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Posted: January 06, 2010

Only good managers get to manage

...and other rules for success in life and business

Laurence B. Valant

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from business performance improvement expert Larry Valant's book, Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance.

37 - Only good managers get to manage.

In most organizations good managers are rare. The percentage of really good managers (if all the managers in all the companies in America are placed in one group) at best is only about 5 percent. If you find this hard to believe, take a moment and review your own work history. How many good managers have you worked for?

General Electric gets it right, "Only good managers get to manage." Why? Because in a management hierarchy, those people who report to a poor manager are doomed. They either must accept what at best would be mediocrity or leave the manager. Most leave! I guarantee that your gifted future managers (that rare 5 percent) will walk out the door.

Good managers:
• Communicate expectations clearly and unambiguously (80 percent of managing effectively - Reality No. 40, which follows.
• Do not tolerate incompetence or recalcitrance, but staff only with capable, positive people - Reality No. 39.
• Are able to get commitment from every staff member: "I will deliver" to the established goals - Reality No. 64.
• Are capable of measuring, reviewing, and rewarding performance on a regular basis - Reality No. 91.

What do you do if your present management team falls into that uninspiring 95 percent? You must train and develop them to meet the above standards. Those who can learn and apply these outlined principles will move from the bottom management quartiles to the second and some to even the first management quartile. Reward them appropriately!

And, move out of management those who continually fall short and /or whose staff turnover is exacting a high price in the company's reputation and revenue. (What are you waiting for?)

38 - 80 percent of management development is selection.

When building a management team, start with the right stuff. Selection is paramount. Choose people to join your company who have high self-esteem and self-confidence. And select those who demonstrate kindness and courage in dealing with others. A good moral compass should be apparent.

Only give management to people who meet these requirements. Only give management roles to those who want to manage. Permit no poor managers to hold management positions - ever! Provide an alternative career path with attractive compensation for those in non-management roles. And, once you have your team in place, clarify your expectations of them regularly. Highly capable management begins with careful selection and is built by following these very basic, non-negotiable rules:

39 - 80 percent of managing is clarification of expectations

Management is the ability to execute a plan or achieve an end on time and on budget.

Managers who succeed in making plan have succeeded in communicating their expectations clearly and without ambiguity, and have done so between and among levels (sometimes many) of management and across disparate functions such as sales, operations, and finance.

Communicating expectations clearly is very difficult and in most companies rarely achieved. 

How do I as a manager clarify expectations?
1. I define my objectives and the obstacles that prevent me and my organization from achieving those objectives.
2. I create strategies to overcome those obstacles and define my own and each staff member's portion of meeting the established objectives. (Steps 1 and 2 are The Plan!)
3. I quantify each person's standards of performing to meet plan, i.e. "accounts receivable do not exceed 30 days" or "$3.9 million in gross revenues achieved"
4. I monitor my own and each individual's progress toward achieving plan via commitment planning and weekly staff meetings held without fail.

Management is one of humankind's most complex activities. And, while it should never be defined as "telling people what to do and having them do it", it has everything to do with communicating clear expectations. In fact, when you can communicate clear expectations, you are 80 percent of the way to successful management.

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Laurence B. Valant is President and CEO of Valant & Co., a Denver-based business performance improvement consultancy that has worked with almost 300 firms to increase their value by billions of dollars. He is co-author of the hot-selling new book, “Make Plan! With Effective Execution” and now, “Lead and Manage!” Valant can be reached at lvalant@valantco.com or at 303-589-3840. If you want more information or would like to order a copy of “Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance,” please visit www.valantco.com.

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