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The 5 Essential Missions of a Great Manager

Great managers are great based on their actions. Actions reign supreme. Intentions are meaningless -- results are everything.

Just not the results you might think.

Consistently accomplish these five missions and everything else follows: Fame, fortune, promotions, bigger offices, and snazzier business cards. You, your company -- and most importantly your employees -- benefit greatly.

Don't, and no matter how hard you work, you will eventually fall short.

Mission #1: Develop Every Employee
Focus first on hitting targets, achieving results, and accomplishing concrete goals and you've placed your management cart well before its horse. Without great employees no amount of focus on goals and targets will pay off. Employees can only achieve what they are capable of achieving, so it's your job to make every employee more capable.

Plus, even the most self-starting employees can only do so much to improve their skills. As a manager you owe it to your employees to provide the training, mentoring, and opportunities they need and deserve. In the process you listen, guide, and develop loyalty and commitment. Reviewing results and tracking performance is transformed from enforcement into personal progress and improvement -- both for the employee and for business.

Employee development is not an item on your to-do list. Employee development is your primary responsibility. So don't worry about reaching performance goals. Spend the bulk of your time developing the skills of employees and goal achievement will be a natural and long term by-product.

Mission #2: Deal With Issues Immediately
Nothing kills team morale quicker than issues that don't get addressed. Interpersonal squabbles, performance issues, inter-departmental feuds... all negatively impact employee motivation, enthusiasm, and even individual work ethics.

Small problems never go away. They always fester and grow into bigger problems -- and when you ignore an issue employees immediately lose respect for you. Without respect you can't lead.

Never hope a problem will magically disappear (or someone else will deal with it.) No matter how small, deal with every issue head-on.

Mission #3: Take on a Rehab Project
Every team has an employee who has fallen out of grace: Publicly failed to complete a task, blew up in a meeting... or just makes particularly slow progress. Over time that employee is seen by his peers -- and by you -- as a weak link.

When that happens, while he probably would love to "rehabilitate" himself it's almost impossible. The weight of team disapproval is just too heavy for one person to move.

But not too heavy for you.

Before you remove a weak link from the chain, put your full effort into trying to rehabilitate that person instead. Say, "John, I know you've been struggling but I also know you're trying. Let's find ways together to can get you where you need to be." Express confidence. Be reassuring. Most of all, tell him you'll be there every step of the way.

Don't relax your standards. Just step up the mentoring and coaching you provide.

Granted, sometimes it won't work out. That's okay. The effort is its own reward. And occasionally an employee will succeed and you will have made a tremendous difference in a person's professional -- and by extension, personal -- life.

Mission #4: Never Be Self-Serving
You can get away with this once or twice... but that's it. Never say or do anything that in any way puts you in the spotlight, however briefly. Never congratulate employees and digress for a few moments to discuss what you did. Never say, "This took a lot of work, but I have finally convinced upper management to let us..." If it should go without saying, don't say it.

Your glory should always be reflected, never direct. When employees excel you excel. When your team succeeds you succeed. When an employee rehab project turns into a superstar, remember they should be congratulated, not you.

You were just doing your job the way a great manager should.

Consistently act as if you are less important than your employees and everyone will know how important you really are

Mission #5: Be Gracious With Your "Fame"
Hear of an autograph seeker blown off by a celebrity and you probably think, "If I was in a similar position I would never do that."

Wrong. You do. To some of your employees, especially to new ones, you are "famous." Even if you're well down the management food chain you've still reached a level they someday hope to reach.

That's why an employee who stops to talk about what to you is inconsequential isn't always trying to avoid work or ingratiate themselves; sometimes they just want to spend a few moments with you. When that happens you can blow them off... or you can see the moment for its true importance: A chance to inspire, motivate, reassure, or give someone hope for greater things in their life. The higher you rise, the greater the impact you can make -- and the greater your responsibility to make that impact.

Everyone is a "star" to someone. Make sure you are generous with your stardom.


Note to Readers: Check out my BNET series The 11,500 Foot View, the chronicle of my attempt to accomplish an impossible goal, remain in the good graces of my family, run a business, stay sane, and blog about it. If you like self-inflicted pain and suffering, you'll love this.
Photo courtesy flickr user ben hanbury, CC 2.0