Managers in this new year will need to deal with many of the same hurdles they faced in 2012, only more so — from keeping the trains running on time every day to adjusting for future challenges. Economic uncertainties will continue to badger planning.
Their employees will be concerned with job security, and their companies will face concerns with attracting and retaining talent.
So we asked managers and executives in The Corridor this question:
If you could offer one piece of advice for 2013 to supervisors and managers just starting out, what would that be?
Click on a name below to see what they had to say:
“A manager needs to treat their employees in a lot of ways just like they would a customer. Sometimes, they might need some encouragement or discipline, but they can be a driving force for the business in the store.
“Be approachable, so employees can come and visit with you. If you’ve built a barrier of fear around yourself, they’re not going to come and talk to you when they have an issue or a concern.
“Managers are in many ways at the bottom. They need to be very good and nurturing and enriching their team to make sure they can realize their full potential.”
“You’ve got to understand where your fixed costs lie if you want to be profitable this year.
“The No. 1 thing is you’ve got to watch your inputs and the bottom line. It starts with the fixed costs. The No. 1 thing that always gets away for business people or supervisors is not understanding your fixed costs.
“Once you get your fixed costs under control, then you can start managing your budget – and the budget really runs any business. The bottom line is the key.
“No. 2 is, from the government side of it, understanding the new regulations that are coming down. Each business has to understand what the costs are of the new insurance taxes that are going to happen along with understand employment – if an employee works under 30 hours, you don’t have to pay for that person’s insurance, but 30 hours and over the company would have to pay.
“It’s a matter of understanding what costs you can control and what costs that you can’t.”
“First time supervisors will see their chances of success enhanced if they follow a few simple rules.
“First, listen for a while before you start issuing orders. When I left my first job in St. Joseph, Mo., in 1984, I went with the blessings of my boss. I still remember the last thing he told me as I left the bank on my last day: ‘Don’t tell them how much you know in your first 30 days of your new job.’
“By listening and not throwing your weight around, you give yourself time to get the lay of the land.
“Second, find a mentor. Find someone who has been through the fire of supervision. A mentor willing to share wisdom is a valuable asset and gives the new supervisor the assurance that he or she is not alone.
“Finally, see things as they are or, rather, not as you wish them to be. Being able to, as author Jim Collins says, ‘confront the brutal facts’ is a gift. Far too many managers fail to offer constructive comments to their employees as needed.
“If there is a problem that needs to be addressed, the chances are that it will not go away on its own. It is the manager’s job to constructively address and fix the problem.”
“The current economic climate is such that most all businesses, families and individuals are watching every penny they spend. Therefore, managers must understand that they need to create products and/or services that are of value to their clients, and be able to justify the dollars their clients spend with them.
“The success of supervisors/managers today, and in the future, will be determined on how much value they add to the organization. Just showing up for work and only doing ‘your job’ is not enough, they must be able to innovate. They must also recognize that great ideas do not typical come from just one person.
“It takes teamwork to create a good product and teamwork implement an idea from concept to market. They must learn to engage their employees and make them become valuable asset to their employer.”
“The first thing I would say is build relationships based on honesty and trust. Listen to all the different constituent groups. Understand the talent that you’re working with and know your own strength.
“All I can do is be honest and be straightforward.
“I think when you talk about leadership, you have to match what you do to bring out the best in people. You have dozens of people who play different instruments, who have a range of talent, but all of that doesn’t matter on the individual side — it’s the collective performance that makes it happen.”
“In these challenging times, supervisors and managers must establish win-win relationships with their employees and customers.
“Understanding all stakeholders’ needs and creating relationships that meet these needs will assure long-term success.
“Creating situations in which the outcome is focused on maximizing the manager’s position may create short-term success but will fail in the long-term.”
Kevin O’Malley, who oversees 35 employees and is retiring at the end of this month, says he would tell managers to try to surround themselves with people who are enthusiastic and smarter than they are.
O’Malley says by hiring and promoting intelligent people, he’s gained more insight into problem resolution than he would have on his own.
And he notes that employees who are enthusiastic about their work are more pleasant to be around and require minimal supervision.
“On one hand, as a young manager you offer a fresh perspective and valuable insight. At the same time, avoid falling into the line of thinking that you are the smartest person in the room. When first starting out as a manager, learn as much as you can from those around you – young and more senior. Listen to others and take every opportunity to learn.
“Volunteer for opportunities to learn and grow, including training and professional/personal development. Find a mentor who is willing to share time, experience and expertise. Some one that others look up to.
“Distinguish yourself as a team player who is concerned about other employees, leaders and your organization. While you might believe that you have the answers, as a new leader, take time to listen and learn and when the time is right, lead.
“Above all, set out to make a contribution in your efforts to be noticed as a superior employee.”
Many of the most serious problems in organizations result from the failure to build an ethical, respectful and open culture, says Sara Rynes-Weller, who will discuss this topic when she delivers the university’s annual Presidential Lecture on Feb. 24.
“Without an ethical culture, you get an Enron or the Ford Pinto. Without a respectful culture, surgeons remove the wrong limbs because nurses are afraid to correct doctors, or coal mines explode because workers’ lives are not valued enough to take safety precautions.
“Without an open culture, people don’t volunteer ideas or do more than is necessary because they feel ignored and powerless. On the flip side, with ethical, respectful and open cultures, you get companies like Southwest Airlines, Patagonia, Whole Foods and St. Jude’s. Their employees go the extra mile because they believe in their company’s mission, feel supported by their managers, get energy and friendship from their coworkers and get pleasure from helping their customers.”
New managers can create such positive cultures, Rynes-Weller says, but meet very early on with all employees as a group. Then meet one-on-one with everyone in the unit.
“Use those meetings to learn what they do, solicit their opinions about what is working well and what isn’t and start building personal relationships. If you see or hear about behavior that is not consistent with the kind of culture you want to create, don’t ignore it.
“Work hard, be visible, communicate often and build the kind of trust that leads to mutual reciprocity.”
“Be empathic with your clients, your employees and your peers. Above all, stay true to your mission statement.
“Non-profits have unique challenges of working with a combination of paid staff and volunteers. At Community Health Free Clinic, we have 33 staff members, most working part-time, and approximately 500 active volunteers. These volunteers range from clerical to doctors and dentists and will be at the Clinic anywhere from a few days per year to 20 plus hours per week. Every day has a different mix of people.
“In the most recent fiscal year, CHFC provided health care for 11,084 individuals. These services included 24,163 medical visits and 1,898 dental visits. In addition, nearly 60,000 prescriptions were distributed to patients to treat acute and chronic conditions. This is accomplished because everyone knows and supports the mission.”
“That’s the advice I’d give a beginning business professional, based on my 40-plus years of experience in business and a short stint in the Vietnam-era Army.
“We all live in a complex world, with lots of cause-and-effect factors influencing everything that happens. Think about going to work in the morning: You have to feel well — not ill — when you awake, the electricity has to stay on so your alarm goes off, you hope there is enough coffee left for a cup on the way out, you hope you left enough gas in your car to get to work, hope the city plowed the fresh snow off the road so you can get to work, wonder what the boss wants done this morning, did all my people make it in, boy it’s freezing in the office this morning ….
“You get the idea. In order to keep your life — and your employment — functioning smoothly toward your various goals, you are subconsciously juggling all those events, or parameters, at once – although you may not think of it that way or even realize it. So are your boss, your company’s management, your employees — each have their own parameters to juggle daily.
“The risk is that all those parameters of life are potentially overwhelming. But our natural coping mechanism is to continually ‘triage’ life’s parameters and prioritize what you need to be concerned with first: what’s most important now?
“Think about this from another perspective: The best doctor is the one who treats the whole person, not just one narrow specialty — you can call in a specialist when you need it. The best engineer is a system engineer who understands how the whole machine works together rather than just one small part of it — you can call in an expert when you need it.
“And the best manager of things, supervisor of tasks, and leader of people understands and works with as many of the parameters of his own, his employees’, his company’s world as he can, constantly shifting among parameters to optimize the performance of the company as influenced by all of those participants. The successful professional focuses on the big picture and avoids being sidetracked by narrow focus and special interests.”
“A career in the arts — especially a management career in the arts — is a pretty stressful life. There’s always the funding issue. Because we are not-for-profit, so that’s a really important part of it. Plus, the hours are stressful — there’s a lot of demands.
“People do have to be reminded that we do have to run as a business. In the last five years, we have become the most creative that we’ve ever been. Along with that, because of the flood, we’ve also become even more mindful there is a limit, there is a budget, there’s something that we have to adhere to.
The key, he said, “is giving people the opportunity to dream and to think big, and then at some point, at right particular time, is when you have to bring a little reality to it. I like to start off with as much creativity as possible.
“Start off with ‘the sky’s the limit’ and not talk about the numbers part until at a later time. Be able to give everybody the ability to think about the greatest sort of thing that we can do, and then at some point, we have to create and establish a budget and we’ve got to put a little bit of realism into it, too.
“If it’s something pretty awesome, we can find the support to make it happen. We’re pretty realistic, too, in our dreams and in most cases, we find a way to keep that magic happening. The last five years have been a real testament to that.
“The best thing is to continue to deliver a quality product. … Stay true to the mission and remain optimistic. You’ve got to continue with a real positive feeling and not let the bad stuff get you down.
“Let your passion override those negative sorts of feelings. You’re going to get through it.”
Contributing to this story were Rod Boshart, Dave DeWitte, Meryn Fluker, George C. Ford, Steve Gravelle, Cindy Hadish, Diane Heldt, Gregg Hennigan, Jeff Johnson, Diana Nollen and Rick Smith.