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So You Want to be Manager of the Year Print
You've been selected to be a project manager (or you want to be) and you want to be a success. Here are ten rules to help you be selected as Manager of the Year or the equivalent in your organization.

Hire good people. Having good people makes being a successful manager easy. Be selective. Personality and attitude sometimes are more important than experience or skills. And even mediocre employees can be improved with patience, training and effort on your part. But that requires time and work on your part.

2) Give them the tools that they need. A carpenter cannot build much without the right tools. The same goes for any employee. If it is a good computer and the right software - get it. If it is a certain piece of equipment - get it. Get them whatever they need, and I emphasize need, not want. Training is one of those tools, too. Frustration on the part of an employee who cannot do his or her job because of a lack of tools can destroy morale and productivity. It may cost money to get the tools and training, but it pays off in the end. Remember that a penny saved can cost you a dollar later.

3) Tell them what you want done, not how to do it. Tell them the results that you want and get out of their way. Many times they will have better ideas about how to do it than you would have. Their way might not have been how you would have done it, but so what? Listen to employee suggestions on how to do something or how to improve it. If they need help or guidance, give it to them. If they still cannot or do not do the job, get rid of them. A nonproductive employee is a drain on resources, not to mention a negative impact on productivity and morale of the other employees.

4) Set high expectations - for them and yourself. Employees have a tendency to live up to - or down to - expectations. If you set high but reachable goals, and share those with the employees, they can attain them. The expectations have to be realistic, though. With unrealistic goals, many people will give up before they ever get started. If you set them too low, they will attain them, but that may not help you meet the next rule.

5) The mission is first priority. Getting the job done, and done right, has to be your top priority as a manager. That means knowing what the mission is, what are the needed outcomes or results, and how those results will be measured. Every manager has a boss, too. Getting the job done; meeting the boss' goals; and meeting, if not exceeding, the organization's expectations should all mean getting the same results.

6) Plan, measure and plan again. Being without a plan is like being without a map on a trip where you don't know where you are going. You may get to your destination in the end, but it will not be by the most expeditious route. As part of the plan, you need some way to measure how you are progressing. Develop some metrics. Make sure that they are the right metrics and provide you with data that is both relevant and useful. Whether it's something as simple as checkmarks along a timeline or a more complex set of measures like earned value management, look at where you are compared to where you should be. Replan and adjust. Then begin the cycle again.

7) Take care of your people. Taking care of your people can encompass rules 2, 3 and 4. It means recognizing them when they do something good and correcting them when they do something bad. It also means rewarding them in some way when they go "above and beyond." It means putting people in for awards or recommending them for promotions or new jobs that will help them and the organization. It can be as little as a word of encouragement or a "good job" on a paper. If they know that you care about them, they will work hard for you. When your people look good, you look good, too.

8) Get out of the office. "Management by wandering" is a great way to find out what is really going on with your people. You can see how they are doing and where the problems are. People are more willing to talk in their own environment where they are more comfortable. Don't abuse this rule. If you take them away from doing their jobs and they fall behind, they will resent it and resent you.

9) Don't ask employees to do things that you wouldn't do. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't ask them to work overtime, take on special projects or do other tasks that you as the manager cannot do. It does mean not asking them to do personal things for you or things that are not a part of their jobs. Think before you ask employees to do something.

10) Communicate, communicate, communicate. Communicate up the chain, with your peers, and with your employees. The old saying that "bad news does not get any better with age" is true. Keep your boss informed of the good and the bad. Tell them who is doing really good work. But don't stop with upward communication. Another old saying, "Knowledge is power," is not true in the way most people see it. Many people won't share knowledge because they feel that having that knowledge gives them power. Knowledge is the new coin of the realm. If you share it, everyone benefits. It can pay dividends to share because other knowledge comes back. Finally, communicate with your employees. Give them feedback. Let your people know when they do well, preferably in front of their peers and your boss. Take them behind closed doors or out of the work environment to give them correction or areas for improvement. And always give them information about what is happening, what changes are occurring, and why. Rumors get out. The truth is always better, even if it is bad news.

None of these rules is absolute. There will always be exceptions. Managers are chosen for their judgment and will have to decide when to ignore the rules. But following the rules above will make you a successful manager, if not Manager of the Year.

Wayne Turk © 2005 All rights reserved

Wayne Turk is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and a manager with SRA International supporting Government information technology projects. He has been a project manager for projects for DoD, other federal agencies, and non-profit organizations.

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