“Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

I often say management is hard but not complex.

Much of effective management involves common sense.  But just because something is common sense doesn’t mean it’s commonly practiced.  If management truly were easy, which it’s not, we’d never see national employee engagement levels hovering persistently around 30 percent.  Which we do.

Keep in mind in this post I’m not talking about managing business activities as sophisticated, let’s say, as engineering a culture change, or developing a cutting-edge new product, or altering the strategic direction of a company.  I’m talking about nuts-and-bolts day-to-day management.  I’m talking about managing your fundamental operations effectively, as all successful companies have to, which always involves one thing: getting the best out of your people on an ongoing basis.

In this context, the following are four thoughts on effective management. They’re almost embarrassingly simple, yet the reality is they’re by no means always practiced.   But if they are, it’s a good bet your results will be good.

1. Most people like to be treated the way you like to be treated – In terms of attitude, motivation and productivity, the vast majority of employees respond best to fair, decent management treatment.  They’ll work hardest when treated that way.  Why wouldn’t they?

2. Treating people decently doesn’t mean you don’t have high expectations for them – Expect the best from people and don’t settle hastily or lazily for less.  In a word (or two), expect excellence.  To be sure, your employees won’t all be superstars.  But they are all capable of giving superior effort.

3. Set clear, fair goals and hold people to them – Formalize your expectations with well-conceived goals and objectives that employees understand and buy into.  Clear goals reflect clear thinking.  Accountability is fundamental yet often neglected, even among senior managers, as studies show.  Yet isn’t the job of management to hold people accountable for very specific results?  Sure it is.

4. Do your best to be a “stand-up guy” (or woman) – For this one I have a story.  It involves what I feel was, in my decades in management, the best compliment I ever received.  It was definitely the compliment that pleased me the most, and one of the few that after all these years I actually remember.  This was the situation: A new boss of mine, an SVP who’d come from another company, was for her own understanding trying to get a handle on how others in our organization perceived me.  (I was relatively new to executive ranks, though I’d been with the company over a decade.)  So my new boss happened to ask one of our division heads, a longtime SVP whom I had great respect for.  He was a no-nonsense executive known for his ability to run large divisions efficiently and effectively, no small task.  As my new boss later related it to me, when she asked the tough old division head for his opinion of me, he thought it over for a minute, then nodded and said simply, “He’s a stand-up guy.”  No doubt I had, and still have, several hundred significant faults, but at least I could be counted on to be trusted.  If I said something, I meant it.  This was a big Fortune 500 company, and over the years I worked with many very smart people, and many times, as the saying goes, I wasn’t the brightest bulb or the sharpest tack in the room.  I know that, and have long since accepted it.  But I wasn’t duplicitous or political.  As the estimable Mr. Emerson would say, I tried to be “plain dealing” in my dealings with people.  Over time people came to understand that, and in the long run I strongly believe it was of value in my management of others.

So that’s it.  Four common-sense thoughts.  Nothing hard to grasp, to be sure.  All pretty simple.  But all pretty effective when it comes to getting the best out of others, which is after all the core of management.


This article was written by Victor Lipman from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.