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Simon doesn't say Featured

10:49am EDT October 23, 2001
In an era of low unemployment and enlightened management styles, it's hard to envision a supervisor who struts about, crowing, "I'm the boss, so just do the job the way I tell you to!'"

But many supervisors still dictate with that mindset. Look closer, says Susan Aldrich, and you'll see high employee turnover and low morale in such workplaces.

"You can't think in terms of 'I'm the supervisor and you're the lowly employee' because today's workers won't respond well to that kind of authority," says Aldrich, president of Susan Aldrich & Associates, a management consultancy in Brunswick.

"Employees don't want to be told what to do. They want to be part of a team," she says. "So you have to get away from the word 'supervisor' and think of yourself as a coach and a mentor, someone who can guide a team but also stand aside and let them perform."

Aldrich offers the following advice to help you become a better supervisor, uh, coach.

Leverage talents and abilities. Ask employees what tasks they most and least enjoy. Watch for areas in which they excel. Provide training to enhance their capabilities. Then, assign duties based on whose strengths will best accomplish specific projects.

"If someone volunteers for certain duties and you give them the chance to accomplish those objectives, they're going to be motivated to do it -- and they'll probably do it well," Aldrich explains.

Peter Goumas applied Aldrich's advice in his supervisory role at BWX Technologies Inc., a Barberton fabricating firm.

"I started listening to the employees to find out their interests, and when I moved them more toward the areas that made the most of their talents, that had a positive effect on the entire department," he says.

Delegate the right way. You can't manage effectively if you're too busy doing the work, says Aldrich. So delegate, then stand aside.

"There's nothing worse than assigning a task and then micromanaging it," says Aldrich. "Let employees bring their own ideas to a project, and give them the authority to make decisions to accomplish it."

As president of Professional Employment Services, a placement service with offices in Akron, Canton, Barberton, Hudson and Streetsboro, Tia Ramlow insists that her managers delegate so they can focus on what's most important.

"Many managers think that, to get something done, they must do it themselves. But that keeps them from getting out in the community to bring in the recruits that increase sales," Ramlow says. "They have to learn to delegate administrative tasks and hold the staff accountable to get those things done."

Give credit where it's due. If you give only negative feedback and forget to say "thank you," you'll always get poor performance, Aldrich says. Try this: Keep a list of all of your employees, and beside each name, write something positive to praise that person for each day.

When Doug Haring started doing this, he was amazed at the results.

"Once I started thanking each employee for something they'd done, they all started asking if they could help me with other work. That showed they really want to be part of a team," says Haring, a department manager at Advanced Health Systems in Akron. "I also became more confident as a manger, and less tense about assigning tasks." How to reach: Susan Aldrich & Associates, (330) 220-4576