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Minding Your Business: Managing Your Employees Effectively

June 2007
Minding Your Business: Managing Your Employees Effectively

"It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses." - Dag Hammarskjold, past Secretary General of the United Nations.

Whether you are a business owner or a manager, the biggest challenge you face is to manage your direct reports effectively. Whereas qualitative factors like trust, motivation, and communication are paramount soft skills required for the success of this relationship, the importance of an upfront agreement is a key tool for getting you the desired results.

What is an upfront agreement?

An upfront agreement provides a springboard for developing an empowered working relationship. The following actions are incumbent upon the business owner/manager to formulate such an agreement:

Define your goals and your goals for each employee.

Outline what you expect from each employee and what the employee can expect from you.

Summarize the rewards each employee can enjoy when goals are reached and penalties if they are missed.

When two people understand clearly each other's expectations and commit themselves to a mutually agreed plan to fulfil those expectations, then you build a foundation for effective management. Managing employees' attitudes or feelings is not the manager's responsibility, but managing their commitment to work activity and results is.

The goal of effective management is to generate results through people. This can only be achieved through an agreement of joint objectives and expectations. Without such an agreement a condition called "mutual disorientation" is likely to develop. The atmosphere created by mutual confusion seems to communicate the message, "I won't tell you what I expect, if you won't tell me what you expect. When nothing happens, we can both complain and be disappointed." Consider the contrast between "disoriented" and effective managers:

"Disoriented" Managers

?Spend too much time in meetings with employee.

?Assume more of their employee's work.

?Grumble and complain that an employee has a bad attitude.

?Manage employee's moods to help them feel good and counsel them on personal areas.

?Waste increasing time and effort whining.

"Effective" Managers

?Help employees stay focused on their goals and to increase their productivity.

?Coach each employee to identify specific problems and to outline action steps each can take to produce better results.

?Share specific behaviors to address or change.

?Work with employees to improve their skills in specific situations.

?Empower employees to carry out their responsibilities.

Great managers focus to avoid the pitfalls of mutual disorientation. They take preventive actions. Let me give you a couple of examples. When an employee reacts,

"My boss doesn't understand me"

instead of working the same old way, the effective manager attempts to understand the employee and use that understanding as a basis for helping identify the employee's position. The manager's responsibility is also to provide training and coaching to ensure that the employee succeeds.

"My job is different"

instead of looking for ways to improve the job and be productive, the effective manager helps that employee identify specific ways to improve job performance.

The greatest tragedy of disorientation is its extremely contagious nature. When one person suffering from disorientation comes in contact with a co-worker, the destructive effects of disorientation spread almost immediately. The epidemic of disorientation can threaten the entire workplace. Effective managers understand mutual disorientation and are totally committed to preventing it or eradicating it. An upfront agreement with each employee is the most rigorous measure to guard against disorientation.

Managers who understand disorientation and take positive steps to prevent it or to cure it can enjoy certain benefits and avoid certain negative outcomes such as these:

Concise, purposeful meetings focused on accomplishments rather than long meetings with disappointing results.

Positive attitude toward co-workers and work rather than negative attitudes or even hostility.

Precise and reasonable expectations about the actions of others rather than confused expectations and disappointment.

Improved decision-making effectiveness rather than failure to decide and act.

People committed to carrying out their work responsibilities rather than blaming external circumstances for problems.

Diminished need for excessive paperwork and reports rather than drowning in a sea of paper.

Output-oriented schedules with productive efforts and increased pride in work rather than long work hours, deferred actions, and increased sense of guilt.

When there are clear goals as outlined in an upfront agreement, employees experience growth and success in their jobs. When employees are unclear about what is expected of them, they are not certain about what to do and how to do their jobs. Consequently, they fill in their day with ‘busy work' rather than purposeful activities which lead to the achievement of goals for the organization. On the other hand, clear understanding creates a synergistic growth of the employee as well as the organization.


[Mohan Kapur has coached over 1800 business owners, executives and professionals over 30 years. He is a published author and noted speaker in the areas of leadership, productivity and motivation. He welcomes queries and responses to]

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