Breaking The Management Bronco

If you want to be a good manager, take a tip from a horse trainer - you must like horses to train them and you must be as smart as the horse. You also should know how horses think and what motivates them. The same goes for people. If you like and understand people, and are willing to learn from experience, you will probably succeed as a manager and trainer of people.

There are several types of managers. The authoritarian type of manager believes people fall into several personality types. Success can be achieved by hiring the right type of employee and applying a standard formula. This type of manager believes that conformity is good and divergence breeds anarchy. Employees who do not conform must be fired for the good of the company. The authoritarian believes that power and authority flow from the top and everyone else should follow the instructions of the leader.

Then there are managers who believe people are as diverse as their genes, experiences and cultural upbringing. This leader pools the resources and ideas of all the people and compromises through consensus to formulate goals. Everyone works in harmony toward the common goal with frequent meetings to re-examine the goal and plot strategy. This leader believes uniqueness is good and diversity is useful.

Another type of manager is the benevolent dictator. This leader assigns responsibilities to subordinates with the authority to carry them out. The authority is delegated according to the task, its duration and the extent of the responsibility. However, ultimate responsibility and authority still reside with the "boss." Their management style includes listening to employees' concerns and ideas and everyone is kept informed of what is happening and why.

The value of one management type over the other depends on the type and stage of the operation and the personalities and the skills of the people.

Some tasks don't require a conference before being performed while others beg for fresh input. Individual initiative can be valuable at one stage of an operation while cooperation is essential at another.

My own management style is "chousing," an old cattleman term indicating the driving of cattle. It is unflattering but accurate for a manager that has to herd budget requests and other proposals through the winding bureaucratic trails and move committees and employees in the right direction. Some you cajole, some you lead, some you prod. This requires a knowledge of people's motivation, attentiveness as to what others think, identification of potential troublemakers and a focus on goals. This also requires an empathetic and understanding personality, as well as dictatorial and hardhearted characteristics, to achieve success.

Being a successful manager requires the following: * Know what you are expected to do. This requires a thorough knowledge of your company, operations and long-term goals.

* Learn the motivations and perspectives of those above you.

* Learn the skills and motivations of your employees.

* Screen all new hires for required skills. It may be preferable to hire a great person who stays for a short time than a mediocre person who stays a long time.

* Show concern for the well-being of your staff and fight for their promotion even if it means they eventually will be lost to another department. Employees who see you working for their concerns are more likely to work harder for your goals.

* Set milestones and keep everyone focused on the next one, particularly when the inevitable discouragement sets in. Tell all of your employees, "Here is where we agreed to go, here are the steps we agreed to use to get there and these are the steps we have already taken."

* Recognize when the goal has shifted due to circumstances beyond your control. Embrace the new direction, race to the front of the herd and lead instead of trailing behind, blinded by the dust.

Avoid being a compulsive list maker. While making lists is a useful way of organizing things, the activity is counter productive when making the list becomes an end in itself. You've seen the type, scurrying from site to site, taking the requisite picture to prove they had accomplished being there. They approach everything the same way, never being part of, or understanding or appreciating them. Just accomplishing.

Like most people, I developed a comfortable management technique that seemed to work. Adopting a technique that doesn't jibe with your personality will be uncomfortable and won't work because it is artificial. If you're more comfortable with things than with people, don't become a manager.