We often tend to make things harder than they are. While you'll never catch me saying management is an easy job (if it were, we'd never have around 70% of employees chronically disengaged), some of the basics underlying success involve more common sense than complexity.
In this spirit, let's look at three basic aspects of management, all of which, if practiced diligently, have the definite potential to positively impact productivity.
It's a results-oriented endeavor. One thing I always greatly liked about management (compared, say, to academic pursuits) was its utter practicality. If you're doing it well, and your own management is doing it well, there are certain clear (ideally though not always metric) results you need to achieve. You develop employee performance objectives with those results in mind, and then manage to them. Nothing complicated here, but the discipline provides focus: what areas to concentrate on and what areas are less critical. The end in mind? Results and productivity.
Under-management is as big a problem as micromanagement. They're both tendencies to be resisted, to be sure. But while we hear a lot about micromanagement - that nettlesome and productivity-dampening proclivity to put a long beak too often where it doesn't really need to go - under-management is much less discussed. Yet it's a common management shortcoming: the subtle tendency to avoid the responsibilities and pushback and stress that come with holding employees to high standards. Yet management without high standards is hardly management at all. It's easier to be a friend than a manager, but that's not what the job requires. Lack of accountability can occur at all levels of an organization. "Too often our managers just don't manage!" was the way an HR colleague of mine used to put it. In frustration.
Do unto others... Saving the best and simplest for last. Nope, not a joke. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Or, in business not biblical parlance, treat your employees as you'd like to be treated yourself. Not in the slightest bit complicated. Yet how often we forget the basic truth that when people feel hard done by, they will resent it. And likely won't go to the mat for you when you most need it. With productivity an unwitting casualty.
That's why sound management involves a delicate balance. Come down too hard and people don't like it. Come down too soft and they take advantage of it. As I noted at the outset, just because something isn't complicated doesn't make it easy.
By Victor Lipman