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Management by Common Sense (MBCS)

We have all heard of the old axiom, “Management by Wandering Around – MBWA.” The gist of this is that if you are out and amongst your staff, (i.e. walking around) than you will be seen as approachable, open and able to get a feel for the pulse of your department. You will be able to pick up on what is working, what isn’t, who is performing and who isn’t, simply by making informal visits to where your staff works and by listening to them. While I believe this can formulate an element of a solid management practice, it also leaves out other essential elements. That is, what do you do with the quantitative and qualitative data you collect while wandering around? More specifically, how do you execute on the elements that require your managerial expertise? Perhaps there is something more important to focus on? How about, “Management by Common Sense?” (MBCS for short).

This style would involve utilizing key elements that leverage the data and “pulse” information that you have obtained with the MBWA approach. In its simplest form, MBCS involves not always relying on a policy handbook. It means being present in your role as a manager and working with your employees. At its core, MBCS means that your employees are the reason that you have a job and that you are employed at your company – and there is no training program that teaches you this! You are there for them – to provide support, guidance and to help enable them in their role(s). MBCS requires managers to do the following:

1. Communication – using a common sense approach, take the time to listen to your employees. Take note of what they are NOT telling you. Read between the lines. Ask questions. Often what your employees are coming to you to discuss are mere symptoms of larger problems. That want a manager that will listen to them and they want to feel respected. This is common sense, but often not utilized!
2. Make objective evaluations – stop relying on the notion of “fairness.” What is fair to one person might not be seen as fair to another. However, when evaluating a situation, if the criteria you use to make the decision is objective and you are consistent in the application of these criteria, than you will be seen as being objective in your approach. For example, when you are looking to make exceptions to policy, if you always look at the individual’s performance as your starting point, than this is an objective approach. This also ties into:
3. Stop relying on policy – policies are guidelines not always hard and fast rules. Managers that always default to a policy as being the “answer” aren’t really managers. If it was always as clear cut as what the policy says, than a manager is not required as we could always just flow chart the answer in the policy – if this, than that. However, managers who utilize the MBCS approach look to the policy as guidelines and then make an informed decision. For example, a company’s bereavement policy will pay for up to x days in the death of an immediate family member (i.e. mother, father, sibling.) The manager in question had an employee whose grandmother passed away and the policy did not account for this. However, by effectively communicating (see #1) the manager knew that the grandmother raised the employee when they were a child and were basically their de facto mother. The manager paid the employee the three days bereavement time even though the policy indicated otherwise. This is a classic MBCS approach.
4. Make a decision – points #2 and #3 actually assumed a level of decision making occurred. The MBCS approach means that a manager actually does make decisions. Decisions can come in many different forms and responses such as; “I need more information before I can answer that” or “I need to consult with xyz before I can provide you an answer” may be acceptable as well. What is not acceptable in the MBCS approach are defer, deflect and evade responses. This would include the classic, “Leave that with me”, “That is out of my pay grade,” or “I don’t think so but that is up to so and so.” Your employees look to you for answers and guidance – you owe it to them to provide it in a timely matter.
5. Deliver on commitments – this encapsulates elements of the previous points. When you tell an employee you are going to get back to them by a certain date, time, etc. than you MUST get back to them when you committed to do so. Do not commit to a deadline/response for your employee and then completely disregard what you committed to. When this happens on a rare occasion (human nature) most employees are able to forgive. However, when it becomes a regular occurrence, it is simply unforgivable and is a bad management practice that erodes the level of trust the employee has with their manager.

These five (5) elements make up the core of a basic MBCS approach. If as managers, we all started to employ this with our staff, we would all see higher levels of engagement and satisfaction amongst our staff. The beauty of the MBCS approach is that it costs nothing to implement and to practice/follow. I welcome any other suggestions you may add to the MBCS approach and I wish you the best of luck in improving your management skills.

Image courtesy of sheelamohan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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