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A Jackass for a Boss

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Warner Brothers is coming out with a new movie on July 8 starring Jennifer Aniston.  Sure, there are a bunch of other famous names in the line up.  But, hey -- Jennifer Aniston.

Anyway, the title of the movie is “Horrible Bosses” which seems timely to me as I have been witnessing an abundance of substandard business management of late.  And until the American voters mature beyond their current flirtation with soft tyranny, I don’t believe that our nation can afford such ineffectual management.

Remember the 1980s when good business management became pop culture?  That decade gave us Ken Blanchard’s The One Minute Manager and Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  These neat philosophies provided widespread benefits due to their succinctness and popularity.
Today's popluar culture would have you believe that if you can't beat 'em , then go golfing.
I built my own model for good management during my days of working for Fortune 500 companies in the 80’s and 90’s.  And I don't golf.
My goal was to capture the practices of successful managers I worked for, as well as to avoid any semblance of the neanderthals who ultimately prompted me to start my own company.  I have made just one significant addition to the basic tenets over the past twenty years.

I am sharing that theory here, with invitations for your management wisdom.  I believe strongly that Americans must be great managers to compete well on the international stage.

To begin with, I do not believe that supervising positions should be a promotional reward; Rather, management authority should only be assigned to those well-qualified for the role.  A technical track should also be established for promotions that do not necessarily involve supervising.

A jackass manager makes for miserable employees.  And low morale in the workplace has a negative effect on productivity and company reputation.  The list of requirements for a supervising position should include the attributes of being knowledgeable, inspirational, respectful, approachable, and honorable.  A good manager should also be able to determine the difference between behavior challenges and psychological challenges in their employees.

The manager should maintain what I call the Four Pillars:

Pillar I: Clear Direction.  Communicate the desired outcome with measurable results and schedules.  Understand the outside dependencies that your employees will have because that is where they will need you to support them with your authority.
Pillar II: Willingness to Delegate.  It always seems easier, faster, and simpler to accomplish tasks on your own.  But by establishing a culture of delegation, employees learn to anticipate company needs and to proactively engage.  The manager can then focus on the process and on looking ahead.  
Pillar III: Authority = Responsibility.  The order here is very important.  The manager must judge what the employee is capable of.  One employee may be entrusted with delivering a proposal on time while another can be given the responsibility of operating an entire division of the company.  Having assessed their capability, first assign the responsibility, then match that responsibility with equivalent authority. 
Pillar IV: Sufficient Resources.  This will vary based on each employee’s skill set and resourcefulness.  The list of resources typically includes time, equipment, supplies, training, and funding.  Your more self-reliant employees will find ways to accomplish tasks with scarce resources.

While the classic reason for having employees is to cover the volume of work, there is a higher reason; one of appreciating the gifts that good people bring to a company.  I call it “accomplishing great things through the aspirations of others.”  For me, the joy of management is seeing a project completed in a manner that is beyond what I ever could have imagined.

So does America have good bosses now? What do you say?

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