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Day One Management

Management is the art of making people more effective than they would have been without you. This requires you to plan, organize, direct, and monitor the work. In order to do that effectively, you need to know where you are going, what tools you have to get there, what tools you need that you don't have, and how to get what you need.

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The Management Art 
 
Management is the art of making people more effective than they would have been without you. This requires you to plan, organize, direct, and monitor the work. In order to do that effectively, you need to know where you are going, what tools you have to get there, what tools you need that you don't have, and how to get what you need.

Start by figuring out where you need to go or what you need to get done. If the group is humming along smoothly, don't jump in and screw it up. However, if you have been told that this group productivity is the lowest in the organization, you need to improve productivity. If there have been complaints about quality or customer service or accidents you will need to address these issues. As soon as you know the goal, tell your people. I like to do that with a short meeting on the morning of Day One.

Day One Meeting

Get everyone in the group together in an open area within your work area. Give them a short introduction, "Hi, I'm Rashid." They know that you're the new boss so you don't have to tell them. Tell them why you are there. "As you know Mary got promoted" or "This group has grown so large the company felt further growth required more direct management." Then tell them your immediate goal (you can always change it later, but they need to know the game plan. "This group is doing great work. I'm going to learn how you do that and do what I can to help that continue" or "The returns rate for this group is too high. Together we are going to figure out how to improve that to the point that we can all be proud of."

Finally, tell them that you will be meeting with each of them individually to discuss the plans in more detail, learn from them, and answer any of their questions that you can.

Get to know them

If you have been with the company for a while you may know the people you are now expected to manage. You may even have worked alongside them for some time. Or you may have been hired in from the outside to manage this group.

Start by getting to know them as individuals. Even if you have worked with them for years, it is valuable to go through this step. You will learn things from them as their boss that they never would have told you as a co-worker.

Your people are your most valuable resource. They are also the most difficult to manage. However, it also can be the most rewarding when you do it right. Since this is your first management position, the group you manage is probably small enough that you can meet with each of them individually.

Set the meeting

You can have these meetings in your office or in a conference room or in the coffee shop across the street. Where you meet depends on the company, your department, and your preference. The important thing is that it be a quiet, private place where the individuals can openly express themselves (some will; some won't) and you can hear each other easily.

I like to have these chats on a schedule, but you can do them on a drop-in basis if that works better for you. If you do it that way though, remember that you may have to chase down the stragglers, so keep a list of who shows up.

Let's talk about...

You want to cover three topics during the meeting. Learn about the individual. Explain how they fit in to the plan. Answer their questions. It works best in that order.

You need to know each of your people as individuals. What makes them tick? What do they like about their job? Not like? What are their short and long term career goals? What changes would they like to see made? What do they want to protect from changes? Make sure they know that you will consider everything they tell you. Make equally sure that they know that everything they want may not happen.

While what you need to know about them is work-related, I always ask about their life outside work. Are they married? Kids? Long or short commute? What are their hobbies? Where are they from? I always make it clear, before asking the questions about their outside life, that I tell them they can tell me to butt out and I won't be offended.

Now that you know a little more about them individually, tell them how they fit in to the plan, as you know it so far. If nothing is going to change, tell them that. If you are going to consider moving them to a new job, tell them and tell them why.

Finally, answer any questions they have. It is OK to answer that you don't know (if you don't) or that you can't tell them at this time (if you can't). Be as open and as honest as you can. You will begin building a trust relationship that will make your job a lot easier in the future.

- John Reh is a senior business executive whose broad management experience encompasses managing projects up to $125 million and business units including up to 200-plus people.

A published author, most recently as a contributing author to Business: The Ultimate Resource, John has set aside time throughout his career to mentor newer managers, often women and minorities, in the art and science of management: a skill that can be taught and learned.