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Don’t Practice Off The Rack Management

 It’s a simple concept that applies to management in general. Like your employees, no two situations are exactly alike and usually requires customized solutions, not ‘off the rack management’ solutions. That’s the lazy cookie cutter approach.

To customize your approach, take the management and leadership techniques you learned, read about or were told to do and don’t simply apply them, carefully consider how to apply them.

Decide what adjustments to make for each specific situation. It takes more effort, but it’s worth it in the long run.

Don’t Practice Off The Rack Management

Here are just three areas where you should stop using ‘off the rack’ management and customize your approach:


Meetings are often run using a strict formula. If you are using an off-the-rack management approach, you'll develop your objective, write an agenda, start the meeting, review the minutes from previous meetings, run through each of the items on your agenda, open up the floor for new business and conclude your meeting.

But not all meetings are the same. The standard formula might work well for standard meetings, but if you really think of the purpose of each of the meetings you attend or organize, you’ll see that they often differ significantly. They have very different outcome objectives and need different approaches to meet those objectives.

Always look at the outcome objectives and then redesign your meeting approach to suit. You may do away with a lengthy agenda and a long meeting, have shorter meetings and focus on a single topic using a whiteboard or flip charts.

Rather than simply opening discussion on a given point, you might put forward an option and use a brainstorming exercises to find a solution. In another meeting you may need an extra facilitator to help walk through the meeting so you can participate fully instead of having to manage the meeting.

Maybe you need to get someone from a different department to help and act out a situation or be the devil’s advocate as you work through an issue or solution.

The next time you organize a meeting, mix it up a little and customize your approach.

Hiring Staff

This is another area where standardized off-the-rack management approaches are usually applied, partly because your Human Resources department is trying to minimize risk associated with hiring practices. Sometimes, minimizing the risk also minimizes future results, which can far outweigh those risks if you don’t hire the right person.

Your HR department probably has standardized processes of reviewing resumes, doing phone interviews, in person interviews and more. For interviews, they may even have standardized questions that everybody is asked.

This may work for many positions, but you may be hiring for a position where this approach simply doesn't fit. The approach to selecting the right salesperson is very different from selecting and administrative assistant or technician.

The questions need to be different, the process should be different and the decision making approach should be different.

For the technician, you may give them a hands-on problem and asked them to work through it. For the salesperson, you can simulate a sales meeting and see how they perform. The admin assistant could be given administrative tasks to accomplish.

In addition, you need a different way of evaluating the softer qualities. For some positions, a formal across the desk interview, perhaps with several people from your organization may work. For another positions, a casual lunch meeting may be better.

For the next position you need to fill, take a close look at your standard approach and see what needs to change to maximize your chances of hiring exactly the right person. Have the courage with your HR department to do things differently – after all, you will be responsible for the new employee’s performance.

Managing Staff

The easy, seemingly fair way is to treat everybody the same. But everyone is different. Performance, morale, job satisfaction and even retention requires different approaches with different employees.

This is particularly where off-the-rack management will fail you. In fact, there are many other issues surrounds managing staff that need to be customized.

An example is if an employee asked if they could come in half an hour early and leave half an hour early for personal reasons, such child care. It doesn't interfere with processes and other schedules, you should consider accommodate the employee, assuming performance is maintained.

Don't base your decision on whether other people may ask for the same thing. If they ask, you should treat their request on their own merits and be able to defend your decision.

The easy “off-the-rack’ way is to simply say no, but then you may have an employee too stressed out about getting to their daycare provider on time every night and not as focused on the work you want them to do.

Modern office accommodations present a similar problem, usually with every employee with the same job level given the same cubicle size, desk chair etc. Yet different positions, even at the same level, can require different office space needs.

It's easy to simply quote the office standards and say no when one of your staff asks for a larger cubicle with a small table and two chairs, for instance. It's harder, yet better, to examine the reasons and the benefits for granting the request and going outside the company standards if needed. The employee may receive customers or even vendors frequently and are better able to successfully negotiate with a different set-up.

Both of these examples may make it a little more difficult to manage a team. You’ll have to defend your position and it may open you up to additional requests. But that’s the safe, lazy off-the-rack-management style. Instead, customize your approach to management for better results instead.