• I’ve probably forgotten more than you’ll ever know.
  • The lost-and-found just called and said they had found a spine. They were wondering whether it was yours.
  • If you were on fire, I’d buy marshmallows and invite everyone else to eat.

While those three comments are humorous, it really is no laughing matter to be in a situation where you feel that way towards someone else. Being stuck in a lousy work environment can have several detrimental effects. It can lead to a variety of stress-related physical ailments, depression, anxiety, and work burn-out. These are all things that dampen a company’s productivity and bottom line.

There are several things workers can do to alleviate work-stress: Reset your limits, spend your breaks differently, take vacations, or exercise. However, a lot depends on the type of management in place.

One day as I was doing some business research online, I came across “Everything I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten" written by Robert Fulghum. It’s a fundamental yet comprehensive list that really encompasses the important things. It relates to more than just kindergarten. I’ve read this list before (as I’m sure most of you have) and thought how appropriate it was for life. I found it to be a very insightful bit of wisdom.

Then when I thought more about it, I realized that it could easily be applied to basic management principles. For me, these points were applicable to so many things. So I decided to come up with the list you have in front of you: The Commandments of Good Management:

#1: Don’t take things that aren’t yours. If your subordinate has a great idea, promote it; don’t steal it! You’ll be praised for fostering bright and motivated workers.

You stealing someone else’s ideas does show in some twisted way that you value that person and their ideas, but you need to give credit where it’s due. Stealing anything from others is wrong, but stealing ideas may put you at a bigger disadvantage in the future with your employees. In doing this, you will automatically lose their respect. Additionally, they’ll probably be less likely to go out of their way to help you.

#2: Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. So is respect and positive reinforcement. Show respect where due and give positive reinforcement to foster a healthy team environment. People will thank you for it later. Developing good listening and communications skills will help earn you the respect from your subordinates as well as your coworkers. It shows them respect. Be sure that your words and deeds contribute to a healthy corporate culture.

#3: Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. There’s more to life than work. Don’t expect your staff to be at the office till all hours every day. They deserve down-time. Burnt-out employees bring down productivity. Do your best to motivate your employees. You’ll be glad you did; they’ll be eager to take on more responsibility and their enthusiasm will spread to others. Conversely, negativity will lead to high turnover and a general environment with diminished productivity. This is what hurts business; managers need to be aware of it.

Good managers possess the following skills: They understand people, they set reasonable boundaries, and are excellent communicators. They also allow others a certain amount of freedom to do their work and be creative.

Something that’s important to remember is that good managers know that they don’t manage people, they manage work. We cannot control others, just the situation. We can only control ourselves and our actions. That’s not an opinion; that’s a fact. Get used to it.

Share everything. Don’t keep your people in the dark. The more they know, the more they can contribute (Psssst! It’s not about you. Even though you believe it is, it’s not. Learn to trust a little.) If you hired them, you should be able to trust them. C’mon, we’re all adults here.

Play fair. Don’t allocate a ridiculous amount of work and then derail them or set them up for failure. Although so many managers do this, either unwittingly or on purpose, it serves no purpose other than create friction. At the end of the day, do you really want to deal with those problems?

Additionally, don’t ask your subordinates to do that which you yourself are not willing to do. That’s a big pet peeve of mine. Nothing – well, almost nothing – makes a manager look more slimy than when they refuse to learn the jobs of their subordinates before moving up. You should know what their job is, know how to do it, and help out when they really need it.

Don't hit people. Can you say lawsuit???

Put things back where you found them. Or better yet, when talking about things like confidence and self-esteem, don’t take those at all! Do what you can to build these things in the people that report to you; they’ll respect you for it!

Of course, it’s possible that you don’t care about their respect. You might only care about what those from up top think, right? Well here’s news for you: the pee-on of today could be tomorrow’s vice president at the company. Don’t you want that to be a favorable relationship?

Clean up your own mess. Don’t expect others to correct your mistakes or take the heat for it; act your age and take responsibility. I mean, I’ve heard you preach volumes on things like accountability. Do you even know what that means? You get upset when someone makes a mistake but I have yet to hear you say, “Hmmm, was there a breakdown in communication on my part that might have lead to this?" You want to talk about accountability, let’s start from the top. Everyone should be accountable. Funny though, how the bat-$#@%-crazy manager rarely is.

Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody. If you’re wrong, admit it. Trying to cover up mistakes only leads to lying and looking like a big jerk. Don’t let anyone else take the fall for it. Think of the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. Of course, if you’re “The Boss", you think you’re untouchable. Granted, you answer to someone else and not to your support staff, but think about how you would want your boss to treat you if they’re not already treating you like that.

Wash your hands before you eat. This is basic hygiene, folks. If you’re sick then take a sick day – no one wants your germs! Don’t be a martyr. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this. Sick days are for staying home and resting. Of course, they could be for other things like running errands and going shoe shopping, but really, their primary purpose is to allow you rest when you truly need it. Use them. How many times have you seen, during the wintertime especially, an epidemic of flues and colds? Bad enough you give your staff grief on a daily basis, don’t give them your sick germs too.

Flush. See “Clean up your own mess".

Take a nap every afternoon. If you can’t allow an afternoon siesta, at least be sure that your people have the opportunity to walk away for lunch. They should not be expected to work through it. There comes a time when you just need to step away in order to gain a fresh perspective. Enforce this. We get it, deadlines come up and need to be met. It’s crucial to conducting business. But keep a keen eye on your staff to ensure that no burnout occurs as a result of it. Stressed out employees are ripe for conflict. This is easily avoidable if you just allow them the time to walk away every so often.

When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together. Don’t throw your employees under the bus. Do for them and they’ll do for you. At least give them the benefit of the doubt.

It is generally expected that subordinates will be protected by their supervisors. Good, bad or indifferent… part of the “team" mentality is that someone has your back. This is the way it ought to be – but just so rarely is.

Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. Your people are only as good as you train them. Spend the time to mentor your staff and guide them along on their career. When they’re superstars, they’ll have you to thank. Unless they’re too good for their benefit and pose a threat to you. Or at least in your mind they pose a threat. In which case you can bully them until they’re either on the verge of a nervous breakdown or they quit because they can’t take any more of you. Either way works for you because if they do stay they’ll be so badly beaten that you’ll have knocked their ingenuity right out of them.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we. Like money, you can’t take your knowledge and experience to the grave, so share it! Then again, if you have no knowledge in the first place it explains why you never share any. Can’t pass along what ain’t there, right? Certainly.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK. Appreciate and support the people that work for you. If they know you’re there for them and see what you do for them, you will gain immeasurable results from them.

Threatening them also works. I’ve seen the mightiest of employees shrink to mere shells of the individuals they used to be after their managers got through with them. The work got done but not before the employees had to start taking antidepressants to deal with the pressure they were under. Naturally, these were hard working people from the get go, but look at what they can do now that they’re medicated!

A good leader knows what it takes to succeed. Most of it is contained in this list of commandments. We need to remember the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink". Knowing the things that motivate people and implementing them is true success. If people are respected and given the freedom to do their jobs, managers will receive unending rewards from it. It’s possible to glean enormous results with very little. We just need to know where to start.

We need to pay attention to life’s little lessons. There’s a reason why children attend kindergarten; it serves as a solid foundation for the rest of their lives. Luckily, we have the experience and wisdom to know that.

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