Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What Makes a Good Manager?


I’ve wondered several times lately just what it is that makes for a good manager – a manager of people and a project manager. I never had much formal training in these things. I tend to have my own style. But I am very good at it.

In the past few years, there has been a big push to send supervisory staff to a series of 7 one-week courses that are supposed to equip them to manage. They all seem to come out of those classes with a boatload of new techy solutions to an age-old problem of balancing personnel resources, budgets, demands, and schedules.

I’ve seen people come to meetings with elaborate Microsoft Project schedules that make absolutely no sense when you apply a reality factor. The bottom line is there is no technical substitute for common sense.

I do have a shelf full of management books I’ve collected throughout the years. I’ve decided to leave them behind for my staff of aspiring managers. Among them:

– The Psychology of Computer Programming by Gerald Weinberg
– Managing the Software Process by Watts Humphrey
– Swimming with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive by Harvey Mackay (maybe I should have read that one again before my new boss showed up).

I seriously doubt I will have any use for these reference books in the next phase of my life. I wonder if anyone else will find them useful, or will they just take more classes to find new techy solutions of the world’s management problems?

9 Comments:

Blogger Richard said...

What make a good manager for me, the managee:

1) trust your employee
2) give your employee autonomy
3) never let employees be idle (send them home or give them something meaningful to do).
4) communicate expectations and deadlines clearly (otherwise tasks will expand to fill space and time)

6:15 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I'm a terrible manager because I actually trust my employees and give them autonomy... Then, again, maybe it's not completely my management style. Is it too much to expect people to actually come to work most days?

9:44 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

The best boss I ever had was the Finance DIrector at the San Francisco Symphony. He was brilliant, creative and had a great sense of humor. He also had a terrible temper. He was so demanding, expecting the best of all of us at all times. He stayed involved in the process, whatever it was, without micro-managing. He was curious and interested in how we did the work. He was blunt and outspoken. We always knew how he was feeling about the project and about our contributions.

At the end of every project, he always, without fail, took time to say, "thank you for all your hard work." A simple phrase, really, but it made such a HUGE difference.

Techie tools are great but can not ever replace people skills, intelligence and curiosity.

8:37 AM  
Blogger steve said...

Once upon a time i was a pretty good little Manager. Richard had a nice little list there...I always emphasized communication. Mostly, employess are waiting around for someone to tell them what to do. So a Manager spends his day eliminating that need. A good Manager eliminates that need way in advance.

The best words I ever heard were "Do it Now."

11:08 AM  
Blogger steve said...

As Reya points out 'Thank you" works well too...and "Good morning" is mighty important as well.

11:10 AM  
Blogger GEWELS said...

Yup, there is no subsitute for common sense. I have known the most brilliant people who could not get through the day because they had no common sense. Amazing!

9:24 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

My best principals were those who worked hard and played hard. They were personable and they cared about each one of their staff. They made you feel like you were a valuable player on the team. They were on board with you. Firm, fair and consistent. Sense of humour was always great too.

10:05 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

I loved reading your insights on management. The bottom line for everyone it would seem is that a manager cannot ignore the personal aspect of doing the job. It's so much more than a schedule on an elaborate spreadsheet. I sincerely hope I have treated my employees through the years in the ways you described.

10:10 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Richard, Steve and Reya got it right. The books you're leaving don't really talk about the human aspect of management which dwarfs the technical project management stuff. Respect, trust, communication, appreciation, consistency, and high expectations - those are keys.

5:22 PM  

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