There’s a reason your best worker shouldn’t be promoted to supervisor, and why complaints should be received positively—they are the best way to improve your business. One of the most sought-after degrees, the MBA, needs constant retuning to keep pace with the demands of the constantly changing business environment and very often, the real lessons are the ones you pick up outside of the classroom. Harvard Business School graduate Michael W. Preis, along with Matthew Frederick, an educator, gives you some of the most valuable B-School lessons in 101 Things I Learned in Business School. Edited excerpts from the book:
How to run a meeting
• Create and distribute an agenda three to seven days in advance. Put the highest priority items at the top. Let the participants know ahead of time your expectations so they will be prepared.
• Depending on the formality of the meeting, consider designating someone to keep notes on minutes.
• Begin on time. Review the agenda and ask if changes are needed. Depending on the make-up and size of the group, the issues to be discussed and other factors, you may need to set rules for behaviour.
• Follow the agenda and stay on subject. Encourage participation and debate by all, but other than scheduled break-out discussion, allow only one person to speak at a time.
• Draw clear conclusions, and vote on discussion items when appropriate.
• Outline the next actions to be taken by the group (things to do, next meeting, etc.). Provide a brief recap and reiterate assigned tasks.
• Shortly after the meeting, distribute notes or minutes, organized in a format similar to the agenda. Include the major discussion points and the conclusions reached, and solicit comments, questions, corrections, and clarifications.
The most difficult and time-consuming problems in business are not business problems
Business endeavours are often complicated by human factors: misunderstandings, absenteeism, selfish agendas, ego clashes, personal business performed on company time, and more. The wise manager identifies and minimizes root factors in the work environment that contribute to people problems, works to resolve problems, and conducts himself as a model for others.
101 Things I Learned in Business School: By Michael W. Preis with Matthew Frederick, Hachette India, 224 pages, Rs 599
Complaints can be good things
When a customer tells a business where it failed, he or she is doing the business a favour. For every unsatisfied customer who complains, many others quietly leave and never come back. A complaining customer usually wants to continue doing business with the company—he or she just wants something to change so the relationship can continue. In fact, customers whose complaints are resolved quickly and satisfactorily often become very loyal.
Promoting the best performer to manager is often a mistake
Employees who excel in one area of business are often promoted to supervisory positions. But in management, one’s achievements are measured through the actions of others. A first-rate lab researcher promoted to lab supervisor, for example, has to coach, mentor, manage and help other researchers make discoveries—something that may be beyond his or her abilities or interests. Compounding the problem for the organization is that the department no longer has its best researcher making discoveries on the bench.
Management is its own area of expertise, distinct in many ways from the activity being managed. In large organizations, top-level managers often lack expertise in the work being done, but are able to create circumstances in which those under them may thrive.
A good manager makes imperfect decisions
It is rare for circumstances to permit the collection of ideal data to support a pending decision. The time, effort and expense required to do so must be weighed against the potential benefit as well as dangers of delay. A good manager knows:
• when to make a good or workable decision and when to attempt a perfect decision
• when to live with and when to correct a previous bad decision
• that the right decision is sometimes the one made right in follow-up
• that even the best decision makers make mistakes, and that a manager is properly judged on a long-term record.
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