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Getting Back to Management Basics: Communicating, Listening and Trusting

Getting Back to Management Basics: Communicating, Listening and Trusting

April 30, 2012
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In a recent survey of distributors and manufacturers by Bill McCleave, three characteristics kept appearing as critical to good management: communication, listening and the ability to delegate (aka macro-managing vs. micro-managing). McCleave is a long-time distribution industry consultant.

McCleave recently shared these results in a presentation called "Where Managers Blunder" at the Association for Hose and Accessories Distribution’s annual meeting in Las Vegas. He surveyed NAHAD members about what they liked about their favorite managers, disliked about their least favorite managers and what they think can help improve the quality and effectiveness of management overall.

Survey respondents disliked managers who communicated poorly and infrequently, did not listen well and micro-managed. And they liked managers who communicated and listened well, and delegated work. The best managers, they said, trusted their employees and understood their business well.

So how can managers improve how they approach their jobs?

I found the answer to this question revealing: Rate the following activities for their impact on improving managers’ job performance. Spending more time in the field with customers rated the highest.

In other words, it’s about understanding what happens on the front lines. If a manager does not truly understand the business they are in, and what their employees are facing day-in and day-out, it will be hard to earn the respect they need to do their jobs effectively.

In response to another question, respondents said that in order to improve relationships with fellow employees, managers need to request and listen to feedback, define clearer expectations and recognize and reward employee contributions.

And micro-managing overall was viewed as an obstacle to effective management. McCleave quoted Gordon Bethune in his book From Worst to First: “Your real job as a boss … is to let people do their jobs. It’s to assemble the right team, set the big picture direction, communicate that and then get out of the way.”

McCleave provided seven takeaways from the survey:

  • Communication is critical. Practice every day.
  • Truth is essential – don’t lie to your colleagues.
  • Making teammates feel appreciated will result in an immediate boost in morale.
  • Empower, mentor and teach if you want better results.
  • Skip the power trips.
  • Leave personality defects at the door.
  • Learn from what is already out there on this topic.

It all seems so simple, yet how often do we really step back to determine if we are executing on these basic principles of effective leadership? In other works, take a look in the mirror from time to time to see where improvements can be made and then do it.

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