If you are a high-ranking executive with junior executives under your wing, your attitude towards them can make a significant difference in how successfully they develop. If you treat them with apparent discourtesy, you discourage them from doing their best. More harmful, probably, is the fact that you also weaken their image of authority in the eyes of their subordinates.
Here are specific ways in which you can demonstrate your consideration for your junior executives, and in doing so show that you are solidly behind them.
1. Give each man the prestige and status he has earned
If a man has earned the right to certain privileges and status symbols, he expects to get them. It is a mistake to think that these things are unimportant; they matter to the executive, and their presence or absence is noted by his subordinates. Whether it is a larger office, or a listing in company directories, or a reserved spot to park his car, or just a name plate, see that a man gets it if his position deserves it. It is a small courtesy you can’t afford to neglect.
Show by your actions, too, that you accord his position the respect it deserves. It is disrespectful to by-pass a junior executive and deal directly with his subordinates. It is disrespectful to fail to include him in meetings, or to leave his name off routing slips when information is being circulated to management people, or to other wise suggest that he isn’t very important to you.
2. Give him the authority he needs
When a man is given a responsible job to do, he should also get the authority he needs to get the job done. If your junior executives have to come to you frequently for approval of plans, or if you frequently override the decisions they make, you are undermining their authority.
You should give every subordinate executive the degree of authority that his responsibilities require, and encourage him to use it. He will appreciate your confidence in him—and he will need it, if he is to become an effective executive.
3. Let him know he can count on your support
One of the surest ways to smother initiative in a junior executive is to encourage him to make decisions, then blame or ridicule him when he makes a mistake. This is especially rude when it is done in front of his subordinates.
The only considerate policy is to stand behind your subordinate supervisors. Show them that you will back them up, both in their dealings with their subordinates and in your dealings with higher management. Do your fault-finding with them in private, and make your criticism constructive. They should feel that you will take their side until they are proven wrong, and that even then you will not humiliate or be little them.
4. Don’t get too friendly with your junior executives
Familiarity may not always breed contempt, but there are other problems it can cause. It is difficult to take an objective view of the performance of someone who has become a close friend. It is even more difficult to criticize him, even though you may recognize that he needs it. And you are almost certain to create a morale problem when you show favouritism.
The rule about not getting chummy with subordinates applies to employees at any level below you, not just to junior executives. However, there is a special danger that a close friendship may develop between executives, even though they may be of different rank. There is not the same natural barrier between them that there is between an executive and a lower-level employee.