It's important to direct and lead employees in a positive way.
Photo: Laura Watilo Blake

Small business managers are often so busy with their jobs that it is difficult to manage their departments adequately. Some have been promoted to management based on their expertise and practical experience. But a great grower does not always make a good supervisor.

It typically takes a few years to develop a well-run department, but it takes only one poor manager to ruin it in a few months. Without being groomed and trained for these positions, those promoted might be overwhelmed. An entire department could be placed in jeopardy. What is a practical solution for this problem?

Good managers are common, good leaders are not, and both in one brain is rare. W. Edwards Deming provided a great example of one rare brain in his statement: “A culture of continuous improvement must be established and maintained with the overall goal of achieving customer satisfaction.” (For more on this, see Deming’s 14 Points on Total Quality Management,

There is a mountain of information and opinions about management and leadership that lead to inconsistency and confusion. But management should not be confused with leadership. Simply put, management is getting things done through people; leadership is a transformation of vision into reality. A successful department must have good management.

The management process consists of five basic principles:

1. Planning. Formulating objectives, developing strategies to meet those objectives and establishing criteria, policies, procedures and programs to implement the strategies.

2. Organizing. Grouping activities, assigning personnel, delegating authority and assigning tasks from the planning stage to put that plan into motion.

3. Staffing. Determining hours and expertise needed to achieve the plan, hire, train and develop individuals accordingly.

4. Directing/Influencing. Directing is the process of guiding and supervising employees to achieve the plan. Influencing is guiding the activity itself in the right direction to help the department move toward its goals without forcing it, thus promoting teamwork. Teamwork and motivation are keys to engaging employees to achieve their objectives.

5. Controlling. The control process consists of three steps: setting standards, measuring performance and correcting deviations. It is an ongoing comparison of the present performance with the established plan to determine any needed modifications. Using the Deming cycle of plan-do-check-act is a great approach to carry out any departmental change.

What are some traits of a great manager? Think about the best manager you have had, then identify and use some of their traits for your own management style.

Great managers have great attitudes that often are conveyed with body language. They know when to make light of situations and when to drive other situations with a sense of urgency. Great managers are transparent, foster a culture of candor, great communicators and use a straightforward approach.

Great managers have a sense of maturity typically conveyed through a calm demeanor. They don't get caught up in emotion but reflect the company’s values. Great managers are good listeners and hold employees accountable. They realize that the success of their employees is also their own success.

Great managers are part of the team oozing with involvement of good ideas to guide employees. Great managers develop great talent and care about the future of employees and the entire organization. They have a track record of getting the right people in the right roles at the right time.

These are a few traits of great managers and reasons the great ones are so rare.

As your expectations and career move forward in different directions, utilize your strengths in different ways. Orchestrate the work instead of doing it. If you feel like jumping in to do the work, think instead: “Now is a good time for a training moment.” Now that you have access to new information, share the plan with your department so they better understand the big picture of the organization.

A good manager provides resources to reach departmental and organizational goals. Use your department to help identify those best resources. Trust (and verify), educate and empower your employees. Get to know them, build a good relationship and provide timely recognition. Accept their feedback, yet be yourself. First-time managers should ask themselves, “Why would anyone follow me?” Think about how you will manage in your own great way.

Ole has 30+ years in food quality assurance. He is a certified professional instructor.

Reprinted with permission from Quality Assurance & Food Safety (July/August 2015).