Executive Suite: Five Golden Rules of Management, Part 2

Last month we discussed how to put together a unified management team; one that will perform with maximum commitment. The answer is the five “Golden Rules”. They prevent dissension and move your company forward without distraction.

We detailed the first three rules last month. Here is a very quick review:

RULE 1: Support Me. Make it clear that employees may disagree, but you will tolerate no backstabbing, sabotaging, or gossiping about you. Crossing that line leads to the exit door.

RULE 2: Support One Another. No backstabbing, grudge-holding, or gossiping about one another. Address any issue squarely with the colleague in question.

RULE 3: Be Candid. Offer input fully and candidly at meetings. You are counting on their honesty, not their mindless agreement.

Here are the last two that round out the Five Golden Rules:

RULE 4: Follow the Chain of Command. Though a tad redundant, you need this rule. You will not brook any leapfrogging or end runs within the group. No one is to go over anyone’s head at any time, nor are they to listen to grievances of an employee who does not report to them. Respect boundaries.

Ignore this and you will pay a heavy price. A growing company in which I consulted had a key veteran employee physically threaten a new manager. The owner, who loathed confrontation, took the employee out to lunch and prevailed on their long association to gain the employee’s cooperation with the new structure. The employee said his loyalty was to the owner only. The owner changed the manager’s duties rather than take a stand against the employee.

Later that same employee fabricated a sexual harassment claim against a different manager, creating a very expensive crisis. “I got rid of one manager,” the recalcitrant employee boasted to his buddies, “and I’ll get rid of this one if I don’t like him.”

You can’t have that. Entertain no employee complaints from anyone in your managers’ charge unless the employee in question has raised the matter with the person involved at the proper level.

RULE 5: Support the Group Decision. Management team decisions are rarely unanimous, but they must become so once they go final. More important, they must appear so to all those outside the management team. Any evidence of disagreement creeping out of the management team becomes a tiny fissure, one that will be seized upon by disgruntled employees, and picked at until a real crack in unity is evident.

Initial disagreement should be expected, partly because decisions do not have an even effect on everyone. Almost any verdict favoring sales will likely be greeted with less than effusive joy by other departments that will be saddled with more work and tighter deadlines.

But the team must line up behind the decision and push. If the production manager, trying to remain popular with her disgruntled workers, says, “Well I didn’t agree with that sales decision, but I was outvoted,” she sews the seeds of destruction.

Decisions must be made. Immobilization is not an option. Not to decide is to decide to let a company die. So all decisions must be—in spirit—unanimous. A less than truly good decision, fully supported, has a much greater likelihood of succeeding than a good one that does not have unanimous support.

Close the Deal

You must get your team to buy in to the Five Golden Rules. Circulate a copy of them to your management team, tell them to read them carefully and think them over for two days. After that, you want to know if they have any problems with any of them.

Trust me, they won’t. You need to do this because you want commitment, and it must come from them.

Once they have agreed, these become the Constitution of the management team. Refer to them constantly. In fact, you are wise to begin your meetings by encouraging the group to indulge in a bit of self-evaluation as to how well they have followed the Five Golden Rules in the previous week.

Make this happen. These rules are dynamite. Companies, particularly ones on the ropes, are usually destroyed from within, with the red bottom line a barometer of the effects of that dissension. These rules come as close to inoculating your company against these political toxins as anything.

Dr. David Claerbaut is a consultant to the graphic arts industry, focusing on workplace

dynamics and employee relations. Give him a call at 702-354-7000.