When I reflect on my career in the electrical industry, I can count on one hand the number of managers I’ve worked under that have had a real influence in shaping my philosophy and management style. Conversely, I also remember those that have had an entirely negative impact that has resulted in an uneasy working relationship, and one that inevitably leads to disharmony and poor performance. And, at it’s worst, a parting of company.
To be fair, no two managers are ever the same. They come with different styles, bodies of experience, various attitudes and opinions and ways of doing things. Invariably, they want to make an impact in one way or another, perhaps by replicating their sales success in previous roles or by demonstrating their managerial ability with a fresh and individual approach. However, let’s be honest, most are promoted on the former rather than the latter – and why wouldn’t they? After all, it’s sales (and profit!) that drive our business.
That’s all well and good if the people you are managing are exactly like you and share your values and work ethic. It can quite often be the case and, not addressed or appropriately managed, can lead to an unhappy team that works against the business rather than for it. For example, ask any experienced manager and they will tell you of many frustrations in dealing with teams where requests (tells) to carry out tasks are not completed satisfactorily, if at all, or where levels of engagement from their staff are low, with a prevailing attitude of ‘clocking in and clocking out’.
This is only one simple example that some of the challenges of people management can throw up – and it won’t be everyone’s experience. But I counter it’s not an unusual situation along with all the other challenges that managing a team of people demands.
One question as managers we should always be asking of ourselves is this, ‘What part do I play in this?’ What could we be doing better in order to become not just a good manager, but a great one?
Bad managers are ones that overly criticise (and rarely praise), have a dictatorial style and continuously erode the confidence of the team. In their efforts to make a personal self-gratifying impression, they quite often leave destruction and fear in their wake. People will not respond or open up for fear of reprisal or pressure.
Then there is the ‘average’ manager, the one who has a very laid-back approach, lacks direction or leadership or is frightened to make decisions. This manager is happy to let his team amble through and doesn’t do anything particularly remarkable above and beyond what is expected. This manager is really a version of his old self, staying in his comfort zone and not challenging either himself or others. In both cases, it’s not to say that they haven’t worked hard to reach their current position. It’s just that the success that they previously enjoyed doesn’t always effectively translate when it comes to being a great manager that inspires and leads.
So, as part of any self-development programme, we must always have a desire for personal reflection in an open and constructive way. We have to be honest with where we are – and although this is a fundamentally important step, it’s not always as easy as it sounds. On the positive side, this doesn’t mean beating ourselves up about what is going wrong, but rather how we can be doing things better.
We should be challenging our notions of what it is to be a great manager, what could I be doing differently that would really make a difference to my business? What are the challenges for the future and how do I need to develop my team in order to meet them? What skills do I have that I can really build on whilst mitigating the weaknesses? How can I lead so that others will want to follow? How do I win hearts as well as minds?
The impact on yourself and your business will be immeasurable. Having a refreshed and re-booted great manager drives your team on to greater efforts, where the sharing of common goals are met and exceeded. Moreover, in terms of the bottom line, a better-managed team results in more productivity, less sickness and absence and a desire to develop careers.
After all, people do not leave bad companies; they leave bad managers!
Barry Hall is a Sales & Management Training Consultant with Pinnacle Solutions, a specialist training company working specifically within the electrical wholesaling and manufacturing markets.
For a no-obligation informal discussion, please call 07881 361805