Who’d be a Manager?

By Adam Burton

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Ok, could you please raise your hand if you have ever worked under a bad manager!!!

The subject of management, especially bad management, is something I feel, like many others, very strongly about. If done correctly it can bring the best out of us and done badly it can have catastrophic effects on your business.

I would imagine that most people will have a story to tell regarding their time working under a bad manager. I would also hazard a guess that this was the main reason they left the company, in some cases this may have been the only reason.

The reason bad management scares me is that it has become an epidemic. It is something that happens everyday in every country in every industry and it appears to be growing. More and more people are being promoted to managers and in a lot of cases these people do not possess the skills or maturity to successfully run a team.

Employees are promoted for a variety of different reason, some more obvious than others. I have worked in the recruitment industry for almost 10 years and have seen my fair share of bad managers. I have also worked under some amazing managers that I have learned a great deal from, not just on the subject of recruitment but about how good managers have the ability to give direction even to the most lost causes.

What makes a good manager? If you will please allow me to give you my ideas on this subject in the hope it resonates with some of you.

Man Management

This is key to becoming a successful manager. Having the confidence and intelligence to look at people as individuals and then treating them that way is an incredibly powerful management tool.

In one of my previous jobs, I worked in a team of 7 very different people. Some of the team were very loud, almost brash and others were quiet, methodical in their work. Sometimes it was difficult to see any common denominators we all shared but the team worked. Now I am convinced that a lot of managers would have failed at getting the team to work successfully. The pure fact that there was this real mix of characters and personalities meant that one size fits all management styles would never work.

We were extremely fortunate that our manager was gifted in the ways of man management. He had this way of working out how we all worked in our different ways and, more importantly, how we could become better. Some of the team needed more hand holding where others were put of by micro-management. Some of the team had very strict time management processes where others tended to be quite sporadic in their approach. In the middle of all of this was our manager. When he spoke to us as a collective it felt as though he was talking to us as individuals. He made us feel on a day to day basis that he understood what made us tick and how we would need his help.

Nature over Nurture

Simply put a good manager will help you develop the skills you possess and not just try to teach you new methods on how to do things all of the time. It is imperative to establish the natural skills of an individual very quickly and devise a strategy to help them use these skills to their full potential.

Obviously a manager is there to help the team learn new skills and develop their knowledge base but this should never be in place of honing their natural abilities. Most people are aware of their strengths and weaknesses so they will want a manager to understand how this will sculpt their work moving forward.

In the trenches

What I mean by being in the trenches is a good manager will always be prepared to do the same things as the team around them. A team wants to be led from the front not conducted from an ‘ivory tower’. They want to see the manager on the phone and ‘mucking in’; they want to see the manager overcome similar issues as them. This is such a powerful management tool that allows you to become very much PART of the team opposed to the team manager.

In most cases there has to be a clear distinction between the manager and the team. Ultimately the buck will stop with the manager so their day to day work will include tasks and countless meetings that will take them away from the desk. The key is too not distance yourself away from the team to a degree that you are not embraced as a true team member.

Conflict resolution

This is an area that so often gets overlooked. Work environments are no different than social environments and occasionally people will have issues with each other and this can cause real problems. I would be shocked if anyone could say, hand on heart, that they had never had any issues with a work colleague which had disrupted their work day/week/month/year. I know I have over the years and unless this is managed quickly and sensibly it can eat away at people and give them a big reason to quit.

A good manager will spot the issues and move towards getting them resolved as quickly as possible. They will recognise the importance of listening to all parties involved and getting a real understanding of what the problem is. You must always remember that although you are the manager you are still dealing with adults, this is not a child/parent scenario. People will want you to understand their specific grievance and treat them like an adult, not shout them down or tell them to ‘stop being silly and just get on with their work’; this will inflame the situation and pave the way for more problems.

Listening is key and people will respond a lot better if they feel you have made the time and effort to understand their point of view.

The pat on the back philosophy

This is something that I have pushing down peoples throats for ages and it is one of the simplest tools a good manager can possess.

With most jobs these days being targeted in one way or another, employees are being asked to work harder for longer but not necessarily with any money incentive to do so. A good manager may not always have the power to increase salaries but what they do have is the power to make employees feel good about what they do. In my experience hard working employees start losing heart when they feel their work is not recognised by management. You know the feeling when you have worked your socks off to meet a deadline or hit a target and management do nothing but dismiss you as ‘someone just doing what they are paid for’. Now don’t get me wrong obviously managers can’t spend every waking hour letting people know how good their work is and how much it is appreciated but picking your moments will work wonders.

Remember a pat on the back is sometimes all it takes to bring someone back on side. As I mentioned before it is the simplest of tools that a manager should use but it is, in my humble opinion, one of the most powerful.

I would love to hear from managers that use other ways of motivating their teams and getting them working at their best.



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