How to be a good manager

How many people fall into leadership? Perhaps more than we might like to admit.

It is typical for an individual to train for years in a profession only to end up managing a team rather than carrying out the day job.

The challenge with this type of career progression is that while someone may make an exemplary doctor, lawyer or computer programmer, they may be a woeful manager.

Appointing someone as boss simply because they have the greatest length of service, or indeed put their hand up for the job, can prove disastrous for morale and for the business’ longevity and bottom line.

One only has to look at the vast amounts of time people spend in management training to appreciate just how much work goes in to preparing non-managers for a leadership role.

Training can certainly provide the basics, but if employees want to become excellent managers organisations need to focus on developing intrinsic people skills.

Emotional intelligence

Finding and creating emotional intelligence is the key to creating better leaders since, ultimately, management is about getting the best from others.

As a manager one needs to balance the need to get on with and care for direct reports, with getting the job done. Great managers should establish professional relationships with their employees which means they are able to reprimand staff when required while still creating a pleasant, amicable working environment. All too often the balance is tipped into friendship or dictatorship, which can be determinantal to the workplace.

This leads to difficult questions: Should you drink a beer with employees on a regular basis? This might build good morale but could prove extremely challenging if an employee needs to be fired.

What happens when your boss is telling you that you are not achieving your targets and the reason is because you have failed to manage your own team?

Management training can help people deal with the procedural side of challenging situations, but great managers need to have empathy and sensitivity too.

Management style

Great leaders usually adopt a management style, but they recognise the need to be flexible when required.

Typically, there are four types of manager – and none is better than the other – but they will illicit different responses from employees.

  1. The classic boss; they are in charge and have no concern about telling people what to do.
  2. The coach; they are proactive and encourage their team to learn, but do not get involved in discipline.
  3. The mentor: they wait to be approached and deal with questions reactively.
  4. The co-worker; they work side by side and support their team as an equal.

Employees need to know where they stand and what is expected of them. A clear management style helps promote stability and prevents boundaries being crossed. However, doggedly sticking to one approach is unhelpful. Managers need to know their staff and recognise what style is appropriate at any given time. For example, a new employee may require more closely managing, while a long-term and experienced person will not.

A great manager will be emotionally intelligent, flexible and – above all – know their team.

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