SIXTH RULE OF MANAGEMENT

The first rule of management is that successful management is actually more about how you manage yourself rather than being about how you manage others (see “First rule of management” posted June 25, 2012).

The second rule of management is that the key to your own success is totally dependent on the success of your people (see “Second rule of management” posted September 24, 2012).

The third rule of management is that no man is an island, and you need to build a network in all directions (see “Third rule of management” posted October 1, 2012).

The fourth rule of management is that you do not manage people, but you manage their behaviour (see “Fourth rule of management” posted October 15, 2012).

The fifth rule of management is that if you are serious about moving up, you need to first move sideways (see “Fifth rule of management” posted November 5, 2012).

The sixth rule of management is that you should not over-manage your people.

Eric Schmidt of Google was at one stage known to have about 60 direct reports. When he was asked how he could successfully manage so many people, he replied that that was the whole point of it, and that “When you have so many direct reports you can’t actually manage them.”

Author: Guillaume Paumier / Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-3.0; http://www.gpaumier.org


Skilled managers understand that their primary role is to “create an environment in which people can be incredibly successful”, and are also aware that this is significantly easier to say than it is to achieve, but they do understand that their people need to be given the freedom to act and to achieve their goals.

The first priority, which may actually be the hardest for many managers, is to recruit the right people which is something that many find a struggle (see “Why are so many managers so bad at recruiting” posted December 12, 2011).

One of the problems is that most managers focus on recruiting mainly for quality of skills.

I believe that skills are a critical component of selection, but that it has become even more critically important to hire for attitude, as it is significantly easier to develop skills through training, mentoring and on the job learning than it is to change someone’s attitudes to work and life.

This means that the focus should be to recruit for attitude and be prepared to train for skills.

I do not mean to suggest that managers should not recruit skilled people for a role that requires experience and knowledge, but I am suggesting that most managers tend to spend the greater part of the recruiting process looking at experience, skills and knowledge and not enough time looking at ethics, integrity, attitudes, values and cultural fit. Most managers still seem to believe that the perfect recruit is generally someone who is already doing the job needing filling, at one of their competitors, despite the fact that the cultures may actually be in direct conflict, and the fact that one should hire for future potential rather than just for filling the current need.

You will have significantly more success if you can recruit people who are a good fit with your work environment, and particularly if they are capable of working without continuous supervision and hand-holding, or even better, filling the role with someone in the team who already fits the environment and who with development and mentoring can grow to meet the need.

The skilled manager knows that he should spend his time interacting with his people, but understands that the days of “command and control” are long gone, and that his role is not to manage his people but to manage their behaviour ( see the fourth rule above ).

The second priority for a manager is that s/he has to ensure that s/he has created the environment where s/he does not have to spend all the time on tight management of the people, and that s/he has answered some critical questions for them to be able to understand the freedoms and boundaries of what they have been asked to do.

Author: Pascale Riby; CC BY 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons


These are:

Why are we here ? People must have a clear understanding of the reason for the team’s existence and of the behavioural standards expected from team members. This means a clear understanding of the mission, vision and values that the team works within, and the “shared greater dream”. A manager needs to be able to paint the picture of “building a cathedral rather than just laying bricks”.

What is expected of me ? Once people buy into the dream you need to be able to show them how they can play a role in its achievement. This means clear, measurable goals and objectives that must be achievable (otherwise people give up), but with effort (so people get satisfaction from the achievement and learn along the way).

What’s in it for me? Reward for achievement of goals should not be just financial incentives, but should be tailored to the individual, as for some it could be promotion to a more senior role, continued education or an overseas assignment, all rewards that can add to the value of the individual.

How am I doing ? People must have feedback along the way, and your continuous interaction with your people gives you not only the ability to reinforce the required behaviours, but it also allows you numerous opportunities for real-time feedback on their performance. For some this will mean regular weekly reviews, for others, particularly the more senior ones this will be significantly less often, and may be enough with managed, seemingly chance, encounters.

Where do I go for help ? A skilled manager will ensure that the team is as self-managing and self-supporting as possible, to ensure that not all issues always float up to him for resolution. The more that the team can help each other to resolve issues, the more time the manager has available to focus on strategy and planning, rather than fire-fighting.

Author: Lilyu; via Wikimedia Commons; WTFPL 2.0


I believe that if you hire more for attitude rather than just for skills, that you create an environment that can breed success, that your people are aware of what is expected of them and that you give them the freedom to do their jobs, including allowing them to trip up regularly, not only can you increase your span of control, but you can also be significantly more successful.

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5 Responses to SIXTH RULE OF MANAGEMENT

  1. Thanks for the post, Les, and handy to have the links to previous articles for referral. See you soon.

  2. Great post, thank u!

    Speaking about hiring, I’m impressed with Guy Kawasaki’s “Art of Recruiting” http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2006/01/the_art_of_recr.html

    Hire better than yourself.
    In the Macintosh Division, we had a saying, “A player hire A players; B players hire C players”–meaning that great people hire great people. On the other hand, mediocre people hire candidates who are not as good as they are, so they can feel superior to them. (If you start down this slippery slope, you’ll soon end up with Z players; this is called The Bozo Explosion. It is followed by The Layoff.) I have come to believe that we were wrong–A players hire A+ players, not merely A players. It takes self-confidence and self-awarness, but it’s the only way to build a great team.

    Hire infected people.
    Classically, organizations look for the “right” educational and professional backgrounds. I would add a third quality: Is the candidate infected with a love of your product? Because all the education and work experience in the world doesn’t matter if the candidate doesn’t “get it” and love it. On the other hand, an ex-jewelry schlepper like me can make it in technology if you’re infected with a love of the product.

    • leshayman says:

      Rade, I have always believed that the best employees are those who:
      – love their job with a passion
      – respect their boss (for his/her leadership)
      – have pride in their company for what/how it does

      Les

  3. Bruce Rankin says:

    Hi Les,

    Excellent post especially context with the preceding 5. Brief comment on recruiting the right people aspect….
    I once heard it well expressed by an AMP HR manager at an informal gathering, as 3 key criteria:
    1. Can he/she do the job? (knowledge, skills, experience….)
    2. Will he/she do the job? (attitude….)
    3. Will he/she fit in? (cultural fit….)
    Aligns well with your first priority?

    It’s a relatively old truism that “noone hires someone better than himself/herself”. Only a person brave or confident enough is likely to do so. I once read a story about Henry Ford, who was being castigated at length in a (congressional?) enquiry about his lack of skills in several specific areas. He replied by saying simply “I do not know any of those things – I hire people who are better than me [in those areas].” I think the same expression was applied to Churchill in his wilderness years of the late 1930’s, when Chamberlain kept him out of cabinet.

    Best, Bruce

  4. profoundthought1 says:

    Hello Les,
    You have penned down exactly the same thoughts as mine about hiring people. I’ve always believed that people should be recruited based on their attitude towards work and life, and their approach towards problems, instead of how many degrees and certifications they have accumulated. I’ve found that it’s quite easy to mug-up and pass any certification exam or answer the questions in an interview which is based on a fixed set of questions. At the rate technologies are emerging and businesses are changing, it would be all the more important to understand one’s aptitude and analytical skills while recruiting.
    However, if the manager himself doesn’t have those skills, it would be impossible for him to understand the importance of such skills and then it’s easy to simply ask some pre-set questions about a technology or a business problem and on getting the pre-set answers, he would be satisfied and hire the candidate, and the vicious cycle would never break.

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