Business manager

Frank Stronach: Ten rules for being a good business leader

If your employees aren’t producing or meeting deadlines, take a good look at yourself in the mirror. The problem may be with you

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It’s not easy to be a manager. You have deadlines and goals that you must consistently meet. And you still have the client out of breath. Here are the guiding principles that I have always followed.

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Rule #1: Be Fair

I fundamentally believe that if employees know they will be treated fairly and their contributions will be fairly rewarded, they will become more involved in finding ways to improve productivity and quality.

Rule #2: Encourage employee feedback

Employees know better than anyone what works best in their own workplace. When I was in charge at the beginning of Magna, I always used to ask employees for ideas on how to improve things, and I made sure they had a say in how we run the factory. It is also essential that as a manager you maintain an environment where employees can talk about issues that arise in the workplace. That way, if something goes wrong, you can flush it out and deal with it.

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Rule #3: Be a motivator, not a boss

The best managers are great motivators. A manager should motivate employees to constantly seek solutions and think about how to solve problems, but they will only do this if their heart is in the business. Sometimes managers get caught up in the idea that they are there to enforce rules or punish infractions. When employees feel that someone is behind them with a whip, there is no way to motivate or inspire them to achieve greater success. Remember: employees don’t work for you — they work with you.

Rule #4: Stay on Top

As a manager, you need to know your business inside out. This means having a firm grip on all aspects of the operation, right down to knowing where sanitary supplies are stored and when garbage is picked up. Because when managers start to overlook the small details, that’s when the bigger things start to slip through the cracks and the problems start snowballing.

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Rule #5: Be open, honest and transparent

Workers are smart: if they know management isn’t being honest or is hiding something, you’ll never earn their trust. I had always promised myself that when I ran my own business, everything would be honest and open. That’s why at Magna, I created an operating philosophy that included open books and open doors. If you are open and honest with employees, and if you consult with them, they will go through the fire with you.

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Rule #6: Know your employees

Managers need to get to know their employees, and you need to prove, day in and day out, that you care about their well-being. What are their hopes, aspirations and plans for the future? What are their concerns? The only way to find out is to spend time with them and get to know them.

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Rule #7: Be a jack-of-all-trades

If you’re a manager, then you’re #1 in HR, #1 in finance, and #1 in tech. You also have to be part psychiatrist, part lawyer. And you must know marketing, accounting and engineering. The fact is, you have to be a jack-of-all-trades to be a truly effective manager.

Rule #8: Don’t lock yourself in your office

Keep your finger on the pulse of the workplace. Make sure you take the time to talk to your employees and find out what they think. But you can’t do that when you’re locked in your office all day on the phone or in a meeting. At Magna, some of our best managers didn’t even have an office, just an office in the factory. They were always available to discuss issues that arose from time to time.

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Rule #9: There are no bad employees, only bad managers

We have all seen examples of a bad hockey or football coach who always blames the players for the team’s losses. After a while, the team owner comes to realize that the players may not be playing so well because they don’t get any support, direction or motivation from the coach. If your employees are unhappy or not producing, making mistakes and not meeting deadlines, take a good look at yourself in the mirror. The problem may be with you.

Rule #10: The inviolable rule

There will always be times when you cannot keep a commitment or promise due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control. When this happens, most people usually understand. But generally speaking, if you promise something to your employees or customers, you can never break your word. Once you lose their trust, you will never get it back. Break this rule and you might as well close up shop.

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• Email: [email protected]

Frank Stronach is the founder of Magna International Inc., one of Canada’s largest global companies, and an inductee into the Automotive Hall of Fame.



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