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On management: What’s it like to work for you?

Once somebody asked me to help him figure out what his people thought about his management style. It caused us to come up with a list of things we thought were important. You could be running anything from one person to an entire large company. So here are some of my favorite items from the list.

Is it a place where people grow?
Most people want to work where they think they will learn something, where they think they will become somebody. They want to work someplace where the boss has a clear interest in them as individuals. People will do their best, most creative work for a company where they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the person they work for is trying to help them be successful. And not just in this company but over the long haul. Are you this kind of manager?

Is it a place where there are no surprises? Where people are comfortable sharing ideas, thoughts and plans is a place where good thinking is going on. It's a place where ideas will be born and executed, if the bosses are as willing to receive an idea as they are to give one. There really is no better place to work, no matter where you are in the structure of an organization than where there is a culture of "No Surprises." Here everyone knows what's going on, what the goal is, what the strategy is and what everyone's piece of the job is. If you run a group wherein everyone truly believes that you won't surprise them, then they will not surprise you. And they will love working for you.

Is it a place where doors are really open?
I don't know if it is still true, but for years HP was a place where everyone sat out in the open. There were meeting rooms for private conversations, but it was largely one big bullpen. It accomplished the goal. But perhaps it's more the attitude than it is the actual closed doors. If you are my boss and you want my full participation up to the limit of my ability, I've got to know what's going on. It makes me feel important and a necessary part of the team. If I have that, I will be in it for you and the team to the best I can give. If your door is always closed, you have to figure out how to make me be involved.

Is it a place where in meetings bosses do all the talking, or where all ideas are shared and respected?
The way meetings are handled can kill teamwork. Years ago I went to a weekly executive meeting chaired by the top guy, who tore somebody up every week. It was like a business version of "The Gladiator." Every week you knew someone was going to get eaten alive. And one of these weeks it would be you. Getting humiliated in front of your friends and peers does not make you love the place you work. Better yet, meetings should be short, specific, run by various people up and down the line, and they should meet an objective.

Is it a place of training and education? Do you continue to invest in your employees?
Can they keep learning and developing their skills? If I worked for you, would you care enough to invest in me to help me achieve my goals? Because if you do, I will help you achieve your goals.

Is it a place where only the best can play, only the best can stay?
Do you hire really good people for the rest of us to work with? Do you pay for the people you expect to be the best at their jobs? Do you get rid of those who don't work out or those who can't seem to internalize the attitude of excellence of the group? Do you do things to help us reach our own professional goals?
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Pat Wiesner

Pat Wiesner is the retired CEO of WiesnerMedia, publisher of ColoradoBiz. He still leads sales training for the company. E-mail him at pwiesner@cobizmag.com.

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