Effective management is arguably the single most influential cornerstone of each and every successful organization. Sure, there are an array of other factors that contribute to the longevity, profitability, and positive reputation of a company, but those factors all have one very distinct thing in common: they are all directly influenced by the decisions, actions, and overall skills of the organization’s management team. This all stated, not just any manager is going to be successful. Rather, high-quality managers have a very distinct set of qualities and skills, all of which are expertly applied to each individual that the manager leads, inspires, and drives to achieve. This is also how and where exceptional managers are set apart from adequate managers: adequate managers lead people, while exceptional managers recognize that they are leading individuals. Leading individuals rather than simply leading people as a collective whole changes how managers feel, view, think, and most importantly, how they act. Leading individuals rather than leading people directly affects the managerial principles that are most important, and how those principles are applied. The following pages will discuss the most imperative managerial principles to the effective leading of individuals, as well as provide detailed examples and contexts of how the principles should be applied.
First, some of the most ineffective leaders are the ones who don’t look their own team members in the eyes, know their individual situations, or sometimes even know each person’s name. While all people are certainly very different in many ways, as already stated, one thing remains almost unanimously common amongst all work team members: employees do not want to feel as if they are a number. Employees want to feel and perceive as if they matter. Thus, it is the effective manager’s role to ensure these feelings and perceptions take place. This is not achieved by thinking of employees and/or team members as numbers or bodies that complete tasks; it is achieved by getting to know each and every person that a manager is tasked with leading. Relationship-building is the single largest managerial principle in existence, at least from my opinion and vantage point.
Relationship building involves being present in the day-to-day activities that a manager is tasked with leading. There is much more to managing highly-productive, effective teams than assigning a task and walking away. Instead, an effective manager will perform self-assessments and also get to know his/her team members, their likes and dislikes, pertinent information about their lives, and who they are as individuals. This is not only how a manager comes to learn what makes each individual team member tick in order to inspire the best results from each person for the organization, but it’s also how the manager shows each person that he/she truly cares about them. Good managers look out for the company and the organization, but great managers look out for the company, the organizations, and for everyone in it. This can only be achieved by getting to know everyone that a person is tasked with leading, while also putting in reasonable effort to build relationships elsewhere in the overall organization, as well.
Next and most logically, the most imperative principle of management that is especially pertinent to my belief of managing individuals rather than people, and thus building on the principle of relationship building, is the application of motivational theories in management. Each manager may apply the motivational theories that best suit him/her, as there are numerous theories in existence to choose from. However, the basic premise of my managerial belief system is that an exemplary manager must manage to the motivations of each person on his/her team, which requires the adjustment of managerial techniques for each particular team member.
Managing with a broad brush via utilizing the same managerial technique for an entire team is not effective, in my opinion, because not all people are motivated by the same factors. For example, some people are motivated by money, some by glory, some my recognition, and others by personal statistical scores, to name just a few possibilities. Thus, it is the job and ultimate goal of an effective manager to know and understand the individual motivations of each and every individual on his/her work team, and to cater communications and managerial techniques accordingly. Doing this will achieve the best possible work output from the collective team because each team member will be motivated to achieve his/her best work.
But, how is this possible, you ask? Well, it takes creativity and out-of-the-box thinking on behalf of the manager. It also often requires the manager to need to challenge the rungs of upper leadership and to go to bat for what he/she believes is best. This is because most corporate cultures have a select few types of motivation woven throughout their organizations, many of which have been in place for decades. For example, many organizations have fiscal raise and/or financial bonus incentives in place, and expect managers to lead employees with that as a benchmark, leaning upon money to motivate all team members. Thus, many managers may find themselves needing to gain budget approvals to spend one-on-one time with employees instead, such as taking them out to lunch, or to receive approval for the creation of a company employee newsletter that allows departments to provide public recognition to high-achievers.
All in all, however, getting upper leadership to truly understand that not all employees do their best work for a company based solely on money as motivational incentives can often be difficult to achieve. However, pitching that idea and gaining upper-level approval for other incentives and managerial allowances is absolutely necessary for a high-quality manager to achieve his/her best, and to truly carry out the principle of managing to motivation.
The discussion of how difficult it may be for managers in some organizations to gain the support of upper levels of leadership brings about another very important principle of management: the art of intelligent, articulate communication. Again, leaning upon the main premise of managers dealing with individuals rather than just ‘people’, managers certainly need to know how to communicate with every type of person, and in every type of situation. This means that successful managers will know how to speak and write to all people, whether a person is an entry-level shop employee or the CEO of a Fortune 500 organization. Achieving the level of finesse necessary for such communication takes time, practice, experience, and some time, to-the-point education and/or training.
There is much more to the managerial principle of communication than knowing how to use large words and form grammatically correct sentences. Rather, proper managerial communicators know how and when to adjust verbiage, tone, body language, and overall approach according to whom they are speaking. Proper managerial communicators know exactly how to speak and write to motivate, how to speak and write to discipline, and how to speak and write to achieve clarity in every given communication. In fact, it could even be argued that well over half of the job responsibilities of an effective manager revolve around communication itself. Thus, managers that are not effective communicators will arguably fail, no matter how high their own motivations and organizational intentions are.
Managers can also often find themselves in incredibly difficult, stressful, and sometimes downright uncomfortable situations. Knowing how to react at the drop of a hat in terms of one’s communication abilities can mean the difference between a lawsuit and not, or between the loss of a client or the gain of another. This is how vastly important communication is to the world of business in general, managers included. Not all communication situations allow for the careful pondering of how to respond or how to approach. Rather, many communications occur face-to-face or verbally and require managers to think on their feet. This communication ability also falls under the umbrella of the managerial principle of communication, and often can only come from experience, or even innate ability/nature. The ability to communicate with smoothness, charisma, and confidence often simply comes from within. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why it is sometimes said that some people are born to be leaders while others are not.
Finally, the discussion of the principle of intelligent and articulate communication directly leads to the very important managerial principle of exhibiting a high level of emotional intelligence. In a nutshell, emotional intelligence refers to the ability of a human being to be socially aware, self-aware, self-managed, and to exhibit empathetic and well-assimilated social skills. Emotional intelligence is an absolute necessity when it comes to managing other human beings, or at least when it comes to managing them well and with ethics and integrity.
People that possess a high degree of emotional intelligence yield the ability to connect well with others. As stated repeatedly throughout the discussion of managerial principles, the abilities to connect with one’s team members on an individual basis, form relationships with each and every one of them, determine their motivating factors, and intelligently communicate with each individual are paramount. Certainly, one cannot achieve any single one of these principles without emotional intelligence being present first. Thus, obviously, the managerial principle of emotional intelligence is a requirement, not just an option.
As managers, leaders are tasked with working with individuals from all walks of life, with varying skills and abilities, professional and educational backgrounds, and with any number of different views, opinions, histories, and so much more. Each individual personality is as unique as his/her fingerprint. Thus, it is the ultimate job of a skilled manager to take the attributes that each team member brings to the table, and work to lead those attributes to not only benefit the overall business organization but to help that human being be the best they can be. Much of this comes down to instinct – the instinct to read people, react to people, motivate people, and inspire people. In other words, this ultimate job comes down to applying one’s own emotional intelligence to help individual people help themselves, and to help the company. Whether emotional intelligence is used to expertly read body language or facial expressions, to empathize with comprehension struggles, to respectfully and delicately challenge a member of senior leadership to achieve the greater good, or to intuitively know that an employee is not being intellectually challenged in that way that he/she desires, the principle of emotional intelligence is literally present in almost every action of every day as an effective manager.
In summation, managers must absolutely ensure that they do not allow their duties or positions to become robotic. Nothing is less effective than a manager simply going through the motions, not treating people as if they are individual human beings. Instead, the cornerstone of high-quality management lies in the superior treatment and empathetic, strategic handling of each team member as an individual person. This is achieved by applying the most important principles of management, all of which ultimately achieve the best possible outcomes for all stakeholders.