Back to Basics

By Katharine Giacalone Apr 2, 2010
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Being an effective manager takes work. If you are new to the role with little or no training, you will discover there’s a difference between being a great employee and managing great employees.

Here are five concepts managers most likely know but tend to forget—what I refer to as “neglected knowledge.” Let’s review what you already know, so you can put that knowledge into practice immediately.

Determine who’s who. Know the personalities on your team—and who you are. My four playground personalities help you do this. Ask, “What type of kid was I on the playground?” The one who:

  • Made sure everyone got a turn at bat? The peacemaker.
  • Made everyone line up and count off? The organizer.
  • Changed the rules midway through the game? The revolutionary.
  • Wanted to play it my way? The steamroller.

Once you figure out your playground personality, determine who’s on your playground. Don’t miss the signs. People are very clear with body language, word usage and intentions.

Peacemakers appreciate communication and collaboration. If a staff member’s eyes bulge when others argue, that’s a clue.

Organizers are structured and decisive. If an employee comes to a meeting with charts or color-coded paper, he’s an organizer.

Revolutionaries hate routine and prefer to adapt to the moment. You’ll know a revolutionary when you ask, “Where did that come from?”

Steamrollers are smart and opinionated and can solve complex problems. They take opposing views and keep ideas floating at 30,000 feet.

Show respect. Respect starts with the manager. Saying “hello” or “thank you” goes a long way. To show respect:

  • Brainstorm ideas with peacemakers.
  • Provide meaningful work with deadlines to organizers.
  • Assign emergency tasks to revolutionaries.
  • Ask steamrollers for their opinions.

Face facts. Not everyone collects facts the way you do, so ask questions, be open to learning and don’t shut down discussions too early. When you think you have the facts, ask again to make sure.

Find the humor. Humor should never be personal, but try to find the absurdity that invades everyone’s workspace and lighten the mood. Humor helps employees relate to you and builds camaraderie for difficult tasks.

Put it all together. Managers get paid to get work done. If something goes wrong with your plan, don’t immediately go to plan B. Leverage personalities and the way each approaches a problem.

Understanding your employees and empowering them to tackle their work in a manner that suits them will get rid of first-time manager jitters and help you blossom into a confident, seasoned professional.

The author is president of KGWorks, a Washington, D.C.-based management consulting firm, and author of Oops! I’m The Manager! Getting Past “What Do I Do Now?!” in 5 Easy Steps (BookSurge Publishing, 2009). She can be reached at www.kgworks.com.

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