When I got home one day, my younger sisters handed me a package excitedly – “You’ve got mail from the United States!” I opened the package and out fell a blue book titled “The Supermanager: A Short Story About the Secrets of an Extremely Successful Manager“. There was nothing fanciful about the cover and a quick flip-through revealed none of the usual sophisticated management models, tables or graphs. Instead it was written in clear and simple prose. I nestled against the sofa, not quite prepared for what I was going to read.
The story began, as most stories do, with an introduction of the key characters – Andrew and Leon. The pair had a long-time friendship and as the tale unfolded, we realized that they had met during a time when Andrew needed guidance in his new managerial position at a major consumer electronics company. Leon, on the other hand, was the supermanager at the fast-food restaurant nearby. Over the weeks, Leon gave Andrew valuable insights and imparted the following seven principles of management to his eager student:
1. Surround yourself with high-quality employees.
2. Train employees well.
3. Communicate the end result you want, then empower employees to achieve it.
4. Lead by example.
5. Listen to employees.
6. Praise good work.
7. Manage each employee differently.
Now, there are countless books on management and leadership out there and each one has its own merits. What impressed me the most about “The Supermanager” is Greg’s uncanny ability to predict the questions and tricky situations that could possibly arise from implementing the seven principles, so uses Andrew as the readers’ mouthpiece to seek these answers from Leon throughout the journey.
For example, listening to employees (Principle 5) is pretty much common sense. No one is going to respect a manager who does not listen or value what they say. However, Andrew wanted to know “what do you do when your employees give you ideas that you don’t think are very good?” Leon suggested to “let them know upfront that we may have to agree to disagree about some of their ideas. [He] might end up implementing a part of the suggestion or modifying it a little.”
Another situation discussed was in relation to empowering employees (Principle 3). What if the employee uses this empowerment to do something that is obviously not productive? Leon cleared up the misconception underlying such a situation – “Empowering employees doesn’t mean they have complete freedom to do absolutely anything they want.” He recommended two practical actions that the manager can take to ensure that the empowered employee is on the right track – discuss & evaluate options with the employee beforehand and request for regular progress reports to be submitted!
It is precisely these real-life examples which give “The Supermanager” a high level of applicability and relevance. I would like to thank Greg for sending such a useful resource my way. It is especially timely as I’m currently in the process of learning the ropes of management. This book and the 7 timeless management principles should be in the toolkit of every manager!