The great thing about spending a lot of time at conferences and seminars is that I meet a lot of people from different walks of life. But whether they work in the private or the public sector or for a nonprofit, they always say the same thing about what makes an ideal manager. ALWAYS! Want to know why? Mailmen, lawyers, engineers, members of the board, salespeople: we’re all human. It seems silly to point it out, but people often tell me “Gaël, what you’re saying is interesting, but in our industry... that’s not how it is.” WRONG. When it comes to management, the differences between industries are minimal. And when employees talk about management, they always say the same thing about what an ideal manager should be. This article explains.
AN IDEAL MANAGER LISTENS
When I give a seminar about human-centered management, I ask the audience to describe their idea of a good manager. The ability to listen is always listed first, without fail. And it makes sense! What use is a manager who shuts themselves away in their office all day, turning a deaf ear to their team’s needs? Managers must nurture their teams and thus need to understand them... which is impossible if they don’t listen and aren’t available to do so! A manager who’s in meetings from dawn 'til dusk has no time to listen!
AN IDEAL MANAGER RESPECTS THE RULES
Over 30% of French employees are regularly late. I’ve met plenty of managers who are too... but how can you get your sales team to understand it’s important to be on time for client meetings if you are never punctual yourself? Exemplary behavior is absolutely central to management.
AN IDEAL MANAGER TRUSTS PEOPLE
As stated above, managers must nurture their teams. And this means teaching them to act autonomously. As the Chinese proverb says, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. On the other hand, trusting someone means accepting they will make mistakes. Just like a baby falls an average of 2000 times before they learn to walk, a co-worker will mess up from time to time as they learn to be autonomous... it’s just the way it goes!
“It takes courage to have talent.” Georg Brandes
AN IDEAL MANAGER IS FEARLESS
It’s a cinch to be a manager who says yes to everything and never steps up to the plate for their team... it’s a little like in ‘real’ life : in the short-term, it’s easier to chicken out than to man up and face reality. But this doesn’t work long-term. Cowardice always blows up in your face. Managerial spunk reassures co-workers and shows them the way forward. Without it, the tasks team members must complete become meaningless.
AN IDEAL MANAGER MAKES DECISIONS
“Maybe, maybe not...” I’ve met plenty of managers who avoided decisions rather than taking risks. Of course, this links back to what I was saying previously. Too often, managers hide behind their hierarchy instead of shouldering their own responsibility to take clear decisions... worse, they sometimes blame unpleasant decisions they have made on their hierarchy to avoid justifying their actions to their team. Making decisions means knowing how to adjudicate but also how to explain the decision you’ve come to without taking cover behind your own bosses.
These 5 skills are closely linked and it can be complicated to be a perfect manager. Acting like Superman or Wonder Woman from dawn 'til dusk isn’t really an option, but at least being aware of your goals can help you to improve day by day. I do believe it’s possible to learn to be a manager, and that’s all to the good. It’s like playing the piano... with a little effort, some will become experts while others will remain average... but no one will fail completely and that’s the only thing that matters since I sincerely believe that good management is essential for improving well-being in the workplace! So, where do you stand?
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