URI vice president offers management tips

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KINGSTON, R.I.—March 13, 2009 –. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Currents magazine sought University of Rhode Island Vice President Robert Beagle’s expertise for its story on adapting business management strategies for advancement for its February 20009 issue. Beagle, vice president for University Advancement since 1991, has been an executive manager in higher education for 30 years. A contributing author to a national book regarding the recruitment and retention of staff, he often speaks at conferences on such topics as building integrated advancement models.

While profit and non-profits are different models, Beagle believes, good management strategies work equally well for both. We asked him to share some of his strategies:

How do you reward and recognize employees?

A: Lots of positive feedback and reinforcement. Be sure to recognize outstanding people in front of others. Something as simple as writing an e-mail for a job well done and copying others on the e-mail can be fruitful. While appropriate compensation is important (and effective employees need to be rewarded through compensation), people are particularly concerned that their work is appreciated and respected.

How does a manager motivate employees?

A: Give people room to grow in the organization. We know from research that people become dissatisfied with an organization if they feel they have become pigeonholed.

Mangers need to keep evaluating their people, and assessing whether or not employee talents, experiences, and interests are being satisfied. Also break down barriers between offices walls—for example just because someone is a staff member within Alumni Relations doesn’t mean that person can’t contribute to deliberations and decisions about a new marketing approach. That person interacts with alumni and others in the community and can bring an outside perspective. Recognize that the work that someone is doing in one area and the information being gained there might be applicable to another operation. You can keep people within their own operations, but still use them in a cross-organizational and self-fulfilling way.

But don’t be afraid to give negative feedback if needed. Just be sure to do so in a constructive way. Most people are motivated to perform well, but they need to know how you (and others) think they’re performing, and how they might continue to improve.

How can managers avoid conflict?

A: They can’t but they can reduce conflict by building a culture where people are respected, a culture that says that everybody is important and part of an overall team. Lack of respect and appreciation for what others are doing is frequently a cause of conflict because it breeds disrespect.

What’s the best way to handle interpersonal conflict?

A: I’m a strong believer in catharsis communication. Get all the parties together who are somehow involved with the conflict. The manager has to be a facilitator, and has to be willing to get everybody, including him or herself, to lay all the issues on the table.

If people don’t come together to air things out in a forthright way, they go back to their individual operations still harboring unresolved and unarticulated feelings.

Managers also need to be willing to sit down one on one with whomever appears to be the primary cause of the conflict. Too many managers have a conflict avoidance problem, and don’t confront something before it becomes worse.

What do you do with someone who is not doing the job well?

A: That person may have been hired into the wrong job. Perhaps he or she was miscast into a job that wasn’t compatible with the person’s skills. But don’t give up on that person—something managers do far too quickly. Find out where that person’s expertise and passion lies and move him or her into that position. Unfortunately, sometimes the person isn’t the best. If continuous performance feedback and/or a switch doesn’t work, then you have to let that person go.

With unemployment soaring, what advice do you have for professionals looking for jobs?

A: Too many job applicants do themselves a disservice because they don’t think broadly enough about themselves. They don’t look at how their interests, their abilities, and their experiences might be applied in an array of ways. They can also make the mistake of overemphasizing their formal educational credentials. Most of us hire people based on ability and experience, plus how we see them fitting in, more so than on academic background.

What are your top suggestions for effective management?

1) Build a culture that emphasizes respect and appreciation.

2) Break down silos and barriers. Manage so that your staff functions as teams across operational lines.

3) Hire good people, let them know what you expect, and then let them do their jobs.

4) Be customer focused. Non-profits are in the business of dealing with all manner of customers. Realize that customers want to hear from you not just when you want something. We’re just like a business—our customers don’t have to buy or support our product if they don’t want to.

5) Be loyal. How will an employee show loyalty to you or to the organization if he or she can’t count on you to be loyal?

6) Don’t hold a lot of planned meetings. Personally, I dislike most meetings. It’s better to walk around and talk to people. Bounce ideas off of people, even those not necessarily at the center of the particular issue you’re thinking about. It’s also better to hold ad hoc meetings where you pull various, divergent people together.

Is there a difference between being a manager and being a leader?

A: Yes, although I think you have to be both. Managers tend to oversee things, keep the operation functioning, supervise people, and all that kind of stuff. Those are important, but leaders go beyond all that. Leaders lay out strategic thinking, inspire others, are willing and able to bring about change, know how to adapt and get an organization to adapt. Leaders don’t micro-manage, they don’t concern themselves with things that they know good people in their organization can do on their own. Both good managers and good leaders are always benchmarking by looking at peers and competitors so they can adapt to the marketplace.

URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.