It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, and how you’re led – Steve Jobs.
Do you remember a teacher or sports coach you liked and admired? Almost certainly such a person supported and inspired you but also showed he or she valued you. You genuinely felt that you were given recognition as a human being and a person of worth.
In any workplace, a vital attribute that every good leader or manager will display is an innate ability to manage people. This means treating employees as real people with genuine feelings. ambitions and perspectives. Most employees or team members are on a journey and a good manager helps them develop and grow as people doing a professional job.
A good manager should be like a good coach of a football or hockey team. A team coach wants to get the best from his or her players. While training is necessary to perfect each player’s technical skills the team coach also puts considerable effort into managing attitudes and confidence levels. This requires the coach to understand each player to the extent that he or she will know their individual strengths and weaknesses. In turn, the coach will need the confidence of the players if he or she is to be an effective leader. Being a good communicator who can enunciate a clear vision for success would also be crucial for growing and maintaining coherence in the team. A good manager is a good coach and a good coach is a good manager.
Good people management skills are vitally important for every leader and manager. You may have excellent technical and conceptual skills but good interpersonal and communication skills are what sets the best leaders and managers apart from the average. Your team or employees must trust you and to do so they must get to know and respect the real you. This requires you to be your authentic self because fraud is quickly found out. Those managers who ooze personality and can light up a room by their presence are exceptional. For most managers, their success will be largely dependent on people knowing that they are genuine, caring, and sincere.
Managers should never see their role as predominantly managing a system or process with people being viewed as cogs in a wheel. A manager with this outlook will never succeed because every organisation’s greatest asset is its people. Good managers know this and they certainly know that human assets need to be nurtured and developed. Good managers know that human potential must always be developed and it is rarely, if ever, pre-determined.
Utmost in any good manager’s mind will be a concern that the workplace, whether centralised or dispersed, is an open and transparent environment where people feel safe and where there is a supportive culture of mutual respect. If the manager is to earn respect then he or she must treat all others with respect by showing that they are valued. Their opinions are valued and their input and output are equally valued. Managers must coach and support their people or team by seeking to bring the best out of each person.
The culture of the workplace is largely determined by management’s values and how these are communicated. Good employees will model themselves on good managers so trust and integrity, along with a genuinely caring outlook, are important management attributes. Leading by example can have a powerful impact in determining the culture of the workplace. Showing good timekeeping, diligence, commitment and resilience show others that high standards are important in the workplace.
In managing people a good manager will give honest feedback by making clear that what is required is a person’s best effort and not unachievable perfection. Checking for any skills deficits is also important and asking for feedback will usually win an enhanced level of commitment from employees. By genuinely questioning employees a good manager will try to ascertain their work aspirations and how they see their career paths. The manager may have to manage overall expectations, so gaining insights into an employee’s concerns and difficulties is the first step towards improvement. Showing a caring personality always trumps a cold analytical approach when dealing with people and their workplace challenges. Inclusion is as important as accountability.
If a manager holds others to account then that same manager should show that he or she holds himself or herself to account. As a manager, you should know how to give praise as well as constructive criticism and be open also to critical analysis of your own performance. If you claim to be a good listener then do not be selective about what you want to hear. If others know you want to improve then they too will likely want to improve.
Good managers are interested in people’s lives. Show that you care and show you are a good listener. Check with employees or colleagues by asking for their opinion. Ask for insights and you will get them. Nobody has a monopoly of good ideas. Different perspectives fuels innovation. A good manager knows that employees should feel included, represented and heard. Never conclude a meeting without first asking if there are any other issues people want to raise. People must feel they can be their authentic selves and their perspectives will have value.
Employees look to managers for solutions but don’t try to be the font of all wisdom. As a manager, you will, of course, be solution-focused. Seek input from others and whatever the source, a solution is a solution. Tap into the collective wisdom of others in the organisation and by doing so you can build commitment to the organisation’s mission., Have the self-confidence to ask for and receive insights. Never pretend to be a God-like figure with all the answers!
Conflict management and mediation skills will always be required as will the manager’s skills and capacity for negotiation and strategic thinking. Promoting constructive teamwork, addressing workload and output issues are both important and time-consuming. But building a positive workplace culture where people feel safe, valued, and appreciated will always be the ultimate priority for any good manager. When people are the priority, everything else falls into place.
(Feature photo by krakenimages on Unsplash).