Here are what I hope are some valuable yet not-obvious tips from my new book Careers for Dummies on how to be an effective, even beloved manager or leader.
Manage like a gardener
A good gardener treats every plant differently. To bloom and bear fruit, some plants need more water, others less. Some need more sun, others less. Some need more fertilizer, others less.
Same with your employees. Subject to union rules or other mandates, explain that your definition of treating employees fairly is not to treat them equally but so as to bring out the best in each person; Some employees may need more autonomy or less, more structure or less, more fiscal monitoring or less, more cognitively complex work or less, and even, yes, more work or less. One-size-doesn't fit-all management will maximize the likelihood of your workplace "garden" bearing lots of flowers and fruit.
I wish we lived in a world in which success were determined purely on substance but, alas, that's not planet Earth. Yes, some respected leaders aren't charismatic, for example, Proctor and Gamble's A.J Lafley and even Benjamin Franklin who was so uncomfortable giving talks, he would read from a script.
But in general, sizzle matters. Cosmopolitan founder Helen Gurley Brown said, probably only half joking, "After 40, it all comes down to posture." So yes, stand straight, shoulders back, chin up although not so high that you look stuck up. Stride, don't trudge. Display good but not excessive energy—Yelling while gesticulating is not charismatic.
While acknowledging problems and proposing solutions, err on the side of positivity.
Speak humanly. If you need to write a script, do so but then reduce that to a few signpost words, practice if needed, and then ad-lib your talk. That helps ensure chemistry. If you memorize or read, chemistry, credibility and authenticity are leached.
Many employees complain of excessive meetings. When you need group input or want people's reports, email is normally wiser than a meeting. There are two main reasons for a meeting: when real-time group input is needed and for esprit de corps. The latter justifies an infrequent standing meeting, perhaps monthly.
Speaking of standing, literal standing meetings can be effective: A 15 to 20 minute meeting in which everyone stands can literally and figuratively keep people on their toes. Another boon to crisp meetings is to send attendees a tight agenda in advance and keep to it unless there's a darn good reason. And, where feasible, hold meetings right before lunch or quitting time. People will want to finish on time.
A final tip, Today's zeitgeist venerates inclusion, so there's a temptation to invite more than fewer people to meetings and to try for consensus on most issues. But that leads to turgid meetings and, usually, lowest-common-denominator solutions: a tepid one that everyone can agree on. The wise leader usually invites only the truly needed participants and truncates discussion of agenda items when the point of diminishing returns has been reached and renders a decision, acknowledging the group's input. That's crisp leadership.
Crisp: That is an important descriptor of the great manager and leader.
I ad-lib on becoming a beloved manager and leader on YouTube.
This article is part of a series of simple career tips drawn from my new book, Careers for Dummies. The others are