If it was easy to distil the art of good management to a few hundred words of advice then there’d be no such thing as a bad manager and, as anyone who has ever worked in virtually any kind of organisation or business will tell you, there quite definitely is such a thing as a bad manager. Indeed, bad managers come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and types, from those who try to be best friends with their staff to those who think fear and humiliation are the strongest motivational tools, and from those why try to micro-manage every aspect of the work being done, to those who think that a healthy ‘hands off’ attitude involves spending several afternoons a week on the golf course.
A summary of the art of good management would amount, simply, to getting the very best out the staff beneath you, a simple enough concept in holistic terms, but one which covers a multitude of techniques and approaches, from the psychological to the purely practical. Even if, to paraphrase Tolstoy, all good managers are alike, but each bad manager is bad in their own way, it’s still possible to flag up some of the more common mistakes made by people who are new to management.
- Not Making the Transition – There’s a paradox at the heart of any managerial appointment which many people new to the role find it difficult to reconcile; you’ve been made a manager because you were very good at your job, but being very good at your job is now no longer your job. As a manager, your job is to make it as easy as possible for other people to be very good at their job. Many managers find it difficult to adjust to this reality, feeling it’s still their responsibility to get the work done, rather than, as is actually the case, being tasked with providing the support, structures and processes which make it easy for other people to get their work done. To summarise: take a step back.
- Not Defining Concrete Goals – As long as people are being paid, they’ll turn up for work, spend the day working and then go home again. Without concrete, achievable and measurable goals to aim towards, however, this work will be diffuse, unfocused and directionless. Work with your staff to draw up a set of goals which are realistic and attainable, meaning that everything they do has a clear motivation behind it and a defined end point. Not only will this motivate them, but it will make it easier to organise, prioritise workloads and, when the target is met, feel a genuine sense of achievement.
- Insufficient Feedback – As a competent and diligent manager there’s little doubt that you’ve set in place a regular evaluation process at which you sit down with your members of staff, discuss any issues you may have, any problems or suggestions they might bring to the table, and draw up a plan of action going forward on the basis of this discussion. Good practice? Yes. Enough? No. The lines of communication between you and your staff need to be kept open at all times, allowing them to feel you can be approached with thoughts, questions or ideas, whilst enabling you to point out any problems which might have arisen. Staff confronted with a problem at a monthly or bi-monthly evaluation are often irritated not by the criticism per se, but by the fact that they could have taken action so much earlier if only feedback had been provided.
- Failure to Delegate – As stated earlier, you were made a manager because you were good at your job. That doesn’t mean that nobody else is good at their job, or even at what your job used to be. Delegating work which was once your province can be difficult, but it’s something which needs to be embraced if you’re to make the most of both your own time and the talents of the people working for you. Failure to delegate will leave you unable to take a step back from the day to day running of the business processes and take a longer view, and it’s precisely this longer view which is the key to lifting your management style from just ‘good’ to undoubtedly ‘great’. If you look around the people working for you and don’t feel you see anyone up to handling the tasks which need to be delegated, then you need to take a long hard look at either your recruitment process, your training provision or (and this is most likely) your own fear of losing control.
- Not Offering Rewards – Job security isn’t what it used to be, and in the age of zero hour contracts, temporary placements and all round uncertainty, it can be easy to slip into the mind-set of thinking that anyone who is in a job and receiving a reasonable wage should be grateful for the fact. To get the most out of your staff, however, you need to take the time to let them know that you appreciate their efforts above and beyond simply paying them for their time. Many workplaces offer formal reward programmes, but, on a micro-level, the reward can be as simple as taking the time out to say thanks for a job well done, or offering a flexible approach to improve employee work life balance. With the minimum of effort it’s possible to boost morale, productivity and loyalty.
- Not Being Available – A good manager will be working harder than the team beneath them for two reasons. One, in order to ensure that the processes and structures are in place and running smoothly to allow that team to flourish and two, in order to set the best possible example. A common mistake, however, is to allow the weight of this workload to become a barrier between you and engagement with your staff. No asset is more important to your business than the people who work for it, and being available to them will mean that any problems or issues can be brought to you, discussed and resolved before they begin to have a detrimental impact. Individuals will require different management styles, from arm around the shoulder mentoring to hands off monitoring, and it’s only by being open and approachable that you’ll discover these vitally important personality traits.
- Imposing Change – As a new manager there’s every chance that you’ve been brought in to instigate change of some degree or another. Although you may think it’s easy to see what’s going wrong and what needs to be done, it would be a huge mistake to simply impose your views from above. For change to be effective and become bedded in it needs to be developed alongside the people who will be delivering it, and introduced at a pace which allows each layer of change to ‘set’ before the next is put in place. Involving your team in the change which needs to be delivered will ensure ownership of that change at every stage, hugely increasing the likelihood of successful implementation.