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Good versus evil

John Mckee is founder and president of BusinessSuccessCoach.net. www.BusinessSuccessCoach.net and www.BusinessWomanWeb.com. He is based in Denver, Colorado.

The constant pressure of meetings and deadlines make it easy for managers to hide in their corner office, suffering malignment from their staff. Open your office door and try and create a bit of morale on the shopfloor – you could be surprised by the results, reports John McKee

Managers get a bad rap in the workplace. The butt of endless water cooler jokes, bosses are more often than not characterised as the office 'villain' and are maligned for simply existing, in perpetuity. How, then, does a boss transcend this collective disdain and find that delicate balance between managing as a tyrant like Miranda in The Devil Wears Prada or as a pushover?

Give credit where it's due
Among the biggest complaints about managers is that they are 'glory hogs'. One of the fastest ways for a manager to become disliked and disrespected is by taking the recognition for others' work – or exclusive credit for a team effort. Great leaders are recognised for their ability to share the glory with others. Learn to cite those who have helped create successes and improve the overall sprit around you. Staff members will be appreciative and pleasantly surprised when they notice you sharing the accolades that will ultimately further their career growth also.

Have an open door policy
Let's face it; most managers have to work hard to keep up with daily demands and expectations. Meetings, emails, number crunching, planning – all of these tasks can keep managers separate and apart, both physically and emotionally, from their team. It's important to remember, however, that one of a manager's primary jobs is to know what your staff is doing at all times, and help them to do it better.
 
The best way to accomplish this is by remaining visible and accessible with your employees by welcoming them into your office and by walking around the department where you can 'chat' with subordinates in a less formal way and in their territorial comfort zone. Make a recurring appointment on your Outlook calendar to allow yourself the time to get out into the general offices regularly. If you have staff in other offices or locations use that time to be a little more personal calling them simply to 'drop in' as opposed to only when there's a problem.

Appreciate face value
Today's professional is decidedly 'wired', with email, voicemail, teleconferencing and web-conferencing taking the place of good old human-to-human interaction. The most effective managers communicate with their staff in person whenever possible. Although remote communication is admittedly efficient, technology is not entirely effective when it comes to energising your staff or giving them the feeling they are part of a team led by someone who cares about what's on the collective plate.  There is simply no direct substitute for having a face-to-face dialog (not a monologue) with staff members if you want to accomplish something while cultivating a positive spirit within the organisation. Research is clear that people are more prone to dedicate themselves to a leader they feel they know and who shows their passion occasionally. No amount of memos will create that sense of care.

Be firm but fair
Every office has its 'suck-ups', and everyone knows who they are – except the boss. If your team thinks you are allowing others to have special privileges or that you are too naïve to recognise when you're being manipulated, you will lose their respect very quickly.  Once lost, respect is a virtue that is very hard to regain.  To avoid this, debrief your team as often as possible so they understand why you operate in a certain way or make certain decisions. Regularly scheduled 'all hands' meetings with an agenda allow them to see you in action and present an opportunity to show you in the best light.

Find, and maintain, a 'whole life' balance
We've all heard about the guy with the great title, corner office, fancy company car and trophy wife who's miserable. Executives can often find themselves becoming similar versions of that individual if they don't have a game plan. A busy schedule and demanding deadlines can cause managers to lose their humanity – those things in life that make it all worthwhile.
 
It's okay to burn some midnight oil once in a while, but everyday demands at the expense of your personal or family life is a recipe for disaster: high stress levels and low energy, attention span, patience and tolerance levels make for a less than lovable boss. This, of course, leads to low morale and decreased team productivity coupled with increased staff turnover – all of which plays into a vicious cycle of both professional and personal unhappiness. When you are frustrated and stressed, your staff truly feels your pain. Creating a personal action plan lets you shoot high and know when you are making progress on all fronts – career, personal and financial.

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