Being a Good Manager

An important skill for a good manager in any solid waste-related activity is to put yourself in the shoes of those you manage. You must be capable of understanding motivations, aspirations, capabilities and perceptions. Once this is accomplished, you can work with employees to reach their full potential.

The municipal solid waste workforce you oversee ranges from unskilled to highly skilled, as well as from those who work with their bodies to those who work with their minds. Your employees' educational gamut runs from grade school to multiple higher degrees. There are the highly motivated to the barely motivated. Also, let's not forget those you interact with outside of your organization, such as the public, the media, political figures, etc.

Once you understand what employees are like and what motivates them, you can then slowly work to mold them and help them to do their best. You may ask, "how exactly is this accomplished?" Think of how you understand those above you and what forces they use to motivate you. Also, think of people that you respect who are good examples.

One managerial flaw is thinking that if a person is an engineer, accountant, or whatever, they, too, will be great supervisors. This isn't always the case. Just because we are good at our jobs doesn't mean we'll make adept managers. A real manager is someone who will understand what makes people tick. Also, it helps if a person is pleasant, firm, consistent, reliable, even-tempered, trusting and knowledgeable, among other attributes.

If employees are dealing with a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it's best to assume the worst and hunker down.

Managing means using resources and intelligence wisely to achieve an intended result. With inanimate resources, a person has to keep on his toes, always striving for quality. Also, make sure that resources are ready to help meet various goals. Doing all of this requires skill, ability and training - all of which will earn you a bigger paycheck.

Having said all this, some of you may be thinking that I'm some ultra liberal touchy-feely, psychology buff who is pushing psychobabble onto serious management practices.

Well, I do have a bachelor's degree in psychology. However, I also have graduated as the head of one of the largest municipal solid waste operations in the country. Let's just say that I also "studied" for 24 years with the city of Los Angeles.

In doing so, I made mistakes, gained a few insights and, with the help of my outstanding colleagues, I learned a few things. Like all learning experiences, the road wasn't always straight or paved with a shining path. However, there always was a light at the end of the tunnel illuminating my way.

Of course, it was more like climbing a hill and taking one step up and sliding half way down the hill, over and over again.

One final piece of advice: if you're a manager who doesn't like people - consider a career change.