Contracts TrainingSales Management TrainingBusiness Writing CourseProject Management CourseBusiness Communication Training
Management Training


By Wayne Ford

A great manager is one who, by a combination of natural sensitivity, good mentoring and bitter personal experience understands the One Fundamental Truth, namely:

People are not "human resources"; people are "human beings".

There is an annoying saying which tends to be repeated mindlessly at team-building sessions and pep-talks: There is no letter "I" in the word "TEAM". However, a team is always a collection of "I's" - a collection of individuals.

It may be practical to ask a team of dedicated athletes, or a space-shuttle crew, to suppress their personal needs and wants for a short period of time - e.g. for the duration of a mission, or until after the World Cup, or some other defined period. However, employees typically work 40 to 60 hours per week, every week, for many years, and to ask a human being to suppress their personal needs for that period of time is unrealistic. Perhaps for the duration of a defined crisis, or over the year-end accounting period, it may be reasonable and practical to expect and demand total focus and commitment, but to expect this level of commitment to be sustained indefinitely is asking for disappointment. Some may try to meet that standard for a while, but people with skills and self-confidence (the "good people") will quickly leave and move to another employer who better accommodates their personal needs and preferences.

A Great Manager always bears in mind the fact that
every Team Member is also an Individual Human Being,
with a whole other life outside of the workplace.

If you have ambitious and innovative professionals in your team, your managerial role will often be harder, in that professionals are trained to question everything, and not to simply take assertions and instructions at face value. Because of the challenge from such subordinates, weak managers avoid hiring professionals, and prefer to accumulate large empires of "mushrooms", i.e. compliant and undemanding people who are happy to be kept in the dark and fed manure.

A well-managed professional can add a great deal more value than a whole basketful of mushrooms, and part of their value-add is their constant challenging to keep good managers on their toes. In addition, a small team of well lead professionals can accomplish a great deal more than an empire of mushrooms, usually at significantly less cost, and the average company will richly reward the manager who builds and leads a team which repeatedly exceeds expectations.

My personal view of "Leadership" is expressed in the following quote attributed to Paul Keating, Prime Minister of Australia in the early 1990s:

Leadership is not about being popular.
It's about being right, and it's about being strong.

Being right involves knowing your job and consistently obtaining timely access to all required information. Being strong involves making the right decisions for the right reasons, irrespective of popularity issues or personal interests.

Never confuse popularity with respect - popularity will serve you well when things are going nicely, but when the cycle turns and you need to make some difficult (and usually unpopular) decisions then only respect will carry you through.

You also need to distinguish between the respect due to you as a result of your position or authority, and the respect which is earned by being a good manager. While a job title or rank in an enterprise may endow you with a certain authority, this cannot sustain your authority. Respect due solely to your organisational status will often manifest only as politeness and basic "lip-service", whereas the respect earned by serving your subordinates and peers will result in people supporting you through times of challenge and turmoil. As the unstinting support of others in times of stress is a very necessary ingredient for managerial success, this respect is clearly more valuable to a manager than just the warm feeling of knowing you are highly regarded by the people you work with.

Interact regularly with your subordinates, do not remain aloof. Your office should be as close as possible to those of your subordinates, to maximise the chances of their being able to bump into you when they need to ask a question or test an idea. Avoid divisive perks such as executive bathrooms and executive dining rooms, as they reduce interaction with your subordinates, but they may also create an incorrect impression in the minds of weak people regarding what managerial responsibility is all about. Encourage, facilitate and participate in staff functions, and then mix with the little people at these opportunities rather than clustering with others of your own rank and status.

Learn more on our range of Management Training Courses here