Welcome to the first in our two-part series on People Management for Small Business.
As a company organizes and staffs to achieve success, it typically operates within a framework of well-defined management principles. The difficulty lies not in gaining acceptance of those basic management concepts, but in implementing them when dealing with specific individuals in actual situations.
The guidelines that follow will help you face and deal with tough people decisions.
Recognize that it is people, not structural changes alone, who make an organization work or fail.
Organizational change has to be driven by talented and committed people. Good talented people who are dedicated can make almost any organizational structure succeed. Conversely, lackluster people who are poor performers will be ineffective under any organizational concept.
Of course, organizational changes often are necessary to better utilize talents, achieve better planning and control, reduce costs, etc. But, the manager must ensure that he doesn’t fall into the trap of tinkering with the organization as a means of escaping or putting off fundamental people-related problems that are difficult or uncomfortable to deal with.
Provide for a successor.
Every manager should have a backup person who is potentially qualified for his job. If there is no one who has this potential then you must give top priority to bringing someone in who does.
Providing for a successor does not automatically mean adding to staff. Rather, it means that one to two people within the organization who do not have appropriate management qualifications or potential should be replaced by someone who can meet those requirements.
This should be done when attrition requires hiring replacements or when marginal performers are being replaced.
Deal with tenure problems fairly but candidly.
Some individuals who have long and distinguished records of service in the company reach a point where their job responsibilities move beyond their energy level or capabilities. This is a natural development and should be expected.
The manager and the organization both have an obligation to those people who have served it loyally.
They should be compensated fairly and they should be given assignments where they have an opportunity to make a continuing contribution.
But, if they can no longer pull their own weight, they have to be removed from the mainstream.
It is not fair to the balance of the organization to leave them there. And, it is certainly not fair to them.
Communicate expectations — measure performance and act on results.
A successful manager ensures that each person in the organization knows what is expected of him/her, how his/her assignment fits into the whole operation and how his/her performance will be measured.
Each individual should have a set of specified goals that he/she is expected to accomplish within a certain time frame so that there will be no misunderstanding about what he/she is supposed to do.
Actual accomplishment against those expected results should serve as the basic measure of performance. At the same time, the company’s system of rewards must reinforce this concept.
Rewards should be for achieving results, not for effort. In a competitive free enterprise environment, trying hard is not enough.
Don’t put up with marginal performers.
The most frequent and insidious personal mistake managers are apt to make is to live too long with marginal or poor performers. Most managers kid themselves into thinking that by allowing these individuals to continue, they are being fair and that somehow time will correct the situation.
Nothing could be farther from the truth — basic personality faults or skill deficiencies simply do not get corrected with time. It is totally unfair and a reflection of weak management to reach an agonizing conclusion that someone can’t do the job after he has been on it for several years.
Criticize only in private.
No person should be criticized in the presence of his subordinates. Any criticism should be saved for a private discussion so that the individual responsible can later handle the problem or correct matters with his subordinates on his own.
Go to part two as we discuss more tips on managing people.
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