Saturday, October 15, 2011

Everything I Need To Know About Managing ... I Learned From My Mother

Lesson #1: Honesty is the best policy

Oswald told the story about getting in trouble in school and having to bring a note home for his mother to sign. He found the girl in his class with the best penmanship, and had her sign the note. The next morning, he couldn't bring himself to go to school, so he told his mother he was sick. Eventually he admitted the truth.

His point was that you make a problem worse if you don't tell the truth. And he reminded listeners about how easy it is to lose credibility. Just one mistake undermines it and it's hard to get it back.

Lesson #2: Treat others with kindness. Be considerate.

Oswald reminded managers to be careful of the temptation to break rule #1 because you're trying to follow rule #2. It especially happens with performance appraisals, he said. If, to be considerate, you don't tell someone about poor performance, sooner or later you're going to have to fire the person, and that's not considerate.

Lesson #3: Be prepared.

Oswald related the story of his first car—and how he found an emergency kit in the trunk, put there by his mom. Some of the people who report to you may not be thinking ahead, he says, but you had better be. You're going to make better decisions and give better answers if you do.

Lesson #4: Patience is a virtue.

"I'm not strong on patience, Oswald says. For example, "I don't play golf." I always want to jump to the end, and I always think I've got the answer. But management requires bringing people along to the answer. It takes a tremendous amount of time to manage well, he adds.

He tells of a CEO mentor who did needlepoint to teach himself patience. That helped Oswald realize how important an attribute patience is.

Lesson #5: Teach by example.

Anyone in management is being watched, and everyone assumes that whatever the leader does must be OK. Oswald recalls the ritual at one company where he worked—VPs wouldn't leave the office until the president did, managers wouldn't leave until the VPs did, and so on. The clear message was that productivity didn't matter. Your evaluation was based on when you left the office.

Lesson #6: Respect others.

Some new managers think "I've arrived. Now I have respect." Respect is a two-way street, Oswald says. And it's not a title; it has to be earned (You get respect the old-fashioned way, he says, you earn it.)

Lesson #7: Associate with good people.

Oswald played a clip from the movie "As Good As It Gets" in which Jack Nicholson offers the compliment "You make me want to be a better man."  That's what happens when we associate with good people.

He did a business deal once, he says, that he was told no one could ever do. And he was proud that it was a great deal, but he didn't like the guy he made the deal with. Later, the guy reneged on the deal, but Oswald blamed himself. "I never should have done the deal with him in the first place," he said.

Lesson #8: Be an advocate.

Oswald remembers times his mom stood up for him, even when she didn't think he was right, and then let him have it later when they got home. In the same way, you have to stand up for your people, and maybe put your job on the line to stand up for theirs.

Lesson #9: Praise matters.

"Who's better at praise than mom?" Oswald asks. And managers have to be the same way. Never let yourself think, "They know they're good; I don't have to tell them."

Oswald tells of one CEO who would pick up the phone and call employees' significant others to tell them what a good job the employee is doing and how much he or she is appreciated.

Finally, says Oswald, remember that public praise is better then private praise.

Lesson #10: Do your best.

Growing up, Oswald said that it was challenging to come along after an older sister who never had less than an A, but what was important to Oswald's mom was effort.

In the same way, you have to recognize that a good benchmark for your managers is if they are doing their best. They are all going to have different skills and abilities, says Oswald, and you need to know that to be able to motivate them.

Bonus Lesson #11:  Be passionate about what you do.

Oswald closed with a bonus lesson, a clip from Lynyrd Skynyrd—a mother's wish for her son:

Ma told me when I was young ... follow your heart and nothing else ... All that I want for you my son, is to be satisfied.

What every mother wants, and what every CEO wants: people with passion.

In his keynote speech at BLR's Advanced Employment Issues Symposium, held recently in Nashville AEIS Las Vegas is November 17-18), BLR CEO Dan Oswald told an appreciative crowd about the 10 critical management lessons he learned from his mom.

Thanks to Stephen D. Bruce, PHR - Editor, HR Daily Advisor / HR Daily Advisor / BLR Business & Legal Reports

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