There is a now famous TV ad for a major insurance company that simply states, “we know a lot, because we have seen a lot.” This can most easily be defined as the consequence of gaining experience (aka seen a lot). With a lengthy tenure in the commercial AV industry, I have been fortunate to have worked closely with many manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and industry associations… but the main point is that each one has been different, and each interaction has taught me something unique that I file away for future reference.
Because of that accrued knowledge (and yes, experience!) I am often asked for my advice to help companies reach their goals and objectives. Essentially, a company will ask me what they are missing.
They have the innate desire to do things right, but need help filling in some of the blanks.
My response to them requires a process of discovery. We seek to find out what knowledge they need but that they currently lack… and then tell them how to apply those things to reach their objectives.
I know it sounds simple, but digging beneath the surface you will see that it is not.
Most companies understand their desired end results (or outcomes) in the form of goals and objectives. This usually entails increased sales and profitability, or it may be that in addition to company growth and expansion.
As one pundit opined, companies know their destination, but most often they do not know the route.
If they do know the route, they commonly do not actually know what to do along the way.
This is where effective management (or all too often lack thereof) comes into the picture. Management is one of those words or concepts we think we know… but do not assume. Let’s make sure shall we!
As a pure definition, management is the continuing coordination and administration of tasks to achieve a goal.
These activities include setting the organization’s strategy and coordinating the efforts of staff to accomplish these objectives through the application of available resources.
To be an effective manager, you will need to develop a set of skills, including planning, communication, organization, and leadership.
You will also need extensive knowledge of the company’s goals and how to direct employees, sales, and other operations to accomplish them.
There are clearly defined functions of a manager:
• At the top level there is the ability to set and (through continuous management) achieve the objectives. I like the SMART acronym for goal setting, but it is also a roadmap for AV company management along the way. They must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. This is the route we speak of.
• Next is organization. The manager must evaluate the staff and the work to be done and divide it into achievable tasks. This falls under delegation but also the creation of a harmonious work environment among the team members. Keep in mind that qualified people remain with a company because of the culture!
• Motivation also comes into play. This is the ability to handle different types of personalities on a team. Keep in mind that the destination (aka. the goal or objective) may be the same but the route to get there may be different and handled differently by different people.
• A manager must be able to measure not only the end result, but how things are going along the way. This may be in the form of key performance indicators or some other creative way to understand performance. This results in and helps ensure the business outcome.
• Good managers develop their staff. They work with their team as individuals to help them set goals to move up in their careers. People will stay loyal to managers who they feel truly care about them.
As you can imagine there is no single “best-practices” management style. Cookie cutter is a term that simply cannot (or should not) be spoken here.
What can be said is that an autocratic or dictatorial style will not work long term. AV managers who practice that sort of style will find staff turnover to be a major headache. They get short term results but not long term.
The best management styles fall under what one expert calls a “positive leadership” approach. This may be a manager who spends a lot of time with their team and leads by example… thus persuading rather than commanding.
Another style is a manager who allows the team to be directly involved in the decision-making process.
Yet another style is the manager who strives to become a mentor and teacher, with the intention to develops the team to “own” their part of the process.
Your style must fit you, and it may actually be a combination of styles, depending on what works for you personally. What we do know is that good managers are positive and not negative. They listen and collaborate. They are consistent and not erratic. They plan and execute the plan.
Over the years I have found that more often than not, the “culprit” of what is lacking in a company is effective management. Yes, management that is either unfortunately lacking, or present but misapplied. We need to manage to the objective and not just focus on the end result.
Warning signs appear along the way… but effective management along the route ensures the outcome. This naturally provides checks and balances, with yardsticks to measure against so that there are no surprises in the end.
Don’t drink the proverbial Kool Aid! Ask yourself if good management is practiced here… if not, the good news is that you now have a basic template to consider building from.