I have only known a few GREAT managers. Every year I strive to be like them. To get there, here are the 10 things great managers will do before the end of the year:
1. Review all expense budgets. Before Now and the end of the fiscal year (whenever that may be for your company) great managers will know where there are gaps and overruns and GREAT managers will know why they exist and what can be done to return value to the company for those expenses before the bean counters from accounting start asking questions.
2. Edit out unnecessary reports. There is no better way to use the the Wednesday before Thanksgiving than weeding our reports and paperwork off your desk. As you do so, note all the unnecessary reports that you receive. If your department creates them – stop it. If some other department creates them – ask them to take you off the distribution list. Tell them why you do not use it and what would need to change to make it useful. It may feel like stepping on toes, but rooting out non-value added activity in your company is everyone’s responsibility.
3. Keep Performance Review promises. Look at the last reviews you gave direct reports. How well are they – and YOU – living up to the agreements made? Are actions being taken? Follow up and let them know you are not the kind of manager who dusts off reviews once a year the week before they are due to HR. Look at the promises you made in your own review and take steps to close any gaps that were identified.
4. Make Industry Event Plans for 2012. Review the materials and dates for upcoming events and select the ones that will most stretch you and your company. Do not plan to attend the same shows you did the prior year. Select talent within your team and send them in your place with an expectation that they will give you a complete report on the main findings 3 days after their return. You preserve your time, give your staff a development opportunity and may get a new perspective that is more valuable than digesting the content yourself. Then, ask to attend a new conference that is generally outside your normal area of influence. Consider attending an IT conference to learn about the latest new solutions in your space, an HR conference to learn what is best in class for your industry or an executive or strategic thinking conference. If you are a merchant, seek out a buying show that is just a step away from your traditional space. If you are a fashion buyer, ask to attend a show like the Outdoor Show to find out what trends are affecting functional trek gear and outerwear and how you could incorporate that into your standard assortment. If you are a food buyer, attend the restaurant show to find out what trends could soon be impacting home cooks. If you are a furniture buyer, attend the hardware and landscaping show to learn how outdoor living is impacting the use of indoor spaces. You get the idea. Stretch.
5. Finish that business book. You know the one you started last spring? ’nuff said.
6. Keep connections fresh. In our demanding lives, it is easy to overlook our network – not out of a lack of concern, but a lack of focus. Don’t let the end of the year arrive without reconnecting with important network members. Knock off several at once by hosting a Sunday football event, an impromptu after work beer with a dozen people or even a scan through Linked In and emails to 5 people a week (that’s only one per work day) By the end of the year, you can connect with 40 people you want to keep in your network.
7. Ask for help. Everyone has an area they need help with: analytics? Presentations? Gratitude? Polish? Take a look at the task you keep postponing or the metric that just won’t move and ask for help. In all likelihood, you need help from someone that is difficult for you to approach. It could be a boss, peer or subordinate. But asking for help is the sign of a great manager and the first step in true personal growth.
8. Take time to listen. If you create agendas with subordinates, turn the tables and ask them to create agendas for your meetings for the rest of the year. Make sure they know you don’t want routine updates on projects and statuses. Ask them to tell you what you do not know: about people, systems, ideas, and improvements. Then listen. Sure, a lot of it may be complaints. But quickly move past those and mine for the kernels of insight that can help improve your department’s productivity.
9. Listen some more. Seek outside expertise to learn what is going on outside the walls of your company. There are VERY FEW problems you face that haven’t been solved somewhere else already. Don’t know where to start? Try here.
10. Say Thank You. Clients. Customers. Parents. Teachers. Bosses. Mail Carriers. Waitresses. Don’t take all the credit. Many people made it possible for you to be in your chair reading this today. Say thank you.