Supervisor Expectations: Mandating Critical Management Behaviors

Though the management styles of individuals differ, there are a few management behaviors or policies that should be consistent.  The athletics director should consider mandating the following practices among all staff who supervise employees:

  • An "Open Door" Policy.   An “open door” policy is an invitation for employees to approach their supervises for advice at any time rather than requiring formal appointments or structured office hours.  The time commitment that goes along with an open door policy may be considerable, but employees who know that they can be heard when something important arises are more apt to avert crisis and be better team players.  If employees sense that there is intolerance for sharing information or an attitude that employees are less competent if they can’t solve their own problems, they will tend to work in a vacuum and minimize a problem until it reaches a boiling point.  One strategy a manager can use if s/he is really busy is to ask the employee taking advantage of open door access if they need to speak right now or if it can wait until the manager completes his/her task at hand.  Many times the employee is willing to wait, is happy they were asked, and the employee and manager are pleased when a short delay results in the problem resolving itself.
  • Listen, Analyze, Collaborate. Having an open door policy becomes useless if the manager is not a good listener.  A certain amount of analysis has to take place while listening.  Is the problem real or perceived?  Is it important to this person but of no real significance to the program overall?  Does the problem need to be addressed immediately or is it something that may resolve itself just by waiting and watching?  How much intervention is needed and who is the best resource to help mediate the problem?  Many times, when the manager listens and poses questions back to the employee in an effort to analyze the nature of the issue, the result is collaborative problem solving with mutually beneficial results.  Such collaboration also helps employees learn how to conduct their own problem solving for future situations.  If the manager is always providing the answer, employees become excessively reliant on the manager.  Conversely, if the manager listens and then never gets back to the employee about the problem, the employee learns that it is futile to try and engage the manager and will tend to work in isolation.  Listen, ask questions essential to accurately analyzing the problems, and collaborate with the employee to determine a solution.
  • Fairness. Fair and consistent decision making is critical for all managers.  People understand the word “no” when it can be explained reasonably and based on what is right or fair for the unit or department at large.  Sometimes the presence of a tiered funding model may seem inherently unfair but as long as the tiers and the rationale for a tiered system are articulated clearly, the manager should not be reluctant to make the decisions that reflect these differences and while doing so, re-emphasize why these differences must exist.
  • Information Sharing. Information sharing and transparency, except when the need for confidentiality exists, are essential components for building a team.  Keeping people uninformed makes them feel disempowered and they may ultimately see their manager as disingenuous.  Keeping people informed gives them a sense of control and provides essential knowledge for good decision-making, maximization of performance, and/or reinforcement of desirable work behaviors.  In order to keep information flowing in all directions, it is very important to have periodic, established staff meetings.  When a staff meeting is scheduled every one or two weeks, managers will have a tendency to immediately confront their supervisor for advise, and will instead write down important issues as they arise for discussion in the next staff meeting.  Staff meetings create regularized, proactive, and structured information sharing.  If meetings are not on a set schedule, managers forget to share information at all levels and important information can be lost for certain subgroups. 
  • Effective Confrontation and Problem Solving. The desire to be liked is present in most human beings.  However, when the desire crosses over into becoming a need, the ability to manage is often compromised.  Managers must confront problems head on.  They must not bully or ever surmise that they know the motives that led to the problem but must engage in unbiased fact finding and be prepared to take the appropriate action.  If a manager is ever unsure whether a problem warrants confrontation or feels intimidated by the employee, counsel should be sought from his or her immediate supervisor or the human resource department.

--by Connee Zotos, Ph.D., SMR Senior Associate