Visit the business section of your local bookstore and you’ll discover many books promising you the latest and greatest insight for becoming a better manager. Each one features a little bit different twist, a unique title or a catchy story. Most contain some good ideas. Some even deliver great ideas. But who has time for all of that reading? Today, let’s boil down the bulk of management literature into 3 very basic rules.
Rule #1 If you make an exception for one, you must be willing to make an exception for everyone.
Employees want to be treated fairly. Yet managers continually find excuses to make exceptions to the rules to satisfy a request from a friend, to give in to someone who nags, or to avoid having to say “NO”. In any case, Rule #1 makes it easy. It’s always “no” unless you can always say “yes”. Does that mean you don’t need the rule? It may not; it depends on the exception granted.
Your company has a policy automatically terminating employees who are no-call, no-show for two consecutive days. An employee calls in on day three and reports she was stranded in the wilderness over the weekend and finally rescued late last night. After verifying the facts, you will make an exception to the two-day rule and would no doubt do the same for anyone under a similar set of circumstances.
However, policies requiring frequent exceptions should be re-evaluated. Question why the policy exists. If it’s not legally required, then perhaps it should be eliminated. If it is legally required, change the policy to eliminate the need for exceptions. Fair treatment of employees, through well developed and implemented policies, sets the cornerstone for solid, positive employee relations.
Rule #2 Do the Right Thing and Do it Right the First Time.
This seems like such an easy lesson, yet we all violate this rule when we choose to cut corners to save time. We justify that the job we are doing is still ‘good enough’, but the difference between ‘good enough’ and doing the ‘right thing’ could make the difference between your company surviving and excelling.
When we put less than 100% into our work, we are more likely to need to re-do tasks and justify our behavior. When we ‘do the right thing’, our tasks are soon completed, with the satisfaction of knowing the job was well done. ‘Good enough’ has no standard definition; it means something different to each and every person. By contrast, ‘the right thing’ is well defined by policy, culture, ethics and mores. When we do the right thing, everyone knows what behaviors and outcomes are expected.
Rule #3 Treat others as you want to be treated.
Using the second rule as an example, how can managers count on employees to do the right thing if they don’t do it themselves? In HR, we know that in departments with poor managers, employees are disrespectful and unruly and often, the department is in chaos. These symptoms indicate a manager who lacks respect for his/her employees and fails to treat everyone fairly. Yet ironically, when called in to explain the department’s performance, the same manager presumes fair treatment from his/her managers.
Good managers think before taking action, asking themselves if this is how they would want to be treated. If you think of others first, you will also benefit.
Three basic rules implemented with conviction will serve you well. And they are easily shared.