Extra Edition / Business Management

Lessons From the Manager's Boot Camp

Bruce Tulgan
In the last several years, in our firm's intensive Manager's Boot Camp, we've trained thousands of managers/leaders from first level supervisors to CEOs and everyone in between. All of our programs focus on the basic techniques of management, but because we customize every program, we have wrestled with the particular issues facing managers in just about every industry: financial, accounting, law, health care, advertising/PR, restaurants, retail chains, software, media, manufacturing, non-profits, military, intelligence, government, and on and on.

Here's the thing: As much as we teach managers in these programs, we learn even more. That's because the boot camps allow us to work intensively with real managers facing real issues in the real world. We've spent thousands of hours teaching and learning in these programs. Every day there are new lessons. That's why I've decided to share some lessons from the boot camps. Let me start at the beginning.

Before each boot camp, we send an advance e-mail to every participant asking three very simple questions:

(1) How long have you been in a management role?

(2) How many people do you supervise directly?

(3) What is the hardest thing, for you, about managing people?

As you might imagine, the answers to the first two questions are very important, but the responses to the third question are by far the most interesting. What makes them so interesting is that the question is open-ended, which means respondents can say anything at all. Remember that there are thousands and thousands of respondents ranging from CEOs to front-line managers, from a variety of industries. So of course there are huge differences. What is truly fascinating, however, is that despite all the differences, the same basic issues come up over and over again. So what are the hardest things about managing people today?

(1) Every employee is different. What works with one might not work with another.

(2) Balancing the needs of the company with the needs/wants of each person.

(3) Making and keeping expectations clear for each employee.

(4) "Driving" performance past the status quo; getting them to go the extra mile.

(5) Getting employees to take more responsibility for their work and themselves.

(6) Giving negative feedback when employees perform below expectations.

(7) Confrontations with employees who stonewall, argue, and complain.

(8) Keeping employees motivated (especially when rewards are limited).

(9) Making time to manage people versus all the other work I have to do.

(10) Dealing with company rules, procedures, and red tape.


Now I want to share with you the solutions to these challenges that we've been developing and teaching in our boot camp. Here's what should be taught in management training:

1. It's OK to be the boss.

2. It takes guts to take charge... but you don't have to be a jerk to be strong.

3. It's better to be hands-on than hands-off.

4. There's no such thing as time management (before you can manage others, you have to start managing yourself).

5. Learn to talk like a performance coach.

6. Customize your management to every person you manage.

7. Accountability is a process, not a slogan.

8. Tell people what to do and how to do it.

9. Monitor and measure performance honestly every step of the way.

10. Documentation really is critical.

11. Confront performance problems immediately, like a ton of bricks.

12. Do more for some people and less for others.

13. Managing people is a day-to-day negotiation. You have to be flexible.

Bruce Tulgan is the founder of RainmakerThinking Inc., New Haven, Conn., and is recognized as an expert on young people in the workplace. He is a management trainer and is also the author or coauthor of 15 books on management, including Winning the Talent Wars, Managing Generation X, HOT Management, Managing Generation Y, and Managing the Generation Mix. For more information, visit www.rainmakerthinking.com.

Publication date: 06/26/2006

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