I regularly find myself reading the thoughts and opinions of experts on management and how I can be a better manager. I’m never actually surprised by what I read – I think most of it is obvious. At the same time it’s easy to agree with what you’ve read, but difficult to put it into practice. I imagine that management has a lot to do with common sense, and the answer often comes naturally if you ask yourself, What do I look for and value in a good manager?
Good management for me is about:
- Being able to motivate others and get them to believe that what they are doing is fun, exciting and instructive! A number of factors are crucial for this, including the presence of a manager.
- Being organised and clear about what is to be accomplished. The same information must be available to all and everyone must understand it!
- A long-term approach. Any action taken today will have consequences in the future. How does this fit in with the company’s strategy?
- Everything being measurable. What gets measured gets done, as the saying goes, and it’s true!
- Not being intimidated by competent people. A good manager employs people who are better than him/her, not just because it improves results but because it also gives the manager an opportunity to develop!
- Being able to trust in others’ skills. You don’t have to control every little detail, as this would only promote distrust and result in an unnecessarily high workload
- Being curious. A good manager understands that he/she is never done learning but must continue to develop at all times.
Being present to motivate staff doesn’t necessarily have to mean actually being there in person. I’m not saying that e-mails are the best way to motivate people, but a telephone call can work wonders! Try calling and checking in instead of sending an e-mail. Always start and end the call with a subject that you know the employee in question likes, such as a hobby, a holiday he/she is taking, etc. Listen! Don’t talk so much about yourself, unless, of course, the employee asks. Slip in frequent reminders about the aim and purpose of the project and the impact it will have. Reward your employees occasionally – work should be fun!
Being organised and clear can often be easier at a distance, as it forces you to clarify what you mean through text and images. If it’s important information that needs to be passed on, make sure that employees know when it will arrive. That way you can be sure that they will have read it.
Taking a long-term approach is a planning issue and all about attitude. A lot of managers complain that there isn’t enough time for strategic planning and work. So delegate! A manager must work with strategies – if they don’t do it, who will? If there aren’t enough resources to allow delegation, recruit some new staff. Yes, I know that everyone has a budget they must stick to, but I’m also aware of the fact that all managers have some say in their budgets; otherwise why bother having a managerial position? Be sure to hone your negotiating skills and ask to speak to your boss in order to be able to discuss the situation. No company is ever going to do well if all everyone is doing is playing catch-up.
Why must everything be measurable? The answer is simple: how else can we know that what we’ve achieved is what we wanted to achieve? How would it look if our objective was to provide the best service in the future? When in the future? Best for whom? In relation to what? What do we mean by service? There is endless potential for misunderstandings, and you can imagine the confusion possible in an organisation when no one knows what’s actually meant by something nor dares to question it. Instead, there is inexhaustible water-cooler speculation. This is an unnecessary waste of resources and one way to lose market focus and ground to competitors, to mention but a few disadvantages.
Competent people are a company’s most important resource. Relying on people who are cleverer than you is not about seeing whether you can put aside your pride – it’s about being even smarter. A smart manager realises the importance of letting others develop and being given credit. The best managers never take the credit themselves but always assume responsibility when something goes wrong. A competent employee does not just contribute to the group and the company achieving better results, which will, of course, please the manager most of all, but also to the manager’s own development. Working with experts is one of the best experiences I know! Sometimes it feels as though they are speaking a foreign language, but I think it’s an immense and rewarding challenge to be able to learn something of that language. I might not have learned everything by the end of the project, but I certainly understand a great deal more. I get so much energy from employees who really love what they do, which is generally also the case with experts. I have worked with experts who put a lot of time and energy into explaining to me how everything fits together, and I soak up that knowledge like a sponge. There is an Islamic saying which states that anyone who learns one letter shall feel eternal gratitude. Just think how wonderful it would be if we lived in a society where knowledge flowed freely and people listened to one another with great interest. As well as learning a great deal, there would be greater appreciation of our fellow Man, leading to greater equality and respect, for instance.
Trusting other people to do their job is, I think, one of the most difficult things to do. For example, I’m going on holiday shortly but am quite nervous about what will happen while I’m away. How will things go? Should I take my laptop with me to be on the safe side? Supposing I have to check my e-mail – it could be really important! In fact, my younger sister and I are off on a walking holiday, so I know I can’t take my laptop… This time, for once, I have to leave it at home. I spoke with a project member today who assured me that work wouldn’t stop simply because I’m away for a while. I can’t quite believe it, but I do know that I have the world’s best team! Of course they’ll manage. I simply have to force myself to accept the evidence of this now and again and I’ll soon get the hang of it.
Finally, I don’t know if curiosity is something a person is born with, but sometimes it feels that way. Yet I’m a person who believes that anything is possible if you can just understand why it needs to be done and can find a good way to do it. It’s best not to carry things too far, however. You don’t want to be barking questions at people instead of talking to them – there are limits. As I mentioned at the start, it’s all about common sense!