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8 Rules for Getting Things Done Through People

Last updated on 1/6/2020

Effective management is a timeless skill—as demonstrated by this treasure of an article from the AutoBeat Group archive. Although the tools of the trade have changed and proliferated, the basics remain the same. Here are 8 old school (and just darn practical) rules for being an excellent manager. 


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Editor's Note: This piece was written in 2002 by Automotive Design & Production’s then-management-columnist Ted Pollock. I stumbled upon it recently, and marveled at just how simple and direct his advice is. I found myself jotting his reminders on a post-it to place along the edge of my screen. So I’m resurfacing the very best of Pollock’s advice in a short series. (Next up: How to Get More Done; The Art of Thinking Clearly; Unleashing Your Imagination; Dealing With Pressure; What to Ask New Hires; Six Ways to Save Time; and The Importance of Being Available. 


A manager’s job is to get things done by other people. That’s axiomatic. But how, precisely, is that accomplished? Here are eight practical rules that will help any manager get more accomplished by his people and, in the process, build an alert, eager, responsible staff.

1. Be considerate.

Nothing contributes more to building a strong, hard-working, loyal team than a considerate chief. He is courteous to his people. He puts himself in their place before making any decisions affecting them. He knows that they have pride and self-respect, and that he will get much more effective work by treating those characteristics as assets than by trampling on them.

2. Delegate responsibility for details to subordinates.

This is the essence of management. You are not a manager if you do not delegate, just as you are not a machinist if you cannot run a machine. The manager who insists on keeping his hand on the details discourages his people by competing with them. The capable ones will quit, the others will sit back and let him do the work. And he will have no time for his real job—thinking and planning.

3. Give credit where it is due.

Taking credit that really belongs to others destroys their initiative and willingness to assume responsibility. Giving proper recognition confers a double benefit: they get credit for doing the job; you get credit for building an able staff.

4. Show appreciation of the other person.

This is another way of saying, “be a human being.” Not all people are warm-hearted by nature. But even the coldest blooded manager can easily take steps to warm his relations with the people on his staff. For instance: make occasional spur-of-the-moment luncheon dates with one or two at a time; find a way to mention hobbies, outside interests, or other not-too-personal matters; arrange informal bull sessions on business and non-business topics.

5. Provide context and explanation.

When making a request or suggestion, be sure to tell the reason for it. People want to know not only what they are doing, but why. The explanation may be oral or in writing. But be sure to give it.

6. Play up the positive.

Just as praise is a stronger stimulant than criticism, so appreciation is better than lack of it, and building up a person’s self-respect is more resultful than tearing it down.

7. When you’re wrong or make a mistake, admit it.

No manager loses face when he admits he’s wrong—providing he isn’t wrong too often! What you will gain is your people’s confidence in your fairness and honesty, an asset beyond price to a manager.

8. Set goals.

Give your people goals, a sense of direction, something to strive for and to achieve. They need to know where they are going, what they are doing, and why they are doing it, in order to plan their courses intelligently and work efficiently.

Good employees can’t get interested in working from day-to-day. So make clear the relationship between their day-to-day work and their larger goals.

For example, don’t stop with asking a person to study the operating costs of a department; explain that it’s part of a plan to provide leeway for salary increases, and the knowledge gained will strengthen chances for promotion. And give your people information about your department, company and industry so they can see themselves and their work in perspective.

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