Management Success Series Tip #3: Common Sense or Common Knowledge?

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The previous tips in this series discussed the importance of influence (Tip #1) and visibility (Tip #2) as a manager.  Both of these may seem pretty obvious, which leads us to Tip #3.  On a flight not too long ago, I had a typical business traveler conversation with the passenger sitting next to me.  You know, it was that “What do you do?”, “Headed out or going home?” conversation.  She, too, was a manager at a large company, so we had a lot to discuss.  As we talked, we began to share some of the challenges we were dealing with at work.  She then made the statement “The key to management is common sense, not common knowledge.”

She described common knowledge as the “what” managers do.  Leaders and managers create expectations for their teams, they address employee performance and they report out the business metrics.  You can also throw in the intangible things that managers are supposed to do: we inspire, motivate and empower people to do their best.  This is all true, and many people would stop there saying that’s what managers do – its common knowledge.

She continued.  “When in a leadership position, you are also expected to make things happen.” In modern business, we often have detailed processes to follow and standard protocol for how we go about doing things.  These are imperfect though.  There is no one-size-fits-all structure or process that makes everything run smoothly.  You have IT issues to deal with.  You have people out ill, people on vacation, and inclement weather.  You have budget constraints, email overload and unforeseen challenges.  But you’re still expected to make things happen.  “Management is really just common sense.”

Common sense means you continue to manage the change and the exceptions. Common sense tells you to bypass steps in a standard process that don’t apply to your needs.  Common sense tells you that when Michael is out sick that maybe Claire can be called in to get out that report.  Common sense also tells you that when times are tough, bringing in breakfast for the team or taking them out to lunch as a simple ‘thank you’ can help your employees feel like their efforts are appreciated.  Doing so encourages them to persevere.  The truth is, common sense helps you manage the environment that changes on a daily basis.  If you want to be competitive in your market, you need to remain nimble.  This means that leaders within your business should employ common sense into what they are doing.  They are, after all, the people tasked with getting things done and delivering the company’s commitments, figuring it out along the way.

In short, what managers do is common knowledge.  But good managers use common sense to help the business retain its edge.  Using common sense in your management approach will help you get your business where you want it to go.

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