On most nights when I get home from work, I have a pretty consistent routine. I’ll work online for a couple hours while I have a little snack and then it’s off to prepare dinner, or grab a quick bite to eat. Once in a while, my fiancee will even cook dinner for me! But after that, I sit down in front of the TV and put on one of my favorite shows: The Office. It’s kind of sad but that show is one of the only ones I can watch over and over without it ever getting old.
One of my favorite characters is the boss, Michael Scott. The show is actually based around his lunacy and idiocracy when it comes to managing an office and he excels in these departments. He’s also best known for coining one of my favorite phrases: “That’s what she said.” But every time I see Michael in action, his managerial skills actually remind me of how poor most managers are at their jobs in real life. Now they’re not as bad as Michael Scott but most people just aren’t born to be natural leaders.
Being Your Own Manager
If this is your first time reading one of my articles you might not know how much I love working for myself. Let me repeat that: I love it. I’m my own boss and I like seeing a direct correlation between how hard I work and how much money I make. But I’ve also found that there are some nice byproducts to working for yourself that I never really expected.
I’ve quickly learned that no matter how smart you are, there’s only so much you can do as an individual. In order for your business to grow, you have to hire other smart people who can follow directions, adapt to change and add intrinsic value to your organization. That’s how nearly all successful businesses were built.
On my end, I’ve already explored hiring virtual assistants, writers and web designers. But to be honest, it’s been tough. I’m pretty damn cheap when it comes to hiring help so I look for people that I can pay just enough to get the job done in a satisfactory manner. I want good people but I also don’t want to overpay for them – that’s hard to find.
My Ideal Manager
I’ve actually been lucky to have some horrible managers in the past since now I know what not to do. Here are some of the things I like to see in a manager and try to incorporate into my own managerial skills:
- Communication: This is the most important one in my book. Great managers need to establish daily, weekly or monthly communication in order to know what’s going on with their employees. Whether it’s just a check-in every Friday at 8 am or a weekly staff meeting. I had a boss once who came back from a 1 month vacation and didn’t even speak to me for a week! That is not a joke.
- Amicability: You don’t have to be loved by your employees but you should treat them with respect and keep things positive. I would never bust my ass for someone who yells at me, berates me, etc. On the other hand, someone who empathizes with what I’m going through or tries to keep me upbeat is someone that I’m never going to want to let down. You also have to know how to treat people as a manager – you can’t treat everyone the same. There are those that you can push and yell and scream at and there are those who you need to baby a little more. It’s up to you to figure out who needs which treatment.
- Motivating: A good manager knows just how much to push his/her employee to keep them busy but not overwork them. I’ve had days in the past few years where I literally went in to work and did nothing so I’d say my manager failed in that department.
- Knowledgeable: It’s tough to respect someone that doesn’t know what they’re talking about. I think most of the time though, people that are managers are there because they’ve performed well in their roles in the past. So rarely is this a problem in my experience.
Managers in the Corporate World
When I talk to other people about their jobs, I rarely hear complaints about their managers. They might lament how much they’ve been working or how little they’re paid, but rarely do I hear them bitch about their bosses. I’ve had the exact opposite experience though: I’ve never had a good boss. Now granted, I’ve only been working in the corporate world for four years but I’ve had quite a few bosses in that time frame. I do have a theory why this is the case though in the engineering field.
Most people are promoted based upon their job performance in my industry. So if you’re a really good engineer, then you move up and become a lead. A lead is more like the team captain of a small group of engineers than a manager though. You might be in charge of a few people but you’re still down in the trenches doing a lot of the grunt work. If you’re a good lead though, then you get to become a manager.
Some people are able to make that transition smoothly but others aren’t because they were never trained to be a manager. They were promoted because they were good engineers, not good managers. I think this phenomenon happens a lot in the math and science industries since you have really smart people who are very good at the nuts and bolts of their job but they’re not good managers. They don’t know how to motivate employees, manage a group of peers or communicate well because they don’t have the experience. Some will learn as they go but others never successfully make the transition and stay where they’re at.
The Paradox of Promotion
When you think about it, a promotion is usually a good thing right? You do a really good job so you’re promoted from lead to manager. Let’s say once you become a manager though, you’re in way over your head and your bosses clearly see that you are not fit to move up to Group Manager because of that. Since you’re unable to perform your duties as manager, the next logical step would be a demotion right? You were just passed up for a promotion because you stink at your job yet you will probably remain there indefinitely.
I call that the paradox of promotion since employees will keep getting promoted until they’re no longer good at their job. Once you’ve found a nice home doing a job you’re no good at you’ll stay there for the rest of your career.
Within a large company, there are lots of different managers and group managers and vice presidents so a few bad apples won’t make a huge difference. But when you’re running your own business like me, you’ll discover very quickly if you have what it takes to be a good manager. If I hire more people and my business grows, I’m obviously doing something right. But if I hire more people and my revenue stagnates I’m probably doing something wrong.
Right now, it’s just me and a few other part time workers but if things go well I’ll know very soon if I’ve got what it takes to be a good manager.
Readers, what do you think about the managers you’ve had in the past? If you’ve had a good one I’d love to hear about it and what industry you’re in? If you are a manager yourself, then what do you think about what I have to say?
-Harry @ the Four Hour Work Day
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jp @cashsnail says
I’m working in IT and I got a handful of bad managers and one good one (who also happen to be the company owner)
The good one cared about his employees and rewarded fairly success. Even when I left the company he came to help me move out my furniture on a saturday (it may be stupid, but thanks to that I always recommend his company very strongly)
Harry Campbell says
Wow that was really nice of him and I would definitely respect someone who did that for me too. It’s crazy how the smallest things can give you such a good impression of someone. Imagine how many people you’ve probably told that story to and indirectly benefited him/his company 🙂
Cara Brett says
Unfortunately there is such a thing as too much communication. I used to get calls and emails at 11pm on most nights and be expected to reply straight away. Apparently sleeping is not an appropriate excuse…
Harry Campbell says
Yea there’s definitely a fine line you have to walk as a manager and that’s why I think most managers aren’t very good: because it’s hard! Does your employer pay for your cell phone? Otherwise I’d politely refuse to give out my number if they’re not going to pay for it.
Simon @ Modest Money says
When I just first started working I had the luck of landing in the hands of an excellent manager. This guy went smack out of his way to extend all the help he could to a complete noob like me. He taught me the ropes of business, he was friendly and very understanding. I remember this one time when I made a mistake that cost us nearly $1K. I was scared, I thought this was it am getting the boot. Never happened. He stepped in, sorted out the mess and probably took some heat on my behalf and to this day am very grateful to him. He’s one of those people I would work for free!
Now am managing my won small team and I go out of my way to help my team-mates succeed 🙂
Harry Campbell says
Sounds like you had an awesome manager and now you carry forward a lot of what he taught you. I wasn’t so lucky but I also think it worked the other way since now I know what not to do as a manager. It’s definitely nice when you work in an environment where everyone wants each other to succeed.
I had OK bosses, but none was that great. I’m currently my own manager and, while still imperfect, I think I’m better than most people I’ve worked with. Sure, being self-employed is different .
Harry Campbell says
Yea the nice thing about being your own manager is it’s really easy to tell how good you are or not. Your success will be a reflection of your managerial skills 🙂