Editor's Blog

Can I Be an Effective Manager and Owner and Still Be Nice?

February 6, 2011
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My dad believed that I should never ask any employee to do what I hadn’t done myself. Frankly, I didn’t appreciate this when I was a kid growing up in the business because it meant everything from mopping floors, unplugging toilets, climbing into some disgusting places I’d sooner forget, but as I got older I grew to appreciate his wisdom.  

What it enabled me to do when I became more of a manager and less of a Tech was to sit across from a potential new hire and say, “If I’m not going on the roof in the dead of winter, you don’t have to go either. But if I’m climbing up the ladder, you better be right behind me.  

And if you’re looking to work at a place where if you get stuck one of us owners or managers will meet you any time of day or night, this is a good place to work. But if you looking to work someplace where you can hide out in the field, this isn’t a good fit and you ought to consider leaving now.  

If you choose to stay here’s my Organizational Chart, you’ll see this is where you are today and know that you can go on to fill all these other boxes in the future.”  

Rarely, if ever, can I recall anyone leaving. I believe it’s because most people appreciated the honesty and the fact that I was going to be fair and consistent and be there with them when the sledding gets tough, plus they knew where they stood today and what opportunities lie ahead.  

Today, I get owners and managers asking me, “Must I change who I am to be effective as a boss? What I mean is I don’t want to yell at people to get them to do things and I like to be friendly with those who work for me? Is that possible?”  

The answer I give is: “It absolutely is! But, you do need to set up the objective standards for how people on your team must behave and how they are going to be judged as effective or not. And then you must supply the following:  
    1. Progressive Steps of Discipline that are applied each and every time with each and every person so there is no favoritism and they know where they stand with you.
    2. Training that allows them to tell you what they don’t know or are unsure of without repercussions.
    3. Training that allows them to move up the Organizational Chart.
    4. Support when something out of the ordinary comes up.
    5. Consistent positive feedback for when they’re doing good and coaching when they’re messing up. Both of these have rewards and consequences.

Yelling Doesn't Work

Here’s what I do know….yelling and screaming at employees doesn’t work!  

Telling people that it’s their job doesn’t work either anymore. I’m not sure it ever did, but maybe if you were a boss 50 years ago like my dad was…you could kind of get away with it back then. But that was not his style of management. In fact, he was loved by the people he worked for because he was consistent and he cared about them as individuals not just employees. This didn’t mean he’d turn a blind eye when they were falling short. He believed in being friendly but not friends.  

Part of his preparing me to step into more of a management role vs. being more of a Tech was learning how to apply these principles. When the time came to fire someone, he made sure I did it in a way that respected the person yet let it be known that there was no longer room for them at our company.  

It was very difficult to terminate an employee back then. I was painfully shy at the time and the thought of confrontation was scary. But, I learned that providing ongoing training, coaching and objective standards and then applying the Steps of Discipline made it easier for them and for me because we both knew where we stood. So when it came time for the axe to fall it wasn’t as much of a shock.  

Having systems and feedback are the two biggest tools you can have at your disposal if you want to stay true to yourself and be friendly and welcoming of your staff while still being firm.  

Ultimately, it’ll make your company the employer of choice.


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