Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Becoming a Good Manager

Author: Robert Sherby 
             Risks and Controls/SOX Consultant 

I’ve often told people that I learned more about managing people in the Navy than I have at any other job since then. That’s mostly true because in the military, one runs into people from all walks of life and numerous lifestyles. 

In one of my first “management” assignments, I was put in charge of the three starboard side magazines supporting the five twin 5” gun mounts on that side of the USS New Jersey as we prepared to leave for Vietnam. My friends commiserated with me because the four seamen reporting to me were screw-ups. In fact, those with discipline problems were assigned to the magazines because none of those in our Gunner’s Mate division wanted them working in their gun mounts. I knew that none of those guys liked to take orders from anyone so I gave it some thought. The Navy, like most military units, staffs up for war, not for routine maintenance. Since we didn’t need all day to perform the required tasks, I called them all together and told them if they would give me a couple hours each morning to complete our tasks, I didn’t care what they did the rest of the day as long as they didn’t get caught goofing off. To their credit and mine, they performed as I asked and the other petty officers in the division were amazed that I got all the work done so well. I certainly didn’t tell them my “secret” but I was considered a star for what I accomplished. The lesson – managers don’t always get superstars to work for them and have to make do with what they have. It’s incumbent upon them to determine what motivates their staff and work with them to meet the required goals. 

Later, after college and public accounting when I had acquired my CPA certificate and MBA, I was in my first management slot in corporate accounting after working in internal audit for a year. I had always been fortunate to get work accomplished quickly but had not viewed myself as being exceptional even though in public accounting all the supervisors liked me on their jobs because we came in under budget. I had four people working for me and I thought they just weren’t working as fast as they should. I was comparing them to what I typically accomplished. One day, a young lady that worked for me asked if we could talk and I said sure. She said, Bob, you’re being unfair in comparing all of us to what you get done. There’s only one Bob Sherby and we just can’t work at the same speed as you do. I thanked her for coming to me and said I would work on changing my expectations. From that point on, it was clear that my staff was a lot happier with the way things were going and I was happy that the young lady was not afraid to come to me with constructive criticism. The lesson – managers need to keep the lines of communication open to their employees even if it means accepting criticism. I knew the young lady was trying to do her best but had not realized I was setting unrealistic goals for my staff. I could have ignored what she said and alienated all of my staff, causing all of us to fail and I would have been a bad manager. Too many people get promoted to management because of their technical skills but with no idea how to manage people. 

If anyone is struggling with being a good manager, try to find someone who is successful and talk to them about how to improve oneself in that regard. It’s not a sign of weakness to try and improve.

1 comment:

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