One of the best managers I ever had the privilege of working with was in charge of our pulp mill. We'll call him V.C. He was an unassuming fellow, but when V.C. stepped into the control room to address an issue - anything at all - things got done.
Best management practices can fill volumes of books and occupy weeks of classes, but V.C. had three characteristics in particular, finely honed, which kept employees in the pulp mill working extremely well together.
- Effective managers know all aspects of their job
Few things are more frustrating than knowing more about your job than your manager. When a manager genuinely and thoroughly understands the nitty gritties involved in their department, it makes a world of difference.
- Effective managers are attentive to personnel, and intercept problems when they're small.
Have you ever worked with a department where the manager let tensions rise, and didn't address them? Not a good place for the water cooler. Effective managers help people work well together. These managers don't shy away from working through issues when they arise, and address problems early and prevent things from festering.
- Effective managers recognize differences among employees
Not everyone is well suited to clean out the headbox during shutdown. The best managers of all are able to identify and leverage each person's strengths (and even their quirks) and integrate employees into a cohesive team. This takes skill, experience, and a lot of people smarts, but if you've ever had such a manager, you'll always remember them. Teams run by such managers are always the most productive, always perform the best, and definitely have the highest morale.
These three things are what V.C. excelled at. He knew every pump and pipeline in the pulp mill. Any problems among employees? V.C. would quietly pull people off to the side and hear them both out. V.C. placed employees in positions where they were at their very best. And it worked. Well.
If you're in management, assuming you also want to be your best, look deeper into each of these points. There's a world of great ideas and outstanding research on the topic. Good, effective managing isn't always easy. But it can be learned by anyone who's interested.