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The Art of Management

Few of us are “born managers” or “born leaders”. Most of us are promoted into management positions through hard work and the determination to succeed. 

Some of us want to be managers; some of us don’t. Some of us will be comfortable with the responsibility; some of us would rather be somewhere else…anywhere else.

Our feelings about management and being in a management position are inextricably bound by our experiences with being managed…as an employee, a volunteer, a student or in any number of positions where we reported to a higher authority. We share tales of the best and worst of managers, but we focus on the real horror stories. No wonder that when offered a management position, many of us accept with some very real concerns about our ability to do the job.

There are many types of managers and management styles and different situations and organizations need different management styles and skills for their success.

Tough economic times may require a more authoritarian style, while an organization that thrives on creativity may require this authoritarian style to be more flexible than usual. A good manager has a solid sense of self and self-confidence and is capable of running an office, department or organization. There are certain skills that are necessary for every manager:

  • The ability to identify problems with employees

  • Communication and listening skills

  • The ability to compromise

  • Intelligence

  • Creativity

  • The discipline to stick to a plan

Yet the most important facet of effective management is the ability to lead, to motivate and to bring out the best in every employee. An effective leader is fully vested in his or her success, the success of the team and of the organization. 

To further define leadership is to break it down into leadership styles. Transactional leaders focus on the exchange of resources for work performed. Rewarding good performance and dealing quickly with poor performance, interpersonal issues and attitudes. Transformational leaders are able to instill a sense of higher purpose rather than just reaching short-term goals. Developing that inner drive allows employees to excel in the face of obstacles. Transactional leaders will do well enough, however transformational leaders will soar.

When Managers go BAD

We know who they are. We’ve worked for at least one in our careers. But do we really know what turns a manager into a micro-manager?

Small Business Resource ( defines micro-management as exercising excessive control of a project or group of people. Unfortunately the point at which control becomes excessive is a bit fuzzy. Manager and employee often have different ranges for what they consider to be excessive. 
There are many reasons why a manager becomes a micro-manager. They can be personality driven or skill driven. Personality driven micro-managers may believe that no one can do something as well as he/she can. He or she may be reluctant to provide adequate training, fearing that they may be overshadowed by another employee. While this ego-driven attitude may make the micro-manager feel indispensable, it often prevents them from being promoted. He or she is indispensable only in that specific department.

A manager may hire competent people to bring in new ideas or processes and then begin to feel threatened by those ideas that are outside of his or her experience. The competencies that made the employee an attractive and potentially valuable asset now becomes the reason for micro-managing.

“When you’re not a manager, what you produce is your value to the company,” says Paul Glen, a Los Angeles-based consultant. “When you move into management, you’re rewarded for making other people more productive rather than producing yourself. You need to redefine that measure of success so you don’t get involved in production anymore.”

According to Andrew Coutermarsh, writing for Identity Marketing, “The micro-manager lacks either the awareness or the ability to ‘let go’ of this need to control the process, outcome, or people involved.”
The costs of micro-management are high. It can erode an employee’s sense of self-worth, creating anger and frustration. These feelings of powerlessness will lead to losses in productivity, excessive absenteeism, internal theft and high turnover. It squashes individual accountability and ownership of tasks and creates a bottleneck that ends at the micro-managers desk. It stifles creativity and the ability to develop innovative solutions to problem-solving. 

As a middle manager at a large corporate optical retailer, I estimated the cost of recruiting and training a new employee at about $9,000. That was in the early 1990’s. Imagine what the costs of high turnover are now.

The Way Back

The key to backing away from micro-management is self-awareness and a commitment to changing behaviors. Take time for some serious introspection to determine how and why these self-limiting habits have taken root.

Ask for feedback from peers and staff members, keeping in mind that you may not get the answers you need until you’ve asked multiple times. And for heaven’s sake don’t kill the messenger!
Ask for time with your boss to redefine your role as a manager and what benchmarks you can set to measure your success. Remember that your boss wants you to succeed at least as much as you do.
Define and understand the differences between being helpful and meddling by learning to delegate. There is a huge difference between being “kept in the loop” and hourly reports. Trust your staff to do their jobs.

Being a Great Manager

Create a team. Just like T-ball and Little League, everyone gets to participate. Emphasize honesty, trust and respect so that everyone is on the same page with the same goals to reach.

Define the mission. It’s not always about the money. It’s also about being part of something greater than yourself, of knowing the importance of your job to the success of the mission.

Dispel fear. Encourage creative thinking, by acknowledging that sometimes things just go wrong. The important thing is to continue to think. Sometimes you need to allow the team to “fall forward” until the goal is reached.

Be a coach. Teach, encourage and correct, but most importantly lead by example. Offer the skills you have when they’re needed. Understand that your skills are just another set of tools.
Allow employees to “out-grow” their jobs. Encourage education and self-improvement. Cross-train at every opportunity. 

“Being a good boss is important in any organization, but it’s particularly important for small business. With smaller businesses, you really have the opportunity to set the tone for the entire company.” --Rob Sheehan, Director of Executive Education James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership The University of Maryland

Judy Canty

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