It's tough at the top. Once you get there, how can you meet the challenge of being a good manager?
In the last ten years, the number of people entering managerial roles has increased significantly. Managers in a variety of industries are taking on increasing responsibility while still ensuring the bottom line is met. The role is expanding but is often made more difficult through the lack of management training received. According to Mike Trewavas, a recently retired management consultant, 'Most managers are promoted because they are good at their job and it is probable that for every one manager with an MBA, Diploma or HND in Management Studies there are ten who've had no formal training'. Managers inevitably face many issues and problems. Professor Tom Cannon, Chief Executive of RespectLondon, a leading management consultancy, argues that organisations seek to recruit talented individuals without realising that talent can be difficult to manage. Managers have to work with a range of people: the talented, the team players, those who handle stress well and those who don't.
What do you need?
Women probably make better managers due to their biological make-up, according to Professor Stephen Palmer, Director of the Centre for Stress Management. Research has demonstrated that women problem-solve using both parts of their brain whereas men use only one side to do the same task. Using both sides of the brain enables a woman to deal with more than one task at a time. Palmer believes, 'Women handle stress better than men, probably because they are natural communicators and much of successful management is based on communication'. New theories about management surface frequently and 'management gurus' come and go. Peter Drucker, popular in the 1970s, believes that 80% of the manager's role is about supervising people at all levels in the organisation and only 20% about the technical side of the job.
Sometimes, managers get things wrong. Numerous figures are quoted by the CBI and Institute of Directors regarding the cost of legal claims made by employees for cases of constructive dismissal and stress. Marion Bell, a corporate barrister, suggests, 'There would be less litigation if managers were more skilled at dealing with difficult, upset or stressed employees'. It's a skill that can be learned.
Improve your skills
People skills are important, but what exactly are they? Professor Palmer identifies three key areas:
You need to be able to motivate yourself and others. And the greatest pull isn't always the money. Most people are motivated by being appreciated or feeling that they've made a difference. Some managers are knocked out by the concept that a simple 'well done' or 'thank you' can spur staff on to do more. Finding out what motivates staff means making time to talk to them.
Enthusiasm is infectious. A manager who can transmit enthusiasm to her staff will increase motivation. One way of ensuring you stay motivated is to write down three things that have gone well each day.
According to Palmer, 'Communication means being clear in what you say and do. The techniques range from ensuring that written information is circulated to asking for people's opinions'
There are many models that attempt to capture the key skills of effective people management. The LEARN Model (Listen, Evaluate and Respond Now) being one.
- You actively listen to what's being said
- Listen to the end of the sentence
- Avoid interrupting but do give a few low level 'mmms' and nods to show that you are listening
It is important to give people attention. Some managers say they have an open door policy but then seem preoccupied when staff members walk in. For instance, if you're check your emails while people talk, you give the impression You're not listening.
- This means analysing not just what's being said but how it's being said
- It's about the facts but it's also about hidden meanings
- Here's a scenario: your employee is usually prompt at delivery yet hands in a report late and says all is well with a strained look on her face. Ask yourself: is there is a problem that needs addressing?
- This focuses on what you are going to say and/or do next.
- Look for the good in what has been said and start with that before moving on to what needs to be different.
- For example, 'I really like the way you have presented these figures as I am able to grasp the full picture quickly. One small point, it would be helpful if you include our subsidiary figures in the next report'.
This is probably one of the most misunderstood concepts around. Many people mistake aggression for assertion. Assertiveness means asking for what you want, saying how you feel and acting in a way that respects yourself and others. When someone says you are 'too assertive' they usually mean you are being sharp and aggressive. Assertiveness helps with conflict resolution and in ensuring clear communication. Perhaps the two most common assertiveness techniques are the 3-step Model and Broken Record.
The 3-step model starts with active listening and a statement that demonstrates you have heard what's been said. 'I appreciate there have been reasons for your lateness'. Step 2 is where you say what you think or feel using link words such as 'however', 'on the other hand' or 'alternatively'. For example, 'However, we have spoken about this before and your punctuality has not improved'. Step 3 is where you state what you want to happen and use the word 'and' as a link from Step 2. 'And this is the final warning I am going to give you'.
Broken Record simply means restating the essence of what you have said in a slightly different way until the message hits home.
New techniques gain popularity all the time and many of the approaches described here have been in use successfully for a long time. They all highlight that good managers are good communicators. Perhaps Peter Drucker was right C focus on your people and they will do the work for you.