EDITOR'S COLUMN: THE THREE WAYS TO MANAGE YOUR EMPLOYEES

I recently went through an excellent session using the ZeroRisk HR assessment to help me become a better manager of my own employees. One of the most insightful things I learned was to distinguish when to direct employees, when to coach them, or when to delegate to them. This is a major distinction.

Direct – When you have an employee new to a job function or business in general, you might have to direct their activities until they meet the necessary learning curve. This is of course, a control-based approach to management that makes sense at times, especially if you're a control freak or you're managing people who have control issues. For example, Bob Hurley, the well-known coach of the St. Anthony's High School basketball team in Jersey City, NJ, focuses on directing his young men, not just on the basketball court, but in their lifestyle in general. As a result, he has a 100% graduation rate – practically unheard of for an inner-city basketball team. The idea of directing employee behavior was the basic principle of Scientific Management made famous by Frederick Winslow Taylor in the early 1900s. Because most jobs at that time were manual in nature and easy to perform, this approach used time and motion studies to analyze job tasks, and then told workers the best way to stack the bricks, shovel the coal, or pull the loom. Managers didn't want employees to think for themselves. The Catch-22 today is that the person you can control you generally don't want working for you – and the less you control, the more you accomplish! So use control as a management style only when absolutely necessary.

Coaching – This is more about empowerment than micromanagement. The best coaches ask questions and allow employees to discover the answers for themselves. When they attempt to frame the employees' efforts, they do so from "their side of the line," providing insight as opposed to control. This is akin to teaching people how to fish. The best coaches expect and foster taking action and moving past blockages. They know when to push or to back off. Remember this: If your coaching feels too much like control to employees, you'll generate a flight or fight response – even if everything you are trying to say is completely logical.

Delegation – Over the years, I've learned to delegate effectively. This is one of the most important skill sets for a manager. Of course, the danger of delegation is that the employee will make a mistake and suffer the consequences. I try to mitigate the possibility of mistakes by delegating through writing, otherwise known as a standard operating procedure (SOP). I won't just write down what I do, but my best practice on how to do it. I then make sure that the employee understands the SOP and see if they have any questions. I'll also provide them with any time and training necessary. When I delegate, I have a "one-mistake rule." Because I learned my skills by making mistakes, I realize that my employees will have to do the same. However, there's absolutely no reason to make the same mistake twice. Allowing employees to do so is a management failure.

The work we did with Zero Risk coaching went into these areas far more deeply and challenged us in other areas as well. This process produced some of the most effective communication with employees I've worked side-by-side with for many years. To learn more about the ZeroRisk HR program, contact Mike Poskey (Mike.P@zeroriskhr.com) or call him at (800) 827-5991.

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