Kevin Peter of Moterwriter.com caught up with author Eldon N. Spady and got him to talk a little about his book, The No-Drama Manager. This is what transpired in the tête-à-tête with the author.
Kevin Peter: What’s a typical day in the life of Eldon N. Spady like?
Eldon N. Spady: I have on my desk long-term and short-term to-do lists, that I update and prioritize every evening before leaving the office. So when I get in every morning I have those lists to work on.
Every day I get numbers from accounting, sales, production, and billing, which represent yesterday’s sales, billing, cash in, cash out, purchasing, and production and shipping numbers. This gives me the pulse of the company with seven numbers.
I make a point to touch base with each of my staff in their own office or work area. This gives me an opportunity to see what’s going on in those areas and ask any questions. It also gives each staff member the opportunity to bring up any news, questions, or problems. This is done in a casual low-key manner.
Once a week I have a staff meeting where we, as a group, review the performance of the company during the past week and go over anything that need to be addressed.
Other than that I spend time meeting with any special projects people and work on my to-do lists. I keep my door open except for the most private personnel issues, so I have people popping in with questions, observations, reports, or complaints.
Then there are the normal meetings with large customers, vendors, and other people who deal with the company and expect time with the person in charge.
All told, it keeps me busy.
KP: Tell us a little about your background?
ES: Early in my career I was hired to manage a specific department in a large corporation. In that company I worked my way up until I was president. After that I was hired by a number of other companies to effect specific change or because the companies were in trouble, usually because of dysfunctional management, and/or product failures, resulting in diminishing sales and lack of operating capital. At these companies I was hired as the person responsible for all facets of the operations, reporting either to a board of directors or to the owners. Depending on the company, job titles for these top spots ranged from General Manager to President. Regardless of the title, the job was to turn each company around. In that, with the help of a lot of good people, we were successful.
KP: What do you think is the best way to influence others, through your actions and your deeds or through your words?
ES: Words are cheap and easy to come by. The only lasting influence is by actions and deeds, which usually have to be accompanied by words. Your actions and deeds had better match what you say. It they don’t, neither what you do nor what you say will be taken too seriously.
KP: How would you describe your book ‘The No-Drama Manager’ to a new reader?
ES: The No-Drama Manager is a book of basic ideas on how to manage people, and what to look for and do to have a healthy, successful, well functioning company. These are ideas that work for me. The management situation in question may not be the normal corporate setting, but may be the PTA, the Chamber of Commerce, a church group, or any other place where leadership toward organization and productivity are needed. In all these scenarios, good leaders are in demand. The book does not contain any tricky catch phrases or five-step plans.
KP: Tips on how managers can identify his/her employee’s strengths and weaknesses?
ES: I’m now talking about my direct staff: By observing them, visiting their departments and casually talking with them and their people (this is not an investigation).
If they are outside people (such as your sales manager), travel with and watch him/her interact with the people they have to deal with.
Watch the stats on their departments (results accomplished for dollars spent).
Keep asking questions. The answers will give you a good picture of what his/her strengths and weaknesses are.
Listen carefully to your staff’s questions. What they need to know will tell you something about their strengths and weaknesses.
KP: How would you lead a workforce that has employees from different generations?
ES: Treat them all with equal respect; let the staff see that everyone gets equal treatment---young and old. If they see you doing it they will tend to imitate your actions. If appropriate and the opportunity arises, team young and old on special projects, each can learn from the other and build respect for what each can bring to the process. Let them know that you expect input from both young and old based on their specific experience and knowledge, and that the group is better for having diverse backgrounds---age just being one of those diversities.
KP: Most companies always have a ‘big project’ in the works that they want executed as per plan and in a flawless manner. But often we hear the terms challenging, stress and last-minute changes associated with it. So how can you execute a project perfectly?
ES: First, I’m not sure there is such a thing as executing a perfect project. The results can look perfect, but getting there can be messy. However we always try to diminish the mess.
Have well established goals so that everyone knows what the project is and what it should look like when finished.
Give out assignments so everyone knows who is responsible for what---let them know up front that changes might come along and that you have the utmost confidence the group will be able to react and adjust to those changes.
Don’t get between your staff and what they’re trying to accomplish. Give your staff as much leeway as possible in doing their job their way. Have a simple measuring and monitoring system that everyone understands so they can monitor themselves like they know you will be monitoring them. Then use the monitoring system to track the progress of the project.
Encourage staff as a group and individually. Encourage feed back as an early warning system so that you know as soon as possible if the project is going off the rails. If problems come along, as they surely will, work on solutions and not on trying to find someone to blame. This in itself will give the staff confidence, so they will not always be looking over their shoulders, to see if their backsides are covered.
Also encourage your staff to talk, work, and share ideas with each other. Bring your staff to the point where they trust each other to get his/her part of the project done right and on time.
Celebrate successes and learn from failures.
KP: What do you think are the crisis affecting today’s leaders?
ES: First of all there are as many good leaders out there today as in the past. However, we seem to have an inordinate number of wannabe leaders coming out of our universities and business schools who, for some reason, have not made the connection between performance and advancement. They seem to think that just putting in the time (and it better not take too long) should automatically gain them advancement. They feel that it is their right to be awarded positions of greater responsibility, not realizing that most senior managers will not promote a person who has not shown they can actually manage. And by manage I mean getting the job done by making things happen without tearing up the organization.
KP: How would you go about grooming and preparing young people to become tomorrow’s leaders?
ES: First, they need good leadership, so they have someone to learn from. Here are a few basic ideas – this could be a whole new book in itself - - -
Give them responsibilities of increasing difficulty. Watch how they perform, give them feedback---encouragement, praise, and suggestions. Make sure your door is always open to them when they need to get advice, make recommendations, or just talk. Let them make mistakes. And when they do, help them take responsibility for the mistake, and then help them find solutions. Let them know that mistakes are natural for people who are making things happen. Not too many mistakes, but a few. Make sure they are doing these same things with the people they manage. They need to learn that one of their responsibilities is to groom the people they manage, just as you are grooming them. Utilize inside or outside course work to broaden their knowledge base and give them additional ideas on how to lead.
KP: Each company is different from one another, at least it seems so from an outsider’s perspective. So is there a fool-proof method to being a good manager that applies across different companies in different industries?
ES: The one thing that all management positions have in common is that they depend on people to get the job done. So, in my opinion a successful approach to dealing with people is one of the constants in whatever management situation you find yourself.
Three basic management traits that will help where ever the manager is: Be honest with people, respect people, and lead by example.
My book, The No-Drama Manager explains what worked for me. Every manager has his/her own personality, so how they utilize the ideas in my book will vary to some extent.
KP: What are the qualities management should look into while recruiting?
ES: What I look for are people who can get things done, who can make things happen. For people who have respect for their peers, and for the people they manage. For people who can listen, and not just wait to talk. For people who are not afraid of hard work, and who are eager to prove themselves, not only to me and their peers, but to themselves. Not all these things are necessarily evident in a couple interviews, but you do the best you can and then trust your assessment is correct.
KP: And lastly, thank you for parting with your valuable time Eldon N. Spady and all the very best for your book.
ES: You’re welcome, and thank you.