to customers, managers listen to salespeople and bosses listen to workers. This is the way a company learns, improves and grows. If management doesn't listen, it's not just deaf, it's dumb.
4. Reasonableness rules. It's important to aim for the stars, but if management demands excessive returns or non-stop extraordinary performance - without understanding how work gets done or without providing adequate resources - watch out for severe politicking, blaming and corporate upheaval.
5. A sense of mission. Does making a millionaire CEO richer or completing a meaningless project turn you on? I hope not. Good management gives people emotionally satisfying reasons to care about their work. Sure, pay is important, but good managers know the importance of caring about something bigger.
(C) Copyright 2002 Evan Cooper. Syndicated by Paradigm News, Inc.