It’s OK for staff employees to be perfectionists—and in many cases, it’s a real asset. But for a manager who has these tendencies, such a mind-set can be disastrous. Perfectionists not only are unforgiving of others’ errors, they are especially hard on themselves when they make a mistake. As a result nothing ever is good enough, and so usually they’re incapable of offering sympathy when it’s necessary or praise when it’s justified.
So what are perfectionist managers to do? If they can recognize the trait in themselves, there are two ways to address it: They can work with subordinates to draft a set of attainable goals for each. And then, when a goal is achieved, managers should go out of their way to recognize the accomplishment with praise—or at least a thank-you.
Be aware that e-mail has become a boon to people who are a little shy about issuing commands, asking for favors or offering criticism. They’d rather type a memo or send an e-mail than deliver the message orally. If you want to have a meaningful follow-up dialogue with them after receiving their e-mail, it may be more productive to send an e-mail response than to make a return phone call.
The most serious error made by people who leave voice-mail messages is speaking too quickly and not clearly enough. Be especially careful when providing a callback number or financial information. It’s wise to repeat the numbers or information so recipients don’t have to listen to the entire message again if they missed part of it.
Although it’s a drag, consider updating your voice-mail message daily. It gives the caller confidence that you’re available to get your messages—that you’re not on a trip and unable to retrieve them in a timely way.
Grow Your Own Executive Team
It’s a myth that some people are born managers and simply can step into any management role. At best, a few of us have a natural talent and interest in supervision but still need extensive training and experience to do a job well. And doesn’t it make sense that the best experience candidates can get is gained in your own company or firm? That way when they’re appointed to head a department or division, they will be able to hit the ground running, knowing the ins and outs of the business and having developed relationships with other managers in the organization.
The only way that can happen is if your organization establishes an “incubator” for managers. To do this, start by selecting a handful of young candidates based on their interest and demonstrated skills. Encourage them to enroll in management workshops and evening classes and consider paying all or part of the tuition. Assign mentors to watch over their activities and seek out opportunities to test their skills.
STANLEY ZAROWIN, a former JofA senior editor, now is a contributing editor to the magazine. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .